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Nestor and Zimonjic Defend Wimbledon Title By Toppling Bryan Brothers While Williams Sisters Also Repeat

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Nestor and Zimonjic Defend Wimbledon Title By Toppling Bryan Brothers While Williams Sisters Also Repeat


img_9036As the top men doubles team squared off in the Wimbledon final, second seeds Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic defeated number one seeds Mike and Bob Bryan 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 to maintain their title. Moreover, after Serena Williams secured her eleventh major, she partnered with sister Venus to defeat Australians Rennae Stubbs and Samantha Stosur 7-6, 6-4 for their fourth Wimbledon doubles title.

After Bob Bryan put away a volley to hold at love, Zimonjic made short work on his serve to equalize things at 1 all. This was the pattern in the first set, with neither team getting close to deuce. Thus, the tiebreaker was called upon. With Mike double faulting, the opposition got up a mini-break for 3-1. However, when Zimonjic’s backhand volley sailed long, the teams were leveled at 5 all. After Zimonjic put away an overhead for set point, Mike’s volley found the bottom of the net giving the second seeds the lead.

Second set was a duplicate of the first as neither team could dent the other’s service game. The tiebreaker was required anew. This time with excellent volleying for winners, the Bryan brothers carried the set.

In the third set with Mike serving, a Bryan missed volley gave their rival their first break point of the match. Still, with a couple of service return errors, the Bryans held. Despite hairier games from both sides, neither team buckled. Another tiebreaker was in order. After Zimonjic and Nestor jumped ahead on the first point with a mini-break, the Bryans were unable to recover. The defending champions took a two set to one advantage. After Zimonjic held to start the fourth, his forehand return winner denied Bob game point. Subsequently, with two errors by the Bryans, the opposition edged in front 2-0. The next game with Nestor serving, a forehand down the line winner by Mike gave the Bryans double break point. But with three successive aces, Nestor scratched out any opportunity the Bryans had of closing the gap. With Zimonjic serving for the championship at 5-3, a couple of double faults gave the Bryans hope. However, with a couple of aces, Zimonjic clamped the door giving the second seed their second consecutive title.

A similar story was replayed as Serena and Venus took on the Australians. After break point chances were wasted, the first set was settled by a tiebreaker. With a topspin lob winner by Serena, the Williams built a substantial lead at 4-1. Then, with a volley winner, Venus sealed the set.

To open the second set, Stosur double faulted and with a backhand crosscourt winner from Venus, the Aussies faced love-30. Still, by forcing volleying errors, Stosur pulled out the game. With Stubbs serving at 1 all, with a forehand volley winner from Venus and a Stosur overhead going wide, the Americans erased double game point. Subsequently, Venus and Serena earned three break points which were erased by superb volleying from their counterparts. Nevertheless, there was a sense that the Americans were getting the upper hand. In the seventh game, Venus cranked with a forehand volley winner for 0-15. Afterwards, some crucial errors by the Aussies and a double fault gave the Americans break point. Serena capitalized by converting a backhand volley winner. Then, Venus consolidated by holding serve for 5-3. With Stosur saving match point, Serena was called upon to wrap up the championship. On the third match point, Serena produced an ace. This was the culmination of a fortnight dominated by the Williams’ whereby they even eliminated the top doubles team of Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the semifinals.

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros


img_9890-version-2The initial week of the French Open has been filled with thrilling victories as well as agonizing losses. Here is a targeted recap of what’s gone on so far and a preview of week two.

The women and men’s number one seed breezed through their matches. Surrendering only four games in three matches, Dinara Safina faces Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the round of 16. Despite a partisan crowd, Safina should have no problems. After a slow start in her opening match, defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also in Safina’s section of the draw, has gotten better with each round. Reigning Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka is up next for Ivanovic. Undoubtedly, this will be Ana’s biggest challenge to date. Rafael Nadal continues to make mince meat of his opponents. Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, won only five games in their third round meeting. Nadal takes on Swede Robin Soderling in the round of 16. Although Soderling beat clay court expert David Ferrer in the prior round, it’s hard to contemplate his having any success against Nadal. Another Spaniard making waves in France is Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has prevailed in three in all his matches and will play Russian Nikolay Davydenko. The victor of that match will have the unenviable task of trying to go through Nadal to get to the semifinals.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the number two seed, have had a tougher time, yet advanced to week two. Federer’s next obstacle will be German Tommy Haas and Serena’s Canadian Alesksandra Wozniak. Andy Roddick, the only American male standing, has made it past the third round for the first time. Roddick has dismissed his rivals in impressive fashion. However, Frenchman Gael Monfils, a semifinalist last year, will be Roddick’s upcoming puzzle. Should Roddick jump through that hurdle, he could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Brit Andy Murray is another one who hasn’t sailed through. Although Croatian Marin Cilic may be a test for the Brit, with Gilles Simon out, Murray’s place in the semifinals is almost a certainty where he is likely to battle Nadal.

Saturday saw the departure of the number four seeds as Novak Djokovic fell to German Philip Kohlschreiber while Australian Samantha Stosur stopped Elena Dementieva. Along with Kohlschreiber, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make their debut into the round of 16. The latter two will play each other for a quarterfinal spot. With Djokovic out, for these three men as well as Spaniard Tommy Roberdo, it’s a great opportunity to reach the semifinal where Roddick or Federer may be waiting.

Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have quietly taken care of business. Kuznetsova’s next match will be tougher as she squares off against crafty Polish youngster Agnieszka Radwanska. Jankovic should have an easy pass with Romanian Sorana Cristea. Jankovic is in the golden position of avoiding a top ten seed until the semifinal where she could collide with either Serena or Svetlana. Another lucky one is former world number one now ranked 102, Maria Sharapova. Despite fumbling through, Sharapova is in the round of 16 where she will take on Na Li. Hungarian Agnes Szavay foiled Sharapova’s possible quarterfinal encounter with Venus Williams. Szavay thrashed Venus in the third round. In only her second tournament back from shoulder surgery, Sharapova has a real chance of getting to the semifinals.

Seeded fifth, Venus and Serena are alive in doubles and could impact with the number one seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the quarters. The top five women and men’s doubles teams are still in the mix. But, in mixed doubles, the number two seed, Cara Black and Leander Paes, was defeated in the second round.

Having set a new record for most consecutive wins at the French, can Nadal stay undefeated and seal the deal with a fifth consecutive trophy? Or will Federer finally obtain the only major that has eluded him? Will Murray, Jankovic or Safina join the elite club of major winners? Can Tsonga or Monfils make France’s dream a reality by celebrating their first major in their home country? Will Serena claim her second French title? The reply to these burning questions will come shortly.

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USA Squeaks By Argentina For Semifinal Spot In Federation Cup


With the top U.S. players, Serena and Venus Williams, unavailable for the first round of Federation Cup, new captain Mary Joe Fernandez was dealt an impossible hand. With a team comprised of 34-year-old Jill Craybas and 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, ranked 151 in singles and making her debut, the U.S. was in an unenviable position versus Argentina. However, in Surprise, Arizona, Oudin proved to be the best of all surprises.

As a clamorous crowd cheered on, Oudin won Sunday’s second rubber to push the event into a fifth match. As it came down to the wire, Liezel Huber, doubles world number one and recently naturalized citizen, and Julie Ditty pulled off a 6-2, 6-3 victory for the U.S. to move on to the semifinals.

In the first match on Saturday, Craybas defeated her 20-year-old Betina Jozami 6-2, 6-1 to give the Americans a leg up. After starting out poorly, Craybas quickly recovered. Craybas’ years of accumulated knowledge was the difference, as she won her first Fed Cup match on home soil. Similarly, in the second rubber, Gisela Dulko at 24, a tour veteran, utilized her experience to beat Oudin in straight sets 6-2, 7-5. After being blown away in the first set, Oudin saved match point and broke in the second to tie it at 5 all. But, the next game, Oudin lost her serve. Dulko shut out the set with a love game. So, the first day, the teams split the two rubbers.

In Sunday’s first rubber, on paper, it was an excellent match-up for the Americans because of Craybas’ great record against Dulko. Yet, in the first set, Craybas, bitten by the unforced error bug, let Dulko cruise through. Then, in the second set, Craybas went down an early break at 1-4 and never caught up. With a well-angled backhand volley winner, Dulko extended her lead to 5-2 and closed out the match with a crosscourt forehand pass. With a 6-1, 6-3 victory, Dulko gave Argentina a 2-1 lead.

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Double Trouble: Bryan Brothers and Williams Sisters Come Out On Top In Australia


KnowlesIn the men’s doubles in Melbourne, the second seed, Mike and Bob Bryan, beat Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi, the third seed, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 to win their third Australian Open title.

Knowles and Bhupathi dominated the first set, breaking at love to take a double break lead. Throughout the second set, Mark and Mahesh had multiple break chances, but failed to seize any, as the Bryans held firm. As Knowles served to send the set into a tiebreak, he double faulted and missed an easy volley to give the Bryans double set point. When Bhupathi tracked down a spectacular lob from his opponent and dumped the next stroke into the net, the Bryans equalized the match.

In the third set, the Bryans shifted to a higher gear. After holding serve, Mike and Bob had double break point and converted with a lob for a winner. On cruise control, the Bryans broke at love to secure the ultimate set and the championship. World number one, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic were upset in the second round by Oliver Marach and Lukasz Kubot. That team then fell in the quarterfinals, ousted by Bhupathi and Knowles.

A day earlier, Venus and Serena Williams took the women’s doubles title by defeating Ai Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-3. After trailing in the first set 3-0, the Williams’ won six consecutive games to seal the first set. The second set was very competitive with the teams trading breaks back and forth. Finally, in the eight game, the Williams’ captured the lead and never relinquished it. A holder of the other three major titles in doubles, Sugiyama was denied the completion of the career doubles slam. Sugiyama and Hantuchova, seeded ninth, knocked out the number one seed, Liezel Huber and Cara Black, in the quarterfinals. In a reversal of last year’s Wimbledon, the siblings took both titles. However, this time, it was Serena holding up the singles trophy. Moreover, Venus deserves a great deal of praise for sticking around and playing so well after losing in the second round in singles.

The mixed doubles winner has yet to be decided as Sania Mirza and Bhupathi will play against Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram.

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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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Venus’ Star Shines Bright At The Year End Championship


As the top eight women players gathered in Doha for the Sony Ericsson Championships, Venus Williams and Russian Vera Zvonareva were undoubtedly considered dark horses after being the last ones to qualify. This unlikely twosome reached the finals in dominant fashion with neither woman dropping a match in round robin play. Thus, today, someone would soil her perfect record. Zvonareva drew the short straw as she fell to Williams 7-6, 0-6, 2-6.

Plagued by injuries the last few years, Williams has forfeited the year-end event multiple times. As such, this was Venus’ first final. After an uneventful opening game, Zvonareva got her first break point opportunity when Williams double faulted. The Russian converted when Williams misfired on a forehand 2-0. With penetrating groundstrokes, Williams forced errors from Zvonareva and with a forehand down the line pass had a break point. But, Williams wasted that chance by making a backhand error. Venus earned another break point, but was turned away by a forehand crosscourt winner from Zvonareva. After five deuces, Zvonareva held for a 3-0 advantage. Subsequently, with excellent serving, Venus remained one break behind. The turning point arrived with Zvonareva serving for the set at 5-3. After Vera was ahead 40-0, Venus connected on a crosscourt forehand winner, mirrored it with a backhand, then Zvonareva overcooked a volley leading to deuce. After a marathon rally, Venus dug out a ball to make a superb backhand volley for break point which Williams later converted. The set concluded in a tiebreak. After a backhand down the line winner gave Venus a double mini-break lead at 4-1, she squandered it with two unforced errors. Subsequently, with a double fault, Venus handed Vera a set point. Zvonareva capitalized on it when a net court dropped in for a winner. The Russian appeared poised to claim the biggest title of her career.

After winning a tough opening game, Williams made a crisp volley for a winner in a game where Zvonareva led 40-30 to take a 2-0 advantage. After easily holding serve, an error filled game by Vera extended Venus’ lead to 4-0. Venus faced a break point in the fifth game after committing several unforced errors. But, Williams forced an error from Zvonareva to get out of trouble and widen her lead to 5-0. Hence, Williams broke the Russian again to take the second set a love.

After Venus held serve to open the final set, Vera produced two costly unforced errors to go down double break point. Williams’ forehand stayed solid allowing her to break for 2-0. However, Williams faced break points after backhand misses. When Venus netted a Zvonareva dropshot, the players were back on serve. In the next game, the Russian gambled once again on the dropshot and lost when Williams smashed an overhead lob for another break point. Venus converted for a 3-1 lead. Unable to bottle her frustration, Zvonareva abused her racket and exploded in tears. In the sixth game, Vera picked up the pieces and held serve for the first in the set. As Zvonareva served at 2-5, Williams stepped on the accelerator. When a forehand skidded off the line causing an unforced error from Zvonareva, Williams arrived at championship point. Shortly after, Williams put away a volley to claim the trophy.

World number one and defending champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber crushed Rennae Stubbs and Kveta Peschke 6-1, 7-5 in the doubles finals culminating a year where they won nine other titles including the U.S. Open.

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No Mercy For Zvonareva As Jankovic Mows Over Another Russian In Moscow


For the third consecutive week, Serbian Jelena Jankovic faced a Russian in the finals. At the Kremlin Cup, her opponent was Vera Zvonareva. The result was the same, as Jankovic beat Zvonareva 6-2, 6-4.

Zvonareva’s first tier I final in front of a partisan crowd was not a delightful experience. After opening the match with a forehand crosscourt winner, Vera threw away a game point and with a bunch of errors gave Jankovic the break. Subsequently, Jelena literally pinned Vera into a corner resulting in four straight forehand errors for a love game 2-0. After blowing a 40-15 lead, Zvonareva finally got on the scoreboard after Jankovic produced a couple of forehand errors of her own 1-2. After holding serve comfortably, Jelena pressured Vera with her deep groundstrokes resulting in four consecutive forehand errors on the Russian’s best shot. Now, the Serb had a double break lead 4-1, then, dominated to take the first set.

Just as she had done in the first set, Jankovic started out the second by imposing her game. A sequence of unforced errors by Zvonareva gave her triple break point; Jankovic capitalized by curling in a forehand winner from way off the court. Despite being frustrated, Vera did not wither. After a backhand down the line by Jankovic misconnected, the players were at deuce. Later, Zvonareva connected on a sensational topspin lob for a break point which she converted 1-1. At that point, momentum appeared to have shifted. Moreover, Zvonareva obtained another break point when Jankovic misfired on a ball that skidded off the line. However, successive unforced errors by Vera equalized the set at 2-2. With a swinging volley and two forehand winners, Jankovic regained the lead 3-2. But refusing to cry uncle, Vera received another opportunity when her backhand hit the net and dropped in for a winner to give her double break point. Zvonareva converted and the players were back on serve 4-4. However, the ever-crafty Jankovic fabricated two backhand down the line winners for a double break which she capitalized on for a 5-4 lead. Then, with repeated unforced errors from Zvonareva, Jankovic secured the match.

Zvonareva can still rejoice. With this showing, she will climb up a notch in the rankings from 9 to 8. On the WTA, the ranking shuffle continues. With Serena Williams withdrawing from this event due to an ankle injury, Dinara Safina, Zvonareva’s opponent in the semifinals, will become the new number 2.

Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik dismissed the number one women’s doubles team Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-4 to take the cup. The men were also in action in Moscow. Russian Igor Kunitsyn defeated fellow countryman Marat Safin 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 to win his first ATP title.

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At The Summit Once Again: Serena Williams Victorious At The U.S. Open


The U.S. Open women’s final was a rematch of the 2008 Sony Ericsson final with Serbian Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams as the two protagonists. This time, both a majors’ trophy and the number one ranking were at stake. Once more, Williams triumphed defeating Jankovic 6-4, 7-5.

One of the best women’s final played on Ashe in many years was made more intriguing by the players’ contrasting personalities, Jelena jovial as always while Serena focused and intense. Moreover, this match was a case of hustle versus muscle with Jelena attempting to counter Serena’s overpowering groundstrokes with her superb defensive skills.

Although this was Jankovic’s first appearance in a majors’ final, the butterflies appeared to rest on her seasoned opponent’s corner. Williams’ opening service game, which initially looked routine at 40-15, got more complicated. But, Serena held after three deuces. On Williams’ subsequent service game, three consecutive unforced errors resulted in Jankovic taking a 2-1 lead. Shortly after though, Serena returned the favor, equalizing things at 2-2 in a game where Jelena had 40-love advantage. Then, a double fault presented Serena with another break point opportunity and with a forehand winner, Williams went ahead 4-2. Yet, as Serena served for the set, a rash of unforced errors gave Jankovic triple break point and with Williams’ sliced forehand finding the net, the players were back on serve. Nonetheless, the very next game Williams earned triple break point and wrapped up the first set.

After comfortably holding serve to start the second set, Serena’s double break chance evaporated courtesy of unforced errors in a series of eternal rallies. Jelena’s money shot, the backhand down the line, rescued her on multiple occasions while Serena’s ace in the hole throughout was her serve. In the sixth game, Serena had another opportunity to creep ahead with double break point. Again, Jelena erased that possibility 3-3. Serving at 40-15, Williams played a ball she believed the line judge should have called long. Serena voiced her objection to the umpire. The chair used video to review which proved the line judge was indeed right. Rattled a bit, Williams ended up losing her serve. Serving at 3-5, despite making three poor shot selections and facing triple break point, Serena managed to hold putting the pressure on Jelena to serve out the set. Perhaps still ruminating over missed opportunities, Jelena misjudged an overhead, double faulted and with a forehand winner from Serena stared herself at triple break point. Eventually, Serena connected to level the set at 5 all. With her net play on cue, Williams made a stab volley to win the game and then celebrated with a roar in response to Jelena’s gripe that she took too long between points. Pumped up, Serena attacked Jankovic’s serve which paid off. Gifted match point number two with a double fault, Williams converted to obtain her third U.S Open title.

Williams, in supreme form, did not drop a set the entire tournament. Serena regains the number one ranking, a post she last held between July 2002 and August 2003 for 57 consecutive weeks.  Earlier that day, top ranked doubles team Cara Black and Liezel Huber captured their first U.S Open title by defeating Samantha Stosur and Lisa Raymond in straight sets 6-3, 7-6

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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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