Monday, February 28, 2011

Dokic upsets Schiavone at Malaysian Open

Very recently, world number 5 Francesca Schiavone told the tennis media that she probably needed to take some time off but felt that she couldn't. She entered the Malaysian Open as a wild card and became the top seed, but she lost today in the first round to Jelena Dokic. There was a rain delay in the match, and, in the third set, Schiavone injured her ankle. She said, after the match, that perhaps she made the injury worse by continuing to play, but she didn't want to retire.

Now the Italian star will probably get some time off. Dokic's 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 win included fifteen double faults, three of which were made consecutively. She also managed to hit eight aces (Schiavone hit eleven).

Marion Bartoli is seeded 2nd in Kuala Lumpur. The draw also includees Alisa Kleybanova, Jarmila Groth, Bojanai Jovanovski, Lucie Safarova, Kimiko Date Krumm, and Dinara Safina.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dulko wins Mexican Open

She did it the hard way, but Gisela Dulko defeated 6th seed Arantxa Parra Santonja today to win the Acapulco final. Dulko, seeded 4th at the tournament, took the first set 6-3 and quickly went up 5-1 in the second, and served for the match, only to have Parra Santonja stage a comeback that resulted in a tiebreak, won by Dulko. Both players struggled with their serves. Dulko is one of those players who has a really good serve--when it's working. Today, it gave her trouble, but she was nevertheless able to win her fourth singles title. The Argentine player is ranked number 1 in the world in doubles.

Parra Santonja took home the runner-up trophy in doubles, too. She and partner Lourdes Dominguez Lino were defeated 3-6, 6-1, 10-4 in the final by Mariya Koryttseva and Ioana Raluca Olaru.

Zvonareva wins Doha championship

Vera Zvonareva, known for her command of windy conditions, put that command on display today in the Qatar Ladies Open final in Doha. Never wavering in the presence of top seed Caroline Wozniacki's relentless ball retrieval and accuracy, Zvonareva eventually wore Wozniacki down. Zvonareva broke Wozniacki four times to achieve a 6-4, 6-4 victory, her first tournament win since February of 2010.

Zvonareva, seeded 2nd at the tournament, was clearly delighted with her victory, and hit balls into the stands for an unusually long time. The Doha win was not easy. In the quarterfinals, the Russian had to play for over three hours and nine minutes to defeat Daniela Hantuchova, and in a very competitive semifinal match against Jelena Jankovic, she won a game in which she served at 4-all, 0-40 in the final set.

Top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik won the doubles title, defeating 2nd seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova  7-5, 6-7, 10-8.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Parra Santonja to play in both Acapulco finals

Arantxa Parra Santonja, the 6th seed in Acapulco, has reached the final by defeating Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals. Her opponent will be 4th seed Gisela Dulko, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-0, 6-2.

With partner Lourdes Dominguez Lino, Parra Santonja has also reached the final in doubles. Dominguez Lino and Parra Sontonja will play Mariya Koryttseva and Ioana Raluca Olara.

Josie Kuhlman wins SMASH Junior Cup, gets Charleston qualifying wild card

15-year-old Josie Kuhlman of Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida has been awarded a wild card into the qualifying rounds of the 2011 Family Circle Cup. Kuhlman, who was unseeded at the SMASH Junior Cup at the Family Circle Tennis Center , defeated 5th seed Leyla Erkan 6-1, 6-3 in the final on Tuesday. Kuhlman did not even find out about the tournament until the last minute, and thought she had waited too late to register. She lost 15 games in six matches, and now she will play in her first professional event. Kuhlman was given a wild card into last year's Ponte Vedre Beach event, but an injury caused her to withdraw.

The SMASH Junior Cup, presented by Dunlop Sports, is one of only two tournaments in the U.S. in which players compete for a wild card into a WTA Tour Premier event. Last year's winner was Shelby Rogers, who lost in three sets to Christina McHale in the first round of qualifying. Rogers, who is from Daniel Island, also played in an exhibition match, and enjoyed a lot of fan support.

Past SMASH Junior Cup winners include Mallory Cecil and Alison Riske.

Dunlop Sports also sponsors the annual Club Doubles Championship, which will be held during the Charleston tournament. This year, for the first time, there will be preliminary tournaments in eight cities.The Club Doubles Championship is a mixed doubles event.

Wozniacki and Zvonareva go to Doha final

Marion Bartoli, who played exceptionally well this week in Doha, broke that pattern (sound familiar?) today when she played top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals. Wozniacki defeated the error-prone Bartoli 6-1, 6-1. Her opponent in the final will be 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva, who defeated 5th seed Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in a rather interesting match.

Jankovic injured her knee yesterday, and seemed to be moving a bit gingerly on it at first. However, she got into the groove of the match and put her signature backhand down-the-line shot on display over and over to dominate in the second set. At 4-all in the third, Zvonareva served at 0-40, but Jankovic was not able to break her. Instead, Jankovic was broken in her next game. This was, in general, a good week for the Serbian player, and one hopes her knee problem is minor. (She also got stuck on the surface and hurt her ankle slightly and momentarily, but it wouldn't be a JJ match without some type of spill.)

Zvonareva hit nine aces in the match. She will need to keep serving well because she has her work cut out for her in the final. Wozniacki is now shifting from outstanding defense to aggression when she needs to, and it's getting harder and harder to beat her. The Great Dane's timing and accuracy have become laser-like this season.

The doubles final will also feature the top two seeds: Number 1 seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik will compete against number 2 seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova. Peschke and Srebotnik defeated 4th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Anastasia Rodionova in the semifinals. Huber and Petrova defeated 3rd seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie.

Passing shots

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the March 8 Nike Clash of Champions exhibition. Williams has been replaced by Victoria Azarenka. (It should be noted, however, that Williams is now walking without her boot.)

Rebecca Marino has withdrawn from the Monterrey tournament because of the abdominal injury that forced her to retire in the Memphis final.

Note to Tennis Channel and Fox Sports: The USSR does not exist; it was dismantled a couple of decades ago, and Ukraine is a country, not "the Ukraine."

Could the commentary of the Doha semifinal between Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic have been more sexist? Kevin Cusick and his fellow commentator continually referred to the players as "girls" and "young ladies." Cusick also delivered a speech about how important it is for the "young ladies" to receive support, and not be pushed by their coaches, when they do not play well. Any reasonable person will acknowledge that an athlete needs to get both support and to be pushed hard by a coach, but Skinner's implication--he went on and on about it--was that the "girls" really need that paternal care. Well, what they need is to be treated like adult athletes. (This post corrected to reflect correct Kevin; it was Cusick talking down the tour, and Skinner talking down Ukraine.)

WTA live scores are now available free on Android mobile devices.

You can get to know Greta Arn, who blogged this week from Acapulco.

Friday cat blogging--stripes and snowflakes edition

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Schiavone and Li both upset in Doha 2nd round

Lucky loser Klara Zakopalova reached the quarterfinals of the Qatar Ladies Open today when she upset 4th seed Li Na 6-2, 6-1. 3rd seed Francesca Schiavone was also defeated in the first round, by qualifier Peng Shuai. Peng will play Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals, so fans will have an opportunity to see a pair of two-handers compete against one another. Bartoli defeated 8th seed Shahar Peer, who won only one game, and who never saw one break opportunity in the match.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki will play her quarterfinal match against Flavia Pennetta, who defeated Lucie Safarova for the first time today in the second round. She is now 1-3 against Safarova.

In Acapulco, the number 1 seed, Julia Goerges, was upset today by Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dominguez Lino takes Bogota title

7th seed Lourdes Dominguez Lino won the championship in Bogota today, defeating Mathilde Johansson 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Dominguez Lino also won the title in 2006, when she defeated Flavia Pennetta in the final.

Yesteday, the doubles title was claimed by top seeds Edina Gallovits-Hall and Anabel Medina Garrigues when they defeated Sharon Fichman and Laura Pous-Tio 2-6, 7-6, 11-9.

Wozniacki wins Dubai

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-3 today in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. It wasn't until the latter part of the match, in fact, that Kuznetsova began to play in the form that has helped her win titles. For most of the match, she looked a bit sluggish, and she created a great number of unforced errors. Wozniacki, for her part, did not waver, getting back almost everything, and setting up some beautiful winning shots. She broke Kuznetsova's serve seven times.

This is Wozniacki's 13th WTA Tour title; tomorrow, she returns to the number 1 ranking position.

The ad hoc team of Liezel Huber and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez won the doubles title, defeating top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 7-6, 6-3.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Passing shots

Recently retired Tathiana Garbin plans to work with the Italian Tennis Federation, and she will also do some television work.

I learned a lot about Rebecca Marino by reading her Memphis blog this week. The rising Canadian player was born in Toronto, raised in Vancouver, and trains in Montreal. She is a big hockey fan, as one would expect, and she likes reading, going to movies, and hanging out in coffee shops. She doesn't go in for tanning (smart Rebecca!), and she is big into shoelaces. I learned more from reading Bobby Chintapalli's interview with her: As a child, Marino was a Jennifer Capriati fan, her coach thinks she is an inch taller than she actually is, and she really likes Alison Riske.

Serena Williams, who loves all things Green Day, recemtly got to tour the Broadway set of American Idiot.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands attributes a lot of the injuries on the tour to over-practicing.

Jarmila Groth is the top qualifying seed in Doha, and she has made it to the second round of qualifying. Also into the second round is Viktoriya Kutuzova, whom we haven't seen in a long time.

Rybarikova wins Memphis championship

It was a pleasure to watch Magdalena Rybarikova dip into her considerable bag of tricks during the Memphis final tonight. What wasn't a pleasure was watching the match end after the first set. 6th seed Rebecca Marino, who suffered a left abdominal strain in the semifinals, just wasn't herself, and had to retire at 2-6 because of the pain. (Tennis Channel commentators said they didn't know anything about the injury. I did, as I'm sure many fans did. Business as usual with commentators.) It was too bad for Marino, for fans--and for Rybarikova.

The good part is that Rybarikova, having fallen out of the top 100, really needed this career boost. This is her second WTA Tour title: She won the Birmingham tournament in 2009.

Between them, Rybarikova and Marino hit 63 aces during the tournament, with Marino hitting 40 of those. Both women have really fine serves, and I look forward to watching both of them throughout the season.

The doubles title was won by 2nd seeds Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva, who defeated 4th seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Wozniacki and Kuznetsova to meet in Dubai final

She had her first good run in a long time, but 6th seed Jelena Jankovic lost today in the Dubai semifinals to Caroline Wozniacki. In the final, the top seed will meet Svetlana Kuznetsova, who defeated 11th seed Flavia Pennetta. Kuznetsova is seeded 16th. In their head-to-head stats. Wozniacki has one three out of five matches, including two out of four played on hard courts.

Kuznetsova, by the way, is now 5-0 against Pennetta. Today was the first time that Wozniacki has ever beaten Jankovic, who won their previous four matches.

"By the end of the year, we'll know how to pronounce his name."

That alone is a pitiful admission of one's professional competence, but John McEnroe--referring to  Milos Raonic--seemed to think it was a shameless one.

But is even this poor excuse for commentary skills unrealistic? In all the years she played, Elena Dementieva's name was very rarely pronounced correctly--Ted Robinson usually got it right, and that was about it. Martina Navratilova played for decades, and commentators (with the exception, of course, of Bud Collins) didn't bother to pronounce her name correctly. McEnroe never got Justine Henin's right, and she won seven majors. He also struggled to pronounce Jennifer Capriati's name, and she wasn't even "foreign."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Marino goes to Memphis final

Rebecca Marino, seeded at a tournament for the first time, has made it to the final of the Cellular South Cup in Memphis. Marino, seeded 6th, defeated Evgeniya Rodina 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals. Also going to the final is Magdelena Rybarikova, who defeated Lucie Hradecka in the semifinals.

In the doubles semifinals, 2nd seeds Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva defeated 3rd seeds Vania King and Michaella Krajicek. In the final, they will play 4th seeds Andra Hlavakova and Lucie Hradecka, who defeated Ksenia Pervak and Ipek Senoglu.

4 left standing in Dubai

One of my fantasies about women's pro tennis is that before Flavia Pennetta goes out to play, someone puts her in a trance and convinces her she is actually at Fed Cup. Today in Dubai, it was as though someone did just that. It isn't that Pennetta is not a top player--she is--but she can waver and be inconsistent. Today, though, she controlled every point in her quarterfinal match against Alisa Kleybanova. Pennetta won the match, 6-2, 6-0, held at love in the final game, and closed with an ace. Her service win percentages for the match were 76 and 80. It doesn't get any better.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki also moved to the semifinals, with a win over Shahar Peer, and Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in a match that was quite well-played. Jelena Jankovic took out 4th seed Sam Stosur, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, in a match that went on over 2 hours and 50 minutes, and which contained ten breaks of serve. Getting consecutive wins over Kaia Kanepi and Stosur has to give Jankovic a badly-needed confidence boost. The smile on her face after today's match looked the smile we used to see most of the time.

With today's victory, Wozniacki is again the number 1 player in the world. She will face Jankovic in the semifinals.

In doubles, top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik are still in the competition, as are wild cards Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva.

Friday cat blogging--gift bag edition

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zvonareva out of Dubai competition

Today was a big day in Dubai. Alisa Kleybanova upset 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva, Jelena Jankovic defeated Kaia Kanepi, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Francesca Schiavone (Schiavone again saved six match points), and--not surprisingly--Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Marion Bartoli. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki cruised into the quarterfinals, and Yanina Wickmayer, who worked so hard to upset Li Na, lost to Shahar Peer. Sam Stosur (def. Patty Schnyder) and Flavia Pennetta (def. Victoria Azarenka) also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Wozniacki will play Peer in the next round. If Wozniacki wins, she will again take over the number 1 ranking.

In Memphis, 6th seed Rebecca Marino hit fourteen aces in her quarterfinal match, and defeated Coco Vandeweghe. This is the first time that Marino has been seeded in a tournament. She will play Evgeniya Rodina in the semifinals.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ivanovic withdraws from Doha

Ana Ivanovic has withdrawn from the Qatar Ladies Open, which begins next week. Ivanovic is experiencing a recurrence of the abdominal muscle injury she sustained in Australia.

Ivanovic is currently without a coach, and reports that she doesn't want to rush into hiring one.

(Petra Kvitova is also experiencing an abdominal muscle problem which, one hopes, will be healed by rest. She is scheduled to play in Doha.)

Quote of the week

There is a big difference between being mentally tough and being emotional. It's a huge difference. I will always be emotional. As long as I use those emotions to my advantage, that's only a plus to me. If I need to break the racquet to pump myself up, then I will break the racquet. I don't care.
Vera Zvonareva

Hantuchova and Peer enter Family Circle Cup

2011 Pattaya City champion Daniela Hantuchova has entered the 2011 Family Circle Cup. Hantuchova was a semifinalist last year after she upset Jelena Jankovic in what was probably the tournament's best match. Hantuchova is currently ranked number 29 in the world, and has enjoyed particular success in her career in doubles.

Also entering in Charleston is world number 11 Shahar Peer. Peer is currently playing in Dubai, where she has reached the third round. She made it to the third round of the Australian Open, and is now enjoying the highest ranking of her career.

The Family Circle Cup, which is played on green clay, will be held April 2-10 at the Family Circle Tennis Center. The Center features a 10,200-seat stadium, a Grand Lawn, and 17 courts, including the Althea Gibson Club Court, where fans can get very close to the action.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Passing shots

Stephanie Cohen-Aloro has retired from professional tennis. The Frenchwoman held her highest singles ranking, 61, in 2003.

Simon Reed believes that Petra Kvitova is the real thing.

If Caroline Wozniacki reaches the semifinals in Dubai, she will again be number 1 in the world. Paris champion Petra Kvitova was defeated in the first round today in double tiebreaks by Ayumi Morita, which clears one of Wozniacki's potential obstacles.

Recently retired WTA Tour star Justine Henin is considering undergoing surgery for her elbow. She is going to take a few months to think about it, and hopes to be able to skip the operation.

Pattaya City champion Daniela Hantuchova experienced dizziness during her first-round match against Anna Chakvetadze in Dubai. She and Paris champion Petra Kvitova were both defeated in the first round. Kvitova cited exhaustion and a painful stomach muscle.

There may eventually be night matches at the French Open.

In World Team Tennis, the New York Buzz and the New York Sportimes have merged. The new team will be called the New York Sportimes, and all but two of its matches will be played at Randall's Island in New York City. The other matches will be played in Albany, the home of the New York Buzz.

Oudin only top seed remaining after Memphis 1st round

3rd seed Melanie Oudin won her first round match against Anastasia Pivovarova in Memphis last night, but the other top seeds were eliminated in opening round play. Top seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova lost to Michaella Krajicek, and 2nd seed Sofia Arvidssson lost to Alex Stevenon. 4th seed Alla Kudryavtseva is gone, too. She lost in the first round to Sandra Zahlavova.

In Bogota, there was a qualifying match that lasted over three hours and forty minutes. Sharon Fichman defeated Maria Irigoyen 7-6, 6-2, 6-7.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Passing shots

Maria Sharapova has been suffering with an upper respiratory infection and had to withdraw from this week's tournament in Paris. She was scheduled to play in Dubai next week, but her name does not appear in the draw.

The decision was announced today: The French Open will remain at Roland Garros

Fashion note: During her week in Paris, Yanina Wickmayer was sporting some Bethanie Mattek-Sands-style black knee socks. Wickmayer plays wild card Bojana Jovanovski in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Speaking of apparel, he WTA Tour is still not offering any fan merchandise featuring the tour's new name and lame new logo.

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is the top seed in Memphis next week. The next two seeds are Sofia Arvidsson and Melanie Oudin.

Aravane Rezai is expected to return to the tour for the tournament in Doha.

Kvitova defeats Clijsters to win Paris championship

In both the second round and the quarterfinals at the Open GDF SUEZ, Petra Kvitova came from behind to win. Her match against friend and countrywoman Barbora Zahlavova Strycova lasted three and a quarter hours, and she followed that with another three-set match. She had an easy win in the semifinals, but one had to wonder how much--physically and mentally--she had left to give in the final.

Enough, as it turns out. The fourth seed defeated new world number 1 Kim Clijsters 6-4, 6-3, hit ten aces along the way, and once again displayed a steady and thoughtful demeanor that is in contrast to the up-and-comer we saw just a year and a half ago. Australian Open champion Clijsters was the favorite to win in Paris, but Kvitova outshone her in both serving and returning. Kvitova won the match on the Belgian's serve, though Clijsters saved one match point by hitting her only ace.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy won the doubles championship. The 3rd seeds defeated Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-2.

Hantuchova wins Pattya Open

Daniela Hantuchova, seeded 4th at the 2011 Pattaya Open, easily won the title today when she defeated 8th seed Sara Errani 6-0, 6-2. This is Hantuchova's fourth WTA Tour singles title.

Errani, with partner Roberta Vinci, won the doubles title. Errani and Vinci defeated Sun Shengan and Zheng Jie 3-6, 6-3, 10-5.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kvitova in Paris final

Petra Kvitova was involved in some very long, mentally draining matches this week, but she made quick work of Bethanie Mattek-Sands in today's Paris semifinals, winning 6-2, 6-0 in just under an hour. 4th seed Kvitova will play new world number 1 Kim Clijsters in the final. Clijsters defeated 3rd seed Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 7-5.

In Pattaya City, top seed Vera Zvonareva's quest for a third straight title was stopped by Daniela Hantuchova. Zvonareva had problems with some of the line calls (which, I've heard, left a lot to be desired), and wound up getting a point penalty at a crucial time. What would have been her ad point was ruled by the chair umpire to be re-played, and Zvonareva's objection was deemed to be over the line. A referee made the final decision, and a penalty was enforced, giving Hantuchova match point, which she converted. Hantuchova won with a score of 7-6, 6-4.

Hantuchova, who is seeded 4th, will play 8th seed Sara Errani in the final. Errani didn't have an easy time of it, either: She had to play friend and long-time doubles partner, Roberta Vinci, in the semifinals. Errani and Vinci will play in the doubles final, in which their opponents will be Sun Shengan and Zheng Jie.

The Paris doubles final will feature 3rd seeds Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy, who will play against Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova.

Friday, February 11, 2011

She's number 1

Kim Clijsters became the number 1 player in the world today when she defeated Jelena Dokic 6-3, 6-0 in Paris. It has been 256 weeks since the last time that Clijsters held the number 1 spot. She will play 3rd seed Kaia Kanepi in the semifinals of the Open GDF SUEZ. The other semifinal will be played between 4th seed Petra Kvitova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who upset 6th seed Andrea Petkovic today.

Meanwhile, in Pattaya City, top seed and two-time defending champion Vera Zvonareva has made it to the semfinals, and will play 4th seed Daniela Hantuchova. The other semifinal match will be played between doubles partners Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who are seeded 8th and 5th, respectively. Vinci defeated 2nd seed Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals.

Friday cat blogging--sisters heart u edition

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jankovic enters Family Circle Cup

2007 Charleston champion Jelena Jankovic has entered the 2011 Family Circle Cup. Jankovic, who is currently number 8 in the world, won the 2007 championship in a dramatic final played against Dinara Safina in very high wind. Prior to that final, tornadoes had stuck the area. Last year, Jankovic lost in the quarterfinals to Daniela Hantuchova, in what was one of the best matches of the tournament.

This year's Family Circle Cup will take place April 2-10. Already entered are Melanie Oudin, Maria Sharapova and 2010 champion Samantha Stosur.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quote of the day

As a woman, I cringe when I see top ranked multi-millionaire athletes needing on-court instruction on how to hold serve. How anyone thinks that imagery is good for women's tennis is beyond me.
Mary Carillo

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Passing shots

Ana Ivanovic has already parted ways with new coach Antonio van Grichen. Ivanovic says her plan is to hire a full-time hitting partner while she shops for a coach. van Grichen, who formerly coached both Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva, had been working with Ivanovic only since the off-season.

Meanwhile, Galina Voskoboeva has returned to the tour and has a new coach--recently retired WTA player Alina Jidkova. Voskoboeva defeated Sania Mirza, the number 1 qualifying seed, in Pattaya City, and is into the second round with a defeat of Romina Oprandi.

Li Na has signed a deal with ice cream company Haagen-Dazs, and is set to sign one with Rolex.

Petra Kvitova is blogging from Paris.

Lisa Raymond is now writing a regular blog, Lisa's Spin, for the WTA Tour.

Top two Paris teams out of doubles in 1st round

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova were upset today by wild cards Alize Cornet and Virginie Razzano in the first round of play in Paris. Cornet and Razzano, who are just coming off of some tough Fed Cup play in Moscow, beat Huber and Petrova 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

The number 2 seeds, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, are gone, too. Maria Elena Camerin and Darya Kustova defeated them 6-4, 6-3.

Benesova and Zahlavova Srycova won the 2009 Open GDF SUEZ last year when they were given a walkover by Cara Black and Huber.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quote of the week

"So how much does she earn in endosements? I can tell you what she doesn’t earn, and that’s Sharapova money. And I don’t mean Sharapova money today. The Catholic Church doesn’t earn that."
James LaRosa, on Francesca  Schiavone

Rennae Stubbs finishes her tennis career

Rennae Stubbs, just shy of her 40th birthday, has retired from professional tennis. Stubbs, the longest-serving member of the Australian Fed Cup team, played her final match today in Hobart. She and Anastasia Rodionova lost to the Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the Fed Cup World Group quarterfinals. After the match, there was a ceremony honoring Stubbs, and there was also a ceremony honoring her at this year's Australian Open.

A doubles specialist, Stubbs won the Wimbledon championship twice--in 2001 with Lisa Raymond, and in 2004 with Cara Black. She won the Australian Open championship in 2000 with Raymond, and the U.S. Open title in 2001, also with Raymond. Stubbs and Raymond were the French Open runners-up in 2002. Stubbs was also on the runner-up team (with Sam Stosur) at the Wimbledon championship in 2009, and at the U.S. Open (with Brenda Shultz-McCarthy) in 1995. She was nine times a semifinalist at major tournaments. In mixed doubles, Stubbs, playing with Jared Palmer, won the 2000 Australian Open; she and Todd Woodbridge won the U.S. Open title in 2001.

In 2001, Stubbs and Raymond won the WTA Championships. Stubbs is the holder of 60 WTA Tour titles, and enjoyed a number 1 ranking in doubles in 2000. Stubbs played for the Australian Fed Cup team for 17 years, and and retires with a 28-9 record in Fed Cup doubles play. Stubbs was also a member of the winning World Team Tennis team on four occasions, and in 2008, she was given the Female Most Valuable Player and the Finals Most Valuable Player awards.

Known for her colorful arguments with chair umpires, Stubbs has always spoken out when others were silent. When the no-ad, super-tiebreak rules were introduced to WTA Tour doubles play, it was Stubbs who led the outcry (to no avail) against the changes. For several years now, Stubbs has worked as a tennis broadcaster in Australia, and has done a very good job. Fortunately, we have much more to look forward to in that area, but the doubles courts just won't be the same without the sight of Rennae rushing to the net.

Russia to play Italy in Fed Cup semifinals

France won the first two rubbers against Russia in World Group Fed Cup action this weekend, but the Russians prevailed by winning the next three. Today, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Alize Cornet, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Virginie Razzano, and Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova defeated Cornet and Julie Coin in doubles. The first doubles set was close, and went to a tiebreak, but the French team didn't even make a point until they were down 0-3 in the second set, which was a 6-0 beat-down. Russia will now play defending champion Italy in the semifinals.

In the other semifinal match, the Czech Republic will play Belgium. The Czech team defeated the Slovak Republic 3-2, and Belgium defeated the USA 4-0.

Russia, ranked third in the world, won the Fed Cup title in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. Italy won the title last year, and in 2006 and 2009.

Here are the results for World Group II:

Spain def. Estonia, 4-1
Germany def. Slovenia, 4-1
Serbia def. Canada, 3-2
Ukraine def. Sweden, 3-2

It's shaped like a boot

And it must feel like one to Fed Cup opponents. The Fed Cup defending champions traveled halfway around the world to "give the boot" to Australia in this season's World Group quarterfinals. Despite being up a set, a break, and two break points, Francesca Schiavone lost to Jarmila Groth on the first day of play, but that turned out to be Australia's only victory. At the end of day 1, after Flavia Pennetta defeated Sam Stosur, the two countries were tied 1-1. On the second day, Schiavone defeated Stosur 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-5 in a very tight match in which Stosur saved four match points. Pennetta then defeated Groth, which put Italy into the semifinals.

The doubles rubber was played, and even though it had no meaning in terms of points, it had other significance. For one thing, it was the last professional match of Rennae Stubbs, whose partner was Anastasia Rodionova. Also, the doubles rubber put Roberta Vinci's perfect Fed Cup doubles record on the line. She and partner Sara Errani won the championship in Hobart earlier this year, so there was certainly a comfort level there with the court and the surroundings. Team Australia went up a set and break, but the Italians were a1ble to claim the victory with a 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 score.

Roberta Vinci is now 16-0 in Fed Cup doubles play. And the Queen of Fed Cup, aka Flavia Pennetta, has now won ten straight Fed Cup singles matches (and eleven straight matches); she has a career record of 20-4 in Fed Cup singles play.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

France up 2-0 against Russia in Fed Cup World Group

Until today, Alize Cornet of France had never won a Fed Cup match. In fact, a few years ago, she asked to be removed from second day play because she could not handle the pressure of Fed Cup competition. It was a different story today, though: In the first rubber of competition against former champion Russia, Cornet defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Cornet twisted her ankle in the final set, and had to take time out to have it bandaged.

In the second rubber, Virginie Razzano defeated Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4. Sharapova went down 1-4 in the second set, but caught up. Russia's hopes were quickly dashed, however, when Razzano broke Sharapova in the next game, and then held at love to win the match. It was a fine display of tennis from the Frenchwoman, who has what it takes to beat higher-ranked players. As for Sharapova--it wasn't a performance she'll want to think about.

Belgium is up 2-0 against the USA. Yanina Wickmayer saved a set point in her second set against Bethanie Mattek-Sands, then defeated her 6-1, 7-6. Kim Clijsters then defeated Melanie Oudin 6-0, 6-4.

Also leading 2-0 is the Czech Republic. Lucie Safarova defeated Daniela Hantuchova of the Slovak Republic, 7-5, 6-1, and Petra Kvitova defeated Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-3. Kvitova looked really good in this match, and--as she continues to refine the rough edges of her game--she looks more and more like someone who who is headed to the top of the game.

Defending champion Italy is tied 1-1 with Australia. Francesca Schiavone (though she took the first set the hard way, in a tiebreak) was up a set and 2-0, and had two break points against Jarmila Groth. But what looked like a relatively easy win for Italy turned into an upset, as Groth held her serve, then turned the match around. Schiavone went down 3-5, 0-30 in the second set, but saved three match points. She then hit an ace to get a game point, but it began to rain and play stopped. When the players returned to the court, Schiavone saved a fourth match point with a drop shot, but Groth was successful with her fifth match point. She defeated Schiavone 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.

In the next rubber, however, Italy was able to even the score as Flavia Pennetta defeated Sam Stosur 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. Stosur served for both sets, but was broken. Pennetta is now 4-0 against Stosur; this is the first time Stosur has ever taken a set off of the Italian.

Tomorrow, in the Russia-France competition, Sharapova is scheduled to play Cornet in the third rubber, but no one should be surprised if Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is selected to sub for Sharapova.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Schiavone and Stosur to face each other in Fed Cup play

Scheduled as the third rubber in weekend Fed Cup competition between World Group teams Australia and defending champion Italy is a match between Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone defeated Stosur, who was favored to win the tournament, in the final of the 2010 French Open. Stosur will also play Flavia Pennetta. Australia's Jarmilla Groth will play the other singles rubbers against Schiavone and Pennetta. The Australian team of Anastasia Rodionova and Rennae Stubbs is scheduled to compete in doubles against Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.

The Australian team should give the two-time defending champions some good competition. Meanwhile, 2010 finalist, team USA, will play Belgium. Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer will handle the singles rubbers for Belgium, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Melanie Oudin will play singles for the USA.

Russia will play France, and--in what should be a close contest--the Slovak Republic plays the Czech Republic. Daniela Hantuchova and Dominika Cibulkova are scheduled to handle singles for the Slovak Republic, and Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova will play for the Czech Republic. Should the tie go to a deciding doubles rubber, Hantuchova and Magdelena Rybarikova will play Kveta Peschke and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Hantuchova and Zahlavova Strycova are doubles experts, and Peschke is a doubles specialist.

Friday cat blogging--winter sunshine edition

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Santangelo retires

Mara Santangelo, who was born with a deformed foot but went on to achieve honors in professional tennis, retired today. Santangelo has played in only one tournament since the summer of 2009, and her foot pain has finally caused her to end her career. The Italian player always kept a low profile, despite the fact that her sports biography is another of those "the doctors said I'd never...." stories.

Santangelo was told she would never be able to play tennis at a high level. She won the Bangalore singles title in 2006, but she is much better known for her doubles play. She was the winner of nine doubles championships, including the 2007 French Open, which she won with partner Alicia Molik. Santangelo was also, at one time, a member of the Italian Fed Cup team. She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2004 (losing to Justine Henin), and she won the 2009 European Beach Tennis Championships with Laura Olivieri.

Santangelo is currently managing Prince Le Restaurant in Porto Cervo, on Sardegna Island. The restaurant is part of Piazza del Principe, a commercial complex which Santangelo owns. She also works for the Italian Tennis Federation's television channel.

Passing shots

Dinara Safina has hired Davide Sanguinetti to be her coach. Sanguinetti reached a career-high rank of 42 in the ATP.

Olympus has settled the lawsuit filed against the company by the USTA. Olympus will remain a sponsor of the U.S. Open, and will remain the title sponsor of the U.S. Open Series.

There are a number of travel packages available for the Family Circle Cup, which will be played April 2-10.

You can read about Australia's new Learn Earn Legend! program here; it's the lastest initiative of the great Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Venus Williams is the service speed leader so far in 2011. She hit a 121.2 mph (195 kph) serve at the Australian Open. Right behind her, not surprisingly, is Lucie Hradecka, who hit a 120. 5 mph (194 kph) serve in Brisbane.

New Zealand and Malaysia both pulled out of Fed Cup competition because they didn't have enough good players to compete. Marina Erakovic and Sacha Jones, New ealand's top players, both have wrist injuries.

Maggie Maleeva drops in and gives Bulgiaria a doubles boost in Fed Cup

Retired WTA star Magdalena Maleeva has been playing doubles with Tsvetana Pironkova in this week's Fed Cup competition, and she is now 2-0 in doubles. On day 1, Maleeva and Pironkoava defeated the Polish team of Claudia Jans and Alicsja Rosolska in straight sets. On day 2, the pair defeated Luxembourg's Anne Kremer and Claudia Schaul in straight sets.

Pironkova, on the other hand, has lost both of her singles rubber. She was defeated by Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska, and by Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, playing for Denmark, defeated Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder 6-3, 6-3 today. On day 1, Schnyder defeated Great Britain's Anne Keothavong 6-1, 6-2. Schnyder and Timea Bacsinszky, paired in doubles, defeated Wozniacki and partner, Mai Grage.

On day 1, Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands defeated Romanian star Alexandra Dulgheru, and on day 2, Rus defeated Hungary's Greta Arn, who recently won the championship in Auckland.