After the mega-preview of the Australian Open men’s draw appeared yesterday, we take the same type of look at the women’s draw.
First quarter: Like fellow defending champion Djokovic, Azarenka cruised through the first week of last year’s tournament. Also like Djokovic, she should do so again this year against an early slate of opponents that features nobody more remarkable than Radwanska’s younger sister. Urszula Radwanska recently lost to Wozniacki, which should tell you all that you need to know about her current form, and her sister can offer her little advice on how to solve Azarenka’s ruthless baseline attack. The world #1 has taken the sensible position that this year’s tournament is a new opportunity for triumph rather than a chunk of territory to defend, an attitude that should help her advance deep into the draw. While the quirky game of Roberta Vinci might bemuse her temporarily, Azarenka probably has less to fear from any opponent in her quarter than from the Australian summer heat, which has proved an Achilles heel for her before.
Among the most plausible first-round upsets in the women’s draw is Lisicki over the reeling, tenth-ranked Wozniacki. The world #1 at this tournament last year, Wozniacki continued her 2012 slide by losing two of her first three matches in 2013, while she has failed to solve the German’s mighty serve in two of their three meetings. Lisicki usually lacks the steadiness to string together several victories in a marquee draw away from grass, but Brisbane finalist Pavlyuchenkova might build upon her upward trend if she escapes Lisicki in the third round. Although the seventh-seeded Errani reached the quarterfinals here last year, she fell to Pavlyuchenkova in Brisbane and might exit even before she meets the young Russian to the veteran Kuznetsova. The most intriguing unseeded player in this section, the two-time major champion showed flashes of vintage form in Sydney and eyes an accommodating pre-quarterfinal draw. She could battle Pavlyuchenkova for the honor of facing Azarenka, who would feel intimidated by neither Russian.
Player to watch: Pick your ova between Pavlyuchenkova and Kuznetsova
Second quarter: In a sense, all that you need to know about this section is that it contains Serena. Case closed, or is it? Conventional wisdom would say that a player of Serena’s age cannot possibly sustain the brilliance that she displayed in the second half of 2012 much longer, but she has built a reputation upon defying conventional wisdom. An intriguing third-round rematch with Shvedova beckons just two majors after the Kazakh nearly upset her at Wimbledon, the tournament that turned around Serena’s comeback. Mounting an inspired comeback herself last year, Shvedova has stalled a bit lately while suffering some dispiriting three-set losses. Serena can outserve, outhit, and generally out-compete players like Kirilenko and Wickmayer with their limited range of talents. Last year, though, Makarova delivered the shock of the Australian Open by ambushing her in the fourth round, reminding us that underdogs sometimes can jolt Serena before she settles into a tournament.
By the quarterfinals, the American usually has accumulated a formidable tide of momentum that compensates for the spiking quality of competition. Considering the eighth-seeded Kvitova’s recent struggles, the quality may not spike so dramatically. But Kvitova, who has lost seven of her last ten matches, may not reach that stage and may have her work cut out against Schiavone in the first round or ambitious American teen Sloane Stephens in the third round. Stephens broke through at majors last year by reaching the second week of Roland Garros, just as British teen Laura Robson did by reaching the second week at the US Open. An early upset of Kvitova, perhaps even by Robson in the second round, would result in an intriguing battle between these two rising stars with a berth in the second week at stake. There, they could meet the evergreen veteran Petrova, who becomes dangerous just when one discounts her. Kvitova’s compatriot Safarova also lurks in this area but blows too hot and cold to produce a deep run.
Player to watch: Stephens
Third quarter: The ultra-steady Radwanska finds herself surrounded by an array of stunning talents with a penchant for getting in their own way. Leading the pack is the sixth-seeded Li Na, who has reached the semifinals or better twice at the Australian Open. Although she won a home title in Shenzhen, Li played generally shaky tennis during her week in Sydney before an error-strewn loss to Radwanska that ended her 2012 momentum against the Pole. Close behind Li in ranking and self-destructive potential is Stosur, who already has imploded twice on Australian soil this year. The ninth seed probably deserves some forgiveness for those losses in view of her recent ankle surgery, but the fact remains that she has lost six of her last seven matches at home in an illustration of her frailty under pressure. Stosur narrowly avoided an early date with Cirstea, her nemesis in the first round last year, and may meet Zheng Jie in the second round a week after she lost to her in Sydney. For her part, Li must hope to reverse her loss to Cirstea at Wimbledon last year if that third-round meeting materializes.
Nearer to Radwanska lies another opponent of the same model as fellow one-time major champions Li and Stosur: the charming and charmingly fragile Ivanovic. Five years after her trip to the Melbourne final, she has not reached the quarterfinals there since. The former #1 might face the other former #1 from her own country in the third round, resuming her sometimes bitter rivalry with Jankovic. Although both Serbs accumulated success against Radwanska earlier in their careers, neither has conquered her as they have declined. The fourth seed thus will feel confident of extending her nine-match winning streak from titles in Auckland and Sydney deep into Melbourne. Perhaps she can follow in the footsteps of Sydney champion Azarenka last year, or in those of Sydney champion Li the year before.
Player to watch: Li
Fourth quarter: When Sharapova entered the Melbourne field without any match practice last year, she showed no signs of rust in sweeping to the final. In the same situation, she will aim to produce the same result on a surface where the high bounce suits her playing style. Sharapova could face Venus Williams near the end of the first week, assuming that the American survives the heat and her spells of uneven play to that point. Away from grass, she has accumulated a far better record against the elder than the younger Williams, and one would favor her in that matchup considering the relative conditions of each career. Either of these tall women would hold a significant advantage in power and serve over Dominika Cibulkova, the Sydney finalist who devoured three top-eight opponents before eating a double bagel in the final. Rarely at her best in Melbourne, she faces an intriguing opener against local prodigy Ashleigh Barty but otherwise looks likely to enter the second week.
Somewhat more uncertain is the identity of this section’s other quarterfinalist, for Kerber looked only moderately convincing in Brisbane and Sydney. A heavy hitter can outslug the German or frustrate her, a role that second-round opponent Lucia Hradecka could fill with her thunderous serve. Principally a threat on grass, Tamira Paszek remains unpredictable from one week to the next and could meet Sydney sensation Madison Keys in a second round. A 17-year-old with precocious poise, Keys may vie with Stephens for the brightest star in the future of American women’s tennis. The eleventh-seeded Bartoli opens against Medina Garrigues, who played inspired tennis at the Hopman Cup, and will hope to break away from a series of unremarkable efforts in Melbourne. While Kerber defeated Sharapova early last year, the world #2 squashed her in their other three meetings, nor has any of the other players in this section often threatened her.
Player to watch: Venus
Final: Serena vs. Radwanska
Champion: Serena Williams
Excited for the start of the 2013 Australian Open? I will run a live chat during many of the matches at newyorkobservertennis.com. Check it out if you want to chat with me, some of my colleagues, and fellow fans while you watch the action in Melbourne.
by James A. Crabtree
What we have learned Down Under, so far…
The Hopman Cup got the new tennis year started, even before the New Year had arrived.
Perth, the worlds most isolated city welcomed Tomic the Tank Engine who quickly became Saint Bernie after an impressive victory over a jet-lagged Djokovic. Still, it was a memorable enough performance by Bernard Tomic to inspire a tennis rich nation, starved of a real contender, to put their hopes in someone for the month of January.
John Isner looked rusty before he pulled out with an injury. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looked confident and played aggressive focused tennis that would have pleased new coach Roger Rasheed. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas both displayed improved physiques, sculptured during the off-season although they both may need a few matches until they find some form.
Surprisingly Spain took the spoils that included a diamond encrusted ball, much in part thanks to Anabel Medina Garrigues who only lost one match, that being in a dead group match versus Venus Williams.
Praise should be bestowed on Djokoic and Ivanovic who won the hearts of the Perth crowd, for their lighthearted manor and their attempt at Gangnam Style.
Meanwhile the Brisbane Open had been playing out over on the other side of the country. This turned out to be a relative disaster for the home nation. Every Aussie player fell by the second round. Only qualifier John Millman, in his second round loss, showed true guts with a three set thriller against eventual champion Andy Murray.
Over on the women’s side Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig turned heads with the sort of hard hitting not seen since Seles. Although she lost to Angelique Kerber she is most certainly a player for the future.
Serena Williams won the women’s event in typically devastating fashion that we have come to expect from the most dominant woman on tour. She wasn’t however seen supporting her rumoured boyfriend of last year, and young riser….
‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, who is on the verge of getting a new nickname that has no reference to anybody but himself. His play this past week has been sensational, capped off by clear cut victories over Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Jurgen Melzer.
In truth the final versus defending champion Andy Murray could have been a very different story after Grig-er Dimit-ederer (ok so that’s a poor nickname, help me here!) punished with his inside out forehand and his new and improved serve. The young Bulgarian took a 5-2 lead in the first set and had breaks in the second as we all wondered if we were witnessing the second coming of Fed.
Murray, who is wearing the tightest shirts seen since Borg this year, staged his usual counter-punching comeback every time he was counted out. Regardless, place a bet on Grigs the Great to be a top twenty player by the end of this year.
Up next is Sydney which was won last year by Victoria Azarenka and surprise winner Jarkko Nieminen. Oh yes midway through next week is the invitational AAMI Classic at Kooyong, where there is a strong rumour ol’ Mr Federer will be appearing for the first time since 2009.
By Jesse Pentecost
The Australian Summer of tennis is under way, mainly in Perth and Brisbane, but also in those parts of the country unaccountably located in Doha, Shenzhen, Auckland and Chennai. We have now commenced the single month of the year when Australia strives mightily to convince the rest of the world that it is a tennis-mad nation, a month otherwise known as January.
Indeed, for a month Australia is mad for tennis. Last night there was a news feature about the guy painting lines on the Rod Laver Arena court-surface. In a couple of weeks Channel 7, the Australian Open’s official network, will relocate its entire base of operations to Melbourne Park, from which to broadcast its nightly news. Meanwhile, two-time defending Australian Open champion and world No.1 Novak Djokovic has finally arrived amidst general fanfare, fresh from triumph in Abu Dhabi. Amongst his unnumbered mainstream media commitments, there is some hope he’ll be permitted to play tennis.
Of course, Djokovic landed in Perth, and not Melbourne, but he’s well on the way. Paired with Ana Ivanovic, he’s contesting the Hopman Cup, which to the enduring outrage of the ATP and WTA maintains the highest profile of all the lead-up events. Within hours of arriving, and on virtually no sleep, Djokovic saw off Andreas Seppi. By his own admission he took a while to hit his stride, but thereafter demonstrated that it is possible to be at once the overwhelming favourite and the sleeper in the draw.
Interviewed on court immediately afterwards the question was put to Djokovic that having just flown in from the Middle East, he was therefore well-qualified to say which city was hotter, Abu Dhabi or Perth? It was akin to the cringe-worthy old practice whereby visiting movie stars were breathlessly asked for their thoughts on Australia even as they exited the plane, but before their feet had found the tarmac. Djokovic, by now an old-hand at reading the subtext, remained sufficiently awake to provide the desired answer. ‘Perth’ he replied, after only a slight hesitation. The crowd duly cheered: damn right we’re hotter.
In any case, Djokovic was probably right. Perth is suffering through a heatwave that can be readily termed biblical, insofar as it is only justifiable as divine retribution. Most days have seen the temperature exceed 40C (104F for those countries – the Cayman Islands, the United States – that have retained Fahrenheit). Happily, New Year’s Day has brought blessed relief. Today it is merely 34C (93.2F). The Hopman Cup is intended to provide useful acclimatisation for Melbourne, but so far it has usefully prepared its attendees for a manned mission to Venus.
It helps that its new venue – the evocatively named Perth Arena – is a truly leading-edge facility. Its designers had the foresight to install individual air conditioning units under every seat. Spectators are thus afforded the rare treat of watching professional athletes expire from sunstroke even as their own buttocks remain blissfully climate-controlled. Truly we live in an age of wonders.
The Perth Arena’s other defining characteristic is blue. It is probably the bluest venue I have ever seen. Indeed, great swatches of retina-searing cobalt more or less define the entire Australian tennis summer, to a degree that must make even Ion Tiriac weep with envy. Tiriac’s contention, amply borne out in Madrid, was that blue courts make for greater visibility. It’s a hard contention with which to argue. The ball in Perth is clearly visible from Melbourne. The venue itself is clearly visible from space.
Meanwhile the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane looks, from low geosynchronous orbit, like nothing so much as an extravagant arrangement of swimming pools, although the main Pat Rafter Arena rather ruins the effect with its bone-white roof. Nevertheless, beneath that roof Sam Stosur has already initiated another defining characteristic of the Australian summer, which is for her to suffer home-soil losses that would be more shocking if only they were less common. She fell to Sofia Arvidsson in straight sets. It says a lot that the same domestic media that is busily canonising Bernard Tomic for beating Tommy Haas didn’t even bother to act surprised. Meanwhile the first-round loss for Marinko Matosevic, the nation’s top-ranked male, generated barely even a ripple.
Australians expect their elite athletes to be world-beaters, but in Stosur’s case they no longer expect her to do it in the part of the world she lives in. She already proved she can do it in New York, and the same impulse that compels Australian reporters to demand validation from foreign visitors before they clear customs, elevates triumph overseas above triumph at home. If Lleyton Hewitt had won the Australian Open in 2005 it would have meant the world, but it would have done so because he’d previously claimed Wimbledon and the US Open. By not winning he wasn’t the least diminished in his compatriot’s eyes (for all that he himself was bitterly disappointed). He’d already proved himself to be ‘world-class’; it’s a tired phrase, but in Australia there is no higher accolade.
Hewitt, incidentally, will open his season later today in Brisbane against Radek Stepanek, whose Davis Cup triumph may or may not do for him what it did for Djokovic in 2011. Time will tell. The only guarantee is that, win or lose, the prevailing opinion of Hewitt won’t change, just as it hasn’t changed for Stosur.
For Tomic, on the other hand, there’s still a great deal to prove, and, Wimbledon aside, the Australian tennis-mad summer is time in which he is obliged to prove it. He proved it the other night against Haas, twice recovering from desperate situations. Tomorrow night he’ll get to prove it in the azure immensity of Perth Arena against Djokovic, who by then may have shaken off the vestiges of jet-lag and the Hopman Cup ball. It’s a perfect match for the Australian, assuming he gives his all. There’s no shame in losing, but if he wins, he’ll be anointed as world-class.
By David Kane
An easy way to write about anything is to opine about what is wrong with it, and tennis is no exception. “Women Grunt Too Loudly.” “Men Aren’t Paid Enough.” “Slamless Player Ascends To No. 1.” Nearly every week, tennis writers straddle a fine line between loving their sport enough to criticize it and tearing down the very thing that they are meant to promote.
I wonder what they will say about new WTA standout and world No. 106 Yulia Putintseva.
Last week, the nationally-Russian, fiscally-Kazakh Putintseva barreled into the finals of an ITF event in Dubai, guaranteeing a spot in her first senior Slam main draw. Along the way, she upset Bojana Jovanovski and junior contemporaries Elina Svitolina and Kristyna Pliskova before losing to the ageless Kimiko Date-Krumm in three tight sets. Putintseva described the experience like this: “It felt like I have just been beaten by my grandmother.” Comments like that are only a taste of the Yulia Putintseva Show.
If most critical Op-Eds on tennis are to be believed, then Yulia Puntintseva represents everything that is wrong with the game today. She fist pumps opponent’s double faults. She screams “Come on!” in up to five different languages (sometimes all at once). She argues even the most obvious of calls. For a young woman only 5’1”, Putintseva has one of the most offensive games this sport has ever seen.
For many, this year’s Australian Open Girls’ final was Yulia’s introduction to the tennis world. The match was streamed live on ESPN3, and viewers were shocked by the Kazah’s on-court ferocity. For me, however, the Yulia Putintseva Show was nothing new. In some ways, I feel like I personally discovered her, as I was in attendance for her first junior Slam final at the 2010 US Open. I was there to watch her compatriot (at the time) Daria Gavrilova, but Yulia undoubtedly stole the show. She is reported to have thrown her destroyed runner-up trophy in the garbage.
It has been said that players who engage in Putintseva’s on-court aggression are insecure and afraid of losing. As often as her bite matches her bark, and as legendary as some of her three-set victories have been, there have been other days where the moment overtook her and she was not able to “DAVAI-COME ON-ALLEZ!” her way out of it.
No better (or more painful) example of such a moment comes to mind than her loss from 6-1, 5-1 up at this year’s US Open qualifying. As the match slipped away, she seemed to be trying to employ various breathing techniques in the futile attempt to quell her rage, but to no avail. Moments like these force the reader to question whether she is really the pure evil many would paint her, or perhaps just a young woman coping with a stressful sport as best she can.
For all the visceral reactions she at least appears to provoke on purpose, there are many (including myself) who would consider themselves fans of Putintseva’s brand of brashness. What makes this contradiction stranger is that she does indeed display the kind of behavior I am known to abhor in other players like Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic.
Yet, there is something comically Napoleonic about someone being so tiny yet so terrifying. She gives death glares to any linesperson foolhardy enough not to call the lines as she sees them. She celebrates even the smallest victories like a football fan in a sold-out arena. That level of excitement, I believe, can draw out even the most cynical of critics. Vera gets weepy, Victoria gets sarcastic, and Ana certainly fist pumps too much. But beyond all of that, Yulia gets positively enraged. And that makes her thoroughly entertaining.
So to tennis writers who would be quick to claim they found the witch among us in Yulia Putintseva: consider the possibility that she transcends “offensive,” and is instead “delightfully offensive.” She may, willfully or otherwise, be the tennis equivalent of a cartoon villain, but no one can deny that she loves this sport. Also, winning. Yulia really enjoys winning.
It’s that time of year again: when the tennis season has just barely ended but you’re already looking forward to the next one. And what better way to kick off the anticipation than with a preview of the tennis outfits your favorite adidas players will be wearing at the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2013!
First up is Stella McCartney’s vision for Caroline Wozniacki. And I have to admit that I like it … a lot, in fact. Compared to some of the outfits Caroline has had to wear in even the recent past (cough, what was that skirt and shoes?!), this seems like the perfect combination of flirty and sporty. Ok, now I’m turning her outfits into Sugarpova flavors, oops.
Anyways, the top yellow/white combo is for the Australian Open, and the bottom blue dress is for Roland Garros. Imagine the yellow against the blue of the Australian Open courts and the blue against the red clay of Roland Garros. Visually, it sounds quite appealing. I approve Stella!
Next up, Ana Ivanovic‘s dresses for the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Moving on ….
Ok, I’m just kidding. But really, I’m once again confused about who creates Ana’s dresses each year. The neon yellow dress she wore at the U.S. Open, while looking horrid in initial samples ended up looking great on Ana. At this point, adidas could dress her in a potato sac and her gorgeous tan legs and face could somehow make it work.
But getting back to the styles below, I’m honestly not in any way sold. Sure they’ll look great on her as always, but the strange color-blocking near the hem of the dress I could have done without — just seems like an old 1980’s pixelated computer game. I like the light blue dress, but that was so Ana Australian Open 2008. I’d get on board if adidas would just stop trying so damn hard to be original, and bring it back to basics for her outfits.
(Sorana Cirstea and Daniela Hantuchova will also most likely be wearing these dresses.)
As for the rest of the adidas ladies, I’m really worried. Stella McCartney is now designing ALL of the adidas Barricade women’s line and it’s a two-piece version of Caroline’s Roland Garros dress — or, at least, that’s what I think it’s supposed to be. I don’t really know.
The frilly hem of the skirts is flattering enough, but I simply don’t get the black skirt with the front white panel (middle bottom). That Stella design already failed miserably during the London Olympics.
My favorite of the styles below may be the white and yellow block, but I can easily see confused players pairing the yellow/white top with the yellow skirt instead of the white one. At least there are only three colors to choose from and it’s luckily no neon yellow top with an aqua blue skirt that Laura Robson had during the U.S. Open. I am quite surprised there are no cap sleeves in this collection either, but perhaps those prints are still to be released.
On to the fellas.
We’ve all actually seen Andy Murray‘s outfit for the Australian Open already — it’s what he wore during the ATP World Tour Finals earlier this month. I’ve really been enjoying the colors being infused into Andy’s kits this past year, and I don’t mind the yellow and black shoulder bursts on the white outfit. The only thing I’m worried about is that they’ll bring back those nauseating yellow shorts from the World Tour Finals. If they do, I’m really going to struggle watching his matches …
Oh, and there’s one more thing I’m really disappointed about in this outfit. Apparently adidas is changing his shorts from an 8″ inseam to a 9.5″ inseam. That’s ONE-AND-A-HALF INCHES less of Murray’s legs I get to see! That probably means we’ll see a lot less of his trademark mid-match move of “pulling at his shorts” that he likes to do. Damn.
Last up is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga‘s collared polo (top row) and Fernando Verdasco‘s polo (bottom row). Most of the other adidas-sponsored players will probably also be wearing Fernando’s kit. And as with the ladies’ outfits above, the yellow/grey combos will be for the Australian Open and the blue for Roland Garros.
Somehow, the “pixelated” color blocking from Ana’s dress doesn’t look as terrible when put fully horizontal and on a t-shirt. I must also commend the design team for pulling the patterns back a notch and leaving me headache-free after viewing. I particularly like Fernando’s blue top — there’s something very retro and fitting about it.
Looking forward to seeing all the outfits in action on court come January!
By David Kane
Tennis is unique in that it completely lacks the often fraternal team aspect so prevalent in nearly every other popular. One may have their favorite baseball or football player, yet fans of those sports ultimately support the team as a collective entity. When singles players take the court, they do so alone; in doubles, the pairings are typically too heterogeneous for one to look at the two players as a “team,” matching outfits aside. If players take the court alone, then fans take their seats in the stands or in front of their televisions to support them alone.
In tennis, unbreakable bonds can be formed between fan and player, ones that are much more personal than those found in other sports. Fans are knowledgeable about every aspect of their players’ lives, off-court activities, even the outfits they plan to wear next spring as early as last summer. Social media strengthens this connection, as fans can literally “follow” a player around the world, waiting for a new 140-character-or-less update on baited breath. Truly, this bond heightens all the senses that come with athletic fandom. It makes the victories sweeter, and the defeats more painful.
When those defeats invariably occur, it is only human nature for the fan to look for someone to blame. Barring a cataclysmic injury, how could fans ever point the finger at their player? They have watched their practices, stayed up to ungodly hours to watch them play early rounds a world away. They have conferred with the opinions of analysts and journalists, all of whom agreed that victory was assured. Then how did they lose? They can do no wrong. With nowhere else to look but across the net, fans usually place the heavy burden of blame on the unlucky soul who beat their guy or girl.
If a fan’s favorite player is infallible, then the opposite is true of a player that fan dislikes. Observed under equal scrutiny as a favorite, a disliked player can do nothing right, least of all win tennis matches. Their shrieks become more piercing, their fist-pumps become more obnoxious, and their attempts at humor only seem to bely their cruel, calculated nature. They even seem to lose matches when fans don’t want them too. Indeed, the hierarchies of a fan’s favorite and least favorite players can be as rigid as a caste system.
These extreme opinions of people fans don’t actually know were all well and good in the comfort of home (or locked inside the mind) until social media arrived and everyone jumped into the same proverbial ball pit. On twitter, Sharapova fans are suddenly confronted with her “haters,” fans who actively campaign to “save the grunt” are forced to resist the urge to enter typographical combat with those who think all on-court noise ought to be abolished. Sometimes, a fan’s opinion of a player can be completely influenced by his or her fan group (for better or worse).
One would be shocked, then, to see the apparent symbiosis that occurs on nearly every tennis fan’s Twitter timeline. It goes without saying that a tennis fan cannot join Twitter and expect an echo chamber of like-minded fans. The lines between fandoms are instead blurred as Sharapova fans follow Azarenka fans, Kvitova fans follow Wozniacki fans, and everyone follows at least twenty Ivanovic fans (in sheer numbers, Ana Ivanovic is the tennis twitter equivalent to Justin Bieber). The bonds tennis fans have formed with each other is arguably as strong as the bonds they’ve already formed with their favorite players. The average Serena Williams fan can expect congratulatory tweets when she wins, and condolences when she loses. Despite often strict party allegiances, tennis fans have realized that, no matter the player, they as fans have all experienced the same emotions at one moment or another. The only thing that differs is the player for whom the emotions are felt.
This is not to say that feelings aren’t sometimes hurt, the #equalprizemoney debate can grate, and that unless you’re a fan, logging off is encouraged during Novak Djokovic matches. But by and large, social media (Twitter in particular) does so much to unite tennis fans around the world, share information at lightning-fast speed and, most importantly, give what sometimes feels like a live-or-die tennis match some much needed perspective.
By Romi Cvitkovic
In her first hardcourt match back after a foot injury, 12th seed Ana Ivanovic focused her nerves and handily defeated relative unknown Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 6-2.
Ivanovic hit her opponent off the court with 26 winners, but while her second serve has found consistency, her first serve is still hovering in the mid-30s — something that she has been struggling with for years it seems.
In Montreal earlier this month, Ivanovic lost 6-0, 6-0 to Italian Roberta Vinci in the second round and picked up a foot injury that amounted to be a psychological recipe for disaster for a player that struggles with confidence to begin with.
Her injury hampered her mentally, but she was quick to note that it happens to many athletes.
“It’s part of the game in sport, and I always joke because people say, ‘Sport is good for you.’ But we are always hurting. It’s hard on the heart, too… When you progress in a tournament you’re going to have aches and pains.”
A couple of days ago, fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic gave insight into why Ivanovic’s game has dropped since being at the top. She elaborated:
“Yeah, it is a lot to do with confidence,” Ivanovic stated. ” I think also since the first time I entered, the game has evolved and there is lot more girls that strike and they have nothing to lose. But [for me], it’s just not [having] the belief of beating those top players at the moment.”
She’ll have to work hard if she wants to accomplish her goal of “breaking into the fourth round and getting into the quarterfinals” here at the US Open. Not one shy about her “overthinking” mind, she said that she will “really try to focus on taking it one match at a time, because sometimes when you get overexcited, it doesn’t really work for you the way you hoped for.”
The big-hitter could have her opportunity as she could face Sloane Stephens or Francesca Schiavone in the third round, and an easier competitor in Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.
By Romi Cvitkovic
The US Open is underway and the top players are on fire — not only with their games, but also their on-court tennis apparel. Curious about what your favorite players are wearing and where to buy it? Well, wonder no more and check out this year’s US Open Nike and adidas tennis outfits for both men and women. Serve it up!
Top women’s seed Victoria Azarenka is sporting Nike’s Volt Graphic Tank and flirty Black Flounce skirt. The tank design is just the right amount of flashy, and the fit is one of the best this season.
Na Li is pretty in pink in this Liquid Pink Jersey shirt and White Pleated skirt by Nike. A little more conservative with a dash of detailed stitches.
Maria Sharapova has been on tour for more than eleven years and her outfits are always stunning. This year, she’s flaunting Nike’s Back Court Day dress and Back Court Night dress. The day dress scores, but black on a slender and tall Sharapova seems counter intuitive. The Spiderman-esque matrix in gold on the back of the night dress is quite an intense contrast.
Nike has spiced up the normal white tank for Petra Kvitova and given her strategically-placed pleats with their Statement Pleated tank and mutli-colored Pleated skirt.
Nike has kept it solid and mostly simple for Roger Federer, dressing him in University Blue Hard Court crew tee for day, and collared Obsidian Hard Court Polo for night. What is of note is that the typically-collared Federer will be sporting no collar during his day matches. It seems they are keeping the same setup as last year.
The always unpredictable Serena Williams is giving us punches of color in her’ Statement Pleated dress in Fireberry for day and in Obsidian/Volt for night. Interesting color to highlight … there.
Ana Ivanovic, as well as good friend Sorana Cirstea, are both sporting the spunky adiZero dress in Lime. Note: you must be tall, tan and beautiful in order for this to look fab on you.
Scot Andy Murray in equipped in his typical Barricade line but with a bit more edge as seen in the Urban Sky/Bright Gold details here. It is like a kaleidoscope?
Spaniard Fernando Verdasco complements the adiZero dress in his own adiZero Crew tee in Lime. Why the screaming colors always, adidas?
adidas keeps Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their collared adiZero Theme Polo shirt in Dark Blue and does a nice job with light blue and orange accents.
Stella McCartney always dresses up Caroline Wozniacki in something questionable in photos that turns out great on Wozniacki herself, so I will reserve my comments. Stella McCartney Performance Rose Tan/Black mesh dress.
By Romana Cvitkovic
Full roundup of results during day three of the French Open.
“Biggest” Loser: Serena Williams
Winning two clay court tournaments recently in Madrid and Charleston, Serena Williams was (surprisingly) the heavy favorite to win the title in Roland Garros. But it’s never that simple, right? It what will turn out to be one of the biggest first round upsets in French Open history, the number one American woman lost to Virginia Razzano, ranked 111 in the world, in a rollercoaster of a match, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. Serena was the only American women to lose in the first round of the French Open among ten other American women (save Jamie Hampton who had to retire earlier in the day). Perhaps all the good fortunes Serena’s countrywomen were getting the last two days all funneled into one disappointing loss for Serena herself.
But Serena is not down and out. She suffered life-threatening trials with her health last year and saw her sister Venus diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, but she always seems to find the silver-lining — even if only to keep the media from poking too deep into her emotions.
“It’s life,” Serena said. “Things could be a lot worse. I haven’t had the easiest past six months. Nothing I can’t deal with. I’m not happy, by no means. I just always think things can be worse.”
Nadal, Sharapova, Kvitova yawn their way to victory
Which one of the three above is not like the other? Judging from recent clay court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, Rafael Nadal’s 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 dismantling of Simone Bolelli in the first round was not unexpected. Similarly, Maria Sharapova’s recent clay court titles in Stuttgart and Rome were a mere prelude to her 6-0, 6-0 knockout of Alexandra Cadantu today.
Petra Kvitova, however, has had a surplus of ups-and-downs recently. Reaching the semifinals in Stuttgart and the quarterfinals in Rome before sputtering out of both, the reigning Wimbledon champion Kvitova has been difficult to find. That is why a 6-1, 6-2 routing of any player (even her opponent, number 332-ranked Ashleigh Barty) can be considered a temporary success. It’s a confidence booster that she spent not even an hour on court for the win, and it may give her just the kick needed to get her into the second week of the Slam. However, she had similar overpowering starts in the first three rounds of Roland Garros last year before falling in three sets to eventual champion Na Li.
Sam Querrey’s comeback cut short
After struggling with an elbow injury that required surgery last year, Sam Querrey may have a long way back to his career-high ranking of number 17. But today’s loss to world number eight Janko Tipsarevic in four sets, established a good path for his continual growth. Although his first serve percentage was stuck at 49%, he comfortably won 73% of net approaches and only nine total points less the Tipsarevic for the match! At just 24 years of age and standing at 6’6″ tall, it would do him well to look to good friend and fellow tall player John Isner for pointers on keeping your confidence.
Tommy Haas turns back time
After blazing through three rounds of qualifying, German (or is is American, or is is German?) Tommy Haas is firmly in the second round of the main draw after defeating Filippo Volandri, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. The German tennis gods must be watching his back, as he would have next taken on number 16 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov. But due to pure inspiration by Sergiy Stakhovsky to defeat fellow Ukranian Dolgopolov, Haas will next meet Stakhovsky in a match that could surely go the length.
Other notable winners
- Brit Heather Watson sails into the second round by defeating journeywoman Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the second round.
- In a battle of the young guns (can we really still call them that?), Grigor Dimitrov holds off Donald Young, 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-1.
- Caroline Wozniacki is in full stealth mode winning soundly against Eleni Daniilidou, 6-0, 6-1. After falling in the rankings to world number nine, it would do the Dane well to advance well into the second week.
- 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone made quick work of another tour veteran, Kimiko Date-Krumm, and next faces Tsvetana Prinokova who defeated Yanina Wickmayer.
- Juan Monaco got back on track after a debilitating ankle roll in Monte Carlo, by beating Guillaume Rufin, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(3). In Rome, Monaco was a set up over Djokovic before falling in three, but clay suits his game and if his ankle holds up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the second week.
Popcorn matches to watch on Wednesday, May 30:
- Gilles Simon ranked number 11 versus new comeback player Brian Baker. Baker has come out of the shadows after a seven year hiatus due to devastating injury and has been blowing past competition, leaving Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko in his rearview. If he can keep it up, it will be a comeback for the books.
- Agnieszka Radwanska takes on Venus Williams. Both ladies are playing with a lot to prove. Aga needs to show fans her consistency and Venus needs to show herself she can continue battling after her health diagnosis. It’s anybody’s game, but I feel a Venus revolution.
- 2008 French Open Ana Ivanovic will take on Shahar Peer in what could be a purely nerves-driven match for both ladies. Ivanovic is always tough on herself and difficult shots by Peer could give Ana some self-doubt. If she plays through them, she should not have a problem plowing through Peer.
- Viktor Troicki takes on possible “frenemy” and personality-twin Fabio Fognini. Who could forget their fiery exchanges on-court during the first round of Cincinnati last year that saw Fognini prevail. The tension was palpable between the two, and another on-court encounter may boost each player’s game plan for an unbelievable match. It will surely be a fun match to watch. Oh, and the tennis should be good too.
By Romana Cvitkovic
Just in time for the tennis season’s second Slam of the year, the adidas team has revealed the fashions that will be on display at Roland Garros for their top athletes, including Ana Ivanovic, Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray, Gilles Simon and their youngest sensation, 21-year-old Arantxa Rus from Holland.
A few things of note:
1. I like lime and I like orange, but I’m not fully sold on the combination for Ana Ivanovic’s dress. Even with the red clay, it might be an eye sore…
2. Fernando Verdasco’s face in his second photo below is absolutely priceless. Compare that with the first saucy photo, and I laugh every time I see it. But somehow both are fitting for his personality.
3. Arantxa Rus looks like a mini-Wozniacki in these photos, but I love the air around her as a player. Great potential, and the yellow and blue kit combination with the ruffled tank works. I also LOVE the accents on her shoes.
4. Andy Murray, is that you? Looking more like a gladiator than a tennis player, he doesn’t have a knack for posing. While I like the orange shorts, the grey color seems a bit too muted on him.
5. Andrea Petkovic, oh, how I miss you … already. Skipping Roland Garros to nurse an injury, her blue and orange kit will probably be worn by Maria Kirilenko among others, but the German’s fire will be missed in Paris.
6. Gilles Simon’s baby blue collared shirt looks more fitting for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but I’ll let it slide because of the Frenchie smile.
All in all, the kits and colors look great and I’m excited to see them on the red clay of Roland Garros. For larger higher quality photos, click on the photos to expand.
(photos courtesy of adidas tennis)