Friday, February 29, 2008

Have we seen better tennis this year?

Though both of the players for whom I cheered lost, I was nevertheless delighted over the quality of the Dubai semifinal matches. Have we seen anything that good this season? Of course, there may have been some wonderful early round matches, or matches in lower-tier tournaments, that we did not get to watch on television. But of the matches I did see, today's stand out as exceptional.

Pennetta reaches 300

Flavia Pennetta had her 300th career singles match win yesterday in Acapulco, and tonight she won her semifinal match against Kaia Kanepi, putting her into the Acapulco final for the fifth straight time. Pennetta won the tournament in 2005.

Pennetta def. Kanepi, 6-4, 6-2

Govortsova into Memphis final

Number 5 seed Olga Govortsova has reached her first tour final by defeating Memphis number 3 seed Shahar Peer, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

Kuznetsova and Dementieva in Dubai final

I won't watch the Kuznetsova-Jankovic semifinal until tonight, but I understand it was quite something, with thirteen breaks of serve.

I was cheering strongly for Francesca Schiavone in her semifinal against Elena Dementieva. The first set was probably the best quality set I've seen all season. When Schiavone got the thigh cramp, I got that terrible feeling. Somehow, the pain morphed to her quad, and by the third set, she just wasn't there, and made enough unforced errors to hand the match to her opponent. All in all, though, great tennis from both players.

Kuznetsova def. Jankovic, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3

Dementieva def. Schiavone, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2

Friday cat blogging--condo life edition

Velma keeps an eye on her young friend, Ziggy Stardust

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kanepi overcomes Cirstea

If I were in Acapulco, this is definitely the match I would have watched today--a close contest between two talented young players. Kaia Kanepi prevailed in the first set, Sorana Cirstea took the second, and Kanepi won a close tiebreak in the third. Next, Kanepi will meet top seed Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals.

Kanepi def. Cirstea, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6

Serena Williams to play for new WTT team

Serena Williams will play for the newly formed World Team Tennis team, the Washington Kastles, during the 2008 season. The new Eastern Conference team owned by a group led by venture capitalist and entrepreneur Mark Ein.

And good luck in the semifinals...

Veterans return to form in Dubai

With Francesca Schiavone's win over Justine Henin and Elena Dementieva's over Ana Ivanovic, two tried-and-true veterans not only survived to play in the Dubai semifinals, but will play each other. The other match will feature Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic. On paper--given the players' rankings and Jankovic's current problems--it looks like it will be an all-Russian final, but it may not be. Jankovic, despite her messy state, did not have to do much in her quarterfinal and therefore may be rested, not to mention the fact that her opponent can choke away almost any match she plays. And who knows what Schiavone might do?

The streak is broken

I meant it when I said "never count Schiavone out," and today in Dubai--despite what I hear were moments of typical choking sounds coming from her--Francesca Schiavone, the Italian warrior, ended the winning streak of world number 1 Justine Henin. For Schiavone to beat Henin is a big deal; for her to overcome her own tendency to lose at all costs is a bigger deal. We have seen a tougher Schiavone in the last couple of seasons, and here's hoping we continue to see her.

Schiavone def. Henin, 7-6, 7-6

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What a quote

"For some reason, I feel tired."
Jelena Jankovic

Yes, well...this is what we were all afraid of--that Jankovic's body would just give out on her this season.

"It's not as though I've been playing a lot of matches," Jankovic said in an interview in Dubai, "but I don't feel that I'm moving very well on the court. I'm really struggling. There are some shots that I can usually make without much effort, but now I'm struggling to get those balls."

Jankovic has also struggled with a bad back, and now she is having trouble getting used to a new coach, who apparently does things very differently from what she is used to.

It is imperative that Jankovic get in shape, which--for her--probably means taking it easy. It is also imperative that she improve her serve. Jankovic is way too talented to let her career slide away because of bad decisions about scheduling and denial about what a difference a better serve would make.

With an improved serve, I still have no doubt that Jankovic can win a major--but only if she is healthy.

Kvitova stopped in Memphis

As is often the case in professional tennis, a giant-killer has been vanquished. Petra Kvitova, who took Venus Williams out of competition in the Regions Morgan Keenan Tennis Championships, was defeated tonight--6-7, 7-5, 6-1--by Alla Kudryavtseva.

Meanwhile, in Acapulco, Italy's rising star, Sara Errani, was defeated in the second round of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL by Mariya Koryttseva, 7-5, 6-1.

As I mentioned in a comment on this blog earlier today, how suddenly odd it is to see almost all big names in the quarterfinals of a tournament. The Dubai quarterfinals is a line-up of top players--Henin, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Chakvetadze, Mauresmo, Kuznetsova, and Dementieva. Also included is talented veteran Francesca Schiavone, whom you can never really rule out (or count in, for that matter).

Clijsters has a new daughter

Former world number 1 Kim Clijsters has given birth to a girl, Jada Elly. Mother and child are reported to be doing well.

Henin survives Srebotnik in Dubai

This is a match I wish I had seen. Henin hit thirteen aces and eight double faults, putting her unpredictable service game on total display for three sets. Srebotnik took a set by winning an 8-6 tiebreak. The match lasted three hours. When Srebotnik is on, she's on. Maybe next time.

Henin def. Srebotnik, 7-5, 6-7, 6-3

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Venus Williams taken out of Memphis by Czech qualifier

The big-hitting Petra Kvitova defeated Venus Williams in the second round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Tennis Championships tonight, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Williams, the tournament's number 1 seed, was up a break at the beginning of the third set, but Kvitova fought back and turned the match around.

The number 2 seed, Tatiana Golovin, was eliminated earlier today by Bethanie Mattek.

Golovin out of Memphis

Second-seeded Tatiana Golovin, returning from an injury time-out, was defeated today in Memphis by Bethanie Mattek. Apparently, Golovin had some problems serving; she was broken five times. Is she still having back trouble? Serving is one of the things Mattek does well, by the way.

Mattek def. Golovin, 6-4, 6-4

Shahar Peer blogs

From Memphis.

No Sharapova, but Szavay out anyway

Agnes Szavay was to have played Maria Sharapova in the first round of the Barclay's Dubai Tennis Championships, but Sharapova withdrew, leaving Szavay to face lucky loser Akiko Morigami. Morigami has defeated Szavay, 6-1, 6-4.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rarely injured Schnyder pulls right hamstring

As I watched the electronic scoreboard this morning, I knew something was going on after Patty Schnyder's first set against Elena Dementieva in Dubai. The two tend to play very close matches, and the second set bagel made me suspicious. Indeed, Schnyder pulled her right hamstring but continued to play to the end. Here's hoping Patty gets well soon.

Dementieva def. Schnyder, 7-5, 6-0

Obziler's Dubai withdrawal

According to the Jewish Chronicle, as reported by Tennis X, Tzipi Obziler withdrew from Barclay's Dubai Tennis Championships because Doha would not grant her coach a visa.

Davenport gets it right this time

Lindsay Davenport defeated the spirited Sabine Lisicki--who beat her in Fed Cup competition--7-5, 6-3 tonight in Memphis. After the pair exchanged breaks in the first set, Davenport broke Lisicki at 5-all and went on to win the first set with an ace. She broke Lisicki early in the second set, then broke her again, but Lisicki broke her back when she served for the match at 5-2.

Davenport hit ten aces in the match, and the big-hitting Lisicki hit seven. When I saw Lisicki play in Fed Cup, I saw a player who worked too quickly and took too many unnecessary chances. Such a game can be tamed, however, with maturity, and if an older and wiser Lisicki becomes more strategic and less impulsive, she could be a real factor on the tour.

Sharapova withdraws from Dubai

Maria Sharapova says she played Doha with a cold and somehow pushed herself through to the end. But now she is suffering with full-blown symptoms, including fatigue, and so she has withdrawn from the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Spartanburg teen gets Charleston qualifying wild card

Number 1 seed Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg, South Carolina has won the SMASH State Open Clay Court Junior Cup, which gives her an automatic wild card into qualifying for the 2008 Family Circle Cup. In a match that lasted over three hours, Cecil defeated number 2 seed Nadja Gilchrist of Hilton Head, South Carolina, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.

Li withdraws from Dubai

But not because of the respiratory virus...she has a leg injury.

(Today--if you are in China, that is--is Li's birthday.)

Larcher de Brito in Memphis

Michelle Larcher de Brito, the 15-year-old who unexpectedly won the Orange Bowl in December, and who plays World Team Tennis for the Sacramento Capitals, is into the second round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis. Her opponent, Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, retired shortly after the beginning of the second set, sending Larcher de Brito into a contest with either Milagros Sequera (nice to see her back!) or Caroline Wozniacki.

Should Larcher de Brito manage to defeat either of those players, she would have to face Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals...that is, assuming Davenport gets past Sabine Lisicki in the first round.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Llagostera Vives wins in Bogota

Nuria Llagostera Vives, who had to qualify for the main draw at the Copa Colsanitas Santander in Bogota, won it today by defeating Maria Emilia Salerni, 6-0, 6-4.

This is Llagostera Vives' second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title. She was off the tour most of 2006 because of a wrist injury. At 5' 1 1/2" tall, Llagostera Vives is, I think, the shortest woman on the tour. She has three doubles titles, and has been ranked as high as number 35 in the world.

Sharapova wins in Doha

Vera Zvonareva played well enough to take a set off of Maria Sharapova in today's final at the Qatar Total Open, but--despite some outstanding tennis from Zvonareva--Sharapova was too good. This is the first year that the Qatar Total Open is a Tier I event, and the win gives Sharapova six career Tier I titles, in addition to three Grand Slams and one Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships title. This was Zvonareva's first Tier I final.

It took Zvonareva an entire set to adjust to Sharapova's pace. In the second set, however, she became much more aggressive, and took advantage of Sharapova's service problems, her forehand, and her sometimes uncertain net play. The third set was all Sharapova, though: Sharapova def. Zvonareva, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0

In the doubles final, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs defeated Cara Black and Liezel Huber, 6-1, 5-7, 10-7.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Top qualifying seed out in Memphis

Sandra Kloessel, the number 1 qualifying seed at the Regions Morgan Keenan Tennis Championships, was defeated today in the second round of qualifying by Brenda Shultz-McCarthy, 6-4, 7-5.

Yesterday, wild card Sesil Karatantcheva was taken out of the first round of qualifying by Hana Sromova, 7-6, 6-4.

Sharapova and Zvonareva to meet in Doha final

The large Russian contingent at the Qatar Total Open will be torn tomorrow when two of their countrywomen vie for the 2008 title. Vera Zvonareva won her break-filled match against an ailing (respiratory virus) Li Na, and Maria Sharapova defeated Agnieszka Radwanska.

Both matches were worth watching. Li outplayed Zvonareva in terms of shot-making, but her tendency to make unforced errors--undoubtedly made worse by her illness-caused her to come up short. Sharapova had to work to put Radwanska away, but she did it in straight sets.

Sharapova leads, 4-3, head-to-head with Zvonareva.

Zvonareva def. Li, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
Sharapova def. Radwanska, 6-4, 6-3

Enough, Corina, enough...

There was a time when Vera Zvonareva used to burst into tears while she was on the court. Her emotional instability was so serious, it knocked her right out of the top ten. But that was a long time ago, and we have not witnessed any type of unstable behavior from Zvonareva for a few years. Yet Tennis Channel's Corina Morariu cannot shut up about Zvonareva' s emotional fragility. Will she hold it together or will we see her come apart? Can she handle such a big moment?

Corina...please set your watch to the present and talk about something that is relevant.

First round matches of interest in Dubai

Because some really good players like Katerina Srebotnik and Anabel Medina Garrigues are having to play qualifying rounds to get into the main draw of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, there will probably be several noteworthy first round matches. For now, though, these are the ones I saw:

Francesca Schiavone v. Marion Bartoli
Maria Kirilenko v. Alona Bondarenko
Patty Schnyder v. Elena Dementieva
Maria Sharapova v. Agnes Szavay
Lucie Safarova v. Li Na*

*Look for a possible Li withdrawal; she is suffering with a respiratory virus.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Look out Agni--here comes Maria!

Maria Sharapova will get her chance to at least partially avenge her 2007 U.S. Open loss to Agneiszka Radwanska when the two meet in the Qatar Total Open semifinals tomorrow in Doha. Sharapova ran over the talented Caroline Wozniacki like a fast truck, and I expect her to put her foot a little harder on the gas pedal when she encounters Radwanska.

The other semifinal features Li Na, who defeated Jelena Jankovic (don't even get me started on that subject), and Vera Zvonareva, who beat Sybille Bammer. The Li-Zvonareva match should be interesting: Former top-ten player Zvonareva has an under-rated and stinging double-handed backhand that can do a lot of damage. Li can be a bit wobbly in the head part, but she has been holding up pretty well lately, and is capable of getting back a lot of balls. Zvonareva and Li, both of whom were out for a long time last season with injuries, have played each other twice before--including once in Doha--and Li won both times.

Friday cat blogging--catching rays edition

Roxie rolls over for some sun

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Official "Allez, Amelie! Nous vous aimons!" thread

Following Amelie Mauresmo's loss to Tamerine Tunasugarn in Doha, she is reported to be quite down. The howling winds in Doha have made it difficult for a lot of players, but Mauresmo did not need another loss like this. She missed out on most of the 2007 season because of appendicitis, a long recovery period, and a surgery-related injury, and she just cannot seem to get it together in 2008.

Amelie has come back before (a few weeks before she won the 2005 Sony Ericsson Championships, she said she felt too burned out to go on), and she can come back again.

Allez, Amelie!

Jankovic the highest seed left in Doha

Today, Qatar Total Open number 1 seed Ana Ivanovic had to withdraw because of a sprained ankle, and number 2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was defeated by Sybille Bammer. Number 3 seeds Jelena Jankovic and number 4 seed Maria Sharapova are still around, but number 6 seed Venus Williams fell to Dominka Cibulkova today. Number 5 seed Anna Chakvetadze lost in the first round.

The quarterfinals feature three very sharp young players--Dominka Cibulkova (whose photo has now become this blog's number one search target), Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

Meanwhile, at the ATP tournament in Rotterdam, seeds have been falling like rain, making the goings-0n in Doha look tame: All eight top seeds have been eliminated.

Ivanovic, as expected, withdraws from Doha

Ana Ivanovic, having sprained her left ankle yesterday, has withdrawn from the Qatar Total Open. This was the first time that Ivanovic was the top seed at a Tier I event.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Serena Williams withdraws from Dubai

I am assuming this is because of the dental surgery, but who knows? Lucie Safarova is her replacement.

An interesting day in Doha

Ana Ivanovic sprained her ankle, Maria Sharapova struggled with a suddenly savvy Galina Voskoboeva, Dominika Cibulkova got the best of Patty Schnyder, and Tammy Tunasugarn--of all people--defeated Amelie Mauresmo. Ai Sugiyama continued her nice run (she took out Agnes Szavay yesterday) with a defeat of talented countrywoman Ayumi Morita, and Anabel Medina Garrigues beat Maria Kirilenko.

Ivanovic def. Govortsova, 6-3, 6-1
Sharapova def. Voskobeva, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
Cibulkova def. Schnyer, 6-3, 6-4
Tunasugarn def. Mauresmo, 7-6, 7-5
Sugiyama def. Morita, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0
Medina Garrigues def. Kirilenko, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1

And to round out the day's oddities--after being up 5-1 in the second set, Virginie Razzano lost to Shahar Peer, 6-1, 7-6.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Patty Schnyder--Charleston's favorite--enters Family Circle Cup

Two-time finalist and perennial crowd favorite on Daniel Island, Patty Schnyder has officially entered the 2008 Family Circle Cup. The 35th anniversary Charleston event will mark Schnyder's twelfth consecutive appearance in a tournament she loves...and that loves her.

In 2002, Schnyder was unseeded, and had a stunning run, working her way through the draw from hell: number 6 seed Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce, number 3 seed Serena Williams, and number 1 seed and defending champion Jennifer Capriati. She then lost a close final, 7-5, 6-4, to Iva Majoli, who was also unseeded. I imagine that this was the toughest loss of Schnyder's career.

In her 2006 semifinal, Schnyder defeated Justine Henin for the first time in her career, but lost to Nadia Petrova in the final. Last year, a change of weather threw Schnyder off her game, and she lost to Peng Shuai in the second round. She stuck around to play doubles with Corina Morariu, but the fans were clearly disappointed.

Patty Schnyder really shines in Charleston, and her many fans, myself included, can't wait to see her on the green clay again.

Seles to appear on dance show

When this season's Dancing With the Stars premieres on March 17, one of the contestants will be Monica Seles, who recently announced her retirement from professional tennis. The nine-time Grand Slam winner will have some good company in seeking the title--Marlee Matlin, Adam Carolla and the great Kristi Yamaguchi are among those competing.

Tennis great Iva Majoli appeared on the show in the second season.

Pennetta out in first round in Bogota

Number 1 seed Flavia Pennetta, who just won the Cachantun Cup, was taken out of the first round of the Copa Colsanitas Santander today by qualifier Betina Jozami. This was Jozami's first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw; she has tried nine other times to get into a main draw. Jozami is ranked number 278 in the world, and Pennetta was 38-8 in Bogota (she won the tournament in 2005), coming into the tournament.

Pennetta led 3-2 and 4-2 in the final set. Jazami def. Pennetta, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4

Also taken out was number 4 seed Emilie Loit, who fell to
lucky loser Rossana de los RĂ­os, 7-5, 6-3.

Yesterday, number 2 seed Alize Cornet was defeated by Maria Emilia Salerni, 6-4, 6-2

Bagels in Doha

There was some bagel distribution in Doha today, too. Patty Schnyder beat Tamira Paszek, 6-4, 6-0; there is reason to believe that Paszek was not feeling well, which would account for her poor showing in the second set. Former top 10 player Ai Sugiyama defeated Agnes Szavay, 7-6, 6-0, and--though she won the match--Li Na also had a no-game set against Elena Likhovtseva, whom she defeated, 6-1, 0-6, 6-4.

Also, Sania Mirza retired today during her Qatar Total Open first round match against Olga Govorsova. Mirza was cramping, and finally had to stop playing. Govortsova def. Mirza, 4-6, 7-6, 3-2

And of note: Caroline Wozniacki defeated Marion Bartoli, 6-2, 6-3, in the first round.

U.S.--Russia Fed Cup semifinal surface selected

The Fed Cup semifinal between the U.S. and Russia will be played in Russia on a clay court. Russia has two clay experts, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova, though Petrova is not currently on Russia's Fed Cup team. Will she be added? The U.S. has two clay experts in Serena and Venus Williams, one of whom could be added to the team (it's hard to imagine their both being available).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sick Petrova has to retire in Doha

Nadia Petrova, sick with gastritis, had to retire during her Qatar Total Open first round match against Anabel Medina Garrigues. Petrova has gastritis, and was unable to go on playing.

Medina Garrigues def. Petrova, 6-2, 1-2

Henin wins Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award

World number 1 Justine Henin has won the Laureus World Sports Awards' biggest award for 2007--Sportswoman of the Year. Others nominated were 2006 winner Yelena Isinbayeva, Carolina Kluft, Libby Lenton, Marta, and Lorena Ochoa.

Roger Federer won the men's award for the fourth year in a row.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hantuchova withdraws from Doha

Daniela Hantuchova, who had to retire during a match at the Proximus Diamond Games because of breathing difficulties, has withdrawn from the Qatar Total Open. It turns out she has respiratory virus and needs to rest.

Pennetta wins the Cachantun Cup

Flavia Pennetta won the new Cachantun Cup tournament in Vina del Mar, Chile today when her opponent, Klara Zakopalova, retired toward the very end of the championship match. Zakopalova sprained her left ankle, and I imagine the pain was so bad at the end that she just could not go on. Pennetta def. Zakopalova, 6-4, 5-4

Morariu's issues are showing

When a commentator makes an inane comment once, I assume it is just to fill in time, but Corina Morariu's remarks about how wealthy the top players are have become chronic. The last several time I have watched matches on Tennis Channel, Morariu has been on hand to say something snide about a player's "needing more cash" or having a big bank account or shopping for expensive items.

No one is more disturbed than I that athletes make truckloads of money. But that is not the fault of the athletes; rather, it is the fault of a system that values physical prowess and entertainment more than other things. Perhaps Morariu is feeling blue that she raked in only $1,733, 916 in winnings in her career. Of course, that figure does not include money made from sponsorships. I do not know how much money she made that way, but--as number 1 doubles player in the world--I suspect she made some.

Henin wins in Antwerp

Justine Henin woke from her service slump and looked more like herself in today's Proximus Diamond Games final. Henin defeated Karin Knapp of Italy, 6-3, 6-3 in a well-played match that gave Knapp a chance to show the different aspects of her game. Though she was no match for Henin, Knapp held her own, breaking Henin once, and giving the world number 1 enough competition to give the crowd an entertaining match.

Cara Black and Leizel Huber won the doubles title, defeating Kveta Peschke and Ai Sugiyama, 6-1, 6-3.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Interview with Harkleroad

Ashley Harkleroad speaks frankly about her career and her image in this ESPN interview.

Dangerous draw in Doha

The Qatar Total Open draw is out, and there are some struggling top players who should beware. Patty Schnyder, for example, has the bad luck to play Tamira Paszek in the first round. The talented and relentless Paszek defeated Schnyder in a tightly-contested third round in last year's U.S. Open. Amelie Mauresmo faces Sabine Lisicki, the German player whose game needs a lot of polishing, but who nevertheless knows how to inflict damage. And Lucie Safarova, whose fortunes go up and down, may find them going down again when she plays her first round against Dominika Cibulkova.

Other interesting first rounds of a different sort include:

Kateryna Bondarenko v. Eleni Daniilidou
Nadia Petrova v. Anabel Medina Garrigues
Francesca Schiavone v. Shahar Peer
Katerina Srebotnik v. Dinara Safina

Once the qualifiers are assigned, there may some more interesting first rounds.

The Doha tournament was upgraded to Tier I level this year.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Whatever happened to...? has the list and the answers.

Pennetta to team with Schiavone at Indian Wells

Flavia Pennetta (right) with former doubles partner, Gisela Dulko

In her Vina del Mar blog, Flavia Pennetta says that she will team with Francesca Schiavone to play doubles at Indian Wells this year. Pennetta mentioned this as part of the answer to a question about whether she intends to play more doubles with Elena Dementieva. Pennetta and Dementieva teamed up at the very last minute in Los Angeles a couple of years ago and won the tournament, then were finalists at the U.S. Open. Dementieva is now focusing on singles only, however.

Pennetta played doubles with her friend Gisela Dulko for a while; I do not know why that team decided to split. She indicates in her blog that she hopes to team with Schiavone for the Olympics.

Friday cat blogging--lush life edition

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Seles retires

Monica Seles announced her retirement from professional tennis today. For several years, Seles considered making a comeback to the tour, but she has now determined that it is time for her to call it quits.

Seles, whose two-handed-on-both-sides racquet style and trademark grunt distinguished her from her peers, was known for her on-court intensity, uncanny return of serve, and her laser-like ball-striking into wicked court angles. She won nine Grand Slam titles, 53 singles titles, 6 doubles titles, and an Olympic bronze medal. She was number 1 in the world for an extended period of time, and was part of an exciting rivalry with Steffi Graf.

In 1993, Seles was stabbed in the back during a match in Hamburg by a man who has never served a day in prison. She could not play tennis for two years, but upon her return, she won the Australian Open. Five years ago, Seles had to leave the tour because of a stress fracture in her foot, and foot pain has prevented her from returning to competitive tennis.

Had Seles not been stabbed, and had she not sustained the foot injury, there is no telling how many Grand Slams and other tournaments she would have won. She is surely one of the most gifted players in the history of pro tennis, and she inspired some of the biggest names in tennis today.

Seles was born in Yugoslavia, and became a U.S. citizen in 1994.

Dulko and Kostanic Tosic withdraw from Vina del Mar

Gisela Dulko, number 2 seed at the new red clay Cachantun Cup in Vina del Mar, Chile, has withdrawn because of a left hamstring injury she sustained during her first round. Also withdrawing was Jelena Kostanic Tosic has also withdrawn. Since Dulko and Kostanic Tosic were scheduled to play one another in the third round, that round is not a contest between the two walkover winners, Klara Zakopalova and Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Henin's point of view is not mine, either

After Atalanta has a good post on Justine Henin's recent statement that "Politics and sport must remain separate." Henin's take on the upcoming Olympics is that the athletes are there to do their jobs, not to engage in activism or debate.

I understand her point of view, but given that China is cracking down on dissidents, siphoning water away from poor districts and slaughtering both stray and pet dogs (in front of their people) to "prepare" for the Olympics, I'm with After Atalanta: Sport--like anything else--can never be separated from politics, and certainly should not be separated from issues of morality.

A shout-out to my faves!

Arvidsson takes Chakvetadze out of Antwerp

There was a time, not so long ago, when Sofia Arvidsson could hardly win a match, but this season she has experienced a real turnaround, and that she put some emphasis on that turnaround today by defeating Proximus Diamond Games second seed Anna Chakvetadze, 6-3, 7-5. Arvidsson did not make it through qualifying, but got into the main draw as a lucky loser.

Arvidsson will play Li Na in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vaidisova leaves Fed Cup team

Nicole Vaidisova has quit the Czech Fed Cup team, citing a need to concentrate more on her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking.

Jelena Gencic is getting her due

Jelena Gencic's name is not a familiar one in the world of tennis. She played Fed Cup for Yugoslavia in 1973 and lost every match she played. She helped train both Monica Seles and Goran Ivanisevic. And when he was seven, Novac Djokovic began training with Gencic, who coached him for five years. Joel Drucker has a feature about Gencic's influence on Djokovic, which includes some hallmarks of the women's game--serious attention to footwork, measured groundstrokes, deliberate serving technique.

Proximus Diamond Games--looking ahead to the quarterfinals

Justine Henin, Daniela Hantuchova, Patty Schnyder, and Anna Chakvetadze are headed to various quarterfinal contests at the Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp. Or are they?

Henin next faces Tsvetana Pironkova, who has done her share of giant-tipping, but who is not at all likely to prevail against the world number 1 and top seed.

Hantuchova, on the other hand, faces Yanina Wickmayer, who has been on somewhat of a roll lately. Wickmayer defeated both Bondarenko sisters in Fed Cup matches, and beat Peng Shuai to get to the second round of the Proximus Games. She is also playing in her home country and will get all of the crowd support.

Schnyder will play Karin Knapp, who has already advanced to the quarterfinals, with her win over Yaroslava Shvedova. Schnyder tends to do very well on indoor surfaces and should prevail against the the up-and-coming Knapp.

As for Open Gaz de France winner and number 2 seed Anna Chakvetadze, she should get by an improving Sofia Arvidsson to land her quarterfinal slot.

Li Na has already secured her quarterfinal place, with a win over Dominika Cibulkova. Others contending for the quarterfinals:

Kateryna Bondarenko v. Alisa Kleybanova
Timea Bacsinszky v. Julie Ditty

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I expected Daniilidou to beat Szavay

But she had to withdraw. Nonetheless, Agnes Szavay is out of the Proximus Diamond Games, defeated by qualifier Alisa Kleybanova, 6-2, 6-3. The Open Gaz de France finalist had a 47% first serve stat; her opponent's was 46%. Szavay won points on 59% of her first serves, and on 44% of her second serves. She double-faulted seven times, and converted only one of eight break opportunities.

Meilen Tu to marry this weekend

I have no details, but American Meilen Tu is getting married this weekend. Congratulations to Meilen!

Pennetta blogs

From Vina del Mar.

She was ill but she is better now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Daniilidou withdraws from Antwerp

I was looking forward to the first round match between Eleni Daniilidou and Agnes Szavay, but Daniilidou, suffering with a lung inflammation, has withdrawn from the Proximus Diamond Games. Szavay will play Alisa Kleybanova instead.

Wickmayer continues her campaign

During Fed Cup play, Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer defeated both Kateryna and Alona Bondarenko, creating a tight contest between Belgium and Ukraine. Now Wickmayer has taken Peng Shuai out of the first round of the Proximus Diamond Games, 6-0, 6-4.

Also out is number 5 seed Sybille Bammer, who was defeated 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 by Yaroslava Shvedova. And Karin Knapp defeated Nathalie Dechy, 7-6, 6-4.

Domachowska fails to qualify in Vina del Mar

Marta Domachowska, whose comeback took such a wonderful turn when she made it to the Australian Open round of 16 and played a close match against Venus Williams, was derailed today when she lost her final qualifying round at the new Cachantun Cup tournament in Chile. Top qualifying seed Domachowska was defeated by Maria Sanchez, 6-2, 7-5.

Meanwhile, main draw number 3 seed Emilie Loit was defeated by Petra Cetkovska, 6-2, 7-6.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Proximus Diamond Games begin tomorrow

The Proximus Diamond Games begin tomorrow in Antwerp, with a field led by world number 1 Justine Henin. Also featured are Daniela Hantuchova, Open Gaz de France winner Anna Chakvetadze, Patty Schnyder, Agnes Szavay, and the Bondarenko sisters. This is a Tier II tournament played on indoor carpet.

Pennetta top seed at Vina del Mar

Chile's brand new tournament, the Cachantun Cup, begins tomorrow in Vina del Mar, with Italy's Flavia Pennetta set as number 1 seed. Number 2 seed is Pennetta's friend and former doubles partner (why did they stop playing together?), Gisela Dulko of Argentina. The new Tier III tournament will be played on red clay, and will also feature Emilie Loit, Pauline Parmentier, Martina Muller, Sara Errani, and Kaia Kanepi.

Pennetta will start her challenge with a match against against Greta Arn of Hungary.

More bad Jankovic news

The past is really coming to haunt Jelena Jankovic. She sustained yet another injury to her now-fragile back while training in Florida this weekend. I do not have any information other than this. And I am sorry to be the bearer of such rotten news.

7 finals, 7 titles--Chakvetadze takes Paris

Anna Chakvetadze is not always the most mentally tough woman on the court. Lately, mental toughness has probably been especially difficult for her because of an assault made on her and her family in December. But when Chakvetadze manages to get herself into a final, she wins. The Open Gaz de France final was her seventh one, and she won it, just like she won the other six.

Chakvetadze's opponent was Agnes Szavay, one of the tour's rising phenoms. Visibly anxious in the first set, Szavay double-faulted seven times, but then shook off her nerves in the second set and prevailed over an out-of-sorts Chakvetadze. What happened next we have seen before: Chakvetadze changed her attitude and stepped onto the court for the final set a different player. It finally occurred to her to move to the net, where she was quite successful. Her combination of net play and her trademark sudden change of pace, which she uses in long rallies, gave her the advantage, as did her repeated placement of the ball to Szavay's forehand.

The Open Gaz de France trophy, by the way, is beautiful.

Chakvetadze def. Szavay, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2

Bondarenko sisters win in Paris

Only their fans paid attention to the Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko until the Australian Open, which they won, never having won any kind of tournament before. Today, they won the Open Gaz de France, defeating Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlirova, 6-1, 6-4. The Bondarenkos are now on their way to Antwerp, to play in the Proximus Diamond Games.

Craybas comes close, but Radwanska wins Pattaya City

Jill Craybas took the second set of her final against number 1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1, then took the third set to a tiebreak, but did not prevail. Radwanska is the winner of the 2008 Pattaya Women's Open. I'm disappointed; I really wanted Craybas to win another tournament.

Radwanska def. Craybas, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I missed this before

During Fed Cup, I saw only quick highlights of most matches, and I wasn't paying attention to what anyone was wearing, but--on a late note--I really like Sharapova's dress, and hope we see it again.

Radwanska withdraws from Antwerp

Agnieszka Radwanska has withdrawn from the Proximus Diamond Games, which begin Monday in Antwerp. My best guess is that it is long haul to Antwerp from Pattaya City, and Radwanska is in the Pattaya City finals, making it a difficult transition for her.

Craybas in Pattaya City Women's Open final

Jill Craybas will face Agnieszka Radwanska for the Pattaya title

Jill Craybas has reached the final of the Pattaya Women's Open in Pattaya City, Thailand. Her opponent will be Agnieszka Radwanska, the tournament's top seed. Craybas, the number 7 seed, led both the University of Texas and the University of Florida to national championship in the mid-90s.

Bartoli injured--again

Marion Bartoli won the first set of her Open Gaz de France semifinal, but during the second set, she sustained a hip injury. Bartoli received treatment for it, but was never the same again. Her opponent, Anna Chakvetadze, has moved on to the finals with a three-set victory, and Bartoli's fans (and, one would hope, Bartoli) are left with one more injury and more dashed hopes.

Many people have brought up the possibility that some of Bartoli's coach's unorthodox drills could be what makes Bartoli's body so fragile. I don't know if that is so, but it does seem possible that over-drilling could be causing the problem. Bartoli's training regimen is strict and excessive, and she needs to question the widsom of continuing it. For a while last year, Bartoli escaped from the injury cycle that has plagued her throughout her career, but now she appears to be returning to it. Every time she gets to a quarterfinal or semifinal, I cringe, just waiting for the injury. Chakvetadze def. Bartoli, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0

In the other semifinal, Agnez Szavay defeated Elena Dementieva, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5. Dementieva broke Szavay at 4-4 in the final set, served for the match, and was broken back. Szavay then held and broke again, to give her a slot in the finals.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Paris semifinals set

Daniela Hantuchova hurt her hand in the middle of her quarterfinal match against Agnes Szavay, and easily gave up the second set and the match. I do not know if Hantuchova was suffering with a blister or some other type of hand injury. Szavay def. Hantuchova, 7-6, 6-1

Kateryna Bondarenko put up a really good fight in her first round against Elena Dementieva, but things changed after that. Dementieva def. Bondarenko, 7-5, 6-2

According to those who saw the match, Virginie Razzano got down with some hijinks, i.e., imitating Marion Bartoli, during their quarterfinal match. The hijinks were not enough, though: Bartoli def. Razzano, 6-1, 7-6

Finally, while I cannot speak about the first two sets--I was gone--the third set between Anna Chakvetadze and Amelie Mauresmo was a series of breaks, one after another, until Chakvetadze served at 4-3 and was able to hold. She then broke Mauresmo again, held, and put an end to the match. Chakvetadze def. Mauresmo, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Number 1 seed Chakvetadze will play number 3 seed Bartoli in the semifinals, and number 4 seed Dementieva will play number 7 seed Szavay.

Friday cat blogging--window seat edtion

Velma sinks into the top of a chaise and views her property

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Molik out for at least 6 weeks

Alicia Molik is on crutches after Fed Cup, with a torn calf muscle. She is expected to be out for at least six weeks, and she is also continuing to suffer with golfer's elbow. Molik had planned to play at Indian Wells, but now she may not be able to do so.

Sharapova to host Laureaus Awards

Maria Sharapova will host the 2008 Laureaus World Sports Awards ceremony in St. Petersburg later this month.

Justine Henin is a nominee.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Bondarenkos blog, and I'm not disappointed

Photo courtesy of After Atalanta

The Bondarenkos, Alona and Kateryna, winners of the doubles title at the Australian Open, are blogging from the Open Gaz de France in Paris this week. Here is a blog sample from the sometimes contentious sisters (Alona's comments are in italics):

People are always wondering if we get into arguments when we're travelling together, and the answer is, of course, yes. But we've improved. A few years ago we fought so much more but now I think we're used to being around each other all the time and we are a little older now, so we get along much better. And our fights are only for 30 minutes, maybe an hour, so they don't last that long.

I have to add that we maybe have small arguments every day, maybe a few times a day, but they're only about little things. And we didn't argue at all today. And we make up after so they don't last long. But it's always easier when we have somebody else with us, so we can fight with that person instead!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thanks a lot, Ashley...and what was your name?

Ashley Harkleroad--who is the reason the U.S. will play in the 2008 Fed Cup semifinals--is well aware that she herself may not participate in those matches. When the U.S. plays Russia, it is expected that Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond will be there to play doubles again, and there is apparently some hope that the Williams sisters will be on the team.

Get real. Does anyone really think that both Williams sisters will be healthy and ready to play in Fed Cup? I'm not sure even one of them will be. My guess is that if everyone else is healthy and available and one Williams sister can show up, Laura Granville (who did not play against Germany, despite being on the team) will be cut, and Harkleroad will be on the team. Whether she would actually play, of course, is another question.

If the U.S. plays Russia on a clay surface, should Lindsay Davenport be on the team as a singles player? Stay tuned.

Withdrawals, withdrawals...

Tatiana Golovin has withdrawn from Antwerp because of a back injury.

Serena Williams has withdrawn from Antwerp, also, because of her upcoming dental surgery.

And the still-sick and still-injured Sam Stosur and Mara Santangelo have withdrawn from Indian Wells.

Petrova out in first round--again

Kateryna Bondarenko took defending champion Nadia Petrova out of the first round of the Open Gaz de France today in three sets, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4. Petrova went out in the first round of Gold Coast, then took a wild card to Sydney, where she went out in the first round. She fared better at the Australian Open, making it to the round of 16.

Bondarenko is far from being an easy opponent, but one has to wonder: What is Petrova going to do about her now seriously flagging career? Last year, she said she was having some trouble with motivation. When she is on--as she was in the 2006 clay court season--she is hard to beat. But she has not been in that zone for a long time. Known to change coaches often, Petrova cannot seem to get into a winning groove at this point, despite her considerable talent.

Monday, February 4, 2008

SMASH State Open Clay Court Junior Cup to again offer Charleston wild card

At the end of this month, the SMASH State Open Clay Court Junior Cup presented by Chrysler will bring more than 400 regionally and nationally ranked juniors from twelve states and Canada to the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, South Carolina. The tournament, one of only two premier junior tennis tournaments to offer top players the opportunity to compete for a wild card invitation into a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier I event, will be held February 22-25, 2008.

The winner of the Girls 18 division is awarded a wild card to the qualifying draw of the 2008 Family Circle Cup.

Henin receives Laureus nomination

I don't know why I neglected to mention this a few days ago, but I did: Justine Henin has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. As well she should be: Henin won ten titles in 2007, including two Grand Slams and the Sony Ericsson Championships. She was also the first player in ten years to win ten titles.

Henin's competition for the award includes pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, heptathlon champion Carolina Kluft, swimmer Libby Lenton, soccer player Marta, and golfer Lorena Ochoa.

Nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability is Esther Vergeer of The Netherlands, a wheelchair tennis player who has gone unbeaten for four years.

Mirza to boycott Bangalore tournament

I have written in detail about the problems Sania Mirza has in her home country. The situation gets worse every month, and Mirza has decided to boycott the Bangalore Open and, she says, all tournaments in India. Mahesh Bhupathi, Mirza's manager and doubles partner, advised her to skip the Bangalore Open, which begins on March 3. The tournament has been upgraded to a Tier II level.

Harkleroad takes the U.S. into Fed Cup semifinals

Ashley Harkleroad, whose return to pro tennis has been less than spectacular, showed what she is capable of today in her 6-4, 7-5 victory over German player Sabine Lisicki. The match, which was rained out yesterday, featured Harkleroad displaying both a cerebral advantage and some impressive defensive play.

Her opponent, if I may borrow a line from Richard O'Brien, is a "wild and untamed thing, ...a bee with a deadly sting." Lisicki hits either brilliant winners or unforced errors--she is all over the place all the time. One assumes that, as she continues her training at the Bollettieri Academy, she will learn patience and self-discipline. When that occurs, her sting will be deadly indeed.

The U.S. will play defending champion Russia in the semifinals.

The Ukrainian Upset Special

Yuliana Fedak and her partner, Julie Ditty, defeated the top-seeded team in Paris today

We all (sports media excluded) had to sit up and take notice when the Bondarenko sisters, Alona and Katyrina, won the Australian Open. Now, another Ukrainian, Yuliana Fedak and her partner, American Julie Ditty, have defeated the top seeds in the first round of the Open Gaz de France. Fedak and Ditty beat Cara Black and Leizel Huber, 6-4, 0-6, 10-5, and will move on to the second round.

I do not think that Fedak and Ditty have ever played together before. Black and Huber are numbers 1 and 2 in the world, respectively.

Bartoli enters Family Circle Cup

2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli has joined Nadia Petrova, Anna Chakvetadze, Venus and Serena Williams, Justine Henin, and Jelena Jankovic as an entrant in the 2008 Family Circle Cup, to be held in April on Daniel Island, just outside Charleston, South Carolina. This is the tournament's 35th anniversary.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Russian Fed Cup captain files complaint

Shamil Tarpischev, captain of the Russian Fed Cup team, has filed a complaint against the judges who he says ignored the aggressive behavior of the Israeli crowd during Russia's matches against Israel. Members of the Israeli crowd are reported to have yelled and carried on while Russian players were serving, and especially so during the service games of Maria Sharapova.

China into Fed Cup semifinals

China has defeated France, 3-2, to reach the Fed Cup semifinals for the first time. China's opponent in the semifinals will be Spain.

Also, the Czech Republic has defeated Slovakia, 3-2; Ukraine has defeated Belgium, 3-2, with the Bondarenko sisters finally coming through in doubles'; and Japan has defeated Croatia, 4-1. This will be Ukraine's first semifinal effort in the World Group.

Wickmayer dispenses of 2nd Bondarenko, and Spain moves on

Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain took out Italy's two top Fed Cup players

Not content to just upset Kateryna Bondarenko in Fed Cup, Yanina Wickmayer has also upset Alona Bondarenko, 6-3, 6-4, giving Belgium a 2-1 lead over Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova, continuing her steamroller run, took care of Shahar Peer, 6-1, 6-1, to give Russia a 4-1 victory over Israel in Fed Cup.

The biggest news, however, is that Anabel Medina Garrigues, who defeated Flavia Pennetta, has now also defeated Francesca Schiavone, 6-4, 6-1, which moves Spain to the Fed Cup semifinals. Italy was last year's finalist.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

15 aces and 11 double faults later, Lisicki scores for Germany

It was almost inevitable that Sabine Lisicki would upset Lindsay Davenport in their Fed Cup match. I say this because I chose to go to the movies rather than watch Fed Cup on TV, and that is generally a good predictor of an upset or a thriller in the making. Lisicki defeated Davenport 6-1, 7-5 (she was down 2-5 in the second set), but that was not the only upset of the day.

Nuria Llagorstera Vives upset Francesca Schiavone, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. Making Spain's lead over Italy even more pronounced was Anabel Medina Garrigues, who defeated Flavia Pennetta, 6-2, 6-3.

Belgium scored an upset, too, when Yanina Wickmayer defeated Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-6, 6-1. (Note to Fed Cup: It would be a good idea to spell Bondarenko's name correctly on your website.)

And China is 2-0 against France, with Peng Shuai's defeat of Virginie Razzano (4-6, 6-3, 6-4) and Li Na's defeat of Alize Cornet (6-3, 6-1).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Now THIS is the way to treat the sports press

From an Israeli reporter's interview with Maria Sharapova:

Do you have a boyfriend?
I don’t comment on my personal life.

Why are you so interested in my personal life? You want to take the vacant post?

Read some more on TennisInfoBlog.

Cirstea defeats Jankovic in Fed Cup

Sorana Cirstea, who is on my watch list, has defeated Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in their Fed Cup match.

Williams withdraws from Open Gaz de France

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Open Gaz de France tournament, which begins Monday in Paris. Williams dropped out because she needs to have dental surgery. She was the number 2 seed.

Suarez weds

Recently retired Paola Suarez, former world number 1 in doubles, has married. You can see some lovely wedding photos here.

Friday cat blogging--big baby edition

Tarzan sleeps with his hippo