Tag Archive | "Safina"

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Just The Cure For Her Ailing Game: Ivanovic Captures Title In Linz

After final appearances at the Australian and French Opens, ultimately breaking through and hoisting the latter trophy, Ana Ivanovic’s game hit the skids. Last week, the Serbian youngster got back on course with a semifinal showing in Zurich and this week took it one step further by reaching the finals at the tier II Generali Ladies Linz in Austria, her first since the French. Ivanovic, the top seed and world number four, thrashed Russian Vera Zvonareva, the second seed and world number nine, 6-2, 6-1.

After Zvonareva’s flawless performance in the semifinals where she crushed Marion Bartoli 6-1, 6-0, a highly competitive final was anticipated. Moreover, Ivanovic struggled in the semifinals vanquishing crafty teenager Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. Unfortunately, the final was a one sided affair. Zvonareva opened the proceedings with three straight unforced errors and with a backhand drop shot, Ivanovic took the lead 1-0. The Serbian whose serve was problematic in the prior round, connecting on a dismal 37% of first serves in the initial set, won her first service game at love. In three games, Zvonareva made nine unforced errors from both wings and won only two points to go down two breaks. Briefly, Vera seemed to overcome her erratic play and with a forehand crosscourt winner arrived at her first break point. Zvonareva converted when Ivanovic committed a rare forehand error. However, this was the highlight for Zvonareva as the Russian’s game continued its meltdown. After leading 40-0, Vera committed two backhand errors and three double faults to give Ivanovic another break for 4-1. With a flurry of unforced errors, Zvonareva conceded the set to Ivanovic.

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No Mercy For Zvonareva As Jankovic Mows Over Another Russian In Moscow

For the third consecutive week, Serbian Jelena Jankovic faced a Russian in the finals. At the Kremlin Cup, her opponent was Vera Zvonareva. The result was the same, as Jankovic beat Zvonareva 6-2, 6-4.

Zvonareva’s first tier I final in front of a partisan crowd was not a delightful experience. After opening the match with a forehand crosscourt winner, Vera threw away a game point and with a bunch of errors gave Jankovic the break. Subsequently, Jelena literally pinned Vera into a corner resulting in four straight forehand errors for a love game 2-0. After blowing a 40-15 lead, Zvonareva finally got on the scoreboard after Jankovic produced a couple of forehand errors of her own 1-2. After holding serve comfortably, Jelena pressured Vera with her deep groundstrokes resulting in four consecutive forehand errors on the Russian’s best shot. Now, the Serb had a double break lead 4-1, then, dominated to take the first set.

Just as she had done in the first set, Jankovic started out the second by imposing her game. A sequence of unforced errors by Zvonareva gave her triple break point; Jankovic capitalized by curling in a forehand winner from way off the court. Despite being frustrated, Vera did not wither. After a backhand down the line by Jankovic misconnected, the players were at deuce. Later, Zvonareva connected on a sensational topspin lob for a break point which she converted 1-1. At that point, momentum appeared to have shifted. Moreover, Zvonareva obtained another break point when Jankovic misfired on a ball that skidded off the line. However, successive unforced errors by Vera equalized the set at 2-2. With a swinging volley and two forehand winners, Jankovic regained the lead 3-2. But refusing to cry uncle, Vera received another opportunity when her backhand hit the net and dropped in for a winner to give her double break point. Zvonareva converted and the players were back on serve 4-4. However, the ever-crafty Jankovic fabricated two backhand down the line winners for a double break which she capitalized on for a 5-4 lead. Then, with repeated unforced errors from Zvonareva, Jankovic secured the match.

Zvonareva can still rejoice. With this showing, she will climb up a notch in the rankings from 9 to 8. On the WTA, the ranking shuffle continues. With Serena Williams withdrawing from this event due to an ankle injury, Dinara Safina, Zvonareva’s opponent in the semifinals, will become the new number 2.

Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik dismissed the number one women’s doubles team Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-4 to take the cup. The men were also in action in Moscow. Russian Igor Kunitsyn defeated fellow countryman Marat Safin 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 to win his first ATP title.

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Safina Overpowers Kuznetsova To Capture Toray Pan Pacific Open

Russian Dinara Safina crushed fellow countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, a tier I tournament, to claim her fourth title this season 6-1, 6-4.

After going down love-30 in her opening service game, Safina recovered with a couple of crosscourt winners to hold serve. Because of an unforced error by Kuznetsova, Safina arrived at her first break point chance which she converted 3-1. Then, with another forehand crosscourt winner and another unforced error from her opponent, Safina took a double break lead in the first set 5-1. Subsequently, Safina served an ace to acquire the first set.

Instead of relying on the strength of her all around game, particularly her superior net play, Kuznetsova attempted to overpower her opponent from the baseline which resulted in multiple errors flying from both her forehand and backhand sides. After commencing the second set with a 40-0 game, Kuznetsova made a series of unforced errors to give Safina an advantage point then double faulted to go down a break. Down 0-2, Kuznetsova produced a great drop shot and down the line backhand winner to keep within striking distance at 1-2. The pay off came the very next game when Safina’s serve deserted her and with a double fault, the second set was tied at 2-2. But, Safina bounced right back with a handful of down the line and crosscourt forehand winners to regain the lead. Then, with a couple of aces, Safina consolidated the break 4-2. In the eight game, Kuznetsova tried to answer and got to break point with a forehand volley for a winner. Yet again, with an unforced error Svetlana threw away her chance, so now Dinara led 5-3. After getting ahead 40-15 in the critical ninth game, Kuznetsova was again bitten by the error bug. An ill advised drop shot by Svetlana while down match point sailed long giving Dinara her third tier I title of the year.

Currently, Safina and Serena Williams are the leading titleholders on the WTA tour for 2008 with four each. Safina’s climb up the rankings continues. On Monday, she will be ranked at number 3, the highest spot of her career.

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“It’s Showtime”: U.S. Open Draw Announced Today

The U.S. Open draws have been posted with Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic the top singles seeds on the men and women’s side respectively.

Nadal should sail through to the quarterfinals where one possible tricky match up could be Argentine David Nalbandian. Despite a disappointing year, Nalbandian has always been dangerous on a hardcourt. Another David, countryman Ferrer who eliminated Rafa in the round of 16 last year may be a nuisance, although Nadal is not the same player. Yet, perhaps, the most dangerous potential opponent is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro who has been blazing the last few weeks. If Del Potro continues to ride this wave, Nadal could be in trouble in the semifinals. Great Britain’s Andy Murray may have a lot to say in the matter, Del Potro and he could face off in the quarters.

Czech Radek Stepanek who beat him at the ATP Masters in Rome could test second seed and defending champion Roger Federer in the third round. Moreover, Serbian Jarko Tipsaravic who almost defeated Federer in Australia could be a potential quarterfinal challenge. But another Serbian 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic may be Federer’s biggest obstacle as the two may end up clashing in the semifinals. Djokovic has been stumbling of late but his draw looks manageable particularly with a struggling Andy Roddick as a possible opponent in the quarterfinals.

For Ivanovic, the task appears doable until the quarterfinals where she could meet Russian Dinara Safina who’s surely out for revenge after the French Open. Ivanovic’s thumb injury may be factor in the tournament. No possible Williams sisters finals, these two are on the same side of the draw and could clash in the quarterfinals. Moreover, both have intricate first round matches. Standing in the way of Serbian Jelena Jankovic could be China’s Jie Zheng in the third round or Russian Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals. The Russians are blessed with many contenders for the trophy. The road to the semifinals for Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova may mean motoring through one another. So it may not be a question of which country but which Russian will hoist the trophy, in my opinion, Safina has to be the favorite.

Miami native Ahsha Rolle is a wildcard entrant. Click here to access all of the draws for the 2008 US Open.


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No Assistance Needed:  Why On-Court Coaching In Tennis Is A Terrible Idea

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No Assistance Needed: Why On-Court Coaching In Tennis Is A Terrible Idea

img_2727Last month, the Sony Ericsson WTA tour decided to shelve its two-year experiment with on-court coaching. No one was more relieved than I to learn the news. From its inception, I viewed that type of tinkering with the game as a colossal error. Witnessing the exceptional tennis at Wimbledon and the French Open this year only served to reinforce that argument.

Tennis experts and fans concur that July’s Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was probably the best match they have seen or will ever see in their lifetime. What underscored the greatness of this contest was the fact that each man had to figure out for himself how to vanquish the other. Moreover, the spectator was riveted in trying to determine how each player would respond to an ever-dynamic court situation. Had coaching been permitted, this match’s grandeur would have been diminished. Can you imagine Nadal consulting with Uncle Tony as to how to approach the fifth set after losing his two sets to none advantage? Or Federer picking Mirkas’ brain as to how to deal with a dominant Rafa after two sets? Such interruptions or better-said intrusions would have taken away from the surreal moment the spectators and players were experiencing.

Another conspicuous example is the French Open. Dinara Safina plucked herself twice from the jaws of certain defeat to make it all the way to the finals. In facing the number one ranked player in the world, Safina only had her self to rely on when she needed to fight off match point. Tennis is the ultimate chess match. There is no recourse to a second opinion. All the practicing and strategizing are done beforehand. Each time one gets on the court; it is equivalent to a final exam. Once the first ball is struck, one doesn’t have the option of an open-book test, which is essentially what on-court coaching is.

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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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Safina Snaps Up Back-To-Back Title

The Rogers Cup final, a tier I tournament, was a contest between the experienced Russian Dinara Safina and the novice Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova. Safina’s steadiness was too much for her 19 year-old counterpart; Dinara cremated Cibulkova 6-2, 6-1.

Although there were flashes of brilliance from Cibulkova, the result never seemed in doubt. After holding serve to commence the proceedings, Safina broke her opponent to take 2-0 lead. After falling behind 1-5, Cibulkova hoped to turn things around as she had done with Jelena Jankovic, coming back from that exact deficit to win the set. After giving Cibulkova an opening as she served for the match and being broken, Dinara took advantage of Dominka’s service problems to take the set.

Under pressure at deuce the first game of the second set, Safina threw in consecutive aces to close out the game. After breaking Cibulkova, Safina went down break point which she erased with a second serve ace, then replicated another ace to seal the game for a 3-0 lead. Mainly a defensive player, Cibulkova failed to get many errors from Safina. The 2008 French Open Finalist continued to play smart tennis, pressuring Dominika to go for low percentage shots. After breaking Safina, Cibulkova lost her serve at love to go down 1-5. Serving for the match, Safina did not stumble and went on to make a second serve ace to seal the victory.

To make it to the finals, Cibulkova crushed Elena Dementieva in the second round, Nadia Petrova in the third round, Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and Marion Bartoli in the semifinals. Cibulkova’s ranking will leap from 31 to 20 while Safina’s will creep up a notch to 7. With this win, Dinara tops the standings for the U.S Open series bonus money. The Rogers’ Cup is Safina’s second tier I title of the year.

At the Nordea Nordic Light Open in Sweden, a tier IV hardcourt tournament, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark crushed Russia’s Vera Dushevina in the finals 6-0, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova aggravated a previous shoulder problem in Montreal and will be sidelined for the Olympics and U.S. Open. Ana Ivanovic suffered a thumb injury during the tournament but should be present in New York. By losing to Tamira Paszek in the third round, Ivanovic will cede the number one ranking to countrywoman Jankovic.

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Safina Pulverizes Pennetta To Win East West Bank Classic

The women’s final at the second stop of the U.S. Open Series placed Italian Flavia Pennetta against Russian Dinara Safina. The latter must have felt comfortable coming into this match since she had never lost to the Italian. Safina smashed her opponent 6-4, 6-2 to take her second trophy this season.

After a tentative start where Pennetta had a break point in her first service game, Safina began to find her rhythm. The Italian attempted to match the power coming from her competitor’s racket, but serving at 3-4, Pennetta was broken. Yet, Dinara was unable to wrap up the set. Shortly after, unable to find the mark with her serve, Safina was broken herself. Nevertheless, the normally volatile Russian kept her cool and continued to pound away at the ball and created a double break point opening which seized to prevail in the first set 6-4.

In the second set, Safina proceeded to punch-drunk Pennetta with her weighty shots. Although Flavia broke Dinara’s serve twice, she was unable to hold hers even once. Thus, despite her great effort, Pennetta was crushed in the second set at 6-2. With this win, Safina’s ranking moves up a notch to number 8, her highest ever.

Safina dismissed the tournament’s top seed, Jelena Jankovic, in the semifinals. Jankovic would have grabbed the number one ranking away from her countrywoman Ana Ivanovic if she won this week. Serena Williams pulled out of the event because of last week’s knee injury while Daniela Hantuchova and Anna Chakvetadze fell in the third round and the quarterfinals respectively.

At the Slovenia Open, a tier IV hard court tournament, Italian Sara Errani beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3 to win her second title this year.

Next week the ladies will be in Montreal for the Rogers Cup where most of the top players will be competing minus Venus and Serena Williams who will be absent due to illness. A tier IV hard court tournament will also be taking place in Sweden with Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska as the number one seed.

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Wimbledon 2008: A Preview Of The Singles’ Draw

Once again, the Wimbledon seeding committee has upset the apple cart by utilizing its prerogative of not formulating the draw according to rankings. It is the only major that does not always abide by the rankings.

Thus, on the gentlemen’s side, Richard Gasquet currently the world number nine has been seeded ahead of James Blake ranked number eight. This is far from a minor detail. Gasquet’s semifinal finish last year probably influenced that decision, but his performance so far this year has been disastrous. For Blake, the implications are huge. Instead of meeting Andy Roddick seeded sixth in the semifinals, the two could potentially clash in the round of 16.

Marcos Baghdatis also reaped the fruits of his quarterfinal showing last year. Now ranked 25, Baghdatis is seeded tenth. Meanwhile, Stanislas Wawrinka, world number ten, in spite of his excellent season has been bumped to the number thirteen slot. Otherwise, the top seven players were seeded as expected.

For world number one Roger Federer, the road to the finals is paved with stones. In the first round, Federer faces former top ten player, Dominik Hrbaty. From there, things get more complex with Lleyton Hewitt, Fernando Gonzalez and possibly Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. For Rafael Nadal, it is harder to isolate potential pitfalls. Nadal recently beat Roddick on grass who is also on his side of the draw. Perhaps if Blake makes it to the semifinals, this may be problematic for Nadal considering that Blake leads him 3-2 in their head to head but they’ve always met on hardcourt.

The ladies’ seeding followed the rankings. Analyzing the top half of the draw, Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams should technically make it to the semifinals. For Ivanovic, speed bumps could include Patty Schnyder, Nicole Vaidosova and Agnes Szavay. On the other hand, Svetlana Kuznetsova or Agnieszka Radwanska may prevent Serena from getting to her projected engagement with Ivanovic. Defending champion Venus Williams’ journey to the trophy will be tough with Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonerava or Flavia Pennetta standing in her way in the quarterfinals. While Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina or Elena Dementieva may be semifinal obstacles for Venus. Similarly for Sharapova, her side of the draw is stacked with fellow Russians such Safina, Dementieva or Petrova who may stop her from advancing.

So, there is a lot to contemplate as we look ahead to next couple of weeks. On the women’s side, the draw appears wide open. Past major champions may have the edge because of their experience. With the gentlemen, considering that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic with their talent have distanced themselves so much from the rest of the field, it is hard to foresee another player as having even a marginal shot at the trophy. The question to be answered is whether this will be Federer’s sixth consecutive title or whether Nadal or Djokovic will manage to snatch it from Federer’s grasp.

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This Week On Grass On The ATP And WTA Tours

At the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, a combined ladies and gentlemen event, Spaniard David Ferrer, seeded number one, defeated Frenchman Marc Gicquel in the finals 6-4, 6-2 in order to win his first grass court title.

The second seed and world number nine, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, was eliminated by Gicquel in the second round. Other prominent players who fell include Ivan Ljubicic in the second round, Guillermo Canas in the semifinals and Mario Ancic in the quarterfinals. All was not lost for Ancic though who teamed up with Austrian Jurgen Melzer in the doubles. These two surprised the second seed Leander Paes/Mahesh Bhupathi in the finals, winning the trophy 7-6, 6-3.

On the women’s side, Danira Safina, the third seed, who has been on a dream ride the last few months, was shocked in the finals by 30-year-old Thai qualifier Tamarine Tanasugarn 5-7, 3-6. Safina beat the number one seed Elena Dementieva in the semifinals. For second seed Anna Chakvetadze the headaches continue this year; Alona Bondarenko stopped her in the quarterfinals.

Tanasugarn had to do it the hard way, but this was the most productive week of her career. After playing two matches to get into the main draw, Tamarine defeated last week’s titlist on grass Kateryna Bondarenko, then Ashley Harkelroad in the second round, hometown sweetheart Michaella Krajicek in the quarterfinals and got rid of the other Bondarenko sister, Alona, in the semifinals. Krajicek gave the locals something to cheer for regardless by winning the doubles with partner Marina Erakovic 6-3, 6-2.

At the Slazenger Open in Nottingham England, Ivo Karlovic successfully defended his title by beating Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-7, 7-6. The higher seeds at this tournament were from the top twenty in the world. The well-known doubles teams of Jonathan Erlich/ Andy Ram seeded number one lost in the first round. In the finals, Bruno Soares/Kevin Ullyett prevailed over Jeff Coetzee/Jamie Murray 6-2, 7-6.

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