Tag Archive | "Serena"

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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Chance of a Lifetime:  Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open

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Chance of a Lifetime: Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open


Nothing is impossible!  This was the phrase on the t-shirt worn by Francesca Schiavone’s family and friends today in the French Open final.  Schiavone proved the axiom by surprising Samantha Stosur 6-4, 7-6 to grab her first career major.  Moreover, Schiavone stenciled her name in history by becoming the first Italian female to prevail at a major.

With eight first serves leading to two love games, Stosur was on a tear to open the first set.  Still, Schiavone had no trouble keeping up, connecting on an ace to level things at 2 all.  Subsequently, with a deep return, Schiavone provoked Stosur into a forehand error for love-30.   However, with her saving grace, the serve, Stosur battled back and capped the game with a forehand down the line winner for 3-2.  Using her all court game, especially the volley, Schiavone stayed in touch with Stosur.  The pivotal point arrived at 4 a piece.  By pushing her rival into three uncomfortable shots which misfired, Schiavone manufactured triple break point.  After Stosur salvaged two, she double faulted on the third to give Schiavone a 5-4 advantage.  By climbing out of love-30 with an ace and forehand crosscourt winner, Schiavone set up a second set point with a backhand volley winner.  When Stosur netted the backhand, Schiavone claimed the first set.

With a deep and low backhand pass, Schiavone caused Stosur to hit the next stroke long.  As a result, the Italian had double break point in third game of the second set.  However, with a three winners and an unreturnable serve, Stosur guarded serve for 2-1.  Then, by punishing second serves, Stosur had her first break point of the day with a forehand up the line winner. Stosur capitalized when Schiavone’s forehand up the line failed.  Promptly, Stosur consolidated with a love game for 4-1.  Following a quick hold, Schiavone produced a backhand return winner crosscourt, a forehand winner and made Stosur err with the backhand to arrive at love-40.  Later, by stabbing at a superb serve, Schiavone got a miscue on a short forehand from Stosur to get back on serve at 3-4.  Despite the mounting pressure, Schiavone remained aggressive and comfortably maintained serve.  Eventually, the set was settled in a tiebreaker.  Schiavone secured a mini-break for 3-2 by tracking Stosur’s dropshot and converting a backhand up the line winner.  The Italian extended her lead to 5-2 with a forehand volley winner and forehand crosscourt winner.  Subsequently, with a crosscourt backhand volley winner, Schiavone obtained a second mini-break and four championship points.  When Stosur’s stroke off the return traveled out of play, Schiavone bagged the second set and the French Open trophy.  Schiavone rejoiced by painting her lips red with a clay kiss, duplicating this jubilant sign she had shown in the quarters and semis.

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash


The sun has set on a the first week at the French Open.  As usual there were upsets, many of them expected.  However, Serena Williams and Justine Henin, two pre-tournament  favorites, have not disappointed.  As such, the much touted quarterfinal encounter between these rivals is one round away.  Here is a synopsis of the main developments of the initial days.

A bunch of big names took a tumble in the bottom section of the draw.  Leading the pack was Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champion.  After a miserable tune-up, Kuznetsova looked every bit the champion in the first round.  Moreover, with her back against the wall in the second round, Kuznetsova salvaged four match points against Andrea Petkovic to advance.  But, by the third round, Kuznetsova had utilized all her life lines.  She was taken down in three sets by Maria Kirilenko.

Victoria Azarenka, the 9th seed, has had a tough year.  The 2009 Sony Ericsson champ was schooled by Gisela Dulko, exiting in the first round.  But, in the next round, Dulko was herself stunned by South African qualifier Channelle Scheepers.  Scheepers reached the fourth round where she was stopped by Elena Dementieva.  Another surprise was Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, the winner in Rome, also going out in the first round.

As the newly re-minted number two and a finalist in Madrid, expectations were high that Venus Williams would at least make the semifinals.  In the first three rounds, Venus forged a statement not only with her attire, but with her play by bouncing her adversaries in straight sets.  Yet, in the round of 16, Venus’ game went through a transformation.  Although this was their first meeting on clay, Venus had a  4-0 record against Nadia Petrova.  Still, Petrova, a 2005 semifinalist, pulled off a straight sets victory.  As such, for the fourth consecutive year, Venus was booted prior to the quarterfinals.

A combination of rain and obscurity resulted in a few matches being played over two days. When Aravane Rezai and Petrova resumed their third round with the third set leveled at 7, the French crowd was disenchanted as Petrova walked away with the win.  Later that day, France’s last hope, Marion Bartoli, in the top half of the draw, was eliminated in the fourth round by Shahar Peer.

After fighting through Aleksandra Wozniak in the third round and an easy fourth round win, 2004 finalist Dementieva is unquestionably a contender for the finals.  Caroline Wozniacki, the third seed, is another.  Following two uncomplicated rounds, Wozniacki was severely tested by Alexandra Dulgheru and still captured her third match in straight sets. Then, in the round of 16, warrior Wozniacki bested Flavia Pennetta in a three hour duel to move on to her first quarterfinal in Paris.  Bothered by an ankle injury, as Wozniacki faces scrappy Fransceca Schiavone, who booted Kirilenko, she may need to duplicated her last performance

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open


Today, the French Open draw was revealed.  Because Serena and Venus Williams are the top two seeds, the possibility of an all Williams final exists. However, with Justine Henin, a four time champion, a potential quarterfinal rival for Serena and Venus perhaps seeing Aravane Rezai or Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, the list of spoilers is extensive.  Here’s a snapshot of the likely key match-ups which may eventually determine the victor.

After months of being a spectator, Serena rejoined the tour in Rome where she reached the semifinals. Despite an early exit in singles in Madrid,  Serena got reacquainted with the surface by prevailing in doubles along with Venus.  Serena’s first obstacle would come in the form of Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 since she would play a denizen. Still, Serena’s biggest hindrance lies in the quarters.  Serena lost to Henin, the eventual champion, in 2003 and 2007.  On the other hand, that match may not materialize as Henin could battle Maria Sharapova in the third round.  Samantha Stosur, a semifinalist in 2009 and the titlist in Charleston this year, is another potential tough quarterfinal opponent for Serena.

Following Serena, Jelena Jankovic is the next highest seed in the top half of the draw.  With players such as Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer and Vera Zvonareva returning from injury on Jankovic’s side of the draw, she should have an uneven full path to the quarters.  Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic could be Jankovic’s quarterfinal adversary.  Since her glorious days at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic has slipped.  For the first time in months, Ivanovic showed true signs of life with a semifinal posting in Rome.  Perhaps it will take Paris to completely get Ivanovic out of her slump.

Venus Williams and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova flank the bottom half of the draw.  So far this year, Kuznetsova’s results have been mediocre. Consequently, for Kuznetsova, it is safe to deduce that a replay of 2009 is a long shot.  In the first round, Kuznetsova faces a difficult opponent, Sorana Cirstea.  Should she move on, Maria Kirilenko could upset her in the third round.  Li Na and Francesca Schiavone could trouble Kuznetsova in the round of 16.  Moreover, legitimate stumbling blocks in the quarters for Kuznetsova include Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Alexandra Dulgheru and Caroline Wozniacki.

On the other hand, Wozniacki, the third seed, has been hampered by an ankle injury since Charleston.  For that reason, Wozniacki has failed to make an impact after winning in Ponte Vedra Beach.  In the third round, Wozniacki may see Dulgheru and Pennetta or Safarova in the fourth round. Considering the caliber of those rivals, it’s doubtful that Wozniacki has lasting power.

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final


For the second consecutive week, an unseeded player rules at a premier clay event.  In the finals of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai stunned world number three Venus Williams.  Rezai prevailed 6-2, 7-5 over Williams to capture the grandest title of her blooming career.

After breezing through her initial game, at 1 all, Venus made an error on game point leading to deuce.  Later, by sending a forehand out of play, Venus gave Rezai a second break point.  When Williams netted a backhand, Rezai took a 2-1 lead.  Subsequent to a double fault, Rezai provoked four straight miscues from Williams and consolidated for 3-1.  Then, with Venus serving at 2-4, she produced her second double fault of the game to hand Aravane double break point.  With a crosscourt forehand return winner, Rezai extended her lead to 5-2.  Thereafter, with a love game, Rezai grabbed the first set.

The previous set, Rezai won 100% of her first serve points.  If Williams intended to turn this match around, she would need the Frenchwoman to cool off.  After Venus held, in a game that included a double fault, Rezai had a backhand go long permitting Williams her initial break chance of the match.  With an ace, the Frenchwoman erased that deficit.  By converting a forehand crosscourt winner, Williams had a fourth break point opportunity.  Venus cashed in when Aravane’s backhand crosscourt misfired.  However, the next game, a lack of first serves allowed Rezai to break back.  Subsequently, a backhand up the winner handed Venus another break point.  Williams took a 3-1 edge when Rezai’s forehand traveled long.

Despite dealing with a break point, Williams consolidated for 4-1.  Soon, Venus had two chances to get a double break lead, yet, Rezai hung tough to keep the margin to one break.  Serving at 2-5, with an error, Rezai gifted Williams her first set point. Once more, the Frenchwoman goaded the miscues from her opponent to remain in the set. With a string of mistakes by Venus, Aravane manufactured two break points and by connecting on a forehand down the line winner got back on serve at 4-5.  Following, Rezai wiped out five additional set points by Williams to level things at 5 all.  That ultimate game proved a back breaker for Williams.  After a backhand pass winner by Rezai, Williams made two backhand errors to face 0-40.  With another backhand miscue by Venus, Rezai secured a 6-5 advantage.  As the backhand continued to leak, Rezai obtained double championship point.  Finally, by provoking a forehand mistake by Williams, Rezai pocketed the trophy.

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