Tag Archive | "Serena"

A Tale of Two Seasons:  Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes

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A Tale of Two Seasons: Serena Starts and Wozniacki Finishes

Although the familiar saying states “all good things must come to an end”, when it comes to tennis it’s not necessarily the case.  While the 2010 season is over, in the blink of an eye the new one will commence.  Before turning to a fresh chapter, it’s important to reminisce and ponder what made this past year noteworthy.

At her first tournament after rejoining the tour, Justine Henin was a finalist in Brisbane.  The Belgian followed that result with a run to the final at the Australian Open.  In a compelling match, Serena Williams edged out Henin to defend her title and claimed her twelfth career major.  Despite Williams’ conquest, the road to victory was far from routine.  Thus, early indications were Williams would be fighting tooth and nail to retain the number one ranking.  Yet, in the end, injury became Serena’s speed bump rather than her fellow competitors.

Following Australia, a knee injury caused Williams to put her feet up for a few months.  In May, a healthy Serena returned to competition.  Subsequent to being stunned in the French Open quarterfinals, Williams successfully defended her Wimbledon title.  However, days after her triumph, Serena suffered a freakish foot injury.  Initially, the damage seemed inconsequential.  But, as the weeks went by, Serena withdrew from tournament after tournament and underwent surgery.  Ultimately, Wimbledon proved to be Serena’s last event of 2010.

Ironically, Serena’s similar fate befell Henin.  After being booted in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, Henin turned her focus to Wimbledon the underlying reason for her comeback.  With a title at a warm-up tournament before Wimbledon, Henin was a serious contender to capture the sole major which has eluded her. But, after easily carrying the first set against Kim Clijsters, Henin fell on her elbow and eventually loss in the round of 16.  What at first seemed an innocuous tumble prematurely terminated Henin’s year.

After being upended in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open by Na Li, Venus Williams caught a full head of steam and defended back to back titles in Dubai and Acapulco.  Then, Venus made the finals at the Sony Ericsson Open and the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.  Consequently, Venus’ ranking peaked at number two.  Days after celebrating her 30th birthday,  the five time Wimbledon champion stepped on the grass with high hopes for a sixth crown.  However, in the quarterfinals, Venus was sent packing by Tsvetana Pironkova.  Later at the U.S. Open, Williams watched an opportunity to advance to the final evaporate, going down to Clijsters.  Bothered by a knee issue, after New York, Venus sat out the remainder of the season.

No ifs and or buts, Clijsters is back.  After besting Henin in the Brisbane final, Clijsters rebounded from an early exit at the Australian Open by thrashing Venus in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open.  Although a foot injury prevented Clijsters from participating at the French Open, the following month the Belgian reached the semifinals at Wimbledon.  Subsequent to a sensational win in the final in Cincinnati, Clijsters repeated in New York and earned her third U.S. Open title.  Clijsters capped the year with the number three ranking and the WTA Championships trophy in Doha.

In placing one’s bet at the start of 2010, Maria Sharapova, Henin and Clijsters would have been regarded as the candidates likely to supplant Serena at number one.  Instead, Williams was toppled from that spot by a great Dane.  Last year, as a runner-up at the U.S. Open, Caroline Wozniacki demonstrated that she is a legitimate rival.  With Serena sidelined by injury, Wozniacki scaled up the ranking by winning six tour titles and making the finals in Indian Wells and Doha.

Despite being halted in the round of 16 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the quarterfinals at the French Open and the semifinals at the U.S. Open, consistency week in and week out was the key to Wozniacki taking over at number one.

Another individual who had a spring in her step in 2010 is Vera Zvonareva. The Russian followed her first major final at Wimbledon with another at the U.S. Open.  Although Zvonareva fell to Serena and Clijsters respectively, because of her phenomenal performance, Zvonareva shot up to the number two ranking.

Other names to come into the spotlight this season include twenty year old Petra Kvitova who stunned Victoria Azarenka and Wozniacki before being knocked out in the Wimbledon semifinals by Serena.  Along with Li, countrywoman Jie Zheng advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open.  Perhaps the unlikeliest ones to rise above the fray were veterans Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur.

After beating Henin, Serena and Jelena Jankovic at the French Open, 26 year old Stosur booked her maiden major final spot.  With a victory over Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, Schiavone sauntered into the French Open final as a result of Elena Dementieva retiring in the semifinals with a calf injury.  First time major finalist Schiavone took full advantage of her good fortune.  Less than a month prior to her 30th birthday, Schiavone prevailed over Stosur becoming the first Italian woman to win a major.

In doubles, Serena and Venus triumphed in the finals at the Australian and French Opens while Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were claimed by the new pair of Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova.  The number one doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber had an acrimonious divorce in April.  With the break up of Huber and Black and injuries affecting the Williams’, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko with six titles and the WTA Championships trophy ended the year as the top doubles team.

For the second consecutive year, Italy dismissed the U.S. to take the Federation Cup. Former French Open champion and world number one Ana Ivanovic redeemed her season by pocketing the Tournament of Champions trophy in Bali and reintegrating herself in the top twenty.  Nothing but bad news for former world number one Dinara Safina.  Limited by a back problem, Safina hardly played and finished the year ranked 63rd.

At the WTA championships, Dementieva dropped a bomb announcing her retirement after her last round robin match.  The 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two time major finalist felt at 29 years of age the time had arrived to seal this phase of her life and move on to another.

It is impossible to dissociate 2010 from 2011 with injury already a factor in the year to come.  With her foot still on the mend, Serena proclaimed she will not defend her Australian Open title.  As such, the first major of the year will be up for grabs.  Will Clijsters seize her first major other than the U.S. Open?  Can Wozniacki silence all doubters and show she really belongs at the top spot?  Will Zvonareva draw on the positives from 2010 and take the final step to the major’s winner circle?  Will it be Sharapova or Henin reliving their past success down under?  In contemplating the outcome of the Australian Open, the permutations seem infinite.  With all these questions, the first major portends that the upcoming season will be a fascinating one to follow.

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Azarenka Circumvents Kirilenko to Carry Kremlin Cup Trophy

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Azarenka Circumvents Kirilenko to Carry Kremlin Cup Trophy

For Maria Kirilenko reaching her first final of 2010 was a wonderful accomplishment.  Moreover, doing so in her hometown was particularly gratifying.  Thus, with a partisan crowd firmly behind her, it was the ideal setting for Kirilenko to terminate a two year title drought.  Unfortunately, Kirilenko’s opponent and doubles partner Victoria Azarenka did not cooperate.  Azarenka, the second seed, bested Kirilenko 6-3,6-4 to take the Kremlin Cup title, the fifth of her career.

With Kirilenko dumping a backhand into the net, Azarenka broke to start out the match.  However, Kirilenko wiped away game point and by provoking a few errors from her rival manufactured a couple of break points.  Kirilenko capitalized when Azarenka double faulted.  Later though at 2 all, as Kirilenko’s forehand up the line sailed long, Azarenka had triple break point.  Azarenka converted when Kirilenko’s backhand directed down the line found the net instead.  Then, with a forehand up the line winner on game point, Azarenka consolidated for 4-2.  Down the road, with a love game, Azarenka extended her lead to 5-3. Next, with a forehand up the line winner, Azarenka got to double set point.  By connecting with a backhand down the line winner, Azarenka took the first set.

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Creeping Up on Number One:  Wozniacki Clenches Tokyo Title

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Creeping Up on Number One: Wozniacki Clenches Tokyo Title

After a poor showing in the first set, Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two, rallied to capture the trophy at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.  Wozniacki defeated Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed, 1-6,6-2,6-3 for her fifth title of the season.

With two winners, Dementieva opened the match with triple break point.  Despite Wozniacki getting to deuce, the Russian forced the errors to secure the break.  After easily consolidating, as Wozniacki’s backhand sailed long, Dementieva had double break point.  Dementieva capitalized when her opponent’s forehand traveled long.  Subsequent to a double break lead for 4-0, Dementieva took another game off Wozniacki to seal the set.

Since Dementieva got 94% of her first serves in play and with Wozniacki committing eleven errors while failing to connect on a single winner, a comfortable victory looked to be in store for the Russian.  Yet, when Dementieva sent a backhand down the line wide, the Dane had her first break point.  Although Dementieva bagged the game, Wozniacki telegraphed the message that she was not willing to fold.  Subsequent to her first comfortable hold, with Dementieva ahead 40-0, Wozniacki struck a forehand crosscourt winner, her first of the match, which turned out to be her wake up call.  By provoking two additional miscues from Dementieva, Wozniacki leveled the game at deuce.  Later, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Wozniacki obtained another break point and converted.  Next, thanks to Wozniacki’s mistakes, Dementieva had double break point.  However, the Dane recovered and extended her lead to 3-1.  With Dementieva serving at 2-4 and deuce, Wozniacki screamed while the ball was in the air thinking it would touch long. But, the stroke found the court.  Still, Dementieva was awarded the point because the umpire viewed Wozniacki’s outburst as a hindrance.  Disagreeing with the ruling, Wozniacki asked to chat with the supervisor; nonetheless, the call stood.  After dismissing the incident from her mind, Wozniacki pushed Dementieva into mistakes and stole the game for a 5-2 edge.  Then, the world number two closed out the second set and forced a third for the championship.

In the decisive set, a forehand winner gave Wozniacki her third break point in the third game.  Wozniacki made good when Dementieva dumped her backhand into the net.  Albeit, the lead was short-lived because Dementieva quickly equalized the set at 2 a piece.  A few games on, a Dementieva flub handed Wozniacki break point.  As a result of Dementieva backhand misfiring, Wozniacki pocketed the break for 4-3.  After readily consolidating, with a forehand crosscourt winner and a double fault donation from Dementieva, Wozniacki arrived at double championship point.  The Dane secured the title when Dementieva threw in her fourth double fault of the day.

In some respects, the match was similar to Pilot Pen semifinals whereby Wozniacki surrendered the first set 1-6 but edged out Dementieva in a third set tiebreaker.  After prevailing for her eleventh career prize, Wozniacki expressed that she was thrilled since Dementieva was “playing really well [in the first set] and didn’t let me in. . . [in the second set] I stepped it up . . .and with two close sets, I am happy standing here as the winner”.  With regards to the disputed call in the second set,  Wozniacki stated “I didn’t agree with the umpire, [but] I had to move on from there . . . The difference in the end was that I won the important points, [kept] fighting and [was] focused”.

With Serena Williams still sidelined by a foot injury and out of competition the next two weeks, Wozniacki could overtake her at number one.  Nevertheless, when asked whether this was in her thoughts, Wozniacki replied “I don’t look at the rankings too much.  I focus on winning tournaments, although it’s been [my] dream to be number one”.  Depending on her results at the upcoming events, Wozniacki has an excellent chance of realizing that dream.

For Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, Tokyo was gravely disappointing.  Sharapova was ousted in the first round by Kimiko Date Krumm and will slide significantly from number 15.  Jelena Jankovic, the third seed and finalist in 2009, was knocked out by Kaia Kanepi in the third round. Samantha Stosur, the fourth seed, also suffered an early second round exit.   Dementieva stopped second seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals.  Regardless, that showing was adequate for Zvonareva to book a spot in the Sony Ericsson championships at year’s end.

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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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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion?  Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open

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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion? Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open

This week, the U.S. Open draw was disclosed.  Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two and 2009 finalist, and Kim Clijsters, the defending champion and world number three, are the top seeds.  Yet to fully recover from foot surgery, Serena Williams, the world number one, pulled out a few days ago.  In the absence of such a fierce competitor, this presents a sweeping opportunity for Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka or Wozniacki to emerge as a first time champion at a major.  Whether one of these women realizes her potential will be contingent on the performance of those who have previously hoisted this trophy such as Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Clijsters.  Here’s a look at how the draw shapes up.

With the biggest title of her career at the Rogers Cup earlier this week, Wozniacki heads into New York with a wealth of confidence.  But, being the top seed at a major is an unfamiliar status for the Dane, how she handles the pressure will be key.  Wozniacki may need every ounce of mental fortitude to get through the round of 16 where 2007 U.S. Open winner Sharapova will be her likely adversary.  In Cincinnati, Sharapova suffered a foot injury.  If Sharapova is at full capacity, Wozniacki could find her claim to her first major postponed another year.

After a difficult few months whereby her ranking dropped outside the top 10, Kuznetsova’s game appears to be clicking again as evidenced by a recent title in San Diego.  As a potential quarterfinal opponent for Sharapova or Wozniacki, the 2004 U.S. Open champion is someone to keep an eye on in the top half of the draw.

The same applies for 2010 Australian Open semifinalist Na Li who will be searching to go one step further at the U.S. Open.  For that to happen, Li may have to knock out Kuznetsova in the round of 16 and stop either Sharapova or Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.  Also, Maria Kirilenko and Aravane Rezai are two dangerous competitors who may prevent any of these players from advancing to the quarterfinals.

In the bottom part of the top half of the draw, if the script follows the seeding, Vera Zvonareva and Jankovic will face off in the quarterfinals.  Lately though, Jankovic has been plagued by a myriad of injuries resulting in her downfall in the early rounds at the warm-up events.  Thus, the Serbian could be ousted in the primary stages by 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer or 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi.

Being a Wimbledon finalist in Zvonareva’s case could be a blessing or a curse.  In light of that experience, the Russian should have the belief to foil any potential upset in the round of 16 by rivals such as Nadia Petrova or Agnieszka Radwanska. Conversely, Zvonareva’s desire to erase that disappointment could lead to additional pressure and open the door for her counterparts.

If the results of the recent tournaments are any indication, it will be a Wozniacki versus Zvonareva semifinal or an all Russian affair, Zvonareva versus Sharapova.  Since Wozniacki defeated Zvonareva in Montreal, the Dane would have the edge.  If it comes down to a test of wills between Sharapova and Zvonareva, the former would have the upper hand.

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title

At the Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Kim Clijsters survived three championship points from Maria Sharapova just as the skies were opening.  When the match resumed after a 70 minute rain delay, Clijsters, the 4th seed, changed not only her outfit, but her game.  Clijsters worked her way back to rob the trophy from the 10th seed with a 2-6,7-6,6-2 victory.

Although Clijsters had a slim edge over Sharapova in their head to head at 4-3, the latter had prevailed at their ultimate three meetings.  However, a lot had taken place since the 2007 Australian Open semifinal, the last time Clijsters and Sharapova clashed.  For Clijsters, the wanting of a family and marriage pushed her away from competition for almost two years.  Yet, in the summer of 2009, Clijsters marked her returned on tour in grand style with the title at the U.S. Open.  Sharapova had a near 10 month absence from the game due to shoulder surgery.  Since getting back in May 2009, Sharapova’s serve, one of the principle components which propelled her to three major titles, has been unpredictable.

Strangely enough, it was Clijsters’ serve which was her Achilles heel from the outset.  After being ahead 40-15 in the first game, Clijsters double faulted to give Sharapova break point.  Despite recovering and salvaging a 0-40 game subsequently, Clijsters could not find any answers to an attacking and aggressive Sharapova.  After fighting off two break points to arrive at 2 all, from 15-40, Sharapova aided by miscues from Clijsters got to deuce.  Then, when Clijsters’ backhand crosscourt sailed long, Sharapova had her fifth break point.  The Russian banked the break when Clijsters committed her fourth double fault.  After consolidating for 4-2, Sharapova’s provoked three consecutive backhand mistakes from Clijsters to obtain a second break.  Next, with a love game, Sharapova closed out the set.

Clijsters opened the second set with a love hold.  Once Sharapova netted a backhand, Clijsters had break point.  With a backhand return winner, Clijsters capitalized for a 2-0 lead.  But, with two errors and a double fault, Clijsters faced triple break point.  With another Clijsters’ backhand going out of play, Sharapova was back on serve.  Later, on a deep return by Sharapova, Clijsters dumped her next stroke into the net handing Sharapova double break point. As a result of Clijsters’ forehand up the line landing wide, Sharapova captured the break for 4-3 and went on to consolidate for 5-3.   By unleashing on a forehand return, Sharapova struck a winner for match point.  With Sharapova sending a forehand crosscourt long, Clijsters got to deuce.  Two more championship points followed for Sharapova with Clijsters successfully salvaging both.  On the game’s fourth deuce, the rain intensified causing play to be stopped.

When the women took the court after the weather interruption, a new Clijsters quickly guarded serve for 4-5.  With Sharapova serving for the title, Clijsters coaxed the Russian into two backhand errors to earn double break point.  Thanks to a couple of big second serves, Sharapova brushed those aside for deuce.  However, another backhand miscue by Sharapova led to break point for Clijsters.  As a result of a double fault, Clijsters leveled the set at 5 all.   The second set was decided by a tiebreaker.

By double faulting on the initial point, Clijsters gifted Sharapova a mini-break.  The Russian went on to take a 3-0 lead.  Because of mistakes by Sharapova including a double fault, Clijsters seized the next five points.  After Sharapova erased the mini-break advantage, she double faulted to give Clijsters a 6-4 edge.  As Sharapova misfired with the backhand crosscourt on set point, Clijsters was back in contention.

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Don’t Put a Fork in Federer, He’s Not Done Yet

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Don’t Put a Fork in Federer, He’s Not Done Yet

In the last two years, Roger Federer’s tennis obituary has been written more than once.  In fact, the notion of the great one’s eminent demise has crossed this writer’s mind on a few occasions only to be refuted.  Since his victory in Melbourne, Federer has hit a speed bump from which he has yet to recover.  Thus, rumors again are rampid as to the Swiss genius being put out to pasture.  Unequivocally, the fear factor which Federer previously instilled in his opponents pre-match has waned.  Yet, to deduce that his career is at its conclusion is a tad premature.

Tennis followers are accustomed to Federer being a sure thing especially at the majors.  With a total of 32 titles from 2004 thru 2007 and double digit trophies three of those years, Federer has been brilliance personified.  In 2004, the stellar Swiss was perfect in finals, 11-0.  Moreover, three of the fore mentioned years, Federer prevailed at three of the four majors.  During that four year span, the ‘Federer Express’ was detained only twenty three times and relinquished at the most matches eight matches in a single season.

Even at his peak, Pete Sampras garnered double figure titles, 10, only one time in 1994 and obtained maximally two majors in a calendar year.  Arguably, 2008 was the best year to date for Federer’s archrival, Rafael Nadal.  Along with Olympics gold, the Spaniard claimed two majors in that cycle.  Considering Federer is almost 29 and Nadal 24 with his best years probably ahead of him, the comparison may be somewhat distorted.  Yet, this underscores further the reason that fans expect excellence from Federer.

Before 2008, with the exception of Nadal, Federer vanquished a lot of his competitors in the locker room.  It was the 2008 Australian Open semifinals which marked Federer’s transition to the land of mortals.  With Novak Djokovic halting Federer at that stage, it signaled to other adversaries that they had a prayer.  Although Federer’s languid movement, which could be ascribed to mononucleosis, contributed largely to his defeat.  The illness exposed a layer of vulnerability from which Federer had difficulty recovering the remainder of the year.  In some respects, this year seems a flashback to 2008 with the express difference that Federer’s counterparts are upstaging him even earlier at the majors; something unseen previously.

Why the transformation?  Confidence.  While Robin Soderling’s victory over Federer at an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi this past February may have been categorized by some as insignificant.  In hindsight, it proved not to be trivial. That win cultivated in Soderling belief for their next meeting.  A few weeks ago at the French Open, Soderling had his initial triumph over Federer after 13 attempts.  Moreover, the encounter was historic as Soderling terminated Federer’s extraordinary streak of major semifinals at 23.

Another example is Tomas Berdych.  After eight successive takedowns by Federer, the mentally fragile Berdych bested his nemesis in Miami this year.  Then, in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Berdych went on to replicate that feat.  Later, at the post match press conference, Federer revealed that a stiff back and a leg injury which first surfaced in Halle were in part to blame for his failure.

Indeed, there were echoes of Australia 2008 at Wimbledon this year.  Federer just seemed a step slower than his opponent.  Seldom would one associate the word mediocre with a Federer stroke, but it crept up to mind in watching his backhand.  Moreover, the sting had slipped off  the forehand side.  Consequently, the rest of Federer’s game could not coalesce.  In spite of the injuries, considering the result in Paris, the question lingers whether with a fully fit Federer, the outcome would have altered. Following the French Open, Federer’s ranking dropped to number two.  After Wimbledon, it dipped to number three, his lowest since November of 2003.

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Serena Williams Carves Her Place Along Side the Elites with Her 13th Major

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Serena Williams Carves Her Place Along Side the Elites with Her 13th Major

Undisputedly, Serena Williams adores the spotlight and Wimbledon is the Oscars of the tennis stage.  In the finals at the All England Club,  defending champion Williams overpowered Vera Zvonareva, the 21st seed, 6-3,6-2 to win her fourth Wimbledon trophy and her thirteenth major overall surpassing the great Billie Jean King.

Zvonareva was making her debut in the finals at a major and Williams did not rely on first timer jitters to knock out her opponent.  In 2004, an intrepid teenage newcomer seeded 13th, Maria Sharapova stunned world number one Williams to take the Wimbledon title.  From the very first game, Serena demonstrated that she had learned her lesson.  With a backhand down the line winner, Williams held at love to open the match.  Showing no nervousness, Zvonareva carried her first game easily.  Despite throwing in two double faults and being pushed to deuce the next couple of games, Serena guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2.  When Zvonareva’s forehand up the line landed out of play, Williams had her first break point.  However, Zvonareva forced the miscues from Serena to level the set at 3 a piece. After Serena had no trouble guarding serve, Zvonareva double faulted on game point for deuce.  With a nice lob, Serena obtained another mistake from Zvonareva for her second break point of the game.  With an incredible running forehand up the line winner, Serena broke for 5-3.  Then, on her third set point, Serena caused Zvonareva to flub another forehand to pocket the set.

Under pressure, Zvonareva’s troubles multiplied in the second set.  By dumping a backhand crosscourt into the net, Serena earned a break point the first game.  When Zvonareva’s forehand missed its destination, Serena took the initial game.  Subsequently, with a backhand volley winner, Serena consolidated for a 2-0 edge.  From that point on, Serena never removed her foot from the accelerator.  With another smoking running forehand, Serena provoked a forehand miscue from Zvonareva for double break point in the fifth game.  Although Zvonareva saved those two, she sent another forehand into the net giving Serena a third chance.  This time Williams did not have to strike the ball, by double faulting, Zvonareva gifted her a 4-1 lead.  The remainder of the match, Serena surrendered just one point on her serve and with a love game to capture the championship.

After the match, Zvonareva had nothing but praise for her rival “you’re a great player and a great champion … you’ve shown great determination throughout the week”.  The Russian conceded “I’m a little disappointed . . . [but] Serena did not allow me to show my best”.  Zvonareva could not manufacture one break point.  Williams connected on 66% of her first serves and won 94% of those points. In addition, Serena did not loose a set on as she claimed the title.

Since the pain is still fresh, Zvonareva said it’s hard to see the positives. But the Russian admitted that when she reflects in a couple of hours, she will have a better perspective.  After all, “I’ve been dreaming of playing Wimbledon since I was a kid”.  Considering the hardship that Zvonareva has gone through the last year with her ankle injury, “I was doubting that I was going to ever play”.  Zvonareva expressed her gratitude to the people who have stuck by her and aided her to arrive at this moment including her surgeon who was present. Indeed, for Zvonareva, there’s a ton to be proud of.

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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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Wimbledon Draw Offers the Potential for Another All Williams Final

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Wimbledon Draw Offers the Potential for Another All Williams Final

With the exception of 2004 and 2006 when the Venus Rosewater trophy was leased by Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo respectively, Venus and Serena Williams have been the proprietor of the Wimbledon title eight out of the last ten years.  In fact, the Williams sisters have been interchangeably the winner and runner-up the ultimate two seasons.   With Serena and Venus as the top two seeds in 2010, a three-peat in the finals is plausible.  However, with Justine Henin having reincorporated herself into the tour with the express objective of hoisting the Wimbledon trophy and compatriot Kim Clijsters a formidable force after rejoining the circuit last summer, a new decade may mark the end of the Williams’ dominance.  Here’s a preview of the draw and the potential obstacles for the chief contenders at the All England Club.

If the outcome is as anticipated, Serena will meet Maria Sharapova in the round of 16.  Despite struggling with her serve since her shoulder surgery, Sharapova has posted some good results the last couple of months.  Moreover, Sharapova reached the finals in Birmingham two weeks ago.  Thus, depending on how well Sharapova plays, the possibility of an upset is undeniable.  With the Birmingham title under her belt, Na Li is a secondary threat in Serena’s section.  A semifinalist in Australia where she loss in two  tiebreaker sets, Li has the weapons to irritate Serena if she gets to the quarterfinals.

Either French Open finalist Samantha Stosur or Caroline Wozniacki could be Serena’s semifinal opponent.  With her recent history at the French Open against Stosur, Serena may have her work cut out for her.  Beforehand, Stosur and Wozniacki may have to battle it out in the quarterfinals.  Looking further back, Wozniacki may have to deal with Victoria Azarenka the 14th seed in the fourth round and Stosur with Flavia Pennetta the 10th seed also in the round of 16.  Since clay is Pennetta’s best surface and with the Italian never making it pass the fourth round, Stosur should prevail.  For Azarenka, the finalist in Eastbourne, a knee injury may be the limiting factor regardless of the rival she faces.

Focusing on the bottom half of the draw, the Wimbledon grass seems to have restorative properties for Venus irrespective of her previous results.  With two titles and finalists status in Miami and Madrid, Venus is in stellar shape.  Venus’ path looks relatively unencumbered until the quarterfinals where she could battle Marion Bartoli or French Open reigning champion Francesca Schiavone.  Still with Venus’ past performance, the scales are heavily tipped in her direction.

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