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Kuznetsova Celebrates Second Career Major in Paris

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Kuznetsova Celebrates Second Career Major in Paris


img_1153-version-2Appropriately, the two women who have excelled on clay this year, world number one Dinara Safina and world number seven Svetlana Kuznetsova battled in the last round of the French Open. In this third all-Russian major final of the Open era, Kuznetsova pounded Safina 6-4, 6-2 to get her first ‘Coupe Suzanne Lenglen’.

With a dropshot on the very first point which Safina easily put away for a forehand winner, Kuznetsova revealed that she was nervous. Consequently, Safina took advantage and broke immediately. However, with three forehand errors and a double fault from Safina, Kuznetsova was on the board. Now more relaxed, Kuznetsova closed out a love game with a forehand crosscourt winner for 2-1. After Safina held with difficulty, Kuznetsova lost her way in a 40-15 game. With a backhand service return winner, Safina had break point. Boldly, with a serve and volley winner, Kuznetsova brushed aside the deficit and went on to secure the game. Serving at 3-4, Safina faced a 0-30 disadvantage for the second straight game. With a penetrating backhand return, Kuznetsova got to triple break point. Then, when a backhand crosscourt skidded off the line for a winner, Svetlana took a 5-3 lead. But, with four successive errors by her rival, Dinara broke back. Yet, Svetlana stayed calm. With two forehand winners and a spectacular backhand volley, Kuznetsova arrived at double set point. She converted when a heat packed backhand down the line forced Dinara’s forehand to find the bottom of the net.

In the initial stages of the second set, both women held serve although errors dominated. After Kuznetsova netted a backhand and forehand stroke for 0-30, she induced three forehand errors from Dinara for game point. Later, Kuznetsova secured the game for 3-2. With Safina’s inconsistency on first serve, this proved the turning point in the match. As a result of a double fault, a backhand crosscourt long and a forehand error, Safina stared at double break point. When Dinara overhit a forehand up the line, Svetlana obtained a 4-2 edge. Despite both players’ reputation for mental fragility, Safina had improved significantly in that area in the past year. Yet, after losing serve, Safina turned to her coach asking: “why am I such a chicken?” After consolidating the break, Kuznetsova’s prayer of not having to serve out the match was answered. With a couple of huge forehands, Kuznetsova got to 30 all. Then, when Safina made another backhand mistake, Svetlava had match point. Safina capped a horrible afternoon with a double fault to give Kuznetsova her first French Open title.

Reflecting on what transpired after the match, Safina essentially admitted that the number one ranking weighed her down because she “ put pressure on [herself] and [she] just wanted to win”. Moreover, she failed to ‘stay mentally tough’ and at times felt ‘desperate on court’. On the other hand, Kuznetsova cited “ I just wanted to do my best… I don’t push pressure on myself . . . if it works out great”. Maybe the major lessons that Kuznetsova deducted from blowing two set leads in the quarters versus Serena Williams and in the semis against Samantha Stosur were the importance of fighting on and knowing when to control one’s emotion. Five years after winning the U.S Open and coming up short on two other occasions, Kuznetsova is a deserving champion.

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros


img_9890-version-2The initial week of the French Open has been filled with thrilling victories as well as agonizing losses. Here is a targeted recap of what’s gone on so far and a preview of week two.

The women and men’s number one seed breezed through their matches. Surrendering only four games in three matches, Dinara Safina faces Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the round of 16. Despite a partisan crowd, Safina should have no problems. After a slow start in her opening match, defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also in Safina’s section of the draw, has gotten better with each round. Reigning Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka is up next for Ivanovic. Undoubtedly, this will be Ana’s biggest challenge to date. Rafael Nadal continues to make mince meat of his opponents. Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, won only five games in their third round meeting. Nadal takes on Swede Robin Soderling in the round of 16. Although Soderling beat clay court expert David Ferrer in the prior round, it’s hard to contemplate his having any success against Nadal. Another Spaniard making waves in France is Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has prevailed in three in all his matches and will play Russian Nikolay Davydenko. The victor of that match will have the unenviable task of trying to go through Nadal to get to the semifinals.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the number two seed, have had a tougher time, yet advanced to week two. Federer’s next obstacle will be German Tommy Haas and Serena’s Canadian Alesksandra Wozniak. Andy Roddick, the only American male standing, has made it past the third round for the first time. Roddick has dismissed his rivals in impressive fashion. However, Frenchman Gael Monfils, a semifinalist last year, will be Roddick’s upcoming puzzle. Should Roddick jump through that hurdle, he could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Brit Andy Murray is another one who hasn’t sailed through. Although Croatian Marin Cilic may be a test for the Brit, with Gilles Simon out, Murray’s place in the semifinals is almost a certainty where he is likely to battle Nadal.

Saturday saw the departure of the number four seeds as Novak Djokovic fell to German Philip Kohlschreiber while Australian Samantha Stosur stopped Elena Dementieva. Along with Kohlschreiber, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make their debut into the round of 16. The latter two will play each other for a quarterfinal spot. With Djokovic out, for these three men as well as Spaniard Tommy Roberdo, it’s a great opportunity to reach the semifinal where Roddick or Federer may be waiting.

Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have quietly taken care of business. Kuznetsova’s next match will be tougher as she squares off against crafty Polish youngster Agnieszka Radwanska. Jankovic should have an easy pass with Romanian Sorana Cristea. Jankovic is in the golden position of avoiding a top ten seed until the semifinal where she could collide with either Serena or Svetlana. Another lucky one is former world number one now ranked 102, Maria Sharapova. Despite fumbling through, Sharapova is in the round of 16 where she will take on Na Li. Hungarian Agnes Szavay foiled Sharapova’s possible quarterfinal encounter with Venus Williams. Szavay thrashed Venus in the third round. In only her second tournament back from shoulder surgery, Sharapova has a real chance of getting to the semifinals.

Seeded fifth, Venus and Serena are alive in doubles and could impact with the number one seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the quarters. The top five women and men’s doubles teams are still in the mix. But, in mixed doubles, the number two seed, Cara Black and Leander Paes, was defeated in the second round.

Having set a new record for most consecutive wins at the French, can Nadal stay undefeated and seal the deal with a fifth consecutive trophy? Or will Federer finally obtain the only major that has eluded him? Will Murray, Jankovic or Safina join the elite club of major winners? Can Tsonga or Monfils make France’s dream a reality by celebrating their first major in their home country? Will Serena claim her second French title? The reply to these burning questions will come shortly.

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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At The Summit Once Again: Serena Williams Victorious At The U.S. Open


The U.S. Open women’s final was a rematch of the 2008 Sony Ericsson final with Serbian Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams as the two protagonists. This time, both a majors’ trophy and the number one ranking were at stake. Once more, Williams triumphed defeating Jankovic 6-4, 7-5.

One of the best women’s final played on Ashe in many years was made more intriguing by the players’ contrasting personalities, Jelena jovial as always while Serena focused and intense. Moreover, this match was a case of hustle versus muscle with Jelena attempting to counter Serena’s overpowering groundstrokes with her superb defensive skills.

Although this was Jankovic’s first appearance in a majors’ final, the butterflies appeared to rest on her seasoned opponent’s corner. Williams’ opening service game, which initially looked routine at 40-15, got more complicated. But, Serena held after three deuces. On Williams’ subsequent service game, three consecutive unforced errors resulted in Jankovic taking a 2-1 lead. Shortly after though, Serena returned the favor, equalizing things at 2-2 in a game where Jelena had 40-love advantage. Then, a double fault presented Serena with another break point opportunity and with a forehand winner, Williams went ahead 4-2. Yet, as Serena served for the set, a rash of unforced errors gave Jankovic triple break point and with Williams’ sliced forehand finding the net, the players were back on serve. Nonetheless, the very next game Williams earned triple break point and wrapped up the first set.

After comfortably holding serve to start the second set, Serena’s double break chance evaporated courtesy of unforced errors in a series of eternal rallies. Jelena’s money shot, the backhand down the line, rescued her on multiple occasions while Serena’s ace in the hole throughout was her serve. In the sixth game, Serena had another opportunity to creep ahead with double break point. Again, Jelena erased that possibility 3-3. Serving at 40-15, Williams played a ball she believed the line judge should have called long. Serena voiced her objection to the umpire. The chair used video to review which proved the line judge was indeed right. Rattled a bit, Williams ended up losing her serve. Serving at 3-5, despite making three poor shot selections and facing triple break point, Serena managed to hold putting the pressure on Jelena to serve out the set. Perhaps still ruminating over missed opportunities, Jelena misjudged an overhead, double faulted and with a forehand winner from Serena stared herself at triple break point. Eventually, Serena connected to level the set at 5 all. With her net play on cue, Williams made a stab volley to win the game and then celebrated with a roar in response to Jelena’s gripe that she took too long between points. Pumped up, Serena attacked Jankovic’s serve which paid off. Gifted match point number two with a double fault, Williams converted to obtain her third U.S Open title.

Williams, in supreme form, did not drop a set the entire tournament. Serena regains the number one ranking, a post she last held between July 2002 and August 2003 for 57 consecutive weeks.  Earlier that day, top ranked doubles team Cara Black and Liezel Huber captured their first U.S Open title by defeating Samantha Stosur and Lisa Raymond in straight sets 6-3, 7-6

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Double Spoil: Venus Captures Wimbledon Singles Title, Serena Settles For Consolation Prize


The stars were perfectly aligned at Wimbledon this fortnight for Venus Williams. Despite trying her best, sister Serena could not impede the defending champion from taking the trophy with which she shares a first name. Venus eliminated Serena in the women’s final 7-5, 6-4.

When the Williams siblings play, the quality of the match is a toss up. Serena seems to have no qualms about beating her older sister. In fact, Serena has won 7 of their last 10 matches, their most recent meeting was in Bangolore this March. In the Wimbledon final, Venus started with a case of the jitters; she readily lost her opening service game. Moreover, on multiple occasions, Venus fended off break points and despite a bevy of unforced errors; she prohibited Serena from extending her lead. As the match progressed, Venus settled down by coming to the net, perhaps the most reliable part of her game, with tremendous success. Her first opportunity to break came in the eight game courtesy of an awful service game by Serena, Venus won a long rally to get back on serve 4-4. Subsequently, Serena had the chance to edge ahead, but Venus managed to hold on to her serve for 6-5. Dismayed at her erratic performance after going down 0-30, Serena tried to rev herself up with a few fist pumps. Eventually though, Venus arrived at set point and prevailed after an error by Serena.

Serena attempted to get an early lead in the second set and had several break point chances in the initial game, but failed to convert. Finally in the third game, after many long rallies, seven break chances and two falls by her opponent, Serena obtained a 2-1 advantage. Yet, this lead was brief with Venus breaking back with ease for 2-2. From then on, Serena was in trouble, saving break point prior to getting the ad for 3-3. On serve, Venus’ habitually shaky forehand was solid, besting Serena in two long rallies. Afterwards, Serena glanced at her mother as if to say: “why are things not going my way”, but Oracene’s stoic expression never wavered, Venus went up 5-4. After a great volley, Venus had double match point. Serena saved one with an excellent serve. But on the second, a deep return by Venus produced the error by Serena, giving her big sister the championship. The keys to the match were Venus’ service, particularly her second, and her strong performance at net. With this second straight Wimbledon trophy and her fifth overall, Venus has distinguished herself as an elite grass court player.

That evening, the Williams’ went back on court for the women’s doubles final against Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur. Venus and Serena were all smiles. Crushing their opponents 6-2, 6-2 in order to win their third Wimbledon doubles title.

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