Sunday, August 31, 2008

What they said--day 7

"I had to change something to get myself together again and do the right things. You know, I did that."
Jelena Jankovic, on her match against Carolina Wozniacki

"You know, I felt like even though I was hitting the ball it wasn't going. I felt a bit tired. You know, Jelena, she's not No. 2 for no reason, you know."
Caroline Wozniacki

Bammer upsets Bartoli at U.S. Open

I got to see only parts of this match, but I do know that--once again--Marion Bartoli had to take a medical break because of her back, and because of what appeared to be cramping. She had to have her blood pressure checked, I know. I have written many times about my fear that Bartoli's father/coach over-trains her. I maintain that position.

All the same, Bartoli, the 12th seed, did pretty well, but in the end, she lost to the 29th-seeded Sybille Bammer in a really lopsided score: 7-6, 0-6, 6-4.

Meanwhile, Elena Dementieva took an easy lead over Li Na, saw it evaporate into a small lead, but took the first set, anyway, and cruised through the second. Li is moving and hitting better than ever, but she had too many unforced errors to win this match. Dementieva def. Li, 7-5, 6-2

Because I was on the road, I missed the match between Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki took the first set, and Jankovic said she plotted a strategy for the second set: Be more aggressive on one side, hit harder on the other, and put more spin on the ball. It worked. Jankovic def. Wozniacki, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1

Finally, Patty Schnyder overcame Katarina Srebotnik, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Schnyder is now 4-1 against Srebotnik.

Top junior seed out in first round

Aranxta Rus, the top girls' seed at the U.S. Open, was defeated today by Victoria Kamenskaya, 6-4, 6-1, in the first round of play.

Greetings from Birmingham

Women Who Serve is back in business. We arrived in Birmingham early this afternoon--two people and four cats. The Internet cable didn't work, but it has since been replaced, and everything is fine.

Thanks to all for your concern.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

To all readers of Women Who Serve

I thought I was going to be able to remain at home, but things have turned out differently, and--to be safe--we are evacuating early tomorrow morning. Obviously, blogging may slow down. However, as soon as we're settled in our hotel, I will resume.

Ready for round of 16 in Flushing Meadows

The Williams sisters performed splendidly today, as expected, in their matches against Ai Sugiyama and Alona Bondarenko. Julie Coin went out on a high note, playing a very nice match against winner Amelie Mauresmo, and Dominika Cibulkova was all but blown away by Agnieszka Radwanska. As always, Dinara Safina took us all to the emergency room door before winning over Tamea Bacsinszky. Bacsinszky had some significant overheating and cramping problems, or Safina's come-from-behind tactics may have failed this time.

In a slight upset, Flavia Pennetta defeated Nadia Petrova, and in a big upset, comeback player Anna-Lena Groenefeld defeated Alize Cornet, though Cornet made a remarkable comeback from 1-5 down in the second set. Finally, in an obviously hard-fought match, Severine Bremond defeated Tathiana Garbin.

There was one doubles upset today: Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova defeated the number 13 seeds, Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva, in straight sets.

Serena Wiliams def. Ai Sugiyama, 6-2, 6-1
Venus Williams def. Alona Bondarenko, 6-2, 6-1
Amelie Mauresmo def. Julie Coin, 6-4, 6-4
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-0, 6-3
Dinara Safina def. Tamea Bacsinszky, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2
Flavia Pennetta def. Nadia Petrova, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Alize Cornet, 6-4, 7-5
Severine Bremond def. Tathiana Garbin, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4

What they said--day 6

"I think you're right, because, you know, when I went to Poland everyone was really was so happy that I was there. So, so many big fans. I thought maybe my last my name was Williams‑owski or something."
Venus Williams

"Actually I learned how to play against her. She's very tough player, like a wall. Everything is going back."
Agnieszka Radwanska, speaking of Dominika Cibulkova

"But I definitely think that it's a matter of another few months and then another player or couple of players are going to raise to the Number 1 ranking and really stay there for a while."
Amelie Mauresmo

Can you win this tournament basically from the net?
"Like just running in?"
Well, I mean not just crazy...
"Oh, a Kamikaze mission, side mission?"
Venus Williams

You ever consider yourself playing at your best?
"Yeah, a couple times in my career. Not too many."
When was the last time?
"I don't know. I have to think about it."
Serena Williams

You every consider bringing back your beads from 1997?
"That was last millennium, so last millennium."
Venus Williams

Hurricane blues

In the U.S., the Open is being shown on CBS today, and our local affiliate has pre-empted it in order to provide non-stop, mostly unnecessary, hurricane bulletins. It will be the same tomorrow. I am stuck with the electronic scoreboard, and I am not happy.

Friday, August 29, 2008

3rd round continues tomorrow

There will be eight more third round matches tomorrow:

Julie Coin's golden moment should come to an end when she plays countrywoman Amelie Mauresmo, but we will most likely see some really good serving from her.

Nadia Petrova and Flavia Pennetta are invisible to the press, but both are very good hard court players, and theirs could be in interesting match.

Anna-Lena Groenefeld of the recent comeback and the huge serve, will go against French phenom Alize Cornet. Cornet can usually handle big servers pretty well, but Groenefeld--if she is feeling confident--could give her some trouble.

Timea Bacsinszky's best chance to hang around and wait for Dinara Safina to mess up her serve. But even that isn't likely to win her the match.

Serena Williams will probably get all she can handle from the flat-hitting Ai Sugiyama, but chances are, Williams will indeed handle it.

Who knew that Severine Bremond and Tathiana Gardin would meet in the third round of the U.S. Open? One of them will be in the round of 16, but who?

The talented but streaky Alona Bondarenko needs to take every trick she has to the court tomorrow because Venus Williams will be on the other side of the net. Bondarenko's best bet is for Williams' forehand to go hinky.

And my pick for the match to see (though in all likelihood, I won't) is the one between Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova. This match should provide some really nice tennis. Radwanska is all about precision and toughness, and Cibulkova is up to the task. Neither player is likely to lose her nerve; however, Cibulkova is a bit vulnerable to leg injuries. Both players are good court thinkers and good shot-makers.

Day 5 upsets

The big upset today was, of course, Katarina Srebotnik's defeat of 3rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. But it was not the only one. Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 21st, defeated the 14th seed, Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 6-4.

And though it was not an upset (for some of us, it was the expected outcome), Lindsay Davenport, former U.S. Open champion, was taken out in the third round by 12th seeded Marion Bartoli, 6-1, 7-6. Bartoli overwhelmed Davenport in the first set, then blew a chain of break points in the second, only to revive herself for the tiebreak, which she won, 7-3. Davenport had repeated problems with her service game, and--much of the time--looked like she would rather be somewhere else.

Kuzzy may have lost the match...

But she's a winner with me:

You see I'm closing up, because sometimes your comments‑‑normally I'm open person. I learned. I was still similar example. She did win Wimbledon, but this girl could win Wimbledon. She beat Maria Sharapova, and she came to this press conference, she so open, she wanted to say so much to the press, and it's like I won the US Open and I wanted to share myself, to share happiness when I won it. And also people started telling her, so you happy you won? She says, yes, I am. So were you angry with‑‑were you motivated? What did bring you motivation to beat Maria? Well, I was just motivated to be here. She's great player. And then, do you like her dress? And she says, no really. So can we say you're more motivated her beating her you did not like her dress? She says, well, whatever. Next morning it was in the press, "She hated her dress, that's why she beat her." This is why players close up, because we don't really mean it. I'm just trying to be open to show how the players feel.

I think through the press, Billie Jean King was saying about this, she was saying this, because through press it's not about our work, it's our job, but we communicate to the kids, to the world, you know. So many kids and people looking up for you. Looking at what you're going to do, to learn something from players.

So I prefer to give them the real message, how it is.

Right on, Sveta.

What they said--day 5

"...every set we play 5‑all, but she sometimes played soft, sometimes she hit hard. So always change. For me, it's tough."
Zheng Jie, speaking of Jelena Jankovic

"...if Lindsay is not going to give me the match, so I have to take it from her, so if it takes three sets, it takes three sets. I was ready for three, anyway."
Marion Bartoli

"I have gotten in trouble with the WTA before. I have been on the line as far as tennis apparel goes."
Bethanie Mattek

"...I think she's probably the best British player that I ever played. She has a very good potential, she's very aggressive, and she has a good serve."
Elena Dementieva, speaking of Anne Keothavong

You caused quite a few problems there.
"Yeah, I guess so. It would have been nice to have caused her a few more problems."
Anne Keothavong

...a few years ago, when you won this tournament, I'll never forget that, you were in this room and you were all starry eyes and it was so beautiful to see, how you said, you just...
"Now it's ugly to see me here?"
Svetlana Kuznetsova

"I'm not too sure about my body. If I go into a split, who knows if I'll come back up, you know?"
Jelena Jankovic

U.S. Open miscellany

In case anyone is wondering where Ashley Harkleroad is--she is pregnant. Harkleroad, who recently posed nude for the "classy" magazine owned by a corporation with a history of sexually assaulting women, is now on her way to motherhood. Given her ambivalence about her first return to the tour after some time off, I doubt she will be back. That would be bad news for the U.S. Fed Cup team.

Maria Sharapova and Chris Evert, each of whom has a tendency to be rather droll, did good jobs in the ESPN booth the other night. Bring them back, I say.

Justin Gimelstob is serving as Lindsay Davenport's hitting partner in Flushing Meadows.

Jelena Jankovic and her partner, Fernando Verdasco, have withdrawn from mixed doubles. Lindsay Davenport withdrew earlier.

In terms of quantity, Katarina Srebotnik is the current ace leader, with 24 aces to her name. That's an average of 8 aces per round, which makes her, mathematically speaking, still a tad behind Sorana Cirstea, who hit 17 aces in two rounds--and even with Julie Coin, who has hit 16 aces in two rounds.

I understand that a Russian commentator referred to Zhang Shuai as "having a fighting spirit, like a typical Asian." Because they all chop like Lady Snowblood, right?

Doubles upsets on day 5

Iveta Benesova and Galina Voskoboeva, seeded 12th in doubles, were defeated today in the second round of the U.S. Open by the unseeded team of Dominika Cibulkova and Virginie Razzano, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6.

Meanwhile, in mixed doubles, the unseeded team of Rennae Stubbs and Robert Lindstedt defeated the number 8 seeds, Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round.

Srebotnik upsets Kuznetsova in 3rd round of U.S. Open

Katarina Srebotnik, the woman who spoiled the French Open for Serena Williams, has now spoiled the U.S. Open for former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The 28th-seeded Srebotnik, a player of considerable talent who has had a summer of mixed results, was back on track today as she used her steady serve and her doubles-honed net finesse to aggressively remove the third seed from the tournament.

Srebotnik took the first set by one break, and the second went to a tiebreak, which Kuznetsova swept, 7-1. But Srebotnik came back with even more aggression, and prevailed, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

A look behind the scenes at the U.S. Open Media Center

Tennis journalist Paula Vergara gives us a personal look at what goes on behind the scenes at the U.S. Open Media Center. Vergara's feature comes to us from On the Baseline.

Friday cat blogging--now we are 5!

Some time this month--we do not know the exact date--Roxie and Velma had their fifth birthday. The sisters were rescued as kittens by an animal rescue organization whose staff discovered them living with their mother in a yard in a small city outside of New Orleans. The owner of the house (who, of course, had never bothered to have the mother cat spayed), did not want to feed them. They were brought to our community, and we adopted them when they were five months old.

Roxie is wildly athletic, jumping and climbing on everything in the house, and often running fast around corners and hurling herself at walls. She has also broken a number of items--lamps, vases, candlesticks--some of which I valued a great deal; she is the first cat with whom I have lived who has broken things. Velma is calmer and better behaved, and is quite chatty. Being a tortoiseshell, she is easily spooked, however, and goes especially nuts when she sees one of us wearing rain gear.

A couple of years ago, we added two kittens to the household. Roxie continues to have somewhat conflicted relationships with them, though the situation is much better than it was. She is no longer attacking Tarzan all the time, and--though she would deny it--she is seen hanging out with Ziggy rather frequently. Velma gets along very well with both of them; she is, in fact, the resident social director. It goes without saying that the two sisters rule, and everyone knows it.

Roxie and Velma, for their part, are best friends, and they are wonderful friends to us.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

U.S. Open 3rd round--what to expect

Tomorrow, the bottom half of the draw will play third round matches.

An (ever-)ailing Jelena Jankovic will face Wimbledon semi-finalist Zheng Jie. The 2008 U.S. Open courts are reported to have a high bounce, which should work in Jankovic's favor, rather than Zheng's. But sadly, Jankovic is a mess, and Zheng is tough. Anything could happen.

Olympic gold medal winner Elena Dementieva is favored to defeat Anne Keothavong, of course, though no one is safe in this draw, much less someone like Dementieva, who can have meltdowns from time to time.

Li Na faces young Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who has been rather impressive lately. And Patty Schnyder--more or less the forgotten woman in this tournament--will play Magdalena Rybarikova. Katarina Srebotnik gets a shot at Svetlana Kuznetsova--that could be a really good match, and Tatiana Perebiynis will play Sybille Bammer.

Of great interest to a lot of people is the third round match between Lindsay Davenport and Marion Bartoli. Bartoli is a lot like Jankovic in that we can anticipate she will have an injury or illness of some kind more often than not. Davenport has had trouble with her knee lately, but I think she is less physically vulnerable than Bartoli. But...if Bartoli is healthy and in her particular zone, she could give Davenport some trouble. Both of them like to dictate play from the baseline, and neither likes to move around a lot, though Bartoli is deceptively faster than people perceive.

Those are some interesting matches, but--to me--they pale next to the one that will be played between Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Unless something goes wrong, these two will put on a show. Wozniacki, who won Pilot Pen Tennis right before the U.S. Open began, is one of the hottest players on the tour right now, and Azarenka is capable of hitting powerful groundstrokes and showing the net skills she has honed in doubles play. We should expect three exciting sets.

Day 4 upsets

Today, of course, was the day of the upset of upsets. But Julie Coin's defeat of Ana Ivanovic was not the only upset of day 4 of the U.S. Open. Agnes Szavay, seeded 13th at the U.S. Open, was defeated by unseeded Tathiana Garbin, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. Also, Nicole Vaidisova, seed number 20, was defeated, 7-5, 6-3, by unseeded Severine Bremond.

What they said--day 4

"Like at one point I was thinking like to maybe stop at the end of this year. So I guess maybe now I'm going to think about like keep playing."
Julie Coin

I was reading that tennis players get a lower percentage of various event revenues than other athletes such as golfers, basketball players, football players. I was just curious, since you're pretty well‑known in this business, if it's a topic of discussion, if you have any thoughts on that?

"Not at this moment, no. Let me think about it so I make sure I say something real politically correct."
Venus Williams

"This was tough, you know, when a coach doesn't want to hear a player opinion, even if I'm wrong, but at least he can talk--he can listen and then we can discuss and not always say his opinion. So I think this is the reason, like, why we started to fight a lot on the court. And then it was not‑‑I mean, I have enough stress on the court playing a match and if I go on practice and I'm still fighting with my coach, I don't need this."
Dinara Safina, on why she changed coaches

"She's kind of an idol in France. Everybody loves her."
Julie Coin on Amelie Mauresmo

"She's pretty much relentless. I better be ready. That girl is a tough cookie."
Serena Williams on her upcoming match against Ai Sugiyama

"Yeah, it's very different, because the way I enter these tournaments now is completely different. I used to be favorite and now I'm more of really not knowing what's going to happen and how my game is going to be. So it's‑‑I don't know if I savor it more. It's more surprising probably."
Amelie Mauresmo

When did you sense everything was going your way?
"When it was over."
Julie Coin

Azarenka and Peer upset in U.S. Open

Victoria Azarenka and Shahar Peer, the 6th seeds at the U.S. Open, were defeated today by the unseeded team of Nadia Petrova and Francesca Schiavone, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

Fist-pump this: Tour debut player takes out top seed

Julie Coin made her tour debut by removing the number 1 seed from the U.S. Open

One had nerves of steel until she realized what was about to happen, then she recovered. The other had nerves of something less sturdy. I did not think Ana Ivanovic was going to make it past the third round of the U.S. Open, but I thought she would get through the second. It wasn't to be, though, as Julie Coin, playing in her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event, defeated the world number 1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Coin is ranked number 188 in the world, which makes this the biggest upset in U.S. Open history. The fact that Coin had never before made it to a tour event adds another amazing layer to this upset. try and try for years, but you never qualify for a tour event. Then you qualify for one, and it just happens to be one of the four majors. You take out the world number 40 in the first round, and in the second, you think--"What the hell? I guess I should go ahead and take out the number 1, as long as I've made it this far."

Coin has won four ITF circuit singles titles and five doubles titles. She is also that rare bird--a college graduate; she played tennis for Clemson University. In the U.S. Open qualifying tournament, the unseeded Coin defeated Amanda McDowell, former tour rising star Sesil Karatantcheva, and 25th seed Elena Baltacha.

I saw Coin make one of her failed qualifying attempts at the 2006 Family Circle Cup. She defeated Bethanie Mattek in the first round of qualifying, but then lost to Julia Vakulenko in the second.

Coin served extremely well, and was very steady in her match against Ivanovic. At one point in the final set, she was down 0-40, and she won the game, then went on to break Ivanovic at love. She did get shaky when she served for the match, and it took her three match points to end the affair. The fact that she could end it at all speaks to her remarkably stable state of mind.

Ivanovic has been healing from a thumb injury which caused her to withdraw from the Olympics, and she did not have much match play coming into New York.

Random U.S. Open observations

In her two rounds at the Open, Sorana Cirstea hit seventeen aces.

Anna-Lena Groenefeld hit a 128 mph serve in the second round. (She whacked a measly 124 mph serve in the first round.)

You can read about the U.S. Open's green initiative here.

I read that Sofia Arvidsson wrote in a blog that Jelena Jankovic crossed out her name on the massage list and replaced it with her own. Who's the drama queen now?

The U.S. Open website provides a link for downloading wallpapers, but provides no wallpapers to download.

Fifty-eight years ago today, Althea Gibson became the first African-American woman to play a round in the U.S. Open. She won the match. Twenty-four years ago today, Steffi Graf made her U.S. Open debut.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What they said--day 3

Did you think about taking a nap?
"I would have loved to, you know, take a nap on court, because I was really exhausted. But, you know, the rules are the rules. I had to keep going."
Jelena Jankovic

"Well, I was listen to the TV last night, and they were saying that it's not good for tennis if there is not a clear leader. It's better to have just, like, for example, with Henin. I don't know if to be agree or not."
Svetlana Kuznetsova

"...I haven't changed anything technically. I think mentally I'm a lot stronger."
Anne Keothavong

"I try to bring as little drama as possible, unlike some other players we have."
Lindsay Davenport

Day 3--the upsets continue

The highest seed to go out today at the U.S. Open was Olympic bronze medal winner Vera Zvonareva, who lost to Tatiana Perebiynis in straight sets. 25th seed Francesca Schiavone was upset by Anne Keothavong, and 26th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues lost to Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie.

Although not a major upset on paper, one of the biggest surprises of the day was the 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Tamira Paszek by Magdalena Rybarikova. It wasn't just the suprise loss, but also the scoreline, that got my attention. In the first round, Rybarikova defeated Gisela Dulko, which also surprised me.

Credit to Perebiynis, who is capable of playing some very good tennis, but I was quite surprised to see Zvonareva make a second round exit.

Sharapova will probably be out for the rest of the season

This is the news from On the Baseline, and bad news it is. But it is better for Maria to be totally healthy than to take chances.

Jankovic says her fitness is not that good

I did not see Jelena Jankovic fall to the ground during her second round match and not get up for a while She says she stayed down because she felt so much fatigue. After her match, she got on the treadmill, as is her custom, and after only three minutes, she began to cramp, so she got off. The cramp involved her most recent injury, the torn meniscus. It doesn't look good, does it JJ fans?

Big doubles upsets in U.S. Open first round

The 2nd and 3rd seeded teams were both taken out in the first round of doubles play today in Flushing Meadows. 3rd-seeded Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung were defeated 7-5, 6-1, by Abilgail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones. The second seeds, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, were taken out by Marina Erakovic and Jelena Kostanic Tosic, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Those were not the only upsets. 9th seeded Nathalie Dechy and Casey Dellacqua were defeated 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska. The number 15 seeds, Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta, were defeated by Tathiana Garbin and Tamira Paszek, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and number 16 seeds Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlirova lost to Stephanie Foretz and Camille Pin, who beat them 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

All of the above-named winning teams were unseeded.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2 more upsets on day 2

Julie Coin is into the second round of the U.S. Open

Day 2 of the U.S. Open brought about two upsets on the women's side: Anna-Lena Groenefeld, as part of her tour comeback, defeated eleventh seed Daniela Hantuchova, and Timea Bacsinszky defeated seed number 31, Virginie Razzano, 6-4, 6-1.

Other interesting results also came about. Top seed Ana Ivanovic had to fight to stay in the tournament, but was victorious over Vera Dushevina, and Dinara Safina displayed more out-of-control serving. Julie Coin defeated Casey Dellacqua. The battle of the junior stars--Jessica Moore and Melanie Oudin--ended in a 7-6, 7-6 victory for Moore.

What they said--day 2

"I always say it's a bit like driving. When you have a straight road ahead, you can go full tilt, but when you get some hazards in the road, you have to go a bit more carefully; you put your brakes on for a while."
Virginia Wade, on the hazards of "power playing"

"Hopefully I'll be successful enough on the tour not to go to college."
Gail Brodsky

"I think he's the person like he would be always next to you. Like whenever you need help he would be there."
Dinara Safina, speaking of her brother, Marat Safin

"Nobody has ever asked me the size of my feet."
Dominika Cibulkova, replying to a question about what she wishes interviewers would ask her

"At the academy, do you always play against men or girls, or who do you practice mostly with?"
Unidentified sexist, grammar-impaired interviewer

Can you comment on the Serbian players now on the tour, how they seem to kind of start dominating?
"Do you think they're going to start dominating on the tour?"
Well, they're 1 and 2 now.
"1 and 2. You think they'll be dominating?"
Serena Williams

"...we were making jokes at Olympics. I should try compete something else because I was just doing running and sprints."
Ana Ivanovic

This is your biggest press conference, probably, in your life?
"This is my only press conference."
Gail Brodsky

Only two days in, and I want to turn the sound off

The U.S. Open commentators are up to their usual incompetence and laziness, mispronouncing players' names right and left. In fact, it is rare that they pronounce a player's name correctly. If I did my job at the level of competence they do theirs, I would be in trouble.

Tracy Austin informed us that Lindsay Davenport now has a new fan base--moms. That may be so, I don't know. But with all the constant fuss about Davenport's and Bammer's motherhood, I am still waiting to hear glowing words about Tzipora Obziler's new motherhood. I supposed that one doesn't count, and God forbid anyone should mention it on the air.

Speaking of parenting, though, Ted Robinson impressed me (as he always does, with his language devoid of sexism and his refusal to appeal to 11-year-old males) with his comment that Patrick McEnroe's acceptance of a coaching job with Andy Roddick seemed like an awkward one, given that he has twins on the way. Can you imagine any other commentator (except, perhaps, Mary Carillo) saying that about a man?

As for John McEnroe...Ana Ivanovic's so-called fist pump is a lot of things, but "elegant" is not one of them.

And speaking of Ted Robinson and Mary Carillo...does anyone else think they were separated at birth? They not only look alike, they sound alike and have some of the same mannerisms.

Groenefeld upsets Hantuchova at the U.S. Open

A bit over two years ago, Anna-Lena Groendfeld was number 14 in the world, and she fell on hard times. Those hard times had to do with a bitter split from a coach, and probably some other issues. Her weight changed from bloated to rail-thin, and she just looked troubled in every aspect. Groenefeld has been working her way back in challengers, and she announced her return today at the U.S. Open by defeating the number 11 seed, Daniela Hantuchova, in straight sets.

Hantuchova has had some hard times herself lately. She had bones spurs in her foot that simply would not heal, so she was out for a long time. It is very unfortunate that she is out in the first round of the season's final major, but nice that Groenefeld can take some confidence from this match.

Groenefeld def. Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-2

Who is the most difficult player for you to play against?

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour asked some players that question, and two of them--Vera Zvonareva and Elena Dementieva--replied "Anna Smashnova." Smashnova has retired, of course, but she certainly has not been forgotten.

If we're going to keep our eyes on a young American player....

Then let's keep our eyes on Kristie Ahn. Ahn played an almost nerve-less first round match against Dinara Safina, keeping her head and providing Safina all the trouble she needed to get match-tough at the U.S. Open. (Safina helped a bit by double-faulting ten times.) In the second set, it took Ahn five break points to get the job done, but she hung in. And she managed to save a match point at the end. Well done.

Ahn has a 10-1 record on the ITF circuit, and--in juniors and in pro play--she has yet to lose a tiebreaker.

Safina needs to fix the service problem. Only Justine Henin can double-fault ten times in a match and continue to get away with it most of the time.

Safina def. Ahn, 6-3, 6-4

Monday, August 25, 2008

What they said--day 1

"I was feeling like I play the wall."
Li Na, on competing against Shahar Peer

"....all my thinking is there in Beijing."
Elena Dementieva

"I mean, honestly the kid has no idea if I've won or lost. He napped through my whole match today in the hotel."
Lindsay Davenport, speaking of her son

You have a chance to be No. 1 at the end of this tournament, and there are several players in the same position. Why doesn't anyone want to keep No. 1 in women's tennis?
"Because Justine is not here anymore."
Elena Dementieva

What's it like for you in New York when you walk through New York? What do you like here?
"I like the street number five."
Li Na

3 seeds gone at U.S. Open

Number 10 seed Anna Chakvetadze, number 22 seed Maria Kirilenko, and number 24 seed Shahar Peer were all defeated today in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Chakvetadze fell to countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova. Shahar Peer, an inconsistent player if ever there were one, was defeated by Olympic bronze medal finalist Li Na, and Kirilenko--up a break in the third set--was taken out by Tamira Paszek.

Makarova def. Chakvetadze, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
Li def. Peer, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1
Paszek def. Kirilenko, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4

Irony I could do without

I always cringe when Jane Brown Grimes talks about gender equality at the U.S. Open while she and her organization continue to refer to her as a man.

Chakvetadze out of U.S. Open in first round

When Ekaterina Makarova served for the match, at 1-6, 6-2, 5-3, her opponent, Anna Chakvetadze, had three break points to stay in the match. Makarova saved all three, however, and won on her first match point. The players' stats are remarkably similar; if anything, Chakvetadze's are a bit better. But someone has to win, even if the stats are the same.

This loss has to really sting, coming just after Chakvetadze's failure to win the championship in New Haven. And especially since she has done so much to improve her game.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who will win the U.S. Open?

Elena Dementieva has finally gotten rid of her service problems, and she won gold in Beijing. She has been to major finals before, and knows her way around three sets.

Dinara Safina is undeniably the hottest player on the tour right now, with a greatly improved mentality, but she showed some vulnerability in her service disaster in the Beijing final.

Serena Williams is totally unpredictable, and can never be counted out. She appears to be physically healthy, and that makes her a top contender.

Ana Ivanovic has not had much match play lately because of her thumb; on the other hand (no pun intended), she is not worn out from Beijing activity.

Jelena Jankovic is, as far as I know, still injured to some degree, and has not had much match play, but has to be very hungry, and her serve is much better now.

Venus Williams is considered a contender by some people, though I am not one of them.

Any others?

If the Open were to be won by a first-time major title winner, who would it most likely be?

If the Open were to be won by someone not on the above list, who would it most likely be?


A look back at junior U.S. Open winners

Here are the players who won the junior event at the U.S. Open during the last two decades:

2007 Kristina Kucova
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2005 Victoria Azarenka
2004 Michaella Krajicek
2003 Kirsten Flipkens
2002 Maria Kirilenko
2001 Marion Bartoli
2000 Maria Emilia Salerni
1999 Lina Krasnoroutskaia
1998 Jelena Dokic
1997 Cara Black
1996 Mirjana Lucic
1995 Tara Snyder
1994 Meilen Tu
1993 Maria Francesca Bentivoglio
1992 Lindsay Davenport
1991 Karina Habsudova
1990 Magdalena Maleeva
1989 Jennifer Capriati
1988 Carrie Cunningham

Azarenka, Black, Davenport, and Maleeva were all seeded number 1. Only Davenport went on to win the U.S. Open as a tour player.

"Venus (I'm Ready)"

Wyclef Jean has written a song about Venus Williams called "Venus (I'm Ready)." The singer-songwriter met Williams when they were paired for an episode of "Iconoclasts" for the Sundance Channel. Jean says of Williams, "Much like Isis, her strength should be celebrated."

The song will have its debut tomorrow at the U.S. Open, where thousands of fans will hear it in surround sound.

Billie Jean King, friend of Venus Williams, and the woman for whom the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is named, also had a song written for her, Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom."

Peschke and Raymond win in New Haven

Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond--playing together because their regular partners needed some rest after participating in the Olympics--are the winners of Pilot Pen Tennis. Peschke and Raymond defeated Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu, 4-6, 7-5, 10-7.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

U.S. Open miscellany

Fans of Lindsay Davenport, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, and Alize Cornet cannot be very pleased to know that their players come to Flushing Meadows either injured or just healing from injuries. I'm down about JJ, but then, I have come to expect injury from her this year. She says that not being able to train is very discouraging, and I'm sure Davenport and Ivanovic have similar feelings. Cornet is probably the least vulnerable of the four.

I love the new Times Square version of the U.S. Open "They're Coming..." television spots. It is my favorite of all I've ever seen, I think.

Maria Sharapova's 2008 U.S. Open dresses were designed, but they will look kind of empty on the court without Maria. The day dress is made of jersey, with velvet and frayed silk trim. The color is "concord," and there is black stretch velvet at the waist. The dress has a sheer overlay. The night dress is black with gold trim, with a body-hugging jersey under-layer and a sheer jersey over-layer.

How terrible is Heidi Klum's official T-shirt, anyway?

Not surprisingly, Jessica Moore is the Australian wild card who was not named in the original list. She will play none other than wild card Melanie Oudin in the first round.

Here is a nice piece on wild card Gail Brodsky.

And Todd Spiker informs us that Mariana Duque-Marino is a lucky loser who is into the main draw. In a regular tournament, the highest qualifying seed to lose in qualifying becomes the lucky loser, but in majors, anything goes, and Mathilde Johansson was overlooked by the powers that be.

U.S. Open experts' picks updated

Here is an updated list.

Safarova wins Forest Hills

Lucie Safarova has defeated Peng Shuai, 6-4, 6-2, to take the Forest Hills Tennis Classic title. Both finalists were unseeded in a tournament with only sixteen entrants and four seeds. Peng took out the top seed, Pauline Parmentier, in the first round.

Wozniacki wins Pilot Pen

Anna Chakvetadze has added so much to her game (an obvious result of her having spent some time with Robert Lansdorp); now she has a mean winning forehand to go with her already excellent defensive game. She is also hitting the ball harder. On paper, the addition of these new skills should make Chakvetadze one of the very top players on the tour. But the one thing that has not been remedied is her mentality. After playing a very fine first set, top seed Chakvetadze repeated her error of last night's semifinal, and let her aggression run away with her. She also faced an opponent who shook off her nerves in the second set, and especially when there was a break point against her when she served at 4-5.

But in the third set, we saw a classic Chakvetadze mental meltdown. This frustrates me no end because I so admire her tennis, and I was so pleased to see the additions she has made to her game. Chakvetadze has always had some head problems, and they have become worse since she experienced a trauma last December. Her under-achievement makes me cringe sometimes.

Until she played this match, Chakvetadze had a perfect record in finals: She had won seven out of seven. Today, Caroline Wozniacki ended that perfect record, and did it with style. Once she got past her first set problems, the unseeded Wozniacki was able to sieze control of the match, even giving back to her opponent several Chakvetadze-style wicked court angles. It was another very fine performance from Wozniacki, and the first set of the final was the only set she dropped all week.

We'll see if the commentators can keep from getting their tiny brains scrambled by the fact that two of the U.S. Open Series tournaments were won by Wozniack and Wozniacki, respectively. And speaking of commentators...Mary Joe Fernandez, how hard is it to learn how to pronounce "Chakvetadze" when what you are paid for is saying her name? And Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe, how hard is it to learn how to pronounce "Wozniacki"? Apparently just too hard.

I had my own problems with this match. Because it was a CBS feed, I missed the beginning because the local CBS affiliate felt compelled to air a storm update and then air the news that should have been broadcast during the long storm update time slot. But the corker came when--at 2 p.m., right before match point--the local station cut in with another storm update. All I could do was write an angry letter to the programming department.

Wozniacki def. Chakvetadze, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1

U.S. Open qualifiers into the main draw

Here are the sixteen women who came out of the qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open:

Stephanie Vogele
Shenay Perry
Hsieh Su-Wei
Zhang Shuai
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Roberta Vinci
Anastasia Pivovarova
Alexa Glatch
Ioana Raluca Olaru
Hana Sromova
Julie Coin
Kristie Haerim Ahn
Maria Elena Camerin
Sandra Zahlavova
Yaroslava Shvedova
Rossana De Los Rios

Twelve of the sixteen were unseeded in qualifying rounds. The highest seed to make it is De Los Rios, who was seeded number 10.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chakavetadze goes to Pilot Pen final

It was anything but pretty, but it held my attention. Anna Chakvetadze and Amelie Mauresmo--both known for pairing moments of brilliance with impressive flubs--lived up to their reputations tonight. Both had trouble serving, and both made careless errors. Chakvetadze took the first set by playing with admirable aggression, and lost the second by failing to put a harness on that aggression. Mauresmo--usually superb at the net--was often less than stirling when she approached tonight. The third set was much closer than the score indicates, but Chakvetadze was able to take it, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. She will play Caroline Wozniacki in the final.

Thanks to ESPN for making Chak's overhead-whiffle-oopsie the Shot of the Day. I laughed my head off, even the third time I saw it.

Peng and Safarova to meet in Forest Hills final

Peng Shuai defeated Carla Suarez Navarro today in Forest Hills, 6-1, 6-2, and Lucie Safarova defeated Iveta Benesova, 6-2, 6-4. Both finalists are unseeded, and will play the final tomorrow.

U.S. Open first rounds of interest

Will Li Na get past Shahar Peer in the first round?

Of course, the qualifiers have not yet been selected or assigned, but so far, here are some first rounds that look interesting to me:

Kaia Kanepi vs. Monica Niculescu: Niculescu has been playing rather well of late, and Kanepi missed a lot of court time because of injury, illness and surgery. All things being equal, Kanepi should get through this easily, but all things are not equal.

Nathlaie Dechy vs. Amelie Mauresmo: The two Frenchwomen are friends, and they have both seen better days in their tennis careers. When Dechy is at her best, she is very good. Mauresmo is looking really good so far in New Haven, however. In fact, she looks like her old self.

Marta Domachowka vs. Bethanie Mattek: Mattek should win this--unless Domachowska is having one of her good days. Domachowska is wildly inconsistent, but on a good day, she can blow just about anyone off the court.

Nicole Vaidisova vs. Petra Cetkovska: If Vaidisova were playing the other young Petra, I would take more notice. But even against Cetkovska, she will have to watch her nerves.

Samantha Stosur vs. Venus Williams: Sam Stosur has one of the best serves in women's tennis--first and second--and she will use it to try to go head-to-head with Williams.

Nuria Llagostera Vives vs. Francesca Schiavone: Here are two extremely tough clay cout specialists who are not out of place on hard courts. The match should be full of grit and craft, and should definitely be fun to watch. It could also be one that goes on for a long time.

Shahar Peer vs. Li Na: Eek--what a first-round match! Li has missed so much tennis because of two major injuries, each of which kept her off the tour for months. She just missed getting a bronze medal at the Olympics. On the one hand, that may have her feeling down, but really--considering all she has been through--her performance in Beijing was quite good. Good as she is, though, Li has never been that tough in the head department, and the patient, relentless Peer could take her to the edge. Peer is streaky, both players are good on hard courts, and anything could happen.

Ekaterina Makarova vs. Anna Chakvetadze: Chakvetadze is so fragile these days, one wishes she could have a really easy first round, just to get her started. Makarova may not give her that, though Chakvetadze should get through to the next round.

Lindsay Davenport vs. Aleksandra Wozniak: Davenport has a bad knee, and Wozniak is showing herself to be a good hard court competitor. If the knee is weak, Wozniack could end Davenport's last U.S. Open early.

Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Tsvetana Pironkova: Pironkova is kind of the the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's permanent dangerous floater. She has never been able to do that much with her career, other than cause damage. Medina Garrigues, a player of much skill, is also a hot-head. If Pironkova gets inside that head, something bad could happen.

And finally, my pick for the don't-miss first round match of the U.S. Open...

Tamira Paszek vs. Maria Kirilenko: The most likely scenario is that Kirilenko will glide gracefully around the court, doing what she does, and Paszek will bring a book and her lunch and pull up at the baseline for a long stay. "Contrasting styles" is understatement. I hate to see either of these players go home after the first round, but one will. Actually, I am a bit more intersted in seeing how far Kirilenko can go than Paszek, but I wish both of them could stick around a while.

Larcher de Brito watch--no U.S. Open for Michelle

Ioana Raluca Olaru won the first set in her third round U.S. Open qualifying match against Michelle Larcher de Brito, with a comfortable 6-2 score. In the second set, she served for the match at 5-2, and was broken. Larcher de Brito then saved four match points on her own serve, but Olaru won the match on her fifth match point. As always, Larcher de Brito did not give up, but this wasn't her day.

Olaru def. Larcher de Brito, 6-2, 6-3

It should have been the final

Even playing injured and obviously not at her best, Alize Cornet has "winner" written all over her. Even when she loses, as she did today, she impresses. The New Haven semifinal contest between her and Caroline Wozniacki was a high-quality, spirited affair, which reflected two spirited opponents.

Cornet injured her left quad yesterday (she has had this injury before), and it was obvious that she could not move quite as well as usual. However, her service game today was much improved over yesterday's off-kilter service attempts. Wozniacki's service game was excellent, and as the match progressed, Cornet wilted physically, even double-faulting to give Wozniacki match point. It was her only double fault of the match.

I have liked these two players for a while, and watching them play one another was a treat, despite Cornet's injured state. When they met at the net to shake hands, it was obvious that they, too, had enjoyed the match.

Cornet's loss may turn out to be a blessing. She really needs to give that thigh a rest before the U.S. Open begins.

Wozniacki def. Cornet, 7-5, 6-4

No. 2 U.S. Open qualifying seed out

Number 2 qualifying seed Mathilde Johansson has fallen in the third round of U.S. Open qualifying. She was defeated, 7-5, 6-1, by Anastasia Pivovarova. Top seed Yuan Meng went out in the first round.

U.S. Open experts' picks updated

Right here.

Black and Huber qualify for Sony Ericsson Championships

Cara Black and Liezel Huber are 2,109 points ahead of their closest rivals in the race, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual.

Friday cat blogging--time management edition

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Experts' picks for the U.S. Open

I'll add them as I get them.

Steve Tignor--Serena Williams

Mary Joe Fernandez--Serena Williams

Darren Cahill--Ana Ivanovic

Jon Wertheim--Elena Dementieva (more or less--it's a somewhat coy prediction)

Brad Gilbert--Elena Dementieva

Ravi Ubha--Dinara Safina

Greg Garber--Dinara Safina

Sandra Harwitt--Venus Williams

Bonnie D. Ford--Dinara Safina

Matt Wilansky--Elena Dementieva

Bud Collins--Venus Williams

Semifinals set in New Haven

Alize Cornet was not moving well today in her Pilot Pen quarterfinal match against Daniela Hantuchova. It turns out she sustained a quadriceps injury, which--after she had it wrapped--did not appear to give her as much trouble. Hantuchova gave her some trouble, but--in classic Hantuchova fashion--she also gave her plenty of opportunities. It was not an attractive match, but Cornet managed the upset--3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Amelie Mauresmo looked like...Amelie her match against last year's finalist, Agnes Szavay. Mauresmo blew some chances, but--in general--she served well, moved well and volleyed exquisitely. It was a relief to see her look like herself again.

Caroline Wozniacki upset Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-0, and Anna Chakvetadze defeated Sorana Cirstea, 6-3, 6-3.

Mauresmo will play Chakvetadze in tomorrow's semifinals, and Cornet will play Wozniacki.

Semifinals set at Forest Hills

Here are the results of today's quarterfinals at the Forest Hills Tennis Classic:

Iveta Benesova def. Ekaterina Makarova, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro def. Martina Muller, 6-2, 6-0
Peng Shuai def. Vera Dushevina, 6-4, 7-5
Lucie Safarova def. Jamea Jackson, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0

Peng will play Suarez Navarro and Benesova will play Safarova in tomorrow's semifinal matches.

For those who are happy to see Sesil Karatantcheva back...

And I'm certainly one of them...Peter Bodo has written an excellent (despite a bit of confusion over parts of speech) feature on her return to the tour.

Sadly, Karatantcheva lost her second round qualifying match at the U.S. Open today. She was defeated by Julie Coin, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

U.S. Open begins Monday

The U.S. Open, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Open Era, begins on Monday, August 25. Conspicuous by her absence will be Maria Sharapova, but everyone else who matters (assuming Ana Ivanovic's thumb has healed) will be there. In no particular order...


Serena Williams: It is really hard to determine what Williams' chances are at the U.S. Open, but only a fool would count her out of contention. She has looked vulnerable lately, but if she is in the right frame of mind, she can do a lot of damage.

Dinara Safina: Now referred to as the "hottest player of the year," Safina is indeed red-hot. Her come-from-behind antics at the German Open, the French Open and during the U.S. Open Series have created more fan excitement than anything I can recall, but she really does like to cut it a bit close. The winner of the U.S. Open Series, Safina missed getting an Olympic gold medal because of serious problems with her serve. As a rule, Safina--like Justine Henin before her--can get away with some bad service games and redeem them with unusually good serves later, as well as great defensive play. She is going to have to overcome the service bug, however, if she is to win the U.S. Open. If she can keep her serve consistent, I see her as a major contender for the title.

Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic has had problems with an injured thumb. Assuming that she is not injured, Ivanovic is nevertheless going into the Open without much match play. Anything can happen, but she has a disadvantage this year.

Jelena Jankovic: The eternally-injured Jankovic, if she can stay reasonably healthy in Flushing Meadows, still has a good chance to prevail. She can handle hard courts, her athleticism is superb, and it's about time she won a big one.

Elena Dementieva: The 2004 U.S. Open finalist and recent Olympic gold medal winner has, for all practical purposes, solved her service problem. That makes her dangerous, and she is once again in contention to win the U.S. Open. Like Jankovic, Dementieva can move around the court with speed and ease, and Beijing gold could give her renewed confidence.


Venus Williams: Though I do not expect Williams to win the U.S. Open, I wouldn't exactly fall down in shock if she did. Williams knows her way around a hard court, and if she gets a good draw, anything can happen.

Svetlana Kuznetsova: The 2004 U.S. Open champion is now an official head case. But her talent still puts her into the second tier of contenders.

Daniela Hantuchova: Hantuchova missed a lot of this season because of a serious foot injury. Hantuchova is also a notorious choker. But with all that, she is still always worth watching on a hard court. And who knows? She may even show up in Flushing Meadows with a winner's mindset.

Agnieszka Radwanska: Radwasnka is a savvy tactician who does not give up. She showed Sharapova the door in the third round last year, and she should be regarded as a danger this year.

Amelie Mauresmo: I won't go over all of Mauresmo's woes here, but I will say that she's been looking like her old self in New Haven, and that is a very good thing.

Victoria Azarenka: Victoria Azarenka is getting better all the time. The U.S. Open will provide her another opportunity to improve her toughness and her game. She is definitely worth watching.

Dominika Cibulkova: Considered a clay specialist at first, Cibulkova has shown herself to be a hard court contender. Unfortunately, she has been injured a lot this year, and her rhythm has consequently been interrupted a lot.

Alize Cornet: Like Cibulkova, Cornet first became noticed as a clay specialist. And while she is still better on clay than she is on hard courts, there is plenty of potential there, and she is one to watch. Unfortunatly, as of this posting, Cornet has sustained a left quad strain, so her ability to perform well at the U.S. Open is in question.

Vera Zvonareva: She started the season with a bang, then stalled, but got herself back on track with an Olympic bronze medal. Zvonareva is now back in the top 10, after overcoming all kinds of obstacles to get there.

Caroline Wozniacki: The Danish player has steadily improved, and is once again on my watch list. Like Cornet, she brings some fire to the court.

Mirza withdraws from U.S. Open

Sania Mirza's wrist has still not healed, and so she will not play in the U.S. Open this year. This was an expected withdrawal, of course, but the news is nevertheless bad.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Parmentier out in Forest Hills

Pauline Parmentier, the top seed at the Forest Hills Tennis Classic, is out of the competition. She was defeated by Peng Shuai, 6-3, 6-2. I was a bit surprised to find that Jamea Jackson had defeated Marina Erakovic, 7-6, 7-5. Also winning was Carla Suarez Navarro, who defeated Timea Backsinszky. Finally, Lucie Safarova defeated Akgul Amanmuradova.

Pennetta upset in New Haven

Number 6 seed Flavia Pennetta was upset today in the second round of Pilot Pen Tennis by Sorana Cirstea, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Cirstea's win sets her up for a third round match against top seed Anna Chakvetadze, who defeated Casey Dellacqua in straight sets. Cirstea defeated Chakvetadze the only other time they have played, on green clay in Charleston this year. Cirstea had some tough times a few months ago, but appears to have bounced back.

'Pova, it won't be the same without you

I have come to associate Maria Sharapova more with the U.S. Open than with any other major. She is, after all, at her best on hard courts, and her 2006 win was stunning from the moment she entered the court for round 1. Her 2008 Australian Open win was stunning, too, but there is something about the glamour of the city--and perhaps that wonderful black dress (the red one was nothing to sneeze at, either)--that causes me to associate Sharapova with New York.

I am really disappointed that she will not be part of this year's Open, especially after her unfortunate third round run-in with Agnieszka Radwanska last year. Her doctors failed to catch a torn rotator cuff tendon, and she played with the injury for months. She is now in rehabilitation, and we look forward to seeing her play later in the season. In the meantime--no matter how exciting the U.S. Open is--it just won't be the same without Maria.

Top U.S. Open qualifying seed out in the first round

Yuan Meng, the number 1 qualifying seed in Flushing Meadows, was defeated today by Hana Sromova, 6-3, 6-2, in the first round of qualifying.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black and Huber out in first round of Pilot Pen

Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber were defeated today in the first round in New Haven, 6-3, 3-6, 10-6, by wild cards Liga Dekmeijere and Patty Schnyder. Dekmeijere and Schnyder will next play Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu.

This and that...

The odds-makers like Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open, followed by Venus Williams and Dinara Safina.

Chris Evert holds the record for the most successive U.S. Open wins by a woman--6. She holds second place for the most wins of all time, and the record for most wins in the Open Era--9.

Tatiana Golovin has withdrawn from the U.S. Open.

Elena Bovina won the GHI Bronx Tennis Classic on Sunday, defeating Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 7-5 (after being down 3-5 in the second set). How strange is it to talk about these two playing in a Bronx challenger?

Both Yuliana Fedak and Ayumi Morita have failed to get through the first round of U.S. Open qualifying.

The Lacoste 75th anniversary "Let's re-invent the future" television ad is too depressing to watch. Getting rid of wooden racquets was bad enough.

Parmentier is top seed at Forest Hills

The Forest Hills Tennis Classic is a small Tier IV tournament that takes place at the same time as Pilot Pen Tennis. Since it is so small and it is played right before the U.S. Open, it tends to get overlooked, but it is certainly worth mentioning. This year's top seed is Pauline Parmentier, who won Bad Gastein last month. Parmentier is joined by such players as Peng Shuai, Ekaterina Makarova, Iveta Benesova, Marina Erakovic, Sofia Arvidsson, Vera Dushevina, and Carla Suarez Navarro.

The above list, in fact, constitutes half of the draw. The Forest Hills Tennis Classic is played at the former site of the U.S. Open. Last year's winner was Gisela Dulko.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cornet does it again

Alize Cornet took Nicole Vaidisova out of the first round of the 2008 Olympics, and tonight, she took her out of the first round of Pilot Pen Tennis, 6-3, 7-6. Cornet was a bit shaky in her attempt to win the tiebreak, but she finally managed to prevail.

U.S. Open to celebrate 40th anniversary of the Open Era

On Monday night, August 25, 40 candles will be lit at the U.S. Open to commemorate the 40th year of the Open Era. During the week, vignettes highlighting the era's champions will be shown on a big screen, and the program and drawsheets will contain Open Era features. The U.S. Open website already features a retrospective micro-site. In addition, a special clothing line will go on sale, and The Open Book: Celebrating 40 Years of America's Grand Slam, is already in bookstores.

Errani turns it around in New Haven

Through an odd twist of fate, Sara Errani--who became a lucky loser and entered the main draw--had to play Mallory Cecil in the first round of Pilot Pen Tennis. Cecil, the wild card ranked number 602 in the world, is the player who beat Errani in the final round of qualifying. This time, Errani was victorious, but not easily. She won the match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6, with a decisive, 7-1 score in the tiebreak.

Cecil, who is from South Carolina, won her first pro challenger, the 10k Palmetto Pro Open, in June.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mattek out in first round of Pilot Pen

Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Bethanie Mattek in the first round in New Haven today, 7-6, 0-6, 6-0.

Go figure.

Qualifiers set for Pilot Pen

Today, four qualifiers emerged from three qualifying rounds in New Haven: Mallory Cecil, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Monica Niculescu, and Alla Kudryavtseva.

In the meantime, Olga Govortsova has already posted an impressive first-round win against Alisa Kleybanova. Kleybanova's service stats are so poor, I have to wonder whether she played with an injury.

Russians sweep Olympics

Elena Dementieva, who won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, is the winner of gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Winning silver was her countrywoman, Dinara Safina, and the bronze medal went to yet another Russian--Vera Zvonareva.

Safina is the tour's hottest player right now, but a rash of inconsistencies even greater than those displayed by Dementieva cost her the gold. This is Dementieva's second title, so to speak, of the year--she also won in Dubai.

Zvonareva began the season very strongly, then lapsed a bit, but has now placed herself back in high contention. Both she and Safina were substitutes on the Russian team: Safina was appointed to the team when Anna Chakvetadze decline to accept her spot, and Zvonareva was added when Maria Sharapova was forced to withdraw because of injury. Zonvonareva defeated Li Na to win the bronze medal match.

Petrova wins Cincinnati--all of it

Nathalie Dechy's very impressive run in Cincinnati ended today when Nadia Petrova defeated her in the final, 6-2, 6-1. The unseeded Dechy had taken out Katarina Srebotnik, Maria Kirilenko and Aleksandra Wozniak to get to the final.

This is Petrova's first title of 2008. She and her partner, Maria Kirilenko, also won the doubles title, defeating Hsieh Su-Wei and Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Top qualifying seed upset in New Haven

Sara Errani, the top seed among qualifiers at Pilot Pen Tennis, was defeated in the final qualifying round today by wild card Mallory Cecil, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

Errani, number 41 in the world, won the tournament in Palermo earlier this year. Cecil is number 602 in the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Petrova to compete against Dechy for Cincinnati title

Nadia Petrova was too good for Maria Kirilenko tonight, defeating her 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 in their Cincinnati semifinal. The tournament's second seed, Petrova will face unseeded Nathalie Dechy in the final tomorrow. Dechy is one of the tour's significant under-achievers, and her situation was not helped when she was out a long time with an injury a couple of years ago. This is a chance for her to do something she has done only once before--win a singles title. Yes, though it may seem hard to believe, Dechy has won only one tournament--Gold Coast in 2003. That is somewhat of a puzzle.

For her part, Petrova (who was once considered the most promising of all the Russians) went on a hot streak in 2006, literally slipped from it, and has never come back. The talent is there, however.

The Cincinnati tournament, a Tier III, is not part of the U.S. Open Series. However, this year it attracted a number of excellent players, including two--Dechy and Kirilenko--who have lovely and fluid games I especially enjoying watching.

Dechy moves on to Cincinnati final

Nathalie Dechy defeated Amelie Mauresmo today in Cincinnati--6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to become a finalist at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open. Dechy broke Mauresmo six times to emerge the victor. The unseeded Frenchwoman will play either Nadia Petrova or Maria Kirilenko in the final.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dechy upsets again

Having already upset the top seed in the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open, unseeded Nathalie Dechy continued her mission today by upsetting seed number 6, Aleksandra Wozniak, 7-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Next, she will face her countrywoman, former world number 1 and 5th seed, Amelie Mauresmo, who defeated Vania King, 6-2, 6-4.

The other semifinal match will be between 3rd seed Maria Kirilenko and 2nd seed Nadia Petrova.

Pilot Pen begins on Monday

The main draw is out for Pilot Pen Tennis, to be held next week in New Haven. By "out," I mean it is set except for the insertion of the qualifiers' names. The qualifying matches, to be held this weekend, are also worth looking at. Some dangerous floaters should emerge from those contests.

Of note in the main draw:

Good friends and former doubles partners Gisela Dulko and Flavia Penntetta play each other in the first round. Patty Schnyder plays Jill Craybas again, and Alize Cornet plays Nicole Vaidisova again. Also, Amelie Mauresmo will have to deal with Kaia Kanepi in the first round, and what will probably be the first round match to watch--Dominika Cibulkova vs. Caroline Wozniacki.

Anna Chakvetadze is the top seed. She could potentially meet Sorana Cirstea, who defeated her in Charleston, in the third round (assuming she survives the second), but she is more likely to see either Pennetta or Dulko.

In the qualifying rounds, the top seed is Sara Errani. And surely, the hottest first round qualifying match has to be the once between Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Also competing in the qualifying rounds are Julia Goerges, Andrja Klepac and Nuria Llagostera Vives.

Friday cat blogging--TGIF edition

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Amelia Island drops to the wayside with Bausch & Lomb

This spring, when Bausch & Lomb ended its 22-year sponsorship of the Tier II green clay tournament at Amelie Island, Florida, tournament officials announced they were searching for a new sponsor. The good news is that a new sponsor has emerged--the MPS Group. The sad news for those who have attended the tournament for so long is that it is being moved to the Sawgrass Country Club at Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida.

The tournament will be called the MPS Group Championships and will be held at the same time the Amelia Island tournament was held. Matches will be played on HAR-TRU clay courts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dechy takes Srebotnik out of Cincinnati

Top seed Katarina Srebotnik hit eleven aces against Nathalie Dechy in their second round match in Cincinnati, but that was not enough to take the match. After two hours and twenty minutes, Dechy emerged the winner, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6.

Moments like this, and like Dechy's epic match against Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon remind us of how much talent she has. When she returned from a major injury some time ago, she was not able to get her ranking back (it was as high as 11 in 2006), and she was getting older, so she began concentrating on doubles, which really paid off for her. But I like to watch her smart, elegant singles game, and I would really like to see her advance in the rankings again.

7 of 8 U.S. Open wild cards selected

The following players have received wild cards into the main draw of the U.S. Open:

Jamea Jackson
Ashe Rolle
Gail Brodsky
Asia Muhammad
Melanie Oudin
Coco Vandewegh
Severine Bremond

A yet-to-be selected Australian player will receive the last wild card.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bartoli retires in 1st round in Cincinnati--what else is new?

So Marion Bartoli retires yet again. The same Marion Bartoli who does about two hours' worth of drills right before she goes on court. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--wouldn't it be worthwhile to stop the drills and see if Marion has fewer injuries?

Tonight, the top seed retired in the first round against Jamea Jackson, with Jackson leading, 7-6, 2-2. This tournament should have been a good one for Bartoli, but it has turned out otherwise.

I do not know what the injury is. Perhaps there is no injury, but instead, another bout of the illness Bartoli had in Montreal. One way or the other, it is more misfortune for her, and it is not a good sign.

Paging Dr. Dementieva...

The Sony Ericsson WTA tour recently asked some tour stars what they would have done if they had not become tennis players. Alize Cornet said she would have been a scientist, Elena Dementieva wanted to be a doctor, and Patty Schnyder would like to be an astronaut.

Mauresmo makes it through 1st round in Cincinnati

Amelie Mauresmo played her countrywoman, Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, tonight in the first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open, and she had to work to get to the second round. Cohen-Aloro won the first set, 7-6, and Mauresmo won the second, 7-6. It wasn't until the final set that Mauresmo took control. She won that set 6-1, breaking her opponent at match point for a score of 6-1.

Mauresmo's next opponent will be Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer.

Though the Cincinnati event is a Tier III affair, it is hosting some top players this year. In addition to Mauresmo, there are Marion Bartoli, Katarina Srebotnik, Maria Kirilenko, and Nadia Petrova, all of whom have advanced to the second round. Other players of note who are competing are Sabine Lisicki, Stephanie Dubois and Nathalie Dechy. Tamira Paszek was entered but had to retire during her first-round match.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Paszek ill in Cincinnati

Tamira Paszek took an early medical time-out today in the second round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open, but it wasn't sufficient to get her through the match. She retired against Petra Cetkovska in the third round because of a viral illness.
Cetkovska def. Paszek, 4-6, 6-3, 4-1

In other Cincinnati news, Ekaterina Makarova was upset by Camille Pin, 6-2, 6-0.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Update on Ivanovic injury

Ana Ivanovic reports that treatment has restored the strength to her injured right thumb, and that she has also experienced a significant decrease in pain.

Memo to Lindsay Davenport...

No, we certainly do not "all" still respect our leaders. (In fact, some Americans who were paying attention never respected them at all.)

First, Davenport--who was on the verge of filing suit against Sony Ericsson Tour CEO Larry Scott--tells the world how much she respects him. And now she assures the world that--oh, yes--all Americans continue to respect their leaders.

I want the old Lindsay Davenport back--the one who spoke out, not the pod person who has replaced her. Though I have rarely seen eye to eye with Davenport on important issues ("rarely" being the key word), I have appreciated her candor and her willingness to stand up for herself and for the women on the tour. Now, more and more, she sounds like she's doing an on-court interview in Stepford.

Tour looking for new president

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour did not have a president until 2006, when the newly created position went to Stacey Allaster. Allaster is now leaving that position for reasons unknown to me.

Indian Wells loses its sponsor

The Pacific Life Open is no more. Having sponsored the prestigious tournament in Indian Wells, California for seven years, Pacific Life is out. According to the tournament director, it was the tournament who showed Pacific Life the door, and not the other way around. The reason for doing so, however, has not been announced, making it sound rather mysterious, despite talk of "parting on very good terms, blah-blah-blah."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Latest injury report

Jelena Jankovic has sustained some type of minor injury--imagine our surprise! And Lindsay Davenport's knee has taken her out of singles competition for now.

Better news is that Kai Kanepi has returned from injury, illness and surgery.

Dementieva in denim

From Women's Tennis Blog (courtesy of Throw Up the Deuce) comes news that Elena Dementieva will be wearing denim at the U.S. Open. Throw Up the Deuce also has photos of the Maria Sharapova U.S. Open outifts that will not be worn.

Friday cat blogging--shelf life edition

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Amelie--the nearness of you"

Women Who Serve reader and Amelie Mauresmo fan Dani has a charming new YouTube video on display. Watch "Amelie--the nearness of you" featuring lovely vocals by Norah Jones.

"The Greatest Train Wreck in Sports"

James Martin has a few things to say about the U.S. Open Series and the women's tour.

Shriver and Lazenby to divorce

Commentator and former doubles champion Pam Shriver has filed for divorce from Australian actor George Lazenby after six years of marriage. Shriver and Lazenby have three children.

Lazenby--who is alleged to have been offered a seven-picture deal but turned it down--played the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He was also the European Marlboro Man. He was formerly married to Christina Gannett of the Gannett Newspaper Publishing family.

Shriver, who won 22 majors in doubles and an Olympic gold medal, is currently best known as a tennis commentator for ESPN. However, she also provides commentary for ABC, CBS, the BBC, and 7-Sport.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This and that...

Vera Zvonareva will replace Maria Sharapova on Russia's Olympic team.

Tennis Channel is currently showing a new series, "Only At the Open." The first episode, about Monica Seles, features thrilling footage from the amazing 1991 phenom showdown semifinal between Seles and Jennifer Capriati.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has ruled that Steve and Barry's may pay Venus Williams $250,000 owed to her under a contractual agreement. The clothing company, which handles Williams' ELEVEN line, has filed for bankruptcy.

Marion Bartoli has a go at the Rogers Cup organizers and the French Tennis Federation.

14-year-old Laura Robson has moved up to a ranking of number 5 among the world's junior players.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Signed and sealed: Safina wins Rogers Cup and U.S. Open Series

It was a shame that Dominka Cibulkova pretty much went to pieces in her Rogers Cup final against Dinara Safina. The generally tough customer could not serve, and could not even defend very well. It will be the last time she lets nerves get the best of her, I think. This time, it made it that much easier for Dinara Safina to win a big match handily (though she seems to prefer to win them in other ways!)--6-2, 6-1.

Much praise should go to Cibulkova, though, who reached the final by taking out Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Jelena Jankovic, and Marion Bartoli. Wow. She will now be the number 20 player in the world.

By winning in Montreal, Safina has won the U.S. Open Series; no one could possibly catch up to her, points-wise. If she should win the U.S. Open, she will get an extra $1 million in prize money, and she will win bonus money for each round she wins. Bonus money also goes to the second and third-place U.S. Open Series winners.

I am amazed to hear some people say that Safina's recent victories are a sign of decreased quality on the tour. "But she's been beaten by so many top players!" I hear. Hello! She is not the same player she was two years ago, not the same player she was a year ago, not the same player she was six months ago. Here's a concept: improvement. Safina has become much more fit, and--more important--she has completely changed in the head department. Dinara Safina always had talent, but now she plays like a winner. If fans expect a player to never get past a certain point in skill level and toughness, then what is the point of athletic (or any) competition?

Safina, always a personable player and fun to watch, has been a breath of fresh air in the 2008 season. Keep it up, Dinara.

Black and Huber win Rogers Cup

Cara Black and Liezel Huber, the top seeds in Montreal, won the Rogers Cup today by defeating the unseeded team of Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta, 6-1, 6-1. Black and Huber are the number 1 doubles players in the world.

Wozniacki wins first title

Caroline Wozniacki has won the the Nordea Nordic Light Open, defeating Vera Dushevina, 6-0, 6-2, in the final. This is the talented Wozniacki's first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

The doubles title was won by Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who defeated Petra Cetkovska and Lucie Safarova, 7-5, 6-4.

Bartoli's Wimbledon rain break strategy fails her in Montreal

According to the Eurosport website, Marion Bartoli took a nap during one of yesterday's rain breaks in her semifinal match against Dominika Cibulkova. At Wimbledon, the rain break nap appeared to work wonders--Bartoli would wake up and turn the match around. But in Montreal, according to the reporter who wrote this story, she seemed groggy after the nap. Of course, she was a set up this time....

Date-Krumm continues to win in Asia

Kimiko Date-Krumm just won yet another challenger. One has to wonder whether she is planning to return to the tour next year.

Upsets in Stockholm

3rd seed Katarina Srebotnik was defeated in her Nordea Nordic Light Open semifinal today by unseeded Vera Dushevina, 6-1, 6-2. Also, 4th seed Caroline Wozniacki upset top seed and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4, 6-1.

The semifinal matches were delayed a day because of rain.

Safina and Cibulkova to meet in Montreal final

I saw the first set of the semifinal between Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova. Then the rain came, and by the time the match resumed, it was played not only on an outer court, but also away from my television screen. Bartoli looked great in the first set, but Cibulkova is a formidable opponent. She had already taken out Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic before she reached the semifinals. The first time I saw Cibulkova play, in the spring of 2007, I was struck by the maturity of her game, and by her court presence. She looks even better now.

But Cibulkova will have some work to do to win the Rogers Cup, for her opponent is Dinara Safina, whose 2008 is turning into a glory year. Safina's obvious love of court drama was fulfilled in her semifinal against Victoria Azarenka. She won the first set, 6-0, then turned cautious in the second set, just as Azarenka worked up a full head of steam. After Azarenka took that set 6-2, I felt pretty sure Safina would snap back into the match, and she did. She served for it at 5-1 in the third, but was broken, and wound up winning the set 6-3.

Right now, Safina's only real weakness is her serve, or rather, the inconsistency of her serve. It ranges from brilliant to totally off the mark--often within the same game, a la Justine Henin.

This will be Cibulkova's second tour final. She was in the Amelia Island final this year, but sustained a foot injury during the match and kind of faded away. Maria Sharapova won that tournament, but if Cibulkova had not hurt her foot, I think the outcome may have been different.

It should also be noted that the doubles team of Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta upset the 2nd seeds, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, Saturday--6-4, 6-0.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

While it rains in Stockholm and Montreal...

Here are some questions for you:

What would the rankings look like right now if quality points had not been eliminated?

Was eliminating quality points a good or bad idea?

Amelie Mauresmo, forgotten woman

Photo courtesy of After Atalanta

I have been thinking about Amelie Mauresmo lately. She is my favorite player on the tour, so naturally, I would not let her go out of my mind. But she does seem to have gone out of the general tennis conversation, and that is a shame.

For those of us who held faith for years with Mauresmo, a happy day occurred when she won the 2005 Sony Ericsson Championships. It was a big day for her, too--one that turned her around psychologically. She began the next season by winning the Australian Open, and though she won it in a rather odd way--with opponents all around her dropping like flies--she nevertheless won it. But it was not the occasion it should have been for Mauresmo, since her opponent in the final, Justine Henin, was one of the players who dropped.

But Wimbledon would arrive, and once again, Mauresmo found herself in the final, again opposite Justine Henin, who was attmpting to obtain her career slam. Mauresmo won the championship in three sets, and her long-delayed moment of glory was felt by all her fans. I celebrated with champagne.

I always attend the Family Circle Cup, and in 2007, I was thrilled because Mauresmo was entered in the tournament. Then came the appendicitis, and she had to withdraw from a series of tournaments, including the Family Circle Cup. It took her a long time to recover, and when she did, her abdominal muscles were still weak; she sustained an abdominal injury shortly after going back on the court. That, too, took a while to heal, and by that time, Mauresmo--never known for her self-assurance--was in no woman's land.

This year, Mauresmo has struggled with a right thigh strain, a rib muscle injury and a left thigh injury, and she has subsequently tumbled to a ranking of number 36 in the world. Overlooked for a singles slot on the French Olympics team, she decided to forego the Olympics altogether. As of now, Mauresmo plans to play in Cincinnati and New Haven before competing in the U.S. Open, her least favorite major.

The Frenchwoman with the dry wit, beautiful one-handed backhand, and elegant game is now 29 years old. Years ago, she modified her serve in order to prevent the return of a chronic back injury, and after she did that, she remained relatively healthy until the incident of 2007. If she could get healthy again and regain her confidence, she could climb back up the rankings. She herself has said she believes she has another Wimbledon championship in her. But for now, Mauresmo is the forgotten woman. But not forgotten by her many fans.