Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the day

"...I guess they're pretty darn good but since I never finished that Football for Dummies book, and the only football games I ever watch is when I mistakenly turn on a sports channel, I am so clueless to who they are and what exactly they do."
Maria Sharapova on the football players at her Phoenix rehab facility

This and that...

Amelie Mauresmo has confirmed that the split from her coach and her trainer is not temporary.

Maria Sharapova is said to be romantically linked to Charlie Ebersol.

Malaysia will get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament some time soon.

Steve Flink writes about the tour.

Ksenia Palkina, ranked 203rd in the world, upset Olga Govortsova today in Tashkent. It was her first victory over a player in the top 50.

For those of you wondering how Laura Robson did in Shrewsbury: She was defeated in the semifinals by Maret Ani, who lost in the final to Roberta Vinci, the 7th seed.

Larcher de Brito watch: Michelle Larcher de Brito has defeated Andreja Klepac to get to the second round of the Tashkent Open. Her next opponent is Tatiana Poutchek, and that should be a, shall we say, boisterous match.

Maria Sharapova starts hitting tennis balls again next week, and that's a good thing.

Stuttgart draw is very competitive

At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, it isn't so easy to get out of the first round. Yesterday, Nicole Vaidisova made an exit, and today, those leaving included Agnes Szavay, Flavia Pennetta, Alize Cornet, and Dominika Cibulkova. To quote an inappropriate and sexist commentator we all know, "Oh, my."

Szavay has not had a good season. I have no idea what is wrong. In today's case, she did come up against a very tough opponent--Victoria Azarenka, so the loss was hardly shocking. Pennetta was shown the door by Kateryna Bondarenko, Cornet was defeated by perennial giant-killer Tsvetana Pironkova, and Cibulkova fell victim to Marion Bartoli, as one might expect. Of these losses, the two surprises were Pennetta (who lost in doubles, too)--though Bondarenko can play some very good tennis when she puts her mind to it--and Cornet. All of the matches were competitive in terms of the draw--Cornet vs. Pironkova, maybe not on paper, but you know how Pironkova can be in an early round.

The resurgent Anna-Lena Groenefeld will have to wait a bit to show her comeback skills; she was pretty much run over by Venus Williams--6-1, 6-2.

Tomorrow should be just as competitive. In further first round play, Patty Schnyder plays Svetlana Kuznetsova, who just lost the final in Beijing. Schnyder has usually done very well on indoor surfaces, though Kuznetsova will give her all she can handle. Vera Zvonareva plays Daniela Hantuchova, and that, too, should be worth watching (if only I could watch it).

Watch for these second round contests:
Serena Williams vs. Li Na
Victoria Azarenka vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Alona Bondarenko vs. Jelena Jankovic

In the second round, Nadia Petrova will get the winner of the Schnyder-Kuznetsova match, and Bartoli will play the winner of the Zvonareva-Hantuchova match. This is some competitive stuff.

Game, set, sexism

Every year, I see this slogan and am disappointed. I had actually forgotten about it, but blog reader Claire brought it to my attention today. Yes, it is "cute." But it is cute at the expense of the actual adults who compete in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Very few of the competitors are girls--almost all of them are women. The tournament directors would never refer to Federer, Nadal, Kiefer, Safin, and Ferrer as "boys," but they think nothing of making children out of the women who are playing in the tournament.

Here is the email address: tennis@porsche.de

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vaidisova out in first round in Stuttgart

Probably to no one's surprise, Nicole Vaidisova has been eliminated early from competition in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. She was defeated, 6-1, 6-2, by Li Na. It is, of course, no shame to be defeated by Li. Now that Li is entering tournaments without a seed, she is probably the most dangerous floater on the tour. But this was more than a defeat--it was a runover--and there have been so many other early defeats for Vaidisova.

I have never found Nicole Vaidisova to be an especially interesting player. That view is subjective, of course, and part of my indifference toward her has to do with her attitudes about women's roles on the tour. But what really bothers me most about her--from a strictly-tennis standpoint--is that I have not seen her develop mental strength to match her obvious tennis talent. Vaidisova has always been somewhat of a hot-head, and like pre-Berlin Safina, this trait has gotten in her way (I'm not convinced it gets in everyone's way--some hot-heads can use their anger well on court).

I haven't seen Nicole Vaidisova play in a while, so I really don't know what is going on with her. But she is having such a disappointing season. She is still quite young, so she has time to get her head together and start fresh.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A note to Tennis Channel...

If you are going to advertise yourself as the "Home of the Slams," you should probably use a voice-over person who knows how to pronounce 'Wimbledon." Just a thought.

Jankovic wins China Open

Throughout their final in Beijing today, Jelena Jankovic looked focused and sharp, and Svetlana Kuznetsova--as is so often the case these days--looked sluggish and somewhat dazed.

Not that Kuznetsova didn't have some fine moments--she is such a good player that it is impossible for her not to have some. But she was unable to deal with Jankovic's almost frenetic drawing her from side to side, and her relentless returning of shots that lesser players would have tossed into the net or outside the lines.

I wrote recently about Patty Schnyder's recent poor record in finals. Kuznetsova's is even worse, with only one win in the last ten. She recently parted from her longtime coach and will now be coached by Olga Morozova. Perhaps having a new coach will help her out of what is now a serious rut.

Jankovic def. Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2

Kirilenko wins in Seoul

Maria Kirilenko, the number one seed at the Hansol Korea Open, fulfilled her seeding today by defeating Samantha Stosur, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, to win the 2008 title. Kirilenko was the finalist last year.

Stosur was down 0-4 in the third set, and did manage to get one of the breaks back. And when Kirilenko served at 4-3, there was a moment, at deuce, when it appeared Stosur might even things up, but it was not to be; Kirilenko won the game without giving Stosur a break point.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jankovic and Kuznetsova to play in Beijing final

Jelena Jankovic needed three sets to defeat Vera Zvonareva in the China Open semifinals. She did the job, at 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova had her work cut out for her, too, but prevailed in a close (7-6, 7-5) semifinal against Zheng Jie.

4th seed Kuznetsova leads top seed Jankovic 4-2 in their head-to-head. They have played each other twice this year, both times on hard courts, and Kuznetsova won both times.

Stosur halts Craybas's run in Seoul

Jill Craybas may have taken out Shahar Peer in the quarterfinals of the Hansol Korea Open yesterday, but today, she was no match for Samantha Stosur, who defeated her in the semifinals, 6-0, 6-1. The whole thing was over in forty-five minutes.

Stosur has one of the very best serves on the tour, and her first serve win percentage for the match was 82; her second serve win percentage was 68. Stosur has pulled her way back up--almost to the top--in doubles, but is still working to restore her singles status after taking a very long sick leave last year.

Meanwhile, Kaia Kanepi was serving at 40-0 at 4-5 in the third set of her semifinal match against Maria Kirilenko, only to see Kirilenko make five straight points and win the match, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Top seed Kirilenko and Stosur have played three times before. Stosur had to retire in one of those matches, and they each won one of the others.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ditty breaks USTA Pro Circuit record

Julie Ditty has broken the USTA Pro Circuit record for titles won, singles and doubles combined. Ditty won both singles and doubles in a recent ITF tournament in Albuquerque, breaking the record for both men and women. She has now won thirty-two USTA Pro Circuit titles.

The 29-year-old Ditty broke into the top 100 last November when she made it to the semifinals in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's Bell Challenge in Quebec City. Ditty has earned almost $153,000 in prize money in 2008.

Craybas upsets Peer in Seoul

Number 2 seed Shahar Peer, whose season has been disappointing, had another disappointment today when she was defeated in the quarterfinals of the Hansol Korea Open by Jill Craybas, 6-2, 7-5. victorious in the quarterfinals were top seed Maria Kirilenko, Kaia Kanepi and Samantha Stosur.

Kirilenko def. Parmentier, 6-3, 6-2
Kanepi def. Wickmeyer, 6-1, 6-4
Stosur def. Makarova, 6-3, 6-4

Semifinals set in Beijing

Top seed Jelena Jankovic will play Vera Zvonareva in tomorrow's China Open semifinals. Also coming out of the quarterfinals is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who will play Zheng Jie. Zheng is no longer to be a considered a "threat on grass," but rather, a threat on every surface but clay...and give her time.

Kuznetsova has yet to win a tournament this year, but will most likely get quite a fight from Zheng, who is playing in her home country, and who is just good at putting up quite a fight.

Jankovic def. Hantuchova, 7-5, 6-1
Zvonareva def. Medina Garrigues, 6-0, 6-1
Kuznetsova def. Cibulkova, 6-2, 6-4
Zheng def. Ivanovic, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4

Ivanovic was the 2nd seed.

Robson in Shrewsbury semifinals

Laura Robson has advanced to the semifinals in Shrewsbury by defeating tour veteran Tzipi Obziler. She will play Kirsten Flipkens.

Friday cat blogging--cozy nap edition

Roxie and Velma find a corner of the chaise and settle in

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beijing quarterfinals set

I wish that I could watch the China Open quarterfinals; I think they are going to be interesting. Here is the line-up:

Jankovic vs. Hantuchova: Top seed and 2007 finalist Jelena Jankovic plays a struggling Daniela Hantuchova. In better times, this would be a more competitive match, but Hantuchova just has not done very well since she returned from a long layoff caused by a foot problem. All the same, she has made it to the quarterfinals, so one never knows.

Zvonareva vs. Medina Garrigues: Vera Zvonareva has had a good season, with some slips here and there. She is certainly favored to win this match (she has already taken out Li and Schiavone), but the relentless Medina Garrigues should never be counted out. She has already defeated the defending champion, Agnes Szavay.

Cibulkova vs. Kuznetsova: Giant-killer Cibulkova beat Amelie Mauresmo and Anna Chakvetadze to get to the quarterfinals. And while it is true that Mauresmo and Chakvetadze are both having terrible seasons, they are nevertheless good players. Cibulkova is likely to be stopped by Kuznetsova, though, who does quite well until she gets to semifinals and finals.

Zheng vs. Ivanovic: This should be good. Zheng Jie is the last Chinese survivor in the China Open, and she is one tough player. Ivanovic has had a hard time of it since the French Open, especially after injuring her thumb. She will have to be extra-sharp to get past Zheng.

Robson takes Radwanska out of Shrewsbury

The Shrewsbury battle of the junior Wimbledon champions has ended with a victory for Laura Robson. Robson defeated Urzula Radwanska, 6-3, 6-3.

Julie Coin, however, was defeated by Tzipi Obziler, 6-3, 6-2.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Radwanska out in Beijing

6th seed Agnieszka Radwanska was defeated in the first round of the China Open today by Zheng Jie, 6-2, 6-3. It was a day of rain, so few matches were played. Top seed Jelena Jankovic defeated Aleksandra Wozniak, 6-3, 7-5. And Daniela Hantuchova defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 (how strange is that scoreline?).

Robson and Coin both advance in Shrewsbury

Junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson had to retire in the second round of her first pro tournament because of a shoulder injury. She is now entered as a wild card in a 75k tournament in Shrewsbury, and has reached the second round by defeating qualifier and countrywoman Sarah Borwell. Robson's second round will be tricky, however: She meets another junior Wimbledon champion--Urzula Radwanska.

Also entered in the tournament is Julie Coin, who took Ana Ivanovic out of the U.S. Open. Coin has also made it to the second round, and will play Tzipi Obziler in the next round.

Top seed Sofia Arvidsson was defeated in the first round.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tanasugarn upsets Srebotnik in Beijing

Tammy Tanasugarn, down 1-5 today in the second set of her first-round China Open match against Katarina Srebotnik, came back to win in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.

Also of interest in Beijing: Francesca Schiavone defeated wild card Li Na, 6-1, 76. And Aleksandra Wozniak defeated Virginie Razzano, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, Ekaterina Makarova defeated Tamira Paszek, 6-1, 6-2. And if that looks like a runover (Makarova is very good, but what is it with Paszek?), the real damage was done by Jill Craybas, who beat (not so) lucky loser Yuan Meng, 6-0, 6-0. Ouch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cibulkova beats Mauresmo in the first round--again

Earlier this month, Dominika Cibulkova took Amelie Mauresmo out of the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, after Mauresmo held four match points. Today, Cibulkova repeated the upset in the first round in Beijing, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Mauresmo double-faulted thirteen times in today's match. The double-fault bug has really been going around. I think Sharapova's double-faulting was due to her shoulder problems, but Safina and Mauresmo have had a real go of it, too.

Cibulkova is, of course, an important young player on the tour. Another important young player, Caroline Wizniacki, didn't fare as well: She was defeated, 7-6, 6-4 by Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

For those wondering how Laura Robson did in her first pro tournament...

I wrote a week ago that junior Wimbledon winner Laura Robson had qualified for her first pro tournament, in Limoges. She won her first round match, but retired during the first set of her second round match against 2nd seed Marina Melnikova. I don't know the reason for the retirement.

Incidentally, Melnikova went on to win the tournament when her opponent in the final retired at 1-0 in the first set.

Safina withdraws from Beijing

Dinara Safina, winner of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, has withdrawn from the China Open in Beijing. Safina has complained of some back pain, and she undoubtedly needs a rest.

Zvonareva wins in Guangzhou

Vera Zvonareva has won the Guangzhou International Women's Open, defeating Peng Shuai, 6-7, 6-0, 6-2.

As I have written before, I do not think a player of Zvonareva's caliber (I have my doubts about Zheng Jie, too) should be permitted to play in a small tournament like Guangzhou. However, there are no such restrictions, and Zvonreva now has another title.

King and Petrova win Tokyo

Vania King and Nadia Petrova have won the Toray Pan Pacific Open doubles title. The unseeded team defeated the second seeds--Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur--6-1, 6-4 in the final.

"I'm a steamroller baby..."

The formidable Nadia Petrova took only one game off of Dinara Safina in the semifinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, and the equally formidable Svetalana Kuznetsova took only one game off her her in the first set of today's final. The second set was much more competitive, with many games going to deuce. Though Safina's first serve stats were lower in quality in the second set, her second serve stats increased significantly in quality, so she was covered in that area. In an hour and eighteen minutes, it was over, and Kuznetsova had won only four games.

It is now clear that when Safina's serve is working, she is pretty hard to beat. The Tokyo title is her fourth this year, and she has been in three other finals, including Roland Garros and the Olympic gold medal match. With Safina's emergence, Jankovic's progress, Dementieva's progress, and Serena's return to the top, we should have an interesting autumn indeed.

Safina def. Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-3

Saturday, September 20, 2008

This and that...

Now that Svetlana Kuznetsova has split with coach Stefan Ortega, she is moving back to Russia--Moscow, to be specific.

Anna Chakvetadze is signing a sponsorship deal with Fila.

Adidas is going to make make racquets again.

Ana Ivanovic could become very wealthy.

A biography of Chris Evert is now airing on Tennis Channel. Check the schedule to see airtimes.

Kuznetsova and Safina go to the Tokyo final

It will be another all-Russian affair tomorrow in Tokyo, as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina play for the Toray Pan Pacific Open title in Tokyo. Kuznetsova defeated her semifinal opponent, Katarina Srebotnik, 7-6, 6-2. Srebotnik was up 4-0 in the tiebreak, incidentally, but Kuznetsova was able to not only catch up, but finally surpass her.

The other semifinal score is a shocker: Safina defeated Nadia Petrova, 6-1, 6-0. I didn't see the match, so my first thought was that Petrova was injured. Apparently, she was not. Safina, who has struggled with her service game, hit seven aces, no double faults, had a 76 first serve percentage, and an 82 first serve percentage win. Needless to say, Petrova never saw a break chance, and the whole affair was over in fifty-two minutes. Yikes. This was Petrova's first loss to Safina; she had beaten her five other times.

This is Safina's seventh final of the season. If she can keep her service problems under control, she is headed toward something big.

The doubles final will be between number 2 seeds Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur and the unseeded team of Vania King and Nadia Petrova.

Zvonareva and Peng to meet in Guangzhou final

Vera Zvonareva defeated Zheng Jie today, 6-3, 7-5, in a semifinal match I would like to have seen. Zvonareva's opponent in the final will be Peng Shuai, who defeated Camille Pin, 6-2, 6-1.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pin ends Rus's run in Guangzhu

Camille Pin is one of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's enigmas. She is a really good player who can give almost anyone a bad time, but she cannot serve. At all. I sometimes wonder how Pin would have done on the tour if she had even a passable serve. She can be a tough player.

She did well enough today to defeat Arantxa Rus, who has plenty to be proud of, getting to the quarterfinal round of a tour event. Tamira Paszek is out, too, defeated--not surprisingly--by Zheng Jie. Top seed Vera Zvonareva ran over Karin Knapp, and Peng Shuai defeated Jill Craybas.

Pin def. Rus, 6-3, 6-3
Zheng def. Paszek, 6-2, 6-1
Zvonareva def. Knapp, 6-1, 6-0
Peng def. Craybas, 6-4, 6-1

The Zvonareva-Zheng semifinal has the makings of a very fine match.

Top seed out in Tokyo quarterfinals, and Srebotnik pulls another upset

Katarina Srebotnik is having a season of upsets; this time, the victim was Elena Dementieva

Top seed Jelena Jankovic was defeated today in the Toray Pan Pacific quarterfinals by Svetlana Kuznetsova. The bigger upset, however was that of Elena Dementieva, who lost to Katarina Srebotnik. Srebotnik had to qualify to get into the tournament, which I do not understand, but there you have it: A "qualifier" beat Dementieva. More accurately, Srebotnik--who has been having a time of it upsetting top players this year--has done it again.

Meanwhile, Kaia Kanepi made Dinara Safina work for her quarterfinal victory, and Nadia Petrova easily eliminated Agnieszka Radwanska.

If Jankovic had gone on to win this tournament, she would have become number 1 in the world again. But even though she is gone, there are some fairly significant ramifications for the remaining four women:

Kuznetsova: She has not had one tournament win this year, which is shocking and--for her--has to be demoralizing. A win in Tokyo would probably be a be relief for Kuznetsova.

Srebotnik: She took Serena Williams out of Roland Garros and Kuznetsova out of the U.S. Open. A win in Tokyo would vault her into the next level of the tennis heirarchy and undoubtedly provide her with a huge confidence boost.

Dinara Safina: There are always doubters, and as I write this, I'm sure there are people (I'm not one of them) who believe Safina has already had her time in the sun. A win in Tokyo would further establish her as a major threat--period.

Nadia Petrova: Petrova was the Russian who was expected to break out first, and with good reason--she is loaded with talent. But a bad court temper and a lack of confidence held her back. She did not even win a tournament until the end of 2005, and she probaby won that one because her opponent had to play the last half of the match with one hand. But it gave her the confidence she had been lacking.

She blew everyone way during the 2006 clay court season, and was poised to spoil the party for Justine Henin at the French Open. But during a pre-French Open practice session, Petrova became injured. The injury was bad enough that she lost in the first round, and that seemed to trigger a downward spiral. She went from coach to coach, told the world that she had lost her motivation to play, and saw her ranking fall.

Things have gotten better for the bright, affable Russian. She has been steadying herself of late, and a win in Tokyo would perhaps mean more to her than to any of the last four.

Kuznetsova def. Jankovic, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5
Srebotnik def. Dementieva, 6-3, 6-4
Safina def. Kanepi, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2
Petrova def. Radwanska, 6-3, 6-0

Friday cat blogging--Gustav evacuation edition--part 2

Sometimes we had to stop working and just rest

But then it was back to work, arranging dresser drawers

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sharapova launches scholarship program in Belarus

The Maria Sharapova Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme, for which Sharapova serves as Goodwill Ambassador, announced today that Sharapova is launching a $210,000 scholarship program for students from Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus. The money will enable twelve students to attend one of two Belarus universities.

The Maria Sharapova Foundation has already donated $100,000 to youth projects in the Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Sharapova was to have traveled to Belarus for today's announcement, but she could not do so because of ongoing treatment for her shoulder.

Ivanovic out in 2nd round in Japan

The collection of unmet potential known as Nadia Petrova was on hand today to defeat 2nd seed Ana Ivanovic, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2, in the second round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. When Petrova is on her game, she can beat anyone, and lately, she has shown signs of being on her game again.

Ivanovic, returning from post-thumb injury time out and a second round U.S. Open loss, is said by some to be experiencing a lack of confidence. This is certainly possible, but we should also bear in mind that the talented Ivanovic has never been the most consistent of players. There is no doubt that she needs to get in some more match play, too.

Ivanovic, by the way, is now sporting a new, exclusive Yonex racquet.

Rus takes out 5th-seeded Dulko

Arantxa Rus, departing the junior tour to try out her skills in Guangzhu, defeated number 5 seed Gisela Dulko today in the second round. Dulko is a member of that group of talented but inconsistent players who sometimes have trouble stringing victories together.

At any rate, Rus--who had already qualified to get into the tournament and defeated Yanina Wickmeyer in the first round--next faces Camille Pin.

Rus def. Dulko, 6-4, 6-4

Tournament of Champions scheduled for Bali: not my favorite announcement

From the beginning, I have been opposed to the Tournament of Champions that will be played starting next year in Bali. The Tournament of Champions will be an end-of-year round robin event featuring the top twelve players who have won at least one international event in singles but who have not qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships.

This event, promoted as a stage for "next generation champions," is an idea I wish had stayed on paper. It cheapens the Sony Ericsson Championships by creating a grand stage for players who are not yet good enough to be in the final eight. I support these players--some of them I enjoy very much, and I follow their careers--but they are not yet major champions, and there should be only so much hoop-la to go around.

Doubles with no ad point and no third set. Microphones on coaches. A tournament for someday champions. What next?

Dementieva qualifies for Sony Ericsson Championships

Elena Dementieva has become the fifth woman to qualify for the Sony Ericsson Championships, to be played in November in Doha. This will be Dementieva's eighth time to compete in the event.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This and that

Lourdes Dominguez Lino has returned to the top 100. She defeated Sorana Cirstea in the final of the ITF tournament in Athens, and is now number 89 in the world. Before that win, she was number 114.

Venus and Serena Williams have withdrawn from the Tokyo tournament, with elbow and ankle injuries, respectively.

If Jelena Jankovic wins the Toray Pan Pacific Open, she will be number 1 in the world.

Grand Central Publishing will publish Serena Williams' "memoir" (at her age?) next year. So far, there is no mention of an "as told to" format. And as much as I despise the "as told to" format, the thought--especially with editing being more or less a joke for the past several years (what do editors do now?...they certainly do not edit)--of Williams writing a book is not an easy one. She is an interesting and talented athlete who simply should not put pen to paper.

A good read from Zoo Tennis--"Scattered Thoughts on the U.S. Open Junior Championships."

Quote of the day

"She plays like a computer with a heart."
Rex Bellamy (in The Tennis Set) on Chris Evert

Thanks to Steve Tignor for this one.

Tokyo: First round disaster for top players

The Toray Pan Pacific Open has barely begun, but the upsets and equivalents to upsets are stunning.

7th seed Daniela Hantuchova is out, defeated by Francesca Schiavone. 8th seed Anna Chakvetadze is out, defeated by Kaia Kanepi. Wild card Amelie Mauresmo was shown the door by Dominika Cibulkova, and Agnes Szavay was taken out by Ayumi Morita.

And that isn't all: In doubles, top seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama were defeated by Vania King and Nadia Petrova.

Unlike some other fans, I enjoy a good upset (though, of course, not when one of my favorites is the victim). This occurrence in Tokyo, however, bears further analysis.

It is the last quarter of the season, which means that some players are tired, and perhaps need to give some attention to injuries or near-injuries. There are also some very talented younger players on the tour who can take out anyone on a given day. But a look at their victims is probably the most revealing fact of all:

Hantuchova has simply not been able to return to form since she was taken out of play by a serious foot problem. This is unfortunate, since she worked so hard to get back into the top 10. I don't know that Hantuchova will ever be able to overcome her mental issue--she chokes in bigger ways that anyone on the tour--I hope so. But at any rate, seeing her struggle like this is not pretty. (Let us not forget, however, that Schiavone can be quite tough).

Chakvetadze is another story. She has a lovely game (as does Hantuchova) and could do great things, but she is another one who lacks mental strength and who can be wildly inconsistent. She says that she is not troubled by the trauma she suffered last December, but unless she has gotten a lot of help for it, she most likely is troubled by it. In fact, unless an intervention is made, post-traumatic symptoms tend to get worse. (Again, the determined, big-hitting Kanepi can get the job done.)

Then there is Mauresmo, who is in a terrible slump, following months of injury, illness, illness-related injury, and loss of confidence. She has split, at least for now, with her long-time coach, Loic Courteau, and is obviously concerned about her tennis future. In Tokyo, she had four match points, and lost to one of tennis's rising stars, in a strange scoreline: 0-6, 6-1, 7-6.

Agnes Szavay has had so many first-round losses this year, I'm tired of counting them. The Hungarian woman with the beautiful backhand has something going on, and that something appears to be mental. Morita is Japan's young star, and Tokyo is her home tournament, and there is no doubt that she is going to do her best there--it's just that this type of thing happens to Szavay quite a bit.

Looking ahead, there are some tasty rounds in store: Jankovic vs. Pennetta, Dementieva vs. Cornet, Cibulkova vs. Safina, and Radwanska vs. Bartoli. And more to come...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Date Krumm stopped by Wozniak

Aleksandra Wozniak has defeated Kimiko Date Krumm in the final round of qualifying for the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The decisive 6-1, 6-1 defeat surprised me a bit. Date Krumm defeated Casey Dellacqua in the second round of qualifying.

Robson qualifies for first pro tournament

Junior Wimbledon winner Laura Robson has qualified for her first professional tournament, a $10k challenger in Limoges, France. She plays Alice Balducci of Italy in the first round.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kuznetsova splits with coach

Svetlana Kuznetsova has ended her professional relationship with Stefan Ortega. Her new coach is former tour star Olga Morozova.

Vergeer wins Paralympic gold

Esther Vergeer continued her dominance in wheelchair tennis this weekend by winning the gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Verger defeated Korie Homan, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6. Both Verger and Homan are from the Netherlands. Verger, a former wheelchair basketball competitor, has won a number of titles in both singles and doubles, including 25 singles championships in the four majors.

Hsieh and Peng win Bali title

Number 3 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai defeated Marta Domachowska and Nadia Petrova today to win the title in Bali. Domachowska and Petrova were unseeded.

This is the first time that Hsieh and Peng have played doubles together.

Hsieh/Peng def. Domachowska/Petrova, 6-7, 7-6, 10-7

Dr. Navaratnam receives Sony Ericsson WTA Tour award

Dr. Dharmendran Navaratnam, the tournament physician of the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in Bali, has received the Dr. Glick Award from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The award, named after Dr. Irving Glick, former chief medical officer of the U.S. Open and founder of the USTA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Dr. Navaratnam was chosen for being the physician who--during the past season--most demonstrated the standards of Dr. Glick.

Russia defends Fed Cup title

Yesterday, the Russians had a fairly easy time of it, winning their first two Fed Cup final rubbers. Today was a different story. There were wild momentum changes in the third rubber, played by Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova and Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues. When Medina Garrigues was down 0-4 in the first set, she suddenly turned on some switch and began doing what she does best--using her head to confuse her opponent.

Using change-ups and hitting high balls, she confounded Kuznetsova enough to bring the match to 3-5. When Kuznetsova served for the match at 5-3, Medina Garrigues saved three set points, and went on to win the set, 7-5. The second set was not too difficult for Kuznetsova, who won it 6-3, but in the third--as one might expect--Medina Garrigues came roaring back to make trouble. Both players had opportunities they blew, and both produced some fine shots. In the end, though, Kuznetsova was able to win on her third championship point, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Schnyder wins Bali--the curse is broken

After Patty Schnyder won in Cincinnati in 2005, she went to seven finals and lost them all. Most of them were big contests--Nadia Petrova beat her in Charleston (after Schnyder had defeated Justine Henin in the semifinals), old rival Daniela Hantuchova beat her in Zurich, and Serena Williams beat her in San Diego.

As a fan, I was proud that she made the finals of the top tournaments, rather than playing in smaller ones. In fact, her consistency was excellent. But I was also frustrated that she did not win even one of these finals.

Schnyder's run at the 2008 U.S. Open seems to have filled her with confidence, and she went to Bali in very fine form, defeating her friend Tamira Paszek today to take the title. To get to the final, Patty defeated Yuan Meng, Marta Domachowska and Nadia Petrova. Paszek's path to the final was impressive, especially for an unseeded player: She defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Sara Errani, Flavia Pennetta, and top seed Daniela Hantuchova.

Schnyder's victory was also her 500th career match win. Her back was bothering her in Bali, so she has withdrawn from the tournament in Guangzhou. She now goes into the European indoor season, which has always favored her. In fact, she was close to a win in Linz in 2005, but injured her hand during the final. Playing one-handed for the remainder of the match, she lost to Nadia Petrova. That was Petrova's first tournament win. And last year, of course, Schnyder lost to Hantuchova on an indoor court in Zurich.

You can read Patty's Bali blog here.

Schnyder def. Paszek, 6-3, 6-0

Date Krumm expands her comeback

Those who read this blog know that I have kept up with Kimiko Date's utter dominance of challenger tournaments since she decided to play tennis again. Today, in the second round of qualifying for the main draw of the Toray Pan Pacific Popen, Date Krumm defeated Casey Dellacqua. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Russia one match away from winning Fed Cup

Anabel Medina Garrigues had more than one chance to put away the second set in her Fed Cup final against Vera Zvonareva, but instead, she produced a series of unforced errors at crucial moments, allowing Zvonareva to win in straight sets. Svetlana Kuznetsova then easily dominated Carla Suarez Navarro, to win her match in straight sets, also.

The pressure is really on Medina Garrigues now. If she does not defeat Kuznetsova in the third rubber, to be played tomorrow, Russia defends its Fed Cup title. She did not play well under pressure today, but anything can happen. Should Medina Garrigues win the third rubber, I expect the Spanish team to substitute Nuria Llagostera Vives as Zvonareva's next opponent (well, that's what I would do).

Vera Zvonareva def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-3, 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1, 6-3

Mauresmo to go it alone for the rest of the season

Thanks to a tip from reader Dani, I have learned that Amelie Mauresmo has decided to play the rest of the season without her long-time coach, Loic Courteau. At the end of the season, they will make a decision regarding whether he will resume coaching her next year. Mauresmo and Courteau are quite close, and this was probably a difficult decision for them, even if it turns out to be just temporary. Both player and coach are feeling frustrated.

Mauresmo has also split from (not temporarily) her physiotherapist, Michel Franco.

Schnyder and Paszek to meet in Bali final

Tamira Paszek continued her march through the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic draw today, defeating top seed Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. For her part, 2nd seed Patty Schnyder defeated Nadia Petrova, 7-5, 6-1.

Paszek and Schnyder have played twice. Last year, Paszek took Schnyder out of the U.S. Open in the third round. However, this year, in Doha, Schnyder defeated her in straight sets, including one set of 6-0.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jankovic training at Bollettieri Academy

Women's Tennis Blog tells us that Jelena Jankovic is doing some training at the Bollettieri Academy, where she trained when she was younger. This is, I suspect, a good move.

Friday cat blogging--Gustav evacuation editon--part 1

Paszek upsets Pennetta in Bali

These days, we never know whether we're going to get whiz-kid Paszek or struggling Paszek. Flavia Pennetta, seeded 3rd at the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in Bali, appears to have encountered the former: Paszek defeated her 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 today. Here is the semifinal lineup:

Top seed Daniela Hantuchova vs. Tamira Paszek

No. 4 seed Nadia Petrova vs. no. 2 seed Patty Schnyder

Should the top seeds win their semifinal matches, the final would feature one of the Sony Ericsson WTA's most long-standing rivalries.

Wozniacki for Sony Ericsson

Check out Caroline Wozniacki's new Sony Ericsson television spot (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Fed Cup final starts tomorrow

The first rubber of the 2008 Fed Cup final between Russia and Spain will feature a match between Russia's Vera Zvonareva and Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues. All matches will be played on red clay. U.S. viewers can watch the final live Saturday and Sunday on Tennis Channel, and the matches will also be repeated twice each.

The Russian team consists of Zvonareva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova, and Elena Vesnina. The Spanish team is made up of Medina Garrigues, Carla Suarez Navarro, Nuria Llagostera Vives, and Virginia Ruano Pascul. Suarez Navarro and Llagostera Vives both performed well in their semifinal matches. Llagostera Vives performed exceptionally well. Her superb serving and backhand down the line were key factors in her winning both of her singles rubbers and her doubles rubber.

In a Fed Cup poll--so far--80% of voters believe that Russia going to win the 2008 Fed Cup title.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If you get Tennis Channel...

Then you have been watching some old Fed Cup matches for the last few days. What a bittersweet sight it was tonight to see a 2000 match between Anna Kournikova and Jelena Dokic. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around Dokic's struggle to get a decent ranking and to get wild cards. It doesn't seem like that long ago when she was in the top five.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Schnyder and Domachowska to play quarterfinal in Bali

It seems odd, but Patty Schnyder and Marta Domachowska have never played one another on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. But they will be playing each other soon, in the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in Bali. As any reader of this blog knows, I like Schnyder's game a great deal--she is one of my favorites. I also like Domachowska's game, and I think that Schnyder and Domachowska are both under-achievers, though on different levels. Schnyder has gone to so many high-level finals, but--for the last several years--has lost most of them. Domachowska is very talented, but is terribly inconsistent.

I expect Schnyder to win; she is not only a more consistent player, she can also pose a major threat to someone who has never come up against her expert drop shots, looping backhands and swinging forehand. For that matter, she can pose a threat to players who have come up against them. But if Domachowska plays her best game, this could be an interesting match.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For fans of Flavia Pennetta and Maria Kirilenko

Here is a feature on Flavia Pennetta's return to form, and one on Maria Kirilenko's 2008 return to form.

Race and rankings

Now is a good time to compare the current Sony Ericsson WTA Tour top 20 rankings with the top 20 in the Race to the Championships. Here is the current top 20, rankings-wise:


And here is a look at the race (the top 4 players have already qualified to play in the Sony Ericsson Championships):


*Not playing in the Sony Ericsson Championships because of injury

Vera Zvonareva is 357 points ahead of the next-in-line player in the race, Caroline Wozniacki, and Wozniacki is only 49 points ahead of Patty Schnyder, who is only 46 points ahead of Flavia Pennetta. Schnyder traditionally does well at the indoor carpet events, which will not take place until later in the season.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Clash of the comeback players in Bali

Tamira Pazsek, whose fortunes have gone up and down all year, defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld today, 6-4, 7-5, at the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic in Bali. Groenefeld made a stunning comeback from near-obscurity at the U.S. Open, and got a wild card to play in Bali. Paszek lost in the second round of the U.S. Open.

Groenefeld is playing doubles with Patty Schnyder, her U.S. Open partner, in Bali. And Patty is writing the Bali blog.

My U.S. Open Top 10

Here are my top ten occurrences--the good and perhaps not so good--in ascending order, at the U.S. Open:

10. Coco and Kristie--sounds like a cereal...has pop and crackle: Two young Americans--Coco Vandewegh and Kristie Ahn--provided early round interest. I found Ahn's potential to be especially good, and I liked her court demeanor. She gave Dinara Safina a respectable two sets. Vandeweghe was equally unfortunate in her draw. She played Jelena Jankovic in the first round, but then she ran over to the junior side and won the U.S. Open.

9. Goodbye, USA Network: I never thought I would get a bit emotional about the USA Network's farewell after 25 years of covering the Open, but I was kind of touched by it.

8. Has it really been 40 years?: The celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Open Era was fun--both at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center and on the U.S. Open website. Several stars, however, were conspicuous by their absence.

7. Ask me anything...: For the first time in a long time, I called the top four players--those who would reach the semifinals--on both the men's and women's sides. Certainly, I should never get a job with a sports network...

6. The return of Anna-Lena Groenefeld: Anna-Lena Groenefeld has had her share of problems, both physical and emotional, over the last few years. As a rule, players who fall off the charts do not come back, or when they do, they do not regain their footing in the rankings. There are exceptions, of course, and Groenefeld may turn out to be one of them. After hanging around in challengers for a long time, she showed up at Flushing Meadows and made it all the way to the round of 16. And she took out 11th seed Daniela Hantuchova and 17th seed Alize Cornet along the way. Pretty impressive.

5. Hurricane Gustav: Gustav, who arrived unseeded--like his predecessor, Katrina--became a major player in this U.S. Open. Fortunately, we arrived in our hotel in Birmingham the evening before the Open began. We even had two televisions, so it was comfortable viewing. But the situation brought back so many memories of Hurricane Katrina...sitting in a small room in central Louisiana, watching the Open on a poor quality TV and then sometimes switching over to see the horrific images of New Orleans.

When we returned from our Katrina evacuation (the day the semifinals were to be played) we had no cable, but we had electrical power. The restaurant down the street--which has multiple televisions-- assured me I could watch all of the U.S. Open I wanted to, but the local affiliate had pre-empted it. The Open was nevertheless available on a satellite network, but--try as they might--the owners of the restaurant could not get connected to that network. They tried various methods and even made some phone calls on my behalf, but they were never able to get the connection. Our telephone was going in and out around then, but it was in often enough to justify my dialing onto the Internet and following the semifinals and finals on the electronic scoreboard. I missed Kim Clijsters' win.

This time around, we learned that our power was restored late in the week, but not our cable service. The same restaurant assured me that there would be no problem, since the local affiliate had not pre-empted CBS's programming this time. But in the meantime, Hannah blew into New York and messed up the schedule at Flushing Meadows, so I had no idea what was going to be shown when. But I got lucky: We were able to see the first men's semifinal, and when we arrived home, our cable service had been restored. I was sick and exhausted (still am), but I got to watch the other men's semifinal and the women's final. Unfortunately, though, I now associate the U.S. Open with hurricanes and evacuation.

4. Who says Williams sisters matches are boring?: Actually, I said it. But I didn't say it during the U.S. Open quarterfinals. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire match, and was sorry when it was over--not because of the outcome (a victory by either sister would have been fine), but because I wanted to see more and more.

3. The power of faith: I never doubted that Jelena Jankovic would make it to the final of a major; in fact, I expected her to make it to the final of the U.S. Open. And though the outcome was not what she or her fans hoped for--and though she has work to do on that serve to get to the next level--it had to feel at least a little exciting to be one of the last two women standing in a major tournament. And it had to provide some confidence for the future.

2. This losing thing is a drag: Sick of failing to qualify to play in even one tour-level tournament, Frenchwoman Julie Coin--after years of trying--won three U.S. Open qualifying matches and got into the main draw. Now, finally getting into a main draw after multiple attempts, and having that main draw be one of the four majors, then winning in the first round--that is a big story in itself. But Coin wasn' t content with that piece of mid-level drama: She introduced herself to the tennis world by proceeding to eliminate the top-seeded player in the second round. Coin, number 188 in the world, defeated Ana Ivanovic, thus creating the biggest upset in Grand Slam history. In her first-ever tour event.

The rest of the story is also compelling: Coin lost in the third round to Amelie Mauresmo, but she played quite well, leaving with a very respectable scoreline of 6-4, 6-4. She is now reconsidering her thought of retiring from professional tennis.

1. 2 sets of thrills, 1 set shy of a classic: The women's final was almost all one could have hoped for. Almost, because it did not go to three sets; and almost, if you happen to be a Jankovic fan. But even with its limitations, this was the best U.S. Open final in years, complete with incessant breaks of serve, near-misses, wonderful rallies, big momentum changes, brilliant shots, grumbling to the umpire, smiles, screams, heartbreak, and the two most fiercely dramatic players on the tour. It can get better than that, but not much.

Joseph F. Cullman III Award goes to Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson has received the Joseph F. Cullman III Award for 2008. The award was created "in honor of an individual whose passion and generosity for the game of tennis inspired others from all walks of life to contribute to the advancement of the sport."

Three years ago, Sony Ericsson became the worldwide title sponsor of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour; it is the largest and most comprehensive sponsorship in the history of tennis.

What they said--day 14

"It kind of just kept rolling for me."
Coco Vandeweghe

"That was always a drill that we did every morning on the wall. You know, he would count how fast I could hit a hundred volleys against the wall. I did that every day for probably, I don't know, fifteen years."
Cara Black, speaking of her father

"I let it go. I had it. I had, you know, a lot, lot of chances. Second set I had a lot of set points and I didn't do the right things."
Jelena Jankovic

"...my game just kind of all fell together in this tournament. I kind of figured out what I've been trying to practice for the past couple months or month, and it kind of just worked."
Coco Vandeweghe

"...I got the trophy here, and you know what I was thinking? Because you guys or the commentators said all about this drama and all this, I thought, you know, I should have gotten an Oscar for all this drama throughout the week. Despite, you know, getting a trophy, I should have gotten, you know, a trophy for the acting, for my drama. I think I've done a great job."
Jelena Jankovic

Given your family history in sports and your grandmother, what's the best advice your grandmother and mother and maybe even uncle have given you?
All three of them gave you the same advice?
"Yeah. Except my grandfather tells me to skip, but I'm too embarrassed to do that."
Coco Vandeweghe

"...both of us, you know, we strive for perfection, which sometimes is a bad asset to have."
Liezel Huber

Given this is your first Grand Slam singles final, what pleased you most about your performance tonight?
"...I don't know. I don't know what pleased me because I lost. You know, it's not really pleasing when you lose..."
Jelena Jankovic

If somebody told you before this tournament started that you would be sitting here on Saturday at 3:00 about to pick up your trophy forty-five minutes later, what would you have said?
"I don't know. I'd probably say what I said when I found out I was playing Jankovic. You got to be kidding me."
Coco Vandeweghe

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Serena Williams wins 3rd U.S. Open title

I didn't think anything could come close to the Venus and Serena quarterfinal a few nights ago, but then I saw the 2008 U.S. Open final tonight. One (especially if that one is a Jankovic fan) could argue that Jelena Jankovic turned missed opportunities into a heartbreaking loss, just as one could make that argument about Venus Williams in the aforementioned quarterfinal. But it is no coincidence that opponents keep losing precious opportunities when Serena Williams is on the other side of the net.

Jankovic got off to a good start in the first set, breaking for a 3-1 lead, then went directly to 40-0...and was broken. I made a note of that frustrating incident because I wondered whether it would become somewhat of a theme of the match--and it would. Jankovic is used to always coming from behind. As a primarily defensive player, that is what she does. But coming from behind against Williams when Williams is playing at her best means that one is always about to take another step backward. Sure enough--in that first set--down 2-5, Jankovic broke, held her service game, but wound up losing the set, which Williams took at 6-4.

The second set was pure drama. Down 0-40 in her first service game, Jankovic saved three break points to hold. She later saved two break points to go 3-all. In an unusual move (and one I have been wanting to see for months) umpire Alison Lang wound up calling for the challenge (actually, it's a "review" when an umpire asks for it, only umpires are reluctant to do so) in a contested point.

Jankovic broke Williams to get a 5-3 lead, and then had three break points on Williams to take the set. Williams saved them all. Williams then had five break points against Jankovic as she served for the set at 5-4. Jankovic saved all five, and also had a set point. At the next deuce, she sliced a serve out wide for an ace, but followed that with a double fault. Williams then broke her on her sixth break point, also saving four set points.

Serving at 5-6, Jankovic saved a match point, got a game point to go to a tiebreak, then double-faulted again, giving Williams an opportunity to break, which she did, on her second match point.

Jankovic's serve is certainly better than it used to be, but there is no doubt that a greater improvement in that category would have made a difference for her tonight. Her defensive play is the best on the tour; a really good serve would make her very dangerous and save her from having to work so hard. Nevertheless, her relentlessness and her superb ability to work the court caused some major momentum shifts in the final. The match should have gone to three sets, and I certainly thought it was going to. But even at two sets, the excitement created by some of the rallies turned the match into an out-and-out thriller. Both women hit shots that would have made the heads of other players spin. There were repeated gasps from the stands. In the end, Williams used her crack serve and her dominating net play to make the difference.

This win--Williams' third U.S. Open title--gives her nine majors. She won the championship without dropping a set, and she is now number 1 in the world.

At the awards ceremony, Jankovic looked crushed, and I have never seen her look that way before. She got her interview with Mary Carillo confused with the finalist acceptance speech she was supposed to give a bit later, and did all of her thanking and acknowledging early, causing Carillo to interrupt her and ask "Don't you want your check?!" "No," Jankovic replied. "I don't want my check; I want to keep playing here."

I think she meant it.

This was Jankovic's first final in a major. Against anyone else in the draw, it is likely she would have won it. But Serena Williams was clearly on a mission, displaying world number 1 tennis throughout the match, and also exposing the vulnerabilities in her very gifted opponent's game.

Black and Huber win U.S. Open

Cara Black and Liezel Huber have won the U.S. Open doubles championship. They defeated Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur, 6-3, 7-6, to take the title.

Black and Huber were the tournament's top seeds. Raymond and Stosur, who won the U.S. Open in 2005, were seeded 10th. Raymond, playing with Rennae Stubbs, won the title in 2001.

Vandeweghe wins U.S. Open in juniors

Coco Vandeweghe won the junior girls' U.S. Open final today, defeating Gabriela Paz, 7-6, 6-1. Vandeweghe is the first American girl to the win the U.S. Open in juniors since Tara Snyder won in 1995.

Delayed cat blogging--U.S. Open edition

I became so distracted by the ongoing stress of evacuation that I forgot to cat-blog on Friday, so here is Roxie, a couple of days late (and none too pleased about it), looking a bit perplexed after checking the electronic scoreboard.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What they said--day 13

"When I was younger, I broke my share of racquets."
Coco Vandeweghe

"In the second set I got a little tight. She plays very deep and is very consistent so I had to wait for her to make the mistakes.”
Gabriela Paz, on Melanie Oudin

"Even though I had beaten her three times before, this is the US Open. Everyone brings their best. She was the better player today. She didn’t miss anything.”
Melanie Oudin, on Gabriela Paz Franco

"I'm a risk-taker, not some backboard pusher."
Coco Vandeweghe

Oudin upset in semifinals, Vandeweghe goes to the final

Number 2 seed Melanie Oudin was upset today in her juniors semifinal by Gabriela Paz, 6-4, 6-4. Paz will play number Coco Vandeweghe, who defeated 12th seed Kristina Mladenovic, 6-2, 7-5. Both finalists are unseeded.

U.S. Open historical miscellany

Chris Evert is the only woman to have won the U.S. Open singles title on three different court surfaces.

Betty Stove is the only woman to have won the U.S. Open women's doubles title on three different court surfaces.

Chris Evert had the most U.S. Open wins--six--in the Open Era., and retired with a U.S. Open 101-12 match record.

Molla B. Mallory had the most wins--eight --of all time, defeating eight different opponents.

Molla B. Mallory played in the most U.S. Open finals--ten, and Chris Evert played in the most finals in the Open Era--nine, and also in the most successive finals--six.

The combined ages of Martina Hingis and the unseeded Venus Williams--when they played their final in 1997--was thirty-three.

On two different occasions, the mixed doubles champions also won their respective singles and doubles titles (1938--Don Budge and Alice Marble, 1954--Vic Seixis and Doris Hart). Fifteen women have won the singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles titles at the U.S. Open.

What we missed

Here are some good photos, via Women's Tennis Blog, of the Sharapova dresses we didn't get to see at the U.S. Open.

Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and ATP announce digital partnership

Beginning next year, a single online broadband console will stream live matches and match highlights to ATP and WTA fans all over the world. Currently, the ATP offers masters' tournament coverage, and the WTA offers selected coverage, but only to selected areas of the world.

Forty-one ATP events and forty WTA events will broadcast via the Internet as part of this program. Match highlights will be shown free, and subscribers can buy an ATP package, a WTA package or a combined package.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Things to do while you're in New York

Caroline Wozniacki rang the NASDAQ closing bell yesterday.

What they said--day 12

"Against her, you really have to work hard, you know, every single point. With some other player, you know, two, three balls is enough, but with her you have to be ready for seven, six or even more."
Elena Dementieva, speaking of Jelena Jankovic

"...it will be difficult, but it's doable."
Jelena Jankovic, on defeating Serena Williams

"It was kind of hard to do today with the conditions, but I just definitely, you know, wanted to just go up against, you know, I think the best player this summer."
Serena Williams on Dinara Safina

"Well, I'm not disappointed at all. For me Olympics was my biggest goal, and I did my best. I have no regrets about it."
Elena Dementieva

"...maybe today was physically and mentally 80, but I spent 60 on being negative on the court, like shooting around and complaining about everything instead of spending 80% totally focused on just point by point."
Dinara Safina

"...I'm just laughing. I have a good time. And he said, 'Is this because you're No. 1 or No. 2 in the world?' And I said, No, I was laughing when I was 1,000 in the world, but maybe a little bit more now that I'm No. 1 or No. 2." 
Jelena Jankovic, describing a conversation with her driver

"You know, if I don't practice, then it's like my mind goes nuts."
Serena Williams

"I think I was behaving like a really spoiled girl on the court today. This I cannot permit myself playing in semifinal of Grand Slam."
Dinara Safina

Can you take us through the injuries from the very beginning?
"It's a long story. It's going to be a long story."
Jelena Jankovic

Williams sails through the wind and into the final

Dinara Safina has had a wonderful summer. She will most likely win a major next year. But not this year. Safina, unable to handle the weather in her semifinal match against Serena Williams, saw her U.S. Open hopes sail with the wind. Most of us regress under stress, and Safina was no exception today. As she made error after error, or was outplayed by Williams, she exhibited the negative body language we used to see from her on a regular basis.

"I hate the wind!" she yelled, much as she yelled at the weather in her 2007 Family Circle Cup final. And--as in 2007--her yelling did no good. The wind kept gusting, and Williams kept coming at her until she took the match, 6-3, 6-2. She will play Jelena Jankovic in the final.

What NOT to teach young girls

In her semifinal match against Elena Dementieva today, Jelena Jankovic showed up wearing more makeup than fans are accustomed to seeing on a tennis player on the court. But we would expect nothing less from tennis's greatest showwoman; at a night match, I would expect glitter, too. As a Jankovic fan, I enjoy her embellishments because they are part of who she is.

Audrey, however, a U.S. fan who posted on the U.S. Open Fanbook, has other ideas about Jankovic's appearance. She writes: "You looked beautiful on the court! Loved the makeup! A great example for our young girls--feminine and athletic."

I was with her until she wrote that final phrase. "Feminine" (or at least, our culture's perception of "feminine") and "athletic" are not required to be a matching set. Encouraging girls to be "feminine," even while they are hitting heavy groundstokes, struggling to reach the finish line or leaping to make a basket is, in a word, ridiculous. In another word, it is sexist. Athletes sweat. Their hair gets messed up. They grunt. They fall down and get dirty. Sweating, grunting and falling down with messed-up hair is not "masculine." It is just what athletes do.

But God forbid that anyone should think, even for one moment, that a sportswoman is not feminine enough. And God forbid that anyone may think that a--gasp!--lesbian may be on the court or field. Women should be able to play their sport of choice to the utmost of their abilitiy without also having to struggle to conform to all the gender stereotypes that have been thrust upon them. Whether one wears eye makeup and lipstick on the court should have nothing whatsoever to do with one's reputation as an athlete and a sportswoman.

Yes, Jelena Jankovic is a a terrific tennis player, a unique character and a fine and good-humored sportswoman. In those respects, she is a very good role model for young girls. But this obsession with teaching young girls that only "girly" athletes are acceptable is just more patriarchal garbage designed to prevent females from ever having authentic identities. It also prevents talented and charismatic female athletes from getting sponsorships that are served on silver platters to women who fit the culturally defined shallow stereotypes of "feminine" and "beautiful."

Gender stereotyping is a huge social problem. We should be teaching young girls to avoid it, not adhere to it.

The Jelena show moves on

When I saw the wind start to kick up at the beginning of the Jelena Jankovic-Elena Dementieva U.S. semifinal today, my hopes for Jankovic immediately rose. Neither she nor Dementieva is known for serving--making them both vulnerable to wind gusts-- but I have seen Jankovic master much tougher wind conditions. It was a a bit of a strange match--dramatic rallies interspersed with errors and missed opportunities. Early in the second set, there were four breaks in a row.

It came down to wind mastery, and to whoever could handle the occasion better. Jankovic dominated in both those categories, taking the match, 6-4, 6-4. In defeating Dementieva, Jankovic now goes to her first final in a major.

Black and Huber in U.S. Open final

Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-1, 6-4, today to get to the women's doubles final. They will play Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur for the championship.

Yesterday, Black and her partner, Leander Paes, won the mixed doubles title. Black and Huber have won the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

American girls continue their success at the U.S. Open

Though Venus and Serena Williams are the only two American women (yes, Tracy Austin and Nick Bollettieri--they are adults) to make a splash in singles at the U.S. Open, the story is different among the juniors. Four of the eight quarterfinalists were American, and now two of the four semifinalists are, too.

Number 2 seed Melanie Oudin defeated American Madison Brengle in three sets in today's quarterfinal contest, and Coco Vandeweghe allowed 11th seed Tamaryn Hendler only two games in her straight-set win. Gail Brodsky, however, lost in three sets to the 12th seed, Kristina Mladenovic.

Williams and Safina qualify for final 8 playoffs

Serena Williams have qualified to play in the Sony Ericsson Champions in November. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic were the first to qualify, and four more will join this group for round-robin play. As of now, Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Venus Williams are next in line to qualify.

Oh, the drama...

I can understand why some fans are fed up and derisive. Doubles partners refuse to speak to each other. One player insults another's family, and another player goes all sarcastic and defensive about an opponent in front of thousands of people. A former champion says really snide things about a current one. There are endless medical and bathroom breaks during matches, as well as chronic emotional outbursts.

Thank goodness we still have the men's tour.

Oh, wait...

That IS the men's tour.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What they said--day 11

So mixed doubles, doubles. Do you prefer--any preference?
"They're totally different, you know. But, yeah, I do prefer mixed, because then Leander can do all the work."
Cara Black

"Like her countryman Novak Djokovic, she seems more comfortable competing when she's distracted by physical ailments."
Matt Cronin on Jelena Jankovic

Alicia Molik retires from professional tennis

We all knew it was coming, but that doesn't make the news any easier to hear. Popular and talented Alicia Molik has announced her retirement from pro tennis, citing the obvious reason--the debilitaing results of serious illness and injury. The 27-year-old Australian, well liked on the tour and cheered by fans all over the world, was expected to become a major Australian singles and doubles star, but--like so many promising athletes--she was betrayed by her body.

In 2004, Molik won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games. In 2005, she and Svetlana Kuznetsova won the doubles title at the Australian Open, and she reached the quarterfinals in singles at that tournament; many will remember her dramatic third set, 9-7, loss to Lindsay Davenport. Molik soon reached a career high ranking of 8 in the world, and became one of the top servers on the tour.

Later that year, however, something bad happened: Molik was diagnosed with vestibular neuronitis. She was out for months--though not as long as she had expected--and when she returned in the spring of 2006, she entered the top 200 toward the end of that year.

Molik won the 2007 Australian Open wild card playoffs, and she made it to the third round of the tournament, when she was taken out by Patty Schnyder. She then entered the top 100, and made it to the second round of Wimbledon, but was defeated by Serena Williams. However, she and partner Mara Santangelo advanced to the semifinals in doubles, and she and partner Jonas Bjorkman were the finalists in mixed doubles.

This year, Molik went out in the second round of the Australian Open. A leg injury and a bad case of golfer's elbow got the better of her, and her retirement began to look more and more likely. She was thrilled to recieve a wild card to the Olympics, but she lost in the first round. That seemed to be the turning point. "I've had eleven years on the tour," she said, "with a bit of injury time in and out, that's a pretty unbelievable career, I think. I'm a bit of a realist. I felt like I've been ready for a long time. Instinct tells me to move on to something else."

It's a sad day for Australian tennis, and I think I speak for all fans when I say it's a sad day for us. Molik charmed the tennis world with her strong serving, superb doubles play and Aussie charm. She is warm and funny. and a first-rate sportswoman. She will be missed.

"Joie de Jelena"

Right here.

Note to Bill Macatee...

Anne Kremer's career-high ranking of number 18 in the world hardly makes Luxembourg a country with "no tennis heritage."

Lertcheewakarn defeated in 3rd round

Wimbledon finalist Noppawan Lertcheewakarn lost her third round match today at the U.S. Open. She was defeated by Gabriela Paz, 6-3, 6-4. Lertcheewakarn, seeded number 3, had several break points when Paz served for the match, but failed to convert any of them. Paz won on her first match point.

Meanwhile, some American girls have been doing quite well at the U.S. Open. Number 2 seed Melanie Oudin defeated U.S. player Asia Muhammad, Madison Brengle defeated U.S. player Christina McHale, Coco Vandewegh defeated Katarzyna Piter, and Gail Brodsky defeated Ajla Tomljanovic. There are four Americans in the quarterfinals, and only one--Melanie Oudin--is seeded. Her opponent is Brengle, so at least one American will be eliminated.

Black and Paes win U.S.Open mixed doubles championship

5th-seeded Cara Black and Leander Paes, playing together for the first time, have won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship. Black--a stand-out in the match--had to play against her long-time doubles partner, Liezel Huber, to gain the victory. She and Paes defeated Huber and Jamie Murray, 7-6, 6-4.

This is Black's third mixed doubles Grand Slam title. She won the other two with her brother, Wayne Black.

Raymond and Stosur in U.S. Open final

They're...back! Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur defeated Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama today, 7-5, 6-1, and will now go to the U.S. Open final. I was not able to see the match because USA Network opted to show last night's match between Mardy Fish and Rafael Nadal.

Russian Fed Cup team announced

The team for Russia's Fed Cup final with Spain has been selected. Its members are Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Ekaterina Makarova, and Elena Vesnina. The top players, other than Kuznetsova, are missing, but it isn't exactly a bad team. In fact, there is some considerable talent on that team.

Spain's team members are: Anabel Medina Garrigues, Carla Suarez-Navarro, Nuria Llagostera Vives, and Virginia Ruano Pascual. That, too, is a strong Fed Cup team; both Medina Garrigues and Llagostera Vives are unbeaten in Fed Cup singles matches this year.

The final will be played September 13-14 in Madrid. This is the first time Russia and Spain have ever met in the final.

What they said--day 10

"I'm not known as the most positive player out there. But I think that's what makes my game exciting, is I have a lot of emotions and lots of ups and downs. But I'm trying to have a little more ups than downs."
Serena Williams

"Most of the time the mind controls, but sometimes even the mind gets very tired of pushing every time yourself. So then this comes the moments that you really, like you say you don't care anymore."
Dinara Safina

Do you think people over-dramatize the difficulty of playing each other at this point?
"I don't think it'll ever be underdramatized until we're housewives."
Venus Williams

"...she didn't make mistake on my first serve. I was trying always to find ace, ace, ace. It's tough when you try something different, you know. Anyway, the serve is not my best shot. I know that, and it's‑‑I improve a lot in the last year, but it's still not very stable."
Flavia Pennetta

"...for the record,I'm aiming for the 2016 Olympics. We'll be playing doubles. I'll be here for a long time still grinding and earning titles and making life hard for anyone and everyone."
Venus Williams

"Venus is a great sport. I think the best sport in all of tennis. I'm probably one of the worst sports, so she always has a great attitude."
Serena Williams

Do you think there might come a point in the semifinals--obviously you'll play Serena or Venus, so the crowd will be with them--where you'll feel nerves, or are you past that point now?
"After being in China playing two times Chinese?"
Dinara Safina

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Serena to the semis, and what a way to go!

Their rallies were dramatic. Their screams were dramatic. Their tiebreaks were dramatic. Even their undergarments were dramatic. It looked just right to me to see the dignified but enthusiastic Venus Williams walk onto the night session court in a black dress made whimsical by hot pink underpants. Just as appropriate was Serena Williams' appearance in her U.S. Open red dress and headband, with dramatic black undergarment contrasts.

If this quarterfinal had been a movie, it might have been called My Sister, My Nemesis: Judgment in New York...or maybe just...Run Serena Run! If ever Serena Williams' athleticism were on display, it was tonight. She ran, she dove, she did full splits, then she ran some more. And some more. That was because her determined, fireball-tossing sister made her run and run and raise her game to an amazingly high and exciting level.

I usually do not care that much for Williams sisters matches, but I had a feeling this match was going to be one for the books, and it was. Venus was a break up at 5-3 in the first set, but her sister caught up with her. Then she had two set points in the tiebreak, but Serena would not have it. As dramatic and close as the first set was, it was nothing compared with the second. The tiebreak of that set featured what will probably turn out to be the point of the tournament, on the women's side; it may wind up the point of the season. I would describe it, but you had to be there, so to speak.

Venus looked like she was going to take that set a couple of times. Again, she was up 5-3, but again, things did not go her way. And while giving Serena full credit for playing at the top of her game, there is no getting away form the reality that Venus went to pieces mentally. Her forehand betrayed her, as it always does when she gets tight, and the atmosphere became charged with a sense of inevitability for her sister. The short version: Venus had eight set points in the second set, and failed to convert any of them. Serena took the match, 7-6, 7-6.

Dinara Safina is going to have her work cut out for her.

Some things never change

In almost the same breath, the eternally sexist Tracy Austin referred to Venus and Serena Williams as "guys," then as "young ladies."

On-court coaching experiment becomes permanent

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour on-court coaching trial has ended with a decision to utilize the practice on a regular basis. The rules will be the same: A player may see a coach one time per set and during an opponent's medical time out.

My wish is that--if the WTA continues the inane practice of attaching microphones to the coaches--that more coaches make a point of speaking in a language that fewer people can understand. Or they can just rip the mics off; that would be fine, too.

Doubles semifinals set at U.S. Open

Anabel Medina Garrigues used her backhand well in today's U.S. Open doubles quarterfinal

Anabel Medina Garrigues put her wicked backhand on display over and over today in the quarterfinal match she and partner, Virginia Ruano Pascual, played at the U.S. Open against Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. The match was a spirited one, with many momentum changes, some terrific shot-making, and some heart-breaking moments. The quality of play was high from both teams, and there was plenty of variety for the fans. It was Medina Garrigues, however--whose wide runs, followed by sharp backhand cross-court angles--produced most of the thrills. Her partner's shots were nothing to sneeze at, either.

There was a terrible moment for the American team in the third set, when they had a chance to break the Spanish team, even things up and force a tiebreak. Obviously nervous, Spears flubbed two easy volleys, and it was the beginning of the end. But throughout the rest of the match, Spears performed well, as did her steady-serving partner, Kops-Jones.

Medina Garrigues/Ruano Pascual def. Kops-Jones/Spears, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6.

In the other quarterfinal, top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, 6-4, 6-3.

Safina next to enter U.S. Open semifinals

Looking at the scoreline, one would be surprised to learn that Flavia Pennetta served well in her quarterfinal match against Dinara Safina. One would also be surprised to learn that her court strategy was solid. So what went wrong for the talented Italian? Two things: Her racquet control did not quite match her strategic control, and she was playing a crack returner of serve. Nevertheless, Pennetta committed only eight unforced errors in the match.

Safina, who looked a bit tired to me, had a brief bad service patch, but overcame it easily. She served very well, and she made the most of the generous amount of time she spent at the net. The 6-2, 6-3 victory may be literally just what the doctor ordered for Safina.

Date continues her hot comeback

Kimiko Date-Krumm's latest victim, Shaoshu Liu, received two bagels in the final of the $25k challenger in Tsukuba. Date-Krumm is just mowing them down in Asian challengers.

Vandewegh defeats Ahn in 2nd round of juniors

I was very impressed with Kristie Ahn when I saw her play Dinara Safina in the first round of the U.S. Open--so impressed, I'm a bit surprised that she has gone out in the second round of the junior tournament. She was defeated this morning by another up and coming American player, Coco Vandewegh, 6-3, 6-4.

American Gail Brodsky has also advanced to the third round.

Jankovic in the final four

Jelena Jankovic said yesterday that she is feeling better physically, and it certainly doesn't hurt that she went only two sets against Sybille Bammer in her U.S. Open quarterfinal match. Jankovic defeated Bammer 6-1, 6-4, and now can get some rest before she plays Elena Dementieva in the semifinals.

The second seed said yesterday that since she has been injured in one way or another practically the whole season, it has not been easy for her, but that she feels she is getting better every round.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What they said--day 9

Have you had to learn to be patient to get the respect that you have been due as a top 5 player in the world?
"Well, you mean respect from the players or respect from the people?
From the public, people who don't really know you.
"Well, I was never thinking about this. Do I need to--do I need to get respect? Do I have respect or do I want this respect? I'm just trying, you know, to play some tennis."
Elena Dementieva

"I really understand her. I know it's quite tough. I'm happy to win in two sets, so I didn't give her a lot of trouble."
Jelena Jankovic, speaking about her mother

"In purely technical terms, though, Schnyder is a marvel. She routinely hits shots that color-by-numbers stylists (think Maria Sharapova, or even Ana Ivanovic) probably aren't capable of even conceiving."
Peter Bodo

"For me, it's very tough to get my game together against the top players--they are so strong. If she plays that well, I just have to accept it. I don't really know how to improve my game enough to play at that level."
Patty Schnyder, on her loss to Elena Dementieva

"So if every match if you're feeling you're gaining your confidence back, you're really finding your game little by little, you're feeling a lot more comfortable on the court, and I'm kind of gaining my concept of the game. I'm really getting informed little by little."
Jelena Jankovic

"In her on-court interview after the 6-2,6-3 win, Dementieva virtually belted out the words: My serve was the key to today's match, it was very successful! High above Arthur Ashe stadium, you could hear the flapping wings of a squadron of pigs.
Peter Bodo