Tag Archive | "Safina"

Jankovic Rises To Challenge Of Spanish Darling In Andalucian Final

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Jankovic Rises To Challenge Of Spanish Darling In Andalucian Final


img_2867Serbian Jelena Jankovic, second seed and world number four, outlasted Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the finals of the Andalucia Tennis Experience, a new event on the WTA tour. Jankovic, playing in her first final this year, won in three tough sets on clay 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 for her tenth career title.

With Suarez Navarro ranked 32nd and with this being her debut in a WTA final, for Jankovic, this match should have been a walk in the park. Instead, the 19 year-old Spaniard demonstrated that her reaching the quarterfinals of the 2008 French and 2009 Australian Open was no aberration.

After Jankovic opened the match holding at love and Suarez Navarro tied the set at 1 all, the Spaniard made a couple of backhand winners giving her three chances to break. However, thanks to a kind net court winner and forehand errors by Carla, Jelena came out unscathed. Subsequently, Jankovic harassed her rival’s forehand and manufactured a break for a 3-1 lead. With Jelena committing two consecutive backhand errors, Carla again had triple break point. With a smoking up the line forehand, the Spaniard provoked a backhand error from the Serb to get back on serve. Disappointingly, in the next game, Suarez Navarro smashed an overhead into the net giving Jankovic back the advantage. This proved to be the difference in Jelena winning the first set.

Suarez Navarro began the proceedings in the second set with forehand and backhand down the line winners. After getting to 40-0, the Spaniard made a series of errors that resulted in Jankovic breaking for 1-0. Yet, Suarez Navarro showed she was no push over and battled back. With Jelena having two game points, Carla made a forehand up the line winner and pressured errors from her opponent for deuce. Encouraged by her home audience, the Spaniard broke when Jankovic’s crosscourt forehand went out of bounce. After holding serve for 2-1, Suarez Navarro capitalized on an error filled game by Jankovic to jump ahead 3-1. The rest of the set, the Spaniard dominated on the long points while the errors accumulated from the Serb. Carla served out the set and tied the match.

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009


img_0942Fittingly, as the Sony Ericsson Open turns twenty-five this year, the first week of competition has already provided tons of fireworks on the courts. Here are just a few of the most memorable occurrences.

The initial two days were taken up by the qualifying rounds. Despite receiving wildcard entries, former major champions Swede Thomas Johansson and Argentine Gaston Gaudio did not move on to the main draw. In addition, the Americans teenager Donald Young and veteran Vincent Spadea failed to advance. On the other hand, Taylor Dent, whose career has had fits and starts due to niggling injuries, progressed into the primary field along with Michael Russell, Amer Delic and thirty-something Jill Craybas.

As the action got underway for real on Thursday, Dent’s hot hand continued.  The American beat two top twenty players in the second and third rounds, Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo respectively.  In the round of 16, Dent will face Roger Federer; this will be their first encounter. Albeit the world number two has had multiple kinks in his game, Dent will need to pull off the performance of a lifetime in order to vanquish Federer. Surprisingly, the 14th seed Argentine David Nalbandian made a second round exit while James Blake, the 13th seed, was halted in the third round by Czech Thomas Berdych.

The sole top ten male to scent any whiff of difficulties in the third round was Frenchman Gael Monfils. The 9th seed clawed back from a double break deficit and saved two match points against Marat Safin, the 22nd seed and former major champion, before prevailing in a third set tiebreaker. Top seed Rafael Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco and Jo- Wilfried Tsonga are also into the second week.

Much of the ruckus appeared to be on the women’s side. The rain was not the only nuisance at Crandon Park on Sunday as a ragging storm decimated through the elite ten. Actually, the turbulence commenced Saturday evening with the last match of the day featuring world number three, Serb Jelena Jankovic. The usually steady Serb was ushered out by Argentine Gisela Dulko.  Jankovic’s game has been stagnating; for the second consecutive tournament, she has made a second round exit. After the euphoria of the previous night and the quick turnaround, Dulko lost the next afternoon in straight sets to Czech Iveta Besenova. Another Serb Ana Ivanovic, the world number 7, was also excused in the third round by gifted Hungarian youngster Agnes Szavay in three sets.

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The Wait Is Almost Over: The Sony Ericsson Open Starts Next Week

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The Wait Is Almost Over: The Sony Ericsson Open Starts Next Week


img_2806-2The Sony Ericsson Open, Florida’s most prestigious tennis tournament and the world’s “fifth major”, turns 25 this year. From March 25th thru April 5th , an A-list of competitors will descend upon the Tennis Center at Crandon Park to mark this milestone birthday.

From the ATP, Rafael Nadal, the reigning Australian Open champion, world number one and 2008 Sony Ericsson finalist, will honor South Florida with his presence. The supporting cast will include Roger Federer, world number two and dual Sony titleholder, and Serb Novak Djokovic, the 2007 Sony champion. Brit Andy Murray and American Andy Roddick who have had spectacular seasons to date will be counted on for the festivities. Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the defending champion, has been out of commission for weeks due to injury. Hopefully, Davydenko will recover in time to take a stab at a second consecutive title.

One of the hottest players on the WTA tour is the current Australian Open and 2008 Sony titlist, Serena Williams. Serena, the female number one, will attempt to win for the third time in a row and is also going for a record setting sixth Sony trophy. Serena will face fierce competition from Russian Dinara Safina, the world number two and this year’s Australian Open finalist, Jelena Jankovic, the Sony 2008 finalist and world number three, not to mention her own sister Venus Williams, who has three Sony Ericsson Open trophies to her credit. Maria Sharapova, whose shoulder has been on the mend, may also make an appearance, giving the field a run of its money.

On the doubles side, Mike and Bob Bryan have regained the top doubles ranking since winning the Australian Open and will be ready to defend their Sony title. The Bryan Brothers will be a prime target for teams such as Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi, who took second place last year, Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram as well as Brazilians Andre Sa and Marcelo Melo.

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Serena Supersizes Her Majors’ Collection By Taking The Australian Open


 

For the second time, Serena Williams, world number two, unmercifully disposed of a Russian in the Australian Open final. On this occasion, the hapless victim of Williams’ wrath was third rank Dinara Safina. Serena required just 58 minutes to defeat Dinara 6-0, 6-3, adding a fourth Australian singles title to her majors’ trophy case for a total of ten.

Williams started the match by hitting a backhand winner up the line and holding comfortably. On the other hand, Safina’s nightmare began with her first service game. After an ace for 15 all, Dinara threw in a double fault for 15-30. After a couple of forehand winners gave her the upper hand, Safina produced a second double fault for deuce. Subsequently, Williams crushed a forehand for a crosscourt service winner to get her first break point which she converted when Safina committed her third double fault. Then, Serena consolidated the break with a love game. Williams maintained the pressure and with a forehand winner up the line had double break point; she capitalized by putting away a short ball. Up 4-0, Serena again held at love and with four consecutive unforced errors by Dinara took the set 6-0.

Serena briefly loosen her chokehold on the match in the second set. After Williams sent a backhand into the net and missed another down the line, Safina had her initial break point. With a sweet crosscourt backhand winner, Safina took the lead for the first time. The last few months, Dinara had demonstrated that she could deal with adversity. Thus, this seemed perhaps a turning point in the match. Yet, after Dinara missed the mark on two backhands, Serena arrived at double break point and leveled the set when another of her rival’s backhand sailed long. The serve was the story for Safina and it did not improve as the night progressed. Serving at 1-2, Dinara opened with a double fault. After a backhand crosscourt winner gave her game point, another found the net for deuce. Thereafter, Serena punished a crosscourt forehand return winner for break point and cashed it in when Dinara made another double fault. With a love game, Williams raced to a 4-1 lead. Frustrated, on the verge of bursting into tears and despite difficulties, Safina won her service games. Yet, this was to no avail as Serena continued to force the errors from her competitor with her brutal serves. With her fifth love game, Serena put Dinara out of her agony and claimed the title.

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Australian Open Heating Up


Along with the summer temperatures, the action on court is scorching at the first major of the year. Let’s review the key developments of the initial week and try to predict what could unfold the last days at the Australian Open.

The unexpected casualties in the preliminary rounds were Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams, the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively. Venus was shocked in the second round by Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro after having the match on her racket.  Suarez Navarro, a quarterfinalist at last year’s French Open, is now in the round of 16. Ivanovic, the 2008 finalist, was eliminated in the third round by 19 year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova.  This was not a great surprise.  Since winning the French Open, Ivanovic has yet to make it past the third round at a major. Agnieszka Radwaska, the ninth seed, fell in the first round, beaten by Kateryna Bondarenko. The biggest upset on the men’s section was David Nalbandian, the tenth seed, going down in the second round to Yen-Hsun Lu ranked 61.

As we enter the meat and potatoes part of the tournament, the top four men remain on track to collide in the semifinals. With the exception of Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have looked extremely sharp. Of the two Americans left, Andy Roddick, the seventh seed, may represent the biggest headache pending on Djokovic’s side of the draw. Roddick’s recent weight lost and coaching change appear to be paying dividends. Andy has dispatched his opponents expeditiously, so an upset could be brewing. James Blake, the ninth seed, has played very well. However, Blake will meet last year’s finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the round of 16. Vanquishing Tsonga may be too tall an assignment for the American. Nadal will face Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 finalist. Gonzalez may not have much left in the tank after his high quality, over four hour long, five setter against Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Federer will battle Tomas Berdych. Should Roger advance, waiting will be either Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic, two tough customers. The French are assured of having at least one man in the quarterfinals with Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils playing one another next. With the leftover field competing so well, the odds maker may need to reshuffle their numbers. The favorite may have to be Nadal, Federer and Murray in that order.

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First Major of the Year, the Australian Open, Posts Its Draw


The 2009 Australian Open released the match up list today. For both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the number one and two seeds respectively, it will be a treacherous path to the finals.

Potential semifinal opponents for Nadal include Andy Murray unstoppable of late whether facing Roger or him, Gilles Simon who had a spectacular win against him in Madrid last year and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist. However, as of press time, it’s still a question mark whether Tsonga will take the court due to a back problem. For Federer, all roads to the finals seem to go through defending champion Novak Djokovic. The two appear destined for a semifinal rematch. The spoiler may be Andy Roddick who will possibly have to defeat Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Regardless, with his phenomenal record since losing in his first major final, no longer a novice, this may be Murray’s tournament for the taking.

Maria Sharapova, last year’s winner, will be unable to defend because she is rehabbing her shoulder post surgery. Therefore, on the women side, potential champions abound. Top seed Jelena Jankovic should sail through to the quarterfinals where she may battle Vera Zvonareva, a player Jelena has had little trouble crushing in the past. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 runner up, and Dinara Safina are possibly heading for a quarterfinal clash. Either one could be an impediment to Jankovic making her second consecutive major final. But, Ivanovic’s play has been patchy lately; it would not be surprising if Caroline Wozniacki stops her from advancing. With the Williams sisters on the same side of the draw, Venus and Serena may meet in the semifinals. Venus may need to bypass Elena Dementieva or Flavia Pennetta while Serena may have to vanquish Victoria Azarenka who recently won her first tour title or Agnieszka Radwanska before the siblings can tango. With two titles under her belt already and a recent win over Serena, Dementieva will be no push over for Venus and is a genuine contender. Nevertheless, Venus is perhaps the underdog with the best chance to win it all considering how well she finished 2008. The first ball strike is in less than 72 hours. For a detailed look at the singles and doubles draws go to www.australianopen.com

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Dementieva Stops Safina In Sydney


All Russian finals have become commonplace on the WTA tour. This time, the setting was Sydney at the Medibank International where world number 3 Dinara Safina battled world number 4 Elena Dementieva. Elena beat Dinara 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 to remain undefeated and take her second title in 2009.

The first set was played predominately from the baseline with interminable rallies decided by unforced errors usually in Dementieva’s favor. For instance, with Dementieva serving at 2-3 and facing her first break point, Safina overplayed a forehand on the second serve return leading to deuce. Elena won that game with a backhand down the line winner. In the past, Dementieva’s serve has been infamous, however, Elena has improved that area of her game. Instead, it was Safina, who with consecutive double faults handed her rival a break point which she converted for a 4-3 lead. Then, Dementieva sealed the set with another break when Safina committed a multitude of unforced errors in a game where she led 40-15.

However, quickly changing gear, with a forehand crosscourt winner Safina got a break point in the opening game of the second set. Dinara capitalized when Elena’s backhand sailed long. After consolidating the break for 3-1, Safina made a backhand down the line winner for another break point and with a forehand error by Dementieva extended her lead to 4-1. Safina’s new strategy was to move forward when permitted which resulted in successful volleying. Safina finished second set on a high note, closing it at love.

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Slovak Republic Shocks Russian Siblings To Seize Hopman Cup


At the XXI Hyundai Hopman Cup, a tournament celebrating mixed doubles play, Slovakians Dominik Hrbaty and Dominika Cibulkova surprised the brother and sister team of Marat Safin and Dinara Safina to win that country’s third trophy in Perth, Australia. In the first match, Cibulkova, undefeated in singles this week, beat Safina for the first time in her career 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 while Hrbaty prevailed in the second rubber against Safin 6-7, 7-5, 7-6.

Nineteen year-old Cibulkova, also the world number 19, was aggressive from the first ball strike against world number 3, Safina. With the score tied at 2 in the first set, Cibulkova smoked a backhand down the line, which resulted in an unforced error from Safina for break point. With Dinara unable to dig out a low volley, Dominika pocketed the break. However, Safina quickly bounced back to square the set at 3 all. The Russian then held serve easily for 5-4 and had triple break point. But, with great defense and a few unforced errors from her opponent, the Slovakian escaped. The set was ultimately settled in a tiebreak. After Cibulkova gifted Safina a minibreak by missing an easy forehand volley, she gift-wrapped the set for Safina with a double fault.

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2008:  A Year Full Of Surprises On The Women’s Tour

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2008: A Year Full Of Surprises On The Women’s Tour


img_2867As another season concludes on the WTA, its is only fitting to reflect on the moments that branded it and look forward to what might be in store for 2009.

The Russian onslaught continues with half of the players ranked in the top ten coming from that nation. One of the pack’s standouts, Maria Sharapova, bulldozed over her opponents to win the year’s first major in Australia. However, after an impressive winning streak, Sharapova went on forced sabbatical due to an old shoulder injury resurfacing. Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva finally lived up to their promise, as these two had a phenomenal run in 2008. Sporting new coaches, these two women known for their volatile outburst on court, bottled their tempers which translated into great results. Safina’s newfound mental solidity carried her all the way to the French Open final. For her part, Zvonareva was a finalist at the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships where she lost a heartbreaking match to Venus Williams. Moreover, this powerhouse of tennis swept the medals at the Olympics with Elena Dementieva taking gold, Safina silver, and Zvonareva bronze. In team play, the Russians were also supreme, crushing Spain to grab another Federation cup.

The Serbians also became more firmly entrenched in the sport. After her defeat in the Australian final, Ana Ivanovic claimed her first major in Paris. Compatriot Jelena Jankovic made her first majors’ final appearance at the U.S. Open, but lost a tough three setter. As a result of the French Open title, Ivanovic captured the number one ranking. But with a niggling thumb injury, Ivanovic struggled the remainder of the year. On the other hand, Jankovic overflowing with confidence after her great U. S. Open showing, won three straight tournaments and finished the year at number one. Jelena is the third player after Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis to hold that honor despite failing to earn a major trophy.

The Williams sisters persist as the beacon of light of American tennis with Venus shining on her best surface, the grass at Wimbledon. Venus seized her fifth title at sister Serena’s expense. But the latter’s tears were short-lived as the siblings took the Wimbledon doubles title and repeated with doubles gold in Beijing. Moreover, Venus showed that at 28, she still could keep up with her younger peers by winning both in Zurich and at the prestigious year-end championships. While Serena, no spring chicken herself, prevailed for the third time at the U.S. Open.

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WTA Ushers In Reform In 2009


For many years, the governing body of women tennis has been mulling over this conundrum: how best to grow and maintain the popularity of the sport in emerging markets while not adversely affecting the players who are often overextended by an already demanding schedule. After extensive research, the WTA believes it has found the perfect balance, which it trusts, will serve to better the game.

In September, a new schematic, the “roadmap”, was announced outlining the reforms that will be in effect next year. Two key revisions stand out and are worth emphasizing. Firstly, to minimize injury more down time will be allotted without unduly penalizing the athletes. Towards that end, players will be permitted 7 to 9 weeks of vacation time. Secondly, the players will see their monetary compensation increase through a revenue sharing program. Here are other salient points to the “roadmap”:

1) The prior system of labeling tournaments as “tier” has been abrogated. These competitions will now be called “ Premier” events for tiers I and II while tiers III and IV, “International” events. Moreover, the former have been scaled down from 26 to 20 with the goal of securing more top player participation. Besides the majors, Miami, Indian Wells, Madrid and Beijing will be obligatory tournaments.

2) A new method will be implemented for calculating player ranking whereby the best 16 tournament results will be taken into consideration.

3) While the top eight players will continue to be rewarded with a spot at the Sony Ericsson Championships at year’s end, the efforts of the rest of the top twenty will be acknowledged through their participating at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.

4) On court coaching will be allowed at all events. Players will be able to confab with their coaches once per set, either during the change over or after the set. Also, coaching will be legal during bathroom breaks or injury timeouts.

Thus far, the new guidelines have gotten mixed reviews. World number 3 Dinara Safina has expressed concerns over the possibility that top players will be restricted as to which tournaments they can enter while the same rules may not apply to lesser ranked ones. Venus Williams, the current number 6, has welcomed the modifications as a good thing for the sport. However, reigning French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic has voiced her reservations over on court coaching, fearing that it will alter the basic premise of singles as an individual sport. Therefore, with these conflicting viewpoints, it will be interesting to see how these changes will stamp the game in the upcoming year.

For complete details on the “roadmap” and to view the calendar for 2009, click here or logon to www.sonyericssonwtatour.com , scroll down to quick links section and click on roadmap 2009.  

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