Friday, December 31, 2010

Chanda Rubin's house heavily damaged by fire

There has been a whole lot of weather, lately, and here in Louisiana, the cold temperatures have been accompanied by heavy rains. Chanda Rubin's Lafayette house caught fire Wednesday night, and the most likely reason is that lightning struck her attic. The alarm triggered a call from Rubin's home security company while the former WTA Tour star was watching television. She got out with some jewelry, photos, important documents, and a few of her trophies (most of her trophies, however, are at her parents' house). Ten minutes later, the roof caught fire.

It took firefighters over an hour to get the fire under control. The roof caved in, and there is both smoke and water damage. The attic and the second floor of the house are gone. Rubin had lived in the house for only two and a half years.

Friday cat blogging--existential edition


"I believe, at the end of the day, personally, my life is not about a banana."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Laura Robson, who has been training at the Mouratoglou Academy for a year, has hired Patrick Mouratoglou to be her coach for the 2011 season.

Serena Williams and her crystal-encrusted rehab boot are now being spotted on tennis courts.

Tennis Channel is now airing its Hot Shots of 2010. Look for the feature to be shown several times.

Hopman Cup competition begins on January 1.

Justine Henin reports that it may take months for her elbow to be fully healed.

Olivia Rogowska has been given a wild card into the main draw of the Hobart Inernational tournament. She recently won the Australian Open wild card playoffs in Australia.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Quote of the week

"Six months later, I remember. Six months later, it still feels good. Grazie to you, Francesca."
 Steve Tignor, who chose the French Open women's final as his favorite match of the year

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dokic gets Australian Open wild card

Though she lost to Olivia Rogowska in the wild card playoffs, Jelena Dokic will not have to go through qualifying in Melbourne. Tennis Australia has awarded Dokic a wild card into the main draw.

In 2009, Dokic was awarded a wild card, and she made it all the way to the quarterfinals in an especially dramatic and emotional run.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's next for Sharapova?

Maria Sharapova, who will play at least one Australian Open warm-up tournament in January, faces an uncertain future. Please follow me to On the Baseline to read about the former number 1, and to share your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Maria Sharapova is considering accepting a wild card to play in the Medibank International in Sydney. She is already scheduled to play in the Auckland Classic, which begins on January 3. Sharapova has never played in Sydney, and the tournament's organizers say that they are willing to give her a wild card at the last minute. The Medibank International begins on January 9.

Alex Williams says that Serena Williams is the Player of the Year for 2010, and that Francesca Schiavone gave us the Performance of the Year.

Mary Carillo, who does sports reporting for NBC, Tennis Channel, CBS, and HBO, has--at her request--ended her ESPN contract a year early.

Yaroslava Shvedova has hired Dimitri Zavialoff as her coach. Zavialoff coached ATP star Stanislas Wawrinka for fifteen years.

Zheng Jie, who reached the semifinals of the 2010 Australian Open, has withdrawn from the 2011 tournament because of her wrist injury.

Finally--though this has nothing at all to do with the WTA--for those needing a holiday pick-me-up, here is a compilation of all the Roger Federer on-camera break-up moments captured on video.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Davis wins Australian Open wild card

In the USA version of the Australian Open wild card playoffs, Lauren Davis--recent Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr champion--has emerged the winner. Davis defeated last year's winner, Coco Vandewegh, 6-2, 6-2.

Olivia Rogowska won the playoffs in Australia, and the French wild card, which is selected the old-fashioned (and, in my opinin, the right) way, went to Virginie Razzano.


Maria Sharapova has ended her contract with Prince, and will not be using a Prince racquet in 2011. She has not yet announced which racquet she will use.

Melanie Oudin has traded her famous Addidas shoes for Wilson shoes and clothing. She already plays with a Wilson racquet.

Philippe Bouin has left his 30-year position as L'Equipe's head tennis writer.

Here are some good tips for preparing your tennis gear for the cold weather.

Check out the WTA Backspin Prediction Blowout.

I read recently that most used tennis balls are discarded. If you have a physical rehabilitation center near you, you can deliver your used tennis balls to the staff. Rehab centers always need them for use on walkers. The best use of old tennis balls that I have ever seen was their conversion to living spaces for the harvest mouse, a threatened species in Great Britain.

Rogowska wins Australian Open wild card

Olivia Rogowska was down 1-6, 1-3 to Jelena Dokic in the Australian Open wild card playoffs. There was a rain delay, and--according to Rogowska--Dokic returned from it with a little less swing. But also, Rogowska, who had lost two other wild card playoff finals, said she felt she just shouldn't lose three. She saved two match points and defeated Dokic 1-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vandeweghe and Davis to compete for Australian Open wild card

Coco Vandeweghe is just a match away from winning her second consecutive Australian Open wild card. Today, in the semifinals of the USA wild card playoffs, Vandeweghe defeated Beatrice Capra 6-1, 6-4. Her opponent in the final will be Orange Bowl champion Lauren Davis, who defeated Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-1.

Dokic advances to wild card playoff final

Jelena Dokic has defeated Alicia Molik 6-3, 6-1 in the Australian Open wild card playoffs in Australia. She will play Olivia Rogowska in the final.

The USA playoffs semifinals take place today. In the meantime, France has awarded its Australian Open wild card to Virginie Razzano.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Australian Open wild card playoffs begin in U.S.

The USA version of the Australian Open wild card playoffs began today, with the following results:

Coco Vandewegh def. Madison Keys, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Lauren Davis def. Jamie Hampton, 7-5, 7-5
Beatrice Capra def. Shelby Rogers, 6-2, 6-3
Krista Hardebeck def. Irina Falconi, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1

Meanwhile, in Australia, Olivia Rogowska has reached the final of the wild card playoffs. Rogowska defeated Sophie Ferguson 7-6, 6-4. She will face either Jelena Dokic or Alicia Molik in the final.

Friday cat blogging--full stretch edition

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dokic to play Molik in wild card playoff semifinal

Jelena Dokic has reached the semifinals of Australia's wild card playoffs for the Australian Open, and her semifinal opponent will be Alicia Molik. Both Dokic and Molik are former WTA top 10 player who left the tour, then returned. They have both had a hard time since coming back. Molik is 2-1 against Dokic; the last time they played was in 2003.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Valerie Tetreault has retired. Tetreault, who became a professional tennis player only four years ago, said, in her announcement: "I still have the same passion for my sport I have always had, but I am ready to take on new challenges, all while maintaining a more stable lifestyle." Tetreault, who lives in Canada, will seek a career in communications, and plans to remain involved in tennis.

Martina Navratilova, who had to come down off of Mount Kilimanjaro because of pulmonary edema, was discharged from the hospital on Sunday. 18 of the 27 Laureus fundraisers reached the top of the mountain. Navratilova reports that she is feeling much better.

Agnes Szavay, who sustained a left thigh strain in September, will not be playing in any of the 2011 Australian tournaments, including the Australian Open. Szavay has not yet begun training for the season. She plans to play for the Hungarian Fed Cup team in February.

On Friday, December 10, Martina Hingis married Frenchman Thibault Hutlin in Paris. Hutlin is a showjumper; he and Hingis met earlier this year at a jumping event in St. Tropez. The former tour star, who won five majors, is an experienced competitive equestrian.

Steve Flink's choice for WTA Match of the Year is the Brisbane final between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.

Clijsters and Henin, by the way, say that they may form a doubles team for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Altitude forces Navratilova down from Kilimanjaro

Martina Navratilova's dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been halted by her worst fear about the adventure--the effect of altitude on her body. Trekking through heavy snows and mist, and unable to perform some of the needed acclimatization exercises, Navratilova developed pulmonary edema, and had to be taken off the mountain on the fifth day of the six-day trip. She is currently resting in a hospital in Nairobi, where she was treated with diuretics. She is expected to have a full recovery.

Navratilova, a former WTA Tour great, and one of the world's leading sportswomen, made the Kilimanjaro trip to raise money for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Before the climb, she said that she knew she was fit enough to complete the trek, but that she didn't know how she would respond to the altitude; Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet high.

On the fourth day of the trip, Navratilova wrote: "The weather is a little better, but the going is getting tougher and tougher. It seems to be constantly steep and as we started to approach the highest point yet, 4,500 metres above sea level, sheer exhaustion sets in for much of the group, and with heavy legs and chests pounding due to a lack of oxygen, every step becomes an effort."

Navratilova did not write another blog entry after the fourth day, and interviews were canceled. However, she did make a statement from her hospital bed: "It was something that I have wanted to do for so long, but it was not to be," she said, and added that she was looking forward to hearing about the successful end of the climb.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki is rumored to be making a racquet change in 2011. Her contract with Babolat expires at the end of this month, and there is speculation that she will switch to Yonex next year. Wozniacki played a recent exhibition match with a Yonex racquet whose brand name was blacked out.

Flavia Pennetta, who plays with a Wilson Blade racquet, will be using the new Wilson Blade 98 Pink BLX, which is described by Wilson as "aggressive yet feminine." Thank goodness.

Yaroslava Shvedova has a new website.

More than half of Martina Navratilova's fundraising goal for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has been reached. Navratilova plans to raise $134,000 for the foundation as she climbs Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet high, and Navratilova has never climbed higher than 12,000 feet; she said she is not concerned about fitness, but about the lack of air at that height. Should she reach the top as planned, she will be hitting tennis balls. "With the air being that thin, they should go a long way."

Jelena Dokic has received a wild card into the main draw of the Brisbane International.

Oudin enters Family Circle Cup

Melanie Oudin has entered the 2011 Family Circle Cup, which will be played in Charleston April 2-10. Oudin has a 5-2 record at the event, which she began playing in 2009. That year, she received a wild card into the qualifying rounds, and reached the third round of the main draw, in which she was defeated by Marion Bartoli. Last year, Oudin reached the quarterfinals, and lost to eventual finalist Vera Zvonareva.

Following her 2010 quarterfinal appearance, Oudin reached her career-high ranking of number 31 in the world; she is currently ranked number number 61. The 19-year-old recently scored the USA Fed Cup team's only victory in the Fed Cup final by defeating French Open champion Francesca Schiavone

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ladies with an attitude

It's the video of the year. C Note got it from ziamiki, so thanks to both of them--and now I'm sharing it with you. In a moment that is somewhere beyond camp, the members of the Italian Fed Cup team (take special note of Roberta Vinci) give us their interpretation of Madonna's "Vogue" video.

Sharapova hires extra coach

Maria Sharapova has hired Thomas Hogstedt to be a "co-coach" with her long-time coach, Michael Joyce. The idea of having an extra coach was Joyce's idea. Hogstedt, who coached Li Na when she surged into the top 10, will be working this week with Sharapova at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stosur wins Newcombe Medal

Samantha Stosur is the recipient of Australia's inaugural Newcome Medal, presented last at the Australian Tennis Awards. The medal is cast in white gold and features John Newcombe's signature. The other three finalists for the new award were Lleyton Hewitt, Anastasia Rodionova and Jarmilla Groth.

Newcombe recently said of Stosur, ''I think if she could improve her backhand, she'd have a real possibility of becoming number 1. I'd give her backhand probably a six out of ten, and if she could get that up to a seven and a half or an eight out of ten, she could become number 1.''

Newcombe also said that Stosur needs to come to the net more, and  that she needs to develop a slice serve. He noted that both her mentality and her physical fitness have improved, and that she has made some needed technical adjustments to her game.

Stosur, who won this year's Family Circle Cup and was a finalist at the 2010 French Open, is currently ranked number 6 in the world.

Newcombe is a former ATP world number 1. He won six majors in singles, seventeen in doubles, and one in mixed doubles. He is a former member and captain of Australia's Davis Cup team.

Friday cat blogging--cozy friendship edition

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Clijsters named WTA Player of the Year

For the second time in her career, Kim Clijsters has been named WTA Player of the Year. Clijsters defended her U.S. Open title, won the WTA Champioships, and also won titles in Brisbane, Miami and Cincinnati. Clijsters was also the recipient of the Player Service Award.

Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta were named the Doubles Team of the Year. Dulko and Pennetta won seven titles together in 2010.

The remaining awards follow:

Comeback Player of the Year--Justine Henin
Newcomer of the Year--Petra Kvitova
Humanitarian of the Year--Maria Sharapova
Karen Krantzche Sports(wo)manship Award--Elena Dementieva

Once again, the players chose the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart as their favorite premier tournament. The Pattaya Open was chosen as the favorite international tournament.


The Australian Open wild card playoffs for U.S. players will be held December 17-19 at the Racquet Club of the South in Atlanta.

Elena Dementieva has been offered the position of vice president of the Russian Tennis Federation.

Jelena Jankovic has a new puppy named Stella.

Leslie Nielsen, who died Sunday, once played the role of sportswriter Nelson Fisher, in the 1978 television movie, "Little Mo." It was Nelson who gave Maureen Connolly her now-famous nickname.

Sabine  Lisicki and Melanie Oudin hit together this week at the Bollettieri Academy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quote of the week

"A Nero d’Avola, strong enough to make your head spin."
Francesca Schiavone, on what she would be if she were a wine

(Thanks to Forty Deuce for this interview.)

Russian Fed Cup team announced for 2011 1st round

Captain Shamil Tarpishchev has announced the members of Russia's Fed Cup team for the first round of 2011 play. Competing for Russia will be Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Russia will play France on the 5th and 6th of February in Moscow. The matches will be played on an indoor hard court.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Former tour player Leila Meshki is the director of the Baku Cup tournament.

Alina Jidkova, as expected, has retired from professional tennis. When she played (and lost in the final) of the U.S. Open qualifying playoffs, she said it was her last opportunity to play in the U.S. Open. Jidkova, who defeated Serena Williams in 2004 in Linz, attained her highest ranking in 2005, when she was ranked number 51 in the world. Her career-high doubles ranking was number 50. The Russian veteran is getting married next month. She and her fiance sell fine pearl jewelry.

"I'm not even 20 and there's someone who's 40 who could kick my butt," Rebecca Marino says of you-know-who.

Tennis Channel's latest "Tennisography" feature is about Vera Zvonareva. Using Leo Tolstoy's work as a backdrop, the story of Zvonareva's tennis life--her performance and her feelings--is told by her mother, her coach, and by Zvonareva herself. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it comes off well. What doesn't come off well is Tennis Channel's decision to use white subtitles on a lot of light background--a persistent problem on U.S. television.

And in tribute to Vera, here's the great Joan Armatrading:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mattek-Sands to replace Williams in Hopman Cup

Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been named to the USA Hopman Cup team. Mattek-Sands replaces Serena Williams, who was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of her foot injury. Mattek-Sands and John Isner will represent the USA in the international team event, which begins on January 1. The USA is in Group B, with Great Britain, Italy and France. Group A includes Serbia, Belgium, Australia, and Kazakhstan.

Friday cat blogging--feral edition

These feral cats, who live in Mississippi, aren't so reclusive that they won't pose for photos

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Serena Williams withdraws from Australian Open

Defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the 2011 Australian Open. Her foot injury was recently became worse after she went into training, and she had to have more surgery. Her doctors have determined that returning to tennis right now would put her at too much risk.

Williams missed the 2010 U.S. Open because of the injury, which was caused by broken glass when drunken World Cup enthusiasts threw bottles in a Munich restaurant where the former world number 1 was a patron. She recently withdrew from Hopman Cup competition, causing fans to fear that she would also withdraw from Melbourne.

Williams won the Australian Open in both 2009 and 2010.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The USTA has filed a suit against Olympus, the sponsor of the U.S. Open Series. The contract between Olympus and the USTA, which runs through 2013, stipulates that the camera company can opt out of the last two years if wishes to, but Olympus officials decided to opt out in 2011, which is a year early. The USTA is calling this action a breach of contract, but Olympus maintains that the USTA already breached the contract by permitting Panasonic to infringe on Olympus's sponsorship rights. USTA officials have referred to this opinion as being "without merit."

Don't miss WTA Backspin's WTA Yearbook.

A number of tennis and sports websites are reporting that Kimiko Date Krumm will retire next year. When she lost in the Asian Games, she said that she was very tired and maybe would have to quit next year, then she almost immediately felt better and talked about her future tennis plans. Though she certainly could stop after next year, the statement that she absolutely "will retire" was taken out of context by the Asian press and has been carelessly reprinted.

Laura Robson, who split with her coach in September, is reported to be looking for a new one.

Here are some early, and really cute, photos of the Williams sisters.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peng wins gold at Asian Games

Peng Shuai has won the gold medal in singles at the 2010 Asian Games. Peng defeated Akgul Amanmuradova 7-5, 6-2 in the final. China had already won the team gold medal.

The gold medal winners in doubles are Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, who used to be a force on the tour before they began playing with other parnters. Chan and Chuang defeated Chang Kai-Chen and Hsieh Su-Wei 7-5, 6-3, meaning that both gold and silver belong to players from Chinese Taipei.

Chan, with partner Yang Tsung-Hua, also won the gold medal in mixed doubles. Chan and Yang defeated Sania Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan 4-6, 6-1, 10-2. They were the second seeds.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Williams withdraws from Hopman Cup

Serena Williams, citing continuing problems with a foot injury, has withdrawn from the USA Hopman Cup team. She was scheduled to represent the USA with John Isner. An announcement is expected tomorrow on whether a new player will pair with Isner, or whether the USA will withdraw from competition.

This is the third time that the frequently-injured Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peng and Amanmuradova to play in Asian Games final

Akgul Amanmuradova and Sania Mirza played for 2 hours and 49 minutes in their Asian Games semifinal match, and Amanmuradova emerged the winner with a score of 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. The third seed will play Peng Shuai, who is seeded fourth, in the final. Peng defeated Kimiko Date Krumm 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. Date Krumm, who won the Games in 1994, had problems with her serve, and she was also somewhat tired, she said later; she credited the crowd with pushing her to the third set. The former gold medal winner hit 59 winners and made 73 unforced errors.

Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, formerly a highly-ranked team on the WTA tour, got back together for the Asian Games, and have made it to the doubles final. Their opponents will be Chang Kai-Chen and Hsieh Su-Wei. Chan will also play in the mixed doubles final. She and Yang Tsung-Hua will compete against Sania Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vergeer increases win streak to 400 matches

Esther Vergeer increased her winning streak to 400 matches today at the Wheelchair Masters event in Amsterdam. Vergeer won her semifinal match against Jiske Griffioen.

Mirza advances to Asian Games semifinals

Sania Mirza has advanced to the semifinals of the Asian Games by upsetting 2nd seed Tammy Tanasugarn 6-2, 6-3. Her next opponent will be 3rd seed Akgul Amanmuradova. Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan also advanced to the mixed doubles semifinals.

Mirza won the silver medal in singles in the 2006 Asian Games; Zheng Jie won the gold. Mirza and Leander Paes won the 2006 gold medal in mixed doubles.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Matt Cronin says the Williams sisters are headed toward retirement.

Venus Williams says she is hoping to win some titles and has her mind on the Olympic Games. "Serena and I will have to be in the best shape of our lives for London. We have to be machines to play in three events. It's something like fourteen matches in eight days. We had better be ready."

Not surprisingly, Vera Zvonareva was recently presened with Russia's Female Tennis Player of the Year award.

James LaRosa says that Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic are still in the running to win majors, and that Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova are still in the running to attain career slams.

Sania Mirza has made it to both the singles quarterfinals and the mixed doubles quarterfinals at the Asian Games. She defeated Zhang Shuai in the second round.

Edina Gallovits is getting married during the off-season.

Friday cat blogging--holiday bulb edition

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010--a year of the unexpected

Every season has its highlights and surprises, and, unfortunately, one of the highlights of the 2010 season was the long list of significant injuries. Not all of them were sustained on the court, either. Kim Clijsters got a nasty infection in her right foot after she had a mole removed, and Serena Williams was in the wrong place at the wrong time when drunk World Cup revelers decided it would be fun to throw bottles inside a German restaurant. After a piece of broken glass cut her foot, Williams had to have two surgical procedures, and she missed the U.S. hard court season and everything after that.

Venus Williams continued to have problems with her knee, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had a recurring hip injury, and Justine Henin--having already broken her finger during Fed Cup competition--injured her elbow at Wimbledon, and missed the rest of the season. Countrywoman Kim Clijsters injured her left foot in Fed Cup play, and had to withdraw from the French Open. Dinara Safina, who had been assured her back problems were over, once again felt the dreaded back pain, and had to stop playing.

Elena Dementieva was forced to retire during the French Open semifinals because of a calf strain, and she missed Wimbledon. Katarina Srebotnik's shoulder bothered her so much that she retired from singles play. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was out for an extended period because of a knee injury, which put and end to her outstanding doubles run with Nuria Llagostera Vives. Agnieszka Radwanska is currently walking around on crutches because of surgery she had to treat a stress fracture in her foot, and she is expected to be out until March of next year.

There were the "usual" injuries, too--ankles, feet, back, etc. that affected a number of players. Zheng Jie was out ill for much of the season, and a stomach virus attacked several players. Maria Sharapova continued her struggle to return to pre-shoulder injury form, Sabine Lisicki tried unsuccessfully to return to pre-injury and -illness form, too. Then there was Victoria Azarenka, who sustained a concussion while running sprints right before the second round of the U.S. Open, and passed out on the court.

Now for some better memories: Li Na became the first Chinese woman in history to crack the WTA top 10, and she and Zheng Jie both reached the semifinals of the Australian Open. Cara Black completed her mixed doubles career slam, but she was in the news more because of the not-so-amicable breakup of the team of Black and Huber. The Williams sisters completed their career doubles slam by winning the French Open, and the great former team of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Last year, Alexandra Dulgheru came out of nowhere and, as a qualifier, won Warsaw; in 2010, she accomplished the unlikely feat of defending that title. Ekaterina Makarova qualified for the main draw of Eastbourne, and won the title. Ana Ivanovic won her first title in two years, leading her fans to hope for better times in 2011. Aravane Rezai had the most dramatic run of all: She won Madrid by taking out Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and--in the final--Venus Williams. She was also the second consecutive unseeded player to win a premier tournament.

Kaia Kanepi and Petra Kvitova both reached the semifinals of Wimbledon, and provided quite a bit of surprise entertainment to the proceedings. Anastasia Rodionova won two gold medals and a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. In Osaka, Tammy Tanasugarn and Kimiko Date Krumm played the "oldest" final in tour history--one was 33 and the other was 40. And in one of the more touching moments of the season, 30-year-old Francesca Schiavone, after she defeated Date Krumm in Tokyo, said of the Japanese comeback star: "To come back and show the people anything is possible is really inspiring."

Jelena Jankovic continued her "Princess and the Pea" decline. Jankovic was bothered by everything from a sprained ankle to a respiratory infection to an eye problem (for which she just had surgery). Having worked so hard to improve her serve, Jankovic should have had a much better season than she did.

Sam Stosur looked like a potential Queen of Clay when she ran over Vera Zvonareva in the Charleston final, but the crown eluded her. Stosur had an exceptional season, nonetheless. Venus Williams had a very fine season, too, though it came to a disappointing end when she lost in the U.S. Open semifinals, and then wound up on crutches because of her knee.

Camille Pin retired from professional tennis, as did doubles specialist Janette Husarova. Unfortunately, the news of the accomplished Husarova's retirement fell on deaf ears.

The tour celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding, unveiled a new logo that looks like something Don Draper would fire people over, and of course, the "sexy" airbrushing went on as usual, so on the player site, the women all still look pretty much the same--just nothing like themselves.

Though 2010 lacked the drama of 2009, there was plenty to keep us all interested and entertained. Here are my personal top 10 occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Martinez Sanchez wins in Rome
Rome is Jelena Jankovic's sacred ground. Rome is where she found the strength to go on when she thought she might leave professional tennis, and Rome is where she has looked her best on the clay courts. This year was no exception: Jankovic became the first player in history to beat both Williams sisters on clay at the same tournament. The former champion was poised to win her third Italian Open title, but Spanish clay court artist and doubles expert Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez got in the way. As fast as Jankovic is, and as good a mover as she is, she could not escape being sliced and cut to exhaustion by the unseeded Spaniard, who also possesses one of the tour's better serves. Martinez Sanchez spun and dopped the ball so much that she confounded inexperienced fans and even some "experts," who insisted on calling her cleverness and aggression "unorthodox." Mostly, she confounded Jankovic, and defeated her 7-6, 7-5 in one of the year's most entertaining finals.

9. Zvonareva reaches two major finals
Now that the great Russian onslaught has faded a bit, there was still one Russian standing tall in 2010, and that was Vera Zvonareva. Zvonareva, who has had more than her share of bad fortune on the tour, was so steady this year, and played so well in unfavorable conditions, that she reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, her performance faded in both matches, but her winning ways earned her an end-of-the-year ranking of number 2 in the world.

8. Wozniacki becomes number 1 in the world
Caroline Wozniacki, the Great Dane, played and played and played in 2010, and she won and won and won. She failed to reach the final of a major, however (she reached two rounds of 16, a quarterfinal, and a semifinal), and she lost the WTA Championships final to Kim Clijsters. Nevertheless, Wozniacki won six titles, and she won the U.S. Open series. She also added a better seve, more power, and more aggression to her game, giving fans more to look forward to in 2011.

7. Italy defends Fed Cup title
The Italian Fed Cup team--Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci--have been in five Fed Cup finals in the past five years, and they have won three of them. Last year, they defeated the USA in the final on clay in Italy, and this year, they did it on a hard court in San Diego. Once again, Flavia Pennetta sealed the deal for the Italians, who achieved a 3-1 victory. Forza!

6. King and Shvedova spring the surprise of the year
Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova had played together only a couple of times when they entered Wimbledon as a doubles team. They had a high old time, smiling a lot on court and inviting strangers in London to watch them play. They won the title, too, and--in doing so--brought about Vera Zvonareva's second big defeat on the last day of the tournament. After Wimbledon, the pair failed to get very far in competition--that is, until the U.S. Open rolled around. And once again, despite having to work really hard and despite all odds being against them, they won the title.

5. Clijsters rules in the final quarter
It was one thing when Kim Clijsters returned to the tour last year and promptly won the U.S. Open. It was quite another when she defended her title this year, and then--for good measure--beat the world number 1 in Doha to win the WTA Championships. Clijsters didn't play a lot this year; she had a lean schedule (which included a win in Miami) to begin with, and then had to deal with two foot injuries. But she was healthy for the U.S. hard court season, and defended her title in Cincinnati. At the U.S. Open, she was just too good, dispensing of Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur, Venus Williams, and Vera Zvonareva. Clijsters then topped her season off by defeating world number 1 Caroline Woznacki at the WTA Championships.

4. Dulko and Pennetta ascend to the top of the doubles rankings
Exactly like Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Nuria Llagostera Vives before them, Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta had played doubles together, on and off, for years, but in 2010, they decided to make a serious go of it. They won eight titles, including the WTA Championships. Dulko, in fact, won nine (one with Elena Gallovits). They are now the top-ranked team in the world, and Dulko is now the number 1 doubles player in the world. The two women have been friends for a long time, and now they are big-time champions together.

3. Serena Williams wins two more majors
The older Serena Williams gets, the more beaten up her body gets, and the better she plays. Go figure. This year, she won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and she won the latter without dropping a set. That makes 13 major singles titles, and there is every reason to expect that number to increase. Williams' forced leave from the tour the past several months turned everything topsy-turvy, and gave crisp meaning to the term "conspicuous by her absence."

2. Dementieva retires
At the end of the season, Elena Dementieva became the first of the great post-Morozova Russians to leave the tour. And though the Russians (with the exception of Zvonareva) no longer display their former brightness, their ascent brought about a major change in women's tennis. Dementieva had a long career, in which she managed to somehow manifest intelligence, athleticism, wit, class, and gut-wrenching frustration--all at the same time. It was fun to watch her, and easy to cheer for her, even though you knew that--half the time--you would wind up shaking your head and murmuring "Oh, Elena...." She never won a major, though she was a second-week regular and played some memorable matches. She did win a gold medal at the Olympic Games, and she won 16 singles titles, as well as six doubles titles. Hers was a great career, despite its disappointments, and it will probably take us all a long time to adjust to her absence. I already miss her.

1. Schiavone wins the French Open
The good-natured and impressively athletic Francesca Schiavone has long given us her hilarious heartfelt wisdom--often spoken in her delightful broken English--but until this year, fans had to search for her press conferences. Schiavone's career, until a few years ago, involved a lot of consistent play, but also a lot of choking in finals. She lost eight finals in a row before she finally figured out how to win one. After that, she became better on all surfaces, even reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last year. Schiavone and her friend, Flavia Pennetta, have been Fed Cup stars for several years, and--inspired by Fed Cup victories--Schiavone did something smart and creative this spring: She hired Italian Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti to be her coach for the French Open. In other words, she went to Paris to win.

Schiavone's opponent in the final was Samantha Stosur, who had shocked Vera Zvonareva in the Charleston final, and had already taken out Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic in Paris. Stosur was expected to win the French Open, and to perhaps even become the new queen of clay. But 17th seed Schiavone, who upset Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, hadn't received the memo that she was supposed to be the runner-up. We will probably never know what Barazzutti whispered in the Italian's ear, or exactly what transpired within her head, but--briefly stated--Schiavone took it to Stosur. From the first moment of the final, Schiavone was in charge, and nothing much that Stosur did seemed to bother her. It wasn't that Stosur played badly; she was just never given the chance to play really well.

Schiavone served very well, she gave Stosur repeated doses of her own heavy topspin, and she volleyed with grace and accuracy. Perhaps most important, she never appeared to doubt herself. Schiavone's 6-4, 7-6 victory, attained just a month shy of her 30th birthday, made her the first Italian woman to win a major title. It was a victory for Italy, a victory for older players on the tour, and a victory for the power of perseverance. "I couldn't stop it," the French Open champion said of her increasing confidence and energy as the second set tiebreak progressed. "I really felt that that one was my moment. I took it. I didn't lose the chance. I didn't care about nothing. I want to take that point and play my tennis. It was the moment."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Led by Li Na, the Chinese team has won the gold medal for team tennis competition at the Asian Games. Li, however, is not entered in the singles competition, and neither is Zheng Jie. The top seed is Kimiko Date Krumm, who won the competition in 1994.

Be sure to check out the final "Ms. Backspin" awards for 2010. Pour a cup of coffee and take your time--there's plenty to read, including stats you would probably never find on your own.

The Bondarenko sisters, at least for  now, have been removed--by mutual decision--from the roster of the Ukrainian Fed Cup team. Youngers players will compete for Ukraine, though Kateryna Bondarenko says that she and her sister may return to the team in the future.

Greg Garber and Pam Shriver say it's hard to pick the Player of the Year. Women Who Serve agrees.

"Tiger" Murphy will slice you.

"I just need to pack my racquets up and leave them alone somewhere, just not touch them for three weeks or something," says Vera Zvonareva, who reflects on her stellar season.

Louis Armstrong stadium to be torn down and replaced by two smaller stadiums

Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is located at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, was built on a marsh, and is expected to deteriorate within eight years. Some time within the next six to eight years, it will be torn down. In the meantime, $30 million, a tenth of what is needed, has been dedicated to overhauling the entire complex by creating two smaller stadiums where Louis Armstrong Stadium now stands. The Grandstand will also be replaced by a new stadium.

There is a possibility that the new Armstrong Stadium will get a roof, but it is expected that Arthur Ashe Stadium will not get one because its structure cannot support one.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Srebotnik's shoulder takes her out of singles competition

When an older player has sustained a significant and recurring injury, it is sometimes a wise decision to concentrate on doubles only--assuming the player has a decent doubles career. Nathalie Dechy did it, and was successful. Now Katarina Srebotnik is doing it, and--while fans will miss Srebotnik's singles play, just as we missed Dechy's--this is a decision Srebotnik has made regarding her health.

Srebotnik put Slovenia on the map in terms of women's tennis. She was ranked as high as number 20 (2008) in the world, and she is a fan favorite because of her athleticism, volleying skills, and playful, easygoing manner. In singles, she is especially remembered for her third round upset of Serena Williams at the 2008 French Open.

In the last few years, Srebotnik had to face some professional misfortune. She was out for most of 2009 after injuring her Achilles tendon. Her rehab was also unfortunate, in that she sustained another injury while trying to get stronger. When she finally returned to the tour in good health, her long-term relationship with her coach ended. Srebotnik began to focus on doubles, and it seemed very likely that she would make the decision that she announced last week--that she would end her singles career. This decision came about because of a recurring shoulder injury.

Tennis fans have plenty to look forward to, however. Srebotnik and her current doubles partner, Kveta Peschke, won Indian Wells this year, and made it to the final of the French Open. They also got to the semifinals of the WTA Championships.

Prior to teaming with Peschke, Srebotnik had success playing with a variety of partners, the most notable being Ai Sugiyama. Srebotnik holds 23 women's doubles titles, and four mixed doubles titles (three French Open and one U.S. Open). She also played in the finals of the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and The French Open (twice). Her highest doubles ranking, number 3 in the world, came in 2008. She is currently ranked number 6.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Katarina Srebotnik will stand aside, and Ana Ivanovic will play mixed doubles with Nenad Zimonjic at the Australian Open. It is assumed that Ivanovic and Zimonjic will pair for the 2012 Olympic Games, and the Australian Open will give them a chance to compete as a team. According to Women's Tennis Blog, Zimonjic will resume playing with Srebotnik at the other three 2011 majors.

Jelena Jankovic underwent minor eye surgery on Thursday; her stitches will be removed in about a week.

"Your matches were never boring...." That's one (and perhaps my favorite) of the many things fans said to Elena Dementieva after she announced her retirement.

Anastasia Rodionova recently relaxed for a couple of days at Port Sea with Cara Black and her husband.

Daniela Hantuchova spent some time in Hungary, where she did a photo shoot for a calendar to support her work for House of the Smile, a hospital in Cambodia for children with HIV.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday cat blogging--Santa Fe edition, part 2

Georgia lives at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear, where we stayed in Santa Fe recently

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wozniacki elected to WTA Players' Council

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki has been elected to succeed outgoing WTA Players' Council member Patty Schnyder. Other members of the council are Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Francesca Schiavone, Akgul Amanmuradova, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.


Rafael Nadal is coached by his Uncle Toni, to whom he is reported to be quite close. Novak Djokovic's father attends a great number of his son's tournaments, and has behaved in such a way that Djokovic has had to clean up after him. But it was Andy Murray, whose mother (a coach and a significant figure in British tennis) attends his matches, who was criticized today by Boris Becker. Becker accused Murray of being too close to his mother. He also criticized Murray for being with "pretty much the same girlfriend for the last three or four years" (Murray's girlfriend broke up with him, he was with another woman for a time, and then he got back together with his original girlfriend), which Becker considers "immature" for a 23-year-old. Recently (and I was waiting for it), John McEnroe made fun of Denis Istomin, who is coached by his mother. McEnroe made a "joke" about the relationship, but it wasn't funny--and he would never have made it if Istomin were coached by his father. Sexism affects more than just the WTA.

Aaress Lawless, who has published On the Baseline for five years, has sold the site to Justin Pohn. On the Baseline is a mainstay of women's tennis news and features. Women Who Serve wishes Aaress the very best in her future endeavors, and also--welcome Justin!

Heather Watson won the $50k ITF tournament in Toronto last week.

Here's a doubles team I can get really get behind: Martina Navratilova and Elisabeth Shue played together on Sunday in the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tournament in Delray Beach, Florida. Anna Kournikova was there, too.

Rebecca Marino is close to earning direct entry into the Australian Open main draw. (Thanks to On the Baseline for this news.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Italy defends Fed Cup title with a 3-1 victory

There was one bright moment for the USA Fed Cup team today: Melanie Oudin, looking very much like she did in the 2009 U.S. Open, soundly defeated Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-1 in the third rubber of the 2010 Fed Cup final. Bethanie Mattek-Sands was scheduled to play in this rubber, but after her cramping incident yesterday (Mattek-Sands told the press that she the only times she had ever cramped, she had been ill; it turns out that she arrived in San Diego with a sinus infection), USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez decided to keep her out of competition.

Oudin and Schiavone continually broke each other in the first set, then Oudin was able to hold for 5-3. That was all she needed. When she won the set, Italy's Flavia Pennetta left the stands and headed for the locker room, realizing that her services might be needed.

Though it would have been reasonable to assume that Schiavone would pull herself together for the second set, that assumption would have been wrong. Oudin held, then broke the error-prone Italian at love. Shiavone held at love after Oudin went up 3-0, and it seemed that the momentum would change. But by this time, Oudin was beating Schiavone at her own game. She regained her forehand form, and was able to slice and drop the ball and move Schiavone around successfully. Meanwhile, Schiavone made significant errors, and Oudin ended the match 6-3, 6-1 with an ace.

"I really approached it as 'I haven't had a big match in a while, I haven't played a top 10 player in a while, I had no fear'," Oudin said after the match.

Coco Vandeweghe (could her mother please start sitting with the Djokovic clan?) began her match against Flavia Pennetta by breaking the Italian. But it wasn't long before the USA's representative demonstrated enough inconsistency and poor movement to allow Pennetta to dominate. Tired though she may have been, Pennetta rose to the occasion and expertly defeated Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2. Pennetta made a total of only eight unforced errors in the match.

Italy defeated the USA in the Fed Cup final last year, also. The Italian team also won the title in 2006.

It has been a great year for Italy. The team won another Fed Cup title, Schiavone won the French Open, and Pennetta was half of the tour's top doubles team.

Ivanovic wins Bali championship

Ana Ivanovic won the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions today, defeating Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 7-6. With this result, Ivanovic will enter the top 20 again.

A match to determine third place was also played, and that distinction was earned by Kimiko Date Krumm, who defeated Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 7-5. Date Krumm now goes to the Asian Games, which begin November 12 in Guangzhou.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fed Cup miscellany

Players are so tired at the end of the season, they probably appreciate any gesture that will lessen their workload. Usually, a player (or players) helps with the draw, but in San Diego, the job was given to Clyde the sea lion. The draw ceremony was held at SeaWorld, and Clyde selected the tennis ball which had Coco Vandeweghe's name on it, giving the young USA team member the first match against Francesca Schiavone, and setting up the weekend schedule. Schiavone's photo with Clyde is priceless.

Schiavone, by the way, is the final player to win a 2010 Fed Cup Heart Award.

For those unable to watch the final on television: You should know that Bethanie Mattek-Sands is wearing solid red knee socks this weekend.

Tomorrow, Billie Jean King will be given the 2010 Fed Cup Award of Excellence.

Spain's six top players have called off their boycott of the 2011 Fed Cup competition after reaching an agreement with their country's tennis federation that--according to Spain's sports minister, Jaime Lissavetzky--meets "the vast majority of the players' demands." "The objective," Lisavetsky said, "is to re-launch women's tennis in Spain over the short and medium term. The Spanish players who brought about the changes are Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Anabel Medina Garrigues, Arantxa Parra Santonja, Carla Suarez Navarro, Nuria Llagostera Vives, and Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Fed Cup final, day 1: Italy leads 2-0

Italy is now one match away from winning a second consecutive Fed Cup final. The defending champions won both singles rubbers against the USA today. In the first match, first-time Fed Cup player Coco Vandeweghe was defeated 6-2, 6-4 by Francesca Schiavone. Vandeweghe was visibly anxious in the first set, but calmed down in the second, and occasionally issued a challenge to Schiavone.

The second match had some high drama. A tired and physically down Flavia Pennetta--playing her 72nd singles match of the season (she has also played 64 doubles matches)--was still able to go up 5-1 in the first set. But then her opponent, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, won five straight games. Pennetta held, and a tiebreak ensued.

Mattek-Sands, who is always fun to watch, worked so hard to get into the tiebreak, but then experienced a loss of focus, which gave Pennetta the first set. "After a while, I was beginning to breathe," Pennetta commented later about the tight first set. "For a while, I wasn't breathing at all."

By this time, the two players had competed for an hour and 23 minutes. Several games into the second set, Mattek-Sands began to cramp. Pennetta knew that something was going on, but--she revealed later--she didn't know what it was, and she allowed her confusion to overcome her focus. As a result, Mattek-Sands, who received routine treatment during a changeover, was able to hang in for a while against the Italian. Pennetta won the set 6-2, however.

Mattek-Sands is scheduled to play Francesca Schiavone in tomorrow's first match, but, of course, whether she plays depends on how well she recovers from the cramping. Vandeweghe is scheduled to play Pennetta, though there was some talk today about substituting Melanie Oudin. Mattek-Sands' health will dictate some of the decisions that USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez makes tomorrow.

The Italian players both displayed end-of-the-season weariness. "You arrive 'finished'," Schiavone said of the fatigue involved in traveling from Doha to California; Pennetta said she had not been feeling too good all week.

Ivanovic and Kleybanova to meet in Bali final

The two wild cards at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions were sent packing today in the semifinals--both taken out by the only two unseeded players in the small tournament. Ana Ivanovic defeated Kimiko Date Krumm 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 in a contest that delighted spectators, and Alisa Kleybanova defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-1.

Ivanovic (whose birthday is today) and Kleybanova are 3-3 against each other, with Ivanovic winning the last two times they met. Ivanovic, a former world number 1, is currently ranked number 24 in the world. Kleybanova is ranked number 27.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fed Cup final to be played this weekend

Defending champions Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci of Italy will play team USA this weekend in the 2010 Fed Cup final. The final will be held on a hard court in San Diego, with team USA represented by Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Liezel Huber, and Coco Vandeweghe.

The draw ceremony took place today. The opening rubber will feature 2010 French Open champion Schiavone against Vandeweghe. In the second match, Pennetta will play Mattek-Sands. Sunday's matches will feature Pennetta against Vandeweghe, and Schiavone against Mattek-Sands. The doubles rubber will be played for Italy by Errani and Vinci, and the USA's doubles team will be complosed of Oudin and Huber. The rules allow for changes to be made, and it is not unusual for captains to make them.

Italy defeated the USA 4-0 in last year's Fed Cup final; Italy also won the Fed Cup title in 2006. The USA is now 9-1 against Italy; however, the USA team won its last title in 2000.

2nd seed Rezai out of Bali competition

Alisa Kleybanova made short work of 2nd seed Aravane Rezai today in Bali. Kleybanova defeated the defending champion 6-1, 6-2.

The Russian's opponent in the semifinals will be wild card Daniela Hantuchova, who prevailed 6-4, 7-6 over 4th seed Yanina Wickmayer.

All four seeded players have been eliminated from the tournament, leaving two unseeded players--Kleybanova and Ana Ivanovic--and the two wild cards, Hantuchova and Kimiko Date Krumm.

Players say goodbye to Elena

Friday cat blogging--Santa Fe edition

Sculptures in front of a galley near the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Seeds 1 and 3 out in Bali

Top seed Li Na went out in the quarterfinals of the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions today. Li was defeated 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 by wild card Kimiko Date Krumm. Also going out was 3rd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It took Ana Ivanovic just over 56 minutes to defeat Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-1.

Pavlyuchenkova, as is often the case, had problems with her serve. The talented young Russian's serve is inconsistent, and she will need to do something about it if she wants to continue to go up the rankings.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pavlyuchenkova and Ivanovic to start Bali competition

Anastasia Pavlyuchenova and Ana Ivanovic will begin the competition at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions tomorrow. Pavlyuchenkova is seeded number 3. Following their match, top seed Li Na will play wild card Kimiko Date Krumm.

On Friday, Alisa Kleybanova will play defending champion and 2nd seed Aravane Rezai, followed by a match between wild card Daniela Hantuchova and 4th seed Yanina Wickmayer.

Rezai and Date Krumm have already faced one another (with some top chefs to help them) in the annual "Cookery Competition" in Bali. Rezai and Chef Doudou Tourneville received the Best Presentation award, and Kimiko Date and Chef Alexander Tanuhardja received the award for Best Dish.

The French player acknowledges she seldom has time to cook, while Date Krumm says that cooking is something she does to relax.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bali draw

Since there are only eight players in the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, and since the round-robin format has been eliminated, all players have received a bye in the first round. Here is the draw for the second round:

Li Na (1) vs.Kimiko Date Krumm (wc)
Anastasia Pavyluchenkova (3) vs. Ana Ivanovic
Daniela Hantuchova (wc) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (4)
Alisa Kleybanova vs. Aravane Rezai (2)

The hard court tournament begins November 4.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Clijsters wins WTA Championships--Dulko & Pennetta win, too

Kim Clijsters, who has won every final in which she has competed this year, didn't disappoint in Doha Sunday. Clijsters defeated world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in the WTA Championships. Clijsters went up 4-1 in the second set, but Wozniacki won a series of games and forced a third set. The world number 1 immediately broke in that final set, but Clijsters broke back, and continued to hold the momentum until the end of the match. "It seemed like it would never end," the champion said later.

This was the third time that Clijsters has won the Championships. The Doha victory was her fifth title of 2010; Clijsters won the U.S. Open for the second year in a row.

Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta continued their winning ways, too, defeating Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles final, and saving a set point in the first set. Dulko and Pennetta are the number 1 doubles team in the world, and when the new rankings come out, Dulko will be number 1 in the world.

Long-time friends Dulko and Pennetta have played doubles together on and off for years, but decided to be a committed team in 2010. The Doha victory gives them seven titles for the year; Dulko won an eighth title with Edina Gallovits.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Only one player can get the treat this Halloween

How much pressure is Caroline Wozniacki under to win the WTA Championships? Like Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic before her, the Dane has reached the number 1 ranking without winning a major. She has every opportunity to win one in 2011, but it would also be a nice year-end treat if she would win in Doha. One thinks back to 2005, when Amelie Mauresmo won the Championships and it changed her career. Not that Wozniacki is like Mauresmo was in the mental department, but--no matter what she says--it is inevitable that Wozniacki is going to feel the pressure.

Here is where the trick part comes in: Wozniacki's opponent tomorrow is Kim Clijsters, 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open champion, and a very big threat on hard courts. There is no pressure on Clijsters. She is currently number 4 in the world, which is a very nice number if you are in the midst of your second WTA Tour career (and a very good one under just about any circumstance).

Wozniacki recently received her world number 1 trophy, but there can be no doubt that she would like to leave Doha with more than one prize in her treat bag. Clijsters can go off her game now and then, but if she stays in form tomorrow, Wozniacki will need to have a few tricks handy.

Ivanovic parts ways with Gunthardt

Ana Ivanovic says she needs a full-time coach, and will therefore stop working with Heinz Gunthardt, under whose guidance the 2008 French Open champion began to get her old form back. Gunthardt, who is also lead commentator for Swiss television, will work with Ivanovic through the China Open.

Gunthardt began working with Ivanovic in February of this year, but he has made it clear that he cannot travel with her on a full-time basis.

Clijsters and Wozniacki to play for Doha title

In the film, Whip It, when the end-of-season championship bout takes place, announcer Johnny Rocket reminds spectators that it has all come down to competitors Iron Maven and Babe Ruthless, and "Would you want it any other way?" It is also no surprise that the WTA Championships have come down to Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki. Clijsters, a member of the white group and the tournament's 3rd seed, defeated Sam Stosur 7-6, 6-1 today. Maroon group member and top seed Wozniacki defeated Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-0. Both Stosur and Zvonareva had problems with their second serves. Prior to the semifinals, Zvonareva was the only player with a perfect round-robin record.

Would we have wanted it any other way? Some of us, yes. But it is certainly fitting that Clijsters and Wozniacki meet on a hard court to determine who wins the Championships.

In doubles semifinal play, Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik defeated Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 7-5, 6-3. Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, who have suprised fans this season with their victories in really big events, apparently didn't find Doha quite big enough: They were defeated 6-4, 6-4 by Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, this year's top doubles team. Dulko and Pennetta defeated Peschke and Srebotnik in the finals in both Stuttgart and Montreal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Always down a set and a break--forever cherished by fans

Elena Dementieva, one of a group of Russians who significantly changed women's tennis, retired today. The 29-year-old Dementieva was one of the best athletes on the tour, and--I think it is safe to say--a universal fan favorite. Her athletic grace, intelligence, humility, and sense of humor made her stand out for years, and some of her heartbreaking losses caused so many of us to identify with her and feel for her.

But Dementieva's career, in the end, was not about loss. While it's true that she may have under-achieved (which could also be said of so many of her peers), she nevertheless compiled an outstanding record on the tour. Dementieva was ranked in the top 20 for seven years, and was in the top ten for a total of 328 weeks; she reached a career-high rank of number 3 in the world last year. She finished in the top five at the end of both 2007 and 2008.

Elena Dementieva won 16 singles titles and was a singles runner-up 16 times. Her titles included wins in Dubai, Moscow, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. Dementieva also won six doubles titles, including the 2002 WTAChampionships, with partner Janette Husarova. She reached another seven doubles finals, including two at the U.S. Open.In 2000, Dementieva won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney. In 2010, she won gold at the Beijing Olympic Games, an achievement she considered the greatest of her career.

Dementieva was also an eight-time member of Russia's very successful Fed Cup team. She was the runner-up at the 2004 French Open, in which she lost to countrywoman Anastasia Myskina, and also at the 2004 U.S. Open, in which she lost to countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova. Dementieva reached the semifinals of seven other majors. One of her most exciting matches--and one of the best matches in recent history--occurred at the 2009 Wimbledon tournament, when Serena Williams defeated her 6-7, 7-5, 8-6.

Several years ago, Dementieva began to have a significant problem with her serve. Most careful tennis observers agreed that the problem began after she recovered from an injury and did not know how to stop compensating for a weak shoulder. Later, she was said to serve expertly during practice, leading fans and tennis experts to conclude that the over-compensation eventually became a mental issue. Dementieva didn't seem to let the problem bother her; rather, she became an expert at breaking her opponents' serves. She eventually overcame the service problem, though--toward the end of her career--she adopted an unusual service motion.

Last year, Dementieva lost to Samantha Stosur in the third round of the French Open. Asked whether this was one of her biggest disappointments, she replied, in her typically droll way: "I had so many."

Dementieva had to retire in her semifinal match at the 2010 French Open because of a left calf strain. She missed Wimbledon because of the injury, then made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Open. There, she again played Stosur in what turned out to be the most dramatic singles match of the tournament. Dementieva held four match points, but it was Stosur who advanced to the quarterfinals.

Two days ago, the Russian beat Stosur 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 in round-robin play at the WTA Championships in Doha. Today, she lost in Doha to Francesca Schiavone, and after the match, she announced her retirement.

A couple of days ago, an interviewer in Doha noted, after Dementieva's victory over Stosur, that she had been down a set and a break. "I'm always down a set and a break," the Russian replied. Indeed, for many years, Dementieva was stunning in multiple three-set victories. But in the latter part of her career, going three sets became difficult for her. The difficulty was obviously not a physical one for the exceptionally fit Russian; she just began to lose her focus.

For her entire career, Dementieva was coached by her mother, Vera, whose existence in the stands often appeared to be poised on an emotional roller coaster. Dementieva said more than once that it was harder for her mother to endure her dramatic matches than it was for her to compete in them. Dementieva could crumble on the brink of victory, and she could also overcome defeat at the last moment. Her wins were sensational, and her losses were often gut-wrenching. Though she was calm and poised off-court--on the court, she tended to thrive on tension, and to create drama.

Women's tennis won't be the same without Elena Dementieva. She was a joy to watch as she repeatedly hit expertly from the baseline, and as she moved rapidly and gracefully with such stunning athleticism that she often made very difficult points look easy. Dementieva was always quick to laugh at herself, gracious toward her opponents, and very warm toward fans. Her screams of frustration and her animated facial expressions were endearing, and all the more so because they were so spontaneous.

How fortunate we were to be able to watch her for so many years.


The 2011 season will feature a new tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. It will take place the same week as the New Haven Open.

Paula Vergara talks about on-court coaching.

Here is the Doha Hot Shot of the Day--a great moment from Kim Clijsters (and Vera Zvonareva)--from the third day of WTA Championships play.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is asking--yet again--for people (are you listening, Martina Navratilova?) to stop calling her Kuzy: Kuznetsova has disliked this nickname for a long time.

Bobby Chintapalli tells us why she'll miss Elena Dementieva.

Friday cat blogging--room for one more edition

Husarova retires from pro tennis

Slovak doubles specialist Janette Husarova retired from professional tennis today. Husarova has not played in a while, so the announcement is hardly a surprise. The long-time Fed Cup team member, who was also on the Slovak Olympics team in 2000 and 2004, holds 24 WTA Tour doubles titles. Husarova played doubles with many different partners. In 2002, she won the WTA Championships with Elena Dementieva, who also retired today. The same year, Husarova and Dementieva also reached the final of the U.S. Open. In 2003, Husarova reached a career-high doubles ranking of number 3 in the world.

Husarova has opened a a tennis school and organized two ITF events. The Bratislova resident says that she wants to "attract more children to sport and create conditions to enable them to develop physical activity."

Zvonareva achieves 3-0 record in Doha

Vera Zvonareva defeated Kim Clijsters today at the WTA Championships, which gives her a 3-0 record in round-robin play. Previously, Zvonareva--a member of the white group--defeated Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka. She will play world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals, and Clijsters will play Sam Stosur.

Zvonareva, seeded 2nd at the Championships, was down a break in both sets, but defeated 3rd seed Clijsters 6-4, 7-5.

In other Doha play, Victoria Azarenka defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 6-1, and Francesca Schiavone defeated Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-2.

In round-robin play, maroon group members Caroline Wozniacki and Sam Stosur are 2-1, and Francesca Schiavone and Elena Dementieva are 1-2. In the white group, Kim Clijsters is 2-1, Jelena Jankovic is 0-3, and Victoria Azarenka is 1-2.

Dementieva retires from professional tennis

After she lost her third match to Francesca Schiavone in Doha today, Elena Dementieva announced to the crowd that she was retiring from professional tennis. You can see and hear Dementieva's very moving speech here, and you can see Barbara Schett interview her for Eurosport here. Also, the tour has created a gallery of the Russian's best moments.

Women Who Serve will have more on Dementieva's retirement later.

Doubles draw made in Doha

The doubles draw has been made in Doha, and Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta will play Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova in the semifinals. Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik will play Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs in the other semifinal match.

The first semifinal is of particular interest. Dulko and Pennetta--close friends who have been occasional doubles partners for years and decided to play as a consistent team this year--are the top-ranked team, with six 2010 doubles titles. They won Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, Bastad, Montreal, and Moscow. They also reached the finals in Madrid and Beijing.

King and Shvedova, on the other hand, had played together in only two tournaments--both this year--when they won the 2010 Wimbledon title. In their next three events, they failed to get beyond the second round. But then they won the U.S. Open, defeating Dulko and Pennetta along the way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quote of the day

You were down a set and a break. What happened?

What news. I'm always down a set and a break.
Elena Dementieva

Field set for Tournament of Champions in Bali

The second annual Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions begins November 4 in Bali. The tournament features the six top players who have won international events during the year but have not qualified for the WTA Championships, plus two wild card players. This is a tournament whose reason for existence I question, and I am especially perturbed that it is played after the WTA Championships.

Last year, the tournament was played in round-robin format; this year it features a regular knock-out format. The six players who have qualified are: Li Na, Aravane Rezai, Yanina Wickmayer, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Ana Ivanovic, and Alisa Kleybanova. The two wild cards are Daniela Hantuchova and Kimiko Date Krumm. That is certainly a very competitive field. The players will compete for $600,000 worth of prize money. Rezai is the defending champion.

Wozniacki to end 2010 as number 1

In what one could call a typical Wozniacki victory, the world number 1 defeated Francesca Schiavone today at the WTA Championships, and secured the number 1 ranking for the end of the year. The "typical" part: Wozniacki hit 17 winners and made 18 unforced errors, compared with her opponent's 30 winners and 34 unforced errors. Schiavone won the first set 6-3, and Wozniacki won each of the final two sets 6-1, 6-1. The last two sets lasted over 40 minutes apiece.

Also in Doha, Elena Dementieva defeated Sam Stosur 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. Dementieva--who lost to Stosur in the 2010 U.S. Open's most dramatic match--took advantage of the Australian's sometimes-shaky play toward the end of the match. It took Dementieva four tries, but she delivered match point and won the third-set tiebreak 7-4.

In today's third match, Kim Clijsters defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

In the maroon group, top seed Wozniacki and 6th seed Stosur have reached the semifinals. In the white group, the semifinalists are 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva and 3rd seed Kim Clijsters. Tomorrow, Schiavone plays Dementieva, Zvonareva plays Clijsters, and Jelena Jankovic plays Azarenka.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote of the week

"It's a question of control. It's the little muscles that take over when you're nervous. When you're confident, the big muscle groups dominate."
Martina Navratilova

Wozniacki loses Doha match to Stosur

Sam Stosur, seeded 6th at the WTA Championships in Doha, defeated 1st seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4,0 6-3 today. Wozniacki now has a 1-1 record in the Championships, and Stosur has a 2-0 record.

2nd seed Vera Zvonareva defeated 8th seed Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-4 today in a match in which Azarenka made too many unforced errors. Zvonareva is now 2-0 in Doha.

In today's other match, 3rd seed Kim Clijsters, playing her first Doha match, defeated 6th seed Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic, who is now 0-2 in the competition, has been sick for over a week, and is reported to have passed out in the locker room after yesterday evening's match against Vera Zvonareva.

Tomorrow, maroon group members Sam Stosur and Elena Dementieva will compete, as will Caroline Wozniacki and Francesca Schiavone. In the white group, Kim Clijsters will play Victoria Azarenka.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New tour name and logo

The "Sony Ericsson WTA Tour" is the "WTA Tour" once again, so a new logo was unveiled on Sunday, and it would have been nice, perhaps, if different people had sat on the decision committee. The new logo is said to be "a new and modern reminder of the captivating athleticism and excitement" of the tour. Maybe in 1975.

The logo is a purple egg set at a cunning angle, containing a "modern" rendering of the letters "WTA," and featuring a little yellow circle that could never be mistaken for a tennis ball. Why, even as I write this, the design is being ripped off by an envious enterprise.

What were they thinking?

Wozniacki, Stosur and Zvonareva win on 1st day of Doha play

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki had no trouble defeating Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1 on the first day of play in theWTA Championships in Doha today. Dementieva, who was recently bothered by an inflamed foot, said that the heat and humidity made it difficult for her to play in Doha, and that she was "going for the wrong shots all the time." Also winning in the maroon group on day 1 was Sam Stosur, who defeated Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-4. Schiavone defeated Stosur on clay in the French Open final earlier this year.

In the white group, Vera Zvonareva (who is now number 2 in the world) defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-0. Jankovic had problems with her movement--generally one of her greatest strengths--and she had repeated problems with her serve. Jankovic has been ill for several days, and she said she felt dizzy and felt some tingling during the match, and that she had difficulty breathing. These were the symptoms she experienced in Moscow last week. Jankovic received IV treatment following the match, and said that she plans to remain in the tournament.

Jankovic has a history of respiratory problems, and--though she had nasal surgery a few years ago--she continues to have problems breathing when she is active.

Vandeweghe named to USA Fed Cup team

Coco Vandeweghe has been named by captain Mary Joe Fernandez to the USA Fed Cup team that will compete in the final against Italy. Vandeweghe joins Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber. Vandeweghe, who began the 2010 season with a ranking of 322, is now ranked number 115 in the world.

Fernandez has not yet announced who will play singles for the team, and substitutions can be made during Fed Cup weekend. The final will be played November 6 and 7 in San Diego.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Doha draw

Here is the singles draw for round-robin play at the WTA Championships:

Caroline Wozniacki (1)
Francesca Schiavone (4)
Samantha Stosur (6)
Elena Dementieva (7)

Vera Zvonareva (2)
Kim Clijsters (3)
Jelena Jankovic (6)
Victoria Azarenka (8)

Play begins tomorrow in Doha. The first match will be played between Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Azarenka and Vinci win Moscow & Luxembourg titles

There was no report yesterday on the Moscow and Luxembourg matches because I was traveling and did not have Internet access. As everyone knows by now, 6th seed Maria Kirilenko defeated Vera Dushevina in the Kremlin Cup semifinals, and 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka defeated 8th seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Today, Azarenka won the Kremlin Cup by defeating Kirilenko 6-3, 6-4. Top seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta won the doubles title, defeating 3rd seeds Sara Errani and Martinez Sanchez 6-3, 2-6, 10-6.

Roberta Vinci won the Luxembourg Open, defeating 8th seed Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-4. In the semifinals, Vinci defeated Anne Keothavong, and Goerges defeated Angelique Kerber. The doubles title was won by 2nd seeds Timea Bacsinzky and Tathiana Garbin. They defeated top seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-4.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Semifinal draws set in Moscow & Luxembourg

Two Russian players remain in the draw in Moscow, and they will play against each other in the semifinals. 6th seed Maria Kirilenko, who defeated qualifier Zarina Diyas in the quarterfinals, will play Vera Dushevina, who defeated countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze.

In the other semifinal match, 8th seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez--who appears to be back in her groove following an injury layoff--will play 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka. Martinez Sanchez defeated Dominika Cibulkova today, and Azarenka defeated 7th seed (and also Russian) Alisa Kleybanova.

Kirilenko and Azarenko, seeded 4th in doubles, were beaten today by number 1 seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta. Martinez Sanchez, playing with Sara Errani in Moscow, defeated Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova. Errani and Martinez Sanchez are seeded 3rd.

In Luxembourg, 8th seed Julia Goerges--who has been getting some good results lately--upset 4th seed Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. She will play Angelique Kerber in the semifinals; Kerber defeated Polona Hercog. In the second semifinal, Anne Keothavong will play Roberta Vinci. Keothavong defeated Iveta Benesova 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. Keothavong hit seven aces. Vinci defeated Kirsten Flipkens.

Benesova and partner Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who are seeded 1st, have already reached the final. The second semifinal will be played tomorrow.

Friday cat blogging--evening glow edition

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Inflamed foot forces Dementieva out of Luxembourg Open

In any tennis season, some players are unfortunate enough to suffer ankle sprains, stress fractures in the foot, and other sports-related foot injuries and issues. This season, we have also seen some more unusual foot problems. The most famous case is the unfortunate tendon cut suffered by Serena Williams when a drunk World Cup enthusiast broke a bottle in a restaurant in Munich. Earlier in the year, Kim Clijsters had to deal with an infection on her foot after she had a mole removed. And now, Elena Dementieva has an inflamed foot.

Because of the right foot inflammation, Dementieva--top seed at the Luxembourg Open--had to retire today in her match against Palona Hercog. Dementieva has qualified for the WTA Championships, which begin in six days in Doha. Both Serena and Venus Williams had to give up their places in the top eight, Jelena Jankovic is ill, Vera Zvonareva withdrew from the Kremlin Cup because of physical issues, and now Dementieva has an inflamed foot. Of course, the chance is high that Jankovic, Zvonareva and Dementieva will be fine by the time the Championships begin, but there is a lot of physical stress among the top players as they head to Doha.

Jankovic out of Kremlin Cup

Jelena Jankovic has been sick--again--and showed up way under form for her second round match in Moscow. She was easily defeated 6-1, 6-2 by qualifier Zarina Diyas. The number 1 seed had nasal surgery a few years ago to help her with breathing problems, but when she becomes ill, she continues to have respiratory issues. Can someone please put her on an immune-building program right away?

In the meantime, Diyas moves to the quarterfinals, in which she will play 6th seed Maria Kirilenko. Kirilenko dispatched of Kateryna Bondarenko 6-0, 6-0 today. Also, Anna Chakvetadze defeated qualifier Marya Koryttseva, and Vera Dushevina defeated Elena Vesnina.

In Luxembourg, Patty Schnyder--who beat Yanina Wickmayer in the first round--went out to Anne Keothavong in the second round. Ana Ivanovic and Roberta Vinci both won, and 5th seed Daniela Hantuchova was upset by Angelique Kerber.