Tag Archive | "Henin"

Not So Odd:  Serena Acquires Another Aussie Major

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Not So Odd: Serena Acquires Another Aussie Major


img_1710January 30, 2010

Defending champion Serena Williams’ proclivity to win the Australian Open in uneven years is well documented. Regrettably for Justine Henin, Serena decided not to stick to tradition in 2010.  In the final, Serena blocked Justine 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to claim her fifth Australian Open trophy.

Serena was under the gun from the first game. Williams dumped a forehand into the net to give Henin double break point.  But, as she has done over and over this fortnight, with good serves, Serena salvaged a four deuce game.  After holding serve, helped by the net, Henin earned another break point with a backhand return winner. Again, Serena erased the deficit with an ace.  Supreme at saving break points, Serena captured this five deuce game with an overhead winner for 2-1.  Subsequently, aided by a Henin double fault, Serena set up triple break point with a backhand crosscourt winner.  Williams capitalized when Henin’s forehand went wide. However, due to a rash of errors Williams faced double break point.  After saving one with an ace, Serena got a break when a backhand volley winner by Justine was mistakenly judged long; the point was replayed.  On the do-over, Serena consolidated for 4-1.  Later, Serena handed Justine two chances to get back on serve with a series of miscues.  With a forehand crosscourt winner, Justine did just that and went on to equalize the set at 4 all.  Yet, after Serena captured her game at love, Justine donated a couple of set points with a double fault and backhand error.  When Henin’s backhand skinned the net and landed long, Williams secured the first set.

In the second set, Henin and Williams traded roles. The second game, Justine came up with a couple of great serves to obliterate double break point.  Afterwards, with a backhand winner, Justine broke Serena at love for a 2-1 edge.  Still, the very next game, Henin allowed Williams to level the set.  At 2-3, after dismissing another break point, Henin reached a great drop and flicked a forehand volley crosscourt winner for advantage point.  When Serena netted another forehand, the set was equalized at 3.  Energized, the next game, Henin manufactured a second break opportunity with a backhand volley winner and converted when Williams’ backhand traveled long.  After Henin consolidated with a love game for 5-3; she broke Serena at love to capture the set.

In the decisive set, Henin opened with a love hold.  Then, when Serena’s attempt at serve and volley failed, Henin had double break point.  Once again, Serena bombed a couple of aces to shovel herself out for 1 all.  Subsequently, as Justine’s forehand up the line sailed long, Serena arrived at double break point.  With a sinking backhand stroke, Serena caused Justine to push the backhand volley into the net, thereby obtaining the break for 2-1.  But, with three consecutive forehand errors by Williams, Henin was at triple break point.  When Henin crushed a forehand return crosscourt, the set was equalized.  Still, with another double fault by Henin and a backhand up the line winner, Serena got another break opportunity.  Serena cashed in when Justine bungled an easy backhand crosscourt.  Despite pressure from her rival, Serena stretched her lead to 4-2 with a second serve ace. Then, with a dipping backhand, Serena forced Henin into a backhand volley mistake leading to two break opportunities.  When Henin’s backhand floated long, Williams took a commanding 5-2 edge.  Serena sealed the championship with backhand crosscourt winner.

As a former world number one, hopes were high that Henin would do well upon rejoining the tour.  Nevertheless, the final of her first two tournaments including a major, even for Henin, that is tantamount to a dream.  Just four weeks after returning, Henin will be ranked in the top 40.

In the quarterfinals against Victoria Azarenka, Serena had perhaps the comeback of her career.  After being ahead 6-4, 4-0, Azarenka who played spectacularly from start to finish came out on the losing end.  This was the hint that this would be yet again Serena’s year.  Serena becomes the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2002 to successfully defend.  Williams also ties Billy Jean King with 12 majors.

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WTA Aussie Open Mid Tournament Recap

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WTA Aussie Open Mid Tournament Recap


img_3627_jhAfter eight days, the Australian Open field has been narrowed.  Here’s a synopsis of the early round stumbles, near misses and a crack at determining a champion.

Maria Kirilenko rocked Rod Laver Arena with a first day, first round, first match upset of 14th seed Maria Sharapova.  With a suspect serve, will and grit could not pull Sharapova through her first competitive match of the season.  Not resting on her laurels, Kirilenko progressed to the round of 16 where she received an early Easter gift from Dinara Safina.  Nine games into the first set, Safina threw in the towel because of a back injury.  As a result, Kirilenko reaches her initial major quarterfinal and will play Jie Zheng, the 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist.  Zheng ousted 11th seed Marion Bartoli in the third round, then took care of Alona Bondarenko. Now, one of these women has the opportunity to advance to her first Aussie Open semifinal.

Waiting in the wing for Kirilenko and Zheng is perhaps Justine Henin.  The 2004 Australian champion had to work tirelessly to book a quarterfinal spot.  Henin’s second round meeting with Elena Dementieva lived up to the hype with top-notch groundstrokes by both players.  Upon surviving that encounter, Henin came close to saying cheerio in the third round.  Alisa Kleybenova demanded  Henin’s best before going down in three sets.  A similar performance was required by Henin in the round of 16 with U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer proving a tough kill.  Again, Henin needed to go the distance to seal the win and a date with Nadia Petrova in the quarters.

Petrova was probably regarded as the Russian least likely to succeed at the start of the Open.  However, after dismantling U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters in the third round and ushering out French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in round four, Petrova is no doubt a formidable adversary. Therefore, if Petrova continues along the same lines, Henin may be in for a colossal surprise.

Defending champion Serena Williams has been impressive in marching to the round of 16.  Serena has yet to drop serve nor a set.  Her toughest test will be Aussie hopeful Sam Stosur in the upcoming round.  With a big serve and a win over Serena in Stanford last year, Stosur has the tools to upstage the world number one.

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw


australian_open_logoThe Australian Open draw is out.  More than any prior year, in this imprecise game of predictions, the only certainty is the uncertainty in determining a frontrunner for the trophy on both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s side.  With no one having a conspicuous edge, with few exceptions, anyone in the top ten can be regarded as a legitimate contender.  Moreover, on the women’s side, the return of some old faces with previous success at majors means that it’s is truly anybody’s title.

In the top half of the draw, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and Robyn Soderling are the highest seeds respectively. Astonishingly, if the last couple of months are an accurate barometer, Davydenko is for the first time a true threat to make it all the way to the final.  After wrapping 2009 with the ATP World tour finals trophy, just  days ago, Davydenko brought down Federer and Rafael Nadal to take the title in Qatar.  However, the question remains as to whether Davydenko can translate that type of success to a best of five set tournament over two weeks. If the draw proceeds as expected, Davydenko will have a crack at Federer in the quarters and Djokovic or Soderling in the semis.

For his part, Federer has a pretty challenging road in attempting to reach the final.  In the first round, the world number one faces the ever dangerous Igor Andreev.  Subsequently, there are possible match-ups with Australian Open finalists Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in the round of 16. Other than Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist in ’09, is a potential in the quarters. So, Federer will need to be on his toes to advance beyond the quarters.

Third seed Djokovic should have a fairly unobstructed run to the quarters.  Still, Richard Gasquet who is getting back in the swing of the game may be a problem for Djokovic in the round of 16. Furthermore, on that side of the draw, majors’ finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Soderling could clash in the round of 16.  With both Tsonga and Soderling potential quarterfinal opponents for Djokovic and with both having wins over the latter, a Djokovic/Federer semifinal is in far from a foregone conclusion.

In the bottom half of the draw, for the defending champion Nadal and Andy Murray, technically, their path to a quarterfinal showdown appears uncomplicated. Yet, Radek Stepanek, a potential round of 16 encounter for Nadal, is perhaps the sole question mark.  In Murray’s case, a healthy Gael Monfils can spell trouble in the round of 16.  But, with Monfils fighting injury, Murray will not be bothered.

Last year’s semifinalist Andy Roddick has another golden opportunity to move at least to the quarterfinal despite Fernando Gonzalez seemingly in his way.  Also, with U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro fettered by a wrist injury, his progress deep into the draw is in doubt.  Del Potro is slated to see Marin Cilic in the quarters or Roddick in the semis.

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Henin Makes A Comeback

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Henin Makes A Comeback


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Reflections on WTA 2009

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Reflections on WTA 2009


img_1710It’s that time of year when we look back at what transpired on the women’s tour over the past season and view ahead at the upcoming year.  Here’s a recap of the great, the good and the down right ugly moments from 2009.

Last year, in many respects, can be characterized as bizarre. The majors commenced with a meltdown by Dinara Safina as Serena Williams thrashed her in the Australian Open final.  Months later after sensational results at lead up tournaments, Safina, newly crowned world number one, had another breakdown in the French Open final vis-à-vis Svetlana Kuznetsova.  As such, Kuznetsova grabbed the second major of her career.

At the All England Club, after Serena survived a riveting semifinal match against Elena Dementieva, she faced Venus in the finals for the second consecutive year.  However, this go around, Serena bested big sister to capture 2009′s third major.  Also a favorite to step to the finals at the U.S. Open, Serena encountered two stumbling blocks, her emotions and  Kim Clijsters.

After fulfilling her desire to procreate, Clijsters discovered that her retreat from tennis had left a void.  Thus, following a two year absence, Clijsters once again embraced the game. Subsequent to some impressive triumphs, Clijsters took on Serena in the semifinals. The weather may have been in part culpable, more likely though, it was Clijsters’ superb touch that got under Serena’s skin as a foot fault by a line judge roused Serena’s anger.  Unsavory words by Serena caused a point penalty with Clijsters having match point.  A day later, Clijsters went on to rope the U.S. Open trophy, the second major of her career.

Leading the pack of names that captivated the tour in 2009 is Dane Caroline Wozniacki.  The teenager became her country’s first competitor to reach a major final. Although downed by Clijsters, after starting the year in the top 20, Wozniacki closed 2009 at number 4.  Belarusian Victoria Azarenka continued her march in the right direction.  Azarenka demolished Serena at the Sony Ericsson Open to catch the biggest title of her career.

On the other hand, for the Serbs, it was  a year of sliding backward. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and former world number one, had trouble directing her forehand and serve. With neither stroke on the money, Ivanovic did not get pass the fourth round at any of the majors. Ivanovic reached one final, Indian Wells, but failed to hoist the trophy. Fed up, Ivanovic put a punctuation to her season in October and her ranking tumbled to 21st.  Number one at the start of the year, Jelena Jankovic, fared a little better than Ivanovic by collecting two titles.  However, Jankovic was equally a disappointment at the majors with only a round of 16 appearance in Paris and Melbourne.

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week


img_3407At the majors, the unpredictable can happen. The early rounds of the U.S. Open have proven not to be the exception providing lots of fireworks particularly on the women’s side.  Here’s a half time synopsis and a look at the week ahead .

If one thought her ousting of Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon this year was a fluke, Melanie Oudin said think again. The17 year old American Fed Cup heroine bounced back after dropping the first set to defeat a trophy favorite world number 4 Elena Dementieva in the second round. On Saturday, Oudin duplicated that result by ousting 29th seed Maria Sharapova.  In the round of 16, Oudin will take on her fourth consecutive Russian Nadia Petrova.  Moreover, in the quarterfinals, Melanie may have a shot at claiming another Russian big scalp, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Speaking of Jankovic, the 2008 finalist was eliminated in the second round by Yaroslava Shvedova.  Another jaw dropper was the exit of  8th seed and  reigning Sony Open champion Victoria Azarenka sent packing in the third round by Francesca Schiavone.

Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, Dinara Safina had managed to record a W. However yesterday, Safina was ultimately pushed over the cliff in the third round by Czech teenage talent Petra Kvitova. The world number’s one performance has ignited the debate as to the relevance of the computer ranking system.  Since Justine Henin’s retirement, there’s been a conspicuous vacuum at the top of the ladies’ game.  Safina’s inability to embrace the big occasions while Serena Williams has flourished in that setting has fueled the discussion.  Unlike Safina, the defending champion has shown little compassion for her opponents in reaching the round of 16. In contrast, sister Venus’ performance has been a mixed bag with injury thrown in as a factor. Venus’ colossal test comes in the fourth round as she faces Kim Clijsters whose form appears unaffected by her sabbatical.  Unless Venus tidies up her game, the Belgian will foil her much anticipated semifinal with Serena. The free fall continues for 2008 French open winner and former world number one Ana Ivanovic as her stock took another hit with her first round departure. In all 21 of the 32 women seeds have failed to move pass the fourth round.

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Mauresmo Magnificent At Home Embraces Silver Career Title


Today, France’s Amelie Mauresmo demonstrated that writing her tennis obituary might be premature.  Mauresmo defeated Russian Elena Dementieva in the finals of the Open GDF Suez in Paris 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 to capture her 25th trophy and her first in two years.

Off the bat, Mauresmo went down a break after netting a volley.  Luckily, with a double fault, Mauresmo got a break point and delivered when Dementieva’s backhand crosscourt went long. After the players traded breaks again; at two all, Dementieva secured another break with a forehand crosscourt winner and then consolidated with a love game for 4-2.  The next game was pivotal as Mauresmo saved a break point and held for 3-4.  As Dementieva served for the set at 5-4, Mauresmo’s versatility, particularly on the backhand, forced errors from her opponent, allowing her to break.  The set went to a tiebreak.  With a forehand winner, Dementieva had set point; but it vanished when she was unable to pass Mauresmo at net.  Subsequently, Amelie, herself, arrived at set point when Dementieva’s crosscourt forehand found the bottom of the net.  Then, Amelie handcuffed Elena with a great body serve to wrap up the set after 1 hour and 14 minutes.

With a double fault and a few errors from Dementieva, Mauresmo had the early break in the second set.  However, after being ahead 30-0, Amelie made some rare backhand errors to relinquish her lead.  After appearing to be on her way to an easy hold at 40-15, Mauresmo misfired on the backhand again and mistimed a ball which ended up going over her racket giving Dementieva the winner and a service break.  At 2-5, Mauresmo double faulted to hand Dementieva set point and double faulted anew to gift her the set.

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A Gem In The Magic City: Miami’s Sony Ericsson Open

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A Gem In The Magic City: Miami’s Sony Ericsson Open


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Written on May 2, 2008

Since 2000, schedule permitting, I have been a faithful and fervent attendee at my hometown tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida. Yet, as a devout tennis fanatic, my wish has always been to make a pilgrimage to one of the shrines of the sport, a major.

In my mind, there has always been the perception that I was being deprived of an ecclesiastical experience by not going to New York, London, Paris or Melbourne. As luck would have it, in 2006 and 2007, I ascended from the category of lowly television viewer to that of obscured spectator when I was finally able to drink in the atmosphere at the U.S Open. After spending five days at the opening round matches in New York the last couple of years and a week at this year’s Sony Ericsson, I began to view the latter through a new lens. As I surveyed the familiar vista at Crandon Park, the prism through which I evaluated the tournament was suddenly lifted. Moreover, I arrived at the realization that the Sony Ericsson Open is truly a jewel in my own backyard.

Manhattan’s bright lights and vibrant streets are comparable to an impish, unruly child with the magnetic powers to draw one in with a cunning smile. A similar attraction lures one in at the U.S. Open. On the subway, I was overcome by a wave of exhilaration from the chatter of the passengers whose destination, just as mine, was the major’s site. As the train approached the tennis center and the Arthur Ashe stadium came into view, a touch of awe and anxiety intermingled as I became conscious of the magnitude of the place. These sentiments were further accentuated as the grounds crew greeted me with their megaphones shouting instructions such as, “no backpacks allowed into the stadium”. Or as I filed through the long security lines that stretch for miles and saw my precious can of juice seized since opaque containers were prohibited entry. The shear volume of people, over 700,000 attended the tournament in 2007, and the additional security measures implemented after the catastrophic incident at the Twin Towers signify that one has to be willing to tolerate these inconveniences in order to experience the U.S. Open.

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2008:  A Year Full Of Surprises On The Women’s Tour

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2008: A Year Full Of Surprises On The Women’s Tour


img_2867As another season concludes on the WTA, its is only fitting to reflect on the moments that branded it and look forward to what might be in store for 2009.

The Russian onslaught continues with half of the players ranked in the top ten coming from that nation. One of the pack’s standouts, Maria Sharapova, bulldozed over her opponents to win the year’s first major in Australia. However, after an impressive winning streak, Sharapova went on forced sabbatical due to an old shoulder injury resurfacing. Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva finally lived up to their promise, as these two had a phenomenal run in 2008. Sporting new coaches, these two women known for their volatile outburst on court, bottled their tempers which translated into great results. Safina’s newfound mental solidity carried her all the way to the French Open final. For her part, Zvonareva was a finalist at the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships where she lost a heartbreaking match to Venus Williams. Moreover, this powerhouse of tennis swept the medals at the Olympics with Elena Dementieva taking gold, Safina silver, and Zvonareva bronze. In team play, the Russians were also supreme, crushing Spain to grab another Federation cup.

The Serbians also became more firmly entrenched in the sport. After her defeat in the Australian final, Ana Ivanovic claimed her first major in Paris. Compatriot Jelena Jankovic made her first majors’ final appearance at the U.S. Open, but lost a tough three setter. As a result of the French Open title, Ivanovic captured the number one ranking. But with a niggling thumb injury, Ivanovic struggled the remainder of the year. On the other hand, Jankovic overflowing with confidence after her great U. S. Open showing, won three straight tournaments and finished the year at number one. Jelena is the third player after Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis to hold that honor despite failing to earn a major trophy.

The Williams sisters persist as the beacon of light of American tennis with Venus shining on her best surface, the grass at Wimbledon. Venus seized her fifth title at sister Serena’s expense. But the latter’s tears were short-lived as the siblings took the Wimbledon doubles title and repeated with doubles gold in Beijing. Moreover, Venus showed that at 28, she still could keep up with her younger peers by winning both in Zurich and at the prestigious year-end championships. While Serena, no spring chicken herself, prevailed for the third time at the U.S. Open.

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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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