Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halep completes Sofia round robin play 3-0

Simona Halep, the top seed at the Tournament of Champions, defeated Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1 in Sofia today, meaning that she has not only not dropped a match in the Group Serdika round robin play, but also has not dropped a set.

However, all is not perfect in Romania. In yesterday's match against Alize Cornet, Halep had a terrible time with her serve, making repeated attempts to get the job done in straight sets. She did win, 6-4, 6-4, but it wasn't pretty. She's probably very tired; that was her 50th match win of the season. Also, walking onto the court to screams of "Simona! Simona! Simona!" maybe put her under a bit of pressure? Just saying.

Either Cornet or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will join Halep in the semifinals; they play one another tomorrow.

In Group Sredets, it's a three-way tie among Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur and Elena Vesnina to determine who goes to the semifinals. Ivanovic has won the tournament twice before; today, she defeated Stosur 6-2, 5-7. 6-2.

In Nanjing, Ayumi Morita--a player who is always kind of on the verge of breaking out--played her second round match over a course of two days because of a rain delay, and saved seven match points against Petra Martic. Morita defeated Martic 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10), 6-4. Wow.

40 LOVE Story, Episode 10

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quote of the day

"Everybody has the right to form their opinions, and I have the right to ignore them."
Sania Mirza

Sweeping the court

Jelena Jankovic has entered the Family Circle Cup, which will take place in Charleston March 29-April 6. World number 8 Jankovic won the Cup in 2007 and was the 2013 runner-up. She is the second player to enter the 2014 event; 2013 champion Serena Williams was the first.

Elena Vesnina is blogging from Sofia. It's her first time to write a WTA blog.
Sania Mirza is at it again, thank goodness.

Eugenie Bouchard has parted ways with coach Nathalie Tauziat.

Sad doubles news: The team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka is no more. Hradecka said that the breakup was Hlavackova's decision: "...she told me she wanted to play with Lucie Safarova next year and focus on singles." The 2013 U.S. Open champions have indicated that they will continue to play together in Fed Cup. Hradecka's new doubles partner is Michaella Krajicek.

Ekaterina Makarova answers a few questions.

I want whatever Simona's having

"I hit the balls, my movement was good," Simona Halep, with a big smile, said today about her straight set victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Sofia. Halep's confidence and her lack of false modesty please me very much. This was the fourth time that she has played Pavlyuychenkova, and the fourth time that she has beaten her. In fact, in all their meetings, the Russian has won only one set (in this year's Tokyo match, from which she had to retire).

For the second year in a row, Maria Kirilenko had to withdraw from the Tournament of Champions. A left knee injury took her out of competition, and her retirement gave a win to Alize Cornet. Kirilenko will be replaced in Group Serdika by first alternate Elina Svitolina.

In today's remaining match, wild card Ana Ivanovic defeated wild card Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0, 6-2. Ivanovic has won the tournament twice.

Meanwhile, in the Nanjing Ladies Open, top seed Kimiko Date-Krumm was upset in the first round by Duan Ying-Ying.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Everyone knows I'm a perfectionist..."

Serena Williams braids her hair, regains super-powers, wins WTA Championships

During the first set of today's WTA Championships final in Istanbul, Li Na did to defending champion Serena Williams what Williams often does to her opponents--played her way seamlessly through tough rallies and then brought down the blade, often with a powerful forehand blow. Li served and volleyed. She worked her way to the net and put balls away. The Chinese star used controlled aggression to wear down an already very tired Williams, and she took the first set 6-2.

Li didn't let up for the first half of the second set. But her task became tougher, as Williams--who braided her hair between sets--suddenly began to look like herself. Remember, a physically and mentally exhausted Serena Williams is still--Serena Williams. And a quick twist of her thick hair brought about at least a metaphorical (I'm not excluding the possibility of the existence of magical powers) twist in her energy level. And that enabled her to sharpen her focus.

Williams won the second set 6-3. And then, not so slowly, began Li's familiar descent into Na Na Land. It should have been a cracker of a third set, but instead--suddenly bereft of confidence--Li unraveled. She could hardly get a decent first serve going, and her second serve was almost nonexistent. By this time, the aggression was clearly being carried out on the other side of the net, and the Williams serve was on fire. Williams took the final set 6-0, even after being down 0-40 when she served for the championship.

This was Williams' 11th title of the year, her 18th straight match win, and her 78th match win of 2013. The world number 1 has now won the WTA Championships four times, matching the accomplishments of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won the doubles championship, defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 7-5. Hsieh and Peng are from Chinese Taipei and China, respectively. They are long-time friends, and they won the 2013 Wimbledon championship.

The trophy ceremony also served as a ceremony of transfer, since the Championships will move from Istanbul to Singapore next year. The event is very popular in Istanbul, where it has been held for the last three years. It will be played in Singapore for five years.

My favorite fan sign: Li Na: Whatever, Whenever, Wherever, However. That kind of sums it up for me, too, and here's hoping that the Carlos Rodriguez-inspired improvements continue in 2014. As for Serena, she can now let her hair down and get some much-needed rest.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sweeping the court

Vera Zvonareva plans to make her comeback in Shezhen in January. The former world number 2 hasn't played on the tour since August of 2012, when she participated in the Olympic Games. Zvonareva has been rehabilitating from a shoulder injury.

Serena Williams and the doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were recently honored in Istanbul for finishing the year with the number 1 ranking.

Here's Maria Sharapova at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion fund event in West Hollywood (and also at a Beverly Hill event).

World number 2 Victoria Azarenka has received the WTA Diamond Aces award. The honor goes to the player "who consistently goes above and beyond in promoting the sport of women's tennis to fans, media and local communities...."

Here's a Hawkeye look at the Li Na vs. Petra Kvitova semifinal in Istanbul.

Russia defeats Italy--at least, this week

For the second year in a row, the number 1 doubles team in the world has failed to make the final of the WTA Championships, and it's the same team--Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. Last year, the Italians were defeated by eventual champions Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. In today's semifinals, it was again a Russian team who put them out of the competition: Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina defeated Errani and Vinci 4-6, 7-5, 10-3.

Errani and Vinci were up a set and a break (at 4-2 in the second set) when Makarova and Vesnina suddenly became more aggressive and less error-prone. And while it appears obvious that Russia will have a tough time dominating Italy in the Fed Cup final next week, for now, it's all about Russia.

The other finalist team is that of Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. They defeated Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik 7-5, 6-2.

In singles, Li Na beat Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-2. Kvitova had her moments, but Li played a much cleaner match, making only 15 unforced errors to 18 winners. The Chinese star has now risen to a rank of number 3 in the world.

In the other semifinal, a very out-of-sorts Serena Williams nevertheless managed to defeat Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Williams said afterwards that she was very tired.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Final 4 set in Istanbul

We have our WTA Championships semfinals. In the Red Group, Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova have emerged with the best records, and in the White Group, the contenders are Li Na and Jelena Jankovic.

Here is how the players finished the round robin part of the event (by matches only):

Red Group
Serena Williams: 3-0
Agnieszka Radwanska: 0-3
Petra Kvitova: 2-1
Angelique Kerber: 1-2

White Group
Victoria Azarenka: 1-2
Li Na: 3-0
Sara Errani: 1-2
Jelena Jankovic: 1-2

Today, Errani saved herself from having an 0-3 record by beating Jankovic 6-4, 6-4. Li defeated an injured (in more ways than one) Azarenka 6-2, 6-1. We had another three-set match, too: Kvitova defeated Kerber 6-7, 6-2, 6-3.

In tomorrow's semifinals, Li will play Kvitova, and Williams will play Jankovic. 

The doubles semifinual draw was made today:

Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci vs. Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
Nadia Petrova & Katarina Srebotnik vs. Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kerber blows past Radwanska in Istanbul

One showed up to play--the other showed up. Angelique Kerber looked as good as she has ever looked today. She undoubtedly knew that Agnieszka Radwanska was ripe for the picking, but why can't Kerber bring this kind of confidence to her matches, anyway? She's capable of more than defense, and considering how good her defense it, that makes her pretty capable.

At any rate, the German star is now 1-1 in Istanbul, so she stays in the mix. She never even saw a break point today, but she broke Radwanska four times, and defeated her 6-2, 6-2. Here she is giving Aga a bit of her own "Radwanska":

Serena Williams is now 3-0 and gets a day off tomorrow. Williams defeated Petra Kvitova in straight sets, and without having to work too hard. The world number 1 was just too good.

Finally, in the only three-setter played so far at the Championships, Li Na defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Tomorrow, Li takes on Victoria Azarenka, who appears to be carrying as much fatigue as Radwanska, but that doesn't make it a walk in the park for Li, who can "go off" at a moment's notice (and Azarenka can "switch on" at a moment's notice, too). Jankovic will play Errani, who is currently 0-2 at the event, which makes her a bit dangerous. Kerber will play Kvitova. I'll miss all of it, but will try to catch some of the replays.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fed Cup teams announced for final

In the past, we used to say that the Russian "B" team--or even the "C" team, could challenge any Fed Cup team in the world. That was then, this is now. A combination of factors has reduced the Russian team to Alisa Kleybanova and backup support. Playing in the final will be Kleybanova (still creating her comeback, but definitely an asset), Alexandra Panova, Irina Khromacheva, and Margarita Gasparyan. Oh how far we have fallen.

Here's the deal: The Russian players aren't exactly thrilled with the Russian Tennis Federation. A few of them have made their feelings public. Daria Gavrilova went so far as to dare the federation to even ask her to play in the Fed Cup final, given what she claims was practically no support for her transition from juniors to the WTA Tour.

Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova--all regular Fed Cup players--are competing at the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, which conflicts with the Fed Cup final, schedule-wise. Ekaterina Makarova and Maria Sharapova are both injured and unable to play. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova--who knows?

Kirilenko, Vesnina and Pavlyuchenkova are, of course, free to choose to play in either venue. It is, however, most unfortunate that they have to choose. In this case, however, it might have been an easy choice for them, given the current complaints about the Russian Federation.

Italy's lineup has changed, too. Scheduled to play in the final are Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta (aka Queen of Fed Cup), and Karin Knapp. Camila Giorgi has disappeared from the player list, though she (and not Knapp) was originally supposed to play for Italy.

The final will be played on red clay in Sardinia. And while surprises are the order of the day in Fed Cup, Russia's journey is largely uphill. The final will take place November 2nd and 3rd.

Jankovic makes winning debut at WTA Championships

Jelena Jankovic, who got the last spot in Istanbul, made good on her entry today by defeating world number 2 Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. Though she struggled with her second serve at times, Jankovic ultimately out-served Azarenka. And the Serbian star's defensive play was as good as it's ever been. JJ was really dialed in for this match, obviously having a good time, and consistently delivering her signature backhand down the line.

As for Azarenka--the double-faulting again made her job tough.

Li Na made her Championships debut today, defeating Sara Errani 6-3, 7-6. There was some speculation that Errani would withdraw because of her calf injury, but she was very much there, covered with kinesio tape, and pushing Li pretty hard. Errani had a tough time--psychologically and physically--against Azarenka yesterday, but she appeared to have pulled herself together rather well today. Still, with an 0-2 record, her chances in Istanbul are next to zero.

Serena Williams defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets, too, but Radwanska was more "present" for this match than she was for her match against Petra Kvitova yesterday. She had chances against Williams, but wasn't able to do anything with them. Williams, for her part, is looking as good as ever.

Tomorrow, Li plays Jankovic, and I expect that to be a very good match. Radwanska will try to salvage her Istanbul record when she plays Angelique Kerber, and Williams and Kvitova will play each other.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Azarenka, Williams and Kvitova get wins the first day in Istanbul

The WTA Champions got off to a a bit of a strange start today when White Group members Victoria Azarenka and Sara Errani played the very first match of the event. But didn't you think this match might be a mess? Azarenka was all out of sorts, especially with her serve, and Errani gave her all she could handle from the baseline, gaining a 5-2 lead in the first set. But then Azarenka turned on the switch and took the set to a tiebreak, which she won. The set lasted just under an hour and a half.

At this point, the Italian appeared to unravel somewhat, but whatever emotions she was feeling were just part of her problem. She injured her calf in the second set and had difficulty moving. Azarenka won that set (6-2), also.

In the Red Group, Serena Williams needed only an hour and four minutes to beat Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-1. Williams was spot-on in every aspect of her game, which included 100% success at the net.

In the final match, Red Group members Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska faced off, and Radwanska did that one-down thing she always does when she plays a hard hitter. The Polish star could actually do a lot better than she does against the likes of Kvitova, Williams, etc., but apparently, the very sight of them on the other side of the net deflates her, and she gives up control of the rallies. She's just not the same player. Kvitova beat her 6-4, 6-4. That's right--straight sets.

Tomorrow's schedule:

Li Na vs. Sara Errani (White Group)
Victoria Azarenka vs. Jelena Jankovic (Whaite Group)
Serena Williams vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (Red Group)

Also, the eight players who are to compete in the Tournament of Champions in Sofia have been announced:

Simona Halep
Maria Kirilenko
Elena Vesnina
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Alize Cornet
Ana Ivanovic (wild card)
Tsvetana Pironkova (wild card)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Red and the White

The Red and White groups have been named for the WTA Championships: 

Red Group
Serena Williams
Agnieszka Radwanska
Petra Kvitova
Angelique Kerber

White Group
Victoria Azarenka
Li Na
Sara Errani
Jelena Jankovic

Each player will compete in a round-robin format until there are only four players remaining, and those four will play in the semifinals until there are two, etc. And while another Williams vs. Azarenka final looks good on paper, it may not turn out that way.

The $6 million event begins on Tuesday. I like the round-robin format; the players are forced to face several of their peers, with the results sometimes coming down to small details.

The alternates are Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens.

Here is a photo of the Istanbul competitors, with four of the ladies dressed in black (but not necessarily wearing the outfits of your dreams).

In doubles, there are four teams and a regular knock-out format is employed. The four teams are:

Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci
Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-Wei
Nadia Petrova & Katarina Srebotnik
Elena Vesnina & Ekaterina Makarova

Vesnina will travel straight from Istanbul to Sofia, Bulgaria, for the Tournament of Champions, which means she won't participate in the Fed Cup final (more on this subject in the near future).

Simona sizzles in Moscow

Simona "Halepeno" Halep won the Kremlin Cup today, defeating 2012 runner-up Samantha Stosur 7-6, 6-2. And why not? Having worked on her game maybe more than anyone on the tour, Halep has gone from being a respectable baseline competitor to an all-court (and all-surface) threat. Oh, she's not tall like 'Pova or Azarenka or large and muscular like Serena, and she's never going to be. But she "thinks big" on the court, and she has added a deceptive power to her groundstrokes.

For example, returning Stosur's serve--a real job for some players--was really not too difficult for Halep, and on several occasions, she used her return of serve to put Stosur on the spot. Halep, in fact, had 18 break opportunities in the match, and--to her opponent's credit--she converted "only" four of them. Also, it was Halep who delivered a consistent second serve, while Stosur struggled with hers.

Not all of the factors were between the white lines, however; some were also between the ears. Going into the final, Halep was 4-0 in finals this year, and Stosur was 5-12 in finals in her career. Each woman has now won five WTA singles titles, displaying extremes in winning patterns. Stosur, of cousse, won the U.S. Open in 2010. The Australian has had an excellent end-of-season run, winning Osaka for the second time, and getting to the final in Moscow.

Stosur was a champion today--in doubles. She and partner Svetlana Kuznetsova took the Moscow title when they defeated 2nd seeds Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova 6-1, 1-6, 10-8. The Moscow title is Stosur's 24th in doubles.

Caroline Wozniacki returned to her winning ways in Luxembourg, defeating first-time finalist Annika Beck 6-2, 6-2. Stephanie Vogt and Yanina Wickmayer won the doubles title. They defeated Kristina Barrois and Laura Thorpe 7-6, 6-4 in the final.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Okay, I'm all in with "Halepeno"

Did Leif Shiras think of that himself, or did he borrow it? I don't know, but it's the best tennis player nickname to come about in a long time. And--hot player that she is--Halepeno is into the final of the Kremlin Cup. Simona Halep easily (6-2, 6-1) beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals. Also, Sam Stosur beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4.

Stosur is now on a 9-match win streak. Halep is 4-0 in finals this year.

Kuznetsova and Stosur will play again in the doubles final, this time as teammates. Their opponents will be Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova.

There were some disappointments today in Luxembourg. Stefanie Voegele's run came to an end when she had to retire against Annika Beck. Beck's opponent in the final will be Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-4.

The team of Polona Hercog and Lisa Raymond had to retire in one of the Luxembourg semifinals today. Hercog experiened some type of rib injury. That retirement sent Stephanie Vogt and Yanina Wickmayer to the final. Also competing in the doubles final will be Kristina Barrois and Laura Thorpe, who upset the top seeds yesterday.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Once is not enough

Stefanie Voegele is having a good season. She was aggressive and creative in beating Caroline Wozniacki in Charleston, and suddenly, she has beaten Sloane Stephens twice in a row. Today, Voegele beat 2nd seed Stephens 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the Luxembourg quarterfinals; a week ago, she beat the world number 12 in Linz, also in the quarterfinals. In both matches, Voegele won five straight games in the final set to get the victory.

What's going on with Sloane Stephens? Well, first, Voegele has finally started to put all of that long-time-coming potential together. But the other side of the equation is that Stephens just doesn't seem to have any spark. She goes for big, showy shots, but then backs away when consistency is called for, and the errors add up quickly. In other words, she doesn't appear to want to work the points.

Even Stephens' negativity lacks fire. I admit to sometimes "enjoying" an Angelique Kerber tantrum or a Victoria Azarenka meltdown. But Kerber and Azarenka have a passion that fuels their on-court antics; with Stephens, there just seems to be a lack of emotional energy.

Oh, and a commentator inadvertently referred to Stephens as "Williams." I'll let that speak for itself.

Stephens, by the way, is now officially an alternate in the WTA Championships, which begin next week in Istanbul.

Voegele's opponent in the semifinals will be Annika Beck, who saved a match point and beat Katarzyna Piter (I think we'll see more of her) 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. It took Beck 3 hours and 12 minutes to pull that off.

In the other semifinal match, Caroline Wozniacki will play Sabine Lisicki. In the quarterfinals, Wozniacki defeated Bojana Jovanovski, and Lisicki defeated Karin Knapp.

The Luxembourg draw was an interesting one, and there has been a lot of exciting competition. It's a nice end-of-season treat to see the likes of Voegele, Beck and Jovanovski doing so well.

In Moscow, Sam Stosur beat Ana Ivanovic, and will play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals. Kuznetsova defeated number 2 seed (number 1 seed Angelique Kerber withdrew from the tournament) Roberta Vinci. In the other semifinal, Simona Halep will face off against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Halep and Pavlyuchenkova beat Alisa Kleybanova (making a nice comeback) and Daniela Hantuchova, respectively.

Pavlyuchenkova lost in the Moscow first round seven years in a row, so her fortunes have changed considerably. Pavlyuchenkova lost to Halep recently in Tokyo.

Both top-seeded doubles teams were upset today in Moscow. Kristina Barrois and Laura Thorpe beat number 1 seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik 6-2, 3-6, 10-8. Polona Hercog and Lisa Raymond defeated 2nd seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Katarzyna Piter 7-6, 6-7, 10-8.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sweeping the Court

Wild card Alisa Kleybanova has now won two rounds in Moscow. Kleybanova beat Varvara Lepchenko in a match that lasted over three hours, then--today--beat 6th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

Here's a good 40 LOVE moment on the WTA site.

Don't forget that you can listen to a lot of live action on Ken Thomas calls matches that you can't follow anywhere else. Right now, he's broadcasting the 25k event in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which features Melanie Oudin and Anna Tatishvili, both of whom have made it to the quarterfinals.

Thrill Ride showed up at the Moscow player party. I miss her, and I especially miss her press conferences.

Posta-Magazine features Maria Kirilenko.

Who will coach Laura Robson? Thomas Hogstedt, Sven Groeneveld or someone else?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kerber wins Linz, Stosur wins Osaka

This weekend served as a kind of redemption experience for two of the tour's top, but troubled, players. Angelique Kerber won her first tournament of the season when she defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 7-6 in the final of the Generali Ladies Linz event. The match, which featured 13 breaks of serve (and this on a very fast surface), got exciting toward the end when Kerber, serving for the title at 40-0, was broken, and then faced two set points from Ivanovic, which she saved. Ivanovic had two set points in the tiebreak, too, but failed to convert them.

The Pliskova sisters, Karolina and Kristyna, won the doubles title--and in doing so--won their first WTA tournament, both as members of other doubles teams and as a sister team. They defeated top seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska 7-6, 6-4.

Kerber became the eighth player to qualify for the WTA championships when she won her quarterfinal match in Linz. She had a wild card at the tournament and was seeded number 1.

In Osaka, 2009 champion Sam Stosur had to work hard to win a second title, but she defeated Eugenie Bouchard 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. Bouchard had trouble with her first serve throughout the match, but often got herself out of trouble with her second serve. This was the Canadian's first time to reach a tour final, and it won't be her last.

And here she is again! Kristina Mladenovic, this time playing with Flavia Pennetta (I'm really liking this combination), won the Osaka doubles championhship. Mladenovic and Pennetta beat Stosur and Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-3. Mladenovic has now won seven doubles titles, and this is Pennetta's 15th doubles title.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Losing at any cost

If anyone was really expecting Sloane Stephens to reach her first WTA final by the end of the season, those fans have perhaps lowered their expectations by now. Stephens had multiple opportunities to reach the semifinals in Linz yesterday, but she fought against all chances. The world number 12 competed against Stefanie Voegele, the streaky Swiss player who beat Caroline Wozniacki in Charleston earlier this year.

Stephens was up 5-2 in the first set, but needed 10 set points (two of them in a tiebreak) to finally get the job done. Voegele took the second set 6-4, and Stephens led 5-2 in the third, but never won another game. Voegele took that match 7-6, 6-4, 7-5. The Swiss upstart lost to Ana Ivanovic today, however, and Ivanovic's 6-4, 6-4 victory puts her into the final against Angelique Kerber, who beat Carla Suarez Navararo. Kerber is now the eighth--and final--player to qualify to play in the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

The draw in Linz opened when Petra Kvitova withdrew from the tournament. With all her issues, Kvitova is still at her most deadly on indoor carpet because the surface is fast and there is nothing around to trigger an asthma attack.

Meanwhile, in Osaka, former champion Sam Stosur pretty much rolled over Madison Keys in their semifinal. The good news for Keys is that this was the highest round she has ever reached in a WTA tournament. Stosur's opponent in the final will be Eugenie Bouchard, who defeated Karumi Nara (her first tour semifinal, too) in straight sets.

This will be Bouchard's first WTA final, and she'll be playing against someone who has won the tournament before. This is Stosur's third Osaka final: She won the event in 2009 and was the runner-up (lost to Marion Bartoli) in 2011. Stosur is 4-12 in tour finals. The two played each other in Charleston this year, but the match didn't last long because Stosur had to retire on account of a calf injury.

Bouchard is ranked number 35 in the world, and gives every sign of moving that number up sooner than later.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweeping the court

Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani and Jelena Jankovic have qualified to compete in the WTA Championships. Maria Sharapova, who was scheduled to play the Championships, has withdrawn because of her shoulder injury.

Cara Black and Sania Mirza won't be competing in Istanbul, of course, but having won the two recent big Asian tournaments back to back, they are certainly a team worth watching--assuming they remain a team.

Oh, that Aga.

Oh, that Marion.

Defending champion Heather Watson is out of the Osaka tournament in the first round. She was defeated 6-4, 6-4 today by Monica Puig.

Here are some great black and white portraits of WTA players.

Serena Williams has entered the 2014 Family Circle Cup. She is the defending champion.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Number 1 wins number 10

Serena Williams won her 10th title of the season today when she defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-2 in the Beijing final. Williams' back injury appeared to flare up during the second set, and Jankovic was treated for a hip injury. And while she didn't win the title, Jankovic's run at the China Open will make her number 8 in the world when the rankings are published tomorrow. She is now very much in the running for a spot in the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

Williams has now won a total of 56 WTA singles titles.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Serena and JJ to meet again, this time in Beijing

For a while, it looked like Li Na was headed for the final of the China Open, but Petra Kvitova knocked her out in the quarterfinals. And then along came Jelena Jankovic, and along came a back injury, and Kvitova bade farewell to Beijing. Jankovic beat the Tokyo champion 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 in today's semifinals. Kvitova has withdrawn from Linz because of the injury.

In the other semifinal, world number 1 Serena Williams defeated 2011 champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2.

Williams-Jankovic matches are sometimes quite interesting, and I have a feeling that tomorrow's final will be interesting. Until Victoria Azarenka came along, Jankovic was the only player other than Venus Williams who could sometimes give Serena real trouble. Their final in Charleston this year was excellent (well, if you don't count the mental implosion by JJ).

Cara Black (yes, Cara Black!) and Sania Mirza won the doubles title today, defeating Vera Dushevina and Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-2.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sweeping the Court

Tokyo champion Petra Kvitova has reached the quarterfinals of the China Open. Kvitova's next opponent will be Li Na. In doubles, Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie reached the quarterfinals when they upset 3rd seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua,

Here is WTA Backspin's second annual list of MVPs, and yes--something very scary is in the top 3.

There are some good photos in the Beijing players' party gallery.

The Australian Open has increased prize money by 10 percent.

Daniela Hantuchova shows us the Porsche Design Sport collection from Addidas.

And here's little Francie rocking some striped shorts.