Apologies for the shithouse ignorance of WTA tennis these days. I’m slowly picking up the pieces where I left off almost 2 months ago. (And clearly, until I get the rest of the blog under control, consider it an offseason for Federporn Fridays.)
So what’s going on the world of WTA these days? Wozniacki seems to be dodging bullets over at the Wozniacki Open in Copenhagen with a few close calls. A few players I had left for dead are showing signs of life again. Jelena Dokic is on a 17 match winning streak – albeit at the challenger level – after hiring new coach Glen Schapp (former coach of Nadia Petrova). Her wins put her back in the top 100, although she missed the cut off date for direct entry into the US Open. Anna Chakvetadze also appears to be capable of winning matches in a row again. She’s into the semifinal over at the Wozniacki Open after an easy win over Hercoq, and has yet to lose a set this tournament. The real question for these two players, however, is whether the signs of life they’re showing are symptoms of a resurrection or are they merely the last run of a headless chook?
The real WTA action of the week of course is in San Diego, where the Serbs sisters flailed, and Safina couldn’t start a run; where Oudin no longer BELIEVED and Wimbledon seemed so far away for Vera Zvonareva. But all that aside, the quarterfinals provided for some interesting action.
What is it about Flavia Pennetta that seems to bother Stosur? In their 3 meetings, Stosur has failed to take a set off Flavia, or even lose a set closer than 4-6. And like in their previous 2 meetings, Pennetta cruised to an easy 64 63 win with some solid serving.
Well, solid serving aided by some truly atrocious returning from Sam Stosur, who won a grand total of 2 points on Flavia’s serve in the second set. Pennetta on the other hand, made it look easy from the baseline, breaking Stosur twice in the first set, twice in the second.
Flavia is due to play Sveta for a spot in the final after Sveta fought through some gutsy resistance from teenager Coco Vandeblahblah, eventually winning the match 75 62. It’s been a good week for the 205-ranked American, who won back-to-back WTA Tour matches for the first time in her career, including an upset over Vera Zvonareva.
For the majority of the first set against Sveta, Coco dictated play with a rare combination of pace and accuracy. She led 5-2, had a set point on Sveta’s serve, and could neither break nor serve it out at 5-3 in the next game. Instead, Coco dished up a shiny 4 double faults (Wobbly Ana styled), including the final two points, to give the break advantage back. Once Sveta got back on serve, she cruised through the rest of the match with ease, but she still remembered her close call with defeat during the first set.
“Bombs were coming at me the first few games. I felt I was flying around the baseline like the ball. She was hitting and hitting and hitting.” – Sveta.
“Hitting and hitting and hitting” is an apt description. But as is often the case with overhyped teenagers hailing from slam-hosting nations, I am hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. But I am keeping an eye on this one.
In the third quarterfinal of the day, Hantuchova fought back from a 26 03 deficit to eventually outlast Alisa Kleybanova, 26 64 63. Uncharacteristically, this was the second time this tournament that Dani has managed to comeback from a losing position – she was down match points against Marion Bartoli.
“It came down to fitness again. I felt like I needed to get into longer rallies and make her tired. I worked hard before coming here. I think it’s going to pay off.” – Hantuchova.
While Dani could rely on her fitness to win the day, the opposite could be said of Kleybs. It has become increasingly pronounced these days that Alisa places herself at a distinct disadvantage if a match goes the distance because of her physical conditioning. But can we really have a serious discussion about weight and body types in women’s tennis without descending into political incorrectness? And does Kleybanova herself consider her physical conditioning a liability? Is she doing anything about it?
In the last match of the day, ARad took exactly an hour to destroy No.7 seed Shahar Peer, 62 60, winning 9 straight games from 3-2 in the first set to make her second semifinal in a row. It was one of those matches where the stats do tell a good story: Radwanska dispatched 19 winners to 9 unforced errors in 14 games (Peer: 15-19), providing entertainment in the form of a mixture of groundstrokes, lobs, drop shots and just generally superb shotmaking.
She can do it all, minus the raw power. The Martina Hingis analogies are overdone, but they emerged for a good reason. Much like the Swiss Miss, ARad is too prone to be blown off court, too easily dictated around like a puppet if her tennis is anything less than consistent and flawless.
And complain as I may about the same old baseline power tennis, I wonder if it is a really bad thing that the likes of Aga are considered a relative rarity in women’s tennis these days. Power tennis, for all its monotonous homogeneity, still provides for more riveting viewing to the “general public”, while the likes of Hingis and Radwanska may appeal to tennis connoiseurs with … let’s say a more purist taste.
Or, Hoots would tell the Cookie Monster, Aga works better as a “sometime food”.
Who are you sometime foods in tennis? And who are your cookies? Do tell.
As the American media will no doubt cover USA’s inspired victory over Russia, I’d like to congratulate the Australian Fed Cup team on thrashing Ukraine 5-0 to put our country back in the World Group, on ANZAC Day to boot! Our girls are real troopers, yes they are! Skippy the kangaroo for y’all!
Italy, USA, Belgium, yer all going down-wown-wown-wown-wown next year. Just you wait til Dootsie starts the smacktalk and the irritatingly bogan ‘oi oi oi’ thing. JUST YOU WAIT.
Over in Rome, Italy is the ‘Spain’ of Fed Cup, as Flavia Pennetta closed out the third match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic to put her team through to its 4th Fed Cup final in 5 years.
Meanwhile, Bethany Mattek-Sands became the unlikely hero of the weekend in Birmingham Ala, finding just enough tenacity and just enough determination in her to win both the singles rubber to save US from defeat, then the doubles match, executed with a look of determination.
Of course determination is a lot easier to muster up when you have Lizel Huber to fall back on as your partner.
There you have it – the Fed Cup final will once again be decided between Italy and the USA. One, a team of seasoned and stylish veterans, known for their maturity and creativity on-court. The other, a somewhat mismatched team of fashion gurus, pit bull terriers and the Queen of doubles, united by a common inspiration.
Who else is a little intrigued this year?
In other world group play-offs: France and the Slovak Republic will be joining Australia in the World Group next year, as they defeated Germany and Serbia by a slim 3-2 advantage yesterday.
In Belgium, victory was assured but the mood was gloomy. The so-called “dream team” came down in a flash as injuries plagued Henin and Clijsters. The one-pinkied Justine was shocked by Kaia Kanepi in 3 sets, while Kim pulled out of her singles rubber with a foot muscle tear which could see her sidelined for 6 weeks.
Yup. You read it right – 6 weeks, French Open included. Clijsters however isn’t giving up hope.
“When the doctor tells you six weeks, then you start panicking. [But] I am someone who heals reasonably fast.”
But as far as the Fed Cup was concerned, Wicky could always be counted on to uplift the team in a time of trouble.
On the penis side of things, Fernando Verdasco defeated Robin Soderling 63 46 63 to clinch the title in Barcelona.
The optimists amongst you might think he’s headed on a road of good form leading – as all roads do – to Rome. Not sure that I buy that yet.
Dasco’s wins this week have been the result of tenacity more so than authority, lethargy more than energy, and the constant reminder of injuries creeping up on him rather than a happy concoction of health, form and state of mind that some players (read: Nadal) need to go on a tear.
In other words, I’m not convinced about Nando’s chances in Rome, Madrid and Paris yet. But for now? There is still time to enjoy the champagne.
As for the unfortunate loser, Abu Dhabi 2010, Indian Wells, Miami, Barcelona: all respectable results, some close matches, a lot of expectations raised and dashed.
I can’t explain how Bobby Sod, the man who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the last decade, can’t seem to find the ‘go-getter’ in him in key matches, but I still am expecting another wow-moment from him at some point this year.
Don’t let me down, Soddybums.
Ljubicic is in the Indian Wells final. Good for Papa Ivan, but golly-gee, I hate Indian Wells.
BRING ON MIAMI ALREADY.
Shakespeare once said that it is love that guides lost ships home. Personally, I call it GPS.
But what of the lost ships of the ATP and WTA tours? What keeps them playing instead of disappearing into the Moor of Lost Souls? What stands in between a bad month, a bad year and permanent retirement?
Perhaps Willy the Bard was onto something.
Attempting to fight their way out of the Moor of Lost Souls this week, Nicole Vaidisova and Michaella Krajicek both scored their first WTA wins since last June, with Vaidisova defeating Laura Granville 6-4, 6-2 and Krajicek battling past Julia Schruff 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
I don’t like to talk about Nicole Vaidisova. She depresses me.
Something about her fall from grace makes Dinara Safina’s slam struggles look like a tea party. At this point, the only good thing I can say about Nikki Vee is that … she’s only 20. There is still time.
Also with a first tour win since getting injured last July, Anne Keothavong defeated Kristina Barrois 6-1, 6-3 in Memphis.
Meanwhile injury comebacks are all the rage on the ATP, Carlos Moya downed Filippo Volandri 6-2, 7-5 in the opening round of Buenos Aires, while David Nalbandian sailed past Potato Star Ace 62 76.
“It was a good comeback. I hesitated very little, hardly at all. I’ll take things day by day. I’ll need four, five, six tournaments to [get back] the rhythm of the circuit.” – Nalbandian
We may scoff at the residents of the Moor of Lost Souls – those players struggling with injuries and their own marbles – but sometimes I wonder, what is it that keeps them playing, day after day, when things aren’t working out?
Perhaps they have unfinished business left. Perhaps it’s that perennial question, “what else am I going to do?”
Perhaps it goes back to the very reason why they picked up a racket in the first place.
Roger Federer is no wandering bark. He’s parked safely in the Bay of Love after dominating the ATP Awards for 2009.
The Fed got the nod for 3 categories – Player of the Year (based on rankings), Fans’ Favourite (online poll) and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (selected by fellow players).
I remember hearing a story years ago about James Blake receiving only one “get well” card during his spinal injury. It was from Roger.
It’s hardly a surprise then, that Fed’s 6th consecutive Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award is a record. But oh – never mind the judgement of his peers.
ROGER FEDERER IS STILL A DOUCHEBAG.
Doubles Team of the Year (rankings selected): Bob and Mike Bryan (5th win in 7 years)
Most Improved Player of the Year: John Isner
Newcomer of the Year: Horacio Zeballos
Comeback Player of the Year: Marco Chuidinelli
Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year (ATP selected): MalVai Washington
Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year: Shanghai
Masters 500 Tournament of the Year: Dubai (5th win in 6 years)
Masters 250 Tournament of the Year: Bastad (8th win in a row)
ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Doubles Favourite (online voting): Bob and Mike Bryan
In other news, top seeds Elena Dementieva, Flavia Pennetta, Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova were all upset in Dubai. In Memphis, there’ll no rematch between Roddick and Verdasco, as Nando was ousted by Jeremy Chardy in straight sets.
I doubt that it was what he had in mind when he entered the tournament, but somehow, I don’t think Nando’s too bummed about having that extra week to prepare for the Davis Cup.
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye…
Players gathered in Paris to give defending champ Amelie Mauresmo her grand farewell.
Is that Tati Golovin I spot, rocking a pair of killer boots? And Flavia Pennetta, showing off her new Adidas contract? How about Nutty Patty, trying to blend in amongst the French players?
Mentioning the French players, where’s the Hamster? Or Aravene Rezai?
On a scale of Marat Safin to 10, the farewell ceremony scored high marks. It was classy, it was touching, and unlike the Hippo, Mauresmo was emotionally invested. There were a lot of tears…
And plenty of memories to reminisce …
Elena Dementieva was all class in her eloquent speech in French to Momo.
Je me sens triste. (…) En tant que personne et comme joueuse, tu resteras dans les mémoires. Il y a une génération Mauresmo.
I feel sad. As a person and as a player, you will stay in our memories. There is a Mauresmo generation.
Franny followed with a speech in English, declaring to a laughing crowd:
You were too strong, don’t come back.
Urgh. Love her.
But in the end, there were smiles all round as Momo confirmed that she wasn’t remotedly interested in ‘pulling a Belgian‘.
“Aujourd’hui, je peux dire sereinement que je ne ferai pas de come-back (sourires). Je profite.”
Today, I can say calmly that I won’t come back (smile). I’m enjoying life(?).
And you know what? I believe her.
Unlike Justine and Kim, Amelie Mauresmo has no unfinished business left in this sport.
Au revoir, Amelie. They don’t make ’em like you anymore.
I was just about to praise the WTA last week for their incredible consistency, with Henin and Clijsters reaching the epic final in Brisbane, while Flavs and Wickmayer battled it out for the Auckland title.
But take a few key figures out of the picture, and suddenly, we’re back to bedlam on the WTA tour.
Lady JaJa led the way first with a straight sets loss to Agnes Szavay. Seriously JJ, I’m not talking to you.
Unless you lemme try on this dress.
As for Agnes, like any dark horse, she has the ability on any given day to upset a top 10 player, but it’s the top 50 that’ll have her number come the Australian Open.
Despite her loss, JJ tried to remain upbeat in her presser:
“It was my first match of the season. I hadn’t played her in a long time. I also hadn’t competed in two months,” Jankovic said. “I have to clean up some things in my game. I need to stay positive. I hope I’ll be ready for Melbourne.”
Things didn’t get better for the tournament top seeds as the day went on. Vera had to retire at 3-all first set against ‘Lena Vesnina due to her lingering ankle problems.
It bodes ill for the towel-head, as she appears to be in no shape to defend her semifinal at the Australian Open and title in Indian Wells.
Vera is now in a recovery race for the Australian Open next week, and admits that she’s not feeling too confident about the early hard court swing.
“I will try to recover for Melbourne, but the inflammation is still there because of the surgery.”
“Last year I had an impressive start and they are impressive statistics. If I look back it was very impressive and I am very proud of what I achieved,” she added.
“This year is going to be a very tough challenge for me to repeat that, but I am going to try my best. The most important thing for me is to compete 100 per cent without thinking about my ankle as the last six months were very tough for me never being able to compete at 100 per cent.
“I was always having to push myself to the limit and I had to take a week off after nearly every tournament to recover. That was difficult so I am looking forward to the day when I can play injury free.”
It was a bad day for the Aussies too, as both Stosur and Dellacqua lost in convincing fashion to Flavs and Vera Dushevina. With such frustratingly high expectations on our players, Australia’s becoming Great Britain 2.0 OH WAIT –
And can someone explain why Flavia Pennetta was dropped by Tacchini? Was Nole that expensive?
The real theme of the day was “Asian Assault”, as Li Na came back from a set down to beat CWoz.
Well done, you Golden Flower you. Clearly it was a piece of cake, seeing that you only needed 67 unforced errors to beat the No 4 player in the world.
On the other hand, Carol – while being the sweetest thing to come out of Denmark since raspberry danishes – appears to be still allergic to the concept of hitting a winner.
Different year, same shit.
God bless our youthful Asian genes.
If you thought Kimi was good back in Seoul last year, wait til you see her in 2010. After making the quarterfinals in Auckland last week, Date Krumm scored another important victory today as she beat Nadia Petrova 63 57 64.
It could’ve been an even easier victory, as Kimi squandered two match points at 5-3 in the second set. Nadia broke back, and was up an early break in the third set before Date Krumm regained the form she had through the first and second sets and sealed the victory.
On the one hand, Petrova just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to drawing the most dangerous players first round. On the other – girl, you were outplayed, outrun, and out-thought by a 39 year old.
No wonder Fabrice Santoro can’t make up his mind.
On the men’s side of things in Sydney, Igor Andreev was upset first round by Leonardo Mayer in a third set tiebreak, 67 63 76, while Reeshie defeated Feli 61 64 and harkened back to the good times with Pamela.
If you didn’t see Clijsters v Henin, you have just missed out on one of the most incredible, dramatic matches of the last 3 years.
SHAME ON YOU!
Order of Play
- Stanislas WAWRINKA vs Marin CILIC
- Marc GICQUEL/Jeremy CHARDY vs Leander PAES/Lukas DLOUHY
- Radek STEPANEK vs Andy RODDICK
1. It’s strange to flip open your local news paper on the 1st of Jan and read the headlines “Andy Roddick believes he can end Federer’s reign”.
But as a matter of fact, it was Roddick’s coach Larry Stefanki who uttered the first war cries of the year.
“He’s right to think that [he’s a contender] – there are eight or 10 guys who can win this thing (Australian Open) if they are ready and fit enough,” Stefanki said. “There’s no lock any more – there’s no Roger Show any more.”
I’m not sure about there being 8 to 10 guys who can win the Australian Open. I personally can’t name more than 6 players with a realistic shot of taking home the trophy, but I get Stefanki’s point.
If the World Tour Finals were anything to go by, the top 8 these days seem to know what they’re doing against Federer far more than – say – 4 years ago, when most of them didn’t know that what had hit them was a goat.
But ironically, by calling it “no Roger Show”, Stefanki … kinda placed the bulls-eye squarely on Federer – you know, the guy that made the last 7 grand slam finals.
2. Is it odd that Andy Roddick inspires “survivor’s guilt” in me these days whenever the Wimbledon 09 final is mentioned?
It feels so awful to be happy about match that crushed him so hard.
When asked about THE match at his Brisbane press conference, Roddick sounded remarkably zen.
“My worst day, as far as the way I feel after that match, is a lot of people’s dream, that’s not lost on me.”
“It’s like anything that’s hard in anyone’s life. You just keep going and do the things you enjoy and slowly maybe I’ll only think about it four times today.”
Oh stop it. You know, I don’t believe in the idea of someone “deserving a slam”, but in the case of Roddick, I might make an exception.
3. A woman who also knows what it’s like to have a bulls-eye on her back – Justine Henin arrived in Brisbane ahead of her first comeback tournament.
While her camp has been quick to downplay expectations of a Clijsters-like win at the Australian Open, click through the tennis coverage of late and you’ll see that without playing a single tour match, Henin had already become the one to watch on the WTA tour.
Justine believes that having a personal life in the last few years will help her to become a better player:
“I grew up a lot the last two years, that’s for sure. I really needed to come out of this bubble. The tennis world is a small world, there are so many things around it,” Henin said.
“I never realised that before. I’ve lived 20 years of my life only for tennis and now I’ve got the experience of facing the real world.
“Coming back with that is something amazing for me at this time. I know I can exist without tennis. I know I’m a person, not only a tennis player. It’s a great feeling to come back with that.”
“I know myself much better now. Am I going to be a better player? I hope so. I believe I can be a better player. I believe I can use my experience much more than I did in the past. When you’re into something 200 per cent you don’t realise what you achieved.
“This time off helped me to realise everything I achieved in the last few years. At 27 years old I analysed myself a lot, my personality, and that helped me to grow up. So I hope this will help me to be a much better player in the future.”
Source: the Australian
4. I knew there was a good reason why we called her ‘Aussie Kim’.
That is, apart from us having no decent players of our own and wanting to adopt any potential in-laws.
Like Justine Henin, without being ranked in the Top 10, Clijsters is one of the bulls-eye contenders for the Australian Open. But while Henin worked on her last minute prep with CRod, Kim Clijsters visited the sick children at the Royal Brisbane Children’s Hospital.
She was glowing. More babies for you! Give us another few years of course.
5. Technically, New Zealand is “Down Under” too.
Technically, New Zealand’s a country.
I kid, I kid. The ASB Classic starts in Auckland this week, headed by Flavs, Li Na and Wicky.
Flavs arrived early for the Christmas Carnival in Auckland, and shared some tender moments with a horse.
Holy crap she looked good.
Meanwhile Li Na showed off her new ‘do at her press con. It’s so … I-own-Hello-Kitty-stationary.
Hands up if you’re Asian and has had this exact hairstyle at some point in your life.
That is the combined title win/loss record for Stosur and Schiavone, who happen to be our two finalists in Osaka this week.
So who wants to win?
I’ve got my fingers crossed for Sam, who “deserves” a title at least to validate what’s been a breakthrough year for her, not to mention a semifinal well-played against Caroline Wozniacki.
Stosur “should’ve” won in straight sets after going up 60 31, but it wouldn’t be WTA tennis without some form of mental AWOL. Sure enough, Sam got complacent and CWoz took the second set 64, before my compatriot found her serve again, closing out the last set 64 to bring her total ace count to 12.
Carol dear, I love you and your babychin, but this schedule farce has to stop. You’re one of the big girls now.
Wozniacki has played a whopping 82 singles matches this year (and another 23 doubles) across 25 tournaments. What’s more – she’s down for Luxembourg and Doha.
It may not be a big deal when you’re 19, but if she continues at this rate, there’ll be a price to pay in 3 or 4 years time.
Over in Linz, racquet-smashing is so passe. Real ladies chew their schticks instead.
Nina took down Flavs 76 63 to progress through to the final, where she’ll be facing Petra Kvitova in their US Open rematch.
Unfortunately for Flavs, this means that she’s eliminated from the race for the last spot in Doha.
Fortunately for Wicky, she has a chance to take her second title of the year, after winning her first WTA title in Estoril back in May.
Serious kudos to the Chinese clothing manufacturer Erke, who has been showing quite a bit of interest in tennis in the last few years. It’s only a matter of time before they sign a big name in tennis. Before then, they have Yanina Wiiiiickmayer.
My life wouldn’t be complete without Flavs and reality TV.
Dear Italians, subtitles would be much appreciated.
LOVE this bit:
“Would you do Federer?”
“[Starts laughing] NO.”
“[suspicious pause] … No.”
Really Flavia? You had to think about Yannick Noah?
Heh? Please don’t pretend to out Sharapova.
“With (Carlos) Moya I had free sex all over the tournament. We shared a room and we didn’t practise abstinence as we’re advised, though we did practise free sex,” said the Italian.
Pennetta has no commitments now since Moya “fell in love with someone else”, and she admits three or four tennis players have tried to pull her since she broke up with the Spaniard. “The last one was a Brazilian, but I said now because I didn’t fancy him.”
Same sex relationships don’t cross her mind, but she admits it wouldn’t be difficult to experiment because in there’re lots of lesbians in tennis. She hasn’t received any offers anyway, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t tried sex in the changing rooms. And also on the clay, the grass and on a plane. The “flight was very long.”
Pennetta denied having tried cocaine. And she said her favourite players are, and not exactly because of their performance, “Tommy Haas is the most handsome one, but she’d have a romp with Marat Safin.” You gotta a call, Marat…
For the gazillionth time, Carlos Moya is an idiot. But I’d love to know who the “Brazillian” was. Isn’t Thomaz Bellucci jailbait?