While eight of the top ten men are active in the week before Indian Wells, only two of the top ten women have chosen live matches over practice sessions. Two clay tournaments in the Western Hemisphere accompany an Asian hard-court tournament as the last chance to reverse or extend momentum before the March mini-majors.
Acapulco: One of those two top-ten women playing this week, Errani hopes to begin repeating last year’s success on red clay while extending her success from reaching the Dubai final. Little about her section suggests that she should not, although she stumbled unexpectedly on clay against Lepchenko in Fed Cup. Considering that mishap, she might find Arantxa Rus a worthy test in the quarterfinals. Rus once upset Clijsters at Roland Garros and owns a lefty forehand smothered with topspin that cause damage on this surface. She might struggle to survive an all-Dutch encounter in the opening round against Kiki Bertens, though, who broke through to win her first career title at a clay tournament in Morocoo last year.
Gone early in Bogota, where she held the second seed, Alize Cornet will hope for a more productive week in a draw where she holds the third seed. The Frenchwoman lacks weapons to overpower her opponents but will find few in this section who can overpower her. The most notable name here (probably more notable than Cornet) belongs to the returning Flavia Pennetta, who got through one three-setter in Bogota before fading in a second. Tiny Lourdes Dominguez Lino hopes that this first-round opponent still needs to shake off more rust.
An odd sight it is to see an American, a Croat, and a Swede all playing on clay during a week with a hard-court tournament, and yet all of them occupy the same section in Acapulco. Perhaps more notable than Glatch or Larsson is Ajla Tomljanovic, a heavy hitter from a nation of heavy hitters who once looked like a sure rising star before recent setbacks. Facing this Croatian wildcard in the first round, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu knows better how to play on clay, as 2011 finals in Marbella and Budapest showed. Begu won her first career title last fall in Tashkent, which places her a notch above the other seed in this quarter. Spending most of her career at the ITF level, Romina Oprandi recorded a strong result in Beijing last fall.
Handed a wildcard to accompany her sixth seed, Schiavone searches for relevance after a long stretch in which she has struggled to string together victories. The sporadically intriguing Sesil Karatantcheva should pose a test less stern than second seed Suarez Navarro, who shares Schiavone’s affinity for the surface. Humiliated twice in one week at Dubai, where she lost resoundingly in both the singles and the doubles draws, the small Spaniard owns one of the loveliest one-handed backhands in the WTA since Henin’s retirement. Schiavone owns another, which should make their quarterfinal pleasant viewing for tennis purists.
Final: Errani vs. Begu
Florianopolis: In the first year of a new tournament, the presence of a marquee player always helps to establish its legitimacy. The outdoor hard courts at this Brazilian resort will welcome seven-time major champion and former #1 Venus Williams as the top seed, and her draw looks accommodating in its early stages. While young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza showed potential at the Australian Open, the American’s sternest challenge may come from a much older woman. Extending Venus deep into a third set at Wimbledon in 2011, Kimiko Date-Krumm could unsettle her fellow veteran with her clever angles and crisp net play, although her serve should fall prey to her opponent’s returning power.
In the quarter below lies Kirsten Flipkens, who lost early as the top seed in Memphis after reaching the second week of the Australian Open. Also a potential semifinal opponent for Venus, Caroline Garcia possesses much more potential than her current ranking of #165 would suggest. Unlike most of the counterpunchers in Florianopolis, she will not flinch from trading baseline missiles with the top seed should she earn the opportunity. Another young star in the eighth-seeded Annika Beck might produce an intriguing quarterfinal with Garcia.
Counterpunchers dominate the third quarter, bookended by Medina Garrigues and Chanelle Scheepers. When the two met at the Hopman Cup this year, endless rallies and endless service games characterized a match filled with breaks. The heavy serve of Timea Babos might intercept Scheepers in the second round, while Medina Garrigues could encounter some early resistance from the quirky Niculescu or Shahar Peer. With her best years well behind her, the Israeli continues to show her familiar grittiness in attempting to reclaim her relevance.
Midway through 2012, the second-seeded Shvedova climbed back into singles prominence by reaching the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Starting with her three-set loss to Serena at the latter major, she has suffered a series of demoralizing setbacks in early rounds since then, often in tightly contested matches that hinged on a handful of points. Shvedova once led the WTA’s rankings for overall pace of shot, though, and her power might overwhelm those around her. Aligned to meet her in the quarterfinals is Kristina Mladenovic, the surprise semifinalist at the Paris Indoors who delivered the first signature win of her career there over Kvitova.
Final: Williams vs. Mladenovic
Kuala Lumpur: With a direct-entry cutoff even lower than Florianopolis, this tournament features only eight players in the top 100. Headlining the list, however, is a former #1 who still occupies the fringes of the top 10. After she produced solid results in the Middle East, reaching a quarterfinal in Doha and a semifinal in Dubai, Wozniacki should feel confident in her ability to secure a first title of 2013. Few of the names in her quarter will strike chords with most fans, although some might remember lefty Misaki Doi as the woman who upset Petra Martic in Melbourne before eating a Sharapova double bagel. Aussie lefty Casey Dellacqua sometimes can challenge higher-ranked foes but has struggled with injury too often to maintain consistency.
Doi’s highest-ranked compatriot, the double-fister Ayumi Morita holds the fourth seed in Kuala Lumpur. Like Wozniacki, she could face an Aussie in the quarterfinals, and, like Wozniacki, she should not find the test too severe. Although she has won the Australian Open wildcard playoff twice, Olivia Rogowska has stagnated over the past few years since winning a set from then -#1 Safina at the US Open. Evergreen veteran Eleni Daniilidou rounds out this section with one of the WTA’s more powerful one-handed backhands—and not much else.
Surely pleased to recruit another player of international familiarity beyond Wozniacki, Kuala Lumpur welcomes Pavlyuchenkova as a third-seeded wildcard entrant. The Russian often has excelled at this time of year, reaching the Indian Wells semifinals before and winning consecutive titles at the Monterrey tournament that has shifted after Miami. This year, Pavlyuchenkova has shown a little of her promising 2011 form by reaching the final in Brisbane to start the season and much more of her dismal 2012 form by dropping three straight matches thereafter. She could end her four-match losing streak here in a section filled with qualifiers. But yet another Aussie in Ashleigh Barty hopes to continue what so far has become an encouraging season for WTA future stars.
When not conversing on Twitter with our colleague David Kane, 16-year-old phenom Donna Vekic has compiled some notable results. Seeded at a WTA tournament for the first time, she will look to build upon her final in Tashkent last year, a win over Hlavackova at the Australian Open, and a solid week in Fed Cup zonal play. Vekic does face a challenging first-round test in the powerful serve of American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but no match in her section looks unwinnable. While second seed and potential quarterfinal opponent Hsieh Su-wei won her first two titles last year, the late-blossoming star from Chinese Taipei still does not intimidate despite her presence in the top 25.
Final: Wozniacki vs. Pavlyuchenkova
(Actually, can we just combine these last two draws and have Venus play a super-final against Caro?)
Anabel Medina Garrigues
Formerly riddled with upsets and surprise semifinalists, WTA draws grew relatively predictable in 2012 as a small group of women won virtually every marquee tournament. That trend continued when Azarenka defended her Australian Open crown after several young stars rose and fell. In Doha, more of the familiar suspects look likely to shine. Read a preview of the draw, quarter by quarter.
First quarter: Just as she did in Melbourne, Azarenka may need to defend her title to retain her #1 ranking with the second-ranked Serena Williams anchoring the opposite half of the draw. Also like the Australian Open, the medium-speed hard courts in Doha suit the top seed’s style more than any other surface, and one must feel sanguine about her semifinal hopes in this weak section. Several of the women surrounding her played Fed Cup over the past weekend, when most looked pedestrian at best against modest competition. Although she upset Azarenka once and nearly twice in 2012, Cibulkova extended a discouraging span that started with her double bagel in the Sydney final by retiring on the verge of victory in Fed Cup. Bojana Jovanovski and Daniela Hantuchova collaborated on a hideous comedy of errors this Saturday, while the sixth-seeded Errani faces the challenge of transitioning from the clay of the Italy-USA tie. This section could implode quickly, which might open a door for the rising Laura Robson to build on her Australian upset of Kvitova.
Second quarter: Two women of Polish descent bookend a section that contains two former #1s who have sunk outside the top 10. Having withdrawn from Fed Cup with a shoulder injury, Ivanovic remained in the Doha draw as she hopes to erase the memories of a first-round upset in Pattaya City, where she held the top seed. The Serb likely would collide with Australian Open nemesis Radwanska as early as the third round, however, so she may gain little more from Doha than she did last year. An all-German encounter beckons at the base of the quarter between the last two Paris Indoors champions: the fifth-seeded Kerber and Mona Barthel. Meeting the winner in the same round as the projected Ivanovic-Radwanska clash is world #11 Wozniacki, who fell just short of an Australian Open quarterfinal in a promising end to an otherwise miserable January. Kerber stifled her on multiple surfaces last year, though, while struggling to solve Radwanska’s consistency.
Third quarter: A 2008 champion at this tournament, the third-seeded Sharapova eyes a comfortable start to the tournament against a qualifier or wildcard. Rolling through Melbourne until her competition stiffened suddenly, she may find an opponent worthy of her steel in Sloane Stephens, although her fellow Australian Open semifinalist withdrew from Fed Cup this weekend. Looming on the opposite side is an encore of the 2011 Melbourne marathon between Kuznetsova and Schiavone, separated just by a qualifier and the dormant Bartoli (also a Fed Cup absentee). The Russian returned to relevance with an outstanding January considering the sub-50 ranking with which she started it before reaching quarterfinals at Sydney and the Australian Open. Her athleticism and rising confidence should serve her well against the Schiavone-Bartoli winner and against the eighth-seeded Stosur in the following round. Still struggling to regain her rhythm after ankle surgery during the offseason, the Aussie probably cannot defend her runner-up points in the vicinity of two multiple-major champions from Russia.
Fourth quarter: Among the questions looming over this tournament is the health of Serena Williams, the prohibitive favorite in Melbourne until multiple injuries overtook her. Serena probably would not participate in an event like Doha unless she felt confident in her condition, however, so one should take her entry at face value for now. As she has reminded rivals over the last several months, few can break her serve on a non-clay surface when she is healthy, and she should overpower clay specialists in the early rounds like Medina Garrigues and Vinci. Of greater suspense is the identity of the woman who will emerge from the section occupied by Kvitova, who clings to the seventh seed in a manner far from convincing. Although playing a Fed Cup tie on home soil may have boosted her spirits, she has not strung together victories at a WTA tournament since last August. Often troubled by the task of defeating a compatriot, she could meet Fed Cup teammate Safarova in the third round. Before then, Beijing nemesis Suarez Navarro lurks in a challenge for her consistency. And Russian veteran Nadia Petrova adds an entertaining mixture of power and petulance to a section full of fiery personalities.
Come back on Friday to read a semifinal preview!
While some of the stars opening play in Melbourne should encounter little resistance, others might want to tread carefully. We look at some of the most notable matches on Day 1 from Rod Laver Arena to the outer courts.
Chang vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena): A flustered bundle of nerves on home soil, Stosur has lost six of her last seven matches in Australia and exited in the first round here last year to Sorana Cirstea. Despite her smooth game, Chang lacks Cirstea’s intimidating weapons and thus should pose a less severe test. But an 0-2 start to 2013 with losses to unheralded opponents in Brisbane and Sydney inspire little confidence in Stosur as she rebounds from an ankle injury.
Hewitt vs. Tipsarevic (RLA): Quite the contrast to Stosur, the greatest Aussie champion in recent memory typically thrives under the adoring gaze of his compatriots. In his 17th Australian Open appearance, Hewitt thoroughly deserves this showcase setting in the first night session on Rod Laver Arena. Recent years have seen him deliver upsets over opponents like Baghdatis, Safin, and Raonic on this court, so Tipsarevic cannot take this match lightly. The second-ranked Serb looked solid but mortal while winning Chennai, and he won’t overpower Hewitt like many opponents near his ranking.
Ivanovic vs. Czink (RLA): This match may start very late indeed in the aftermath of Hewitt-Tipsarevic, possibly a bad sign for Ivanovic. A morning person, the Serb can grow weary quickly when she plays late at night, and she has struggled against lefties sporadically in her career. That said, Czink has declined since she upset Ivanovic on the much faster court of Cincinnati in 2009, and the former finalist built confidence with three decisive wins at the Hopman Cup before Medina Garrigues outlasted her in the final. She should aim to avoid a third set whenever possible, and probably will here.
Goffin vs. Verdasco (Hisense Arena): Four years after he reached the semifinals (and nearly the final) here, Verdasco has regressed back to his former incarnation in which he can win or lose to anyone on any given day. Startlingly boyish in appearance, Goffin reached the second week of Roland Garros last year and recorded fall upsets over Troicki and Isner, among others. The 22-year-old must refine his game, especially his shot selection, to rise further into the top 50, although Verdasco can teach him little in that area.
Cibulkova vs. Barty (Hisense): The Slovak pocket rocket unleashes impressive power when on a hot streak and can collapse completely when she loses her range even a little. Last week in Sydney, Cibulkova showed her best and worst in defeating three top-eight opponents before eating a double bagel from Radwanska. Which memory lingers longer in her mind may define how far she goes here, while Aussie prodigy Barty will try to gain confidence from the Hopman Cup memory of upsetting Schiavone.
Bobusic vs. Radwanska (Margaret Court Arena): For winning the Australian Open wildcard playoff, Bobusic received a berth in the main draw—against the world #4. Radwanska also happens to have won both of her tournaments this year, so the challenge looms very large for the home hope. The Pole sometimes does need time to settle into an event, though, wobbling through uneasy three-setters in the first round here before.
Youzhny vs. Ebden (MCA): Yet another Aussie faces a Russian well into the twilight of his career. Still lovely to watch with its one-handed backhand and crisp volleys, his game matches up well to the net-rushing style of Ebden. Both men feel comfortable all over the court, which should create some variety in the ways that points unfold.
Dellacqua vs. Keys (MCA): After reaching the Sydney quarterfinals, the 17-year-old American should have soared in self-belief by proving that she could compete with much more experience and accomplished opponents. She eyes a winnable match against an Aussie returning from injury, not for the first time, but with a memorable run here five years ago to inspire her.
Medina Garrigues vs. Bartoli (Show Court 3): The Spaniard enters on a somewhat hot streak from winning the Hopman Cup with Verdasco, although she defeated no notable opponent other than Ivanovic. Bartoli has dominated their head-to-head on hard courts but has suffered a series of early upsets at the Australian Open in recent years. The match will rest on her racket, for better or for worse.
Harrison vs. Giraldo (Court 8): From their last meeting at the Olympics came the regrettable temper tantrum that led to Harrison’s equally regrettable apology. He still lets his competitive fire burn too brightly at times, although a victory over Isner in Sydney may bode well for this fortnight. Not averse to emitting some sparks himself, Giraldo will fancy his chances in the best-of-five format if he can claim an early lead.
Bolelli vs. Janowicz (Court 8): The toast of Paris last fall when he reached the Bercy final, Janowicz reverted to ordinary toast this month in a sloppy loss to Brian Baker. The moribund game of Bolelli, an Italian with much more flair than power, should not trouble the huge-serving Pole as long as he stays out of his own way better than he did in Auckland.
Barthel vs. Pervak (Court 11): Reaching the fourth round here last year, Barthel recalled her strong start to 2012 when she finished runner-up in Hobart (becoming the first woman ever to lose a final to Vesnina in the process). The gawky German owns a formidable but fickle serve and can climb into double digits in aces and double faults during the same match. Russian by birth and Kazakh by passport, the lefty gunslinger Pervak upset Wozniacki in Brisbane by showing more fortitude than usual.
Benneteau vs. Dimitrov (Court 13): At Wimbledon last year, the French doubles specialist came within two points of upsetting Federer as he proved again how lethal his game can become when all of its parts coalesce. A strong server with a penetrating two-hander and excellent net skills, Benneteau held match points in the Sydney semifinal last week before his habit of losing close matches resurfaced. The bad news for him is that he faces a man who served for the first set in the Brisbane final the previous week. The good news is that Dimitrov never has brought his best game to any major, nor has he developed a habit of stringing together solid results.
Makarova vs. Larcher de Brito (Court 19): Once at the vortex of the shrieking controversy, Larcher de Brito plunged into the tennis wilderness shortly after her uniquely piercing yodels had alienated fans. She returns to the main draw of a major for the first time in years. Is she ready for her comeback? Perhaps more to the point, are we?
Bogomolov vs. Baker (Court 20): From an American perspective, this match presents a good guy vs. bad guy narrative. Fans around the world warmed to Baker when he completed an odyssey through several injury absences to rejoin the ATP with a bang last year by reaching the final at his first tournament. His results faded a little afterwards, as one would expect, so his confidence probably rose when he defeated Janowicz in Auckland. Whatever one thinks of Bogomolov’s shifting national allegiances, they did nothing to disturb his reputation as one of the players least likely to induce empathy in the ATP.
Hradecka vs. Bertens (Court 22): Half of the world’s second-ranked doubles team, the Czech with an explosive serve faces one of last spring’s most surprising headlines. Bertens became the first Dutchwoman to win a title since 2006 when she took home the hardware from Casablanca as a qualifier who never had played a main-draw match at the WTA level. Summer upsets over Safarova and Petrova consolidated that breakthrough, so she will look to take the next step forward in 2013.
Excited about these matches and others on Day 1? Join our live chat at newyorkobservertennis.com, which extends from the start of play through the Rod Laver Arena night session.
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 Romana Cvitkovic
Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is in Strasbourg, France covering the WTA Internationaux de Strasbourg tournament live all week.
The second round was underway with victories by Francesca Schiavone, Anabel Medina Garrigues, and American Sloane Stephens.
Schiavone made quick work of Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic with a solid 6-1, 6-2 win in just an hour. Medina Garrigues fought a tougher battle against Su-Wei Hsieh and won in two tiebreaker sets, 7-6(9), 7-6(2). Stephens beat a former juniors player foe in three rollercoaster sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and saved 10-of-14 break points.
Other winners include French players Pauline Parmentier and wildcard Alize Cornet, qualifier Alexandra Panova, Japanese player Ayumi Morita and Swede Johanna Larsson who brought number eight seed Tamira Paszek of Austria tumbling out of the tournament.
Likewise, the doubles semifinals are set:
 Grandin/Uhlirova (RSA/CZE) d. Chang/Chuang (TPE/TPE) 75 64
 Govortsova/Jans-Ignacik (BLR/POL) d. Gámiz/Hermoso (VEN/MEX) 62 75
 Babos/Hsieh (HUN/TPE) d. Naydenova/Pereira (BUL/BRA) 63 64
Cadantu/Keothavong (ROU/GBR) d. Adamczak/Bengson (AUS/AUS) 63 63
ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012
CENTRAL Start at 11:00 am
1. Ayumi Morita vs. Sloane Stephens
2. Johanna Larsson vs. Francesca Schiavone (NB 1:00 pm)
3. Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Alizé Cornet (NB 3:00 pm)
4. Pauline Parmentier vs. Alexandra Panova
COURT 1 Start at 2:00 pm
1. Cadantu/Keothavong vs. Govortsova/Jans-Ignacik
Check back each day to catch all new action direct from the courts by our photographer Rick Gleijm! Scroll down for today’s full gallery of over 90 photos below.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – It was all about the women’s matches out on the red courts of Rome today. There were some exciting line-ups, fantastic rallies and staggering losses. Many of the matches were scheduled around the same time, so with a lot of running, camera ready and comfy shoes here are some of the exciting matches I was able to catch today.
Agnieszka Radwanska versus Petra Cetkovska:
Cetkovska defeated Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
This was the first featured match up in the Super Tennis Stadium and indeed the match was super. World No.28 Petra Cetkovska recorded yet another victory against world No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska to improve her head-to-head 4-0. Radawanska was certainly not playing in the same form that I witnessed last week in Madrid where she reached the semi-finals. Cetkovska made her debut here this year, as she has never played in this tournament before and after today’s performance, she looked quite at home and withstood the fight back from the Pole.
Flavia Pennetta versus Sloane Stephens:
Pennetta defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3.
The home crowd favourite Flavia Pennetta opened up play in the Pietrangeli stadium surrounded by huge Roman statues in front of a packed audience, where she has made her appearance for the tenth time at the tournament. The world No.21 delighted her supporters with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the qualifier Sloane Stephens. The two players had played against each other on one other occasion which Pennetta won back in 2010. The young 19 year old had no answers today against the power of Pennetta and with the impartial crowd heavily cheering on their girl, Pennetta comfortably progressed into the next round.
Samantha Stosur versus Sara Errani:
Stosur defeated Errani 6-3, 7-5
Samantha Stosur and Sara Errani have met on four previous occasions, all in favour of Stosur, but today the 25 year old Italian stood tall against the world No.5 and pushed her to the brink during the second set. In their last meeting in Dubai Stosur lost only one game against her but today, with the crowd becoming heavily involved Stosur went down a break and was almost staring at going into a third set. Eventually the aggressive play of Stosur withstood and after breaking back to level up the second set, she broke again in the eleventh game before serving it out.
Caroline Wozniacki versus Anabel Medina Garrigues:
Medina Garrigues defeated 6-4, 4-0 (retired).
Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki stepped out onto the small Court 2 against Spaniard Medina Garrigues not feeling well from the onset. She went down a break early in the first set and the trainer was called onto court. Wozniacki continued battling through most of the rallies in the first set and managed to come back from 1-4 down before eventually losing 6-4. Once again at the start of the second set, Wozniacki was broken on two further occasions and due to upper respiratory problems, she was forced to retire.
In other news, 7th seed Marion Bartoli was another seed knocked out in straight sets 3-6, 1-6 against world No.29 Julia Goerges and Sorana Cirstea defeated Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden by exactly the same scoreline 6-3, 6-1.
Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.
By Kelyn Soong
What do Serena Williams and Varvara Lepchenko have in common? Both players are into the third round at the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open and are the only American women left in the tournament.
While the former has a much higher profile, Lepchenko, an Uzbek-born American, scored the bigger win with a first round upset over 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone – the best win of her career. She followed up the victory by beating former world No. 11 Shahar Peer in the second round and will take on 30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues next.
Currently ranked No. 77 in the world, Lepchenko reached a career high No. 73 just last month. The 25-year-old is now the fifth ranked American, behind only Williams (9), older sister Venus (72), and youngsters Christina McHale (36) and Vania King (57).
Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Lepchenko has lived in the United States since 2001 – the same year she turned pro. She switched nationalities from UZB to USA in 2007 and became a U.S. citizen last September. She currently resides in Allentown, PA.
Lepchenko has spent the past six years bouncing in and out of the top 100 – her highest year-end finish was at world No. 79 in 2010. Her best Grand Slam result has been reaching the second round, which she accomplished at the 2006 U.S. Open, 2010 Wimbledon, and 2010 and 2011 French Open.
But the success in Madrid may signal a breakout year for Lepchenko. Throughout the season she has battled through the qualifying rounds. In addition to Madrid, Lepchenko successfully qualified for the main draw in Melbourne, Paris, Doha, Indian Wells, and Madrid.
Even after more than a decade on the professional tour, it appears that Lepchenko’s best is yet to come.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat David Nalbandian 6-3 4-6 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, France
Nadia Petrova won the Bell Challenge, beating Bethanie Mattek 4-6 6-4 6-1 in Quebec City, Canada
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Ritro Slovak Open in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, beating Michaella Krajicek 6-3 6-1
David Koellerer beat Pau Capdeville 6-4 6-3 to win the Bancolombia Open 2008 in Cali, Colombia
Ivo Minar beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-1 2-0 retired to win the Flea Market Cup Busan Challenger in Busan, Korea
“I’m going to go (to Shanghai) really to represent France and all my family and my friends. That’s it. I’m going to represent everyone and I’m going to give my best.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after winning the Paris Masters and qualifying for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.
“I didn’t play bad, but I didn’t play like the other days.” – David Nalbandian, after losing to Tsonga in the final at Paris and a chance to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup.
“If I feel like I want to continue to play, I will. If not, it will be over. For the moment, I just need to rest.” – Marat Safin, former world number one player on whether or not he will retire from tennis.
“Now I have a long journey ahead of me to Doha, but it’ll definitely be worth it. And then it’ll be really nice to put the racquets aside for a few weeks.” – Nadia Petrova, after winning the Bell Challenge.
“I saw him in the locker room five minutes before my match and he told me he had a pain in the back. I said, maybe we are both going to be going home tonight.” – Rafael Nadal, talking about Roger Federer after both withdrew from the Paris Masters with injuries.
“It wasn’t going to do me any good to play patty-cake back and forth with him. I’m not as quick as he is and I’m not as consistent as he is. It actually made for a pretty simple game plan.” – Andy Roddick, after his victory over Gilles Simon in Paris.
“I think with this calendar it’s very difficult to play a lot of years in a row. I think the ATP and everybody have to think about these things happening at the end of the season.” – Rafael Nadal, on the injuries to him and Federer.
“For him, it can’t all be serious. Off the court he is just a kid.” – Agent Tony Godsick, talking about his client, Roger Federer.
“We have now accomplished all that we set out to do at the USTA. The best time to move on is when the business is at an all-time high and a solid foundation has been built for the future.” – Arlen Kantarian, who is quitting at the end of the year as the USTA’s CEO for professional tennis.
The world’s top two players turned up injured on the same day. First, second-ranked Roger Federer pulled out of his quarterfinal match at the BNP Paribas Masters with back pain. Then top-seeded Rafael Nadal dropped the first set before retiring from his match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury. By his standards, Federer has had a down year, winning his fifth straight US Open title but losing in the final at both the French Open and Wimbledon, and also losing his world number one ranking. This is the first time since 2003 that Federer has gone the entire season without a Masters Series trophy, and his four titles this year are his fewest since 2002. Nadal, who had a trainer work on his right knee and thigh before he retired, said he had never had this kind of injury before.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was instrumental in completing the field for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earned a spot in the elite field when Tsonga beat American James Blake in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters. Then Tsonga clinched the final berth for himself when he beat David Nalbandian in the final in Paris. Earlier in the week, American Andy Roddick secured a spot in the Shanghai tournament by beating France’s Gilles Simon in a third-round match. Completing the singles field for the November 9-16 tournament are Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Swiss Roger Federer, Serb Novak Djokovic, Briton Andy Murray and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko.
The final two teams to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar, are Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, along with Katherina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama. Previously qualified for the four-team field were Cara Black and Liezel Huber as well as Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. The Peschke-Stubbs duo is making its second consecutive appearance as a team at the season finale.
Arlen Kantarian is leaving his post as the US Tennis Association’s chief executive officer for professional tennis. A former National Football League executive, Kantarian joined the USTA in March 2000 and is credited with turning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament into an entertainment spectacular. During his tenure, the US Open revenues jumped 80 percent as the tournament set annual records for attendance and revenue. He is credited with developing the instant replay and challenge format, moving the women’s final to Saturday night and securing television deals to boost the tournament’s profile and income.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will pay tribute to Jane Brown Grimes at a dinner in New York City in December. Grimes began a two-year stint as president of the United States Tennis Association in January 2007 and has been a member of the USTA Board for Directors for the past seven years. She represents the United States on the International Tennis Federation Fed Cup and Grand Slam Committees. She served as the Hall of Fame’s president and chief executive officer from 1991 until 2000, overseeing a major reconstruction of the historic buildings and grounds of the Hall of Fame’s headquarters in Newport, Rhode Island.
Aleksandra Wozniak’s bid to become the first Canadian to reach the final of the Bell Challenge women’s tournament ended when she fell to American Bethanie Mattek in the semifinals at Quebec City. A native of Blaineville, Quebec, the 21-year-old Wozniak won a tournament in Stanford, Connecticut, just before the US open, making her the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title. Mattek fell in the title match to top-seeded Nadia Petrova.
When the United States plays Switzerland in the opening round of Davis Cup next year, the Americans will be facing Roger Federer again. The last time Federer played a first-round Davis Cup tie was in 2004, when he led the Swiss to victory over Romania. The United States and Switzerland have met only twice in Davis Cup play, with the countries splitting their two meetings. The Americans won the 1992 final at Fort Worth, Texas. The last time they played, Federer had a hand in all three points as the Swiss beat the United States in Basel, Switzerland, in a first-round match in 2001.
STEP IN STEP
Serena Williams and James Blake will team up for the Hopman Cup in January. Serena and Mardy Fish won the mixed teams title a year ago, the second time Williams has won the event. Blake also has won the Hopman Cup twice, joining with Serena in 2003 and with Lindsay Davenport in 2004. Tournament director Pal McNamee said the Americans will be the top-seeded team. Others who are scheduled to be in the field include Dinara Safina and her brother Marat Safin – if he decides to continue his career, Germans Sabine Lisicki and Nicolas Kiefer, and the Slovak duo of Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty.
The season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships will be shown in the United States on the Tennis Channel and ESPN2. More than 30 live hours are planned from the prestigious women’s event being held this week in Doha, Qatar, almost all of which will be telecast in high definition. Combined with taped segments, the networks plan to televise close to 70 hours of high definition match coverage during the six-day tournament that features the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams.
History was made at a USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Vila Real De Santo Antonio, Portugal, when two Moroccan Fed Cup teammates met in the final. It was the first all-Moroccan singles final on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Nadia Lalami, playing in her first career singles final, won the tournament when Lamia Essaadi retired from the match while trailing 2-1 in the opening set. Lalami also teamed up with her regular Fed Cup doubles partner Fatima El Allami to win the doubles. Prior to 2008, Bahia Mouhtassine was the only Moroccan woman to win a singles title, and she finished her career with eleven singles titles. This year, however, has been a banner one for Moroccan women’s tennis as Essaadi won a tournament in July and El Allami won a title in August.
Marat Safin is not sure he wants to continue playing tennis. After the 28-year-old Russian suffered a first-round loss at the Paris Masters, he said: “I need to enjoy my life without tennis. I will see if I continue.” Safin won the US Open in 2000 and was ranked number one in the world. He also won the Australian Open in 2005, the last of his 15 titles. Many times he has self-destructed in matches, and his latest defeat was no exception. After losing the opening set, Safin began the second set with four double faults. His career has been hampered by his volatile temper and, more recently, injuries.
SERVING THE GAME
Harold Mitchell is one of four new directors on the Tennis Australia board. The others are former Fed Cup player Janet Young, Stephen Healy and Graeme Holloway. Mitchell is a media buyer. Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard was re-elected to the job he has held since 1989.
Paris: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie 6-2 6-2
Quebec City: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King beat Jill Craybas and Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-6 (3) 6-4
Cali: Daniel Koellerer and Boris Pashanski beat Diego Junqueira and Peter Luczak 6-7 (4) 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Bratislava: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Monica Niculescu 7-6 (1) 6-1
Busan: Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,450,000 Sony Ericsson Championships, Doha, Qatar, hard
$100,000 ITF women’s event, Krakow, Poland, hard
$106,500 Tatra Banka Open, Bratislava, Slovakia, hard
Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships at Surprise, Surprise, Arizona
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet
$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard
Gold: Rafael Nadal, Spain
Silver: Fernando Gonzalez, Chile
Bronze: Novak Djokovic, Serbia
Gold: Elena Dementieva, Russia
Silver: Dinara Safina, Russia
Bronze: Vera Zvonareva, Russia
Gold: Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland
Silver: Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson, Sweden
Bronze: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Gold: Venus and Serena Williams, United States
Silver: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain
Bronze: Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, China
Juan Martin Del Potro beat Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-3 to win the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C.
Nadia Petrova won the Western and Southern Financial Groups Women’s Open in Mason, Ohio, by defeating Nathalie Dechy 6-2 6-1
Pat Cash beat Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 to win the Hall of Fame Champions Cup title in Newport, Rhode Island
Frederico Gil beat Benedikt Dorsch 6-4 1-6 6-3 to win the Ted Open Challenger in Istanbul, Turkey
“Nowhere in my best dreams I can imagine something like what I did this year. I know how difficult it is to win these things, and especially here, because you only have one chance every four years.” – Rafael Nadal, after adding Olympic gold to his victories at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
“I never expected a medal – gold, silver or bronze. It’s unbelievable. For me this is the best moment in my career.” – Elena Dementieva, after winning the women’s singles title.
“It does mean more for me to win it with Serena, to share this kind of moment with your sister. I mean, we are practically joined at the hip.” – Venus Williams, who with sister Serena won the women’s doubles.
“Sort of a dream-come-true moment. Maybe it comes around once in a lifetime. It’s almost disbelief, to some degree.” – Roger Federer, after he teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to win the men’s doubles gold medal.
“We’re leaving China on a high. We were obviously disappointed that we couldn’t make the gold medal match, but it’s going to be something really special to us to have that medal back at home.” – Mike Bryan, after teaming with brother Bob to win the bronze medal in men’s doubles.
“To win any medal in the Olympics is a huge achievement. Not many of the athletes get a chance to win a medal.” – Novak Djokovic, who beat James Blake 6-3 7-6 (4) to win the third-place bronze medal.
“I felt like I competed hard. I have to take something positive from the way I was playing this week.” – James Blake, who upset Roger Federer, then lost the next two matches at the Beijing Olympics.
“I’m the most consistent player, so that’s why I became number one in the world. And my time will come. I’m only 23 years old. It’s not like I’m at the end of my career.” – Jelena Jankovic, defending her rise to the top of the women’s rankings without having reached the final of a Grand Slam tournament.
“I came here to win an Olympic medal and realistically I was only ever going to win one in either singles or doubles. If I had to pick one, I’d like to win it with my brother.” – Andy Murray, following his upset singles loss to Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan at the Olympics. Andy and brother Jamie Murray then lost in the second round of doubles to Frenchmen Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 6-1 6-3.
“The crowd cheered me with so much passion and many of them used my hometown dialect. It was great to play in front of them.” – Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie after her first-round victory at the Olympics. She wound up teaming with Yan Zi for the bronze medal in doubles.
“You know the feeling when you remember something and smile in the darkness? I had this kind of smile on my face that night.” – Akgul Amanmuradov of Uzbekistan, in her blog about the Olympics opening ceremony.
“He can’t win all the time. It is not humanly possible. I think now the pressure is off, so watch out.” – Tomas Berdych, after losing to Roger Federer, saying the Swiss star just has had too much pressure.
“Rafa played great to get it. That’s what I expected and hoped for many years ago when I got to number one – that if ever somebody were to take it away from me, he would have to play an incredible tennis schedule, win the biggest tournaments, dominate the game basically. I think Rafa totally deserves it.” – Roger Federer, on Rafael Nadal taking over the number one ranking.
“This is definitely not the way I wanted to go out, but I am looking forward to getting a week on court to focus on things not in a match situation.” – Andy Roddick, after being upset in Washington, D.C., by Viktor Troicki.
“Roger has been dominating everyone for four years and now Nadal is beating everyone. For me, there are two number ones.” – Italy’s Potito Starace.
“She served really well. She kept it deep, and I was always under pressure. My serve wasn’t that good, and she has one of the best on the tour, so there was a huge gap.” – Nathalie Dechy, after losing to Nadia Petrova in the final at Mason, Ohio.
“I wouldn’t mind playing Roger or Rafa. I just think it would be fun to play on a big court and get that experience, but whoever I play is fine. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.” – Austin Krajicek, who earned a wild card entry into the U.S. Open by winning the U.S. National Boys’ 18 championship.
Thursday at the Olympics was a rough day for the favorites. It was capped by Li Na’s 7-5 7-5 victory over Venus Williams, but earlier the same day Serena Williams was sidelined by eventual champion Elena Dementieva 3-6 6-4 6-3, and James Blake shocked top-seeded Roger Federer 6-4 7-6 (2). The losers ended up winners, however, as sisters Venus and Serena won the women’s doubles title while Federer teamed with fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka to capture the men’s doubles gold.
Rafael Nadal continued his torrid summer by adding Olympic gold to his trophy case. It was the first gold medal for Spain in tennis as Nadal became the first player ranked in the top five in the world to win the men’s singles at the Olympics, never losing serve in his 6-3 7-6 (2) 6-3 victory over Fernando Gonzalez of Chile. Nadal also moves up to number one in the world this week, finally supplanting Roger Federer. Nadal has won 38 of his last 39 matches, including victories over Federer in the finals of Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Gonzalez is the first man since 1920 to medal in men’s singles in two successive Olympic Games.
Roger Federer finally won Olympic gold. He teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to capture the men’s doubles for Switzerland, beating Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson of Sweden 6-3 6-4 6-7 (4) 6-3 for the title. It was one of the few bright spots this year for Federer, who has not won a Grand Slam tournament since last September and has seen his 4½ -year reign atop the rankings end when Rafael Nadal became number one in the world. It is Federer’s first medal in his three Olympics.
Russia swept all three medals in the women’s singles, with Elena Dementieva gaining the gold, Dinara Safina the silver and Vera Zvonareva the bronze. It was the first time a country has swept all three medals in one tennis event since Great Britain did it in the women’s singles in 1908. Dementieva beat Safina 3-6 7-5 63 for the gold medal, while Zvonareva stopped Li Na of China 6-0 7-5 in the bronze-medal match. Zvonareva was inserted in the singles draw only after fellow Russian Maria Sharapova withdrew from the Olympics with a shoulder injury. It was the second Olympic medal for Dementieva, who won silver in 2000.
Venus and Serena gave the United States a gold medal in women’s doubles by beating Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2 6-0. With the win, the Williams sisters improved their lifetime Olympic doubles record to 10-0. They won the doubles gold at Sydney but didn’t play in Athens four years ago because Serena was hurt. In the men’s doubles, brothers Mike and Bob Bryan won a bronze for the United States by beating Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement of France 3-6 6-3 6-4. The medal is the first for the Bryan twins.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia won the bronze in men’s singles when he defeated American James Blake 6-3 7-6 (4). Djokovic, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, followed his medal-winning victory by ripping off his shirt and throwing it to the cheering crowd along with two rackets. He then circled the court waving a Serbian flag. Blake had upset top-seeded Roger Federer in the quarterfinals before losing his next two matches.
Rafael Nadal isn’t the only ATP player having a grand summer. Juan Martin del Potro won his fourth straight tournament by routing Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C. The 19-year-old Argentine ran his winning streak to 19 matches and has won 38 of his last 40 sets. In his last four tournaments, he has win titles in Stuttgart, Kitzbuhel, Los Angeles and now Washington, D.C. Troicki, a 22-year-old from Serbia, was playing in his first ATP final.
There apparently were so many fans of Roger Federer living in the Olympic village that the Swiss tennis star instead stayed in a Beijing hotel. Every time Federer showed up at the Olympic village his fellow athletes swamped him with requests for autographs. “It is impossible, really, there are so many athletes asking for photos and so on. It is not ideal to prepare,” Federer said. He stayed in the village at the last two Olympics and even met his girlfriend there during the Sydney Games.
When the Gumulya sisters finally met on a tennis court when it counted, a tournament title was on the line and 22-year-old Sandy was the top seed. But it was 17-year-old Beatrice Gumulya who came away with her first career singles title, capturing the USD $10,000 ITF event in Jakarta, Indonesia. Sandy Gumulya may be Indonesia’s top female player, but she was routed by her younger sister 6-2 6-1. The Gumulya sisters rarely play in the same tournament, and it has usually been Sandy who has toted home the trophies.
Jelena Jankovic showed how much a champion she is when she participated in a gala event in Beijing called Champions For Children. Jankovic took time out before the Olympic tennis competition got underway to support UNICEF in her role as National Ambassador for Serbia, and she also chatted with 14-year-old Chinese tennis champion Liu Yingchong. At the event, which focused on the most vulnerable children, Jankovic advocated for equality for girls. Other celebrities at Champions For Children included movie star Jackie Chan and classical pianist Lang Lang.
SAME OLD MAC
Even with age, rage is still there for John McEnroe. The left-hander was tossed from his opening round-robin match at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, Rhode Island, for a new kind of triple fault: cursing, arguing with the chair umpire and making an obscene gesture at fans. While arguing a line call, the 49-year-old McEnroe was given a code violation warning for uttering an obscenity. When he kept up his tirade against chair umpire Ray Brodeur, he drew two abuse of official penalties. As the argument progressed, fans started yelling at McEnroe to resume play. McEnroe responded with his obscene gesture and was ejected, the first time McEnroe has been defaulted from a match on the Outback Champions Series, a circuit for stars over 30.
SWITCH AT THE TOP
In the maddening world of tennis rankings, Ana Ivanovic has regained the number one spot from her Serbian compatriot Jelana Jankovic, even though she withdrew from the Olympics with a thumb injury. Jankovic played – which could have been her downfall – but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by silver medalist Dinara Safina. If she had won the gold, Jankovic would have retained the number one ranking. Svetlana Kuznetsova also could have become number one if she had won the Olympic gold. Instead, the Russian lost in the first round.
When her shirt was soaked with sweat, Australia’s Casey Dellacqua changed at her courtside chair by stripping down to her sports bra during her 6-2 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at the Olympics. Dellacqua was furious when chair umpire Ali Katebi and then tournament supervisor Donna Kelso refused to allow her to go to the dressing room to change her shirt without having to take an authorized toilet break. “In this humidity, you should be able to change a shirt,” Dellacqua said. “I could literally feel water dripping down my legs. But he wouldn’t let me go off the court … So I just thought, ‘Oh, I’ll strip’.'” That, she did.
SET TO WED
A German newspaper says former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker plans to marry his late manager’s daughter. According to Bild, Sandy Meyer-Woelden, 24, will marry the 40-year-old Becker. The bride-to-be is the daughter of former Becker manager Axel Meyer-Woelden, who died in 1997. Becker is divorced from his first wife, Barbara Becker, with whom he has two children. He also has a daughter with London-based model Angela Ermakova. Meyer-Woelden is a jewelry designer and for several years dated German tennis star Tommy Haas.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has been added to the Outback Champions Series for 2009. The Rio Champions Cup will be held March 12-15, 2009, on an indoor hard court at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro and will be the first stop for the senior tour in South America for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Goran Ivanisevic are the first three players to commit to play in the eight-player round-robin event.
SHOWING IT AGAIN
The 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, considered by many as one of the greatest tennis matches ever, will be shown in the United States again on ESPN Classic on Sunday, August 24,. The five-time defending champ Federer came back from two sets down and saved two championship points in the fourth-set tiebreak before falling 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-7 (8) 9-7 as Nadal won his first Wimbledon title. The rain-delayed match ended in near darkness after 4 hours, 48 minutes of play, making it the longest (in terms of elapsed time) men’s final in Wimbledon recorded history, and ending 7 hours, 15 minutes after its scheduled start. The defeat also brought to an end Federer’s 65-match winning streak on grass.
Severine Bremond will play in her 19th consecutive Grand Slam tournament singles draw. The Frenchwoman, who turned 29 the past week, received a wild card into the U.S. Open, which begins August 25. Once ranked as high as 34 in the world, Bremond reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon two years ago. Others receiving wild cards into the main women’s singles draw are U.S. Girls’ 18s national champion Gail Brodsky, American Fed Cup players Jamea Jackson and Ahsha Rolle, and American teenagers Asia Muhammad, Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe. The United States Tennis Associated said an eighth wild card will be given to an Australian player not yet named.
Awarded wild cards into the men’s singles draw are Americans Amer Delic, a former NCAA singles champion; Brendan Evans, Scoville Jenkins, Austin Krajicek, Jesse Levine, and Sam Warburg, along with Carsten Ball of Australia and Laurent Recouderc of France. Krajicek, a distant relative of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, earned his wild card by capturing the USTA Boys’ 18 singles national championship, defeating Ryan Thacher 2-6 6-2 6-2 6-0 in the first battle of left-handers in the tournament’s finals history.
The United States boys’ and girls’ teams pulled off a historic feat at the World Junior Tennis Finals, each winning the 14-and-under version of Fed Cup and Davis Cup in Prostejov, Czech Republic. It is the first time in the history of the event that one country has captured both titles. The girls’ team successfully defended its 2007 title, while the boys’ team won the championship for the first time since 2003.
Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, will be the site next year for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that has been held at Amelia Island Plantation just outside Jacksonville, Florida. The tournament, which had been known as Bausch & Lomb, will also get new sponsorship and be known as The MPS Group Championships.
Kelsey Anonsen is giving up her tennis scholarship at the University of Washington to switch to the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and that school’s women’s basketball team. In high school, the 5-foot-9 (1.7m) guard led her team to a provincial basketball title and was a tournament all-star. In tennis, she was ranked sixth in the Canadian province.
SETS NEW ANTI-DOPING CODE
The International Tennis Federation has ratified a new anti-doping code which will allow more flexibility in determining sanctions. The changes, which will allow the circumstances of a case to be taken into account to a greater extent, go into effect on January 1.
Tennis great Tracy Austin is the latest sports figure to accuse a prominent Los Angeles investment broker of fraud. Austin and her husband Scott Holt filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that Gary R. Fournier charged excessive commissions on bond trades and “churned” their accounts to generate fees from unnecessary transactions. The couple claims damages “in excess of USD $500,000” on the trades, which allegedly occurred from 1994 to 2002, while Fournier worked for Salomon Smith Barney Inc. Its successor firm, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., also is named as a defendant. Fournier has denied wrongdoing. Others who have filed charges against Fournier include former basketball players Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak, B.J. Armstrong and Stacey Augmon; and former major league baseball players Sean Douglass and Rex Hudler.
Washington: Marc Gicquel and Robert Lindstedt beat Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 7-6 (6) 6-3
Mason: Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova beat Hsieh Su-Wei and Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3 4-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Istanbul: Michael Kohlman and Frank Moser beat David Skoch and Igor Zelenay 7-6 (4) 6-4
SITES TO SURF
New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com
Forest Hills: www.foresthillstennis.com
US Open: www.usopen.org
Jelena Jankovic: www.jj-jelenajankovic.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$708,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, hard
$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, hard
$74,800 Forest Hills Tennis Classic, Forest Hills, New York, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA TOUR
U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard
Rafael Nadal beat Nicolas Kiefer 6-3 6-2 in Toronto, Canada, to win the Rogers Cup
Dinara Safina won the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, California, by beating Flavia Pennetta 6-4 6-2
Nicolas Devilder beat Bjorn Phau 7-5 6-0 to win the Porsche Open in Poznan, Poland
Sara Errani won the Banka Koper Slovenia Open, defeating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 in Portoroz, Slovenia
Filippo Volandri beat Potito Starace 5-7 6-4 6-1 to win the San Marino Cepu Open in San Marino
“I win on every surface, no? I win on grass, on hard, on indoor, and on clay, too. So if I am playing my best tennis I can win on every surface, no?” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Nicolas Kiefer to win the Rogers Cup.
“I haven’t changed anything this year. I just try to practice hard every day and the results are starting to come.” – Sara Errani, who won the Slovenia Open for her second title in three weeks.
“The hard court season just started so it is not the end of the world, but I wish I could have started better. I’ve got to regroup and look forward.” – Roger Federer, after losing his opening Roger Cup match to Gilles Simon.
“I was playing like I was in a dream. I just saw the ball and hit it as hard as possible.” – Gilles Simon, after beating Roger Federer 2-6 7-5 6-4 in Toronto.
“Some points were very close and I didn’t make them. I think I shouldn’t look only at my game today, I should see the whole week in general. I think this was a big step forward for me. This is how I have to look at it.” – Nicolas Kiefer, after losing to Nadal in Toronto.
“In one of those super tiebreakers, it’s pretty much anyone ballgame.” – Mike Bryan, who with his brother Bob led the match tiebreaker 6-3 before losing the Toronto final to Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2 4-6 10-6.
“Hopefully my time will come. It’s not the end of the world.” – Jelena Jankovic, whose semifinal loss kept her from gaining the world number one ranking.
“It was a perfect match. I have nothing bad to say. My coach said it was the best match I ever played.” – Dinara Safina, after crushing Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1 in a quarterfinal match at Los Angeles.
“Before it was all golf, golf, golf. I probably practice more tennis than golf now.” – Greg Norman, who finished third in the British Open shortly after marrying tennis legend Chris Evert.
“It’s been suspended. The Tour will evaluate the results of the testing period and make a decision as to whether to adopt on-court coaching or not.” – WTA Tour spokesman Andrew Walker.
“I’m for it but they wanted more opinions. The results weren’t convincing enough and some of the younger players don’t know what they want, so we need more time to see how they feel.” – Player Council representative Patty Schnyder on the WTA Tour suspending on-court coaching.
“It’s a little distracting when you have coaches walking on court and most of them are parents. That’s what I didn’t like about it. On the other hand, it worked perfectly for me.” – Nadia Petrova, about the on-court coaching.
Bob and Mike Bryan led 6-3 in the match tiebreak at the Rogers Cup before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won the final seven points to capture their third straight doubles title. It was the third time this season the top two doubles teams have clashed, the Bryan brothers winning the Masters Series Rome, with the Canadian/Serbian team capturing the Masters Series Hamburg. It was the first time Nestor had won the Canadian title since 2000. Simonjic’s best previous finish was the quarterfinals two years ago with Fabrice Santoro.
Jelena Jankovic’s bid to become number one in the world was derailed by Dinara Safina in the semifinals of the East West Bank Classic. If she had reached the final, Jankovic would have replaced fellow Serbian Ana Ivanovic as the world’s top-ranked female player. Safina moved up one spot, from ninth to eighth, in the WTA Tour rankings.
No player has been hotter on the WTA Tour lately than Dinara Safina. She was down match point before beating qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva in the round of 16 at the East West Bank Classic. Then she lost a 4-2 opening set lead in the semifinals before winning five of the final six points in the tiebreaker and dominating the second set to knock off Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (3) 6-1. That victory put Safina in her fourth final in her last five tournaments, including the French Open, and she easily won that by beating Flavia Pennetta 6-4 6-2. The Russian moved up in the rankings from number nine to number eight, and she improved her match record to 22-3 since the start of May. Eight of her 22 wins have come against top-ten players.
Gilles Simon was the latest stumbling block for Roger Federer. The Frenchman upset the world’s top-ranked player 2-6 7-5 6-4 to hand the Swiss player his second straight defeat. It was Federer’s first match since his five-set loss to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Federer appeared to be in great shape, winning the first four games of the match before losing to Simon. Then Federer and fellow Swiss Stanislav Wawrinka, preparing for the Beijing Olympics, lost their second-round doubles match to Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-4 6-4.
With his victory in Toronto, Rafael Nadal is ready to overtake Roger Federer for the world number one ranking. Federer has held the top ranking for a record 234 weeks, but his commanding 1,445-point cushion at the start of this year is now less than 300 points. “Every player wants to be number one,” Nadal said. “I would love to be number one, but I am number two right now. I’m very happy to be number two, because with my titles, with my points, in a normal situation I would have been number one before. … Because if I am number two, it’s because in front of me there is amazing player like Roger.”
John McEnroe has come to the rescue of the United States Tennis Association. In March, the USTA prepared a series of commercials to promote the 10-tournament summer season known as the U.S. Open Series. The commercials featured the world’s top players and former player Justin Gimelstob. But Gimelstob unleashed a tirade against former WTA Tour player and model Anna Kournikova, and although he has since apologized, the USTA decided to kill the ads. Along came McEnroe, who shot new footage that was inserted into the existing ads. “They should have asked me in the first place,” McEnroe said. “The U.S. Open has always been close to my heart. I grew up in Queens.”
Fans at the Tanga Cement tennis championships in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, complained about one first-round match, charging unfair pairings. Sebastian Mtupili, who is more than 30 years old, beat ten-year-old John Njau 6-0 6-0. Players from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Tanzania competed in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and veterans, but there was no lower age limit for those entering the tournament. The singles winners each received USD $1,000.
A knee injury is keeping Venus Williams on the sidelines this week. The Wimbledon champion withdrew from the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Montreal, Canada, because she did not want to risk aggravating the tendinitis in her knee ahead of the Beijing Olympics, according to tournament director Eugene Lapierre. Also pulling out of the tournament was Tatiana Golovin, who has been sidelined since injuring her back at a tournament in Germany in May.
Serena Williams pulled out of the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, California, because of her left knee. That came a few days after she withdrew from the semifinals at Stanford, California, with the same injury. “I’m working hard to be ready for the Olympics and U.S. Open,” Serena said.
Who will be seeking gold in tennis at the Beijing Olympics is a work in flux. Mary Pierce withdrew because of injury and was replaced by Amelie Mauresmo, who also withdrew. So Pauline Parmentier will play both singles and doubles for France. Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine will replace the injured Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.
Chung Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung had to rally to win their seventh WTA Tour doubles title. The Taiwanese pair trailed 6-2 4-2 in the final of the East West Bank Classic before fighting back to defeat Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlrova 2-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak). The top seeded team in the tournament, Chan and Chuang have now won two titles at the Tier II level or above. Their first five titles came at the Tier III and IV level. They won a Tier I event at Rome earlier this year.
SANCHEZ VICARIO TO WAIT
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will have to wait two years for her latest honor. The Spanish star had to miss her induction into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame when acute gastroenteritis forced her to cancel her plans to travel to Montreal and instead remain in Spain for treatment. Sanchez Vicario, who won the Canadian tournament in 1992 and 1994, retired as a player after the 2002 season and has since become a tennis analyst for Spanish television. She also is tournament director for a women’s event in Barcelona, Spain.
Boris Becker was on hand in Toronto where he was inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame during the men’s event. Becker won the tournament in 1986.
When an eight-year-old girl playing her first junior tennis tournament questioned a number of line calls, officials became suspicious. After they checked, Anastasiya Korzh was ejected from the tournament when she was found to be wearing a radio earpiece under her headband, linked by a cord to a receiver under her shirt. Korzh’s father said he was using the earpiece only to help his daughter keep score in the under-10 tournament.
No more on-court coaching for players on the WTA Tour. The controversial initiative, which was never used at the Grand Slam tournaments, has been suspended by the women’s tour, which will evaluate the results of the testing period and make a decision whether or not to bring it back.
Carlista Mohammed of Trinidad and Tobago will be taking a lot of hardware with her when she travels to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she is on a full tennis scholarship. The 18-year-old Mohammed recently won the women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles at the 2008 Evian National Tennis Championships in Trinidad and Tobago. She also won the singles titles at both the Citi-Tranquil and South Open Classifieds tournaments. “It feels really good to be leaving with everything,” said Mohammed, who will be majoring in linguistics with a minor in sports psychology at Southern University.
SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Eleven tennis players would love to celebrate their birthday with a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. The players who will turn a year older during the Beijing Games, and their birthdays, all in August, are: Roger Federer, Switzerland, Aug. 8; Kateryna Bondarenko, Ukraine, 8; Pepa Martinez, Spain, 12; Nicolas Lapentti, Ecuador, 13; Alona Bondarenko, Ukraine, 13; Lu Yen-Hsun, Chinese Taipei, 14; Robin Soderling, Sweden, 14; Chan Yung-Jan, Chinese Taipei, 17; Liezel Huber, United States, 21; Nicolas Almagro, Spain, 21; and Olga Govortsova, Belarus, 23.
Kimiko Date-Krumm has continued her amazing return to pro tennis by reaching the finals in singles and doubles at the USD $25,000 Miyazaki tournament in Japan. She won the singles, beating Kyung-Yee Chae of Korea 6-3 6-2, but lost the doubles in a match tiebreak 4-6 6-3 10-7.
Jelena Dokic also was a winner in her latest stop on the comeback trail. She captured a USD $25,000 ITF tournament in Darmstadt, Germany, beating Michelle Gerards of the Netherlands 6-0 6-0 in the final.
Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Michal Mertinak of Slovakia have been suspended and fined by the ATP for betting on tennis matches. Cermak was banned for 10 weeks and fined USD $15,000, while Mertinak received a two-week suspension and a $3,000 penalty. Both were doubles winners earlier this month. Cermak teamed with Roger Wassen to win in Amersfoort, Netherlands, while Mertinak won in Umag, Croatia, with Petr Pala. The ATP said neither player placed bets on his own matches, and the independent hearing officer found no evidence of any intent to affect the outcome of any matches wagered upon.
After dropping his asking price by USD $2 million, Pete Sampras sold his home in Beverly Hills, California. The former tennis star reportedly dropped the price from $25 million to $23 million for the two-story house that has five bedrooms and twelve bathrooms. There is a detached guesthouse, a separate gym and a tennis court. The main house includes a home theater and the master bedroom suite has his-and-hers bathrooms.
SEARCHING FOR DOLLARS
Georg von Waldenfels, head of the German Tennis Federation, told a court that the ATP Tour’s planned tournament restructuring would have a devastating effect on the annual men’s clay court event in Hamburg. The first witness in a federal trial held in Wilmington, Delaware, von Waldenfels said the ATP’s plan to move the Hamburg tournament from May to July and downgrade it to second-tier status would make it difficult to attract top players to Germany since a July date would come when the top players are gearing up for the North American hard court season that leads up to the U.S. Open. The German federation has filed suit claiming the ATP’s tournament restructuring violates antitrust laws by attempting to monopolize player commitments and tournament sanctions in men’s professional tennis.
The bird carcass causing a stink at a tennis tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, will be staying right where it is. The dead heron fledgling likely fell out of a nest in the tree and died, dangling several meters (yards) above a path between tennis courts at Stanley Park. City parks board chairwoman Korina Houghton said the bird won’t be removed because doing so could disturb the large colony of endangered great blue heron nesting in the trees above, one of the largest colonies in the Canadian province.
Toronto: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-2 4-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Poznan: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Santiago Giraldo and Alberto Martin 3-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)
San Marino: Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau beat Fabio Colangelo and Philipp Marx 7-5 7-5
Los Angeles: Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung beat Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlrova 2-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Portoroz: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual beat Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-1
SITES TO SURF
Los Angeles: www.countrywideclassic.com
Vale do Lobo: www.grandchampions.org
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$2,450,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, hard
$135,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Giulia, Cordenons, Italy, clay
$100,000 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Vancouver, Canada, hard
$1,340,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal Canada, hard
$145,000 Nordea Nordic Light Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard
s Tennis Masters, Graz, Austria, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$525,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, hard
$125,000 Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard
$100,000 ITF event, Monterrey, Mexico, hard
Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Vale do Lobo, Portugal, hard