Tag Archive | "Bartoli"

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Polish Pride: Radwanska Triumphant In Eastbourne

The International Women’s Open finals, the last grass court competition prior to Wimbledon, featured Polish teenager Agnieszka Radwanska, ranked 14th in the world and seeded 4th , against tour veteran Russian Nadia Petrova, ranked 22nd and seeded 8th . The day belonged to the youngster. Radwanska, a former Wimbledon junior champion, captured her first grass court WTA title by defeating Petrova 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.

In the middle of the first set, the players exchanged a few breaks of serve. The critical difference came at 4-5. Petrova after breaking to get back on serve, leading 40-15, lost the next four points and the set due to brilliant play by the teenager.

Although Petrova possesses a big serve, she aided her opponent’s plight by throwing in a few double faults. But, in the second set despite some initial difficulties, Petrova managed to hold on to her serve. Further, the Russian pounced on whatever second serve came from Radwanska. That tactic along with increasing her first serve percentage and moving forward to finish points at net proved very effective. Petrova was rewarded with a break point and went up 3-1. Yet, in the eight game, with a double fault and missed volley, Petrova’s lead vanished 4-4. Serving to extend the set with a tiebreak, thanks to a net court and an error on the return, Petrova prevented Radwanska from claiming the title. In the tiebreak, the Russian saved three match points. Finally at 11 points all, Nadia served an ace which got her to set point. A weak second serve by Radwanska produced a deep return reply by Petrova, resulting in Agnieszka making an error. Now, it was on to a third set.

Despite Petrova skating on thin ice at times, there were no break chances for either player in the first eight games. The golden opportunity came for Radwanska in the ninth, which she took to get in front 5-4. Then, the Polish teen kept her composure and closed out the match on her service game. Albeit Radwanska won three prior titles this year, as a tier II event, Eastbourne marked the biggest win of her career. Currently, she has a perfect record in finals 4-0.

The only top ten players at Eastbourne Svetlana Kuznetsova and Marion Bartoli, seeded one and two respectively, were upset. The former dispatched in the second round and the latter ousted in the semifinals by Radwanska. Could this be a peak at Agnieszka’s future success next week at Wimbledon? It’s hard to predict. Justine Henin was victorious the last two years at Eastbourne. Yet, the last woman to win both trophies was Jana Novotna in 1998.

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New Name In The Winner Circle: Kateryna Bondarenko Takes First WTA Title

Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko added her name to the list of champions on the WTA tour by defeating 18-year-old Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 7-6, 3-6. 7-6 at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, a grass court tune up event.

With defending champion Jelena Jankovic and last year’s finalist Maria Sharapova opting to skip the tournament, the draw opened even further when Marion Bartoli, the only top ten player participating, was ousted in the second round.

Despite this being their first final, both players kept their composure in the first set. Bondarenko had break points in the fifth game, but the teenager retained her cool and served herself out of trouble. With each competitor holding serve, the set was decided in a tiebreak that went in Bondarenko’s favor.

In the second set, Wickmayer outshone her opponent. The Belgian took a double break lead, aided by her big serve to send the match to a decisive third set. Nerves played into the third set, with multiple exchanges of breaks, four out of six games. Once the jitters were set aside, the level of play elevated once more. Fittingly, the championship was determined by a tiebreak, with Bondarenko, the former junior Wimbledon champion, coming out on top. With this victory, Bondarenko’s ranking will climb from 69 to 45, while Wickmayer’s ranking, a pro only the last couple of years, will rise from 85 to 66.

At this tier III event, the doubles team of Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ranked number one in the world, took on 2008 French Open Doubles champion from Spain Virginia Ruano Pascual who teamed up with another partner, Severine Bremond of France. Black/Huber easily disposed of their rivals 6-2, 6-1.

This upcoming week Svetlana Kuznetsova, world number four, and Marion Bartoli, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, will be the top seeds at Eastbourne, a tier II contest also on grass. While Elena Dementieva, Anna Chakvetadze, Dinara Safina respectively ranked number 5, 8 and 9 in the world will be sharpening their grass court skills at the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, a tier III event.

Among the notables absent from pre-Wimbledon grass tournaments are the top three players Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Serena Williams and Venus Williams, the defending Wimbledon champion, continue their tradition of skipping competitive play prior to the action at the All England Club.

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Top Ten Matches Of 2007

As 2007 draws to a close, the staff at MiamiTennisBlog.com would like to pay tribute to what we feel were the preeminent matches of the year. On the men’s side, the picks have been limited to five setters because undoubtedly, they were the most compelling.

#10 Maria Sharapova versus Justine Henin, Finals WTA Championships

After making the cut once Venus Williams pulled out due to injury, Maria whose serve had been affected all year by a shoulder problem, appeared to have regained her past championship form impressively dismissing higher ranked opponents to reach the finals. In a hotly contested match lasting 3-hours and 24-minute, Sharapova demonstrated she had “game” by winning the first set 7-5 and pushing Henin in the second set prior to loosing it 7-5. The contest came down to a final third set which was fiercely disputed, but Henin prevailed 6-3.

#9 Serena Williams Versus Justine Henin, Wimbledon Quarterfinals

After the drama of the previous round where she won despite a calf injury, Serena continued to battle against her archrival, Henin, taking the match to an ultimate set after loosing the first. Regrettably, Serena was not a 100-percent physically and went down 6-3 in the third. For her courage and effort, we must tip our hat to Serena.

#8 Robin Soderling versus Rafael Nadal, Third Round Wimbledon

Here are just a few reasons why this was a memorable match: 1) bad weather resulted in play spanning the course of four days. 2) Theatrics were the order of the day, when Robin decided that Rafa’s habit of constantly picking at his shorts between points was worthy of mimicry. And 3) this ended up being a five set marathon with great shots being made from both ends of the court. Nadal’s experience and physical strength were keys in aiding him to come out on top 7-5 in the fifth. It is doubtful that Robin and Rafa will be going out for drinks anytime soon.

#7 Carlos Moya versus Tim Henman, First Round Wimbledon

In his farewell Wimbledon match, Tiger Tim had fans atop “Henman Hill” on pins and needles with another five set nail-biter. The last set was dead even at 5-5 when play was suspended due to lightning. When Henman returned, he electrified the crowd with sensational shots and won 13-11 in the fifth. Sadly, the joy of his British compatriots would be short-lived as in the second round Henman would be defeated by another Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez. Anxious for a home grown champion since 1936, the Brits will have to wait at least another year.

#6 Andy Roddick versus Richard Gasquet, Quarterfinals Wimbledon

As the higher ranked player and with his previous grand slam experience, Roddick had all the elements in his favor to proceed to the next round. He was leading two sets to love and with Gasquet having never previously come back from such a deficit; Andy’s fate appeared to be sealed. But destiny took a wrong turn as Gasquet found the means to work his way back into the match with spectacular backhand passes and eventually walked away with the upset, winning 8-6 in the fifth. A dazed and confused Roddick probably had nightmares for days following that one.

#5 Maria Sharapova versus Serena Williams Finals Australian Open

Subsequent to an injury-filled year which resulted in her ranking plummeting to 81, it would not have been shocking for a visibly out-of-shape Serena to lose in the initial rounds of the tournament. Williams proved all the naysayers wrong when she reached the finals where she dominated the proceedings against Sharapova, who at the time was the second seed, and earned her third Australian trophy. In so doing, Serena placed the rest of the field on notice that she was back at the top of her game.

#4 Daniela Hantuchova versus Serena Williams, Fourth Round Wimbledon

After winning the opening set easily, Serena found herself battling in the second. While serving to extend that set into a tiebreaker, Serena literally went down when she began to experience pain in her calf muscle; speculation was that she was struck by a case of severe calf spasm. Once play resumed after a medical time out, a grimacing, teary-eyed Williams was unable to generate much power on her shots causing her to forfeit the second set. With her movement gravely hampered, Williams’ prayers for a reprieve were answered by a two-hour rain delay during which she received additional treatment for her problem. Guts, shear determination, and a befuddled Daniela, who was conspicuously uneasy with having to beat up on a wounded opponent, helped Serena pull out a 6-2 win in the third set. Therefore, for your die-hard attitude Serena Williams, we at HialeahTennis.com salute you.

#3 Justine Henin versus Marion Bartoli, Semifinals Wimbledon

You would think that having James Bond 007 (a.k.a. Pierce Brosnan) in the stands would make one nervous. Such a dapper and debonair presence in most cases might be a distraction, apparently not in the case of Marion Bartoli, to her he was a source of inspiration. Seeded 18th , Bartoli of France probably believed that she had no more than an outside chance to win against Henin, the world’s number one. After losing the first set 6-1, Bartoli should probably have discarded the idea of an “outside chance”. Yet, Marion stated that when she saw Brosnan, her favorite actor, in the stands she realized that she could not continue with such an embarrassing display. Bartoli started to perform better, propelling her to win the second set. On the other hand, Henin surprised by the turn of events essentially became unglued. Henin’s level of play took a nosedive. Shots which for her were usually a surety were converted into errors leading to her dismissal in the third set 6-1; Henin’s quest of obtaining her first Wimbledon trophy will have to be postponed yet another year.

#2 Roger Federer versus Andy Roddick, Quarterfinals U.S. Open & Ranek Stepanek versus Novak Djokovic, Second Round U.S. Open

Tied for second place are these two matches on hardcourt for the quality of the shots although only one went the distance. Roddick could not have performed any better; his serve was phenomenal while his groundstrokes were dead on. Yet, Federer decked out in his Darth Vader evening attire had the force with him. The first two sets were decided by tiebreakers with Federer coming up with some surreal passing shots while Roddick tried all within his powers to stave off the assault. After loosing the first two sets, Andy was a broken man and fell in the third set 6-2. This match was reminiscent of his play at Wimbledon 2004, where as Andy stated he “threw everything at Roger but the kitchen sink” and still could not get the victory. So maybe next time, Andy will need to remember to bring the kitchen sink.

In what turned out to be a spectator’s dream for an opening round contest at a major, this five set thriller was jam packed with first class shot making from both Stepanek and Djokovic. This 4-hour and 44-minute marathon fittingly ended with a fifth set tiebreaker where Djokovic prevailed, the initial step towards his punching his ticket to his first grand slam finals.

#1 Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal, Finals Wimbledon

The hallowed grounds of tennis’ premiere tournament were the setting for this epic battle between these top-ranked contenders. For the first time since capturing the number one ranking several years ago, Federer was at risk of being displaced by Nadal. The match started out with Roger pulling ahead in a tough first set tiebreaker. In the second set, Roger had the chance to place further distance between himself and his opponent, but Rafael picked up his level of play and equalized the match. The third set was also a fiercely contested affair which saw Federer come out on top once more in a tiebreak. At that point, one thought that Federer would put the pedal to the metal and run away with the trophy, but much to Federer’s dislike, Nadal had more to say. Throughout the course of the match, Federer took exception with some of the calls that the electronic line monitor was making; repeatedly his challenges were proven wrong. A normally cool and composed player (let’s face it, the guy appears to hardly sweats on court), Federer almost went, ballistic, at one point asking the umpire to turn off what he felt was a faulty machine. Clearly, the tension was getting to Roger. A factor which probably contributed to his losing the fourth set 6-2. For the first time at his favorite grand slam, Roger would need to go to a fifth set to win. When Rafa took an injury time out, a rattled Federer was able to regroup and regain his composure; this permitted him to find his rhythm in the ultimate set where he broke Nadal twice to capture his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title.

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2007 WTA Year End Review

Sadly tennis enthusiasts, the time has come to bid adieu to the 2007 season, but fear not, the hiatus will be brief. Soon enough, the courts will be ablaze with the shrilling grunts of Maria Sharapova, the artistry of Roger Federer and the mercurial ever-flamboyant fashions of Serena and Venus Williams. Prior to foretelling what 2008 may unwrap, let’s take a moment to reflect on the marquee events which shaped tennis this past year.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams started 2007 in grand fashion by winning the calendar’s first major. Serena, who had been sidelined for most of 2006 by a myriad of injuries, was unseated when the 2007 Australian Open started; consequently, she was the dark horse of the tournament. Serena not only reached the finals, but also comprehensively beat a befuddled Sharapova. Who can forget Oracene Williams’s advice to her daughter “ get out of Melbourne”, referring to the painted sign on the court where Serena had been camping out, pushing her too far off the baseline. Well, Serena followed her mother’s pointer and got out of Melbourne, but not before snatching the coveted Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. At another prestigious venue, the Ericsson Open, Serena again demonstrated her tenacity coming back from a bagel lost in the first set and fought off two championship points by her opponent to win the tournament against a relentless foe in Justine Henin. Although the year started out with a sizzle, it would end with a fizzle with Serena losing consecutive quarterfinal matches against Henin at each subsequent major tournament. Once more, Serena’s last few months on tour were racked by injuries leading to her withdraw from the season ending tournament in Spain.

After a tumultuous start to her year, with the turmoil in her personal life (the dissolution her marriage) and being forced to skip the Australian Open where she had been a finalist in 2006, Justine Henin had undisputedly her best season on tour. Henin won 10 of 11 finals including her third straight French Open while participating in only 14 events. The sign that Henin is human came at Wimbledon where she lost to a French player in the semifinals, not Amelie Mauresmo, but relatively unknown, Marion Bartoli, whom Venus Williams summarily defeated in the next round to claim the Venus Rosewater dish. Therefore, as Rafa Nadal seems to be Federer’s handicap on the clay in Paris, in 2008, it will be interesting to see if the All England grass and the French women continue to be Henin’s kryptonite.

In a run reminiscent of 2005, Venus worked out the rust in her game to make Wimbledon the highlight of her year. Fit and focused, Venus showed the brilliance that can illuminate her game toppling three top ranked opponents to capture the cup with her namesake. Venus continued to excel the remainder of the season although she had to cede her place at the season ending championship tournament to Sharapova because of illness. The Russian diva took full advantage of the gift by making it to the finals in Madrid where she gave Henin a run for the money prior to falling in a thrilling three setter rescuing a par year plagued by a sleuth of health problems. Thus, it remains to be seen whether in 2008 the Siberian ice queen’s game will continue to heat up or will need to be rescued from the frozen tundra once more.

2007 will be remembered as the year which propelled a small nation called Serbia into the tennis spotlight and one woman in particular Ana Ivanovic. The teenage phenom heralded her arrival with her phenomenal play at the French Open culminating with an appearance in the finals prior to collapsing under the weight of the occasion by losing to Henin. With a blistering forehand, Ivanovic will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season; the question that will need to be answered is whether fellow countrywoman Jelena Jankovic will also be a factor.

A woman’s right to choose saw the exit of a champion and return of another for contrasting reasons. Kim Clijsters decided that after winning one major trophy, she had her fill. For Kim, it was time to move on to marriage and children. While Lindsay Davenport returned to the court after the birth of her son hoping that there is still life in her career. Moreover, the 2007 sports season will be recalled as the year marred by drugs from steroids use in baseball to the career-ending shocker whereby Martina Hingis abruptly retired disputing the outcome of positive cocaine on a drug screen at Wimbledon.

Since this is a locally slanted outlet, I would be remised if I did not mention Ahsha Rolle and her exceptional performance at the U.S. Open. After earning a spot as a wildcard, the 109 ranked Rolle became the buzz of the tournament after her opening round victory over the 17 seeded and talented star Tatiana Golovin. The bee from Miami would have the best showing of her career to date in a major making it to the third round where she was ousted by Danira Safina. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Ahsha’s matches, in my opinion, a major weakness in her game is her one-dimensional backhand; she constantly slices it back. If Rolle is to have continued success on the circuit, she will need to develop more sting and variety to her backhand.

Considering the horde of new comers who impacted the game in 2007 and with so many youngsters doing particularly well at the final major of the year defeating experienced players to make it past the fourth round, the upcoming season promises to be gripping. In my viewpoint, the newcomer to watch will be Agnes Szavay from Hungary. Szavay looked impressive on the hardcourt making it to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open after being a finalist the previous week in New Haven where she was forced to retire against the #1 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova due to a back injury. With the surface change in Australia to reflect more of a hardcourt feel, I predict that she will be poised for another great run there. Overall, the young guns from the Soviet Union and the former Eastern Block look ready to make an even greater mark on the game this coming year. On the other hand, Henin appears to have taken a liking to the #1 spot; therefore, everyone will be vying to dethrone her. At times, the psychological part of her game has proven to be her weakness, thus, along with skill, mental fortitude will be the key to the opponent’s ability to dismantle her game. A player who does possess these weapons in her arsenal is Lindsay Davenport; I anticipate that with her return Henin and the Williams sisters will be breathing a little tighter.

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