Tag Archive | "Dementieva"

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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Creeping Up on Number One:  Wozniacki Clenches Tokyo Title

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Creeping Up on Number One: Wozniacki Clenches Tokyo Title

After a poor showing in the first set, Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two, rallied to capture the trophy at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.  Wozniacki defeated Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed, 1-6,6-2,6-3 for her fifth title of the season.

With two winners, Dementieva opened the match with triple break point.  Despite Wozniacki getting to deuce, the Russian forced the errors to secure the break.  After easily consolidating, as Wozniacki’s backhand sailed long, Dementieva had double break point.  Dementieva capitalized when her opponent’s forehand traveled long.  Subsequent to a double break lead for 4-0, Dementieva took another game off Wozniacki to seal the set.

Since Dementieva got 94% of her first serves in play and with Wozniacki committing eleven errors while failing to connect on a single winner, a comfortable victory looked to be in store for the Russian.  Yet, when Dementieva sent a backhand down the line wide, the Dane had her first break point.  Although Dementieva bagged the game, Wozniacki telegraphed the message that she was not willing to fold.  Subsequent to her first comfortable hold, with Dementieva ahead 40-0, Wozniacki struck a forehand crosscourt winner, her first of the match, which turned out to be her wake up call.  By provoking two additional miscues from Dementieva, Wozniacki leveled the game at deuce.  Later, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Wozniacki obtained another break point and converted.  Next, thanks to Wozniacki’s mistakes, Dementieva had double break point.  However, the Dane recovered and extended her lead to 3-1.  With Dementieva serving at 2-4 and deuce, Wozniacki screamed while the ball was in the air thinking it would touch long. But, the stroke found the court.  Still, Dementieva was awarded the point because the umpire viewed Wozniacki’s outburst as a hindrance.  Disagreeing with the ruling, Wozniacki asked to chat with the supervisor; nonetheless, the call stood.  After dismissing the incident from her mind, Wozniacki pushed Dementieva into mistakes and stole the game for a 5-2 edge.  Then, the world number two closed out the second set and forced a third for the championship.

In the decisive set, a forehand winner gave Wozniacki her third break point in the third game.  Wozniacki made good when Dementieva dumped her backhand into the net.  Albeit, the lead was short-lived because Dementieva quickly equalized the set at 2 a piece.  A few games on, a Dementieva flub handed Wozniacki break point.  As a result of Dementieva backhand misfiring, Wozniacki pocketed the break for 4-3.  After readily consolidating, with a forehand crosscourt winner and a double fault donation from Dementieva, Wozniacki arrived at double championship point.  The Dane secured the title when Dementieva threw in her fourth double fault of the day.

In some respects, the match was similar to Pilot Pen semifinals whereby Wozniacki surrendered the first set 1-6 but edged out Dementieva in a third set tiebreaker.  After prevailing for her eleventh career prize, Wozniacki expressed that she was thrilled since Dementieva was “playing really well [in the first set] and didn’t let me in. . . [in the second set] I stepped it up . . .and with two close sets, I am happy standing here as the winner”.  With regards to the disputed call in the second set,  Wozniacki stated “I didn’t agree with the umpire, [but] I had to move on from there . . . The difference in the end was that I won the important points, [kept] fighting and [was] focused”.

With Serena Williams still sidelined by a foot injury and out of competition the next two weeks, Wozniacki could overtake her at number one.  Nevertheless, when asked whether this was in her thoughts, Wozniacki replied “I don’t look at the rankings too much.  I focus on winning tournaments, although it’s been [my] dream to be number one”.  Depending on her results at the upcoming events, Wozniacki has an excellent chance of realizing that dream.

For Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, Tokyo was gravely disappointing.  Sharapova was ousted in the first round by Kimiko Date Krumm and will slide significantly from number 15.  Jelena Jankovic, the third seed and finalist in 2009, was knocked out by Kaia Kanepi in the third round. Samantha Stosur, the fourth seed, also suffered an early second round exit.   Dementieva stopped second seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals.  Regardless, that showing was adequate for Zvonareva to book a spot in the Sony Ericsson championships at year’s end.

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Week One at U.S. Open: Wozniacki Living Up to Seeding, Jankovic Makes Early Departure

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Week One at U.S. Open: Wozniacki Living Up to Seeding, Jankovic Makes Early Departure

With Serena Williams out of the running, one established truism at this year’s U.S. Open was that the list of potential champions had expanded.  Yet, Caroline Wozniacki’s form the first three rounds is giving many room for pause as she is invariably validating her top billing.  With the initial week of competition concluded, here’s a recapitulation of the event thus far and a peak at what’s ahead.

Wozniacki has permitted her opponents only three games on her way to booking her spot into the round of 16.  Although Maria Sharapova needed three sets in the first round against Jarmila Groth, since then she has also been stingy. Sharapova allowed Beatrice Capra, the 18 year old American who upended 18th seed Aravane Rezai, just one game in their third round match.  As a result, the much anticipated  fourth round match between Sharapova and Wozniacki will take place on Monday.

After scraping by to reach the third round, Jelena Jankovic, the 4th seed, had her progress halted by Kaia Kanepi, the 31st seed.  Therefore, for Jankovic, the disappointment at the majors go on.  Kanepi will face Yanina Wickmayer, the 15th seed and 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist, in the round of 16.

Vera Zvonareva, the 7th seed, has been keeping a low profile while calmly taking care of business.  Without dropping a set, Zvonareva is now in the fourth round where she will battle Andrea Petkovic.  Zvonareva is clearly the favorite in that clash and with Jankovic ousted, she has a great chance to earn a berth in the semifinals.

Na Li, the 8th seed, and Agnieszka Radwanska, the 9th seed, were booted in the first and second round respectively.  With Li sent packing, Dominika Cibulkova was the beneficiary.  Cibulkova is alive for the first time in the fourth round at the U.S. Open and will face Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Since falling under the tutelage of Amelie Mauresmo’s former coach, Kuznetsova has rediscovered the road to success.  Kuznetsova should have no trouble punching her ticket to the quarterfinals for a date with either Sharapova or Wozniacki.

In the bottom half of the draw, Melanie Oudin, last year’s American darling, was bounced in the second round.  Franscesca Schiavone, the 6th seed  and reigning French Open champion, has finally found her game on hardcourt.  The Italian heads to the round of 16 having yet to surrender a set.  Schiavone’s next obstacle will be 19 year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  The Russian’s third round showdown with one of the favorites for the title Victoria Azarenka never came to fruition.  In her second round match, Azarenka collapsed and was forced to retire.  Initially, the problem was ascribed to the scorching temperatures.  Later on, the news was released that Azarenka had suffered a mild concussion prior to taking the court which was the culprit for her abrupt egress.  With Pavlyuchenkova dominant on hardcourt this season, it will be fascinating to see whether teenage fearlessness or experience wins out.

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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion?  Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open

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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion? Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open

This week, the U.S. Open draw was disclosed.  Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two and 2009 finalist, and Kim Clijsters, the defending champion and world number three, are the top seeds.  Yet to fully recover from foot surgery, Serena Williams, the world number one, pulled out a few days ago.  In the absence of such a fierce competitor, this presents a sweeping opportunity for Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka or Wozniacki to emerge as a first time champion at a major.  Whether one of these women realizes her potential will be contingent on the performance of those who have previously hoisted this trophy such as Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Clijsters.  Here’s a look at how the draw shapes up.

With the biggest title of her career at the Rogers Cup earlier this week, Wozniacki heads into New York with a wealth of confidence.  But, being the top seed at a major is an unfamiliar status for the Dane, how she handles the pressure will be key.  Wozniacki may need every ounce of mental fortitude to get through the round of 16 where 2007 U.S. Open winner Sharapova will be her likely adversary.  In Cincinnati, Sharapova suffered a foot injury.  If Sharapova is at full capacity, Wozniacki could find her claim to her first major postponed another year.

After a difficult few months whereby her ranking dropped outside the top 10, Kuznetsova’s game appears to be clicking again as evidenced by a recent title in San Diego.  As a potential quarterfinal opponent for Sharapova or Wozniacki, the 2004 U.S. Open champion is someone to keep an eye on in the top half of the draw.

The same applies for 2010 Australian Open semifinalist Na Li who will be searching to go one step further at the U.S. Open.  For that to happen, Li may have to knock out Kuznetsova in the round of 16 and stop either Sharapova or Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.  Also, Maria Kirilenko and Aravane Rezai are two dangerous competitors who may prevent any of these players from advancing to the quarterfinals.

In the bottom part of the top half of the draw, if the script follows the seeding, Vera Zvonareva and Jankovic will face off in the quarterfinals.  Lately though, Jankovic has been plagued by a myriad of injuries resulting in her downfall in the early rounds at the warm-up events.  Thus, the Serbian could be ousted in the primary stages by 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer or 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi.

Being a Wimbledon finalist in Zvonareva’s case could be a blessing or a curse.  In light of that experience, the Russian should have the belief to foil any potential upset in the round of 16 by rivals such as Nadia Petrova or Agnieszka Radwanska. Conversely, Zvonareva’s desire to erase that disappointment could lead to additional pressure and open the door for her counterparts.

If the results of the recent tournaments are any indication, it will be a Wozniacki versus Zvonareva semifinal or an all Russian affair, Zvonareva versus Sharapova.  Since Wozniacki defeated Zvonareva in Montreal, the Dane would have the edge.  If it comes down to a test of wills between Sharapova and Zvonareva, the former would have the upper hand.

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title

At the Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Kim Clijsters survived three championship points from Maria Sharapova just as the skies were opening.  When the match resumed after a 70 minute rain delay, Clijsters, the 4th seed, changed not only her outfit, but her game.  Clijsters worked her way back to rob the trophy from the 10th seed with a 2-6,7-6,6-2 victory.

Although Clijsters had a slim edge over Sharapova in their head to head at 4-3, the latter had prevailed at their ultimate three meetings.  However, a lot had taken place since the 2007 Australian Open semifinal, the last time Clijsters and Sharapova clashed.  For Clijsters, the wanting of a family and marriage pushed her away from competition for almost two years.  Yet, in the summer of 2009, Clijsters marked her returned on tour in grand style with the title at the U.S. Open.  Sharapova had a near 10 month absence from the game due to shoulder surgery.  Since getting back in May 2009, Sharapova’s serve, one of the principle components which propelled her to three major titles, has been unpredictable.

Strangely enough, it was Clijsters’ serve which was her Achilles heel from the outset.  After being ahead 40-15 in the first game, Clijsters double faulted to give Sharapova break point.  Despite recovering and salvaging a 0-40 game subsequently, Clijsters could not find any answers to an attacking and aggressive Sharapova.  After fighting off two break points to arrive at 2 all, from 15-40, Sharapova aided by miscues from Clijsters got to deuce.  Then, when Clijsters’ backhand crosscourt sailed long, Sharapova had her fifth break point.  The Russian banked the break when Clijsters committed her fourth double fault.  After consolidating for 4-2, Sharapova’s provoked three consecutive backhand mistakes from Clijsters to obtain a second break.  Next, with a love game, Sharapova closed out the set.

Clijsters opened the second set with a love hold.  Once Sharapova netted a backhand, Clijsters had break point.  With a backhand return winner, Clijsters capitalized for a 2-0 lead.  But, with two errors and a double fault, Clijsters faced triple break point.  With another Clijsters’ backhand going out of play, Sharapova was back on serve.  Later, on a deep return by Sharapova, Clijsters dumped her next stroke into the net handing Sharapova double break point. As a result of Clijsters’ forehand up the line landing wide, Sharapova captured the break for 4-3 and went on to consolidate for 5-3.   By unleashing on a forehand return, Sharapova struck a winner for match point.  With Sharapova sending a forehand crosscourt long, Clijsters got to deuce.  Two more championship points followed for Sharapova with Clijsters successfully salvaging both.  On the game’s fourth deuce, the rain intensified causing play to be stopped.

When the women took the court after the weather interruption, a new Clijsters quickly guarded serve for 4-5.  With Sharapova serving for the title, Clijsters coaxed the Russian into two backhand errors to earn double break point.  Thanks to a couple of big second serves, Sharapova brushed those aside for deuce.  However, another backhand miscue by Sharapova led to break point for Clijsters.  As a result of a double fault, Clijsters leveled the set at 5 all.   The second set was decided by a tiebreaker.

By double faulting on the initial point, Clijsters gifted Sharapova a mini-break.  The Russian went on to take a 3-0 lead.  Because of mistakes by Sharapova including a double fault, Clijsters seized the next five points.  After Sharapova erased the mini-break advantage, she double faulted to give Clijsters a 6-4 edge.  As Sharapova misfired with the backhand crosscourt on set point, Clijsters was back in contention.

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Chance of a Lifetime:  Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open

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Chance of a Lifetime: Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open

Nothing is impossible!  This was the phrase on the t-shirt worn by Francesca Schiavone’s family and friends today in the French Open final.  Schiavone proved the axiom by surprising Samantha Stosur 6-4, 7-6 to grab her first career major.  Moreover, Schiavone stenciled her name in history by becoming the first Italian female to prevail at a major.

With eight first serves leading to two love games, Stosur was on a tear to open the first set.  Still, Schiavone had no trouble keeping up, connecting on an ace to level things at 2 all.  Subsequently, with a deep return, Schiavone provoked Stosur into a forehand error for love-30.   However, with her saving grace, the serve, Stosur battled back and capped the game with a forehand down the line winner for 3-2.  Using her all court game, especially the volley, Schiavone stayed in touch with Stosur.  The pivotal point arrived at 4 a piece.  By pushing her rival into three uncomfortable shots which misfired, Schiavone manufactured triple break point.  After Stosur salvaged two, she double faulted on the third to give Schiavone a 5-4 advantage.  By climbing out of love-30 with an ace and forehand crosscourt winner, Schiavone set up a second set point with a backhand volley winner.  When Stosur netted the backhand, Schiavone claimed the first set.

With a deep and low backhand pass, Schiavone caused Stosur to hit the next stroke long.  As a result, the Italian had double break point in third game of the second set.  However, with a three winners and an unreturnable serve, Stosur guarded serve for 2-1.  Then, by punishing second serves, Stosur had her first break point of the day with a forehand up the line winner. Stosur capitalized when Schiavone’s forehand up the line failed.  Promptly, Stosur consolidated with a love game for 4-1.  Following a quick hold, Schiavone produced a backhand return winner crosscourt, a forehand winner and made Stosur err with the backhand to arrive at love-40.  Later, by stabbing at a superb serve, Schiavone got a miscue on a short forehand from Stosur to get back on serve at 3-4.  Despite the mounting pressure, Schiavone remained aggressive and comfortably maintained serve.  Eventually, the set was settled in a tiebreaker.  Schiavone secured a mini-break for 3-2 by tracking Stosur’s dropshot and converting a backhand up the line winner.  The Italian extended her lead to 5-2 with a forehand volley winner and forehand crosscourt winner.  Subsequently, with a crosscourt backhand volley winner, Schiavone obtained a second mini-break and four championship points.  When Stosur’s stroke off the return traveled out of play, Schiavone bagged the second set and the French Open trophy.  Schiavone rejoiced by painting her lips red with a clay kiss, duplicating this jubilant sign she had shown in the quarters and semis.

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash

The sun has set on a the first week at the French Open.  As usual there were upsets, many of them expected.  However, Serena Williams and Justine Henin, two pre-tournament  favorites, have not disappointed.  As such, the much touted quarterfinal encounter between these rivals is one round away.  Here is a synopsis of the main developments of the initial days.

A bunch of big names took a tumble in the bottom section of the draw.  Leading the pack was Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champion.  After a miserable tune-up, Kuznetsova looked every bit the champion in the first round.  Moreover, with her back against the wall in the second round, Kuznetsova salvaged four match points against Andrea Petkovic to advance.  But, by the third round, Kuznetsova had utilized all her life lines.  She was taken down in three sets by Maria Kirilenko.

Victoria Azarenka, the 9th seed, has had a tough year.  The 2009 Sony Ericsson champ was schooled by Gisela Dulko, exiting in the first round.  But, in the next round, Dulko was herself stunned by South African qualifier Channelle Scheepers.  Scheepers reached the fourth round where she was stopped by Elena Dementieva.  Another surprise was Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, the winner in Rome, also going out in the first round.

As the newly re-minted number two and a finalist in Madrid, expectations were high that Venus Williams would at least make the semifinals.  In the first three rounds, Venus forged a statement not only with her attire, but with her play by bouncing her adversaries in straight sets.  Yet, in the round of 16, Venus’ game went through a transformation.  Although this was their first meeting on clay, Venus had a  4-0 record against Nadia Petrova.  Still, Petrova, a 2005 semifinalist, pulled off a straight sets victory.  As such, for the fourth consecutive year, Venus was booted prior to the quarterfinals.

A combination of rain and obscurity resulted in a few matches being played over two days. When Aravane Rezai and Petrova resumed their third round with the third set leveled at 7, the French crowd was disenchanted as Petrova walked away with the win.  Later that day, France’s last hope, Marion Bartoli, in the top half of the draw, was eliminated in the fourth round by Shahar Peer.

After fighting through Aleksandra Wozniak in the third round and an easy fourth round win, 2004 finalist Dementieva is unquestionably a contender for the finals.  Caroline Wozniacki, the third seed, is another.  Following two uncomplicated rounds, Wozniacki was severely tested by Alexandra Dulgheru and still captured her third match in straight sets. Then, in the round of 16, warrior Wozniacki bested Flavia Pennetta in a three hour duel to move on to her first quarterfinal in Paris.  Bothered by an ankle injury, as Wozniacki faces scrappy Fransceca Schiavone, who booted Kirilenko, she may need to duplicated her last performance

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Dulgheru Repeats in Warsaw by Defeating Zheng in the Finals

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Dulgheru Repeats in Warsaw by Defeating Zheng in the Finals

Last year at the Polstat Warsaw Open, qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru, ranked 201st,  beat Alona Bondarenko in the finals.  As a result, Dulgheru became the lowest ranked player to prevail at this renamed event whose roll call of distinguished winners includes Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams.  Again, this year, Dulgheru, now world number 32, clashed with a seasoned competitor, Zheng Jie. The 20 year old triumphed over Zheng Jie 6-3,6-4 to obtain her second WTA title.

After Zheng had no problem her first two games, she faced triple break point when Dulgheru fabricated a forehand dropshot winner. Once Zheng’s forehand crosscourt landed out of play, Dulgheru took a 3-2 lead.  Despite a difficult game, Dulgheru consolidated for 4-2.  Later, with a backhand down the line pass for a winner, Dulgheru captured a second break extending her advantage to 5-2.  Serving for the first set, Dulgheru double faulted on triple break point, reducing her lead to 5-3.  However, with a forehand up the line winner, Dulgheru had her fourth break/set point.  By crushing another forehand up the line, Dulgheru broke for the third time to secure the set.

Subsequent to a tough hold to open the second set, Dulgheru arrived at break point with a forehand crosscourt winner.  An error on the forehand crosscourt by Zheng allowed Dulgheru to seize a 2-0 edge.  Yet, with three consecutive mistakes, Dulgheru gave Zheng triple break point.  The Chinese woman got back on serve with a lob winner.  Soon, with a couple of timely winners, Zheng had triple break point.  When Dulgheru donated a double fault, Zheng captured the break for 3-2.  Promptly, Zheng consolidated for a 4-2 edge.  After Dulgheru held another hard fought game, she teased three straight miscues out of Zheng for triple break point.  By Zheng netting a backhand, the players were leveled at 4 a piece.  Then, by connecting with a forehand crosscourt winner, Dulgheru went in front 5-4.  With Zheng serving and ahead 40-15, Dulgheru produced a backhand winner and provoked an error to reach deuce.  After Zheng erased an initial break point, a miscue on a swing volley handed Dulgheru her second championship point.  Dulgheru sealed the victory with a backhand crosscourt winner.

Still, for Zheng, it has been a terrific tournament, reaching her first final since 2006.  Consequently, Zheng, the fifth seed and 25th ranked, will see a minuscule bump in her ranking.  Caroline Wozniacki, the number one seed, retired with an ankle problem after dropping the first set to Zheng in the semifinals.  While Elena Dementieva, the second seed, was booted out in the second round by qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova, third seed Li Na was bounced by Dulgheru in the semifinals and fourth seed Marion Bartoli in the first round.  Qualifier Greta Arn took out sixth seed and 2009 finalist Bondarenko in the quarterfinals, thereby continuing the alarming trend of top players falling this clay season.

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open

Today, the French Open draw was revealed.  Because Serena and Venus Williams are the top two seeds, the possibility of an all Williams final exists. However, with Justine Henin, a four time champion, a potential quarterfinal rival for Serena and Venus perhaps seeing Aravane Rezai or Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, the list of spoilers is extensive.  Here’s a snapshot of the likely key match-ups which may eventually determine the victor.

After months of being a spectator, Serena rejoined the tour in Rome where she reached the semifinals. Despite an early exit in singles in Madrid,  Serena got reacquainted with the surface by prevailing in doubles along with Venus.  Serena’s first obstacle would come in the form of Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 since she would play a denizen. Still, Serena’s biggest hindrance lies in the quarters.  Serena lost to Henin, the eventual champion, in 2003 and 2007.  On the other hand, that match may not materialize as Henin could battle Maria Sharapova in the third round.  Samantha Stosur, a semifinalist in 2009 and the titlist in Charleston this year, is another potential tough quarterfinal opponent for Serena.

Following Serena, Jelena Jankovic is the next highest seed in the top half of the draw.  With players such as Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer and Vera Zvonareva returning from injury on Jankovic’s side of the draw, she should have an uneven full path to the quarters.  Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic could be Jankovic’s quarterfinal adversary.  Since her glorious days at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic has slipped.  For the first time in months, Ivanovic showed true signs of life with a semifinal posting in Rome.  Perhaps it will take Paris to completely get Ivanovic out of her slump.

Venus Williams and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova flank the bottom half of the draw.  So far this year, Kuznetsova’s results have been mediocre. Consequently, for Kuznetsova, it is safe to deduce that a replay of 2009 is a long shot.  In the first round, Kuznetsova faces a difficult opponent, Sorana Cirstea.  Should she move on, Maria Kirilenko could upset her in the third round.  Li Na and Francesca Schiavone could trouble Kuznetsova in the round of 16.  Moreover, legitimate stumbling blocks in the quarters for Kuznetsova include Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Alexandra Dulgheru and Caroline Wozniacki.

On the other hand, Wozniacki, the third seed, has been hampered by an ankle injury since Charleston.  For that reason, Wozniacki has failed to make an impact after winning in Ponte Vedra Beach.  In the third round, Wozniacki may see Dulgheru and Pennetta or Safarova in the fourth round. Considering the caliber of those rivals, it’s doubtful that Wozniacki has lasting power.

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U.S. Rebound vs. Russia to Advance to Fed Cup Final

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U.S. Rebound vs. Russia to Advance to Fed Cup Final

In the Federation Cup semifinals played in Birmingham, after the U.S. and Russia split the first two rubbers, Melanie Oudin started out the day with a loss.  Elena Dementieva  defeated Oudin 7-6,0-6,6-3 to put Russia ahead 2-1.  An unlikely savior emerged to pull the Americans through. Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat 6-4,2-6,6-3 Ekaterina Makarova in singles.  Then, less than one hour later, Mattek-Sands partnered with Liezel Huber trouncing Alla Kudryavtseva and Dementieva 6-3,6-1 giving the U.S. a 3-2 win over Russia and a berth in the finals.

In the initial match yesterday, after being unsettled in the beginning, Oudin found her game. Oudin took the rubber 6-3,6-3 over Kudryavtseva.  However, in the second tie, Dementieva despite the reappearance of her service woes fought off Mattek-Sands to prevail 6-4, 6-3.

Today, the first rubber featured Dementieva and Oudin.  After each player was broken five consecutive times, each held sending the first set to a tiebreaker.  Dementieva got an initial mini-break, but lost her two service points to give Oudin a 2-1 advantage.  Again at 3 all, Oudin connected on a forehand winner for a mini-break lead.  However, by forcing a string of errors, Dementieva won the next four points to steal the set.

After opening with a service break, Oudin ran away with the second set capturing it at love.  In the decisive third set, Oudin got three successive forehand errors from Dementieva to obtain the break for 2-1.  However, by conversely pressuring Oudin into multiple miscues, Dementieva equalized the set at 2 all.  On the heels of love hold, Dementieva placed a great return thereby provoking an error from Oudin for break point.  When Oudin sliced the backhand into the net, Dementieva went up 4-2.  After dismissing two break points, Dementieva threw in an ace to consolidate for 5-2.  Later, Dementieva closed out the match with a love game to hand Russia a 2-1 lead.

With the U.S. in a must win position, Mattek-Sands faced Makarova in the next match.   After allowing two game points to evaporate and handing the break to Makarova to open the set, Mattek-Sands held serve to keep within striking distance.  With Makarova serving at 4-3, using sensational defense, Mattek-Sands enticed a backhand error from her opponent for double break point.  With a great return followed by a volley winner, Mattek-Sands leveled the set at 4 all.  After wiping out break point and holding, Mattek-Sands erased two game points by Makarova to snatch the set.

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