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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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Blockbuster Showdown in the Fourth Round:  Sharapova v Serena and Henin v Clijsters

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Blockbuster Showdown in the Fourth Round: Sharapova v Serena and Henin v Clijsters


For the most part, the first week at Wimbledon has gone according to plan on the ladies’ side.  As a result, defending champion Serena Williams will square off in the round of 16 against the woman who beat her in the 2004 final, Maria Sharapova.  Similarly, the projected clash between Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters has come to fruition.  This means that tomorrow, two individuals will be disappointed.  Let’s analyze how we arrived at this point and what lies ahead in the second week.

Top seed Serena Williams has simply run through her opponents. Likewise, Sharapova has had little difficulty getting to this stage, sending her adversaries home in straight sets.  Serena and Sharapova have played seven times with the former winning five of those meetings.  Curiously, since the 2004 championship, the two have never battled on grass.  In essence, this will be their rematch.  A significant factor will be how well Sharapova serves.  If the Russian does well in that department, Serena could be in trouble.

Na Li and Agniezska Radwanska who face each other in the fourth round have yet to drop a set in getting this far.  Radwanska holds a 2-1 record against Li and both victories have been on grass.  But for both Li and Radwanska, the quarterfinals will be a tough ask with either Sharapova or Serena as a rival.

A definite stunner was the dismissal of French Open finalist Samantha Stosur in the first round by Kaia Kanepi.  Previously ranked as high as 18 in 2009, Kanepi’s placement dipped to 80.  After ousting another seed Alexandra Dulgheru in the third round, the talented Estonian is in the round of 16 .  Another surprise is Kanepi’s opponent in the fourth round, Klara Zakopalova.  The 28 year old had not gone pass the third round at a major previously.  Zakopalova advanced by bouncing 18th seed Aravane Rezai in the second round and trouncing 10th seed Flavia Pennetta in the third.

Caroline Wozniacki, the third seed, has been splendid on grass as she attempts to better her fourth round result from last year.  Jie Zheng, the 23rd seed, and Victoria Azarenka, the 14th seed, fell victim to Petra Kvitova in the second and third round respectively. Thus, Wozniacki takes on Kvitova in the round of 16.  The Dane carried their prior two matches.  Furthermore, with Kanepi or Zakopalova as a quarterfinal match-up, Wozniacki truly has a green light to the semifinals.

This was a disastrous week for the French Open winners.  The reigning champion Francesca Schiavone went out in the first round.  Last year’s title holder and 19th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova crashed out in the second round.  Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 victor, bowed out in the first round.  Hence, Ivanovic’s ranking of 45 will continue to head toward the cellar.

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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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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through

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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through


Whilst rain had been forecasted in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open on Friday, what was unexpected was Novak Djokovic’s second round departure.  Olivier Rochus ousted the world number two 6-2,6-7,6-4.  Simultaneously on court 1, Caroline Wozniacki, the women’s number two, was on the verge of an early exit herself.  However, Wozniacki survived against Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6,6-3,6-4.

Rochus broke in the opening game.  After consolidating, Olivier placed a beautiful backhand down the line winner to set up triple break point.  Rochus converted a second break when Djokovic’s backhand sailed long.  After erasing a break point and extending his lead to 5-1, Rochus closed out the set his next time out.

In the second set, Rochus again obtained triple break point and with a backhand down the line winner took a 3-2 lead.  But, Djokovic got back on even terms promptly breaking the next game.  The set went to a tiebreaker where Rochus got ahead early on.  Yet, Djokovic weathered the storm and stole the set.

The decisive set, after holding serve, Rochus was gifted a double fault by Djokovic and broke for 2-1.  Then, by donating to his opponent a couple of errors, Rochus lost his edge. Soon though, Rochus worked his way to double break point and capitalized when Djokovic’s forehand traveled long. Later on, Rochus fought off a break point and stretched his advantage to 4-1.  After failing to secure the insurance break, serving at 5-3, Rochus committed a string of errors allowing Djokovic to stay in the match.  Still, with miscues by Djokovic, Rochus manufactured break point/match point.  Olivier pocketed the match when another Novak forehand went astray.

After the match, MiamiTennisNews inquired:
Q.  Were you having problems breathing on the court?  Looked like the conditions were a little bit heavy out there.
DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, it was a bit humid, but, you know, he was making me run a lot so points were really long.  That was exhausting.

Q.  You’ve been playing a lot of tennis.  Are you thinking of maybe rescheduling for the clay season?
DJOKOVIC:  I don’t know.  I will have more time now I guess to rest and prepare well for clay.

On to the ladies, after dropping the first set to Pironkova, Wozniacki was behind in the second set.  The world number two battled back and captured the break for 5-3.  Subsequently, Wozniacki held to push the match to a third set.

In the ultimate set, Pironkova got a break early on and consolidated for 3-0.  After finally getting on the board, Wozniacki earned triple break point and converted.  Later at 3 all, Wozniacki took a go ahead break for 4-3.  However, Pironkova fought back to 4 a piece.  But, a resilient Wozniacki manufactured another break point and put herself in front 5-4 when Pironkova’s forehand up the line sailed long.  Then, on her third match point, as a forehand from Pironkova landed wide, Wozniacki punched her ticket into the third round.

With the rain backlog, Kim Clijsters’ match originally scheduled on stadium court was bounced to an outer court.  Regardless, for Clijsters, it turned out to be a practice session with a 6-1,6-1 thumping of Petra Kvitova.  Like Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva put on a clinic against Melanie Oudin 6-1, 6-2. Maria Kirilenko crawled out of a 5-2 deficit in the third set against Melinda Czink to pilfer the match in the tiebreaker.  After losing the first set, Lucie Safarova seized the second set tiebreaker then rolled over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6.7-6,6-2.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 22nd seed, continues to impress; the youngster beat Tamira Paszek  7-6,4-6,6-3 for a third round berth.   Before the rain came, Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, had a 6-3,6-2 victory over Alexandra Dulgheru. Jelena Jankovic, Dominika Cibulkova, Elena Vesnina and Shahar Peer were straight sets winners.  Samatha Stosur was pushed to a third set by Carla Suarez Navarro and made it through.

Elena Dementieva, the 5th seed, suffered her 11th defeat to Justine Henin 6-3,6-2. Alisa Kleybanova, the 24th seed, fell to Sara Errani 6-4,7-5 while Jie Zheng, seeded 20th, was upset by Virginie Razzano in straight sets.  For Alize Cornet, it was another disappointing tournament with an early ousting, this time by Francesca Schiavone.  Schiavone prevailed 6-3,6-2.  After being on the road six weeks and some heartbreaking losses, Cornet’s 2010 record is now 6-9.

MiamiTennisNews wanted to know about Cornet’s state of mind:

Q. You look physically tired, are you also mentally tired?
CORNET:  Maybe a little, it’s already many weeks that I’m away from home.  I have not cut back in terms of training and I am someone who trains a lot usually. I rarely give myself time off, days of rest. I am becoming cognizant that I should take resting a little more seriously and from time to time award myself a day off. However, I think it’s difficult with long stretches of tournaments as such.

Djokovic was followed on stadium court by Rafael Nadal.  In no time, Nadal dispatched Taylor Dent 6-4,6-3.  Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a no drama night with straight set wins over their opponents Igor Andreev and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez respectively.  Ivan Ljubicic, the champion at Indian Wells last week, was forced to retire against Benjamin Becker after carrying the first set and the first game in the second due to a back injury.  It was a tough day for the American males with Sam Querrey and James Blake going down after winning their first sets to Jeremy Chardy and Thomas Bellucci respectively. But, John Isner avoided the upset with a 7-6,2-6,7-6 victory over Michael Russell.  David Nalbandian, Ivo Karlovic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro and Phillip Kohlschreiber advanced.

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On Tap At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open For Friday March 26

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On Tap At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open For Friday March 26


Second round play for the WTA and ATP continue today at the Sony Ericsson Open with many top ten players from both tours on the schedule.

The morning starts with last year’s Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, on stadium court squaring off against Alexandra Dulgheru. Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki, the winner and runner up at Indian Wells, are on the grandstand and court 1 respectively. After her great play in Federation Cup, a rejuvenated Melanie Oudin faces a struggling Vera Zvonareva. This is another chance for the U.S. Open quarterfinalist, Oudin, to claim yet another Russian scalp. In the afternoon, Kim Cljisters works on sealing a third round spot versus Petra Kvitova on stadium court.

Novak Djokovic, the 2009 Sony Ericsson finalist, has a date with Oliver Rochus while Rafael Nadal will need to sidestep Taylor Dent to book a third round bid. Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey attempt to reach the third round for the first time in Miami, they will be in session on the outside courts. Charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a quarterfinalist in 2009, hopes to make short work of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Saving the best for last. In the night session, Elena Dementieva will look to avenge her second round Australian Open loss to Justine Henin, as these two face each other for the 13th time. Although Henin has a commending 10-2 record in their head to head, this one will likely have spectators on the edge of their seats. The women will be followed by Andy Roddick and Igor Andreev. After a tough outing in the finals at Indian Wells, Roddick will try to rebound. With the players tied after four meetings, Roddick may have his hands full.

Below is a complete list of the matches and court location for Friday:

STADIUM start 11:00 am
A Dulgheru (ROU) vs [4] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA
O Rochus (BEL) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB) – ATP
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs P Kvitova (CZE) – WTA
T Dent (USA) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 pm
[5] E Dementieva (RUS) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs I Andreev (RUS) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[15] D Ferrer (ESP) vs M Llodra (FRA) – ATP
[7] J Jankovic (SRB) vs [Q] M Koryttseva (UKR) – WTA
[27] T Bellucci (BRA) vs J Blake (USA) – ATP
[30] V Troicki (SRB) vs [WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 pm
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) vs [24] I Karlovic (CRO) – ATP
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
C Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs [9] S Stosur (AUS) – WTA
[17] J Isner (USA) vs M Russell (USA) – ATP
A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [4] L Raymond (USA) / R Stubbs (AUS) – WTA

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
[32] M Kirilenko (RUS) vs M Czink (HUN) – WTA
D Koellerer (AUT) vs [12] J Ferrero (ESP) – ATP
J Chardy (FRA) vs [21] S Querrey (USA) – ATP
M Oudin (USA) vs [11] V Zvonareva (RUS) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 pm
B Becker (GER) vs [11] I Ljubicic (CRO) – ATP

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
T Paszek (AUT) vs [22] A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) – WTA
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / N Lapentti (ECU) vs E Butorac (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) vs [17] S Peer (ISR) – WTA
[18] T Robredo (ESP) vs [Q] I Marchenko (UKR) – ATP
M Llodra (FRA) / A Ram (ISR) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – ATP

COURT 4 start 11:00 am
[29] M Martinez Sanchez (ESP) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA

Not Before 12:30 pm
[15] F Schiavone (ITA) vs A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
M Damm (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) vs I Karlovic (CRO) / D Vemic (SRB) – ATP

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
[33] N Almagro (ESP) vs E Schwank (ARG) – ATP
[Q] S Arvidsson (SWE) vs [26] D Cibulkova (SVK) – WTA
J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) vs [6] S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) – ATP
F Mayer (GER) vs [28] P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP
S Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [32] J Benneteau (FRA) – ATP

COURT 7 start 10:00 am
L Dekmeijere (LAT) / P Schnyder (SUI) vs V Dushevina (RUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) – WTA

Not Before 11:30 am
[20] J Zheng (CHN) vs V Razzano (FRA) – WTA
[24] A Kleybanova (RUS) vs S Errani (ITA) – WTA
[1] C Black (ZIM) / L Huber (USA) vs N Grandin (RSA) / A Spears (USA)
T Garbin (ITA) / V Ruano Pascual (ESP) vs K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) – WTA

COURT 8 start 11:00 am
A Bondarenko (UKR) / G Voskoboeva (KAZ) vs J Coin (FRA) / V King (USA) – WTA
J Goerges (GER) vs [28] E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA
[6] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / Z Yan (CHN) vs M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) – WTA
I Senoglu (TUR) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

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2010 Sony Ericsson Open Preview for Wednesday March 24

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2010 Sony Ericsson Open Preview for Wednesday March 24


Day 1 at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open kicks off today with Justine Henin, former world number 1 and 2007 semifinalist, headlining the day session for the women.  Other notable names in action include Anna Chakvetadze, Carla Suarez Navarro, Patty Schnyder and wild card Anastasia Pivovarova.  In the night session, American Melanie Oudin will square off against qualifier Michaella Krajicek.

On the men’s side, wildcards David Nalbandian and Mario Ancic highlight the day session.  Nalbandian is returning to the ATP tour after hip surgery.  France is well represent on opening day with Michael Llodra, Richard Gasquet, Arnaud Clement, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marc Gicquel in action.  Americans Taylor Dent and wildcard Ryan Harrison will also take to the courts on Wednesday.  In the night session James Blake will take on  wild card Filip Krajinovic.

Here is the complete order of play for Wednesday :

STADIUM start 11:00 am

A Chakvetadze (RUS) vs K Date Krumm (JPN) – WTA
[WC] M Ancic (CRO) vs J Chardy (FRA) – ATP
J Craybas (USA) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA
[WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) vs L Kubot (POL) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[WC] F Krajinovic (SRB) vs J Blake (USA) – ATP
M Oudin (USA) vs [Q] M Krajicek (NED) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
E Schwank (ARG) vs M Gicquel (FRA) – ATP
M Llodra (FRA) vs [WC] R Harrison (USA) – ATP
O Rochus (BEL) vs R Gasquet (FRA) – ATP
T Dent (USA) vs [Q] R Schuettler (GER) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
[Q] D Istomin (UZB) vs M Russell (USA) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
[WC] A Pivovarova (RUS) vs C Suarez Navarro (ESP) – WTA
K Srebotnik (SLO) vs P Schnyder (SUI) – WTA
S Bammer (AUT) vs [Q] P Parmentier (FRA) – WTA
T Bacsinszky (SUI) vs [Q] B Mattek-Sands (USA) – WTA
G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) vs [WC] S Kuznetsova (RUS) / A Molik (AUS) – WTA

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
A Clement (FRA) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) – ATP
I Andreev (RUS) vs [Q] X Malisse (BEL) – ATP
E Makarova (RUS) vs [Q] C Dellacqua (AUS) – WTA
[Q] V Lepchenko (USA) vs V Razzano (FRA) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 PM
I Benesova (CZE) vs [Q] E Baltacha (GBR) – WTA

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
S Voegele (SUI) vs A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
A Keothavong (GBR) vs T Paszek (AUT) – WTA
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) vs [WC] H Watson (GBR) – WTA
[Q] A Rodionova (AUS) vs A Petkovic (GER) – WTA

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
D Koellerer (AUT) vs C Rochus (BEL) – ATP
M Chiudinelli (SUI) vs F Mayer (GER) – ATP
S Greul (GER) vs B Becker (GER) – ATP
P Mathieu (FRA) vs [Q] I Marchenko (UKR) – ATP

COURT 7 start 10:00 am
T Malek (GER) vs S Errani (ITA) – WTA
M Czink (HUN) vs [WC] A Rus (NED) – WTA
[Q] S Arvidsson (SWE) vs A Brianti (ITA) – WTA
[Q] R Kulikova (RUS) vs R Vinci (ITA) – WTA

COURT 8 start 10:00 am
J Hajek (CZE) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP
[Q] A Golubev (KAZ) vs D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) – ATP
K Barrois (GER) vs [Q] M Koryttseva (UKR) – WTA
J Goerges (GER) vs [Q] A Morita (JPN) – WTA

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Dementieva Hangs On For Paris Trophy

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Dementieva Hangs On For Paris Trophy


logo_opengdfsuez_2010With last year’s champion, a retired Amelie Mauresmo looking on, top seed and 2009 finalist Elena Dementieva survived Lucie Safarova 6-7,6-1,6-4 in the finals of the Open GDF Suez to seize her second premier trophy of 2010 and her 16th career title.

Safarova followed a love opening service game with a break.  Then, the Czech consolidated for a 3-0 lead.  With good serves including an ace, Dementieva rescued a 0-30 game to capture her first game.  When Safarova erred with a backhand down the line, Dementieva had her initial break point.  The Russian capitalized when Safarova misfired on the forehand.  After a comfortable service game, Dementieva tied the set at 3 a piece.  Hence forth, with neither player able to manufacture a break point, the set went to a tiebreaker.  Ahead 5-4, Safarova produced a beautiful backhand crosscourt winner for the minibreak.  With awesome defense, Dementieva saved one set point.  However, on Safarova’s second attempt she succeeded with the forehand up the line winner.

In the second set, Dementieva quickly shifted the momentum.  By forcing Safarova into a backhand down the line mistake, Dementieva had double break point.  Elena converted when Lucie netted a forehand.  Subsequently, Dementieva held at love to increase her advantage to 3-0.  With Dementieva finding the range on first serves and winning the majority of second serve points, Safarova saw the second set flash by.  Through donating more errors, Safarova gave Dementieva a double break lead.  The Russian closed the set with a routine service game.

In the decisive set, Safarova found her form once again and carried the first game. Yet, to Safarova’s chagrin, Dementieva continued her high level of play.  Moreover, Elena’s vulnerability, her serve, was not cracking.  After knotting the set at 2 all with a forehand up the line winner, Dementieva pressured Safarova into three consecutive backhand mistakes to erase two game points and get to deuce.  Although Safarova salvaged that game for a 3-2 edge, it was a sign that her ship was about to leak.  Safarova’s next service game, with some great returns, Dementieva secured double break point.  When Lucie misfired on a forehand up the line, Elena banked the break for 4-3.  Then, without any trouble, Dementieva consolidated for 5-3.  After a difficult hold which included rubbing out two championship points, Safarova extended the match at 4-5. Serving for the trophy and with her ninth ace for 30-0, Dementieva faltered.  Due to three straight forehand errors, Dementieva faced a break point.  Luckily, Elena’s serve responded by forcing Lucie into an error for deuce.  Later, with a forehand volley winner, Dementieva arrived at her fourth championship point.  Elena bagged the trophy when Lucie’s backhand crosscourt failed to clear the net.

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USA Blast France In Fed Cup

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USA Blast France In Fed Cup


img_3202_bmExcept for the 2003 final in which France prevailed, the U.S. have owned France in Federation Cup competition. Their twelfth meeting occurred in Lievin, France on clay. The Americans dominated in the first round by winning three successive rubbers to clinch a semifinal spot.

On Saturday, in the first rubber after Bethanie Mattek-Sands jumped to a 2-0 lead, France’s Alize Cornet rolled off five straight games to build a 5-2 edge.  After Mattek-Sands crawled out of a triple break point hole and got to 3-5, she altered her tactics by coming more to the net.  It paid off.   Mattek-Sands broke Cornet as she served for the set.  But, following Mattek-Sands breaking for 6-5, she surrendered the lead at love sending the set to a tiebreaker.  A seesaw tiebreaker was ultimately captured by Mattek-Sands.

In the second set, after Cornet broke in the first game, with a sleuth of errors, she allowed Mattek-Sands to level the set. Then, after neither woman relinquished serve, at 5-6, the errors got the better of Cornet. This resulted in Mattek-Sands carrying the initial rubber 7-6,7-5.  Cornet’s record now stands at 0-6 in Fed Cup play.

The second match featured Melanie Oudin against Pauline Parmentier.  Oudin drew first blood in taking a 3-2 lead.  Subsequent to Oudin easily consolidating, Parmentier had 0-30 on Oudin’s serve on various occasions, however, each time the American halted the Frenchwoman.  Oudin took the first set 6-4.

In the second set, Oudin finally capitalized on a couple break point opportunities and went ahead 2-1.  Yet, on double break point, Oudin double faulted squaring the set at 2 all. After netting a forehand, Oudin faced triple break point.  Still, the teenager delivered to arrive at 3 all.  Then, with Parmentier serving at 4 all and 40-0, Oudin applied pressure on the second serve and got to deuce.  Subsequently, with a forehand return winner, Oudin had a second break point.  Oudin converted when Parmentier misfired on a backhand crosscourt.  Afterwards, Oudin kept her composure despite a tough game and closed out the match 6-4,6-4.

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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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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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