Monday, May 31, 2010

French Open miscellany

With her advancement to the quarterfinals, Francesca Schiavone--that would be "the amazing Francesca Schiavone"--will enter the top 10 for the first time in her career.

In case you missed it, here is Steve Tignor's poignant piece on Maria Sharapova's French Open run.

Yaroslava Shvedova is handling the cold Paris weather by wearing an old-school tennis sweater. Very nice.

In mixed doubles, Nuria Llagostera Vives and Oliver Marach defeated Alisa Kleybanova and Max Mirnyi 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7).

If you don't have Tennis Channel, or if you missed the feature on Shahar Peer, you can see it on the Tennis Channel website. Go to the Video On Demand page, and select "Shahar Peer Feature."

French Open--what they said

Emotionally, it was difficult to deal with all these matches, I mean, the two matches I had to stop and start again, especially against Sharapova emotionally probably took a lot from me. That wasn't easy to come back on the court today.
Justine Henin

I'm just wondering if you felt more prepared on the clay this year than you have in recent years. 

I feel the same. I feel prepared every year, and I always dive out in the quarters. I'm just trying to get past that this year, hopefully.
Serena Williams

Your coach, David Taylor, says that you are the opposite of a drama queen. I'm wondering if that's always been true, or if you had more of a temper when you were younger.
No, I think my whole playing career I've been pretty much the same. Obviously I have my moments when I get more frustrated or angry on the court. It's something I try to keep a handle on.
Samantha Stosur

Is it okay just to ask how you sort of see obviously her next match against Serena, both pretty powerful games? 
No, I have no idea about what's gonna happen now.
Justine Henin

This is a young woman who could stroll into her kitchen, pick up the remnants of a wheel of brie, and think deep thoughts about the role it played in the past two weeks of her life.
Peter Bodo, on Justine Henin

I keep some positive things from this tournament, but I didn't consider myself as the favorite. If I could win one more match or two more matches you can start dreaming, but that is not the case anymore.
Justine Henin

For many years, you and Venus have been at the forefront of American women's tennis. Do you think over this time the story of two sisters emerging from one household to be at the top of a sport has been underreported, overreported, or what are your thoughts on the treatment of the coverage of that storyline?
I don't know. I don't really think about that too much. I think it's been I think I said before, like, you know, people know me and they know Venus. They know that we're sisters and that we play tennis and that we're the best, so I think the word has kind of spread.
Serena Williams

It wasn't a hostile gallery, but it was definitely a Justine gallery. How do you defend yourself against that or don't you think about it or don't you even hear it?
Out on the court?
To be honest, I didn't even hear it. Yeah, like I said before, I'm pretty internal, I guess, and worry about what's going on on my side of the court. I didn't even know what was going on, so you could tell me anything right now and I'd probably believe you.
Samantha Stosur

Yesterday's tension was just receding when I had to increase my attention again to face today's match. So that was not easy to manage, and probably did not manage it correctly. It shows that I still have to work on it.
Yes, playing matches back to back is difficult when you've not done this for some time.
Justine Henin

We didn't even talk about her.
NBC commentator, referring to Sam Stosur

Petrova and Stosur retire in French Open doubles

Alona and Kateryna, the Bondarenko sisters, advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open today when their opponents--4th seeds Nadia Petrova and Sam Stosur--retired at 1-6, 0-1 in the round of 16. My understanding is that Petrova became ill with a g.i. sickness of some sort. I will update as I get more information.

Also advancing were the top seeds, Serena and Venus Williams, who defeated 11th seeds Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska. 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Anabel Medina Garrigues defeated 5th seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta 1-6, 6-0, 7-6, and 10th seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie were easily upset by Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer.

Williams, Jankovic and Shvedova advance to French Open quarterfinals

Serena Williams' game was just too much for Shahar Peer today in the French Open round of 16. Peer, seeded 18th in Paris, is always a fighter, and she kept the match interesting, but Williams walked off the court with a 6-2, 6-2 victory. The tournament's top seed will play Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals.

Jelena Jankovic, beaten twice on clay this season by Daniela Hantuchova, stopped the streak today. The first set between the two was close, and Jankovic won it, 6-4. After that, Jankovic went all out, dominating Hantuchova almost totally, with an enviable combination of aggression and defense. Jankovic took that set 6-2, and wound up with first and second service win percentages of 72 and 80.

In the quarterfinals, Jankovic will meet the player who defeated her in the 2009 U.S. Open--Yaroslava Shvedova. In a match featuring two unseeded players, Shvedova played Jarmila Groth in the round of 16. Shvedova, whose second serve was really cooking, showed off a variety of skills in her 6-4, 6-3 victory. This is the first time she has reached the quarterfinal of a major.

Stosur breaks Henin's 24-match French Open win streak

It was a cold, dark morning in Paris, and Justine Henin had been through a lot--playing in the dark, playing in the rain, stopping, starting, stopping, starting, and facing a fierce challenge from Maria Sharapova. She said, after her round of 16 match against Sam Stosur, that she was nervous, "which is normally not the way I am." Facing Stosur without having a day off, Henin nevertheless won the first set, 6-2. But when the second set began, Stosur went up 3-0. She would win that set 6-1. The third was more of a contest. Stosur broke Henin at 3-all, then Henin broke her back.

When Stosur broke again, it was the beginning of the end. When she served for the match, the Henin backhand smashed balls into the net three times. Stosur, not immune to a case of last-minute jitters, then double-faulted on match point. But that was just a temporary glitch in the round of 16 run of Sam Stosur, who won, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, on her next match point.

Stosur had six break opportunities throughout the match, and converted four of them. She hit 26 winners (to Henin's 14), did quite well at the net, and posted first and second serve win percentages of 66 and 70. The balls were heavy, as they have been for a while now at Roland Garros, and Stosur put a lot of her signature topspin on them, aiming them high to Henin's backhand, taking away one of the Belgian's greatest strengths. It was a smart way to play Henin--regardless of the condition she was in--and it paid off.

Stosur, who is seeded 7th at the tournament, has now won 18 matches on clay this season--the most of any woman on the tour. She will face the number 1 seed, Serena Williams, in the quarterfinals.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Raymond & Stubbs out of French Open

7th seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs were defeated 7-6, 6-4 today by 11th seeds Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round of the French Open. 12th seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik defeated 6th seeds Cara Black and Elena Vesnina. And though Vania King and Michaella Krajicek were up 4-1 in the third set, they were nevertheless defeated 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 by 4th seeds Nadia Petrova and Samantha Stosur.

Also advancing were the teams of Williams/Williams, Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez, Huber/Medina Garrigues, and Niculescu/Peer.

French Open--what they said

...I don't want to compare, because everything is so different. I'm not yet as consistent as I was, because it's normal. It's only a few tournaments I've played. The confidence I had at that time, I built it with many years. So I still need some time. I just said when I started I said, It's going to be a year of transition. I still think it, even if I had good results from the beginning of the season. I have really ambitions to go as far as possible, but I'm also conscious that I'll have to work hard on my intensity, my concentration, and just to be more consistent all the time.
Justine Henin

As for my comfort level, I feel good. I feel like I'm moving much better on the surface. I don't know if it's true, but I feel like I'm getting a little bit smarter out there and more consistent. I feel like physically nothing really bothers me. I can stay out there a lot longer than I could have years ago.
Maria Sharapova

How do you see the next match is against Caroline Wozniacki?

Are you are Danish?
No, I am not.
Ah. Okay, so I can answer.
Francesca Schiavone

I usually tend to react more than act. That's part of my character. Okay, I try and evolve. I think I do. I have changed as compared to what I was years back. There is a huge progress. But I still feel I have to put myself at risk to do what I need to do. I need to be my back against the wall. It's not always easy to manage, but I make it, fortunately.
Justine Henin

It's not so much the temperature but more the wind. It was changing all the time. One time it was blowing this way; then the next second it was blowing the other way. You didn't really know what to expect or, you know, you didn't really know when you were going to change sides if you have actually the advantage of being with the wind.
Caroline Wozniacki

What do you think made the difference today against Venus, and why is it you were able to win the match?
I think first of all what helped me a lot is the tough, mentally tough match against Rezai that we been suspended and coming back the next day. You know, it's like a big step forward. Usually when such a difficult moment goes away, you know, you feel more released and kind of more comfortable in your own shoes. You already had an experience being in the big stadium with the big crowd cheering for me. So, you know, I been already kind of like in the worst moments.
Nadia Petrova

Even if the fans were supporting Justine today, I mean, the French fans, they like people who risk it, like Rezai or Safin in the past. I think you give them exactly what they wanted today.
I gave them a win for Justine? Is that what you're saying?
No. They cheered...
Thank you, Maria. Merry Christmas.
Maria Sharapova

They played three hours today, and Caroline often says that she likes to play these long matches?
That's good. Me, too.
Francesca Schiavone

I know she's trying to help me and it must be hard to handle your emotions when you're sitting in one place. It's much easier for me running around on the court.
Elena Dementieva, referring to her emotional coach/mother

Is there any emotional component to when you're playing Elena? You know her well. You guys are close in age. You're arguably two of the best players on the tour who haven't won a major. I would think the match is going to be pretty important to both of you.
...What I can say, when two Russians are playing each other, it's like a battle to death, you know. We really try to leave everything possible out there, win or lose.
Nadia Petrova

Can you describe what it was like playing in those conditions last night?

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it got worse.
Maria Sharapova

Both Pliskova sisters out in first round of French Open junior competition

Karolina Pliskova, who won the Australian Open junior girls title in January, went out today in the first round of French Open junior play. Pliskova, seeded 2nd, was defeated 6-3, 6-1 by the unseeded Morgane Pons of France. Pliskova's sister Krystina--an Australian Open semifinalist--was seeded 8th, and was defeated 7-6, 6-2 by Danka Kovinic.

Petrova takes out Venus Williams, advances to French Open quarterfinals

Venus Williams and Nadia Petrova had to deal with cold weather and wind in their round of 16 French Open match today, and it was 19th seed Petrova who handled the elements better. Serving, returning and volleying with all the skill she possesses (but doesn't always use), Petrova attained a 6-4, 6-3 victory, breaking 2nd seed Williams four times. This was Petrova's first win over Williams, and it was the first time the pair had ever played each other on clay.

Petrova's countrywoman, Maria Kirilenko, seeded 30th, did not advance. She was defeated 6-4, 6-4 by 17th seed Francesca Schiavone.

The other Russian, Elena Dementieva, seeded 5th, had a 6-1, 6-3 win over Chanelle Scheepers. Dementieva and Petrova will face each other in the quarterfinals.

Wozniacki defeats Pennetta in 3-hour French Open match

Caroline Wozniacki has done it again. Hitting half as many winners as her opponent, the 3rd seed defeated 14th seed Flavia Pennetta 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 in the round of 16 at Roland Garros. This match swung toward Pennetta so many times, but a combination of unforced errors, errors forced by Wozniacki, and what appeared to be discomfort/fatigue did the Italian in. She had two set points in the first set, but failed to convert them, which sent the set to a tiebreak. Wozniacki won that tiebreak, then Pennetta had three set points in the second set, but failed to convert them. She did win the set, in a tiebreak, on her fourth set point.

Both players saw the trainer. Wozniacki had her thigh re-taped, and Pennetta had something done to her foot. The commentators thought she was being treated for a blister, and perhaps she was, but Pennetta has a problematic foot, and I wondered whether it was giving her trouble again. At any rate, the third set was all Wozniacki, as Pennetta looked simply done in.

Wozniacki has taken defensive tennis to a new level. While Jelena Jankovic is known as an outstanding defensive player, Jankovic will also become aggressive when aggression is needed. But Wozniacki, with nerves of steel and rhythmic side-to-side movement, simply wears opponents--even very talented clay court opponents like Pennetta--down.

Henin defeats Sharapova at French Open

My educated guess is that most tennis fans expected Justine Henin to emerge the victor when she and Maria Sharapova concluded their third round match at the French Open. They would have been correct--but they might not have anticipated that Henin would have to fight so hard in the final set to get the victory. Sharapova--struggling to regain her status on the tour, and known for being vulnerable on clay--put in a performance of which she should be quite proud.

Down 0-2, 0-40, Henin saved four break points, and took over the momentum, only to have it taken back by Sharapova. The wind blew around them, and the cool weather kept the balls heavy, as both women fought to maintain control of the rallies. Henin walked away with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 score, and a round of 16 meeting with 7th seed Sam Stosur.

And this is the player who's promoting gender equality?

"Some of the tennis girls, they’re sluts. They go with every guy and make such a bad name for themselves--and you don’t want to be known for stuff like that. You want to be more discreet."

Thank you, Laura Robson, for using your considerable public platform to perpetuate the tired patriarchal sexual double standard. Are you also going to give us a lecture on the "tennis guys" who "go with every girl" and are therefore "sluts"?

I didn't think so. And even if you did, that would still be a a boldly judgmental take on the personal preferences of others.

Robson is very young, and one is tempted to say that--when she is older--she will realize what a sexist remark she made. But the odds against such a realization are overwhelming because when it comes to the sexual double standard--nothing has changed since the 1950s. A U.S. study done a few years revealed that  university women who even asked men out were considered "sluts." Robson is a product of her culture, and her culture--like mine--is always ready to label as a "slut" a woman who dares to make sexual choices that men are permitted to make with no fuss.

Robson, with her ready wit, is generally a breath of fresh air. But if she is going to promote gender equality and female empowerment, then she needs to help create a non-sexist culture for girls, not attack them because they don't meet an oppressive cultural standard designed to keep women from making choices about their own lives.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

French Open doubles update

All of the seeds in women's doubles won today in the second round of the French Open, with the number 1 team--Serena and Venus Williams--getting a walkover from Daniela Hantuchova and Caroline Wozniacki. A notable victory was that of 9th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Yan Zi, who defeated clay court specialists Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 6-4, 7-5.

Mattek-Sands didn't do as well in mixed doubles, however. She and Mark Knowles lost in the first round to Tathiana Garbin and Marcin Matkowsky; Mattek-Sands and Knowles were seeded 4th. Upset in the second round were 7th seeds Lisa Raymond and and Wesley Moodie, who lost to Vania King and Christopher Kas.

The big upset today in mixed doubles, however, was the first round defeat of number 1 seeds Liezel Huber and Mahesh Bhupati. Chan Yung-Jan and Eric Butorac defeated them 6-1, 6-4.

Yesterday, 8th seeds Yan Zi and Mariusz Fyrstenberg lost to Yaroslava Shvedova and Julian Knowle.

Serena Williams plays through dizziness to get to the round of 16 in Paris

Top French Open seed Serena Williams and former junior world number 1 (and 29th seed) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova played each other for the first time today. Williams won the first set 6-1, but in the second set, she experienced dizziness, as well as more confident shot-making from her opponent. Williams was given some medicine by the trainer, and--though she lost the second set 1-6, she prevailed at 6-2 in the third.

Williams said she didn't know what the problem was, but thought she might be coming down with a cold or similar illness. She and her partner, Venus Williams, received a walkover in their doubles match, which gives her more of an opportunity to rest.

4th seed Jelena Jankovic had a tough opponent in 27th seed Alona Bondarenko, but she made it through, with a 6-4, 7-6 win. Shahar Peer defeated Marion Bartoli, the last Frenchwoman standing, 7-6, 6-2, and 23rd seed Daniela Hantuchova continued her new winning clay court ways by defeating 16th seed Yanina Wickmayer 7-5, 6-3. It also helped that Wickmayer is just back from elbow surgery.

Yaroslava Shvedova upset 28th seed Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 4-6, 6-0, and Jarmila Groth defeated countrywoman Anastasia Rodionova 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Charleston champion Samantha Stosur, seeded 7th, defeated Anastasia Pivovarova 6-3, 6-2, setting up a round of 16 match against either Maria Sharapova or Justine Henin.

One saga completed, another one in the making?

Nadia Petrova and 15th seed Aravane Rezai played very serious tennis last night, some of it in the dark. They each held three match points, and they each failed to convert. With the thriller at its peak--7-all in the third--the match was suspended due to darkness. Today, after a night of disturbed sleep, Petrova won, 6-7, 6-4, 10-8. The two exchanged breaks right away, and it was conceivable that the contest could go on and on, but Petrova held, and that--after 2 hours and 48 minutes--was that.

Petrova, seeded 19th, is known for going off mentally during a match, but even with the French crowd making the experience as difficult as possible for her, she steadied herself. She also hit 12 aces and 50 winners. Both players are to be commended for providing so much excitement for fans. Now Petrova gets Venus Williams in the round of 16, and that also has the potential to be a very good match.

The drama continued this evening, with 12th seed Maria Sharapova having to play in conditions that are the least favorable for her. It was raining, and of course--the balls were very heavy. In the first set, she looked lost, sometimes standing still or moving awkwardly to reach Justine Henin's shots. When she did move, it wasn't fast enough. Henin, seeded 22nd (go figure) at this event, went up 4-0, and won the set 6-2.

The outlook appeared grim for Sharapova, but in the second set, she began to play clay court tennis, and focused on confounding Henin's movement. She used a variety of change-ups, including drop shots, to get Henin out of her rhythm. Also, Henin had trouble with her service game. At 3-all, Sharapova broke, and took the set 6-3,  breaking Henin's streak of 40 consecutive set wins at the French Open. Clearly, the momentum was with the Russian, but at this level, momentum can change just as quickly after a set as it can after a night of sleep. To be continued...

French Open--what they said

When it's important times in the points, in the matches, you remember those things you do outside the court. That definitely transfers to the court as well.
Daniela Hantuchova

She played very often on my backhand, and instead of playing along the line as I did in the second set, I tried to play crosscourt, and she gained confidence again and that will be my only regret. Now, if the surface had been drier and the conditions faster, I would have been in a better position, but that's the way it is. I need to get to grips with it.
Marion Bartoli

I guess you'd say you feel as absolutely ready as you're ever gonna be for this sort of challenge?
Yeah, why not? I'm playing well. I've had a good lead up to the French and had three good matches here. I'm gonna go into it thinking I can win no matter what the case. You're in the fourth round. You've got to believe that.
Samantha Stosur

These are great experiences that I've just acquired. To me, I'm still very much learning, and this was all of a sudden, everything at the same time. I'm happy I could do what I did to start with. But I couldn't go to the very end of it.
Aravane Rezai

Very few hours of sleep. It was very difficult to go, because as soon as I closed my eyes, I could easily see the match again playing in front of my eyes and all the opportunities and what I could have done differently to close it so I could sleep comfortably, but it paid off.
Nadia Petrova

I think that's what's helping me a lot, that in the points I don't rush anymore going for the winners like before, and being able to cut unforced errors because of that, because I know that I can lat in the points and I don't have to rush for the big shots.
Daniela Hantuchova

So I got really nervous about it. Match points were played very safely, way too safely for my liking. But I couldn't get myself to hit the ball and play them as I played till then.
Jarmila Groth

Your questions are too hard for me. I don't want to think about the past. I want to think about the future. I want to move forward, what's up for me next. I have so much to learn, to do and to prove. This is it. It's happiness, only happiness and positive. I have everything to win.
Aravane Rezai

You've lost four times against her. Would you say that she has a difficult game for you?

No, not really.
Isn't she a player you wish you can avoid in the draw, for instance?
No, not really.
Nothing which is disturbing you in her game?
Yanina Wickmayer

What we saw on TV confirmed that the set ball was out with the Hawk-Eye. Do you think we should put Hawk-Eye on clay? 

Well, then it reassures me. It means that I have good eyes. Maybe you should show this to the line judge.
Marion Bartoli

My natural is left handed. I can do everything left or right hand, left or right foot. I'm weird, I know. Kind of it's natural for me to do that. My parents made me to actually play right handed when I was younger because there's a story behind it. When I was born I couldn't move my right side. I was born early, and so my right side of my body didn't function, right? So my parents got scared so they keep working with me, you know, and pressing the pressure points so my right sides are functioning. They made me to be a right hander.
Jarmila Groth

Good morning. Did you think at one stage that she might quit the match?

No, I mean, I really wished so. I was like, Please. No, I'm just kidding, of course.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Friday, May 28, 2010

French Open--what they said

Now when I play someone that hits a lot of slices or a lot of high balls, it doesn't really bother me. You know, it doesn't affect me as it did, you know, many years ago, because, you know, I knew physically I couldn't be out on the court, you know, I couldn't last quite that long as I feel that I can now. So just try to go for a little bit more than I should have. You know, I've learned and I've worked on that, and I certainly feel like I'm, you know, more patient out there when I face those opponents on clay.
Maria Sharapova

And your thinking on Fed Cup? Is that a matter of scheduling? Do you feel that you have any responsibility to the country in terms of getting into the championships? What are your thoughts on that?
Well, my only responsibility is my two dogs. So I have to make sure they're okay and that I can afford to take care of them. That's the only real responsibility I have.
Serena Williams

Dirty clothes. How much laundry do you generate and do you submit?
That's a crazy question. I don't know how much, but a lot. Every day. Every day.
We're talking several shirts. You guys are changing shirts with practice and that sort of thing?
Three or four shirts a day. Well, you know everything about my life, actually. That was quite personal.
Justine Henin

I think there are different ways of showing your will to fight. I mean, there's you know, I've played some opponents where they've said, "Come on!" after every single point they've won and pump their fist. Deep down inside I know they're not really great fighters, and I know that mentally I'm much stronger than them.
Maria Sharapova

Obviously you must be very disappointed. How does it feel to lose your title here?
I have it from last year. I mean, it was very hard, anyway, to defend with tennis I have been playing this season.
Svetlana Kuznetsova

I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever against Aravane, and I'm delighted she won Madrid. The further she goes, the happier I am.
Marion Bartoli

Justine said that the match you played in Australia seems very distant to her, very far away. Obviously she retired and came back since then. A lot has happened to you, as well. You've had some involuntary time off. Does it also seem distant to you, that whole Australian Open run?
Actually feels like we never left, or it was just yesterday.
Maria Sharapova

So it's gonna be back to reality?
I may be wearing all the same boring underclothes as the other people.
Venus Williams

ESPN: Who do you think you are...NBC?

When Tennis Channel coverage ended in the U.S. today, at 11:00 a.m. my time, "coverage" was picked up by ESPN2. Except ESPN showed only matches that had already been played. This was beyond infuriating. Fortunately, there was live coverage online at, and at ESPN3 (formerly ESPN 360), although ESPN3 did not show the Dementieva match, which was on the schedule.

I was able to see some good matches in spite of ESPN, but no one showed the Rezai-Petrova match. (I'm sure Direct TV did, but I don't have it.) There it was, a thriller by anyone's standards, and on U.S. cable television, it didn't exist.

At first, when I saw Serena Williams on ESPN, I thought "oh, there they go again--assuming that all we want to see are matches with U.S. players in them." But ESPN went on to show replays of all kinds of matches--just nothing live.

Defending champion out of French Open in 3rd round

French Open defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova barely escaped a skilled, but nervous, Andrea Petkovic in the second round. Today, countrywoman Maria Kirilenko was just too good for 6th seed Kuznetsova, and defeated her 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

It was an entertaining, and sometimes exciting, match. Kirilenko, the 30th seed, got off to a great start, but then lost five games in a row, went down 0-2 in the third set, and was a point away from going down 0-3. She turned it around, though, breaking Kuznetsova to get to a 5-3 lead, but then getting broken when she served for the match. Kuznetsova then saved a match point on her serve, and even had two break points against Kirelenko at 4-5. Kirilenko saved those break points in style (including a serve-and-volley), and was able to get the job done on her third match point.

An aggressive Alexandra Dulgheru looked very good against 3rd seed Caroline Wozniacki, and led her in both sets, but wasn't able to play some of the bigger points successfully. Dulgheru, the Warsaw champion, hit 29 winners to Wozniacki's 14, but--in what is now typical fashion--Wozniacki emerged the winner, 6-3, 6-4.

5th seed Elena Dementieva, obviously injured, had all she could handle in Aleksandra Wozniak, but won their match 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. It's nice to see Wozniak on the court as a real competitor again.

Given the surface, it's not suprising that 11th seed Li Na went out to 17th seed Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone's 6-4, 6-2 victory put the two remaining Italians into the round of 16. Earlier in the day, 14th seed Flavia Pennetta defeated Palona Hercog 6-3, 6-0.

Li's countrwoman, Zheng Jie, is also out, defeated in straight sets by Anastasia Pivovarova. 7th seed Sam Stosur defeated Rossana De Los Rios 4-6, 6-1, 6-0, and the other seeds--Justine Henin, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli, Maria Sharapova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Yanina Wickmayer all won their matches. Also winning was Chanelle Scheepers, who defeated Akgul Amanmuradova.

Another Frenchwoman gone--Camille Pin retires

Pierce, Golovin, Mauresmo, Loit. They may not all be officially retired, but they're all gone. Now Camille Pin has announced her retirement, after spending twelve years on the tour. The 28-year-old Pin never won a WTA tournament, though she did win eight titles on the ITF circuit. I always thought that, if she could serve decently, she could have done much better, but that improvement never occurred. Still, Pin had a lot of fight in her, and was fun to watch.

Pin's most famous moment occurred during the 2007 Australian Open, when she came within a hair of defeating Maria Sharapova in the first round.

In her emotional announcement today at Roland Garros, the Frenchwoman said that that various events in her life had caused her to be less motivated to play, and she had always told herself that she would know when the time came to stop. That time has come. "Today, I put an end to my career, but I only see great things in terms of human encounters and emotions experienced."

Friday cat blogging--up against the wall edition

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paris...when it drizzles

When the French Open began, players and commentators talked about how fast and dry the courts were. Now they're slow and wet, and for some players, that represents a change of fortune. Showers are predicted for Paris Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with percentages of 60, 40 and 40, respectively, which means that Roland Garros could be spared. But it also means humidity, and players can expect the tennis balls to be heavier than they were when the tournament began.

Wet conditions favor clay court experts and specialists, like the Italians and the Spanish (there are still Spanish players in the doubles draw). They also favor players who can stop and start their matches without coming unglued.

Speaking of Italians, there are two still in the singles draw. Not surprisingly, they are Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. Pennetta has had a poor clay season so far, and she will have to be sharp against third round opponent Palona Hercog, who has already upset Lucie Safarove. Schiavone will play Li Na in the third round.

There are three Frenchwomen still in the draw--13th seed Marion Bartoli, 15th seed Aravane Rezai, and wild card Olivia Sanchez.

Because of the rain delays today, second round play was not completed. When darkness fell, Bartoli and Sanchez were still playing the first set. Sanchez served for it at 5-3, and was broken, then play was suspended. 22nd seed Justine Henin, playing Klara Zakopalova, took the first set 6-3, and play was stopped when Zakopalova was about to serve at 2-3. Maria Sharapova took her first set 6-3, also, and she and Kirsten Flipkens were at 2-all in the second.

Mara Santangelo to play doubles only

Mara Santangelo has ended her singles career. As most fans know, she has had to deal with a serious foot problem since she was quite young, and she has decided that it will be better for her to play doubles only from now on.

Santangelo, known for her stylish shot-making, won the Bangalore Open in 2006, and was a finalist in 2007. With various partners, she has won nine doubles titles, including the 2007 French Open (with Alicia Molik). Santangelo was on the Italian Fed Cup team for three years, and she was on the Italian Olympic team in 2008.

French Open--what they said

I made a decision that I'm not gonna put myself under pressure, because what I've been through was a lot to handle. It made me stronger, and now I'm just enjoying tennis. I'm enjoying back to feel good on the court.
Aleksandra Wozniak

Sometimes there are gonna be some weird moments, but because we're very competitive, we want to--we want to win. I mean, it's not like we are having a picnic out there or a charity match.
Jelena Jankovic

I didn't see your match today, but I know you had some sort of bandage on your leg when you were practicing here last week. Are you healthy and everything all right?
I'm okay. Yes.
Was there a problem last week a little bit?
I don't want to talk about it.
Elena Dementieva

It was difficult. It was destabilisant. It shook me up a lot, and now I feel I can take more and learn more even. Even if bad things come my way now, I can handle them more.
Aleksandra Wozniack, referring to the challenges of injuries and coach changes

I think women's tennis is more powerful now and more speedy compared to 90s, but at some point before 90s it's more they had more technique, I think.
Kimiko Date Krumm

Shut up! Go away and leave your mathematics at home.
Agnieszka Radwanska, to father/coach Robert Radwanski, who was in the stands verabally counting her errors
(translated from the Polish)

And then he said, Don't take not so much risk and don't get injury again more. But he knows my character, so he didn't say, Please retire. Even he saying, Please retire, I never listen.
Kimiko Date Krumm, speaking of her husband

Radwanska and Zvonareva out of French Open

8th seed Agnieszka Radwanska was upset in straight sets today by Yaroslava Shvedova today in the second round of the French Open. Radwanska was upset in more ways than one: Her father/coach, Robert Radwanski, the lead member in the current group of Tennis Fathers from Hell (Aravane Rezai's father seems to have put himself "on probation," and Maria Sharapova's father--after mellowing considerably, at least publicly--has disappeared altogether), sat in the box, verbally and visibly counting his daughter's errors. Eventually, she let him have it, telling him to take his numbers and get out, as well as some other, less printable, things that I would have cheered had I been there. From all I can gather, the officials pretended not to hear the outburst.

Shvedova hit 44 winners in her 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Also going out was 21st seed Vera Zvonareva, who had problems with her serve. She was defeated 6-4, 6-4 by Anastasia Rodionova. And Aleksandra Wozniak defeated 31st seed Kateryna Bondarenko. Zvonareva, Wozniak and Bondarenko are all finding their way back after having sustained injuries and their aftermath.

4th seed Jelena Jankovic was taken to the edge by Kaia Kanepi, but found her way back to win, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Alisa Kleybanova, seeded 28th, defeated 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-0, and Kimiko Date Krumm--still in pain and still hobbling--lost to Jarmila Groth.

Also advancing were 5th seed Elena Dementieva, 11th seed Li Na, 17th seed Francesca Schiavone, 27th Alona Bondarenko, and Shahar Peer, who defeated lucky loser Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

French Open--what they said

So it has really...the design has nothing to do with the rear. It just so happens that I have a very well developed one. It's all genetic. If you look at mom and dad, you'll see the same thing happening. If you look at my sister, you'll see the same thing. It's genetic.
Venus Williams

I move on much more confident from being in that hole. I stood up there strong.
Svetlana Kuznetsova

That's a hard, you know, steps to follow in. I mean, if you watch her play, she plays very well. It's a credit to her.
Venus Williams, referring to Kimiko Date Krumm

I don't see them respecting the other players like we did when we came here....(They) come and they see themselves equal and it's not like that, you know.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, on the tour's adolescents

You're among the players who tend to scream a little bit on court. Is there a meaning to that? I mean, does it give you energy, or is it more like a weapon against the opponent?
Yeah, I started because Monica Seles was my favorite player when I was 10. So I started grunting, and that was 20 years ago. I haven't stopped. I blame Monica.
Venus Williams

Petkovic learns, first-hand, the meaning of "inexperienced"

I'll start by acknowledging that--before Svetlana Kuznetsova's second round French Open match began--I was expecting an upset. Once it got underway, I was expecting an upset even more. And then, serving at 6-4, 5-3, 40-0, Petkovic saw four match points--and the match--fade away. 6th seed Kuznetsova saved the first match point with a strong return, but the other three were the unforced errors of a player with insufficient experience in handling really big moments. When you're at a major, about to beat the defending champion, in straight sets--the belief that you cannot do it is playing in your unconscious mind like a song you don't realize you're humming. Kuznetsova broke, and went on to win the second set, and that was that. Her 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory--a gift from a choking opponent--places her in the third round against countrywoman Maria Kirilenko.

Then there was Madrid champion Aravane Rezai, who apparently became so anxious in the second set of her match against Angelique Kerber that she set up a number of winners, only to commit repeated unforced errors when she attempted to execute them. But Rezai put that set behind her, and won the third set, posting a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 score. It was a messy match for her--she made 42 unforced errors. She also hit 59 winners.

Taking out the 24th seed may not sound like a big upset, but when the match is played on clay, and it's 2010, and the opponent is Lucie Safarova, the upset is kind of a big deal. It was pulled off by the steadily rising Palona Hercog, who defeated Safarova 6-1, 6-2.

All of the other seeds advanced. Of interest: Chanelle Scheepers defeated Gisela Dulko 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands checks in with a report from Paris

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who rolled her ankle in her third French Open qualifying round and wound up a lucky loser, defeated Vania King yesterday, and is into the second round. She and partner Yan Zi, the 9th seeds, also won their first round doubles match against Timea Bacsinszky and Tathiana Garbin.

Mattek-Sands has praise for the courts at Roland Garros: " Even if the clay here at Roland Garros is dry, it is still better than any other red clay event in Europe," she says, noting that the tournament staff takes excellent care of the courts.

The rain appeared for a few moments yesterday, but today, there is real rain in Paris, which could change the way the courts play. " really does not throw my game off. It may for some others, but I try not to let that be a factor for me," Mattek-Sands says of the rain. The USA Fed Cup star likes to play on any type of clay. She reports that the clay at Roland Garros is a bit stickier than the clay at the tournaments preceding the French Open, "which is a nice change."


"They are a little faster due to how well they are packed down and the upkeep of them. The clay is also a little easier on my body. Don't ask me how, most people have injuries pop up on the clay where as they are able to stay together on the hard court. I guess I am not a great example since I rolled my ankle in qualies, but I still like my game on clay."

The probability is high that Mattek-Sands and Yan will play Italian Fed Cup standouts Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the next round, and Mattek-Sands feels good about the match-up: "They are two good players and have done well as a team, but Yan Zi and I have been playing well this year and are tough too. If we come out and play at the level we should play at I am confident we can win that match. I don't ever set expectations for a match. It is to hard to live up to them sometimes, but as long as I give it all I have that day that is all I can do. Doubles is a team effort, and if you are on that day and your partner is not it can be difficult to get the win. You don't always have to be the best, you just have to get your opponent to play worse than you do that day if you are not playing at your normal level."

Mattek-Sands has no ambivalence about the proposal to move the French Open away from Roland Garros. "Move as soon as possible!! It is a great venue and has a great amount of tradition, but there are just so many people in such a small space that it can become overwhelming when you are trying to get to practice and or a match. It is great that there is so much support for tennis here in France, but change the site and then you could have even more people come. It is sold out everyday which is great, but if you made it a larger venue they would still sell it out."

She also confirms that--despite France being a fashion capital--the crowd did not embrace Venus Williams' first round French Open outfit. Mattek-Sands, not surprisingly, likes the outfit a lot. "Tennis is so stale," she maintains, "when it comes to the clothing and or patterns, although Nike has stepped it up over the last year with some of the new women's outfits. Other than that, tennis is boring when it comes to fashion. I have taken some heat over the years for my outfits, but all I can say is that I am original!"

In the past, when Mattek-Sands has played at the French Open, she has had a chance to walk around Paris, but this year--so far--she hasn't been able to venture out the confines of the stadium. "As for the touristy spots, I have seen them all a few times so I am not as eager to go back. I would like to get out to Versailles and see the palace and gardens as I hear they are incredible. The days are just so long that you do not get home until late and the last thing that you want to do is walk around all day at a museum if you have time off."

Mattek-Sands' next opponent in singles will be 18th seed Shahar Peer. Peer is 3-0 against Mattek-Sands, but this will be the first time that they play one another on a clay court.

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Ward)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

French Open miscellany

Simon Reed thinks Dinara Safina should consider taking a break from tennis.

Three French Open outfits I especially like are worn by Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

It's appropriate, during the French Open, to look back at legend Chris Evert.

Victoria Azarenka was fined for not attending her press conference after her first round loss.

Here is a deconstruction of the 2010 French Open poster.

Lucie Hradecka lost her first round match to Alexandra Dulgheru, but it should be noted that she hit 18 aces.

French Open first round completed

Seeded players, with the exception of 9th seed (and 2009 finalist) Dinara Safina, continued to advance today at the French Open. Four-time champion Justine Henin overcame Tsvetana Pironkova in straight sets, and 12th seed and Strasbourg champion Maria Sharapova also won in straight sets. Lucky loser Bethanie Mattek-Sands became a first round winner today when she defeated friend and countrywoman Vania King 6-2, 6-2.

Clay court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro also made a first round exit, losing to Olga Govortsova.

In doubles, all of the seeded teams won today.

French Open--what they said

You know what, I'm feeling really confident in my game. I've been playing aggressive, playing my style. Really been mixing up a lot of shots. I've even surprised myself how many drop shots I've hit or how many slices I've mixed in, and swing volleys.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands

So today during the match I many times I was thinking to better to retire or not, because it's still many tournament coming, and then next Grand Slam coming very soon. Then my condition was very bad. So if I injury one my time, it's big injury. I cannot play anymore. But my feeling was don't want to stop. So even when I lost, I don't want to stop. And then same time she start a little bit get nervous, and then she start to make easy mistake. So I try many things, drop shot, and then to use more wider, slowly, and then she start mistakes. So I try everything, and then just to wait until she mistake. Yeah.
Kimiko Date Krumm

She has a very strange game because she hits so hard on the ball. Sometimes it's very slow, so you have to deal with it.
Justine Henin, referring to Tsvetana Pironkova

You separated with your coach, I hear. You want to talk a little bit about that? I know he was important to you.
Yeah. After Madrid I took a decision to stop. I mean, definitely he did the best job than everybody could make with me. He brought me to No. 1 in the world. I mean, not him. Together we came together to number one. But I decided that I wanted to stop, and that's it. I won't say anything.
Was it getting too intense or...
I don't want to comment anything else.
Maybe another voice...
I don't want to comment more than this.
Dinara Safina

You know what, the thing is it changes all the time. It's not like this length is inappropriate, because obviously when someone serves the whole dress comes up. I mean, you can't say it's okay for Maria to do it when she has pictures like that, but Venus can't.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands

This year, it starts badly for the French.
Here it is, here we go again. Yes?
Marion Bartoli

You're very intense. Why? Is it since you were a child?
Well, I was always like that. At times I thought it's because of what I experienced in my life, but then I watched some videos of me when I was four, five, six, and I was already like that. I'm not a loner, but there are times when I really need to be really focused on myself, and I did that when I was a child, so I guess it's part of me.
Justine Henin

And your immediate goals for this year are what?
Media goals?
Immediate goals.
I thought, media goals, wow, I would never set those goals.
Daniela Hantuchova

39 years old and one functioning leg--impossible is nothing

Upsets, by definition, are dramatic. The upset that occurred today on Court Suzanne Lenglen in Paris had so much drama, describing it makes it sound like a TV movie. Former wold number 1 and 2009 French Open finalist Dinara Safina, playing her first round French Open match against Kimiko Date Krumm, was up 6-3, 4-6, 4-1 when things took a strange turn.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Date Krumm, former world number 4, returned to the tour in 2008, after retiring in 1997. Successful in challenger tournaments, she then won a tour tournament in Seoul in 2009, defeating Alisa Kleybanova, Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues along the way. Today, she showed up on Suzanne Lenglen with her right thigh heavily strapped. After taking the second set, she pulled the thigh muscle again in the third, and winced in pain.

With Safina serving at 4-3, Date Krumm could slowly limp, but--for all practical purposes--could not move. She got some help from Safina, who continued the double-fault pattern she established early in the match. But Date-Krumm, standing in one place, also hit a couple of winners, and broke Safina. She then received some treatment from the trainer, held her serve, then appeared to be in extreme pain when the trainer manipulated her thigh during the changeover. She then broke Safina for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Safina double-faulted 17 times, and was plainly in distress throughout much of the match, which lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes. Whether Date Krumm will be able to go on, or at least go on without pain, is unknown at this time. Her next opponent is Jarmila Groth. Safina's next opponent is her biggest one--herself. It can't be easy for her, returning to the tour after having sustained a serious injury and after not playing for so long. But even before she was injured, the Russian was preoccupied with fighting her own demons.

Date Krumm, on the other hand, had mental toughness to spare, and is surely the player of the day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

French Open--what they said

Do you feel like in the last few weeks that it was a good idea to play so many tournaments or do you think it would have been better to take a little time off?
Well, you know, there are some rules on the WTA Tour, and we have to follow those rules. Maybe it would have been better if I could have taken a few weeks off, but those are the rules, and I did what I had to do.
Caroline Wozniacki

What were you not pleased with?
Across the board, nothing, really, just to be honest.
Serena Williams

How important is fashion in women's tennis? I mean, you have the SI thing.
More and more. Would you agree?
Ana Ivanovic

...If you were a place in Paris?
The Louvre.
If you were a time in history?
The feminist movement.
If you were a romantic location?
Up the Eiffel Tower with a glass of champagne.
Flavia Pennetta

One of your dreams has been to win here. So maybe if you can get to the second week? The mentality might change a bit?
Just let me play my second round. I don't want to think that far.
Elena Dementieva

Caroline Wozniacki is the only teenager in the top 25 in the WTA. Why do you think that is?

I think pretty much everyone got older and aged. I was also a teenager once. I was in the top 25, but I ended up getting older, unfortunately. It's inevitable.
Serena Williams

Is your coaching situation the same, or has something changed?

I'm alone.
Jelena Dokic

Seeds advance at Roland Garros

All the seeds who played in Paris today advanced. Top seed Serena Williams had her work cut out for with Stefanie Voegele, who took the first set to a tiebreak. In the second set, however, Williams utilized her serve to take control and post a 7-6, 6-2 victory. She is now 42-0 in first rounds in the four major tournaments.

Sara Errani suffered yet another loss, going out in straight sets to Yaroslava Shvedova. Warsaw champion Alexandra Dulgheru went to three sets against Lucie Hradecka, but advanced to the second round. 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Alla Kudryattseva 6-0, 6-3. And 4th seed Jelena Jankovic, dressed in sunny yellow, defeated Alicia Molik 6-0, 6-4.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who rolled her ankle when she was up a break in the third set of her third qualifying round, is now a lucky loser. Mattek-Sands was second in line to be a lucky loser; and the first in line wasn't feeling too well, so Mattek-Sands was given a place in the main draw when Peng Shuai withdrew from the tournament. She has received treatment for her ankle and will play Vania King. Peng withdrew from Stuttgart because of illness, but I don't know whether that is why she withdrew from the Open.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

French Open--what they said

I like to play on big courts with a lot of people. It motivates me a lot.
Gisela Dulko

I was playing well. I really did what I had to do to upset her. Then I started thinking, and maybe that removed something from my play.
Mathilde Johansson

There was a lot of stress on me. It was not easy to manage these feelings, but really, I enjoyed it, to see the crowd there, waiting for me on center court, the first match. It’s always so nice to be waited for....But let’s be careful. That’s a pitfall.
Aravane Rezai (translated from the French)

I was not showing as good results as I would like to, but I knew this moment has to pass, because I deserve better.
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Injured Martinez Sanchez out in 1st round of French Open

Italian Open champion Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez sustained a neck injury during her first round at the French Open today, and--though she continued to play--she was not able to overcome opponent Akgul Amanmuradova. Amanmuradova's 6-2, 6-4 win over the 20th seed gives her a second round meeting with Johanna Larsson, who defeated Anastasija Sevastova.

Martinez Sanchez is uncertain whether she will be able to compete in doubles.

Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, after going down 0-3 in the first set, had a straight-set win over 2009 quarterfinalist Sorana Cirstea, and Madrid champion Aravane Rezai allowed opponent Heidi El Tabakh to win only two games. Meanwhile, Gisela Dulko finally had her first clay court victory of the season, taking out 10th seed Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-2. Azarenka has not had much match play lately because of a thigh injury, and is not moving  well, which made matters much easier for Dulko. I think this was an upset possibility, anyway, though perhaps not one with a 6-1, 6-2 scoreline.

Venus Williams took her record against Patty Schnyder to 11-0, U.S. player Varvara Lepchenko defeated U.S. wild card Christine McHale, Anna Chakvetadze went out to Angelique Kerber in a tight three-set match, and Andrea Petkovic--who defeated Elena Vesnina--hit twelve aces.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Do we need Hawk-Eye on clay?

I don't like the challenge system. Rather, I agree with Mary Carillo that players should have the right to challenge line calls whenever they wish. The last accuracy numbers that were compiled for linespeople at WTA and ATP matches (or at least, the last numbers I saw) revealed that the line callers were correct 70% of the time. I remember Pam Shriver saying how "great" that was, and all I could think of was: What would happen to me professionally if my work was correct only 70% of the time? 70% is far from "great."

Then there is the matter of Hawk-Eye's absence on clay courts. Because the ball leaves a mark in the clay, the chair umpire is still called upon, if necessasry, to check the mark and determine whether the line caller was accurate in her call. There are problems with this system, however, and the main one is that after a match has been underway for a while, there are many marks in the clay. This year in Charleston, for example, the crowd yelled "Wrong mark!" at a chair umpire, who proceeded to call the line based on the wrong mark. I have seen this happen before.

We have an active clay season, which culminates with the French Open. Is it time to install Hawk-Eye?

Safina and Krajan part ways

Former world number 1 Dinara Safina has parted from her coach of three years, Zheljko Krajan. Safina is working with Gaston Etlis, a former ATA player from Argentina, during the French Open. While she was with Krajan, Safina attained the number 1 ranking, reached the finals of the French Open twice, and the finals of the Australian Open, and won an Olympic silver medal.

French Open--interesting early rounds

I enjoy the early rounds of a major, though it can be painful to see lower-ranked favorites or players to watch make early exits. Some of the tour's fresh talent will be on display in the first and second rounds at Roland Garros, and those who are playing tour stars are likely to have their matches televised in some form or other. (Viewers in the U.S.--ESPN 3, which used to be called ESPN 360, is showing French Open matches.)

Here are some early round matches that, for one reason or another, could be interesting:


Simona Halep vs. Sam Stosur (7) : This is your chance to see Halep play.

Dinara Safina (9) vs. Kimiko Date Krumm: Here's another chance to see Date Krumm; some think there will be additional opportunities.

Sara Errani vs. Yaroslava Shvedova: Errani is having a disappointing season, but if she brings her game, this could be a good one.

Elena Vesnina vs. Andrea Petkovic: This would be an excellent match if it weren't for all of the problems Vesnina is having with her thigh. But just in case she's healthy, give it a try.

Gisela Dulko vs. Victoria Azarenka (10): Dulko really needs a win. Will she get it here?

Patty Schnyder vs. Venus Williams (2): Worst draw luck ever. It's probably Patty's last French Open.


Of course, no one knows who's going to be in the second round, but here are some probable matches of interest:

Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Alona Bondarenko (27): Rybarikova and Bondarenko both like the clay, and could deliver a good match.

Alisa Kleybanova (28) vs. Ana Ivanovic: Kleybanova is an undisciplined big hitter who is fun to watch. Maybe not for Ivanovic, though.

Sara Errani vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (8): Assuming Errani is some kind of reasonable form, and assuming--of course--that she wins her first round--she and Radwanska could produce a match very much worth watching.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) vs. Andrea Petkovic: If Petkovic beats the recently-ailing Vesnina, she could be real trouble for Kuznetsova.

Elena Dementieva (5) vs. Melanie Oudin: I don't really think this match is going to be played; I think Medina Garrigues will defeat Oudin. But on the off-chance that Oudin emerges the winner, she and Dementieva would have yet another go at it.

Note: Under normal circumstances, I would have picked a possible second round contest between Katarina Srebotnik and Justine Henin as one to watch. Srebotnik, however, is still finding her way back, and will have enough problems dealing with Klara Zakopalova in the first round.

French Open--experts' predictions

Here are some predictions for French Open winner. If I find any more that are significant, I'll add them.

Steve Tignor--Justine Henin
Chris Evert--Serena Williams
Jon Wertheim--Justine Henin
Bruce Jenkins--Justine Henin
Jim Courier--Justine Henin
Peter Bodo--Jelena Jankovic
Tom Perrotta--Serena Williams
Sarah Unke--Serena Williams

Sharapova wins in Strasbourg

Maria Sharapova, the top seed (and wild card) won the Strassbourg tournament this morning, defeating Kristina Barrois 7-5, 6-1.

The doubles title was taken by Alize Cornet and Vania King. They defeated 2nd seeds Alla Kudryattseva and Anastasia Rodionova 3-6, 6-4, 10-7.

Dulgheru defends Warsaw title

A year ago, Alesandra Dulgheru came out of nowhere as a qualifier and won the Warsaw Open, her first Sony Ericsson WTA tour tournament. This was an unusual feat, and was followed by months of near-obscurity for the Romanian. But all she needed was for clay season to come around again. In Barcelona, Dulgheru reached the semifinals, and she defeated both Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, in Rome and Madrid, respectively.

Yesterday, the unseeded Dulgheru upset 3rd seed Li Na in the semifinals of the Polsat Warsaw Open, and today she upset 5th seed Zheng Jie, 6-3, 6-4, to win her second consecutive Warsaw title. Along the way, Dulgheru defeated Kateryna Bondarenko, Timea Bacsinszky and Tsvetana Pironkova.

The unseeded team of Virginia Ruano Pascual and Meghann Shaughnessy won the doubles title. They defeated top seeds Cara Black and Yan Zi 6-3, 6-4. This is Ruano Pascual's 43rd doubles title, and Shuaghnessy's 16th.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pre-French Open miscellany

Vera Zvonareva, after training in Turkey, arrived in Paris, and when she went to the Roland Garros site to get her credentials, her wallet was stolen.

Caroline Wozniacki is wating to hear from her doctors whether she can play in Paris.

Victoria Azarenka has been practicing at Roland Garros with Dinara Safina.

Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova helped with draw today, but she didn't do herself any favors. She plays Sorana Cirstea in the first round, but then she has a good chance of meeting Andrea Petkovic (who plays Elena Vesnina in the first round) in the second round; Petkovic could give her trouble.

"I feel almost like a butterfly on the court again," Jelena Jankovic tells The Independent.

Ponte Vedra Beach tournament is no more

For decades, women played their first (of two) green clay tournaments in April, at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida. Then, when Bausch & Lomb was no longer legally permitted to entertain physicians at the event, the company withdrew its sponsorship. The tournament was taken over by the MPS Group, and it was moved to Ponte Vedra Beach. Now, because of tour re-scheduling, the sponsors have decided to cancel the the event altogether. The tournament, in some form or other, has been held for 31 years.

The tour suggested that the tournament be moved to February or to some time during the summer. However, challenges regarding weather and court surface have resulted in the event's demise. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour hopes to create a new tournament in the U.S.

...I love Paris in the springtime...

The French Open is my favorite major, and this year, Justine Henin will be there--not handing out a trophy, but in the draw, which was released today. Henin, seeded 22nd, has won the French Open four times, and is seen by many as a favorite to win this year. She'll begin her campaign with a first round match against Tvetsana Pironkova, a baseline player who has a hard time closing matches (though she did just upset Elena Dementieva in Warsaw).

Twelve qualifiers have emerged, and here they are with their first round opponents:

Nuria Llagostera Vives vs. Shahar Peer (18)
Ksenia Pervak vs. Maria Sharapova (12)
Anastasia Pivovarova vs. Ioana Raluca Olaru
Simona Halep vs. Samantha Stosur (7)
Kaia Kanepi vs. Pauline Parmentier
Sophie Ferguson vs. Petra Kvitova
Misaki Doi vs. Polona Hercog
Chanelle Scheepers vs. Mathilde Johansson
Heidi El Tabakh vs. Aravane Rezai (15)
Zhang Shuai vs. Nadia Petrova (19)
Ekaterina Ivanova vs. Dominika Cibulkova (26)
Karumi Nara vs. Arantxa Parra Santonja

Players who failed to qualify include: Anna Lapushchenkova (seeded 2 in the qualifying draw), Edina Gallovits (seeded 3rd), Michelle Larcher De Brito, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Friday cat blogging--happy birthday edition

Tarzan and Ziggy Stardust are four years old some time this month. They are brothers who were rescued from a feral colony, came to our house to be fostered, and wound up living here. They still enjoy fighting every day. Tarzan is good friends with our patch tortie, Velma, but has a difficult relationship with her sister, Roxie (otherwise known as The Queen of Everything). Ziggy enjoys playing chase and toy mouse games with both sisters, but his special project is spending as much time as he can with Roxie.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bondarenko out of Warsaw

Alona Bondarenko, 6th seed and last year's finalist, was defeated 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the Warsaw Open quarterfinals today by Greta Arn. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki retired, and defending champion Alexandra Dulgheru advanced to the semifinals.

In Strasbourg, play was interrupted by rain. Earlier in the day, 7th seed Anastasija Sevastova was defeated 6-1, 7-5 by Kristina Barrois.

Bad draws, bad luck, questionable choices

It's hard to believe that Gisela Dulko has lost in the first round in four straight red clay tournaments, but she has. In Barcelona, she lost in a third set tiebreak to Sara Errani, a good clay court player who is having problems of her own this season. In Stuttgart, she had the bad fortune of drawing Jelena Jankovic. Dulko lost another third set tiebreak, this time to Patty Schnyder, in Rome. And in Madrid, she lost to Sam Stosur, 7-6, 6-4.

Dulko isn't the only one having a tough time in Europe. Higher up the ranking ladder, Caroline Wozniacki is continuing to have problems because of the ankle she turned in Charleston. The injury was thought to be superficial, so either it's worse than the doctor(s) thought, or--more likely--Wozniacki has simply played too much. Wozniacki, the top seed, retired in Warsaw today, but one cannot help but question what she was doing there in the first place.

Of course, no contender has had worse luck than Kim Clijsters, whose Fed Cup foot injury caused her to withdraw from the French Open


Christina McHale has withdrawn from French Open junior competition, but may play in the U.S. Open junior tournament. McHale, who has a wild card into the main draw at Roland Garros, has not yet given up her amateur status.

You can see and hear the Women's Tennis Blog interview with Chris Evert here.

The Queen (not Evert--the other queen) will attend Wimbledon on June 23, for the first time in 33 years.

The last time an unseeded woman won the French Open was 1933.

Heather Watson turned 18 yesterday.

Here is Anne Keothavong's new Wilson Apparel photo.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dementieva upset in Warsaw

It took her almost three hours, but qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova upset 2nd seed Elena Dementieva today in Warsaw. Pironkova's 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory came, at least in part, with the aid of 59 unforced errors from Dementieva.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki had to go three sets with Palona Hercog, but she did advance to the next round.

In Strasbourg, both Lucie Hradecka and 8th seed Elena Baltacha retired during their 2nd round matches--Hradecka with a left wrist injury, and Baltacha with a lower back problem.

There were also upsets in Strasbourg. Sofia Arvidsson defeated 3rd seed (and wild card) Virginie Razzano and Julie Goerges defeated 6th seed Sybille Bammer.

French Open withdrawals and replacements

So far, five women have withdrawn from the French Open:

Kim Clijsters (foot injury)
Sabine Lisicki (ankle injury)
Sania Mirza (wrist injury)
Anna-Lena Groenefeld (foot injury)
Urszula Radwanska (back injury)

Players who have been given places in the draw because of the withdrawals:

Stephanie Dubois
Katie O'Brien
Anne Keothavong
Ekateryna Bychkova
Johanna Larsson

Nine ATP players have also withdrawn.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quote of the day

"I think it was really an adjustment period for her after the U.S. Open; probably a bit of a shock. I almost felt bad that she got so much publicity. Yes, it was a great story, but as a tennis pro watching her matches, I thought, Don’t give her too much press, because it’s going be hard to live up to that, and it was."
Chris Evert, on the subject of Melanie Oudin

"You do the Hantuchova and you turn yourself around..."

In professional tennis, there is never a shortage of significantly mannered players. Because of the individual nature of the sport, and because of the preparation time involved in serving, the more mannered players on both tours are easy for even casual fans to spot.

One cannot think of Mary Pierce without recalling all the times chair umpires let her get away with exceeding the service preparation time. (I can't find the link, but once, during the French Open, Pam Shriver left the broadcasting booth to go confront the umpire with the fact that Pierce was taking too much time.) One wouldn't have been surprised if Pierce had pulled out a compact and freshened her makeup before serving, so involved was she in painstakingly getting everything "just right" before serving.

Before she began designing her own clothes, Venus Williams used to tug on her top so much, you might have confused her with Andy Roddick. Maria Sharapova's three (now it's two) precise ball bounces, followed by the left hand sweeping the hair back on each side--all accompanied by a stern facial expression--was easy to imitate, and Novak Djokovic had some fun with it during his more light-hearted "entertainer" days.

Ana Ivanovic's close-to-the-body mini-fist pumps drive some people to distraction. Kim Clijsters turns her racquet and stares at it intently, as though the answers to the match are hidden somewhere in the strings.

But the mannerist queen of the current tour is undoubtedly Daniela Hantuchova. Hantuchova's service preparation is a project unto itself. She walks quite a distance behind the baseline and turns her back to the net. The she turns back around, approaches the baseline, and bounces the ball repeatedly with her racquet as though she were dribbling a basketball. This causes her to get very animated. When this routine is done, she bounces the ball slowly and deliberately five times--never four, never six. Then she serves.

But that isn't all. Hantuchova often walks away from the baseline and turns her back to the net before her opponent serves. Given the rule that the server determines the pace, anyone serving to Hantuchova would be within her rights to serve to her back, but no one does. Hantuchova has been questioned about this behavior, and she maintains she is just collecting herself before she receives serve.

Players' mannerisms help define their on-court personalities, and make watching matches more interesting.


Tennis X reports that, according to Ladbrokes, the odds for Justine Henin's winning the French Open are 7/4. Following Henin are Serena Williams (4-1), Jelena Jankovic (6-1), Venus Williams (11-1), and Sam Stosur (14-1).

Luke Jensen says that too many tour women "just fall off the map."

Be sure to check out the latest edition of the Backspin Time Capsule, which features Monica Seles.

Luke Crampton says that Roger Federer is the only player (both ATP and WTA) who never looks up at his box. No kidding...he really said that.

Caroline Wozniacki, via Eurosport, will publish a video blog throughout the French Open.

Navratilova to play senior doubles at French Open

Martina Navratilova will team with Jana Novotna at the French Open, where the two will play in senior doubles competition. Navratilova, who will work as a French Open commentator for Tennis Channel, will also continue to receive radiation treatments while she is in Paris. In March, the former tour star underwent a lumpectomy for noninvasive breast cancer.

Navratilova is in Paris now, practicing with Novotna.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

French Open champion: Henin or...?

Because clay neutralizes power, and because so many players struggle on clay, clay tournaments are considered prime breeding grounds for upsets, and--as we have seen so far in this clay season--they certainly are. Sam Stosur was not expected to win Charleston, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was not expected to win Rome, and Aravane Rezai was not expected to win Madrid. To add to the drama of the victories, both Martinez Sanchez and Rezai were unseeded.

I can't say I was shocked by any of these wins: Stosur is more confident now and has become more comfortable on clay, and-as far as I was concerned--it was only a matter of time before both Martinez Sanchez and Rezai won something significant. Still, to have all three tournaments go to non-favorites is rather unusual.

The other premier clay court tournament, in Stuttgart, was won by Justine Henin.

And that is as good a segue as any for introducing my question: Will Henin win the French Open, or will someone else prevail through seven rounds in Paris? Henin has had some bad luck lately, breaking her finger in Fed Cup play, and developing a throat infection. Assuming she is healthy by the time play begins in Paris, she still seems a pretty good bet to hold the trophy.

Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova is having a terrible clay season, and cannot be considered a contender. Last year's hottest clay court player (and French Open finalist) Dinara Safina is trying to find her way after sustaining a serious back injury. Kim Clijsters hurt her foot in Fed Cup play and won't even be in Paris. 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic is starting to improve on her poor 2009 and 2010 results, but I can't imagine her making enough of a leap to win a major.

With those four out of the way, we are left with Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, and Serena and Venus Williams. Prior to the start of clay court season, many people would have narrowed that list down to just Dementieva, Jankovic and Serena. Venus, however, has really come alive during the European season, and--given her both her resurgence and her experience as a major champion--I'm putting her in the mix (and besides--never count out a Williams sister).

Having said that, I do believe that Serena has a bit more of a chance than Venus. Serena won the French Open once, in 2002. She made the semifinals the following year, but hasn't gotten past the quarterfinals since then (in 2005 and 2006, she wasn't there). Last year, she lost an extremely close quarterfinal match to eventual champion Kuznetsova. If Serena Williams were to win at Roland Garros, she would be halfway through a potential Grand Slam, with two (for her) winnable majors remaining. That provides a lot of motivation, as well as a lot of pressure.

Dementieva and Jankovic are contenders, despite the doubts some fans have about them. Each is outstanding on clay, each has improved her serve, and each has big match experience. I know they both seem to find ways not to win majors, but this is new year and a new opportunity, and they are just too good to leave off of the list. It wouldn't surprise me at all if one of them won.

In the background is Sam Stosur. We know, after last year's semifinal run in Paris, and after this year's Charleston tournament, what she can do, but how will she hold up under the pressure? She's a contender, nevertheless.

And then there's Caroline Wozniacki. She had the misfortune of injuring her ankle in Charleston, but I think a bigger problem is that she did not heed the lesson provided by Jankovic: Wozniacki has played in a lot of tournamnents, and she may have reached the burn-out point.

There are other players who can make good runs in Paris, or who could--at least--create some upsets. Aravane Rezai, if she doesn't buckle under the  Mauresmo Curse, could do some real damage. Last year, she made it to the round of 16, during which she was obliterated by Safina. But that was last year. Francesca Schiavone, who resurrected her career after a big "Is retirement near?" slump, is always dangerous on clay (her countrywoman, Flavia Pennetta, generally is, too, but she is having a tough time this season). The stylish Martinez Sanchez certainly poses a threat, and--if she should suddenly get her game back together in the next week--so does Sara Errani. Nadia Petrova is great on clay, and could also make a signfiicant run in Paris.

Both Lucie Safarova and Alexandra Dulgheru have made great strides this season, and both excel on clay. Vera Zvonareva is still trying to find her optimum fitness level after returning to the tour, but she still can cause trouble in early rounds. Shahar Peer is also capable of pulling an upset.

Finally, we come to Justine Henin. Henin has a new, more aggressive game, which seems to have been crafted for Wimbledon competition, but we will see some version of it in Paris. Henin is still Henin, but some of her opponents are no longer as intimidated by her as they used to be, and the decrease in her psychological advantage could make her make her vulnerable. Or not. We'll know more when we see her draw.

Relentless Rezai wins Madrid title

Today in Madrid, Aravane Rezai became the second consecutive unseeded woman to win a premier tournament. Rezai upset 4th seed Venus Williams, 6-2, 7-5, in the final, adding a surprise (to some) ending to the dramatic story she has unfolded all week in Spain.

Rezai began her Madrid effort by defeating Justine Henin in the first round, and adding a 6-0 final set as a flourish. That was just the beginning.

All I could do was shake my head when Tennis Channel commentator Brian Webber said that Rezai "cruised" through the rest of the tournament. What tournament was he watching? Rezai defeated Klara Zakopalova in the second round, then--in the third round--the Frenchwoman had to contend with a very tough Andrea Petkovic in what was probably the thriller of the tournament. She had to work  hard again in the quarterfinals, especially in the grueling first set, to defeat Jelena Jankovic. Rezai got a break in the semifinals when opponent Lucie Safarova retired after the first set, but there were a lot of tense moments in other matches.

Being unseeded and upsetting Henin, Jankovic and Williams is big. As big as Rezai's hitting. Her personality is big, too. In the past, she has made public statements about her distaste for Jankovic, and she didn't hesitate to expand that rhetoric in Madrid. (Those who wondered why Jankovic was distant during the handshake might take this history into consideration; I'm not judging or justifying anyone--just pointing out that, right or wrong, it may not be that easy to behave warmly toward someone who publicly denounces you.) She also had some less than flattering things to say to the media about Henin. For better or worse, Rezai clearly has no inner editor.

Rezai's on-court presence became increasingly fiery throughout the week, too. The harder and deeper she hit the ball, the larger her persona seemed to be.  And then there was the black and gold lame outfit. A friend designs Rezai's tennis outfits, and I will now refrain from making obvious observations about that.

In her first set against Williams, Rezai was dominant on serve, and also she broke Williams twice, quickly attacking Williams' second serves. Rezai held at love in her last service game, and appeared fully in charge of the match. In fact, she was so dominant that her first serve win percentage for the set was 100.

That type of momentum can be hard to maintain, especially against a top player, and--sure enough--Rezai was broken right away in the second set. Her serve went to pieces, and Williams took full advantage, breaking Rezai again, and taking a 5-2 lead. But just when a third set seemed inevitable, Rezai started to scratch her way back. She held for 3-5, then broke Williams. Rezai then held again, and--once again in a psychological comfort zone--she broke Williams to go up 6-5. By this time, she had saved six set points, and just like that--she found herself with three match points. She needed only one to take the biggest win of her career.

Rezai is not that good of a mover and doesn't appear to be comfortable at all at the net, but her in-the-zone, laser-like ball-striking can be overpowering. It certainly was this week. And it should be noted that being down 2-5 in a final and refusing to let a third set occur reflects the mindset of a winner.

For me, the Madrid tournament leaves much to be desired. I've long complained about having female models be "ballgirls," and this year's concession to the women--having male models be "ballboys"--I find only a tiny improvement. The heterosexist tone of the arrangement aside--there are children and adolescents who are being robbed of the opportunity of to be real ballgirls and ballboys.

Then there is the Madrid website, which is almost useless.

And finally, poor Rezai will have to tell her friends and family, "I won the Madrid Open, and all I got was this tacky plate."

For many reasons, I'm already nostalgic for the good old days in Rome.

But I digress. Rezai's win confirms why she's been on my "watch" list for a while. She's been working for four months with a new coach, and has been steadily improving. One hopes that, in the future, she'll add more dimensions to her game. In the meantime, she moves into the top 20, and Venus Williams--who is having a fine clay season--moves into the number 2 spot in the rankings.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Williams sisters win Madrid doubles title

The very hot streak of Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta came to an end tonight in Madrid, where they were defeated for the doubles title by number 1 seeds Serena and Venus Williams. The Williams team broke the 8th seeds six times to win 6-2, 7-5.

Dulko and Pennetta won the title last week in Rome, and before that, they won in Stuttgart. Prior to the start of the clay court season, they also won the title in Miami.

Williams and Rezai to meet in Madrid final

As expected, 4th seed Venus Williams has advanced to the final of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open. Today in the semifinals, she easily defeated Shahar Peer, 6-3, 6-0, to set up a final match against Aravane Rezai. Rezai won her match against Lucie Safarova when Safarova, suffering from a left thigh strain, retired after the first set. Rezai won that set 6-1.

Williams and Rezai have played each other only twice, both matches were played in 2007, and both matches were played on clay. Williams defeated Rezai in straight sets in the first round at Amelie Island, and Rezai defeated Williams in straight sets in the third round in Istanbul.

This has the makings of a really good final. Both women hit hard off the ground, Williams is a very good volleyer, and she is certainly the better mover. If she can move Rezai around a lot, she has an advantage. Rezai hits flat and goes for broke. If she senses the weakening of Williams' forehand, she will waste no time exploiting it. The Frenchwoman's hitting has become more and more explosive. Against a player like Williams, will that work for her or against her?

Friday, May 14, 2010


Kim Clijsters has confirmed that she is out of the French Open.

Here is a look back at the Barcelona Bumblebee.

Sania Mirza will return to the tour in June, when she plays in Birmingham.

Have fun looking at this retrospective of Bethanie Mattek-Sands' tennis outfits.

Four clay courts are being installed at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Bad news for fans: Editor-in-Chief James Martin is leaving Tennis to cover soccer for I'll miss his thoughtful and intelligent writing, especially on