Tag Archives: WTA

Comeback Watch: Serena Williams

14 Jun

Serena Williams began hitting in April in preparation for her comeback this week in Eastbourne.

About a year ago, Serena Williams stood atop the tennis world as she hoisted her fourth Venus Rosewater Dish at the All England Club and her 13th overall Grand Slam.  After suffering a career-threatening injury to her foot due to broken glass in a Munich restaurant, and having multiple blood clots in her lungs which subsequently led to a moderate sized hematoma on her abdominal region due to the blood thinners she was on due to the embolism in her lung.  After a much-anticipated wait for her return to the WTA Tour, Serena has finally pleased her millions of fans and brought the next stage of her career to the southeastern coast of England in Eastbourne before traveling to London in order to compete for her 5th Wimbledon title. 

 

In her first match, she will take on Tsvetana Pironkova, who beat her sister Venus in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year.  But, Pironkova has not has the best of seasons and should not pose a huge risk to the younger Williams sister.  But, anything is possible after a year off from professional tennis.

Serena Williams last played on the tour at Wimbledon almost a year ago.

Should she get through her first match, she will take on either the British wildcard Heather Watson or the top seeded Vera Zvonareva.  A match against the Russian Zvonareva would be particularly interesting since Serena beat Zvonareva in the finals of Wimbledon last year.  This match would call on Serena and Vera to bring their best tennis to the court in Eastbourne, but nothing can be assumed until both woman play their first-round matches. 

Serena Williams and Vera Zvonareva, who met in last year's Wimbledon final, could meet again in the second round of Eastbourne.

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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!

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!