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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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Wrap Up Of The Beijing Olympics 2008


Spaniard Rafael Nadal continues to have the Midas touch. Nadal defeated Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the gold medal round in straights sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. Gonzalez went up one notch in the hardware department by winning silver adding to the bronze he collected in Athens in 2004. Moreover, this was the cherry on top of Nadal’s flan as he officially assumes the number one ranking on Monday.

In the semifinals, Gonzalez had a controversial match with American James Blake. The dispute arose when a backhand pass struck by Blake inadvertently clipped Gonzalez’ racket. Despite the ball being initially on its way out, by default, Blake should have been awarded the point. But since the play was unnoticed by the umpire and Gonzalez failed to own up to his mistake, the Chilean was given the point. In his defense, Gonzalez stated that he was unsure that the ball hit his racket. Perhaps, Blake would have brushed off the incident had he converted on one of his three match points to advance to the gold metal round. After losing, Blake accused Gonzalez of poor sportsmanship, considering the arena this vitriolic statement is further magnified. In the bronze metal match, Blake fell to Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6.

After going down to Blake in the quarterfinals, Roger Federer along with Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka prevailed over top doubles seed Americans Mike and Bob Bryan in the semifinals. The Swiss went on to beat the Swedish team of Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in the gold metal round. The Americans settled for the bronze metal, winning over the French team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

It was an all-Russian sweep in the women’s singles. Elena Dementieva beat Dinara Safina in an enthralling three setter 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. In the second set, after making up a 1-4 deficit, Safina had momentum on her side and the opportunity to take the lead at 5-5, but she failed to convert on break point. In a game Dinara was leading 40-15 Dementieva eventually broke. From then on, fatigue became a major factor for Safina. The bronze metal went to Vera Zvonareva who handled China’s Na Li 6-0, 7-5.

After being dismissed in the singles quarterfinal, Serena and Venus Williams squashed the Spanish team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginie Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0 to win doubles gold, the second for team Williams. In the consolation bronze metal match, Chinese Zi Yan and Jie Zheng beat Ukrainian sisters Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2.

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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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