Thursday, March 31, 2011

Azarenka and Sharapova to play final in Miami

Victoria Azarenka, the 8th seed in the Sony Ericsson Open and the champion in 2009, made her way to the final tonight by soundly defeating an error-prone Vera Zvonareva 6-0, 6-3 in the semifinals. Zvonareva was the tournament's 3rd seed; Azarenka took out the 2nd seed, Kim Clijsters, in the quarterfinals. Even though she is a former champion, Azarenka has moved rather quietly through this event, and her level of play has risen with ever new match.

Earlier today, Andrea Petkovic saw her excellent run end when she played Maria Sharapova. Sharapova won, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2, and that scoreline tells you what you need to know. "More than anything," Sharapova said after the match, "I sensed that she was tired--probably a lot of the dancing that she's been doing--and I took advantage of it." That is, of course, a reference to the dance the 21st seed does after a victory. By the way, Petkovic says she is doing away with this routine, so we have seen her last dance, but I may keep calling her Dance Party--it's a habit.

Sharapova, the 16th seed, has a 2-2 record against Azarenka. The final takes place on Saturday, and it's going to be a loud one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clijsters upset by Azarenka in Miami

It was anything but an exciting match, but 8th seed and 2009 champion Victoria Azarenka probably doesn't care. Azarenka faced a completely flat Kim Clijsters in the Sony Ericsson Open quarterfinals tonight, and pulled off a 6-3, 6-3 victory without having to break much of a sweat. Not that Azarenka didn't have her own problems: She served really well, but she would frequently make unforced errors just when she had set up those good serves to produce winners. Still, the 2nd seed gave the impression that she wanted to be put out of her misery, and Azarenka obliged.

Clijsters has been having some problems with her shoulder ever since the Australian Open, and I don't know whether the injury factored into tonight's meltdown. "I just didn't feel good out there," she said after the match. We haves seen this type of thing before; when Clijsters goes off, she goes way off. But, after getting what looked like an impossible victory against Ana Ivanovic, it did seem odd that the defending champion would have so much difficulty in the quarterfinals.

Vera Zvonareva, the tournament's 3rd seed, was another story. She defeated 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 63, and will play Azarenka in the semifinals. Meanwhile, on the other end of the draw, Andrea Petkovic will play Maria Sharapova, assuming that Sharapova's ankle is stable enough for her to play.

In doubles, 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova defeated wild cards Sloane Stephens and Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets to advance to the semifinals.

Passing shots

Ana Ivanovic has withdrawn from Marbella. She and Andrea Petkovic have also withdrawn from doubles in Miami.

Today is Sam Stosur's birthday. The defending champion was given a party in the Althea Gibson Clubhouse at the Family Circle Cup site. Also on the site is Patty Schnyder, who has begun practicing.

The Charleston qualifying field includes Sania Mirza, Heather Watson, Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe, Irina Falconi, Michelle Larcher De Brito, Jamie Hampton, and Alison Riske.

Greg Garber writes about Victoria Azarenka.

WTA Backspin looks back at some special players.

"I lost a match. It happens. If she had a plan, good for her," Caroline Wozniacki said of her loss to Andrea Petkovic in Miami.

It's time to get to know Noppawan Lertcheewakarn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Clijsters squeaks into Miami quarterfinals

Kim Clijsters won the first set 7-6. Ana Ivanovic won the second, 6-3, then went up 5-1 in the third. She held five match points, too, but it was the 2nd seed who walked away with the win when she prevailed 7-5 in a third set tiebreak. Clijsters double-faulted eleven times in the match, but has to be given credit for making an amazing comeback against the 19th seed.

There were some upsets today. Top seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta were defeated by 8th seeds Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Anabel Medina Garrigues. The Spanish team defeated Dulko and Pennetta 7-5, 6-4 in a match that featured twelve breaks of serve. In singles, 6th seed Jelena Jankovic lost her quarterfinal match to 21st seed Andrea Petkovic. Petkovic, who has always had talent but who used to fall short in the nerve department, seetms to have turned that situation around. She defeated Jankovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, giving her an excellent follow-up to her defeat of world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

And then there was the quarterfinal match between Alexandra Dulgheru and Maria Sharapova, which seemed like the Match That Wouldn't End. At 5-all in the third, serving at 30-15, Sharapova left the court to have the trainer look at her foot after she turned her ankle (she had called for the trainer earlier, but had changed her mind); she then received medical treatment. Dulgheru can be somewhat of a wall (talk about fitness), and she was happy to hang in and continually retrieve balls and wait for the 16th seed to make errors. They played almost three hours and 29 minutes, and broke each other 18 times. It went on for so long that Dulgheru did a costume change. Once she hurt her foot, Sharapova really started taking it to the 26th seed, with Dulgheru giving it right back, as she moved Sharapova around the court as much as possible.

Sharapova, who made 76 unforced errors (including 17 double faults), won the match 3-6, 7-6, 7-6. Dulgheru's relentless defense game almost paid off, but not quite. How Sharapova will fare in terms of foot strength and energy is unknown, but she put herself back into the top 10, no matter what. She also did a very good job of working around her injury and the feelings that obviously accompanied it.

Several years ago, I watched Nadia Petrova beat down Sharapova, and throughout the match, Petrova's name was mentioned only once. Commentators Mary Joe Fernandez and Cliff Drysdale could not stop talking about Sharapova, even as she was being hammered by her countrywoman. I thought of that tonight when I had Tennis Channel on (the picture is more stable than on Tennis TV, so sometimes I have them both running). To hear Lindsay Davenport go on, Dulgheru wasn't even there. Funny--I saw Dulgheru play her heart out, change the pace when she needed to, switch from defense to offense, and skillfully run down balls that would have created winners against other players. But Davenport would not give her any credit. Even when co-commentator Ted Robinson said "Dulgheru deserves a lot of respect," Davenport changed the subject.

I enjoy watching Sharapova as much as the next person, and--as anyone who reads this blog knows--I have not been part of the "Sharapova's career is over" trend. This isn't about Sharapova: It's about a commentator's ridiculous fawning over a player--which is problematic in itself--and her subsequent dismissal of the opponent. It took Sharapova three and a half error-strewn hours to overcome Dulgheru; maybe the 26th seed could be acknowledged as at least being part of the match?

(And while I'm on the subject of Tennis Channel: The Family Circle Cup in Charleston, a premier event, takes place next week, but according to Tennis Channel, it doesn't exist. The commentators have the women heading straight from Miami to Europe.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Radwanska defeats Schiavone for the first time

Before today, Agnieszka Radwanska had never beaten Francesca Schiavone. The Italian led their head-to-head 4-0 (all matches on hard courts). Radwanska, who said after the match that she wanted to win at least one match against the 5th seed, got her wish. Radwanska, seeded 9th, hit sixteen winners and made only eight unforced errors, defeating Schiavone 6-0, 6-2. Schiavone's forehand betrayed her, and she made one error after another.

Joining Radwanska in the quarterfinals is 16th seed Maria Sharapova, who defeated 4th seed Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-1.

Out of competition in doubles are 7th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sand and Meghann Shaughnessy. They were defeated by wild card Sloane Stephens (who has an outstanding junior doubles record) and Yanina Wickmayer.

You make me feel like dancing

Today in Miami, Andrea Petkovic did what Daniela Hantuchova was not quite able to do--the 21st seed took number 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki out of the Sony Ericsson Open. Whereas Hantuchova (who has a history of problems closing big matches) couldn't hold her nerve, Petkovic had no problem in that area. She also had no problem hitting repeatedly to Wozniacki's forehand and moving way inside the baseline to take charge of Wozniacki's second serves.

The German player (known on this blog as Dance Party) said after the match that she went in with a solid plan, and she stuck with that plan, even after losing a set. Petkovic credits working out a game plan with her coach and staying on that plan as the reason she was able to defeat Wozniacki. The top seed held three set points on Petkovic's serve in the first set, but Petkovic saved them all, and went on to hold and break. This kind of mental resolve helped take the 21st seed to victory. "Most players think they can overpower Caroline," Petkovic said, "but that's the wrong approach. She brings every ball back. I mixed it up, and thankfully, it worked in the end."

After the match, Petkovic performed her customary boogie on the court, and she really had something to dance about; she is the first German player to reach the Miami quartefinals since Anke Huber did so ten years ago. Dance Party now faces 6th seed Jelena Jankovic, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-1, 6-3 in the fourth round.

2011 World Team Tennis finals to be held in Charleston

The 2011 World Team Tennis finals will be held in Charleston, South Carolina July 22-24 at the Family Circle Tennis Center, it was announced today. This is the first time the event has ever been held in Charleston, and only the second time that it has been held outside of a franchise city.

In making the announcement, WTT CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss said: "Charleston has such a rich tennis history, and it's a market that we have wanted to bring World Team Tennis to for a long time." WTT Co-founder Billie Jean King was also on hand to make the announcement, and she recalled the early days of the Family Circle Cup and the historical importance of the tournament. "Great tennis always finds a home in Charleston," King said.

King's vision, which became World Team Tennis, was to create a team atmosphere for the sport so that men and women could learn cooperation and leadership skills together. World Team Tennis also gives fans a chance to see both younger players who are on the rise and favorite players who have retired from the two professional tours. 2011 marks the 36th season of World Team Tennis. Players who have signed up to play this year include Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Kim Clijsters, Melanie Oudin, Lisa Raymond, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Kveta Peschke, Lindsay Davenport, and Liezel Huber.

World Team Tennis consists of an eastern conference and a western conference. Each team plays fourteen matches--seven at home, and seven away. The top two teams from each conference will compete during the finals. The Eastern Conference Championships will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 22, the Western Conference Champtionships will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, and the WTT finals take place at 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 24. All matches will be played in the Family Circle Magazine Stadium, where a hard court will be laid over the regular green clay court.

Last year, Charleston was named America's Best Tennis Town, and the Family Circle Cup, a premier WTA event, is the only women's clay tournament played in the U.S. The Family Circle Cup was the first WTA tournament to be televised, and the first to offer $100,000 in prize money. It is also the only WTA tournament to enjoy the support of the same major sponsor (Meredith Corporation) continuously throughout its history.

The idea to host the WTT finals came about when Family Circle Tennis Center general manager Bob Moran and some of his staff traveled to Washington, DC last July to see the Washington Kastles play. Moran then met with Kloss and King, both of whom were enthusiastic about the idea of bring World Team Tennis to Charleston.

Tickets for the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO go on sale April 4 at 10 a.m. EDT. Weekend packages range from $50 to $150, and single session tickets range from $15 to $55. Tickets can be purchases through Ticketmaster, the Family Circle Cup website, or by calling the Family Circle Tennis Center box office (800-677-2293).

Family Circle Cup qualifying begins on April 2, and main draw play begins on April 4.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pavlyuchenkova defeats Kvitova in Miami

12th seed Petra Kvitova, whose game was on fire early in the season, was defeated by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open today. Kvitova sustained an abdominal injury a couple of months ago, and that slowed her down; she has not returned to the form that enabled her to win two titles at the beginning of the year. Pavlyuchenkova, who is seeded 17th in Miami, posted a score of 6-4, 6-7, 6-0.

It took her three sets, but  8th seed Victoria Azarenka was able to fight off an in-form Dominika Cibulkova, Kim Clijsters was taken to three sets by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, but the 2nd seed prevailed, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. 5th seed Francesca Schiavone defeated Lourdes Dominguez Lino in a close two sets.

Indian Wells champions Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina lost to Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round today, and 6th seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova were upset by wild cards Ana Ivanovic and Andrea Petkovic.

Petkovic will meet top  seed Caroline Wozniacki in singles play in the fourth round. Petkovic, who is seeded 21st, has never played Wozniacki at a WTA event.

Peschke & Srebotnik make second straight first-round exit

Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, seeded 2nd at the Sony Ericsson Open, were defeated 7-5, 7-6 yesterday in the first round by Shahar Peer and Peng Shuai. They were also defeated in the first round in Indian Wells, where they were the defending champions.

Indian Wells champions Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina upset 5th seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie, and advanced to the second round.

In singles, Daniela Hantuchova came back from a 1-6 first set loss against Caroline Wozniacki, and sent the second set into a tiebreak. Both before and during the tiebreak, Hantuchova had opportunities to win the set, but she was unable to utilize them. Serving at 7-8 in the tiebreak, she double-faulted, giving the top seed the victory. This dynamics of this match were not unusual for Hantuchova: She figured out how to beat her opponent, but she could not go the extra step and execute her plan.

16th seed Maria Sharapova had an easy time of it against wild card Sabine Lisicki, who is less than a shadow of the player she was in 2008. Lisicki has been troubled by illnesses and injuries since winning Charleston, and has not been able to make any type of comeback. Sharapova's next opponent is 4th seed Sam Stosur.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Peng defeats Kuznetsova in Miami

Peng Shuai continued her 2011 success today by upsetting 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-1 at the Sony Ericsson Open. Peng, who has yet to drop a set, advances to the Miami quarterfinals for the first time. Kuznetsova won the tournament in 2006.

In second round play yesterday, seeds Kaia Kanepi, Alisa Kleybanova and Tsvetana Pironkova were all defeated. Wild card Dinara Safina took a set off of 3rd seed Vera Zvonareva, but Zvonareva prevailed. Yaroslava Shvedova strained a muscle near her knee--the one in which she sustained the injury--and had to retire against Jarmila Groth. Shvedova reports that she needs to do even more leg strengthening.

In doubles, recently retired Rennae Stubbs showed up, but she and partner Jill Craybas were defeated. Top seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta advanced to the second round.

Combined (as in, the WTA and the ATP are both playing on the same days) tournaments are supposed to be good for the WTA. They certainly aren't good for me, as a fan.Tennis TV, the only venue I like to watch with the sound on, is showing 42 ATP matches in Miami, and 12 WTA matches.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Passing shots

The Fed Cup tie between Japan and Argentina will be held in Kobe, Japan July 16-17. The event, scheduled to be played in Tokyo, had to be postponed because of the current crisis in Japan.

You can get to know Sloane Stephens. (One of her interview answers may surprise you.)

Yanina Wickmayer, Alisa Kleybanova, Peng Shuai, Jelena Dokic, Rebecca Marino, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Maria Kirilenko will all be competing in the Family Circle Cup in Charleston next month. The field also includes three former champions--Nadia Petrova, Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur. And yes, Patty Schnyder will be there!

And speaking of the Family Circle Cup: Alyssa D’Orazio, a junior at the College of Charleston, has been awarded this year's $5,000 Family Circle Cup scholarship. 

Caroline Wozniacki issues a challenge.

Dominika Cibulkova talks about racquets, strings, Lacoste outfits, and her game.

Friday cat blogging--sleep mode edition

Seeds out in 2nd round in Miami

Li Na, the 7th seed in Miami, was defeated 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 today by Johanna Larsson. The three-hour match, Li's first at the Sony Ericsson Open, was the latest of several disappointing results for the Australian Open runner-up.

10th seed Shahar Peer was upset by Anabel Medina Garrigues, who is showing signs of getting past a very long slump in singles. Iveta Benesova defeated 13th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-0; Pennetta isn't having a good first quarter.

The upsets didn't stop there. Peng Shuai defeated 20th seed Aravane Rezai, and Elena Vesnina defeated 23rd seed Yanina Wickmayer, who was a semifinalist in Indian Wells. Nadia Petrova, seeded 18th, retired against Sabine Lisicki because of an episode of dizziness.

In doubles, 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova were upset by Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Yesterday, number 1 qualifying seed Jelena Dokic was defeated 6-4, 6-4 by Dinara Safina. Safina will play 3rd seed Vera Zvonareva in the second round.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bartoli enters Family Circle Cup

World number 10 and Indian Wells runner-up Marion Bartoli has entered the 2011 Family Circle Cup. The upcoming event will be Bartoli's seventh appearance in Charleston, where she has gone as far as the semifinals. Bartoli holds five WTA singles titles, and was the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2007. She is generally considered one of the best returners of serve on the tour.

The Family Circle Cup will be played April 2-11 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. The field includes world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, defending champion Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Daniela Hantuchova, Nadia Petrova, and Maria Sharapova.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marino out in 1st round of Miami qualifying

Rebecca Marino, the number 2 qualifying seed at the Sony Ericsson Open, lost today in the first round of qualifying. Marino was defeated 6-1, 7-5 by Jamie Hampton. 3rd seed Magdalena Rybarikova also went out in the first round. Rybarikova lost to wild card Michelle Larcher De Brito.

Passing shots

Joel Drucker wishes other WTA players would emulate Marion Bartoli's strong offensive game.

Kim Clijsters, who has been troubled by a shoulder injury, has been practicing in Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open.

The Fed Cup tie between Japan and Argentina, scheduled for April 16-17 in Tokyo, has been postponed for three months. Japan will have an opportunity to choose the venue.

The top ten has changed a bit since the completion of the BNP Paribas Open. Francesca Schiavone went from 5 to 4, Sam Stosur went from 4 to 5, Li Na went from 7 to 6, Victoria Azarenka moved from 9 to 8, and Venus Williams went from 8 to 9. The significant move, however, was Indian Wells runner-up Marion Bartoli's. She went from 17 to 10. Former number 10 Agnieszka Radwanska is now number 14.

Serena Williams is out and about in Los Angeles, probably on a limited basis.

"Xperia Hot Shots," the YouTube show that follows selected players on the tour, begins tomorrow. Participating are Sabine Lisicki, Dominika Cibulkova, Heather Watson, Alize Cornet, Sorana Cirstea, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunshine in the desert

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki won her 14th WTA title today, and it's a big one: Wozniacki defeated 15th seed Marion Bartoli 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in a highly entertaining final that had just about everything a fan could want. Wozniacki's speed and Bartoli's aggression created a good deal of drama on court, at least in the two final sets.

Bartoli's on again-off again serve failed her in the first set, and as a result, all her otherwise-good effort could not save her from a 1-6 loss. But she came roaring back in the next set, serving in high form and spending a lot of time at the net, where she hit a number of successful volleys that she set up with the aggression that marks her game when she is in top form.

But in the third set, we saw a tired Bartoli. Broken right away, she was down 0-2, 0-40, yet held, which seemed to put breath back into her. Down 2-4, Bartoli went up 40-0, then found herself at deuce, but she held then, too. Wozniacki's forehand became shaky in the third set, and Bartoli--broken twice--got one of the breaks back. But the Frenchwoman looked too exhausted to continue playing at the high level necessary to compete against Wozniacki. The top seed got frustrated a few times, and she looked fragile now and then, but she was so fast and got back so many balls, Bartoli just couldn't stay with her.

Despite its ups and downs--maybe because of them--this match displayed, at various times, the very best of both players. Bartoli now returns to the top 10, though she will be busy defending semifinal points in Miami next week.  As for Wozniacki--she has now won a very big tournament, which puts her an important step closer to winning a major. The world number 1 is a model of fitness, and when I say that she's a human backboard, I mean it in a very good way. Like the great Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Wozniacki rarely meets a ball she can't run down, and she almost always appears energized. Shots that would be clear winners against most other players find their way to the Dane's racquet, and--more often than not--she returns them cleanly.

Last year, Wozniacki lost to Justine Henin in the Miami quarterfnals. Anything can happen, of course, but it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to say that she will do better this year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mirza & Vesnina win Indian Wells

Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, seeded 8th at the BNP Paribas Open, won the doubles title today by defeating Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy 6-0, 7-5. To arrive at the final, Mirza and Vesnina defeated the teams of Hlavackova/Hradecka, Benesova/Zahlavova Strycova (7), Jans/Rosolska, and Hantuchova/Radwanska.

According to Matt Cronin, the winning team almost didn't play because of Vesnina's wrist injury, but Mirza, who knows a lot about wrist injuries, reportedly helped her new partner to cope. Vesnina became available to play on a new team when her regular partner, Vera Zvonareva, decided to concentrate on singles only.

The heat was hot, and the ground was dry

But the air was full of sound.

The screams of Maria Sharapova seemed to take on a new meaning last night in the California desert, as she won only three games and made 41 unforced errors in her semifinal match against world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Sharapova. seeded 16th in Indian Wells,  looked lost--almost from the first moment--and failed to hold serve in the first set. She waited longer than is her custom to strike, she flubbed what few volleys she set up, she had repeated service problems, and she missed the lines on many occasions. Wozniacki did not find it necessary to do much more than serve as a backboard for the Russian's errant shots. After an hour and 20 minutes, she advanced to the BNP Paribas Open final.

Yesteday's other semifinal match featured Marion Bartoli at her absolute best, serving and returning at a very high level against 23rd seed Yanina Wickmayer. Bartoli had a moment, at the beginning of the second set, in which she double-faulted three times consecutively, but other than that, her serve was on fire, and she ended the match with ten aces and an 83% first serve win percentage. The 15th seed defeated Wickmayer 6-1, 6-3.

Should Bartoli (who dealt with a stomach virus earlier in the tournament) play in the final the way she did in the semifinals, there will be an exciting contest tomorrow. But between Bartoli's physical fragility and the ever-changing success of her service game, all we can do is be optimistic that she repeats her performance. Wozniacki, on the other hand, has taken consistency to its highest level.

In doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy will compete today in the final against Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina.  Mattek-Sands and Shaugnessy received a walkover in the semifinals from 6th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko. Mirza and Vesnina defeated Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two things you can count on

Caroline Wozniacki will get at least one walkover or retirement during a tournament.

Victoria Azarenka will wind up lying on the court, limping off of it, or both.

In today's BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal, we got it all. Top seed Wozniacki played her friend Azarenka, and after only three games, Azarenka sustained a left hip flexor strain, and--after being advised by her coach--retired from the match.

Azarenka has struggled repeatedly with hip and thigh injuries. She went through a famous food poisoning (still wrongly labeled "heat illness" by the press) incident, and an even more famous incident in which she passed out on the court after getting a concussion before the match. As for Wozniacki, she is so often the recipient of retirements and walkovers, I've come to expect one every tournament.

In the last of the quarterfinal matches, Maria Sharapova and Peng Shuai went three sets, and Sharapova prevailed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. And though it still sounds odd to say it, Sharapova is seeded 16th.

Venus Williams withdraws from Sony Ericsson Open

Venus Williams withdrew from the Sony Ericsson Open today because of the abdominal injury she sustained during the Australian Open. Williams is a three-time champion at the Miami tournament, and she was the runner-up last year. The tournament begins on March 22.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bartoli and Wickmayer go to BNP Paribas Open semifinals

It wasn't easy for her, but Marion Bartoli became the first player to advance to the semifinals in Indian Wells today. Troubled by the heat, the 15th seed engaged with 19th seed Ana Ivanovic in a match that contained thirteen breaks serve, eight of which occurred in the second set. Bartoli said that the cooler weather in the first set definitely helped her, and in the second set, she just had to slow down and take her time. Bartoli is, of course, known for a certain degree of physical fragility; today, she fought through it and defeated Ivanovic 6-4, 7-6. Ivanovic, I should add, certainly wasn't the player she was in the previous round.

The second quarterfinal match was a more efficient affair. 23rd seed Yanina Wickmayer took control of the match right away, and never let go. She defeated 10th seed Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-3. Wickmayer had a solid 74/60 first and second serve win percentage.

In doubles quarterfinal play, 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova were defeated 6-4, 6-3 by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy. Also, 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova were stunningly upset 6-1, 6-0 by Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska. (Last year, Daniela Hantuchova said that she was dropping doubles, but she has evidently changed her mind; you have to have a chart to keep up with who's who on the doubles teams.)

Passing shots

Doug Robson interviewed Serena Williams for USA Today. The former world number 1 has had a really difficult time lately, and talks quite openly about it.

Ana Ivanovic has parted ways with trainer Marja Lojanica. 

Shelby Rogers, last year's SMASH Junior Cup winner, has received a wild card into the main draw of the Family Circle Cup.

Guess who's playing mixed doubles in the U.S. open qualifying sectionals?! This broadcast is a bit long, but definitely worth listening to.

“It's never easy to play, I think, your countryman or countrygirl." That quote, unfortunately, comes from Novak Djokovic (from whom I expect more than, say, Brett Haber or Lindsay Davenport).

Steve Flink reviews Allen Fox's new Book, Tennis: Winning the Mental Match.

Chris Oddo interviews Bud Collins about the WTA.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (who recently hit her first winning tweener) will make her debut as a BBC commentator during Wimbledon this summer.

Close matches in Tuesday Indian Wells competition

There were some long, close matches at the BNP Paribas Open yesterday. 8th seed Victoria Azarenka defeated 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, Peng Shuai defeated 18th seed Nadia Petrova 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 10th seed Shahar Peer defeated 5th seed Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, and 23rd seed Yanina Wickmayer defeated 25th seed Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 7-5. The first three of these matches lasted from two and a half to three hours.

Some matches weren't so close. 6th seed Jelena Jankovic appeared flat and very out of sorts in her match against 19th seed Ana Ivanovic. Jankovic likes to get on with things (her peers used to call her "JJ Express"), but the way she was rushing along, she appeared to not even want to be on the court. Ivanovic defeated her  6-4, 6-2, and we are left--yet again--to ask: What's the matter with JJ?

Dinara Safina's great run was halted by 16th seed Maria Sharapova, who defeated her 6-2, 6-0. Safina had all kinds of problems with her serve, and was outplayed from start to finish by Sharapova. One hopes that Safina doesn't take this loss to heart too much, since she has worked hard to get herself out of a big slump brought on my serious injury and lack of confidence.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki needed three sets to defeat 22nd seed Alisa Kleybanova, but she got the job done. And 2nd seed Kim Clijsters won her first set against 15th seed Marion Bartoli, then retired in the second set because of a shoulder injury she has had for a while (Tennis Channel called the retirement "shocking," meaning that, as usual, they were unaware--in fact, they even said they were unaware--of an injury Clijsters has spoken about for several weeks now). Clijsters was considered a favorite to win the BNP Paribas Open, and now she is out, along with the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th seeds.

The two highest remaining seeds, Wozniacki and Azarenka, will play each other in the quarterfinals.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Passing shots

The use of Hawk-Eye has been extended at Fed Cup.

I don't call her Thrill Ride for nothing.

The BBC is considering taking Wimbledon off of its broadcasting schedule. Any such change would not occur until 2014.

Thank goodness for Tennis TV, which is now easier than ever to use, and which keeps me from having to watch Tennis Channel with the sound off.

Venus Williams will return to the tour at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

You can get to know Christina McHale here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thrill Ride dumps Stosur in the desert

Dinara Safina made it to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open tonight by defeating 4th seed Sam Stosur 7-6, 6-4. Safina played extremely well in the first set, though she wasn't able to exploit opportunities to close the set before it went to a tiebreak. Her failure to close didn't get her down, though; she blew past Stosur 7-2 in that tiebreak. The former world number 1 lost her way in the second set, but kept herself together and--in classic Thrill Ride fashion--eventually came back (and took advantage of an error-prone Stosur). The problematic part is that Safina double-faulted 16 times. Nevertheless, her victory over a top seed at a premier tournament made her obviously happy, and it was a lovely moment.

Maria Sharapova looked an awful lot like herself when she defeated 20th seed Aravane Rezai in straight sets. 22nd seed Alisa Kleybanova upset 13th seed Flavia Pennetta, who had defeated the Russian in their four previous matches. Nadia Petrova ended wild card Christina McHale's run, and 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat her former doubles partner, 24th seed Maria Kirilenko. Also advancing were top seed Caroline Wozniacki (def. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez), 8th seed Victoria Azarenka (def. Urszula Radwanska), and Peng Shuai (def. Lucie Hradecka, who served for the match at 5-4 in the third set).

In doubles, 7th seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova were upset by Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina in 2nd round play.

Zvonareva upset by Cibulkova in Indian Wells

It took her over three hours, and she had to go through a lot of match points, but Dominika Cibulkova--a bundle of nerves as she tried to eliminate the 3rd seed Sunday night in the 3nd round of the BNP Paribas Open--finally defeated Vera Zvonareva 4-6, 7-6, 6-4. Cibulkova, the 25th seed, slowly built up momentum, and by the middle of the second set, she was hitting stinging groundstrokes off both sides, brushing the lines, and effectively catching Zvonareva off-guard over and over.

Zvonareva served at 15-40 at 1-3 in the third set, but Cibulkova could not break her. Again, at 2-4, the 3rd seed served at 15-40, and this time, she was broken at 30. But the Cibulkova's resolve collapsed, and she was quickly broken back when she served for the match. Zvonareva had an easy hold, hitting two consecutive aces, and Cibulkova served for the match again at 5-4. Up 40-0, Cibulkova saw the easy win melt away as she struggled to even develop her service motion. At that point, it appeared that nerves had so overtaken her that she would be broken again, but she prevailed.

Zvonareva, who won the event in 2009, wasn't the only one to go. Earlier in the week, in the 2nd round, 7th seed Li Na was dismissed by countrywoman Peng Shuai, two-time champion Daniela Hantuchova was defeated by Dinara Safina, and wild card Christina McHale upset 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 7-6.

In 3rd round play, 2nd seed Kim Clijsters, who's having a lingering problem with her shoulder, looked all out of sorts against Sara Errani, and was lucky to get out of three sets and move on. And--though she held two match points on her opponent's serve--17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost to 10th seed Shahar Peer.

Defending champion and 6th seed Jelena Jankovic won her match against Julia Goerges in straight sets, and executed match point with her signature backhand down the line. Jankovic was expressive, often smiling, throughout the match, just like old times. Her next opponent will be Ana Ivanovic.

In doubles 2nd round play, 6th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko defeated Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur, and 5th seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie were upset by Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tops teams out of Indian Wells in 1st round

Yesterday in Indian Wells, 2nd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik were upset in the first round by Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska. Today, top seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta were upset by wild cards Jelena Jankovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Jankovic and Pavlyuchenkova defeated the number 1 seeds 7-5, 7-5.

3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova, and 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova both advanced to the second round.

Passing shots

Andrea Petkovic, who is blogging from Indian Wells, recently had a 45-minute practice hit with Steffi Graf. Petkovic says she plans to "reinvent" herself.

You can now get to know Rebecca Marino.

News flash! Reuters has learned that Kim Clijsters balances motherhood with a career! Because women, like trained seals, have to "balance" everything.

Dinara Safina considered retiring from professional tennis after the Australian Open.

Getting a beating when you lose a set, getting slapped when you have a bad practice, seeing the father of one of your peers physically assaulted...some of the WTA's drama hasn't been the good kind.

Anna Chakvetadze, who passed out during her second round match in Dubai, retired today in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open because of dizziness.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Zahlavova Strycova knocks Kvitova out of Indian Wells

Though the upset of the 12th seed in the second round of a big tournament may not sound--on the face of it--like news, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova's upset of Petra Kvitova at the BNP Paribas Open is notable. Kvitova, who impressed the tennis world last season, and who has already won two tournaments this season, was expected by many tennis fans to make it to the more serious stages in the draw in Indian Wells.

On the other hand, there probably isn't a more "dangerous floater" than Zahlavova Strycova these days. In Paris, Kvitova defeated Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) in a dramatic three hour and fourteen-minute match; this time, Zahlavova Strycova prevailed, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. She went on to win her 2nd round doubles match, too. She and partner Iveta Benesova defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6, 6-7, 10-5. The Czech team is seeded 7th.

Wozniacki enters Family Circle Cup

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki has entered the 2011 Family Circle Cup, which will be played April 2-10 in Charleston. This will be Wozniacki's third appearance in Charleston. In 2009, she reached the final, losing to Sabine Lisicki;  in 2010, she got as far as the semifinals, but had to retire in her semifinal match because of an ankle injury.

Wozniacki recently won her 13th singles title in Dubai, and she was the runner-up the next week in Doha.

In announcing her entry, Wozniacki said: "This is an event I’ve come close to winning in the past, and I’m looking forward to another shot at this historic title."

Friday cat blogging--cozy at home edition

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3rd time a charm for Radwanska

For three consecutive tournaments, Urszula Radwanska and Bojana Jovanovski have faced each other. Jovanovski won the first two, but today in Indian Wells, Radwanska was the winner. It wasn't easy, though. She served for the match twice, then Jovanovski served for, and finally--after almost two hours and 50 minutes--Radwanska won 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6).

Wild cards Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale won their first round matches, as did qualifiers Laura Pous-Tio, Zhang Shuai and Lucie Hradecka. Elena Baltacha saved four match points and beat Roberta Vinci, and 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated the wild card team of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva.

Yesterday, wild cards Sania Mirza and Coco Vandeweghe won their matches, and qualifiers Alize Cornet and Monica Niculescu also won (Mirza won by retirement). Both Melanie Oudin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands advanced to the second round, as did the wild card team of Jelena Jankovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Passing shots

The WTA site, in recognition of International Women's Day, has posted a gallery of black and white photos of former tennis stars. The first one is of great interest because it is a portrait of Suzanne Lenglen, and we are so accustomed to seeing her in action shots. Also, be sure to check out Frankie Durr and Topspin.

Venus Williams recently joined the 311 cruise and added to her karaoke routine.

Sony has purchased Hawk-Eye. (Good luck to the ITF if they ever need to get a part replaced.)

You can get to know Zhang Shaui.

En route to Indian Wells, Caroline Wozniacki visited Serena Williams at Williams' house, and reports that the former number 1 is in good spirits as she recuperates from illness and surgery.

Main draw play begins tomorrow in Indian Wells. Defending champion Jelena Jankovic is in the same quarter as Petra Kvitova, Marion Bartoli and Kim Clijsters. Andrea Petkovic and Jarmila Groth are in that quarter, too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

2 former champions enter Family Circle Cup

Sabine Lisicki, who won the Family Circle Cup in 2009 when she was seeded 16th, has entered the 2011 event. Lisicki, who has suffered through a long series of injuries, illnesses and rehab, was not able to participate last year. The German player made WTA history in 2009, however, when she became the lowest seed and the lowest ranked player (63) ever to win in Charleston.

What I recall most about that event was how relaxed Lisicki was. She played the piano on the Grand Lawn, tended bar, and just looked like she was having so much fun throughout the entire tournament. After upsetting Venus Williams in the third round and Marion Bartoli in the semifinals, Lisicki easily defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final, and looked as though she were headed toward something big. It will be good to have the affable German back in Charleston.

Also entering this year is 2006 champion Nadia Petrova, who was also part of the 2010 championship doubles team (Liezel Huber was her partner). Petrova also won the 2009 doubles title, with partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Petrova's 2006 Family Circle Cup victory was part of a major clay run that resulted, most unfortunately, with Petrova's injuring herself during practice right before the commencement of the French Open. In Charleston that year, she defeated Patty Schnyder in an exciting three-set final. This will be Petrova's seventh Family Circle Cup appearance.

Qualifying for the Family Circle Cup begins on April 2, and main draw play starts on April 4. The field this year also includes defending champion Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchova, and Melanie Oudin.

The Family Circle Cup, a premier WTA event, in played on green clay. This year's special Game! Set! Rock! Tennis, Amplified, presented by Dove, will include an exhibition match featuring former champions Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, in addition to former ATP stars Todd Martin and John McEnroe.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pavlyuchenkova defends Monterrey title

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, seeded second at the Monterrey Open, defended her 2010 title today by defeating top seed Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. This is Pavlyuchenkova's third WTA title. She is currently ranked number 19 in the world.

The entertaining Czech pair, Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, won the doubles championship. Seeded 1st, Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova defeated 2nd seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King 6-7, 6-2, 10-6. Today's victory is the team's seventh title. Benesova holds a total of eleven doubles titles, and Zahlavova Strycova holds a total of twelve.

Passing shots

Conchita Martinez has been hired by Tennis Australia to give some guidance to some of the players.

Christina McHale, who received a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open main draw, is currently working with USTA coach Jay Gooding.

Surely by now, readers have heard about the Northwestern University computer study that generated the result that Jimmy Connors is the greatest tennis player of all time. Aside from the fact that discussions of who is "the greatest of all time" are ridiculous to begin with, this particular study has another flaw not being talked about: Connors, according to the study, is actually the greatest male player of all time, but the assumption by those who designed the study was that only men could even be considered. Such an assumption once again promotes the false (but very popular, with such players as Tim Henman, John McEnroe, Andy Murray, and John Isner "ranking" WTA players within the ATP) notion that the men's game and the women's game are the same. So please add sexism to the flaws in the study that are being discussed throughout the tennis media. The scientists at Northwestern are, of course, not alone. Members of the sports media constantly talk about the "greatest player of all time" when they are actually referring to the "greatest male player of all time."

bleacher report picks Jennifer Capriati's defeat of Martina Hingis in the 2002 Australian Open final as number 34 in the "The 50 Greatest Comebacks in Sports History." There are three tennis moments in the top 50.

Here are some photos from Maria Sharapova's Tatler photo shoot.

Retired doubles great Virginia Ruano Pascual has been named the new director of the Open Castilla Y Leon Villa de El Espinar. Ruano Pascual won 43 titles, including ten majors.

From Jon Wertheim: "...a recently retired player was telling me that she's observed a rash of eating disorders among her colleagues. 'If I see a player's results suddenly fall, the first thing I assume is that she either has an eating disorder or a complicated relationship with her coach.' She says that if it weren't for eating disorders, the top 20 would look very different."

Dokic wins Malaysian Open

Today in Kuala Lumpur, Jelena Dokic won her first WTA Tour title since 2002. Dokic defeated 5th seed Lucie Safarova 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, after Safarova served for the match in the second set. Dokic, thoughout the tournament, repeatedly came from behind to win, and mastered a series of tiebreaks. She won today's tiebreak 11-9, saving two match points along the way. She also served thirteen aces.

Before she left the tour, Dokic--who was once ranked number 4 in the world--won five titles, including championships in Rome, Tokyo and Moscow. In 2009, she made a dramatic and emotional run to the Australian Open quarterfinals, in which she lost to eventual runner-up Dinara Safina.

Safina, with partner Galina Voskoboeva, won the Malaysian Open doubles championship. Safina and Voskoboeva defeated Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Jessica Moore 7-5, 2-6, 10-5. Safina has fallen on hard times since she injured her back, so a win for her in doubles--though not as dramatic as Dokic's victory--is nevertheless a small change in fortune. Today's victory is the Russian's first championship doubles win in three years.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jankovic and Pavlyuchenkova to compete in Monterrey final

Defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenko stopped Gisela Dulko's Mexican streak today, defeating her 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals of the Monterrey Open. Dulko, the champion in Acapulco, had won eight straight matches. Pavlyuchenkova, who is seeded 4th in Monterrey, will play top seed Jelena Jankovic in the final. Jankovic defeated Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-2 today.

Top seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova won the second semifinal match today, defeating 3rd seeds Julia Goerges and Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-3. They will compete for the title against 2nd seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King.

Dokic to play Safarova in Kuala Lumpur final

Jelena Dokic has made a surprise run to the final of the Malaysian Open. She defeated Michaella Krajicek in straight sets in the semifinals, and will compete against 5th seed Lucie Safarova for the 2011 title. Safarova defeated 4th seed (and wild card) Jarmila Groth. Dokic, who was off the tour for several years, has not won a title since 2002.

In Monterrey, Gisela Dulko won her 8th straight Mexican clay match, defeating Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-0. Other quarterfinal winners were top seed Jelena Jankovic, 2nd seed and defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and 8th seed Polona Hercog.

Second seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King are in the final. Their opponents will be either the top-seeded team of Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova or 3rd seeds, Julia Goerges and Polona Hercog.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Passing shots

Here is an interview with Venus Williams from the recent Women of Influence luncheon in Toronto. Williams was one of the speakers.

Not surprisingly, Christopher Clarey gives us a reasoned and educational glimpse into what the future may hold for Serena Williams.

Pardon the noise--but I just won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open!

Remember when Yanina Wickmayer recently wore knee socks while playing, and we joked that she looked like Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and maybe she wanted to cover up her leg after a wall fell on her? This happened weeks ago, but I thought it was worth mentioning: Those were Mattek-Sands' socks, and yes, according to Mattek-Sands, Wickmayer's leg "looked like a Hollywood war casualty prop."

The BNP Paribas Open Pre-Qualifier begins today in Indian Wells. The winner will receive the remaining wild card into the main draw.

Dokic reaches semifinals of Malaysian Open

Jelena Dokic upset 8th seed Bojana Jovanovski today in straight sets to reach the semifinals of the Malaysian Open. Also going out was 2nd seed Marion Bartoli, who lost in straight sets to 5th seed Lucie Safarova. The other semifinalists are Michaella Krajicek (def. Anne Kremer) and Jarmila Groth (def. 6th seed Ayumi Morita). Groth has a wild card and is also seeded fourth.

Meanwhile, in Monterrey, top seed Jelena Jankovic has advanced to the quarterfinals, as has Gisela Dulko, who has now won seven straight matches in Mexico.

Friday cat blogging--Mardi Gras edition

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Krajicek upsets Kleybanova in Kuala Lumpur

Michaella Krajicek, once heralded as a future star of the WTA Tour, has had so many injuries and slumps that she is one of the tour's forgotten women. Today in Kuala Lumpur, however, Krajicek put her talent on display by upsetting 3rd seed Alisa Kleybanova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Krajicek served well, hitting thirteen aces, and she broke Kleybanova four times. Kleybanova, for her part, hasn't gotten off to a very good start this season.

Krajicek's next opponent will be tour veteran Anne Kremer. If she gets past Kremer (who upset Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round), she will play either Jelena Dokic or Bojana Jovanovski.

Lucie Safarova also won today. She defeated Dinara Safina 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

"Lighten up, it's the internet"

I know that readers of this blog are as sickened and disgusted as I am by some of the things that are being said about Serena Williams on various blogs and message boards. Many of the remarks (which I absolutely cannot repeat, they are so malevolent and/or obscene) are racist, many are misogynistic, and many are even gay-hating (interesting how people can slip that in).

I am already sad that Serena has had to undergo these health scares, and now seeing this barrage of insults tossed her way is horrible. But there is something else that's bothering me: Though I have (thankfully) seen many readers stand up to the racism, I have yet to see anyone stand up to the misogyny. No one is calling out the bigots for their hatred of women; in fact, no one is even mentioning it. Misogynistic remarks have been called out every now and then, but not for being what they are--antagonism toward females.

It's true that if Serena Williams were an African American man, she would be the object of ignorant and vile comments because of race. As it is, she is both African American and female, so she gets double the number of attacks. Of course, she's also hated by some because she's rich and she's a celebrity, and the rich and celebrated are constantly under attack.

Williams does not conform to my culture's image of "femininity." This is partly because she's black, and partly because she is a big woman. There is only so much that the WTA can airbrush out of Serena Williams. She also does not comform to the "accepted" "feminine" image because she makes such good use of her aggression as an athlete, and because she doesn't giggle and hair-flip her way through interviews.

Certainly, there are issues that fans have with Williams--I have a few, myself. But here's the thing: When you wish to criticize someone for her behavior or values and you attack her gender or race or ethnicity or sexual orientation in order to make the criticism, you are a bigot. Besides that, attacking someone who has just undergone two big health scares is beyond tacky. It isn't about "liking" Williams--it's about using her for a hate-fest target practice.

"Lighten up, it's the internet," one of the insult-hurlers told someone who challenged his/her insult of Williams. And that is what is has come to: Call out bigotry of any kind (but especially toward women and girls), and someone will tell you to "lighten up." Because insulting people because of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. is an Internet leisure activity.

Serena Williams is an all-time tennis great. There will never be another player like her. Her recent string of frightening health problems is extremely unfortunate, and is a matter of concern for her and her family, of course, but also for her peers and for fans of women's tennis. Those who wish her ill, or who have seen her misfortune as an opportunity to express contempt for the huge part of the world's population that is black, female, or both--can only wish they had the mental strength, self-belief, regenerative power, and talent that Williams has.

Their daughters have my pity.

Dulko beats Benesova and advances to Monterrey 2nd round

The last four times they have played, Iveta Benesova has defeated Gisela Dulko, but today in Monterrey, the Mexican Open champion had her second-ever win against the Czech player. Dulko served well (as I mentioned in a previous post, she has a great serve, but it isn't always available to her) and defeated 7th-seeded Benesova 6-2, 7-6.

6th seed Sara Errani was also defeated in the first round. Greta Arn took that match 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Wild card and 2nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Melanie Oudin. (These two were ranked 1 and 2 as juniors, and have a bit of a history: Pavlyuchenkova was, in fact, Oudin's first Russian victim in her memorable 2008 U.S. Open run.) The Russian player is the defending champion.

Top Monterrey seed Jelena Jankovic also advanced to the second round.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Passing shots

Flavia Pennetta is now co-ranked number 1 in the world in doubles, sharing the spot with partner Gisela Dulko, and achieving yet another "first" for Italian players.

Dinara Safina has won her first match since September. She defeated Han Xinyun 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Malaysian Open. Safina's victory broke a six-match losing streak.

Iveta Benesova is blogging from Monterrey.

Can sportswriters and reporters please stop writing "comeback" when they mean "come back" (the verb)?

Qualifier Anne Kremer, who upset Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round of the Malaysian Open, has advanced to the third round.

Aravane Rezai and Julia Goerges were both upset in the opening round of the Monterrey Open.

Laura Robson reports that she's now bowling with her right arm because her lefty spin created too many gutter balls.

Williams hopes to return to tour by early summer

Serena Williams is safe at home after being treated for a pulmonary embolism and hematoma in Los Angeles. "While I can't make any promises now on my return, I hope to be back by early summer," Williams announced today. "That said, my main goal is to make sure I get there safely."

It is not unusual for a pulmonary embolism patient to also have to be treated for a hematoma, since clot-dissolving medicines can cause bleeding. Patients suffering with a pulmonary embolism are treated with anti-coagulants, but they are sometimes also treated with clot-dissolving drugs.

Williams described her recent health experiences as "extremely hard, scary and disappointing." The former world number 1 continues to be under medical supervision, though she is no longer in the hospital.

Wild cards announced for Indian Wells

The following players have received wild cards into the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open:

Coco Vandeweghe
Christina McHale
Lauren Davis
Sloane Stephens
Vania King
Jill Craybas
Sania Mirza

Serena Williams treated for pulmonary embolism

Serena Williams recently said that she doesn't believe in luck, but if she did, she would describe hers as "bad" and "horrible." That works for me. Williams is currently recovering in a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, after receiving emergency treatment for a hematoma that was preceded by a pulmonary embolism. Williams' doctors have not disclosed the cause of the embolism, and it is likely that they will never know for sure what brought it about. However, the surgeries performed on Williams for her foot laceration injury--and the subsequent long-term use of a cast--would very likely be related to the development of a pulmonary embolism.

Williams will probably have to wait a while before she can take a lengthy airplane flight, but--with proper precautions--individuals who are treated for a pulmonary embolism can continue to fly.

Women Who Serve will deliver updates as soon as they are available. In the meantime, I will pass on the words of Pam Shriver: "I think the challenge to come back from this is in her character, it's right up her alley."