Tag Archive | "Ivanovic"

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Safina Pulverizes Pennetta To Win East West Bank Classic

The women’s final at the second stop of the U.S. Open Series placed Italian Flavia Pennetta against Russian Dinara Safina. The latter must have felt comfortable coming into this match since she had never lost to the Italian. Safina smashed her opponent 6-4, 6-2 to take her second trophy this season.

After a tentative start where Pennetta had a break point in her first service game, Safina began to find her rhythm. The Italian attempted to match the power coming from her competitor’s racket, but serving at 3-4, Pennetta was broken. Yet, Dinara was unable to wrap up the set. Shortly after, unable to find the mark with her serve, Safina was broken herself. Nevertheless, the normally volatile Russian kept her cool and continued to pound away at the ball and created a double break point opening which seized to prevail in the first set 6-4.

In the second set, Safina proceeded to punch-drunk Pennetta with her weighty shots. Although Flavia broke Dinara’s serve twice, she was unable to hold hers even once. Thus, despite her great effort, Pennetta was crushed in the second set at 6-2. With this win, Safina’s ranking moves up a notch to number 8, her highest ever.

Safina dismissed the tournament’s top seed, Jelena Jankovic, in the semifinals. Jankovic would have grabbed the number one ranking away from her countrywoman Ana Ivanovic if she won this week. Serena Williams pulled out of the event because of last week’s knee injury while Daniela Hantuchova and Anna Chakvetadze fell in the third round and the quarterfinals respectively.

At the Slovenia Open, a tier IV hard court tournament, Italian Sara Errani beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3 to win her second title this year.

Next week the ladies will be in Montreal for the Rogers Cup where most of the top players will be competing minus Venus and Serena Williams who will be absent due to illness. A tier IV hard court tournament will also be taking place in Sweden with Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska as the number one seed.

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Wimbledon 2008: A Preview Of The Singles’ Draw

Once again, the Wimbledon seeding committee has upset the apple cart by utilizing its prerogative of not formulating the draw according to rankings. It is the only major that does not always abide by the rankings.

Thus, on the gentlemen’s side, Richard Gasquet currently the world number nine has been seeded ahead of James Blake ranked number eight. This is far from a minor detail. Gasquet’s semifinal finish last year probably influenced that decision, but his performance so far this year has been disastrous. For Blake, the implications are huge. Instead of meeting Andy Roddick seeded sixth in the semifinals, the two could potentially clash in the round of 16.

Marcos Baghdatis also reaped the fruits of his quarterfinal showing last year. Now ranked 25, Baghdatis is seeded tenth. Meanwhile, Stanislas Wawrinka, world number ten, in spite of his excellent season has been bumped to the number thirteen slot. Otherwise, the top seven players were seeded as expected.

For world number one Roger Federer, the road to the finals is paved with stones. In the first round, Federer faces former top ten player, Dominik Hrbaty. From there, things get more complex with Lleyton Hewitt, Fernando Gonzalez and possibly Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. For Rafael Nadal, it is harder to isolate potential pitfalls. Nadal recently beat Roddick on grass who is also on his side of the draw. Perhaps if Blake makes it to the semifinals, this may be problematic for Nadal considering that Blake leads him 3-2 in their head to head but they’ve always met on hardcourt.

The ladies’ seeding followed the rankings. Analyzing the top half of the draw, Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams should technically make it to the semifinals. For Ivanovic, speed bumps could include Patty Schnyder, Nicole Vaidosova and Agnes Szavay. On the other hand, Svetlana Kuznetsova or Agnieszka Radwanska may prevent Serena from getting to her projected engagement with Ivanovic. Defending champion Venus Williams’ journey to the trophy will be tough with Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonerava or Flavia Pennetta standing in her way in the quarterfinals. While Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina or Elena Dementieva may be semifinal obstacles for Venus. Similarly for Sharapova, her side of the draw is stacked with fellow Russians such Safina, Dementieva or Petrova who may stop her from advancing.

So, there is a lot to contemplate as we look ahead to next couple of weeks. On the women’s side, the draw appears wide open. Past major champions may have the edge because of their experience. With the gentlemen, considering that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic with their talent have distanced themselves so much from the rest of the field, it is hard to foresee another player as having even a marginal shot at the trophy. The question to be answered is whether this will be Federer’s sixth consecutive title or whether Nadal or Djokovic will manage to snatch it from Federer’s grasp.

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Third Time Is The Charm: Ivanovic Wins First Major

For Serbian Ana Ivanovic, this was her second consecutive French Open final and her third stab at a major title. In the end, experience proved to be the key, as Ivanovic triumphed 6-4, 6-3 over Russian Dinara Safina to hoist her first major’s trophy.

Last year, Ivanovic was in Safina’s shoes as a first time finalist. Unable to deal with the magnitude of the occasion, Ivanovic quickly submitted to give Justine Henin her third straight title. This time around, Safina was the newcomer to the big stage and it showed. Dinara opened the match by losing her serve. With Ivanovic’s strongest wing, her forehand, on target, she got off to a double break lead 4-1. Yet, after venting in her native tongue, Safina quieted her nerves and made headway by winning three successive games to equalize things at 4 all. With this shift in momentum, the championship had the potential of turning into a real contest. But, in the next game, Safina shot herself in the foot again and handed the break back to Ivanovic. Still, as Ivanovic served for the set, Safina had two chances to keep the set alive, but was unable to capitalize.

Now beaming with confidence, which Ivanovic ostentatiously demonstrated with her customary fist pumps, Ana began the second set as she had the last by breaking Dinara in the initial game. Luckily, Safina immediately erased the lead 1-1. Unfortunately, Safina’s pattern of losing serve after breaking back continued and Ivanovic was once more ahead. Habitually with an explosive temperament, Safina had succeeded in controlling her emotions throughout the tournament. But, Dinara cracked under the pressure resulting in an innocent racket getting hammered. After letting off some steam, Safina kept the match close at 3-2 and had deuce on Ivanovic’s serve to try to level things off. But errors took hold of her game, increasing Ivanovic’s lead to 4-2. Serving at 3-5 to stay alive, Dinara committed three unforced errors to give Ivanovic triple championship point. The Serbian gladly accepted the present and with a forehand winner, Ana concluded the match to win her first major.

For both women, this was an unforgettable fortnight. Perhaps, after defeating three top ten players en route to the finals including new world number one, Maria Sharapova, Safina was emotionally spent. After all, Dinara twice overcame match point and 5-2 leads in the second set, once against Sharapova in the round of sixteen, then in quarterfinals against Elena Dementieva. Regardless, all of Safina’s hard work will be rewarded; she will once again be back into the top ten. For Ivanovic, this was a double coronation. By defeating countrywoman Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals, Ana supplanted Maria at number one. Today was just her crowning moment with her capturing the ‘Coupe Suzanne Lenglen’.

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2008 French Open Draw Broadcast Live on Internet

This year’s men’s and women’s singles draw for the French Open will take place Friday May 23 at 11:30 AM Paris time and will be shown live on the official Roland Garros website. 

According to the website, Rafael Nadal will pick out the seeds for the women’s draw and Ana Ivanovic will do the same for the men. The non seeded players will be picked out electronically.

Miami tennis fans who want to watch the draw live will have to wake in the early hours on Friday to log on to their computers as the event will take place at 5:30 AM EST. 

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Another Russian Takes Center Stage in Germany: Dinara Safina Wins First Tier I Title

The Qatar Telecom German Open final featured two Russians, the seventh seed, Elena Dementieva and the thirteenth seed, Dinara Safina. At age 22, this was Safina’s first Tier I tournament final despite being an eight-year veteran of the ladies’ circuit. Dinara took full advantage winning it 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

At the beginning of the first set, neither player held her serve. Disgruntled with her poor play, in a move reminiscent of her brother Marat, Safina knocked out a racket. With on court coaching permitted, Safina opted to get advice on her performance, but continued to have some difficulties. With the serve, habitually the most troublesome part of Dementieva’s game holding up nicely, with at 71% first serve, and with sloppy play from her opponent, Elena prevailed in the set 6-3.

The second set started out similarly to the first with exchanges of breaks. But, as the set progressed, with some intelligently placed drop shots and a dramatic improvement in her first serve at 70%, Safina took control of the rallies. Dinara also reverted her ratio of winners to unforced errors with the former outnumbering the latter. Although well known for her defensive play and mobility, Elena found it hard to be effective when pinned far behind the baseline. As a result, Safina leveled the match at one set all.

In the first game of the third set, Safina had a double break chance, but Dementieva swept that off. Yet, from then on, Safina had the upper hand. In the third game, Dinara got the break and consolidated to take a 3-1 lead. Safina further distanced herself from her rival by going up a double break. As the errors pilled up and Dementieva’s second serve became ineffective, Safina served out the set and won the match 6-2.

Ranked 17th in the world, this represented Safina’s most successful week as a singles player. In the third round, Dinara defeated world number one, Justine Henin 6-1 in the third set. She then dispatched Serena Williams in a third set tiebreaker, putting an end to Serena’s 17 match winning streak. For her part, Dementieva eliminated two Serbs on her way to the finals, Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals, the defending champion. To date, Ivanovic has never beaten Dementieva.

The women’s tour moves on to Rome where Maria Sharapova will make her debut on European clay. Henin withdrew from the tournament stating fatigue; Justine will be fined by the WTA for this eleventh hour move. Germany was Henin’s first tournament since the Sony Ericsson Open; she has been hampered by a knee problem. With Henin battling injury, the field looks wide open as to who might win this year’s French Open.

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A Round Up of the First Week At Sony Ericsson Open 2008 (Part II)

Ai Sugiyama The third round of the Sony Ericsson Open,which began on Sunday, was memorable not just for the results but also for the intense heat. This forced the players to take advantage of an optional 10-minute interlude prior to the start of a third set. American Ashley Harkleroad had a tough time with Miami’s extreme temperature. During the match, she was constantly seeking the shade between points and went to the side of the court to bend. It is uncertain whether she was suffering from cramps. Nevertheless, Harkleroad was a trooper, pushing the match to a third set after being down a break in the second, but Elena Vesnina prevailed (4-6, 7-5, 4-6). For Amelie Mauresmo seeded 24, her greatest liability was not the heat, but rather her mental fragility. While serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the 2006 Australian and Wimbledon champion was broken and went on to lose the set. Prolonging her agony into a third with a seesaw of breaks, Mauresmo was serving to level the set at 5 all. After being up 30-0, Mauresmo produced a combination of double faults and unforced errors handing her opponent, Jie Zheng of China, the past to the next round (7-5, 4-, 4-6). A duplicate story unfolded on the adjacent court with Ai Sugiyama of Japan and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia with the variation being the latter having to push the match to a third set by winning a difficult second set tiebreak. After squandering a two break lead in the decisive set, in the 12th game, Hantuchova down 0-40 due to double faults and errors, inched back to 30-40 but hit the subsequent rally into the net to end the match.

An unforeseen occurrence was the ease with which multiple major holder, Lindsay Davenport seeded 32, disposed of the world’s second ranked player and last week Pacific Life Open champion Ana Ivanovic (6-4, 6-2). Also, Anna Chakvetadze, seeded 5, was pummeled by German wildcard Sabine Lisicki (5-7, 1-6). A third round marquee match on the men’s side featured James Blake against Fabrice Santoro who is always a tricky opponent. Santoro, the magician as he has been nicknamed, despite all his tricks, could not conjure up an illusion to conquer Blake’s powerful forehand. Although he required three sets, Blake was able to move on (6-3, 6-7,6-4). Rafael Nadal, Blake’s potential rival in the quarterfinals, waited out a rain delay mid match before finishing off Nicolas Keifer (6-2,6-4). Of note, although former French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten (Guga) was ousted in the first round, he and partner Nicolas Lapenti are in the second round of the men’s doubles. This may be the last chance to see Guga in action, he is retiring. The doubles number one seed on both the women’s and men’s side, respectively, Huber/Black and the Bryan Brothers, are through after their first round wins.

In the next few days, some exciting competition will be on tap with the projected clash between Henin and Serena in the quarterfinals and a semifinal collision between either Serena and Venus or Venus and Henin. Both Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have had their share of rough patches, but they are still alive, therefore, contenders. With Davenport doing so well, she may be heading for a showdown with either Henin or the Williams sisters in the finals; that would be a treat indeed. On the men’s side, Roger Federer is on course to crash with Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. Skipping a few days ahead, Nadal and Federer may possibly meet in the finals. With the latter two hungry for their first titles in 2008, the excitement is palpable. I can’t wait for next week to start.

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Serving It Up Serbian Style : Ivanovic and Djokovic Dominate At Pacific Life

Novack Djokovic The women’s semifinal matches at the Pacific Life featured the battle of country persons. The first clash displayed Serbs Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. Ivanovic schooled her compatriot to make it to her first Pacific Life final. The other half of the draw saw two Russians duking it out with Svetlana Kuznetsova outlasting Maria Sharapova, putting an end to Sharapova’s perfect record in 2008. With the finals showcasing the number one and two seeds, respectively ranked number two and three in the world, in theory, it promised to be a good contest. Instead, it turned out to be a slaughter with Ivanovic in total control. Throughout the match, Ivanovic’s superb forehand was firing on all cylinders against Kuznetsova. With her spectacular play, Ivanovic was rewarded with her first Pacific Life title.

On the men’s side, the much anticipated semifinal between defending champion Rafael Nadal and last year’s runner up Serbian Novak Djokovic was an uninspiring duel with the latter easily subduing the world’s second best player in straight sets. American Mardy Fish was the unlikely finalist on the opposite end of the bracket with a startling win against the world’s number one, Roger Federer. In addition to Federer, Fish defeated world number 4 Nikolay Davydenko and number 7 David Nalbandian in the previous rounds to punch his ticket to this ultimate Sunday. In the finals, Fish was hoping to cast his rod and hook another top ten player, Djokovic. After losing the first set, Fish rebounded in the second set with the intelligent play that he had displayed during the fortnight, giving him the possibility at his first Masters’ trophy. Despite forcing a decisive third set, Fish could not reel in Djokovic who simply was, too good. The Serbian sensation dissected Fish’s game in the last set, breaking him twice to seal the victory capturing his first Pacific Life trophy.

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Sharapova Wins Down Under

For the second consecutive year, Maria Sharapova made it to the Australian Open women’s final. Sharapova who had lost the title last year, advanced by impressively defeating both Justine Henin in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-0 and Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals. Ana Ivanovic, Sharapova’s opponent, had a tougher road to the finals. After fighting off Venus Williams in the quarterfinals (7-6, 6-4), she had to overcome a 6-0 lost in the first set of the semifinals to win in three against Daniela Hantuchova (0-6,6-3,6-4).

Making it to her second major final, Ivanovic looked more relaxed than her prior experience at the French Open where Henin comprehensively beat her. From the start, Sharapova looked the sharper of the two women. Sharapova’s serve, which has been her main weapon throughout the tournament, was right on target. After breaking in the first set, it seemed that Sharapova would breeze through and win it. But, when Sharapova had a momentary service hiccup, Ivanovic broke back and leveled the first set at five all. After a series forehand errors by Ivanovic, Sharapova once more gained the upper hand and eventually prevailed 7-5 in the first.

Despite a shaky beginning in the second set, Ivanovic found a way to win her games. Furthermore, Ivanovic had a couple of times a 0-30 advantage on Sharapova’s serve, but she was unable to capitalize. On the other hand, in the seventh game of the second set, Sharapova did take advantage of her break chance and captured the lead. While serving to stay in the match, Ivanovic committed a myriad of unforced errors that resulted in her loosing, giving Sharapova her first Australian championship, her third major title. A coup Sharapova achieved without loosing a set in the two weeks of the tournament.

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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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