Tag Archive | "Azarenka"

Chinese First:  Li Na Clutches French Open Title

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Chinese First: Li Na Clutches French Open Title

From the outset, this year’s French Open title was up for grabs. Still, a final featuring world number five and defending champion Francesca Schiavone and world number six Li Na was a surprise. Today, Li defeated Schiavone 6-4,7-6 to become the first Chinese player to capture a major.

With a combined age of over sixty, this was the most mature major women’s final since Wimbledon 1998 whereby Jana Novotna prevailed over Nathalie Tauziat. At 30 years of age, in her first final since her title at Roland Garros, Schiavone was hoping to end her trophy drought by successfully repeating.

Since becoming the first Chinese individual to reach a major final, Li fell off the radar. After the Australian Open, the 29 year old failed to advance beyond the second round at any hardcourt event. Ultimately, the clay proved therapeutic with two semifinal showings by Li in Madrid and Rome.

After each woman held her initial two games, with a backhand volley winner, Li had double break point. With Schiavone’s forehand up the line sailing wide, Li pocketed the break. By consolidating with a love game, Li moved ahead 4-2.

With Schiavone unable to fabricate a break point, the one game difference was all Li required to seize the first set.

There was a serenity about Li which was absent in her first major final. Li had clearly learned from her loss to Kim Clijsters in Melbourne. With sizzling forehands, Li had double digit winners in the first set.

Furthermore, early on, it was conspicuous that Schiavone’s use of spin, slice, volley and overall variety were not throwing Li off balance. Instead, it was the Italian who was finding herself on her back heel.

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Women’s Field Wide Open at French Open

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Women’s Field Wide Open at French Open

With the exception of one Federation Cup match last year, Kim Clijsters has not competed on clay since the French Open in 2006. Nevertheless, with Clijsters triumphant at the last two majors and considering the state of the women’s game, the Belgian can play herself into form and is consequently a serious contender for the French Open trophy.

Strangely enough, Maria Sharapova is also a favorite on clay. The Russian’s victory in Rome two weeks ago demonstrates that she can power her way to a title on this surface. As such, Sharapova deserves to be in the column of players to beware of.

More so than previous years, there has been no standout on the red clay this season. Julia Goerges surprised world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the final in Stuttgart. Petra Kvitova made her debut into the top ten with her victory in Madrid, stunning world number four Victoria Azarenka.

Therefore, any one residing in the vicinity of the ten best from world number three Vera Zvonareva to Azarenka to defending champion Francesca Schiavone to Kvitova has a fair shot at hoisting the title. The French Open draw is revealed. Here’s an analysis of the key match-ups.

Wozniacki’s first round opponent is Kimiko Date-Krumm. The Japanese is know for pulling upsets at majors. Last year, she shocked Dinara Safina in the same round. As a result, Wozniacki will have no time to relax early on.

Another challenging encounter for the world number one could come in the third round where she may face 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. Wozniacki’s progression to the final could be further complicated by 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur or Goerges in the quarterfinals and either Jelena Jankovic, Zvonareva, or Schiavone in the semifinals.

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Sharapova Razes Stosur to Carry Title in Rome

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Sharapova Razes Stosur to Carry Title in Rome

Maria Sharapova has been candid in admitting that clay is not her strong suit. Yet, in today’s final at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, one would have thought that the Russian was a court specialist. Sharapova bullied 2010 French Open finalist Samantha Stosur around to claim her first premier clay court trophy with a 6-2,6-4 victory.

Sharapova and Stosur last collided in the round of 16 at the Sony Ericsson Open with the Russian triumphing in straight sets. With a 7-0 record against the Australian, Sharapova came in oozing confidence.

From the initial strike, Sharapova used her powerful forehand to assert her will and broke in the opening game. Then, with a brilliant volley winner, Sharapova consolidated at love. Later, with Stosur slicing a backhand long, Sharapova took a double break lead for 3-0.

After Sharapova went ahead 4-0, Stosur broke to narrow the gap to 2-4. However, with another forehand from Stosur traveling out of play, Sharapova had triple break point and converted. Next, Sharapova overcame a 0-30 deficit and closed out the set.

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Azarenka Overpowers Sharapova for Second Trophy at the Sony Ericsson Open

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Azarenka Overpowers Sharapova for Second Trophy at the Sony Ericsson Open

Victoria Azarenka placed her name among the elites at the Sony Ericsson Open. Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 to claim her second title at this tournament becoming the eighth woman to have won the title a minimum of two times.

Participating in Miami for the first time since 2007, Sharapova cruised to the quarterfinals. However, the Russian fought off Alexandra Dulgheru and Andrea Petkovic to reach her third final in Miami.

After difficult three setters to advance to the quarterfinals, Azarenka dominated defending champion and world number two Kim Clijsters and coasted to victory in the semifinals versus world number three Vera Zvonareva.

Azarenka was in the zone early on. In the initial game, after Sharapova had double game point, Azarenka connected on a forehand up the winner for break point. Despite Sharapova surviving that one, on her third break point chance, Azarenka converted.

With a few miscues by Azarenka, Sharapova broke back quickly to level the set at 1 all. Still, as a result of two consecutive double faults, Sharapova went down 0-30. Later, when Sharapova sent a forehand wide, Azarenka had the break for 2-0.

With Sharapova spraying forehands and backhands all over the place and ineffective on the return of serve, Azarenka rolled five consecutive games which included two additional breaks to take the first set.

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Sharapova Battles Her Way into the Sony Ericsson Open Final

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Sharapova Battles Her Way into the Sony Ericsson Open Final

Andrea Petkovic was gunning for another former world number one in order to advance to the Sony Ericsson Open final. However, Maria Sharapova was uncooperative. After dropping the first set in the semifinals, Sharapova dispatched Petkovic 3-6,6-0,6-2.

After Petkovic and Sharapova traded breaks to start the match, Petkovic took control of the first set by breaking and consolidating for 5-2.

In the second set though, Sharapova turned the tables on Petkovic. After Sharapova fought off a break point and had four deuces to hold in the initial game, she seized the break for 2-0.

Subsequently, Sharapova sponged over a break point to get to 3-0. Later, in a game that Petkovic seemed to be in command of, Sharapova manufactured break point to go up 4-0.

Ultimately, on the fourth break point opportunity, Sharapova banked the second set to force a decisive third.

The concluding set was more of the same. An aggressive Sharapova did not allow Petkovic to breathe. Following an swift first game, Sharapova had triple break point. The Russian capitalized with a forehand up the line winner.

With another quick game, Sharapova had a 3-0 lead. When Petkovic sent another backhand out of play, Sharapova had double break point. With another winner, Sharapova sprinted to a 4-0 advantage.

Petkovic mounted a mini charge in breaking Sharapova the first time she served for the match. But, Sharapova reasserted her supremacy by stealing Petkovic’s next game and punched her ticket into the final.

Petkovic was attempting to reach her second final of the year, she was a finalist in Brisbane. Petkovic was the first German in the semifinals in Miami since Steffi Graf in 1999. Moreover, Petkovic was trying to become only the second German to compete for the title.

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Azarenka Bypasses Clijsters to Advance to the Semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open

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Azarenka Bypasses Clijsters to Advance to the Semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open

Tonight, two Sony Ericsson Open champions collided for a spot in the semifinals. Victoria Azarenka the 2009 champion brushed aside 2005 and defending champion Kim Clijsters 6-3, 6-3 to reach her first semifinal of the season.

Clijsters’ fourth round match against Ana Ivanovic was rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday due to rain. Then, the Belgian had to overcome a 1-5 deficit in the third set to make it to the quarterfinals. Consequently, it was anyone’s guess what physical and emotional toll this would have.

At 1 all, Clijsters committed an error to give Azarenka break point. The Belarusian converted when Clijsters sent a backhand long. Azarenka then comfortably consolidated for a 3-1 edge.

Yet, with Azarenka pushing a forehand long, Clijsters had triple break point. The Belgian capitalized when Azarenka threw in her second double fault of the game.

At that point, Clijsters seemed over her lackadaisical start. However, after having double game point, Clijsters dumped a backhand pass into the net to give Azarenka break point. As a result of a miscue from Clijsters, Azarenka took the game and consolidated for 5-3.

Breaking Clijsters for the third time, Azarenka bagged the opening set.

Subsequent to a quick hold, on a double fault by Clijsters, Azarenka had her second break point of the second set. Azarenka moved in front 2-0 when Clijsters’ forehand landed out of play.

Still, Clijsters fought back breaking right away. Again though after having game point, Clijsters was broken. Azarenka duplicated that achievement Clijsters’ next service game to jump ahead 5-1.

With Azarenka serving, Clijsters dismissed two match points and broke. Clijsters shrunk the gap to 5-3.

At this point, the crowd was still spurring Clijsters on hoping for a repeat of yesterday’s miracle. However, Azarenka would not be denied. On her third match point opportunity, Azarenka sealed the deal.

After the match, Clijsters was asked about what went wrong “Obviously, tonight was going to be very tough. I just didn’t feel good out there mentally, physically, [it] didn’t feel right”.

Whether it could have been too much tennis? Clijsters replied “I don’t know, a combination of a few things. . . Tough last few days, but not in a way that I should not be ready for that. I train hard enough. . . I just didn’t have any fighting spirit. It’s obviously tough against someone like her. Against some lower ranked players maybe it’s possible to get through matches”.

Azarenka had played Clijsters five times prior with only one win. Therefore, MiamiTennisNews inquired what was the difference today. Azarenka responded “ I played a little bit more aggressive. I tried to come in more. That was the biggest difference and physically I was much more stable today”.

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Spotlight Miami: The Sony Ericsson Open Has Arrived

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Spotlight Miami: The Sony Ericsson Open Has Arrived

The Sony Ericsson Open singles draws for the women and men have been released.  There are a bevy of potential semifinal match-ups to salivate over.

On the ATP side, Rafael Nadal, the world number one may battle 2009 finalist Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.

With Roger Federer dropping to the number three in the rankings, the Swiss could clash with Nadal in the semifinals.  Moreover, Federer may contend with defending champion Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals.

If the draw plays out according to the seeding, in the bottom half, David Ferrer and Robin Soderling will be slated to meet in the quarterfinals.  However, Juan Martin Del Potro could spoil that face-off.

Also located in the bottom section is the hottest player on tour, world number two Novak Djokovic. The Serb could have a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final in the quarterfinals with Andy Murray.

Whether it’s Del Potro, Ferrer or Soderling in the semifinals, at this stage, Djokovic seems ready to mow over all comers.

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Midway Through Australian Open 2011:Clijsters and Wozniacki In, Henin Out

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Midway Through Australian Open 2011:Clijsters and Wozniacki In, Henin Out

The halfway mark has been reached at the Australian Open.  While Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki are still in line to collect their first major Down Under, the dream is at an end for Justine Henin and Samantha Stosur.  Here’s a look at the tournament’s past seven days.

In the top half of the draw, world number one Wozniacki coasted into the round of 16.   Despite difficult challenges from Gisela Dulko and Dominika Cibulkova, the Dane has yet to drop a set.  Wozniacki will battle Latvian talent 20 year old Anastasija Sevastova  who stunned Yanina Wickmayer in the second round.

On the other hand, Henin, a finalist last year, was dismissed in the third round by Svetlana Kuznetsova.  The 2009 French Open champion who appears to be fitter than ever will face reigning French Open victor Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round.  The latter needed three sets in each of her first two rounds.

There will be no Williams hoisting the prize this year.  Venus was forced to retire one game into her third round match with Andrea Petkovic due to a pelvic muscle injury.  Consequently, Petkovic will clash with Maria Sharapova in the round of 16. Sharapova scraped by Julia Goerges in the previous round.  With Sharapova’s serve a continual sore spot, Petkovic has a golden opportunity to reach her first quarterfinal at a major.

Both Li Na and Victoria Azarenka have been unforgiving thus far with straight sets victories to get to the round of 16.  These two will now collide for a place in the quarterfinals.

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Another Serena-Less “Slam”:  Who Will Capitalize at the Australian Open?

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Another Serena-Less “Slam”: Who Will Capitalize at the Australian Open?

For the second consecutive major, Serena Williams will be a no-show.  With the two time defending champion and former world number one still injured, current world number one Caroline Wozniacki should technically be “the” favorite.  While Wozniacki is a certain contender for the crown Down Under, it’s difficult to position her in the number one spot.  With her victories at the U.S. Open and the WTA championships to finish 2010, Kim Clijsters has to be viewed as the outright favorite.  The way the Australian Open draw stacks up, Clijsters has to relish her chances.  Let’s take a look how it breaks down.

Imagine needing to conquer Gisela Dulko in the first round, Dominika Cibulkova in the third round and either Justine Henin or Francesca Schiavone just to get to the quarterfinals.  This is the precise task which probably awaits Wozniacki.  Moreover, in the semifinals, the Dane could clash with either Venus, whom she has never beaten, Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova.  In light of the treacherous road ahead, Wozniacki has her work cut out for her in trying to survive the first week and retain the number one ranking.

Since her 2010 Wimbledon injury, this will be Henin’s first major.  After months of noncompetitive play, Henin performed well at the Hopman Cup.  In Melbourne, a possible third round encounter with Svetlana Kuznetsova will be her first true challenge.  Last year, Henin battled her way to the final after an almost two year sabbatical. Consequently, if the Belgian successfully navigates the first week, she could duplicate her feat of a year ago.

If healthy, Venus should reach the round of 16 with ease.  At that stage, the 2003 Australian Open finalist could be tested, if the draw holds true to form, by the 2008 Australian Open champion, Sharapova. The Russian’s last major was in Melbourne.  Subsequent to shoulder surgery a couple of years ago, Sharapova appears finally at full steam.  That type of encounter could be a shot in the arm for Sharapova and push her back into the top ten.

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A Tale of Two Seasons:  Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes

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A Tale of Two Seasons: Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes

Although the familiar saying states “all good things must come to an end”, when it comes to tennis it’s not necessarily the case.  While the 2010 season is over, in the blink of an eye the new one will commence.  Before turning to a fresh chapter, it’s important to reminisce and ponder what made this past year noteworthy.

At her first tournament after rejoining the tour, Justine Henin was a finalist in Brisbane.  The Belgian followed that result with a run to the final at the Australian Open.  In a compelling match, Serena Williams edged out Henin to defend her title and claimed her twelfth career major.  Despite Williams’ conquest, the road to victory was far from routine.  Thus, early indications were Williams would be fighting tooth and nail to retain the number one ranking.  Yet, in the end, injury became Serena’s speed bump rather than her fellow competitors.

Following Australia, a knee injury caused Williams to put her feet up for a few months.  In May, a healthy Serena returned to competition.  Subsequent to being stunned in the French Open quarterfinals, Williams successfully defended her Wimbledon title.  However, days after her triumph, Serena suffered a freakish foot injury.  Initially, the damage seemed inconsequential.  But, as the weeks went by, Serena withdrew from tournament after tournament and underwent surgery.  Ultimately, Wimbledon proved to be Serena’s last event of 2010.

Ironically, Serena’s similar fate befell Henin.  After being booted in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, Henin turned her focus to Wimbledon the underlying reason for her comeback.  With a title at a warm-up tournament before Wimbledon, Henin was a serious contender to capture the sole major which has eluded her. But, after easily carrying the first set against Kim Clijsters, Henin fell on her elbow and eventually loss in the round of 16.  What at first seemed an innocuous tumble prematurely terminated Henin’s year.

After being upended in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open by Na Li, Venus Williams caught a full head of steam and defended back to back titles in Dubai and Acapulco.  Then, Venus made the finals at the Sony Ericsson Open and the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.  Consequently, Venus’ ranking peaked at number two.  Days after celebrating her 30th birthday,  the five time Wimbledon champion stepped on the grass with high hopes for a sixth crown.  However, in the quarterfinals, Venus was sent packing by Tsvetana Pironkova.  Later at the U.S. Open, Williams watched an opportunity to advance to the final evaporate, going down to Clijsters.  Bothered by a knee issue, after New York, Venus sat out the remainder of the season.

No ifs and or buts, Clijsters is back.  After besting Henin in the Brisbane final, Clijsters rebounded from an early exit at the Australian Open by thrashing Venus in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open.  Although a foot injury prevented Clijsters from participating at the French Open, the following month the Belgian reached the semifinals at Wimbledon.  Subsequent to a sensational win in the final in Cincinnati, Clijsters repeated in New York and earned her third U.S. Open title.  Clijsters capped the year with the number three ranking and the WTA Championships trophy in Doha.

In placing one’s bet at the start of 2010, Maria Sharapova, Henin and Clijsters would have been regarded as the candidates likely to supplant Serena at number one.  Instead, Williams was toppled from that spot by a great Dane.  Last year, as a runner-up at the U.S. Open, Caroline Wozniacki demonstrated that she is a legitimate rival.  With Serena sidelined by injury, Wozniacki scaled up the ranking by winning six tour titles and making the finals in Indian Wells and Doha.

Despite being halted in the round of 16 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semifinals at the U.S. Open, consistency week in and week out was the key to Wozniacki taking over at number one.

Another individual who had a spring in her step in 2010 is Vera Zvonareva. The Russian followed her first major final at Wimbledon with another at the U.S. Open.  Although Zvonareva fell to Serena and Clijsters respectively, because of her phenomenal performance, Zvonareva shot up to the number two ranking.

Other names to come into the spotlight this season include twenty year old Petra Kvitova who stunned Victoria Azarenka and Wozniacki before being knocked out in the Wimbledon semifinals by Serena.  Along with Li, countrywoman Jie Zheng advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open.  Perhaps the unlikeliest ones to rise above the fray were veterans Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur.

After beating Henin, Serena and Jelena Jankovic at the French Open, 26 year old Stosur booked her maiden major final spot.  With a victory over Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, Schiavone sauntered into the French Open final as a result of Elena Dementieva retiring in the semifinals with a calf injury.  First time major finalist Schiavone took full advantage of her good fortune.  Less than a month prior to her 30th birthday, Schiavone prevailed over Stosur becoming the first Italian woman to win a major.

In doubles, Serena and Venus triumphed in the finals at the Australian and French Opens while Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were claimed by the new pair of Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova.  The number one doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber had an acrimonious divorce in April.  With the break up of Huber and Black and injuries affecting the Williams’, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko with six titles and the WTA Championships trophy ended the year as the top doubles team.

For the second consecutive year, Italy dismissed the U.S. to take the Federation Cup. Former French Open champion and world number one Ana Ivanovic redeemed her season by pocketing the Tournament of Champions trophy in Bali and reintegrating herself in the top twenty.  Nothing but bad news for former world number one Dinara Safina.  Limited by a back problem, Safina hardly played and finished the year ranked 63rd.

At the WTA championships, Dementieva dropped a bomb announcing her retirement after her last round robin match.  The 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two time major finalist felt at 29 years of age the time had arrived to seal this phase of her life and move on to another.

It is impossible to dissociate 2010 from 2011 with injury already a factor in the year to come.  With her foot still on the mend, Serena proclaimed she will not defend her Australian Open title.  As such, the first major of the year will be up for grabs.  Will Clijsters seize her first major other than the U.S. Open?  Can Wozniacki silence all doubters and show she really belongs at the top spot?  Will Zvonareva draw on the positives from 2010 and take the final step to the major’s winner circle?  Will it be Sharapova or Henin reliving their past success down under?  In contemplating the outcome of the Australian Open, the permutations seem infinite.  With all these questions, the first major portends that the upcoming season will be a fascinating one to follow.

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