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WTA Aussie Open Mid Tournament Recap

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WTA Aussie Open Mid Tournament Recap


img_3627_jhAfter eight days, the Australian Open field has been narrowed.  Here’s a synopsis of the early round stumbles, near misses and a crack at determining a champion.

Maria Kirilenko rocked Rod Laver Arena with a first day, first round, first match upset of 14th seed Maria Sharapova.  With a suspect serve, will and grit could not pull Sharapova through her first competitive match of the season.  Not resting on her laurels, Kirilenko progressed to the round of 16 where she received an early Easter gift from Dinara Safina.  Nine games into the first set, Safina threw in the towel because of a back injury.  As a result, Kirilenko reaches her initial major quarterfinal and will play Jie Zheng, the 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist.  Zheng ousted 11th seed Marion Bartoli in the third round, then took care of Alona Bondarenko. Now, one of these women has the opportunity to advance to her first Aussie Open semifinal.

Waiting in the wing for Kirilenko and Zheng is perhaps Justine Henin.  The 2004 Australian champion had to work tirelessly to book a quarterfinal spot.  Henin’s second round meeting with Elena Dementieva lived up to the hype with top-notch groundstrokes by both players.  Upon surviving that encounter, Henin came close to saying cheerio in the third round.  Alisa Kleybenova demanded  Henin’s best before going down in three sets.  A similar performance was required by Henin in the round of 16 with U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer proving a tough kill.  Again, Henin needed to go the distance to seal the win and a date with Nadia Petrova in the quarters.

Petrova was probably regarded as the Russian least likely to succeed at the start of the Open.  However, after dismantling U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters in the third round and ushering out French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in round four, Petrova is no doubt a formidable adversary. Therefore, if Petrova continues along the same lines, Henin may be in for a colossal surprise.

Defending champion Serena Williams has been impressive in marching to the round of 16.  Serena has yet to drop serve nor a set.  Her toughest test will be Aussie hopeful Sam Stosur in the upcoming round.  With a big serve and a win over Serena in Stanford last year, Stosur has the tools to upstage the world number one.

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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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Dementieva Plasters Serena in Sydney

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Dementieva Plasters Serena in Sydney


img_1726Last year, defending champion Elena Dementieva defeated Serena Williams in the semifinals at the Medibank International Sydney.  This time around the two battled each other in the finals.  Once again, Dementieva beat the world number one 6-3,6-2 to capture the trophy.

As a result of a wayward dropshot from Serena, Dementieva had double break point.  When Williams’ forehand traveled wide, Dementieva took a 2-1 lead.  Although Serena broke right back, later, because of a multitude of errors she lost control of a 40-15 game permitting Elena go back in front 4-3.  After Dementieva had no trouble consolidating, she forced Serena into two backhand errors for double set point.  Elena converted with a backhand down the line winner.

In the opening game of the second set, after shaking off a couple of double faults to hold serve, Dementieva pressured Serena with defense.  After Elena erased a few game points by Serena, she manufactured a string of break points.  Dementieva cashed in when Williams netted a backhand shot.  Subsequent to Dementieva sprinting to a 3-0 advantage, Williams, somewhat hampered by a left knee problem, rubbed away a break point to finally get on the board.  However, Serena’s play continued to deteriorate.  Serving to stay in the match at 2-5, Serena made three straight unforced errors gifting Dementieva triple championship point.  The next point, Elena obliged by hitting a backhand crosscourt return winner.

Williams did not look in optimum form this week.  In the semifinals, Serena was four points from being ousted by Aravane Rezai.  On the other hand, for the second season in a row, Dementieva has roared out of the gates.  In the quarters, Dementieva leveled Dinara Safina and duplicated that  result in the semis against Victoria Azarenka.  Following such a great tournament, in Dementieva’s case, the usual conundrum is whether she can replicate her performance in Melbourne to ultimately grasp that elusive major.

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Petra Kvitova: A Promising Prospect

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Petra Kvitova: A Promising Prospect


The following article was authored by MiamiTennisNews.com and appeared on the pages of OnTheBaseline.com as part of their “2010 Players to Watch” series.  It is being republished on MiamiTennisNews.com with permission from OnTheBaseline.com.

players_to_watch_480x250-10Whilst the two consonants comprising the introduction of her surname may be a source of consternation as to its pronunciation, in Petra Kvitova‘s case, this will shortly be an aberration. In light of this teenager’s memorable accomplishments in 2009, it is safe to assume that her name will be fluidly rolling off tennis fans’ tongues for the foreseeable future.

Hailing from the Czech Republic, earlier this year, at the age of 18, Kvitova bagged her maiden Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title in Hobart by defeating compatriot and seasoned rival Iveta Benesova. With that victory, Kvitova cracked the top 40 for the first time. Weeks later though at the Australian Open, Kvitova had the misfortune of drawing 14th ranked phenom Victoria Azarenka in the opening round and made a prompt departure.

Still, Kvitova redeemed herself at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. Facing the 2008 finalist Spain, Kvitova got her team off to a magnificent start by beating Carla Suarez Navarro, a recent quarterfinalist in Australia. Then, with a euphoric stadium cheering her on, the youngster bested Nuria Llagostera Vives to secure the Czech Republic’s semifinal berth. However, in April, after winning the initial rubber versus American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Kvitova ran into a glitch. Alexa Glatch routed her in two sets. Ultimately, the U.S advanced to the finals.

Mid year, Kvitova struggled with an ankle injury which kept her out of Roland Garros and contributed to a series of early losses including Wimbledon. Kvitova’s ranking dipped to 69. Attempting to get match fit, Kvitova played an ITF tournament in August only to be ousted in the first round by a lesser opponent. Days following though at the U.S Open, Kvitova showed that she indeed possesses the tools that will make her a prime contender.

With time constraints moving play from Ashe to Armstrong stadium, Kvitova ranked 72nd had the night of her burgeoning career. Using her six foot frame to serve effectively and her most potent stroke, her forehand, Kvitova saved three match points against Dinara Safina. Kvitova prevailed in a compelling third set tiebreaker, shocking the world number one in the third round. Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 Australian Open finalist, was once asked the secret to his potent forehand, he replied in essence fearlessness. At the Open, Petra demonstrated that her forehand will be feared by her adversaries for some time to come.

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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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Serena Cements The Number One Ranking With A Win In Doha

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Serena Cements The Number One Ranking With A Win In Doha


img_1710The Sony Ericsson Championships (SEC) was the eleventh encounter in a final for the Williams sisters. Serena came out on top for the eighth time in beating defending champ Venus 6-2, 7-6.  For Serena, this was her first SEC title since 2001.

Having already secured the year end number one ranking with an injured Dinara Safina pulling out of her opening round robin match; for Serena, there was still a tremendous monetary incentive.  Not only is this a prestigious title, Serena would  bank a great bonus if she were to stay undefeated.

With both sisters sporting right leg wraps, the opening games were short as Serena aimed for outright winners.  After Venus saved a couple of break points her initial game, with strong forehand returns, Serena got Venus to cough up the errors for the break. Then, Serena consolidated without any drama for a 3-1 lead.  Subsequently with Venus serving at 2-4, with forehand crosscourt and overhead winners, Serena had triple break point.  When Venus double faulted, Serena had a double break edge and finished the set with an exemplary service game.

Although the level of play picked up in the second set, Serena always appeared the better player.  Serena carried her first two service games at love while Venus struggled repeatedly with her forehand stroke.  Serving at 4 all and 40-0, Venus made three consecutive errors for deuce. Eventually though, Venus held to stay in front 5-4.  After surrendering only the second point in the second set for 40-15, Serena produce a forehand crosscourt winner pushing the set to a tiebreaker.  With Venus misfiring on a lob, Serena took a mini-break advantage from the first point.  After Serena bombed a couple of serves to readily hold, Venus double faulted on a second serve thereby giving Serena a 4-1 lead.  Although Venus crept closer at 4-5, with the match on her racket, Serena threw in an ace and a forehand crosscourt winner to seal the championship.

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Opportunity Knocks:  Schiavone Scoops Up Kremlin Cup

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Opportunity Knocks: Schiavone Scoops Up Kremlin Cup


07_kremlin_cupItaly’s Francesca Schiavone and Belarus’ Olga Govortsova were unlikely picks to reach the final at the Kremlin Cup with Vera Zvonareva and defending champ Jelena Jankovic as the top two seeds at this premier tournament. Thus, this was especially sweet for Schiavone seeded eight as she made the most of her fortuitous circumstance in defeating Govortsova 6-3, 6-0 to claim her second and biggest title of her career.

The 29 year old Italian had been in her second 2009 final in Osaka just last week losing to Samantha Stosur.  Coming into Moscow, Schiavone had a horrendous final record, 1 for 10. On the other hand, for 21 year old Govortsova, this was her second WTA final although still with a title.  These competitors had split their prior two meetings.

After three uneventful service games by the players, serving at 40-15, Govortsova dumped two forehands into the net for deuce.  Then, with another crosscourt forehand error, Govortsova allowed Schiavone to get to break point. The Italian took a 3-1 lead after Govortsova mishandled Schiavone’s sliced backhand with a forehand error. However, Schiavone’s edge was brief. After placing a forehand up the line winner for two game points, Francesca double faulted and was unable to deal with a low ball causing her backhand volley to find the bottom of the net.  As a result of two forehand mistakes by Schiavone, Govortsova erased the break for 2-3.  Subsequently, in a marathon game with nine deuces, with a sensational forehand volley, Schiavone was once more with a break for 4-2. But, the Italian relinquished her advantage promptly with a sleuth of forehand miscues.  Yet, with a forehand up the line winner, a forehand crosscourt winner and a deep return which provoked an error from Govortsova, Schiavone had a couple of break chances.  Francesca capitalized when Olga’s forehand didn’t clear the net. This time, with a love game including a couple of aces, Schiavone wrapped up the set 6-3.

After the trainer attended to Govortsova’s back prior to starting the second set, with Schiavone’s amazing backhand dropshot winner, the Belarusian faced double break point. Subsequently, a backhand crosscourt error from Olga gave Francesca the break.  Schiavone consolidated with a second serve ace for 2-0.  Another mistake laden game by Govortsova resulted in triple break point for Schiavone.  A forehand miscue from the Belarusian extended the Italian’s edge to 3-0.  After a love service game, Schiavone broke one last time for 5-0.  With an ace, the Italian arrived at championship point.  Schiavone sealed the deal when Govortsova’s crosscourt forehand landed long.

With a second round win, Jankovic qualified for the final spot at the year ending championships in Doha which gets underway on Tuesday.  With Dinara Safina and Serena Williams neck in neck in the rankings, the Sony Ericsson championships will determine this season’s top dog.  The field is also comprised of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams.

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Kuznetsova Romps Radwanska In Beijing

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Kuznetsova Romps Radwanska In Beijing


img_1153-version-2Commencing with the U.S. Open, a perpetual dark cloud has loomed over the WTA’s  top seeds; most have failed to reach the latter rounds of tournaments or win in finals.  Today at the China Open, a premier event, Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, world number 6, let the sun through by defeating Pole Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4 in the finals. For Svetlana, it is her second China Open title and her third trophy this year.

With a backhand crosscourt winner, Kuznetsova fabricated double break point in the opening game.  Although Radwanska got to deuce, a netted forehand volley and backhand stroke ultimately handed the break to her rival.  Subsequently, Svetlana had a comfortable game to consolidate.  After Agnieszka scored with an ace for 1-2, on her next service trip, with a double fault and forehand down the line winner by Svetlana, the Pole faced double break point again.  This time, Kuznetsova sealed the deal with another crosscourt forehand winner for 4-1.  After Kuznetsova put her guard down the next game, Radwanska broke. But, the Russian aggressive play was rewarded shortly. With the Pole’s weak second serve too inviting to her adversary, Kuznetsova captured another break when Radwanska’s forehand sailed long.  Then, by converting a forehand up the line winner on her serve, Kuznetsova bedded the first set 6-2.

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Sharapova Obtains Tokyo Title As Jankovic Defaults

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Sharapova Obtains Tokyo Title As Jankovic Defaults


img_0803At the Toray Pan Pacific Open final, a premier tournament, fans were anticipating a battle of attrition between world number 8 Jelena Jankovic and former world number one Maria Sharapova. However, spectators were disappointed because seven games into the match, Jankovic was forced to forfeit due to right arm/ wrist injury. As such, Sharapova prevailed 5-2 to claim her first title since April 2008.

Jankovic got off to a great start by converting double break point as Sharapova sliced a backhand long. Subsequently, Jelena consolidated to take a 2-0 lead. Then, after securing a difficult service game, Sharapova crushed a forehand down the line for a winner to earn a break point. Maria converted to level the set at 2 all. After Jankovic was unable to bank on a few break chances, Sharapova broke and built a 5-2 edge. Despite considerable wrist pain post treatment, Jankovic tried to serve at 2-5 but had to retire mid-game, thereby, giving Sharapova the championship.

After the match, Jankovic said that upon awakening she had some aching in the arm but went on to practice. The injury progressed whereby swelling migrated from her shoulder down to her wrist. Thus, Jelena cited that she could not get any power on her stroke and could barely feel the racket. Most of all, it pained Jankovic that the spectators were cheated out of a potentially great final.

With Dinara Safina, Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and many top 10 women exiting in the early rounds, Jankovic was the highest ranked opponent that Sharapova faced all tournament. Prior to her injury, Sharapova had a lifetime record of 4-1 versus Jankovic. With her fourth Tokyo trophy, Maria will move up from 25 to 15 in the rankings.

In the doubles final, Ai Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova took on Francesca Schiavone and Alisa Kleybanova. Playing in front of her home crowd, Sugiyama was attempting to close out her career in style. Unfortunately, Hantuchova and she were defeated 4-6, 2-6. Still, Sugiyama retires with plenty to boast about including six singles and thirty eight doubles titles. Sugiyama also holds the record for most consecutive main draw matches played at a major, male or female. The 2009 US Open was her 62nd straight. Sugiyama collected three different doubles majors, the only one missing, the Australian Open where she was a finalist this year with her current partner.

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week


img_3407At the majors, the unpredictable can happen. The early rounds of the U.S. Open have proven not to be the exception providing lots of fireworks particularly on the women’s side.  Here’s a half time synopsis and a look at the week ahead .

If one thought her ousting of Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon this year was a fluke, Melanie Oudin said think again. The17 year old American Fed Cup heroine bounced back after dropping the first set to defeat a trophy favorite world number 4 Elena Dementieva in the second round. On Saturday, Oudin duplicated that result by ousting 29th seed Maria Sharapova.  In the round of 16, Oudin will take on her fourth consecutive Russian Nadia Petrova.  Moreover, in the quarterfinals, Melanie may have a shot at claiming another Russian big scalp, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Speaking of Jankovic, the 2008 finalist was eliminated in the second round by Yaroslava Shvedova.  Another jaw dropper was the exit of  8th seed and  reigning Sony Open champion Victoria Azarenka sent packing in the third round by Francesca Schiavone.

Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, Dinara Safina had managed to record a W. However yesterday, Safina was ultimately pushed over the cliff in the third round by Czech teenage talent Petra Kvitova. The world number’s one performance has ignited the debate as to the relevance of the computer ranking system.  Since Justine Henin’s retirement, there’s been a conspicuous vacuum at the top of the ladies’ game.  Safina’s inability to embrace the big occasions while Serena Williams has flourished in that setting has fueled the discussion.  Unlike Safina, the defending champion has shown little compassion for her opponents in reaching the round of 16. In contrast, sister Venus’ performance has been a mixed bag with injury thrown in as a factor. Venus’ colossal test comes in the fourth round as she faces Kim Clijsters whose form appears unaffected by her sabbatical.  Unless Venus tidies up her game, the Belgian will foil her much anticipated semifinal with Serena. The free fall continues for 2008 French open winner and former world number one Ana Ivanovic as her stock took another hit with her first round departure. In all 21 of the 32 women seeds have failed to move pass the fourth round.

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