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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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2009 U.S. Open Draw Set

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2009 U.S. Open Draw Set


usopenlogoThe suspense is over.  With Rafael Nadal’s ranking now at number 3, the burning question was whether Roger Federer will have to face his nemesis prior to the finals.  The prospect of a Roger versus Rafa final remains alive with these two on opposite sides of the draw.  On the other hand, there will be no Williams sisters final.  Serena and Venus can only clash in the semifinals.

Federer will be aiming for a sixth consecutive U.S. Open trophy and his recent win in Cincy demonstrates that the world number one has a good shot. Still, 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick who gave Federer an unforgettable battle at Wimbledon and Novak Djokovic, 2007 U.S. Open finalist, might be formidable semifinal opponents. Nadal may find himself in a dog fight right out of the blocks with Richard Gasquet as a first round adversary. With Rafa still not in full shape with his knees, another possible obstacle will be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.  Last year’s finalist, Andy Murray could meet Nadal in the semifinals.  The Brit is hungry and healthy, a combination that may stand in the way of Nadal reaching his first U.S. Open final. In the quarterfinals, Murray might see Juan Martin Del Potro.  Although the Brit has had Del Potro’s number, the Argentine may pull an ace off his sleeve.  Should conditioning not become a factor, Del Potro has the tools to get to his first major final.

Top seed Dinara Safina has a tough path to the quarterfinals with Alisa Kleybanova, Lucie Safarova possible rivals in the early rounds.  Jelena Jankovic, Safina’s potential quarterfinal counterpart, may have Sabine Lisicki or Ana Ivanovic to contend with.  Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova could be semifinals match ups for either woman.  Dementieva has looked great in the lead up tournaments and is well positioned to carry her first major. Although reigning French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has been dealing with injury, she is a threat to take her second U.S. Open.

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2009 French Open Draw Released

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2009 French Open Draw Released


french_open_logoThis Monday, the most talented men and women in tennis will initiate the process of deciding who will walk away with the year’s second major. While Rafael Nadal is unequivocally the favorite on the men’s side, the women’s potential champion is much harder to predict.

Although Nadal going down to Roger Federer in Madrid added spice to the contest, the Spaniard remains the one with the target on his back. Fellow countrymen David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco, possible fourth round and quarterfinal opponents respectively, could provide further intrigue to the plot. But, Nadal has had no trouble dealing with either man during his spectacular clay court run. The most anticipated semifinal match up could be Nadal versus Brit Andy Murray. Murray showed moments of brilliance in their semifinal meeting in Monte Carlo which he lost. Murray may need to go through Spaniard Albert Montanes, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, pesky Czech Radek Stepanek or Marat Safin, a semifinalist in 2008. So Murray’s will have a mount to climb before getting to Nadal.

On paper, Federer should reach the quarterfinals without difficulties. However, lurking in Roger’s section are James Blake, Tomas Berdych and a couple Spaniards, any of them could serve as spoilers. In the quarters, Federer could face Andy Roddick. Yet, Roddick could have a rough time getting past his rivals since clay is not his best surface. Serb Novak Djokovic and Federer could meet in the semifinals. Having come back from a set and a break down to prevail their last two encounters, Novak will have confidence squarely in his corner. However, standing in Djokovic’s way in the preliminary rounds may be former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, top ten players Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro and Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

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Lisicki Lands First Career Championship In Charleston

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Lisicki Lands First Career Championship In Charleston


familycircle2In the clash of the teenagers at the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina, a green clay premier tournament, German Sabine Lisicki, ranked 62nd, dominated Dane Caroline Wozniacki, ranked 12th, 6-2, 6-4 to grab her first professional trophy.

After winning the MPS Group Championships in Florida last week and ousting top seed Elena Dementieva in the semifinals, Wozniacki, seeded fifth, was the undisputed favorite. However, Lisicki, seeded 16th, demonstrated from the opening game that she was soaring with confidence although this was only her second WTA final. Wins over Venus Williams, world number five, in the third round and Marion Bartoli, world number 13, in the semifinals, wetted Lisicki’s appetite. By provoking errors from Wozniacki and with two forehand winners, Lisicki broke for 1-0 lead. Then, with an ace and additional forehand winners, Lisicki went up 2-0. Despite being further challenged on her serve, Caroline managed to hold. Subsequently, after Sabine easily guarded serve, she attacked causing Caroline to flay a few forehands and go down double break point. The Dane then gifted the German a 4-1 advantage by double faulting. Never facing any danger, Lisicki closed out the first set.

Although Wozniacki’s performance improved in the second set, the difficulty was that Lisicki matched or surpassed her level of play. After keeping up with Lisicki, in the fifth game, Wozniacki saw a backhand crosscourt pass nullify a game point. Then, three more game points were negated and with a backhand error, Lisicki had break point. Thereupon, with an assist from the net as Wozniacki’s ball went long, Lisicki took a 3-2 lead. But, after being in front 40-0, Lisicki double faulted and made some untimely errors for deuce. When Sabine misfired with a forehand up the line, Caroline got her first break point of the day. Yet, with a forehand crosscourt winner for deuce and adroit serves, Lisicki consolidated for 4-2. Next, with Wozniacki serving at 3-5, Lisicki was like a pit bull. However, after four deuces, the Dane hung on to the game by scooping a heavy ball from the German for a forehand crosscourt winner. After a relatively flawless outing and with triple match point, Lisicki coughed up three consecutive unforced errors for deuce. Sabine then double faulted giving Caroline break point. Still, with her powerful serve, Lisicki evaded trouble. Finally, on the sixth championship point, Lisicki converted with a forehand winner.

Besides winning a major, a unique way to announce one’s self to the tennis world is with a command showing at a premier event. That’s what Lisicki did this week. As a result, the German will see a considerable boost in her ranking.

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