Friday, July 31, 2009

Medina Garrigues and Govortsova upset in Istanbul

3rd seed Anabel Medina Garrigues was upset today in the Istanbul Cup quarterfinals by 5th seed Vera Dushevina. 7th seed Olga Govortsova was also upset, by Gastein Ladies champion Andrea Petkovic, who defeated her 6-3, 6-3.

Other quarterfinal winners were Timea Bacsinszsky (def. Urszula Radwanska) and 8th seed Lucie Hradecka (def. Marta Domachowska).

Top seed out in Stanford quarterfinals

Number 1 seed Serena Williams met her match today in Stanford when she faced unseeded Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals. Williams and Stosur are two of the very best servers on the tour, and their skills were certainly on display during this match. When Stosur came back from her long illness time-out, I wondered what she would be able to do in singles. What she did was to retain her great serve and her volleying skills, but she added something she didn't have before--some mental toughness. Stosur used to melt away at tough moments, especially when she was leading, but we haven't seen that from her lately.

She made some strong comebacks in this match, which she won, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Williams saved some match points, but then lost the match on a double fault. Williams also had problems with her second serve, which is not characteristic of her.

Elena Dementieva also advanced to the Bank of the West semifinals today when she defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-4. Joining her was Venus Williams, who defeated Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-2. Managing long rallies has never been Sharapova's greatest strength, and it was a decided weakness tonight against an aggressive and hard-hitting Williams.

Williams and Dementieva will compete against one another in the semifinals, as will Stosur and Marion Bartoli.

Bartoli saves 2 match points, goes on to win Stanford quarterfinal

If you like drama--and what tennis fan doesn't?--then the Stanford quarterfinal featuring 4th seed Jelena Jankovic and 8th seed Marion Bartoli was for you. There was a high level of play throughout much of the match, which featured some truly stunning rallies.

Jankovic dominated the first set, which she won, 6-3. The second set was closer, and Bartoli served for it at 5-4, but Jankovic saved Bartoli's only set point. Jankovic then held two match points when she served at 6-5, but Bartoli saved them both and broke to set up a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Jankovic immediately got a minibreak, but then Bartoli reeled off six straight points and won the tiebreak on her second set point.

In the third set, Bartoli--playing with both legs fully bandaged--looked even sharper, while more errors came off of Jankovic's racquet. In the end, Jankovic had hit many more winners than Bartoli, but the unforced errors did her in. Bartoli, who was last year's finalist, won the match on her second match point--3-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Wild cards announced for Los Angeles

Vania King, Coco Vandeweghe and Michelle Larcher de Brito have been awarded wild cards into the main draw of the LA Women's Tennis Championships. Vandeweghe won the 2008 U.S. Open junior girls' championship.

Friday cat blogging--well deserved rest edition

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Williams and Bartoli win, despite spirited competition

Top Stanford seed Serena Williams faced a tough competitor in Melinda Czink today in Stanford, but she prevailed (while hitting 10 aces), 6-3, 7-6. Qualifier Melanie Oudin faced Marion Bartoli for the first time since Baroli beat her in Charleston. Bartoli won, 7-5, 6-4; Oudin's dismal second serve stats tell part of that story.

Sabine Lisicki just can't stop double-faulting. This is a trend on the tour, but not one Lisicki should follow. She has been double-faulting a lot since her injury and illness break. Fortunately, she also hits quite a few aces, but those aces should be giving her an edge, not just helping her compensate. Today in Stanford, she committed 11 double faults and hit 7 aces against Jelena Jankovic.

In the third set of that match, Jankovic was up 4-2, 30-0, but was broken. She broke Lisicki, however, when Lisicki served at 4-5, defeating her 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.


Alicia Molik is planning to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA tour to play doubles only. She retired last year.

Spectators will see a different person in the Jankovic box for a while. Jelena's mother, Snezana, is recovering from stomach surgery, so Jelena's father is traveling with her.

Ana Ivanovic will have to get a new fitness trainer. Scott Byrnes has decided to stay home (Australia) for a while.

Billie Jean King will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom next month.

Tennis Live Radio is finally back.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Petrova upset in Stanford

Fifth seed Nadia Petrova won only three games today in her second round Bank of the West Classic match against Maria Sharapova. Sharapova had services percentage stats of 60/81/52, and she served six aces; perhaps things are looking up for her.

Also making an exit was 7th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who was defeated by Daniela Hantuchova, 4-6, 7-6, 6-1.

In Istambul, 4th seed Aravane Rezai was upset by the ever-unpredictable Marta Domachowska, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Keothavong out for the rest of the season

When it comes to Anne Keothavong's knee, our worst fears turned out to be true. Keothavong reports that she has both a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn meniscus. She is out for the rest of the 2009 season.

This is not the first time Keothavong has had a serious knee injury. Poor Anne...

More injuries

Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from the LA Women's Tennis Championships in Los Angeles next week because of a foot injury. Kuznetsova did not play in Los Angeles last year, either.

And Anne Keothavong hurt her knee after she ran into a fence while playing doubles in Stanford. She was quite a bit of pain after then incident and is getting a scan done; it is possible that the injury is serious.

Richard Boock, bless him, nails it

Thanks to After Atalanta for featuring this stingingly witty--and dead-on accurate--editorial by Richard Boock of the Sunday Star Times in New Zealand. Boock successfully sums up the backward, offensive and totally ineffective trend of using sex to "sell" women's sports.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Defending champion out in 1st round in Stanford

Daniela Hantuchova defeated defending champion Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic today. Also going out was 6th seed Dominika Cibulkova, who was upset by Sam Stosur, 6-4, 6-3.

Peng Shuai withdrew from the tournament, and her spot was taken by Ayumi Morita, who was defeated in the first round by 8th seed Marion Bartoli.

It took her three hours and 24 minutes, but Maria Kirilenko was able to defeat countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6. Reflecting the general excitement of the match, the tiebreak contained no breaks until the final moment, when Kirilenko broke Chakvetadze at 5-all.

Seeds 1 and 2 out in first round in Istanbul

Top seed Vera Zvonareva was upset today in the first round of the Istanbul Cup. Mariya Koryttseva upset Zvonareva 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. The second seed, Patty Schnyder, fared no better; she was defeated 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 by Rossana De Los Rios. Neither Koryttseva nor De Los Rios is seeded.

Blogger's jinx

I predicted that the first round Stanford match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Sorana Cirstea would be a good one. What do I know? Cirstea won one game.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands took a set off of her doubles partner, Nadia Petrova, who defeated her 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. And Ai Sugiyama took Maria Sharapova to three sets. Sharapova won the match, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sharapova added to lineup for Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

Maria Sharapova has been added to the list of participants in this year's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, which precedes the U.S. Open. This year's event will take place on Saturday, August 29, and will also feature Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Will Ferrell, "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, and others.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Safina wins Slovenia Open

It took her almost three hours, but world number 1 Dinara Safina got past defending champion Sara Errani to win the Slovenia Open today. Safina defeated relentless baseliner Errani 7-6, 6-1, 7-5.

It could have gone the other way. Errani served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but was broken. Throughout the match, the Italian got most of her first serves in, but lost most of those points. She did much better with her second serve, however, and got a little help from Safina, who double-faulted nine times.

Safina now moves on, in early August, to Los Angeles, where she is the defending champion. Safina was also the winner of last year's U.S. Series.

Petkovic wins Gastein Ladies

Andrea Petkovic won the 2009 Gastein Ladies today, defeating Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Petkovic is currently ranked number 98 in the world, but that will change on Monday.

I'm sure we will be hearing more about Petkovic, but--in the meantime--here is a tour interview with Olaru.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vaidisova falls in first round of Stanford qualifying

Nicole Vaidisova was eliminated from Bank of the West Classic qualifying today in the first round. She was defeated 6-2, 6-1 by Stacey Tan, who had a wild card into the qualifying competition.

Also going out were 4th qualifying seed Jill Craybas, 7th seed Elena Baltacha, and wild card Mallory Cecil, who won the 2009 NCAA singles title.

Safina to meet Errani in Portoroz final

Dinara Safina, the Slovenia Open's top seed, defeated Alberta Brianti in straight sets today in Portoroz, and will face Sara Errani tomorrow in the final. Errani defeated Stefanie Voegele, also in straight sets.

The Portoroz doubles final was won by Julia Goerges and Vladmira Uhlirova. They defeated Camille Pin and Klara Zakopalova in the final.

In Bad Gastein, two finalists also emerged. Top seed Alize Cornet was upset, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, by Ioana Raluca Olaru. Cornet served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but was broken.

Olaru will play Petkovic in the final. Andrea Petkovic defeated Yaroslava Shvedova in the semifinals.

In doubles, the team of Hlavackova and Hradecka will play the team of Borwell and Fichman in the final.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interesting first rounds in Stanford

With only 32 women participating, the Bank of the West Classic has a rather intense draw. It will probably become even more interesting once the qualifiers have been added, but there is enough now to provide some exciting first round matches:

Serena Williams vs. Li Na: Sadly, this match will very likely not take place because of Li's knee injury, and--even if it does--Li is not likely to be playing at her best level. Still--on paper--it is a good one.

Samantha Stosur vs. Dominika Cibulkova: Stosur has been playing well of late. If she serves at her best level and Cibulkova is healthy (what a pity we have to say that so much), this could be an excellent first round match. It's certainly a shame to consider that one of them has to be eliminated.

Peng Shuai vs. Marion Bartoli: The two double-handers are usually quite entertaining when they have a go at each other.

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sorana Cirstea: This is the match I would watch if I were there. I expect it to have a bit of everything in it, and I expect the spectators to get their money's worth.

Daniela Hantuchova vs. Aleksandra Wozniak: Wozniak, the defending champion, is unseeded this year, as is Hantuchova. Both have been showing signs of quality play lately, so this, too, could be a good one.

Nadia Petrova vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands: This is an unfortunate draw for both, since they are doubles partners.

Maria Sharapova vs. Ai Sugiyama: Yes, the veteran is not what she used to be, but neither is Sharapova. If Sharapova shows up with an iffy serve, she could have a long match on her hands. Sugiyama may no longer be in the top 10, but she is as tough as they come.

Rybarikova and Groenefeld both upset in Bad Gastein

6th seed Magdalena Rybarikova and 7th seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld were upset in the Bad Gastein quarterfinals today, by Ioana Raluca Olaru and Andrea Petkovic, respectively. Olaru, however, along with her partner Mariya Koryttseva, (number 4 seeds) was upset by Tatjana Malek and Petkovic in their semifinal doubles match.

Joining Olaru and Petkovic in the semifinals will be 1st seed Alize Cornet and Yaroslava Shvedova.

The last four women standing in Portoroz are top seed Dinara Safina, Alberta Brianti, Stefanie Voegele, and 5th seed Sara Errani.

Friday cat blogging--empty birdbath edition

This Siamese mix kitten, who escaped from her foster home and temporarily wound up in our garden, appears to be confused about where all the birds went.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Here is a photo retrospective of Nathalie Dechy's career.

Li Na may have to skip the U.S. Open Series because of her knee.

Nicole Vaidisova is now ranked number 140 in the world.

Here is some new Lacoste clothing.

Olga Pouchkova has been fined for her role in the WWT debacle that took place last week.

Cornet advances to 3rd round in Bad Gastein

It shouldn't be news that the number 1 seed has made it to the third round of a tournament, but the way things have been going for Alize Cornet lately, it is indeed worth noting that she has gotten through two rounds.

Not so for 3rd and 4th seeds Sybille Bammer and Iveta Benesova. Bammer was upset by Ioana Raluca Olaru, and Benesova retired with a left thigh injury in her match against Andrea Petkovic. Benesova and her doubles partner, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova were forced to give their opponents a walkover because of Benesova's injury.

In Portoroz, Camille Pin upset 8th seed Petra Kvitova, and the number 1-seeded team of Vera Dushevina and Galina Voskoboeva were upset by Olga Govortsova and Sesil Karatantcheva.

Paszek subject of doping investigation

Though Tamira Paszek has a long way to go before she ignites as much controversy as Sania Mirza, she does also seem to be a magnet for drama. The latest issue for the 18-year-old former phenom is an investigation by Austrian anti-doping authorities.

Paszek has had significant back problems for a while, and now her back is giving her a new kind of problem: During one of her treatments, her blood was extracted, enriched and injected. Paszek says she did not know that this procedure had legal ramifications until she was so informed by a news reporter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A day of upsets

4th seed Roberta Vinci, 6th seed Lucie Safarova and 7th seed Vera Dushevina were all upset today at the Slovenia Open. They were defeated by Rossana de los Rios, Stephanie Voegele and Maria Elena Camerin, all of whom are unseeded. The 4th-seeded doubles team of Barrois and Garbin was also upset--by the team of Pin and Zakopalova.

In Bad Gastein, the only upset was of number 9 seed Shahar Peer, who was defeated by Yaroslava Shvedova.

Williams sisters top Harris poll of favorite U.S. athletes

Serena and Venus Williams, in that order, are at the top of the most recent U.S. Harris poll list of favorite female athletes. Tennis players, in fact, make up half of the list:

1. Serena Williams
2. Venus Williams
3. Danica Patrick
4. Candace Parker
5. Mia Hamm
6. Maria Sharapova
7. Annika Sorenstam
8. Chris Evert
9. Anna Kournikova
10. Michelle Kwan

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Au revoir, Nathalie

Nathalie Dechy retired from professional tennis today. The 30-year-old French player is pregnant, and is leaving the tour in order to further establish a family. With her goes one of tennis's most elegant games, and I am one fan who will really miss her.

French flair really does exist, and Dechy had it. Sadly, she was also one of the tour's most obvious under-achievers. She has only one singles title to her name, yet it feels like she should have several. Nevertheless, it was always a pleasure to watch Dechy play her understated, clever and lovely game.

Ranked as high as number 11 in the world, Dechy had her share of injuries, and in the last few years of her career, she placed more emphasis on doubles. She did well, too, winning a total of seven titles. Those wins included the 2006 (with Vera Zonvareva) and 2007 (with Dinara Safina) U.S. Open. In addition, Dechy won the 2007 French Open mixed doubles title with Andy Ram. She and Ram were the Australian Open finalists this year. Dechy was also on the French Fed Cup team for ten years, and was twice on the French Olympic team.

Dechy's 2005 Australian Open semifinal experience was an exciting one, yet perhaps our most poignant memory of Dechy concerns her experience at the 2008 Wimbledon tournament. In what was the most dramatic match of the tournament, Dechy played Ana Ivanovic in the second round, as very high winds whirled around them. She put on quite a show of tennis that day, but the show ended in what Virginia Wade called "cruel fate." Dechy held two match points in the second set, and Ivanovic saved one of them when a netcord ball hit from her racquet tumbled ever so slowly over the net. Dechy was already on her way to the net to shake hands when she realized she had not won the match. The Frenchwoman went on to save two match points in the third set, but Ivanovic prevailed, 6-7, 7-6, 10-8.

Dechy left the court to a standing ovation. She said she cried for an entire day. When a reporter asked her if she knew what Ivanovic did when the match was over, Dechy correctly guessed "Kissed the net?" When her guess was confirmed as correct, she replied, "The net deserved it."

Nathalie Dechy is also one of the most charming players with whom I have ever spoken, and I was fortunate to speak with her on a few occasions. There is a natural warmth that emanates from her, and I think that made her a special favorite among fans. Tennis Channel did a mini-documentary on Dechy once, and her personality shone through that, also.

I always hate losing a French player. Emilie Loit retired this year, and now Dechy has retired, too. Though I wish she had won more singles trophies, she did have a long and very good career. I am sure that many others join me in wishing her well. We will miss her.

Medina Garrigues out in first round of Slovenia Open

Number 2 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues lost her first round today at the Slovenia Open in Portoroz. Medina Garrigues was upset by qualifier Vesna Manasieva, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5. The match lasted two hours and 48 minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Suarez Navarro upset in Bad Gastein

Carla Suarez Navarro, seeded 5th at the Gastain Ladies, was upset in the first round today by Tatjana Malek, who defeated her 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Marta Domachowska made another first round exit. She was defeated 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 by Iona Raluca Olaru.

Kanepi upset in Portoroz

Third seed Kaia Kanepi made a first round exit at the Slovenia Open today. She was defeated by Olga Govortsova, 6-1, 6-2. Kanepi continues to have problems in a year in which she should be moving up in the rankings.

Both the first and second qualifying seeds--Kristina Kucova and Angelique Kerber--were eliminated in the last round of qualifying in Portoroz today.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pennetta takes Palermo title

Flavia Pennetta won the Internazionali Femminili di Palermo championship today, defeating countrywoman Sara Errani in straight sets for the title. This is Pennetta's seventh Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

The doubles title was won yesterday by Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who defeated Mariya Koryttseva and Darya Kustova 6-1, 6-2--the same scoreline as the singles final.

Bammer, Bondarenkos win in Prague

2nd seed Sybille Bammer defeated top seed Francesca Schiavone today, 7-6, 6-2, to take the 2009 ECM Prague Open title. Because of rain, both the semifinals and finals in singles had to be played today. In the semifinals, Schiavone stopped the run of Timea Bacsinszky, and Bammer defeated Iveta Benesova. This is Bammer's second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

The 2nd seeds also defeated the top seeds in doubles. Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko defeated Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-2 to take the Prague title.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pennetta and Errani to meet in Palermo final

Top seed Flavia Pennetta defeated countrywoman Tathiana Garbin 6-1, 6-1 today in Palermo to reach the final of the Internazionali Femminili di Palermo. Joining her will be another Italian, Sara Errani, who defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Groenefeld advanced to the semifinals when her quarterfinal opponent (and doubles partner), Patty Schnyder, had to retire because of a hip flexor strain.

Meanwhile, in Prague, the first semifinal, featuring Sybille Bammer and Iveta Benesova, lasted only thirteen minutes when rain came. It will be completed tomorrow, with the second semifinal (Francesca Schiavone vs. Timea Bacsinszky) to be played at the same time. The final will be played later in the day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bacsinszky advances to Prague semifinals

Today in Prague, qualifier Timea Bacsinszky upset 4th seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals of the ECM Prague Open. In the second round, Bacsinszky defeated Stefanie Voegele, and in the first round, she upset 6th seed Magdalena Rybarikova.

Bacsinszky, who is coached by Melanie Molitor, was the top qualifying seed. She has yet to drop a set in the tournament, though she may find her next job a bit harder: Bacsinszky plays top seed Francesca Schiavone in the next round.


Serena Williams has received the 2009 ESPY Award for Best Female Tennis Player.

Kim Clijsters will play in Luxembourg this year. No surprise--she won that tournament many times.

The current issue of the official USTA magazine features a lovely tribute to Monica Seles, written by Martina Navratilova. Tennis also has a nice editorial tribute written by publisher Chris Evert. You can see a photographic retrospective of Seles' victories here.

Today is the 46th anniversary of the founding of Fed Cup.

The Tennis Week interview this week is with Caroline Wozniacki.

Friday cat blogging--hanging out edition

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vania King the women's leader so far in WTT

Vania King, who plays for the Springfield Lasers, is currently the win-loss record leader among ranked women playing World Team Tennis this season. King has a .795 win-loss record, having played 35 games and lost 9. The next best record belongs to Angela Haynes of the Sacramento Capitals.

Only five ranked women have a winning record so far. They are--besides King and Haynes--Serena Williams, Abigail Spears and Sloane Stephens. Stephens plays for the New York Buzz, whose members are made up of players age 18 and younger.

Among unranked women, the win-loss leader at this point is Raquel Kops-Jones, who plays for the Boston Lobsters.

The Lasers, a Western Conference team, is 8-0 so far this season in match play.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I kissed a girl...and I liked it

Cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug. I have covered that subject many times. But, given that An Important Body says it is, players are in trouble if caught using it.

I have no problem whatsoever with Richard Gasquet's having his ban rescinded. However, I worked in the chemical dependency field for several years, and "I kissed a woman who had used cocaine and I didn't know it" is the most oft-cited "reason" for having a positive test result that I heard. I heard it over and over, and I heard several variations of it.

So Gasquet, who had a significant positive result, is free to play tennis, and Martina Hingis--who had a much less significant positive result--has a two-year ban.

Go figure. It's as if the people making the rules were...on drugs.

Upsets in Palermo

There were a couple of doubles upsets today in Palermo. The unseeded team of Parra Santonja and Uhlirova upset 4th seeds Senoglu and Shvedova, and the unseeded team of Jans and Rosolska upset 3rd seeds Makarova and Voskoboeva.

In singles, top seed Flavia Pennetta defeated countrywoman and clay specialist Roberta Vinci, and Tathiana Garbin defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Also, unseeded Olga Govortsova upset 6th seed Ekaterina Makarova.

"She'd probably lose some before she could win, and who has time for that?"

That is the quotation at the conclusion of Steve Tignor's excellent feature in Tennis magazine--"Personality Crisis." Tignor makes the case that all of the top women on the tour play the same way, more or less, and that this homogeneity stands in sharp contrast to the colorful differences in their personalities. The quotation comes from Nick Bollettieri, who--according to Tignor--somewhat regrets his own creation. Bollettieri's point is that a young player could add some variety and artistry to her game, but it would take time.

Tignor recalls the days when players like Evonne Goolagong, Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Navratilova, and Steffi Graf all had distinctive playing styles. I recall them, too, and my recollection only intensifies what a loss to the tour it was when Justine Henin and Martina Hingis retired.

Bollettieri's quotation is intense in many ways. Here is another quotation--this one from coach Rick Macci, who trained the Williams sisters and Jennifer Capriati: "If you played an artistic game like Sabatini, you wouldn't be in the top fifty." How quickly he forgets Henin. How quickly he forgets Amelie Mauresmo. How quickly he forgets Patty Schnyder and Anabel Medina Garrigues. He also forgets Francesca Schiavone, Carla Suarez Navarro and Gisela Dulko. All of them have artistic games--in some cases, very artistic games--two of them have been ranked number 1 in the world, and two others have been in the top 10. All are currently in the top 50. And all have thrived, including those at the very top, during the period of so-called power tennis.

Of course, there are still some distinctive playing styles, even among today's top players. Jelena Jankovic is a superb strategist and mover, Marion Bartoli plays Seles style, Flavia Pennetta is an excellent strategist. But the distinctions are becoming less obvious.

Says Macci: "If you can bang the ball, you have a chance." But players like Henin and Mauresmo showed us that you can do a lot more and have a chance, too--a big chance.

Sports blogging survey results in

Women Who Serve was selected to participate in a survey of sports bloggers created and conducted by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. Here are the results of that survey, a couple of which were a little surprising to me.

Racket Up America

Today is the first day of the Racket Up America promotion. Between now and September 30, anyone in the U.S. who buys a tennis racquet at any tennis retail store or pro shop can register that racquet and have a chance to win big prizes. The grand prize is $1 million and a trip for two to the 2010 U.S. Open.

New racquets can be registered here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 seeds upset in Prague

5th seeded Alona Bondarenko was upset in the first round in Prague today, 6-1, 6-3, by her sister, Kateryna. Also upset was Magdalena Rybarikova, who lost to qualifier Timea Bacsinszy, 6-2, 7-6.

In Palermo, Swedish Open champion Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez upset 3rd seed Alize Cornet, 6-2, 6-2. Anna-Lena Groenefeld upset 8th seed Gisela Dulko 6-4, 6-1. In doubles, the top seeds--Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder--were upset 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 by Irina Begu and Marta Marrero.

Sony Ericsson WTA players have heroes, too

Monday, July 13, 2009

I scream, you scream...

I suppose it all started with Monica Seles, whose grunt I found amusing, but I realize not everyone felt as I did. I simply never got tired of hearing that unearthly sound come out of her. There used to be a Seles website--I think it is gone now--that delivered Monica's unique grunt the moment you clicked on the home page. And my all-time favorite American Express commercial was the U.S. Open ad in which Monica went to a store and the clerk grunted the entire time she was checking her out.

Seles made a lame--and embarrassing--attempt to make fun of herself at her International Tennis Hall of Fame induction. Her grunting--in itself a topic of controversy when Seles was playing--is now part of a much wider context in women's tennis.

Seles grunted, though her grunt was unusually loud and was a borderline shout. Grunting, on the whole, however, is
easy on the ears. Dinara Safina grunts. Justine Henin grunted. Unfortunately, the sports press, as well as multiple fans, insist on calling screaming "grunting." It most certainly is not.

Many women have been quick to say "If you stop the women from grunting, are you going to stop the men?" They miss the point entirely. There is no reason whatsoever to stop Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian from grunting, just as there was no reason to stop Henin, and there is no reason to stop Safina. These particular fans need to understand a simple fact: The men on the ATP Tour do not scream. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a feminist activist, but the fact remains that people are not disturbed by simple grunting, which is what some men on the ATP do.

I do, however, join other feminists in being disturbed by a different issue--that the media has paid more attention to WTA players' screaming than they have ever paid to their tennis. I find that offensive, but predictable.

But back to the screaming. It is that, and not the grunting, that disturbs people. Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Michelle Larcher De Brito all scream--some more than others. Larcher De Brito has been singled out lately because her screams have been measured, and they last longer than the screams of the other women.

Martina Navratilova calls such screaming "cheating" because, she maintains, the noise prevents an opponent from hearing the ball struck. Many tennis writers are vehemently opposed to the screaming, as are many fans. I don't enjoy hearing it, either, and when two of the screamers play each other (remember that 2005 Wimbledon semifinal?), I find it difficult to listen.

However...the great majority of the players who have been interviewed about Sharapova, Larcher De Brito, etc., say that the screaming does not bother them at all--that they do not even notice it. My guess is that it bothers some, and does not bother many. Interestingly, if this were an ATP issue, I'm sure that those who said the noise bothered them would be singled out as wimps and excuse-makers. In the case of the WTA, however, there appears to be a movement to cater to those who are bothered by noise.

It is not "wrong" to be bothered by the screaming, just as it is not "right" to not be bothered by it. Different things affect different people in different ways. The solution, it would seem, is for those players who are bothered by the screaming to complain to the umpire.

A more interesting question, to me, is: Why are the players screaming? I have done a lot of thinking about this culture of screaming, and my best theory is this: As tennis became more and more powerful and more physical demands were made on players, it became natural for some of them to grunt loudly. But grunting is not "feminine" and therefore it is a no-no in the WTA culture. And so some players scream. There are, I'm sure, many who think that such shrieking is not "feminine," either, but it is probably more acceptable than loud grunting. may just come natural for some of the players to scream.

Should screaming (not grunting) be banned? If you think it should, I would like to know who is going to tell Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova to stop doing it. Azarenka and Larcher De Brito have already said that they will not stop, though Larcher De Brito was noticeably quieter at Wimbledon, where she was placed on courts as far away as possible from The Important People.

I also think there is more to the screaming than an unconscious fear of not passing the femininity test. As the general culture becomes more and more intrusive, it seems only logical that the sports culture would, also. Do I like it? Not really, but I have gotten used to it, just as I eventually got used to the demise of the wooden racquet and to multiple injury time-outs. As far as I am concerned, there are far more pressing problems for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour than how long Larcher De Brito's screams last. With several top players not able to serve, an awkwardly reorganized tour calendar, and the use of sex as a marketing tool, I'd say there are plenty of very important matters to be addressed.

In the meantime, I suppose Michelle can scream away.


Serena Williams' memoir, On the Line, is due to be released once the U.S. Open begins.

Anne Keothavong says she does not wish to train at the National Tennis Centre and that she does not wish to wear the LTA's AEGON sponsor's patch. She is in conflict with the LTA over her desire for her father to help coach her.

A thigh injury is keeping Dominika Cibulkova out of the Palermo tournament.

For those who live in the U.S.: Every Monday night from today on, Tennis Channel will show a classic U.S. Open match in the evening. Times vary, so check the schedule. On July 20, the 1995 Seles-Graf match will be shown. On August 3, it's the 1991 Navratilova-Seles match, and on August 17, the 1979 Austin-Evert match will be featured.

The New York Buzz, the WTT Albany team, consists only of players who are 18 and younger. Both Sloane Stephens and Lauren Embree play for the Buzz.

Allaster chosen to head Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

This is hardly "news," in that most of us assumed it would happen, but the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has named Stacey Allaster as the new chairwoman and CEO of the tour. (Only the equality-minded tour, of course, refers to her as a chairman).

Allaster has been president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour since 2006. She was chosen for her new position as a result of an international search.

I'm sure many of us have a list of concerns we'd love to hand to Allaster. Here's hoping someone who matters will have such a list and that Allaster will take it seriously.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Szavay wins Budapest championship

Playing in front of her home crowd, Agnes Szavay upset top seed Patty Schnyder today in the GDF SUEZ Grand Prix in Budapest. Szavay defeated Schnyder 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Alisa Kleybanova and Monica Niculescu won the doubles title, defeating Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4, 7-6, in a match that included eleven breaks of serve.

Dokic hoping to return for U.S. Open Series

Jelena Dokic, who has been diagnosed with mononucleosis, is currently taking a physician-prescribed rest, and hopes to participate in the Olympus U.S. Open Series.

I would advise fans to be cautious about their optimism. Already diagnosed with Sports Fatigue Syndrome, Dokic obviously has a compromised immune system. We have seen other tennis players--notably Roger Federer and Mario Ancic--struggle for months or years with mononucleosis.

Of course, Dokic could have a mild case, but she is obviously physically vulnerable. A long time ago, I had what was considered a mild case of mononucleosis, and it took me weeks of rest, followed by a period of muscle-strengthening, before I was myself again. Lucky for me, I had a very smart doctor who understood exactly how to treat the disease.

I wish the Dokic the best. She gets one bad break after the other. It's no fun for fans, either. Speaking as one--I just want to see her be healthy and play.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Szavay and Schnyder to meet in Budapest final

4th seeded Agnes Szavay, playing in her home country, will compete with Patty Schnyder for the GDF SUEZ Gran Prix title tomorrow. Szavay defeated 6th seed Alona Bondarenko, and Schnyder defeated Edina Gallovits, in the semifinals.

This will be the first meeting between Szavay and Schnyder.

Martinez Sanchez wins Swedish Open

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez has won the 2009 Swedish Open. The unseeded Martinez Sanchez defeated 1st seed Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-4 to take the title.

This is Martinez Sanchez's second tour singles title. She won her first title this year, also, when she upset Gisela Dulko for the Bogota championship.

Dulko and partner Flavia Pennetta won the doubles title, defeating Nuria Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 0-6, 10-5.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Mirza drama continues

With Sania Mirza, it is always something. She has had a fatwa placed on her, she's been charged with disturbing the peace, she got in trouble for promoting safe sex, she was issued a court warning for dishonoring the flag, and one of her doctors was the recipient of a threat letter. More drama follows Mirza than she could ever create on the court.

And now there's something new: Two men have been arrested because of Mirza's marriage engagement. One man threatened to kill himself if Mirza went through with her engagement to Sohrab Mirza. The other tried to go to her house to proclaim his love.

Seles to be inducted into Hall of Fame tomorrow

Tennis great Monica Seles will be inducted into the International tennis Hall of Fame tomorrow in a ceremony that also includes the induction of Andres Gimeno, Donald L. Dell and Dr. Robert Johnson.

Seles--who tallied a 180-31 win-loss record at the four majors, and who won nine of them--won 53 singles titles throughout her 15-year career. She also won six doubles titles, won three consecutive year-end championships, and held the number 1 ranking for a total of 178 weeks.

A left-hander who hit both her forehand and backhand with both hands, Seles played with uncommon aggression, finding angles that often left her opponents stunned. She was the youngest player to ever win the French Open, and the youngest to win the year-end championships. In 2000, Seles won a bronze medal at the Olympics.

It is generally agreed that if Seles had not been the victim of a stabber in 1993, her career would have included even more major titles. The incident caused Seles to leave the tour for over two years, and was made even more bitter by the fact that her perpetrator never served a day in prison.

In addition to being one of tennis's brightest stars, Seles was also part of a wonderful rivalry. She and Steffi Graf thrilled fans for years with their close, high-quality matches.

Wozniacki and Martinez Sanchez to meet in Bastad final

Gisela Dulko's nice run at the Swedish Open ended today with a 7-5, 6-4 semifinal defeat by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Sanchez's opponent in the final will be top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

2nd seeded Dulko and Pennetta will play together in the doubles final against top seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez.

Friday cat blogging--sleepy Friday edition

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Szavay gets past Garbin

I like to watch Tathiana Garbin play, and I wish I could have seen her three-hour match against Agnes Szavay in Budapest today. Szavay won, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5. Szavay double-faulted thirteen times; there's a lot of that going around.

Dulko making good on her resolve

When the talented but under-achieving Gisela Dulko was interviewed after defeating Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, she acknowledged she had had a bad year, and said her goal was to reach the top 20. In my opinion, she should have gotten herself there some time ago. My general impression of Dulko for some time now, is that belief is the main element she lacks. She has a really good (but inconsistent) serve, she is tough from the baseline, and she is able to make it up as she goes along.

Belief appears to be with her in Bastad. Yesterday, she saved match points to upset 5th seed Sorana Cirstea, and today she saved match points to upset number 2 seed Dominika Cibulkova. She has now reached the semifinals, in which she will play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who upset 7th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. The other semifinal will be played by top seed Caroline Wozniacki and 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta. Wozniacki defeated Maria Kirilenko 7-5, 7-6.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A day of upsets in Bastad

Several seeds were eliminated today in the second round of the Swedish Open in Bastad. Gisela defeated 5th seed Sorana Cirstea, Maria Kirilenko defeated 6th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Alla Kudryavtseva defeated 8th seed Iveta Benesova.

Yesterday, 4th seed Kai Kanepi lost to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta was the winner of a clash of Italian clay specialists when she defeated Wimbledon quarterfinalist Francesca Schiavone.

Meanwhile, in Budapest, at the GDF Suez Grand Prix, Edina Gallovits upset 3rd seed Sybille Bammer today in the second round of play, and Shahar Peer upset 2nd seed Alize Cornet, 6-2, 6-0. Yesterday, in the first round, 8th seed Lucie Safarova was defeated by Petra Martic.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Wimbledon top 10

Here are my top 10 Wimbledon occurrences, in ascending order:

10. This clay doesn't look right: Tour veteran and clay specialist Francesca Schiavone surprised everyone by getting to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. She was then handily defeated by Elena Dementieva, but it was quite an accomplishment nonetheless. On her way to the final eight, she defeated Eastbourne semifinalist Aleksandra Wozniak, Michelle Larcher De Brito, 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, and Eastbourne finalist Virginie Razzano.

9. Couldn't they have just washed their cars?: Building an expensive retractable roof over Centre Court did the trick--there was hardly a drop of rain during the entire tournament. The one match for which the roof was needed--and then, only briefly--was a women's match, though the roof was kept on (triggering a controversy) for a men's match.

8. Sister solidarity: Venus and Serena Williams defend their doubles title, defeating Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs in a lively final.

7. Au revoir?: Many of us were struck by the way Amelie Mauresmo paused and soaked in the view and the atmosphere before she left Centre Court, after her defeat by Dinara Safina. The crowd gave her a very enthusiastic farewell. Was she just touched by their affection for her, or was she taking a last look? At any rate, it was a memorable moment.

6. Remember this name: 17-year-old Melanie Oudin was due a breakthrough, and she picked a very big stage upon which to have it. The former junior world number 2 had to qualify to get into the main draw, and once she got there, she did some damage. That damage included defeating Jelena Jankovic in the third round. Oudin lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, but she made a big impression.

5. Service with a smile: The big-serving Sabine Lisicki, who had nothing but misfortune after she won the Family Circle Cup in April, came storming into Wimbledon with her big serve, rapid-fire groundstrokes and skillful drop shots. She took out French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki before falling to Dinara Safina in the quarterfinals. By the time Lisicki reached her fifth round, she was visibly anxious, and she also appeared to have a bit of a fitness problem. One assumes that both of those issues will be addressed, and that Lisicki will continue to improve.

4. One is the loneliest number: World number 1 and top seed Dinara Safina, who has never cared that much for grass courts, nevertheless managed to get to the semifinals. It is easy to forget that accomplishment, however, in light of her dreadful 6-1, 6-0 loss to Venus Williams.

3. Depends on how you define "coverage": NBC executives once again saw to it that those of us who live in the U.S. would see as little live tennis as possible. Forbidding ESPN to show certain prime matches, NBC aired them after the fact, in lieu of matches that were actually in progress. To make matters much worse, U.S. viewers were suddenly--why did it take them so long?-- blocked from using the Wimbledon Live service.

2. This crown looks better with a trenchcoat: Venus Williams holds five Wimbledon titles, including the last two. Her quest to get three in a row, however, was stopped short by her pesky little sister, who took control of the championship match from the opening shot, and never let go. Serena Williams now has three Wimbledon titles, and the rest of us have to get used to looking at photos in which Venus holds the runner-up dish.

1. Instant classic: The semifinal match between Elena Dementieva and Serena Williams--the longest women's semifinal match in Wimbledon history--was a thriller of exceedingly high quality. The only thing wrong with it was that someone had to lose.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Vergeer and Homan win Wimbledon wheelchair doubles title

Wimbledon officials finally got around to adding a women's wheelchair event this year. There was no singles competition, but there was a doubles contest, and--no surprise--the title was won by the completely dominant pair of Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan. Vergeer and Homan won their semifinal match 6-0, 6-0. In the final, they defeated Lucy Shuker and Daniela Di Toro 6-1, 6-3.

Vergeer has never lost a doubles match at a major, and is currently on a 360-match winning streak in singles.

Random thoughts about Wimbledon

The Centre Court roof is a good thing, but more thought needs to put into when to keep it on and when to remove it. Wimbledon officials were quite defensive about the humidity complaints, but they need to address the issue. One very good thing about the roof--it kept the rain away!

Officials also need to address the issue of court assignments for the top women players. Whether you believe that sexism is involved in the decision-making (which many of us do, with good reason), or that selections are made on a less offensive basis, there is still a problem.

I wish the junior girls' final were not scheduled the same time as the women's final. The top junior players, in my opinion, should be permitted to watch the women's final.

For those who live in the U.S.--perhaps you also noticed a sudden gender consciousness in Pam Shriver, of all people. On more than one occasion--sometimes directly, sometimes implicitly--she brought up the subject of sexism.

There were some nice outfits. I especially liked Maria Sharapova's well-designed dress, and I liked the simplicity of Amelie Mauresmo's. And despite the jeers I heard about her retro look, I thought Victoria Azarenka's headband was just right. It's always a bit of a challenge, for those who care, to stand out--but not too much--in white.

How things have changed

Those who saw the 1976 World Invitational Tennis Classic match between Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong on Tennis Channel last night got more than tennis. Billie Jean King (in a Pam Shriver afro) was one of the commentators, and the interview and analysis style was dramatically different from what we hear today. It was, in fact, a breath of fresh air.

After Goolagong threw away the first set, King sat down with her on her bench and said--in so many words--"you really made a mess of that one." She had. Halfway through the set, it occurred to Goolagong that she was using her husband's racquet, an absent-minded act that only added to her reputation as being someone who wasn't focused enough on what she was doing.

For her part, Evert put on a tennis clinic. Before Navratilova came into her own, it was Goolagong's volleying that drove Evert mad, and the two were rivals. But at the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head that day, it was all about Evert.

The interviews after the match were especially revealing. King reminded Goolagong that her critics say she does not care enough, and that she wouldn't worry adequately about the 6-1, 6-1 score of the match she just played. "I wish I could worry more," said Goolagong.

When King asked for Evert and father Jimmy Evert to come over for an interview, she didn't say word one to the winner, but spoke instead to her father. Jimmy Evert insisted he didn't try to tell Chris what to do, that they just had "casual conversations." Chris Evert was standing between them, and the look on her face was priceless; she stopped just short of rolling her eyes for the camera.

The Sea Pines Resort, by the way, is where the Family Circle Cup used to be held.

Groenefeld and Knowles win Wimbledon mixed doubles title

The 9th-seeded team of Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Mark Knowles upset top seeds Cara Black and Leander Paes today to win the 2009 Wimbledon mixed doubles title. Groenefeld and Knowles won the championship match 7-5, 6-3.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Williams sisters win Wimbledon doubles title

Not long after they became the Wimbledon champion and finalist in singles, Venus and Serena Williams also took the doubles title. The 4th seeded sisters, who were the defending champions, defeated 3rd seeds Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs, 7-6, 6-4.

This is the Williams sisters' third Wimbledon title.

Evert and Goolagong on Tennis Channel

For U.S. readers who have Tennis Channel, there is a treat for you tonight at 9:30 EST. Three-time Wimbledon champion Chris Evert and two-time Wimbledon champion Evonne Goolagong (they were rival before Martina came along) are on display in the 1976 World Invitational Tennis Classic.

Serena wins 3rd Wimbledon championship

The sight of Serena Williams in her white trenchcoat and white headband, smiling and holding the Venus Rosewater dish, has "classic Wimbledon" written all over it. It could have been any decade--no one could mistake her for anyone but the Wimbledon champion. Serving masterfully and continually raising the level of her game when she needed to, the 2nd seed defeated the defending champion today in straight sets on Centre Court.

After her grueling semifinal thriller against Elena Dementieva, some wondered whether Serena would have enough energy--at least, mental energy--left to defeat her sister. Others thought "If she can win a brilliant Dementieva, she can beat anybody." Both were valid viewpoints, and--lucky for Serena--the second one turned out to be correct.

From her very first game, Serena sent a message by hitting an ace and holding at love. For the most part, matters proceeded in typical grass court fashion, with big serving by both players, and short rallies. Serving at 3-4, Serena went down 15-40, and it was easy to think "Here comes Venus!" Only Serena held. The set went to a tiebreak, and at that point, Serena elevated her game, as she has done so many times before. At 6-3, after hitting a netcord ball that dribbled over to Venus's side, Venus rushed to get it, took a good smack at it, and suddenly, a winning lob popped off of her sister's racquet, giving Serena the set.

In the second set, serving at 2-3, Venus double-faulted at break point. Serena then held easily, and the next thing we new, the defending champion was serving at 2-5, 0-30, In a moment, her sister had a championship point. Venus saved that match point, then she and Serena engaged in a tense 18-shot rally, which ended with a second match point for Serena when Venus lost her footing as she made a return.

Serena then hit a ball into the net, permitting Venus to save a second match point. Venus then had a game point, but her sister saved it, and then quickly went on to gain a third match point, which Venus also saved. At this point, the tension was very high (at least for this viewer). Could Venus do it again? She could not. Serena, on her fourth match point, became the 2009 Wimbledon champion.

This makes three Wimbledon titles for Serena. Her sister holds five, and was trying for three in a row.

Venus's service stats in the final are impressive, with 70 and 56 first and second serve win percentages. Serena, however, tallied an astounding 94/71 set of percentages, and committed only twelve unforced errors. Venus is a great grass court champion, but today, it was Serena who performed perhaps even beyond what she was expecting.

Serena Williams has now won eleven majors. She has been injured multiple times, struggles chronically with her knee, and has been written off more than once as close to finished. But she is the phoenix of women's tennis, and one can only wonder how many more important trophies she will hold.

Lertcheewakarn wins junior Wimbledon title

Last year, she lost to Laura Robson in a very high quality match, but this year, 4th seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn took the Wimbledon junior girls' title by defeating Kristina Mladenovic, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Mladenovic, the top seed, was hoping to win consecutive majors; she won the junior title at the French Open last month.

After winning the first set, Mladenovic went up an early break in the second, but Lertcheewakarn broke back to make the score 2-all; she would go on to win that set. The 4th seed broke Mladenovic immediately in the third set, and went up 4-0. Mladenovic was able to win only one game in the final set.

Mladenovic hit more than four times as many winners as Lertcheewakarn, including eight aces. She also made twice as many unforced errors.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Black and Groenefeld to meet in Wimbledon mixed doubles final

Cara Black and Liezel Huber played doubles twice today. They lost their semifinal to the Williams sisters, and they had to play each other in mixed doubles. Huber and Jamie Murray lost to 9th- seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Mark Knowles. However, Cara Black and her partner, Leander Paes, defeated Virginia Ruano Pascual and Stephen Huss.

Lertcheewakarn and Mladenovic to play in Wimbledon junior final

Last year's finalist, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, will soon have another chance to claim the junior girls' Wimbledon title. Her opponent will be number 1 seed Kristina Mladenovic, who won the junior girls' French Open title.

In today's semifinals, 4th seed Lertcheewakarn defeated 6th seed Timea Babos 6-2, 6-0. Mladenovic defeated the unseeded Miyabi Inoue 6-1, 6-2.

Mladenovic defeated Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

Black and Huber upset by Williams sisters

Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber gave it all they had, but still won only three games today in their Wimbledon semifinal against Venus and Serena Williams. The Williams sisters posted a score of 6-1, 6-2, and will play Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs in the final. Number 3 seeds Stosur and Stubbs defeated 2nd seeds and French Open champions Anabele Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.

Friday cat blogging--playtime edition

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stosur and Bryan upset in Wimbledon mixed doubles

Number 2 mixed doubles seeds Samantha Stosur and Bob Bryan were upset today by 9th seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Mark Knowles. Groenefeld and Knowles posted a score of 0-6, 7-5, 6-3. Also upset were 4th seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Kevin Ullyett, who lost to 12th seeds Virginia Ruano Pascual and Stephen Huss.

Wimbledon--what they said

Can you talk a little bit about how you separate Serena as the sister and then as the rival?
"Well, it's real easy to separate it when you get a serve at about 127 and it comes back as a winner. You soon realize you're playing against an awesome player, and you better really get ready on your toes. So that's exactly when you separate it."
Venus Williams

Can you comment just two things: A woman who served 20 aces in a match like this, and the number 1 of the world who loses 6‑1, 6‑love. What you can say about that?
"I served 20 aces today?"
Serena Williams

"...that was the best match we ever played against each other."
Elena Dementieva

Do you realize it's the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history. What's your reaction to that?
"I guess I'm always trying to do something to make history, so here I go again."
Serena Williams

Today do you think you were 6‑1, 6‑love stronger than Safina, or something happened to her? The score is very strange.
"I like the score...."
Venus Williams

"I wasn't sure if it's Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side, 125 all the time."
Elena Dementieva

"The way she plays, she has the ball and she goes straight for the winner. She puts you from the first point under pressure. Me, I need a little bit of time. I need to create the point. Here I have no time for this."
Dinara Safina

Does your head‑to‑head record against Venus matter to you?...You're aware it's 10‑10?...Would you like it to end even?
"Would I like it to end even? Of course not. Then I wouldn't win. I'm sure she feels the same."
Serena Williams

She seems to like playing against you. She likes the level of rallies and balls and everything.
"I hope not."
Elena Dementieva

Do you feel there are any kinks you have to get out of the game, or is everything kind of clicking in?
"There's no time for kinks right now. There's not even time to think about kinks."
Venus Williams

This isn't your fault obviously because you played really well, but it's embarrassing for women's tennis to see the number 1 destroyed in that way, isn't it?
"Why do you put it like that?"
You played very well.
"Are you trying to be down on women's tennis?"
I'm trying to be down on the way that Safina is the world number 1 representing women's tennis.
"So you're trying to be down basically."
Not on women's tennis, no.
"Okay, because I don't deal with down at all."
It's not down.
"I'm just making sure you're not trying to be down, because I respect Dinara Safina immensely, and I think you should, too."
I do.
Venus Williams

Serena Williams wins stunning semifinal at Wimbledon

What had to be the best match of the year took place today on Centre Court at Wimbledon. 2nd seed Serena Williams defeated 4th seed Elena Dementieva in an extravaganza of brilliant tennis. The 2-hour and 49-minute match--the longest women's semifinal in Wimbledon history--featured great serving, blistering groundstrokes, dramatic volleys, tense challenges, meaningful netcord events, and enough momentum shifts to crack the court open.

Elena Dementieva, often relying on the deftness of her second serve, won the first set in a tiebreak, but it wasn't easy. Serving at 3-4, 0-40, Dementieva managed to hold, and in doing so, created the first of many dramatic moments.

The second set began, like the first, with a break. Whereas the two players immediately traded breaks at the beginning of the first set, Dementieva was broken right off in the second, and did not break back until Williams served at 3-2. Dementieva hit a passing shot--one of the best shots of the match--to break, and when Williams served at 3-4, she double-faulted to set up a break point. Right after that, she hit a forehand down the line, which was called in, but Dementieva challenged the call. The ball was in; had it been out, Dementieva would have served for the match. There was a second break point, but Williams saved it, also.

Dementieva, suddenly struggling at 4-all, double-faulted. At 15-30, she saved herself with a sharp crosscourt forehand shot, only to see the ball bounce off the netcord and go wide. At 30-40, she had another netcord bounce that was called good, but Williams challenged successfully, getting the break. Williams then served for the set, went down 15-40, hit a second serve ace for 30-40, then won an intense rally to bring the game to deuce. Dementieva had a break point, as her opponent lost her footing. Williams then hit her 10th ace, then Dementieva got another break point, but made a mishit return. She set up another break point, but made a another misfit and sent the ball out of the court. Williams then hit two aces in a row to take the second set.

Serving at 1-2, deuce, in the third, Williams was broken. She broke back, and Dementieva began making errors she had not made earlier in the match, then--just as suddenly--she steadied herself again. When Williams served at 4-5, 30-all, she made an awkward approach shot, which created a match point for Dementieva. Williams' answer was to make a much better approach shot and save the match point. She then hit an ace, but the game returned to deuce when she made an error. Williams then hit another ace, and then held, after an attempted down-the-line shot by Dementieva landed outside the court.

Dementieva then held, and the tenion in the stadium was palpable. Williams, serving at 5-6, double-faulted and went down 0-30, but then used her big serve to even the score. The game went to deuce, then Williams hit yet another ace, but the score went back to deuce. Following an intense rally, Dementieva fell down. There was another big rally, and Williams suddenly put some extra topspin on her forehand, disturbing Dementieva's rhythm, and winning the game. Dementieva served at 6-all, saved a break point at 15-40, but then was broken. Williams then held, finally putting an end to the drama.

I was a bit surprised by the rather perfunctory (though friendly) nature of the handshake. I was also exhausted, just from watching. Elena Dementieva and her many fans must be heartbroken. Her performance was near-perfect throughout, her recent record against Williams is excellent, yet she still couldn't win. That is because Wimbledon is a very big deal, and when she is competing at a very important event, Serena Williams has resources of which other players cannot even conceive. In today's match, she hit 45 winners, including 20 aces.

Today's victory must have been one of the most satisfying in Williams' recent career--maybe in her entire career. I'm sure I join many other fans in thanking her and Dementieva for putting on such an amazing show for us.

Then there was the other semifinal, and we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. 3rd seed Venus Williams defeated top seed Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-0. It took the defending champion only 51 minutes to do the job, and the job included only one unforced error. Safina's first and second serve win percentages were 37 and 38, and that about says it all.

So, on Saturday--once again--the Queen of Grass vs. the Queen of Kick Your Ass. Serena is going for her third Wimbledon title, and Venus is going for her third in a row. Both sisters have performed wonderfully the past week and a half, and we can expect them to perform at the top level in the final.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Injured defending champion Robson loses tough 3rd round match

This is a match that--if you look at the stats--ended the way it should have, with a win by the unseeded Quirine Lemoine. But the 6-2, 4-6, 8-6 score also represents major come-from-behind action by 2nd seed and defending junior champion Laura Robson, whose back injury made it difficult for her to move on the court. Every time it looked as though Lemoine was about to win, Robson would somehow come up with a way to extend the match. She didn't come up with quite enough, though, and goes out in the third round. Robson had a wild card into the main draw, too, but lost in the first round to Daniela Hantuchova.

Last year's finalist, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn--seeded 4th--won her third round match against Tamaryn Hendler.

Wimbledon miscellany

If you haven't already done so, check out the Wimbledon website's new "Visual Match" feature, which enables you to graphically analyze what happened in a given match.

Sue Mott interviews Serena Williams for the BBC, and the interview is worth watching ("I'm a little crazy; I wouldn't want to date me").

Here is a profile of Regina Kulikova, the Russian qualifier who defeated 27th seed Alisa Kleybanova in the second round.

Simon Reed says Serena Williams is the best tennis player in the world, and she will win the Wimbledon title.

Judy Murray, former Scottish women's champion and mother of Andy Murray, is leaving the Lawn Tennis Association and creating her own tennis academy. Murray is reportedly fed up with the LTA's failure to produce winning players.

Update on Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic's thigh injury, which forced her to retire in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, has been diagnosed as a small muscle tear. Ivanovic says that, though the injury is quite painful, it is not serious. She will rest for one or two weeks before resuming play on the tour.

What a difference a year makes

Last year, for the first time in Open Era history, none of the top four Wimbledon seeds made it to the quarterfinals. This year, the top four seeds are competing in the semifinals. Two of them have won many majors, and the other two have had to settle for coming very close. The main argument among afficianados of women's tennis is: Will Venus defend, or will Serena win? That's an argument worth having, but first--the sisters have to play their semifinal opponents.

Venus Williams vs. Dinara Safina: It doesn't get grander than this--the defending champion competing against the world number 1 for a place in the final. The world number 1 is a bit of a surprise; in the past, she has never gone beyond the third round in London. Had Sabine Lisicki--her quarterfinal opponent--not been so anxious, or had she been slightly fitter, there might well have been an upset. But there wasn't, and now the top seed faces the woman widely known as the best grass player of her generation.

Safina defeated Williams earlier this year in Rome, but that was on clay, where Venus does not rule. The world number 1 is fond of saying that she knows what to do--be aggressive--but she often doesn 't get around to doing it until later in the match. Following that pattern would be deadly against Venus Williams, who is the picture of aggression from the moment her feet hit grass. Waiting for Williams' forehand to go awry on this surface isn't a good strategy, either. And not serving at your very best won't work, either.

One thing Safina has going for her is that there are not many expectations of her in this tournament. She has had some good moments at this Wimbledon, which should add up to increased confidence. She is not the favorite in this semifinal match, a fact which might take some pressure off of her. Top form is required, however, if she is to seriously compete with Williams.

Elena Dementieva vs. Serena Williams: There has been as much silence about Dementieva as there has been talk about her opponent. The 4th seed has gone quietly about her business at Wimbledon, not dropping a set in five rounds. She was a semifinalist last year, too, losing in straight sets to eventual champion Venus Williams. Though Dementieva's serve has improved significantly--she even hits aces now--there are days when she still has problems with double-faulting. Yesterday, in fact, was one of them.

Williams defeated Dementieva in the semifinals of the Austalian Open this year, and is 5-4 against her, winning their only grass surface match in 2003 (Dementieva won their only match on indoor carpet). Dementieva, like Williams, is a great mover, with good anticipation. She can keep up fine in an exchange of heavy groundstrokes, and has been known to find a keen angle when she needs one.

In the area of mental toughness, Dementieva stands out--not as extremely mentally tough, but as somewhat of an anomaly. For years, it was a given that if a match went to three sets, Dementieva would win it--her opponent might as well start thinking about what to have for dinner. Her other notable demonstration of mental toughness concerned her wayward serve. She could double-fault three times in a row, and go right on and win the game.

But during certain periods, Dementieva would collapse mentally, allowing opponents to overtake her. Ironically, as her serve improved, her mental game diminished, making her--once again--one aspect shy of real greatness. These days, one is never sure what to expect from her in the psychological area. Earlier in the year, in Charleston, she dramatically reversed her fortunes in a semifinal match against Caroline Wozniacki, only to melt away when she was on the verge of winning.

Dementieva has worked a lot in the last year, not only on her serve, but on her fitness. She struck me as the last player who needed to work on her fitness, but I think it was strength--not endurance--that she wanted to increase.

Williams is a two-time Wimbledon champion, and she is also last year's finalist. This week, she has played superbly. In her quarterfinal match against the potentially dangerous Victoria Azarenka, she was in total command from the moment she heard "Play." In Dementieva, she has a worthy opponent who can perhaps challenge her.

When Dementieva lost at the French Open this year, a reporter asked her if this loss was one of her biggest disappointments. She laughed, and said "There have been so many." The Olympic gold medal winner has never won one of the four majors. She keeps popping up in the final rounds, however, because of her considerable talent and athleticism. If Williams continues at her current level, Dementieva will have to be as tough as she has ever been.

Sexism at Wimbledon--not so shocking

Some of you may have seen the Daily Mail feature, "Babe, set and match: Why looks count for more than talent when Wimbledon decides which girls will play on Centre Court." The title of the story itself is sexist, since the majority of the players are women, but one would not expect the British press to care about that. It surprises me a bit that this story has gotten so much attention from what I think is a very large "post feminist" fan base. Much of this fan base appears to be fine with the heavy marketing of sex on the tour, but suddenly--upon learning that Wimbledon officials are brazenly using very sexist standards to promote Centre Court--there is some outrage.

To be sure, many--including players, apparently--also think that Wimbledon's marketing ploy and similar types of marketing are perfectly fine. Serena Williams reminded us that "sex sells" but did not say anything beyond that. Maria Sharapova, asked a couple of years ago whether the tour sells sex, said "I don't care what they're selling" (shortly after that, somone began selling Sharapova pillows visually designed so that owners could fondle "Maria's breasts" all night). Gisela Dulko, when told in a press conference what a babe she was, told the press how grateful she was to know they think that of her. And Venus Williams, alleged spokeswoman for equality, has answered every question about sexism in women's pro tennis marketing by changing the subject. She and other players may indeed obeject to it, but as long as they remain silent, things will only get worse.

28- and 30-year-old players are called "girls." The tour promotes its top players in "sexy" (they are actually more like a satire on sexy) photographic poses. Outgoing Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott made sure we all knew that the players desire a "balance" of being athletes and "feminine," as though the two were mutually exclusive. (And anyway, what is "feminine"?) As a reader recently pointed out, he may as well have just come out and announced not to worry--no lesbians here. I agree with that, but I think that is even more to it: I also think Scott didn't want anyone to think these women were strong, independent females, since that, too, would not be "feminine." Because we are living in the 1950s.

In other words, it came as no surprise to me at all to read about the Centre Court selections; I find this news to be part and parcel of the sexist culture of my nation and other nations that produce tennis players, as well as the sexist culture of sports in general. As ugly as the sexism is, however, there is more than sexism in play in these selections. The "babes" selected to play on Centre Court--except in situations in which the selections are default--like the "babes" selected as the tour's hottest women on the Australian Open website, have one thing in common--their skin color. Serena Williams is not a babe. Li Na is not a babe. There are a lot of people, incidentally, who think these two women are beautiful, but they do not qualify for "babe" status. And while I realize that consideration of beauty is very subjective, it is hardly a coincidence that African American and Asian women do not ever appear on the list. The world's most beautiful lesbian could be on the tour, too, and--if she were out--you can be assured she would not be on the list, either.

The BBC, according to the Daily Mail article, is all for Wimbledon's marketing technique because it increases the number of television viewers. British fans and players frequently complain that their country doesn't care about tennis at all, except for two weeks out of the year. The babes, then, need to make sure they play as well as some of their non-babe peers. Perhaps if the British public were subjected more often to the like of the Williams sisters Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova, and Zheng Jie, they would appreicate tennis more.