Sunday, March 31, 2013

Petrova and Srebotnik win Miami title

3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik won the Miami doubles championship today when they defeated wild cards Lisa Raymond and Laura Robson 6-1, 7-6. Petrova and Srebotnik won Sydney, and were then the runners-up in three tournaments before breaking through in Miami.

Petrova and Srebotnik have won three WTA titles together.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Passing shots--Charleston

Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale are scheduled to play each other in the opening round of the Family Circle Cup.

Both Ashleigh Barty and Vicky Duval lost in the first round of Charleston qualifying.

8-time Family Circle Cup champion Chris Evert is featured on CNN Open Court. Evert talks about preparing young players at her academy.

Today is 2010 champion Sam Stosur's birthday.

Young players to watch in Charleston include Garbine Muguruza, Kristina Mladenovic and Yulia Putintseva.

Serena Williams wins 6th Miami title

For almost two sets of today's Sony Open final, it looked like Maria Sharapova's Miami curse might finally be broken. But it wasn't to be, as Serena Williams defeated her 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and won her 6th Miami title.

When both players held easily in the opening games, I got the sense that there might actually be real contest in the making. The third game lasted 14 minutes, and Sharapova had three break chances, but could not convert any of them. At 4-all, Sharapova held a break point, which was wiped away with an ace from Williams, but then the Russian made the conversion on her second break point. She held at love when she served for the set.

Sharapova hadn't taken a set off of Williams for five years. The last time she had won a set against her was in Charleston in 2008.

Williams began the second set with a love hold, and after she had gotten a couple of points out of her system, she shot her a opponent a quick "You want a fight? You've got one" look that scared me, and I was sitting hundreds of miles away in my living room.

Williams broke in the third game, and was broken right back. Then, at 2-all, Sharapova broke Williams at love. Was it really happening? The Miami 3rd seed was moving into her forehand with the kind of finesse we never used to see from her, and she was using that forehand to her advantage. But then Williams broke her right back, and an intense ground rally came next, followed by an  intense net encounter, with Williams holding. Williams would go on to take that set 6-3.

Williams broke right away in the third set. By this time, the world number 1 was giving Sharapova very few errors. Serving at 0-2, Sharapova went down 0-30, brought the score to 30-all, then double-faulted twice to get broken again.

For Sharapova, the Miami ship had sailed. Williams ended up winning 10 games in a row, and Sharapova didn't win a single game in the final set.

There was a time when Sharapova hit ace after ace. There was also a time when Sharapova had an outstanding second serve, and won a lot of points with it. But--despite making a lot of post-surgery progress in the serving department--the Russian's serve is no longer the reliable factor it used to be. Williams' serve, on the other hand, is more reliable than ever.

Williams has now won the Miami tournament more times than any other player in WTA history. Sharapova is now five-time runner-up, which has to sting. The Russian owns a Career Slam, but she can't win Miami. She did win Indian Wells, however, and will now go about preparing to defend her French Open title.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I'm leaving Sunday for Charleston, and will do my best, as always, to keep all of you up to date on what's happening at the Family Circle Cup. The withdrawals of Elena Vesnina, Heather Watson and Sara Errani are unfortunate (I especially wanted to see these players, too), but the good news is that both Andrea Petkovic and Caroline Wozniacki have been added to the list of entrants.

I'm very pleased to note that Daniel Ward will be the photographer for Women Who Serve in Charleston this year.

If any of you have questions about the tournament or the players, just post them here and I'll do my best to find the answers. Some rain is expected, but the weather should be pleasant throughout the week. For April in Charleston, anything less than a tornado is good weather!

Six former champions will be competing next week: Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Sabine Lisicki, Samantha Stosur, and Caroline Wozniacki.

Here are the top seeds:

1. Serena Williams
2. Caroline Wozniacki (replaces Errani)
3. Samantha Stosur
4. Sloane Stephens
5. Venus Williams
6. Lucie Safarova
7. Carla Suarez Navarro
8. Mona Barthel

Wild card team takes out top seeds in Miami

The wild card team of Lisa Raymond and Laura Robson took the top seeds--Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci--out of competition in the Miami semifinals tonight. Raymond and Robson beat Errani and Vinci 6-1, 6-2. Errani sustained a thigh injury during the match, and--as a result--has withdrawn from the Family Circle Cup in Charleston.

The other remaining wild card team, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta, didn't do quite as well. 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik defeated Kuznetsova and Pennetta 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.

Sharapova and the curse of Miami

On Saturday, for the fifth time in her career, Maria Sharapova will play in the final of the Sony Open. She has never won the tournament. In 2005, Sharapova lost to Kim Clijsters in the final. In 2006, after winning Indian Wells, she lost the Miami final to Svetlana Kuznetsova. In 2011, it was Victoria Azarenka who made Sharapova a runner-up, and in 2012, the Russian was beaten by Agnieszka Radwanska.

Now the 3rd seed faces five-time Miami champion and world number 1 Serena Williams, whom she has not defeated since 2004. Williams has won 11 of their 13 contests. So in order to break the Miami curse, Sharapova has to break the Serena curse, and that will take some doing.

Sharapova, who handily beat a shadow-of-her-old-self Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals yesterday, has now won 11 straight matches, without dropping a set.

In the other semifinal, Williams defeated defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3. The television commentators said repeatedly that Radwanska's having to hit so many second serves did her in (in addition to, of course, Williams' power). But I disagree with that assessment. Radwanska has worked hard in the last year or so to have a more-than-decent first serve, and she has used it to her advantage over and over. But when she plays Williams, that first serve simply goes away. Against the world number 1, Radwanska could get her first serve in every time, and it wouldn't  make that much difference. Something about seeing Williams across the net causes her to "forget" everything she learned about how to hit a successful first serve.

The semifinal draw is set in doubles. Top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci will play wild cards Lisa Raymond and Laura Robson, and 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik will play wild cards Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wozniacki given wild card for Charleston

2011 Family Circle Cup champion Caroline Wozniacki has been granted a wild card into the main draw of this year's tournament. The world number 9 has made regular appearances in Charleston, though she wasn't there last year. Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina in the 2011 final.

Petkovic gets wild card into Charleston main draw

Andrea Petkovic has received a wild card into the main draw of the Family Circle Cup, which begins March 30 in Charleston. Qualifying takes place March 30 and 31, and main draw play begins April 1. Petkovic, a former top 10 player, has been off the tour more than she has been on it lately because of injuries, so it's good news that she's competing (and, we hope, dancing) again.

The new All-Access Live feature, part of the tour's 40th anniversary celebration, will be produced on April 1, and will be available for viewing here.

2010 champion Sam Stosur, who strained her calf muscle in Indian Wells, reports that she's doing her best to be ready for play in Charleston. Charleston is one of Stosur's favorite destinations.

Unfortunately, 2011 runner-up (and doubles champion) Elena Vesnina has had to withdraw from the tournament because of an elbow injury. Heather Watson has also withdrawn because of a leg injury.

2004 champion Venus Williams will showcase her EleVen line on Monday, April 1 in a World Team Tennis format exhibition. Williams and four Charleston women will participate. All of them will wear EleVen clothing, as will the ballgirls.

The Family Circle Cup has expanded its international coverage by more than 300% this year. There will be 33 matches shown on-air and more than 70 hours of television coverage. And, for the first time, there will be live streaming from the Althea Gibson Club Court.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Until yesterday, I assumed that the lasting image of this Sony Open tournament would be the sight of both Alize Cornet and Lauren Davis being hauled off the court in wheelchairs (Cornet was so stunned, she didn't know if she had won or lost the match), but defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska changed that for me. It's hard to imagine that anything can top this:

Davis, by the way, in addition to being overcome by the Miami heat, was also stung by a wasp while she was on the court.

What a strange tournament. The heat isn't the only thing that's extreme. The traffic was so bad a few days ago that Serena Williams rode a bike to the stadium because she didn't think she could make it there any other way.

And guess who's in the semifinals? That's right--Jelena Jankovic, who overcame Roberta Vinci in a two and a half hour match earlier this evening. The momentum swung wildly throughout this match, but Jankovic walked away with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 victory. Earlier in the day, Maria Sharapova defeated Sara Errani 7-5, 7-5. Note: Sharapova double-faulted 14 times.

In Tuesday's quarterfinal matches, Serena Williams defeated Li Na 6-3, 7-6, and Agnieszka Radwanska derfeated Kirsten Flipkens 4-6, 6-4,m 6-2.

In the semifinals, Sharavpova will play Jankovic, and Williams will play Radwanska.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Miami defending champion advances to quarterfinals

Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska advanced to the quarterfinals of the Sony Open today when she defeated Sloane Stephens in the fourth round. Once again, Radwanska had to go three sets, but she won the third set 6-0. Also advancing was Serena Williams, who defeated Dominika Cibulkova 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. Sorana Cirstea, who upset Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the fourth round, fell in straight sets today to Jelena Jankovic.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Serena Williams (1) vs. Li Na (5)
Agnieszka Radwanska (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens (30)
Sara Errani (8) vs. Maria Sharapova (3)
Jelena Jankjovic (22) vs. Roberta Vinci (15)

Top double seeds Errani and Vinci advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over Timea Babos and Mandy Minella.

The quarterfinal to watch (and one I won't get to see much of) is the one between Williams and Li. Williams is the favorite, but if Li can stay focused (something she had trouble doing today), it could be a hotly contested match. Sharapova has gone to the Miami finals four time, but has never won the tournament.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Top seeds survive challenge in Miami

No one comes from behind to win quite like Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. Today in Miami, the top seeds faced problems in their opening round against Kimiko Date-Krumm and Casey Dellacqua. Date-Krumm and Dellacqua won the first set in a tiebreak, Errani and Vinci won the second set 6-2, but they fell behind 4-6, then 5-7, in the tiebreak set. They wound up winning that tiebreak 11-9, and advanced to the second round.

The 2nd seeds, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, didn't have the same fortune. They were beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta.

The humidity went as high as 87% in Miami today, and that did not foretell a good outcome for Petra Kvitova, whose asthma flares in humid weather. There was also a heat break taken during Kvitova's third round match, and the Czech player looked as though she was barely able to withstand the conditions. It certainly didn't help that her opponent was the clever and ever-improving Kirsten Flipkens, who defeated Kvitova 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. There's really nothing more to say other than "Oh, Petra."

Venus Williams, suffering with a lower back injury, gave Sloane Stephens a walkover in the third round, and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska had to go three sets against Magdalena Rybarikova. Garbine Muguruza beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4. Given the Dane's good performance in Indian Wells, who saw that coming?

Tomorrow, 6th seed Angelique Kerber faces the sometimes-dangerous Sorana Cirstea. For me (if I can find a way to watch it), the match of the day will be Roberta Vinci vs. Carla Suarez Navarro.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Venus and Kimiko go at it again

In 2011, Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm stunned the crowd when they battled for three hours under the Centre Court roof. Williams beat the 40-year-old Date-Krumm 6-7, 6-3, 8-6. Tonight in second round play in Miami, Williams defeated Date-Krumm 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, in an intense 2 1/2-hour contest. The third set was really intense. Williams went up an early break for a 3-1 lead, but was broken right back. She broke back, then Williams broke back and went up 5-3. And was broken when she served for the match. Date-Krumm saved a total of five match points, but after double-faulting at 4-5, she lost the match when Williams prevailed on her sixth match point.

Caroline Wozniacki won her match, but she had to work for it. Karolina Pliskova took the first set 7-5, Wozniacki took the second one 6-3, and despite breaking right away in the third, the Dane had to fight pretty hard. She was broken back immediately by Pliskova. Then they broke each other again. Wozniacki held in the eighth game, and she won the match after Pliskova saved two match points.

Peng Shuai took the first set off of Petra Kvitova, who beat her 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. 10th seed Marion Bartoli retired against wild card Andrea Petkovic, Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Julia Goerges, and Mona Barthel lost to Magdalena Rybarikova.

Yesterday, Vicky Duval advanced to the second round when she defeated Andrea Hlavackova 7-6 6-4. Duval's next opponent will be Jelena Jankovic.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Russians sweep BNP Paribas Open

You had to be Russian to hold a trophy this weekend at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Yesterday, the team of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina won the doubles title. The 4th seeds defeated 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik 6-0, 5-7, 10-6 in the final. Makarova and Vesnina had to play tiebreaks in four of their five matches in Indian Wells.

This is the Russian team's third WTA title, and it's Vesnina's third Indian Wells doubles title. She won in 2008 with Dinara Safina, and in 2011 with Sania Mirza.

The singles final wasn't nearly as tense. Maria Sharapova dominated Caroline Wozniacki, defeating her 6-2, 6-2. The Russian star hit 33 winners, and was firing virtual rockets at her opponent. This is Sharapova's 28th WTA title, and her first title of 2013. She also won the tournament in 2006.

Sharapova now heads to Miami, where she has been the runner-up four times. She has never taken the title there.

Indian Wells gave us plenty to ponder. Victoria Azarenka is again dealing with injury and was unable to play beyond the fourth round. Sharapova looks crisp and confident. Her countrywoman, Maria Kirilenko, continues to improve and impress. (It was interesting to hear Lindsay Davenport say that--in her practices--Kirkleno practically whales the rubber off of the ball.) And--on a less encouraging note--Petra Kvitova, yet again, went off the rails.

I have to say that my favorite random moment was watching chair umpire Marija Cicak sing along to the house music before a match.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sharapova returns to Indian Wells final

Last year's BNP Paribas Open runner-up, Maria Sharapova, has once again made it to the final. In yesterday's second semifinal, Sharapova defeated countrywoman Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-3. Credit to Kirilenko, who demonstrated why her ranking has improved so much. When she could, she hit hard and aggrssively, and she moved Sharapova from side to side with ease.

It helped Kirilenko's cause that her opponent made a half dozen double faults. But Kirilenko was never able to break. She had six break opportunities. Four of them, Sharapova emphatically saved; Kirilenko wiped out the other two with careless--probably "nerve"-related--errors.

Sharapova hit 29 winners, including a fiery forehand winner on match point. She is now number 2 (again) in the rankings, and Victoria Azarenka has been bumped to number 3. Sharapova's opponent in the final will be 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wozniacki beats Kerber, advances to Indian Wells final

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
   Agreed to have a battle...
         Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

This evening's first semifinal in Indian Wells featured Caroline Wozniacki and her "bolder half," Angelique Kerber--except when it didn't. Both women play wonderful defensive tennis, but Kerber has learned to make the most of her first opportunity to strike offensively. The first set reflected this difference. Going again and again to her signature crosscourt forehand, Kerber handily took the first set 6-2.

But in the second set, Wozniacki began to play much more offense, while Kerber backed off and waited, "Wozniacki style," for her opponent to make an error. Bad strategy. Wozniacki hung in through some grueling rallies, and won a game that lasted 17 minutes and featured numerous break points. It seemed that at least part of the reason for Kerber's hesitancy was that her lower back was troubling her again. At any rate, Wozniacki won the set 6-4.

So, who would take which stance in the final set? I certainly didn't know. Wozniacki favored the net more and more (nice to see) and went up 4-1. It was in that 5th game that Kerber played an unusual version of cat and mouse with Wozniacki by hitting a number of consecutive moonballs. I've never seen that many consecutive moonballs hit (by both players--Wozniacki, of course, hit moonball returns), and I'm not sure what Kerber was up to, but the game didn't go her way.

The German did hold during the crucial 6th game, however, and then broke Wozniacki. The forehand was cranking again, and Kerber appeared to come to life. She couldn't really rely on her serve, though, which also may have been related to lower back stiffness. Wozniacki broke her again for 5-3, then served for the match, and--of course--was broken back.

Kerber held, then went on an error spree in the next game, in which Wozniacki quickly went up 40-0, and held at 15. Kerber then went down 0-30, then 15-30, and then--hard though it was to believe it--she went at it with the moonballs again, and again, Wozniacki won the point. The Dane then quickly won the match when she took the third set 7-5.

It was a strange match, yet it held my attention. Wozniacki used a lot of variety. She moved forward quite a bit, and she hit some wicked drop shots. She looked very good in this oddly entertaining match, and the 2011 BNP Paribas Open champion has now advanced to the final.

Passing shots

The WTA's "40 Love" campaign, which celebrates the tour's 40th anniversary, began officially last week in Indian Wells.

By the way, the WTA has extended its contract with Tennis Warehouse, but--even with the "40 Love" campaign going on--there's still no sign of new WTA gear. My Sony Ericsson WTA shirt finally wore out, but I still have my shirt from the "Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side" campaign (my favorite of all the WTA campaigns).

Redfoo has entered the U.S. Open National Qualifying Playoffs. This year's tournament will be held in Salinas, California. Think he'll get some special coaching?

women's tennis blog gives us another great childhood photo peek. This time, it's Maria Kirilenko.

Martina Hingis is leaving the WWT team, the New York Sportimes, to play for the Washington Kastls, the WWT's most successful team.

Venus Williams talks about EleVen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


"....plants mirrors in the desert."
Floriano Martins

I didn't imagine it: Neither of today's Indian Wells quarterfinals took place. It was no surprise that top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka gave Caroline Wozniacki a walkover. Azarenka has been bothered by a foot injury throughout the tournament. Azarenka, along with Serena Williams, has been troubled by foot problems for a while. Perhaps it's because I'm rehabbing from a foot injury; I do "feel their pain."

While Azarenka's withdrawal from the tournament was not unexpected, Sam Stosur's was. It turns out that Stosur injured her right thigh muscle when she served for the match against Mona Barthel in the 4th round. How much bad luck is that? Both Stosur and her quarterfinal opponent, Angelique Kerber, were rounding into form after unfortunate performance (Stosur) and injury (Kerber) in 2013.

Kerber will play Wozniacki in the semifinals. If the German wins, she will defend her 2012 semifinal ranking points, which would be quite beneficial to her. In the other semifinal, the two Russian Marias--Kirilenko and Sharapova--will compete.

In doubles, 4th seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm and Casey Dellacqua 4-6, 7-6, 10-8, and 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik defeated Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-2.

Azarenka and Wozniacki to vie for semifinal spot at Indian Wells

The upcoming Indian Wells quarterfinal featuring recent world number 1 Victoria Azarenka and former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki is being hyped quite a bit--so why am I not all excited about it? Maybe it's because Azarenka is obviously suffering with foot pain and may not be able to play that well. Maybe because I think it will be boring. Maybe both. There's just something about the build-up that doesn't resonate with me.

Azarenka, by the way, has won 17 straight matches this season.

The other quarterfinal to be played today features Angelique Kerber and Sam Stosur. I'm more interested in that one, but won't be able to watch it. Neither player came into the tournament with much promise, yet each has made it this far.

Indian Wells quarterfinals: Kvitova def. Kvitova

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I enjoy Maria Kirilenko and how much I like her game. The Russian is on the rise, and I'm very pleased for her. However, her quarterfinal win in Indian Wells yesterday reflected more than just her enviable tennis skills. Her opponent, 5th seed Petra Kvitova--once again--imploded on the court. Kvitova hit 10 aces and made 13 double faults, and those numbers in themselves tell a story. It is increasingly frustrating to watch someone with so much talent lose matches that are really on her racket.

The (unfortunately) memorable part of this match occurred when Kvitova served at 2-3 in the third set and made four double faults in a row, handing Kirilenko a 4-2 advantage.

Kirilenko defeated Kvitova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, then let out a shriek. Who can blame her? Prior to doing away with the Czeck player, she had beaten another top 10 player--3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Kirilenko has now played 12 sets in Indian Wells, which is a lot. Next up for her is countrywoman Maria Sharapova.

As for Kvitova, here's my summary: Dubai--coach absent, wins tournament; Indian Wells--coach in attendance, flames out in quarterfinals. I just don't think it's a coincidence.

In the opening set of the other quarterfinal match, Sara Errani, playing on a relatively slow court, put on a show worth watching in her attempt to best Maria Sharapova. Errani pulled Sharapova on a string, repeatedly attacked the net, and hit more drop shots (all successful) than I've seen hit in one set since Patty Schnyder was on the tour. It was a pleasure to watch Errani, who was more aggressive than usual (she knew she had to be), and whose finesse was often beautiful.

On the other side of the net, that image of the freezing, slipping bovine came to mind. Sharapova just wasn't moving well at all, which made it easier for Errani to pull her around and win the point. Errani had a set point, but was broken. She had the set on her racket again during the tiebreak, but somehow, Sharapova prevailed and won the set. The Russian won the second set 6-2.

In doubles, Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai advanced to the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-7, 10-4 victory over Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues. 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-2.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kirilenko takes Radwanska out of Indian Wells

A couple of days ago, when I wrote about the very entertaining match between two great shot-makers--Agnieszka Radwanska and Sorana Cirstea--I said that the fun would continue because Radwanska's next opponent would be admirable shot-maker Maria Kirilenko. But there were two of us for whom the fun definitely did not continue. Neither Tennis Channel nor Tennis TV showed even a moment of the match, so I couldn't watch it, and I'm sure it was no fun for Radwanska, either, because she was beaten 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. (If any of you watched the match, feel free to give us a report.)

The two possibly up-and-coming Spaniards--Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino and Garbine Muguruza--were defeated by Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber, respectively. Petra Kvitova beat Klara Zakopalova in straight sets, Caroline Wozniacki beat an extremely error-prone (and not very aggressive--she looked like a not-so-great version of Wozniacki) Nadia Petrova, and top seed Victoria Azarenka, fighting foot pain, defeated Urszula Radwanska (a bad day for the Radwanskas).

Mona Barthel took the first set against Sam Stosur, and then faded away, which gave Stosur a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory. And Sara Errani beat Marion Bartoli in straight sets.

Bartoli fooled most of us, if not all of us. She has been openly expressing her admiration for Amelie Mauresmo, fist-pumping (and that's some fist pump) in Mauresmo's direction in matches, and hinting that she was going to hire the French Fed Cup captain to be her coach. Instead, Bartoli has hired Jana Novotna to coach her, which means that--for the first time in her life--someone other than her father, Walter, is in charge.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

(1) Victoria Azarenka  vs. (8) Caroline Wozniacki
(4) Angelique Kerber vs. (7) Samantha Stosur
(5) Petra Kvitova vs. (13) Maria Kirilenko
(6) Sara Errani vs. (2) Maria Sharapova

In doubles, the teams of Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina and Kimiko Date-Krumm/Casey Dellacqua advanced to the semifinals.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Azarenka shaky, like the ground in Indian Wells

The organizers of the BNP Paribas Open should be thankful for small favors. Yesterday's earthquake would have been so much worse if Jelena Jankovic had been on the court. As it is, there was a bit of shaking, and then everyone carried on. (The earthquake cleared the stands in New Haven in 2011 when you-know-who was occupying the court.) My favorite Tweet was Mandy Minella's: "Earthquake in the desert? really? almost dropped my weights on me in the gym. I survived"

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka looked very cranky yesterday evening when she played Kirsten Flipkens. Flipkens didn't seem to be particularly bothered by the situation (I don't think much bothers her on the court), and she took the first set 6-3, while Azarenka sputtered and hesitated and groaned like a neglected automobile. Azarenka managed to grab the second set 6-3, however, and then Flipkens (kind of predictably) let go of her momentum and failed to win one game in the final set.

Next up for Azarenka is Urszula Radwanska, who beat Jamie Hampton 6-0, 7-6. Nadia Petrova defeated Julia Goerges and Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina. Angelique Kerber, victorious over Yanina Wickmayer, will face Garbine Muguruza in the next round. Muguruza, you'll recall, upset both Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta last year in Miami.

Sam Stosur defeated Peng Shuai yesterday, and will play Mona Barthel in the next round. My mother used to sing an obscure 1940s song called "Oh Monah," and at one point in the match when I said "Oh, Mona...." (as in, Oh, Nadia), the stupid song got into my head and stayed too long--which would be anything over ten seconds). Barthel, however, after losing her way in the second set, walked off with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 victory over Ana Ivanovic.

The doubles draw has opened a bit since top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were upset in the second round by Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. 2nd seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are out, too. Hsieh and Peng play Daniela Hantuchova and Anabel Medina Garrigues in the quarterfinals.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Desert blooms

Squat shots, jumping backhands, tense rallies, sliced angles, clever drop shots--we saw it all yesterday when Agnieszka Radwanska and Sorana Cirstea played each other in Indian Wells. When she's "on," Cirstea has every shot in the book--and a few that might not be in the book. But the clever Romanian player isn't always on, and even when she is, she tends to fade when things get really tough. But for two sets yesterday, she helped bring some needed color to the desert.

I looked forward to this match all day, because, who better for a clever shot-maker to play than Radwanska, the very definition of "clever shot-maker." I wasn't disappointed. Cirstea went down 0-3 in the first set, but got things even again and forced a tiebreak, which she won 7-3. The second set was as good as the first. Radwanska went up 5-1, but Cirstea fought back impressively. She broke Radwanska at love when Radwanska served for the set at 5-3, but she was then broken back at love, which gave the 3rd seed the set.

That last break-back was a sign of things to come, as Radwanska progressively dominated the final set, taking it 6-4.

The fun will continue, however. Radwanska's next opponent will be Maria Kirilenko, who's pretty clever in her own right. I look forward to that match, also.

In other Indian Wells news: Klara Zalpalova beat Dominika Cibulkova, Sara Errani won her 15th straight match of the season, and Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino upset 14th seed Roberta Vinci. In doubles, 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik advanced to the quarterfinals, 4th seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina also advanced. Also, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Casey Dellacqua defeated Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Indian Wells defending champion gets past 2-time champion in straight sets

It seemed obvious that for two-time Indian Wells champion Daniela Hantuchova to upset defending champion Victoria Azarenka, she would have to win the first set. And for quite a while, it looked like Hantuchova had a shot at doing that. She quickly went up 4-1 in the first set, the world number 2 struggled with her serve and also strugged with Hantuchova's court coverage skills.

It was no surprise, however, that Azarenka tightened her game, while Hantuchova--and really, who is surprised?--came unraveled. Azarenka won 6-4, 6-1, and advanced to the third round, in which she will play Kirsten Flipkens.

Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova, the 16th and 17 seeds, were both upset in the second round. In the third round, the two top-half match-ups that interest me the most are Nadia Petrova vs. Julia Goerges, and Ana Ivanovic (and her beautiful tennis skirt) vs. Mona Barthel.

It's been chilly in Indian Wells, and many players have one onto the court "Vika style," with leggings on. Speaking of Azarenka, her Indian Wells promotional piece on Tennis Channel is terrific.

How under-appreciated is Sam Stosur's candor? When asked if she thought she could win another major, she said yes, but that, right now, she'd like to win anything. Always a breath of fresh air is Stosur.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Passing Shots

Li Na, still dealing with an injured ankle, has withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open.

Brand new Florianopolis finalist Olga Puchkova played brand new Malaysian Open champion Karolina Pliskova in the first round of Indian Wells qualifying (that has to be a rare thing). Puchkova won, 6-4, 6-2.

Grace Min and Mallory Burdette of the USA have qualified for the Indian Wells main draw. All the other Americans in the qualifying draw went out in the first round of qualifying.

You can now get to know Teliana Pereira.

Here are some cute photos of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Rafa Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, and Redfoo at the recent Madison Square Garden exhibition event.

Steve Tignor breaks down the Indian Wells draw.

Hingis elected to Hall of Fame

Martina Hingis has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Hingis, who won five singles majors and nine doubles majors. Hingis, a former number 1 player in both singles and doubles, also won the Grand Slam in doubles in 1998.

Hingis--known for her superior court sense and tactical play--won 43 singles titles and 37 doubles titles, and spent 209 consecutive weeks as the number 1 singles player in the world. Her main doubles partner and friend was Anna Kournikova. In

When Hingis won the Australian Open, she became the youngest player in the Open Era to win a major; she was 16 years and 3 months old. A few months later, she became the youngest player to achieve the ranking of number 1 in the world.

Hingis won the Australian Open three times consecutively, in 1997, 1998 and 1999. She also won (with Mahesh Bhupati) the 2006 Australian Open mixed doubles title shortly after she returned to the tour following a three-year retirement. In 1997, Hingis also won the singles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The enshrinement ceremony will take place on July 13.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy World Tennis Day to all

Today is the first annual World Tennis Day. There are exhibitions being played in both New York and Hong Kong, and in the USA, tennis festivals for children will be held throughout the month of March.

Here are the stars of the Tennis Night in America event in Madison Square Garden:

l to r: Rafa Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Jeff Sutphen, Bob Harper, Serena Williams, Vika Azarenka

And, in honor of World Tennis Day, here are a few of my favorite videos....

Maria holds the trophy:

 Amelie holds a press conference:

Aga holds her racket:


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Karolina Pliskova wins Malaysian Open

Karolina Pliskova, known as one of the Pliskova twins (her sister is Kristyna) from the Czech Republic, is now also known as the winner of the 2013 Malaysian Open. Pliskova defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in today's final. The young Czech player has noe broken the top 100; she will be ranked number 84 in the world when the new rankings are published. This is Pliskova's first WTA title.

Shuko Aoyama and Chang Kai-Chen won the doubles title when they upset top seeds Janette Husarova and Zhang Shuai. The scoreline makes me wish I had been there: 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 14-12.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Errani the winner in Acapulco

Sara Errani lived up to her top seeding today and defended her title in Acapulco, defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-4. Last year, Errani defeated countrywoman and former Acapulco champion Flavia Pennetta in the final.

Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Sontonja won the doubles title. They defeated Catalina Castano and Mariana Duque-Marino 6-4, 7-6.

Errani was expected to "fade away" in a letdown after her big 2012 season, but she isn't cooperating with the expectations of some fans. The Italian star was recently the runner-up in Dubai.

Plenty of upsets in Malaysia and Brazil

Few fans would have picked Karolina Pliskova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands to contest the final of the Malaysian Open, but they became the finalists today when they upset the 4th and 3rd seeds, respectively. Pliskova defeated Ayumi Morita 6-0, 6-2, and Mattek-Sands defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-1.

Meanwhile, in Florianopolis, Brazil, Monica Niculescu won the singles title today when she defeated Olga Puchkova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. This is Niculescu's first WTA title, though she was a finalist twice before.

The Florianopolis champion emerged from the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-2 win over 7th seed Kristina Mladenovic. Mladenovic never held serve during the match.

Puchkova had a harder job in the semifinals in that she had to fight for 2 1/2 hours against top seed Venus Williams, whom she finally defeated, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova won the doubles title, defeating Anne Keothavong and Valeria Savinykh 6-0, 6-4.