Who has the edge in California? (A Draw Analysis of the Stanford event)

26 Jul

After much scrutiny over several matches in the Stanford draw, I have determined who has the best chances of reaching the quarters, semis, and finals in the WTA event in Stanford next week.  While this blog post only features the Stanford event, check back later for a brief preview of the men’s event in LA.

Stanford (WTA Premier Event)

First Quarter:

The weakest of the four quarters, it is highlighted by top seed Sam Stosur and seventh seed Yanina Wickmayer.  These two women look like they will be able to make the quarters without too much adversity as the only other player of note in this section is former top 20 player Dominika Cibulkova.

Quarterfinal 1: Sam Stosur def. Yanina Wickmayer

Second Quarter: This section contains the defending champion, Marion Bartoli, and the always tough Victoria Azarenka as the two seeds in addition to U.S. Open standout Melanie Oudin and former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.  But, Ivanovic looks unlikely to advance past the first round, where she faces Alisa Kleybanova, who has beaten her twice this year.  Nevertheless, Ana could always catch Kleybanova on a bad day and capitalize on the Russian’s erratic play.  Former Stanford champion Aleksandra Wozniak faces Melanie Oudin, in a match that will depend on both women’s consistancy.  But, when it comes to the two quarterfinalists from this quarter, I think that we will see Alisa Kleybanova take on Victoria Azarenka for a spot in the semifinals.

Quarterfinal 2: Victoria Azarenka def. Alisa Kleybanova

Third Quarter: This quarter has the probability of the most upsets simply due to the circumstances surrounding several of the players in this section.  Shahar Peer, the No. 5 seed, faces veteran Daniela Hantuchova while also battling a thigh injury.  Whether or not the injury will play a significant role in the match has yet to be determined, but I would expect the Slovakian to have a slight edge in that match.  Also in this section are good friends Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska, who I believe will contest the quarterfinal for this quarter.

Quarterfinal 3: Maria Kirilenko def. Agnieszka Radwanska

Fourth Quarter: The strongest section of the draw includes former World No. 1’s Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina.  Both Safina and Dementieva are coming back from injuries, back and calf respectively, and are slated to play in the third round if Safina beats Roland Garros conquerer Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round.  Maria Sharapova will take on Zheng Jie in the first round, a rematch of their Indian Wells 3rd round match in which Zheng won.  But Sharapova is playing better tennis now than she was in Indian Wells and should get through this match to reach the quarters, where I think she will face Elena Dementieva.

Quarterfinal 4: Maria Sharapova def. Elena Dementieva

Semifinals: Both semifinals should bring great tennis to the campus of Stanford University and at the top of the draw is Stosur pitted against Azarenka.  Each woman has had polar opposite years, with Stosur having her best year by reaching the Roland Garros final and with Azarenka encountering many tough loses after her breakthrough season in 2009.  In this match, I think that if Azarenka is hitting her groundstokes with conviction and depth, then she will have the oppurtunity to defeat Sam Stosur, who will bring her best to the court in the form of her serve and forehand.  But, I think at this point, that Azarenka will have the edge because of her hard court expertise and the fact that she might have more desire to perform well here than Stosur.  It will be a tight match though and whoever emerges as the winner will certainly deserve it.

Semifinal 1: Victoria Azarenka def. Sam Stosur

Victoria Azarenka will look to make a quick start in the U.S. Open Series here in Stanford.

In a potential rematch of the Australian first round, the two Marias will play each other for a spot in the final.  While Maria Kirilenko has had a great year already in 2010, you would have to back former No. 1 Maria Sharapova in this match.  Unless Sharapova is having an off day, she does everything a little better than Kirilenko, with the exception being Kirilenko’s superior movement.  Nevertheless, this should be an interesting match and should it take place would provide for some tense and intriguing sets of tennis.

Semifinal 2: Maria Sharapova def. Maria Kirilenko

Can Maria Sharapova gain avenge her first round loss in Melbourne to fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko?

Championship Match:  If Azarenka and Sharapova meet for the title come Sunday, then it will surely be a match to watch.  These women have played three times, with Sharapova winning two matches over the Belarussian last year.  Since they both have similar games,  the winner will have to be hitting cleaner, harder, and more precise than her opponent in order to be crowned champion of Stanford.  In this particular match, I believe that it will be Sharapova who does these things better than Azarenka and will subsequently win the title.

Championship: Maria Sharapova def. Victoria Azarenka

Check back later this week for late-round previews of both the Stanford and LA events.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!


California Girls (A Preview of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford)

25 Jul

This week sees the beginning of the women’s U.S. Open Series and it is in no other city than Stanford, California, home to the prestigious Stanford University and this week, home to the Bank of the West Classic. The top four seeds headlining in California this week are Sam Stosur, French Open finalist, Elena Dementieva, who is coming back to the tour after a calf injury that forced her to retire in the French Open semifinals, Vera Zvonareva, who reached her maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last month, and Agnieszka Radwanska, who is a threat no matter where she plays. Other women of note in the field would be Marion Bartoli, last year’s winner and this year’s 5th seed, Maria Sharapova, the 6th seed this year, and the three women who received wild cards into the event: Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina, and Victoria Azarenka. These three women add more star power and intrigue into the tournament and will make it one of the best along the road to the U.S. Open.

This preview will include 10 player profiles highlighting each individual’s chances at this event and my thoughts on who could make it all the way to the final weekend and who might be vulnerable in the early rounds. Lastly, once the draw for the tournament has been released, I will post a draw analysis to the blog, most likely Saturday afternoon or evening.

(1) Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur has had a great season so far. Can she play with the form that got her to the French Open final earlier this year once again?

Sam Stosur has had a great year coming into the U.S. Open Series; she won the clay court event in Charleston, reached the Stuttgart final, and of course she reached the final at Roland Garros. Her game is just as suited to hard courts as it is to clay, as evidenced by her semifinal run her in Stanford last year in addition to her great showing in L.A. (she made the finals). With a huge serve and booming forehand, Stosur will be one to contend with if she can keep herself positive.

2) Elena Dementieva

Elena Dementieva made the semis here in Stanford last year and went on to win the U.S. Open Series. How will she fair this year?

The last time we saw Dementieva was in a moment of agony, at least for Elena, as she was forced to retire in the French Open semifinals against the eventual champion Francesca Schiavone. Her calf tear has now healed and she is ready to make some noise on the North American hard courts once again. Last year, she had the best summer hard court season by winning the Rogers Cup and subsequently winning the U.S. Open Series. Her history in Stanford is limited, but she reached the semifinals in 2009 and will look to make it a better result this week. And if she is healthy, then there’s no limit as to how far she can go this year.

(3) Vera Zvonareva (She has since withdrawn from the event, but you can still read the profile I wrote on her.)

Vera Zvonareva made the Wimbledon final just a few weeks ago. Will that help or hurt her this week in Stanford?

Coming off a career fortnight at Wimbledon, Vera Zvonareva will look to prepare for the U.S. Open by getting some good practice in at Stanford this week. This tournament will be a good indication in determining what her current mental status is; she had a tough last day at Wimbledon, by losing both the singles and doubles finals. But, if she is mentally ready to go, then her game will follow, and that is never a good thing for her opponents.

(6) Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova looks to make an impact at the Stanford event.

Maria Sharapova has been playing progressively better this year after losing to the other Maria, Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the Australian Open. She has won two small events this year, in Memphis (hard courts) and Strasbourg (red clay) and after her encouraging performance in the French Open 3rd round, l. to Henin, and at Wimbledon, l. to S. Williams, we are due to see some stellar results from Maria once again. She played a highly anticipated match against Venus Williams in the quarterfinals last year and with no Williams sisters in the draw this week, she has just as much of a chance for the title as anyone.

(8) Yanina Wickmayer

Yanina Wickmayer, the newcomer of 2009, was a major force at the U.S. Open last year.  Can she be a force here?
Yanina Wickmayer, the first-time semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Open, is the 8th seed this week and although she hasn’t had the results to back up her suprising run in Flushing Meadows last year, she is always a threat on hard courts and can certainly make an impact at this tournament if she is able to get some momentum and play through a heavily stacked draw here in Stanford.

(WC) Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic, who has struggled since winning her maiden Grand Slam, looks to find her form in California.

Playing in her first event since losing first round to Shahar Peer at Wimbledon, Ana Ivanovic begins her summer for the first time in Stanford. Since she is unseeded, there is a possiblity that upon the release of the draw, she could face anyone from Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina, or if she is lucky, a qualifier. With that being said, since winning the French Open in 2008, her main problem hasn’t been being outplayed by her opponents, it has been her inability to play up to her potential due to various problems (pressure, injuries, lack of confidence). So, if Ana is able to play her way into the event anything could be possible and at this moment the more matches she wins, the better off she is for the rest of the summer.

(WC) Dinara Safina

Dinara Safina is coming back from a back injury and hopes to get a few matches under her belt this week.

Ever since losing in the French Open final to Kuznetsova back in 2009, I feel that Dinara Safina hasn’t been the same player that she was during the 2008 summer and the first half of 2009. After being forced to retire in the Australian Open earlier this year, she was subsequently out of the game until the clay court season, where her results were dismal, with the epitome of her decline coming at Roland Garros in the first round to the 39 year-old Kimiko Date Krumm. Following this match, she withdrew from Wimbledon, again citing the back injury, and is once again coming back to the game, but this time on hard courts. Depending on her physical condition, in addition to her mental condition, Stanford will be an important event for her on the road back to the WTA Tour.

(WC)Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka can always be a threat on hard courts.

Victoria Azarenka has also had her fair share of injuries. She battled bilateral thigh injuries during the clay court season, losing first round at Roland Garros and sufferred through knee tendinitis in during the grass court season, losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Petra Kvitova. Hard courts are by far the best surface for the young Belarusian and with a favorable draw, Azarenka could make some real noise in Stanford this year.

Alisa Kleybanova

Best known for her upsets over top players, Alisa Kleybanova has the game to get her far in the WTA Tour.

Better known for her upsets over major players, Alisa Kleybanova has the game to be recognized for her own merits, but lacks the mental fortitude to get it done week after week. But there are signs of promise for the young Russian after beating Clijsters in Indian Wells and Ana Ivanovic at Roland Garros. Will this be the week she goes from being the hunter to the hunted?
Melanie Oudin

Last year

One of the only players entered in all five of the U.S. Series events, Melanie Oudin will look to make a quick start to her summer campaign this week in Stanford.  Oudin, who reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year, has had a mediocre year so far and based on her prior results in 2010, one would think that she wouldn’t have a chance to go very far at this event, but with the crowd on her side whenever she plays in America, she always has a fighting chance to do well in Stanford this week.

There will indeed be many things to look foward to this week in Stanford and the fans who attend the event will be very lucky to see so many marquee players taking part in this event on the campus of Stanford University.  Check back for a draw analysis on the Stanford tournament later tonight or tomorrow and a LA preview/draw analysis on Sunday.  Once again, thanks for reading my blog and comment if you anything to say.  Enjoy!

Ana Ivanovic and her Montreal Fiasco

20 Jul

Ana Ivanovic has seen the best of times...

and the worst of times.

With the events that have transpired throughtout this past weekend, many tennis fans are left with one question: should Ana Ivanovic, the former Roland Garros champion and former World No. 1, have received a wild card to compete in the Rogers Cup, a title she previously won?  While some side with tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, many others agree that she should have gotten a wild card out of pure respect for her prior achievements.

As a fan of Ivanovic, I think that it is a shame she wasn’t awarded a wild card, but don’t find it to be a tragedy, as it will give her the oppurtunity to play some easier matches that she will have a descent chance of winning, especially coming in after playing in three consecutive tournaments in Stanford, San Diego, and Cincinnati.  So say what you will, but this could actually be what Ana needs to reignite her game to the level it was once at.

Please vote in this poll to show your opinion of the situation and feel free to comment no matter your opinion on the matter.

A Belated Preview of the Atlanta Tennis Championships

20 Jul

Due to several reasons, I was unable to post the preview of the Atlanta event on my blog until today, but nevertheless, here it is.  Luckily, there haven’t been any major suprises yet, so I will briefly highlight the top 3 seeds chances at the tournament and also include a draw analysis at the end.

(1) Andy Roddick of the USA

Andy Roddick, the only member of the top 10 in attendance this week in Atlanta, hopes to get his U.S. Open Series off to a great start.

By accepting a last-minute wildcard to this event, he not only boosted his chances in the U.S. Open Series, but also boosted the inagural year of the Atlanta Tennis Championships.  The tournament previously took place in Indianapolis, but with some good work by the ATP, it was moved to the tennis capital of the U.S.: Atlanta.  Roddick, who have  a favorable draw here as the top seed, will look to win this tournamnet and set the tone very well for the remainder of the U.S. Open Series.

Remaining events this summer:

Washington D.C.



(2) John Isner of the USA

John Isner is also playing doubles with fellow American James Blake this week in Atlanta.

Isner, whose best results have come on the hard courts during the summer, is the perfect man for the Atlanta event.  He went to college an hour away from Atlanta, he has the perfect game for the courts, and he is arguably the most famous man in tennis at the moment because of his marathon of a match against Mahut at Wimbledon just a few weeks ago.  He also appeared on numerous talk shows including the Late Show with David Letterman and also receieved an ESPY for the best record breaking performance.  So after a drama-filled start to the summer, Isner will now look toward the finish line at this tournament.

Remaining events this summer:

Washington D.C.



(3) Lleyton Hewitt of Australia

Lleyton Hewitt will hope to reignite the spark that won him two Grand Slam titles.

After having his second hip surgery in as many years, Hewitt looks as strong as he did when he was winning Grand Slams in the early 2000’s.  So far this season, he has reached the Wimbledon 4th round and beat Roger Federer at the grass court event in Halle before Wimbledon.  With one of his Grand Slam titles coming in New York, he surely has to be among the favorites here in Atlanta.

Remaining events this summer:

Washington D.C.



Draw Analysis:

Semis: (1) Andy Roddick def. (6) Mardy Fish

(2) John Isner def. (3) Lleyton Hewitt

Will John Isner and Andy Roddick meet once more in the U.S. Open Series?

Championship: If the draw holds up, then it will be an all-American final between Andy Roddick and John Isner.  The last time they played was at the U.S. Open last year and it was Isner who upset Roddick in a 5th set tiebreak.  By all accounts, this match will be a close and tight affair and the player with the better serve on Sunday will win the match.  At this point, I think that it will be John Isner because Roddick still hasn’t shown his best results since his win in Miami and still needs more match play in order to get back to the top of his game though.

(2) John Isner def. (1) Andy Roddick, in three tight sets

Look for more updates on the blog regarding the Atlanta event and a preview of the women’s event in Stanford later this week.  Thanks for reading!

Tennis Season: A Monthly Review of 2010 (Part 4)

15 Jul

This blog entry will include a full recap of Roland Garros and a quick review of the warm-up events that took place before The Championships at Wimbledon, which will be reviewed tomorrow or Saturday.

Roland Garros (French Open) in Paris, France (Red Clay)

Coming into Roland Garros, the men’s tournament had one clear favorite while the women’s tournament had many contenders, but no real favorite.  Starting off with the women’s event, I will touch on each of the top 5 seeds’ draws and also mention other standout stars of the fortnight, concluding with a brief essay on the champion and finalist.

Coming into Roland Garros, you could have picked Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, and maybe even Caroline Wozniacki as the favorites for the title.  Others might say that Sam Stosur, who reached the semis last year and had the best clay record of the tour in 2010, could go all the way.  But what would you have said about Italian Fed Cup hero Francesca Schiavone?  Third round, maybe the fourth round, at the most she will go to the quarters.  She surprised even the best of us.

Serena Williams played some mediocre tennis going into the second week, but by the time her fourth round match came around, she looked sharp and ready to make a title run in Paris.  But in the quarterfinals, she faced the formidable Sam Stosur who had taken out Justine Henin in the previous round.  After being behind for most of the match, Serena turned it around and built a lead in the final set, only to lose it 8-6 to the Aussie.  On a lighter note, Serena was able to grab a title in Paris: the women’s doubles crown with sister Venus.

Sam Stosur used her powerful serve to gain an advantage over Serena Williams at the French Open.

Venus Williams suffered a similar defeat in the fourth round to streaky Russian Nadia Petrova, who used the slow conditions on a cold Sunday in Paris to finish off her American foe quite easily.  Coming into the event, Venus had won a title on clay in Acapulco and reached the quarterfinals in Rome and the finals in Madrid, so she looked like she could have gone all the way to the finals.  But, it wasn’t meant to be as she took yet another early defeat at the French Open.

Venus Williams lost to Nadia Petrova in the 4th round.

Caroline Wozniacki looked to be in fine form as she played her way into the quarterfinals where she faced the crafty Italian Francesca Schiavone.  In this match, the Dane was pushed around the court by Schiavone’s all-court topspin oriented game and it really wasn’t a contest from the beginning.

This photo sums up Wozniacki's day at the office against Schiavone.

Jelena Jankovic had been playing some of the tennis that saw her reach a U.S. Open final and the World No. 1 ranking on her way to the semifinals and it finally looked like she was going to win a major for the first time in her career.  But she would have to wait for another major to come around because lost quite easily to Sam Stosur.

Jelena Jankovic walked off the court knowing that she let a major career opportunity slip away from her.

Finally, Elena Dementieva made it to the semis here for the second time in here career and after losing a tight first set to Schiavone in the semis, she walked up to her opponent and shook hands with her, signalling that the match was over due to injury on Elena’s behalf.  We later learned that she had torn a calf muscle in the second round and had been struggling ever since.  We haven’t seen her since, so it must have been very serious.

Elena Dementieva spoke to the press in detail about her injury following her retirement.

In the finals, it was Sam Stosur against Francesca Schiavone.  They were both first time Grand Slam finalists, but the nerves certainly didn’t show that.  Both women brought their best tennis, with Schiavone simply outclassing the Australian in the championship match.  But, unlike so many of the finals at Roland Garros in the recent years (Henin standing a combined 48 games-17 games in championship matches , Ivanovic easily beating Safina in the 2008 final, and Kuznetsova beating Safina 6-4, 6-2 in 2009) it was very nice to see two women play their best tennis and make it a competitive match, with Schiavone prevailing 6-4, 7-6.

Francesca Schiavone felt like she was on top of the world after capturing her first Grand Slam title.

In the men’s tournament, there were few surprises until the quarterfinals, where all the action really began.  Starting at the top of the draw, Roger Federer took on last year’s finalist Robin Soderling.  After taking the first set over the Swede, Federer went on to drop the next three sets to subsequently lose the match and his streak of 23 consecutive semifinals in a major.  This was also the first time that Federer had lost to Soderling.

Federer left the main court of a Slam before the semifinals for the first time since the 2004 French Open.

In another quarterfinal of note, the Austrian Jurgen Melzer was 2 sets to love down against Novak Djokovic before capitalizing on the Serb’s poor play to book a spot in the semifinals for the first time in his career.  This also sparked him to play much better tennis at the season’s next major, Wimbledon, where he reached the singles fourth round and won the doubles.

Although it was Melzer who won, Novak Djokovic received more attention for his poor effort in the final sets of the match.

Also to be noted, Rafael Nadal faced his hardest test against his fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who pushed him to two tiebreaker sets and made the 4-time champ look vulnerable at times.  But, it was Nadal who prevailed over his hard-hitting compatriot.

In the semifinals, Nadal had a straight forward win over Melzer to put him in yet another final at Roland Garros.  But, the other semifinal Tomas Berdych, a first time Slam semifinalist, and last year’s finalist Soderling took shape to be a tight and intriguing 5-set battle.  In the end, it was the experience of Soderling that got him through to the final over a visibly tight Berdych.  Luckily, this wasn’t the last we would see of Berdych (see tomorrow’s blog for Wimbledon).

Even though Berdych lost in the semifinals, it was the start of good things to come as he went on to reach the Wimbledon final several weeks later.

This set up a very interesting final between two men who don’t have a lot of love between them.   Nadal had every reason to be confident going into the match as he was a former champion at Roland Garros and his clay court credentials top every single man to ever play the sport, but there was still a tinge of nerves.  This can mainly be attributed to the fact that in 2009, Soderling became the one and only man to be Nadal at the French Open and did it in convincing style, by pounding ball after ball and serve after serve.  But in this case it was Soderling who seemed to have trouble rising to the occasion and couldn’t make it a competitive match against Nadal.  The good news for Nadal: a fifth Roland Garros title, a seventh Grand Slam title, and the No. 1 ranking.  What a deal!

Much like Francesca Schiavone was the day before, Rafael Nadal was ecstatic about his Roland Garros title.

Now for a quick recap of the grass court events leading up to Wimbledon.

AEGON Classic in Birmingham, GBR (Grass)

Champion: Li Na def. Maria Sharapova 7-6, 6-1

AEGON INTERNATIONAL in Eastbourne, GBR (Grass)

Champions: Ekaterina Makarova def. Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-4

Michael Llodra def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-2

AEGON Championships in London, GBR (Grass)

Champion: Sam Querrey def. Mardy Fish 7-6, 7-5

It wouldn't be a tournament in England without some rain to worry about. Luckily, it didn't get in the way of Sam Querrey winning the biggest title of his career.

Gerry Weber Open in Halle, GER (Grass)

Champion: Lleyton Hewitt def. Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6, 6-4

*This was the first win for Lleyton Hewitt over Federer in 15 tries.  The last win for Hewitt came in a Davis Cup semifinal back in 2003.

UNICEF Open in Rosmalen, Holland (Grass)

Champions: Justine Henin def. Andrea Petkovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

Sergiy Stakhovsky def. Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-0

Thank you to all that read the entry on my blog.  You are what makes this possible so join me again tomorrow for the extensive review of Wimbledon!

Upcoming Entries:

Fri./Sat.– Wimbledon in Review

Next week: Players to watch in the U.S. Open Series (don’t forget to vote in the polls I set up a few days ago for your opinions on the U.S. Open Series)

I will also preview the Atlanta Tennis Championships sometime late next week.  Stay tuned as always and once again, thank you for reading.

Tennis Season: A Monthly Review of 2010 (Part 3)

15 Jul

As promised, this entry will highlight action from the second half of the clay court season with featured tournaments such as the Monte Carlo Masters, the Rome Masters and the Madrid Masters.  I will begin with the WTA tour’s events and the first big event on the red clay for the ladies was the Premier 5 event in Rome.

Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Italy (Red clay)

Serena Williams, the top seed at the event, hadn’t played a single match since defeating Justine Henin in Melbourne for her 12 Grand Slam title.  But, if she was feeling rusty it sure didn’t show, as she breezed into the semifinals before losing a classic match to Jelena Jankovic.  Jankovic, who had previously defeated Serena’s sister Venus, booked a spot into her 3rd Rome final in 4 years.

On the other side of the draw, there was a woman who was making an inspired run to the semifinals, a woman most notably known for her former glory at the top of the game, and her name was Ana Ivanovic.   Ivanovic, who since winning the French Open in 2008, had only reached 4 semifinals coming into Rome, looked to make that number 5 and she did just that in convincing fashion.  En route to her semifinal run, she beat players like Elena Vesnina, Elena Dementieva, Victoria Azarenka, and Nadia Petrova.  These wins made many, including myself, think that she had finally got her act together and was ready to be a top player again.  But, as we have been in the past, we were fooled by the Serbian star, who played a lackluster match to lose in the semifinals to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

So the final was set between Martinez Sanchez and Jankovic, with Jankovic looking like the clear favorite to prevail as she had previously defeated both Serena and Venus Williams in back-to-back matches.  But, we were once again fooled and saw Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez take the biggest title of her career by defeating Jelena Jankovic 7-6, 7-5.

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez took out both Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic to win her first title in the Italian capital of Rome.

In the men’s edition of the Rome event, it was the Latvian Ernests Gulbis who created quite a shock in the tennis world during the Rome Masters as he took out Roger Federer in the 2nd round of the tournament.  He went on to the semifinals where he took a set of the “King of Clay”, Rafael Nadal, for his best ever showing in a Masters 1000 event.

Ernests Gulbis was the breakout star of the Rome Masters event.

On the other side of the draw, it was the feisty David Ferrer who backed up his run to the Monte Carlo semifinals with a finals run in the Italian capital.  He had previously beaten Fernando Verdasco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his way to a date with fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

In the championship match, it was Nadal who prevailed over his compatriot 7-5, 6-2 to win his second consecutive title in Rome.

Rafael Nadal won his 29th career clay court title in Rome.

Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open in Madrid, Spain (Red clay)

For the men in Madrid this year, it was a renewal of a rivalry that hadn’t taken place since the same event one year earlier.  Federer faced Nadal in the championship match for the second year in a row, but this time it was the Spaniard who beat his Swiss foe quite handily in 2010.  This was Nadal’s third consecutive clay court title and he extended his record over Federer to 14-7.  Nadal was also able to navigate through the tournament by only dropping one set, and that was to the explosive Nicolas Almagro.  So, for the men it was order once again restored in Spain, but for the women, it was anything but.

In 2010, it was Nadal who topped Federer for the title.

Where the men’s tournament lacked surprises, the women’s tournament made up for it and then some.   It all started on the first Sunday of the tournament, when Justine Henin looked like she was going to roll past Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai and predictably make it to the late rounds of the Madrid event.  But, after taking the second set 7-5, Rezai finished the match out with a bang by beating the former No. 1 6-0 in the final set.  And that was just the start of things to come.

Former World No. 1 Justine Henin lost in the first round to the eventual champion Aravane Rezai of France.

In the third round, Serena Williams was ousted by Nadia Petrova in three sets after she was extended to over three hours of play the round before against Vera Dushevina.  Her sister held up the family name though and made it all the way to the finals at the Madrid event for the first time in her career.

Serena Williams was also sent home early in Madrid.

Adding to the list of upsets was Caroline Wozniacki, who bowed out to Alona Bondarenko in the second round, Dinara Safina who looked shaky the entire match against Klara Zakapalova and also Svetlana Kuznetsova, who lost to Shahar Peer in the first round.

So, in the finals it was Venus Williams against the shock of the tournament, Aravane Rezai, who in addition to beating Henin, also beat Petkovic, Jankovic, and Safarova.  And once the match began, it looked like Venus was going to become another victim of Rezai, who hit piercing groundstrokes that consistently overpowered the American’s mighty shots.  So as if there hadn’t been enough suprises in the women’s draw in Madrid, there was yet another one on finals day with Rezai finallly winning 6-2, 7-5.

Aravane Rezai beat three former world number ones in Madrid en route to the title: Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, and Justine Henin

Check back tomorrow for a all-inclusive review of Roland Garros and the grass court tune-ups.  Wimbledon review will now be on Friday or Saturday.

Enjoy the blog and keep reading!

U.S. Open Series Polls

13 Jul

In addition to our recaps of this year’s events, I am adding some polls in this post for you to voice your opinion about the upcoming U.S. Open Series and the U.S. Open.  Enjoy!