On a busy Monday in Miami, all of the women’s fourth-round matches unfold. You can find a preview of all eight here in addition to a few of the remaining men’s third-round encounters.
Garbine Muguruza vs. Li Na: Into the fourth round for the second straight Premier Mandatory tournament, the Spanish rising star continues to consolidate her position as a player to watch this year. Indian Wells finalist Caroline Wozniacki became the latest player to learn about Muguruza’s ascendancy the hard way, thoroughly dismantled on Sunday. A day later, the youngster trains her weapons on Li Na, who has produced consistently outstanding tennis in the few tournaments that she has played this year. The Australian Open runner-up has lost only to Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka in 2013, although a knee injury sidelined her for several weeks after Melbourne. When she returned this week, her ball-striking looked as clean if not as audacious as it had in January. Never at her best in Miami, Li could turn a page now.
Serena Williams vs. Dominika Cibulkova: Awaiting the winner of the previous match in the quarterfinals is the world No. 1, assuming that she can survive the test posed by the shortest woman in the top 30. Cibulkova vanished from relevance after reaching the Sydney final, where Radwanska double-bageled her, but she pushed Serena’s predecessor in the spot to the brink in the same round here a year ago. That match against Azarenka, for which she served twice, revealed how much her explosive forehand can threaten taller opponents with more effortless power. Against a server like Serena, who struck 20 aces against her at Wimbledon in 2010, Cibulkova’s short wingspan may prevent her from creating pressure in return games and exploiting the erratic baseline play that Williams showed in the last round.
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Andy Murray: The memory of what unfolded when he faced Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells may reverberate through Dimitrov’s mind if he takes a lead against Murray. Serving for the first set that time, he conceded four double faults in a painful display of nerves. Dimitrov also took Murray to a first-set tiebreak wen they met in the Brisbane final this year, only to lose the tiebreak decisively and fade thereafter. Much more impressive than he looked at Indian Wells, Murray showed minimal mercy to another rising phenom in Bernard Tomic. His two-handed backhand should break down Dimitrov’s one-hander unless the Bulgarian enjoys an excellent serving day that allows him to dictate points with his forehand.
John Isner vs. Marin Cilic: Among the stranger statistics of the ATP is Cilic’s undefeated record against Americans, which includes victories over playesr like Roddick and Querrey. That perfection might continue against a giant exhausted from his epic victory over Ivan Dodig in the sweltering Miami heat. Mired in a slump for the last several months, Isner will have gained confidence from winning the type of close match that he so often plays, but he generally does not recover well after winning them and does not have an impressive history in Miami. The slow surface will blunt the serves of both men, a greater concern for Isner than the more balanced Cilic.
Maria Sharapova vs. Klara Zakopalova: The only woman in the lower half of the women’s draw who has defeated Sharapova on a hard court, Zakopalova halted the other Russian Maria in the wake of the latter’s strong fortnight at Indian Wells. That sole victory came a decade agao at the Australian Open, however, and the Czech subsided uneventfully when they met in Doha this February. Sharapova struggled on serve when Zakopalova took her to a third set at Roland Garros last year, and she struggled on serve again on the windy afternoon of her previous match. But she should break Zakopalova’s serve frequently with her rapier-like returns, keeping this counterpuncher on her heels from the outset.
Richard Gasquet vs. Mikhail Youzhny: These two men have developed a reputation for suffering ignominious meltdowns, including an occasion here when Youzhny drew blood from his head by smashing his racket against it. Another of those occasions featured the Frenchman surrendering a two-set lead to his fellow headcase at the Australian Open. Well past his prime, the Russian still can uncork one-handed backhands scarcely less lovely than Gasquet’s signature shot. Moreover, Youzhny has won four of their seven career meetings, surprising considering his opponent’s superior weapons.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sloane Stephens: The defending champion has suffered a lull in form since winning consecutive titles to start 2013, dominated by Li and Petra Kvitova before Kirilenko upset her at Indian Wells. Radwanska dropped a set in the third round to Magdalena Rybarikova, a talented player but still a journeywoman, so she must raise her level against an Australian Open semifinalist. That said, Stephens ate a bagel from Olga Govortsova in her first set of the tournament, and she had lost four of her previous five matches before that victory. At Cincinnati last summer, she extended Radwanska to a third set despite lacking the firepower that normally troubles the Pole. Something similar could happen here in a match filled with long rallies.
Milos Raonic vs. Sam Querrey: Meeting for the fourth time since the start of 2012, these two giants play essentially the same styles in a matchup determined by execution on the day. In that regard, one must give the edge to Raonic, who defeated Querrey comfortably at San Jose last month in avenging two losses to the American last year. The slow outdoor courts of Miami favor the Canadian’s massive weapons and preference for short points much less than does the indoor arena in San Jose. In rallying past former nemesis Lukasz Kubot, Querrey continued to look vulnerable in a year when few victories have come easily. (Or, the more pessimistic might say, at all.) This match should come down to first-serve percentage and focus, critical in a match that hinges upon a tiny handful of points and in which any mistake can prove fatal.
Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Kirsten Flipkens: Recovered from a serious issue with blood clots last year, Flipkens reached the second week of the Australian Open and upset Kvitova yesterday in an oddly oscillating three-setter. Some of her better results have come on grass, which showcases her biting slice and her fine hands at net. Aligned opposite her is a Croat who clawed past Petkovic in a third-set tiebreak after upsetting Julia Goerges in the previous round. Like Flipkens, Tomljanovic has struggled with sporadic injuries, and she has played only a handful of WTA tournaments in the last several months. Transitioning overnight from the underdog to the favorite, the Belgian should fancy her chances to reach the most significant quarterfinal of her career.
Roberta Vinci vs. Alize Cornet: In a section that imploded, either of these women plausibly could reach a semifinal and collect the valuable ranking points that come with it. The main question regarding this match concerns whether Cornet can recover in time from a three-set victory that forced her to leave the court in a wheelchair. On the other hand, Vinci needed plenty of energy to grind through a three-setter of her own against Suarez Navarro, testing the veteran’s stamina. Her backhand slices could prove vital in testing the patience of an ever-edgy Cornet.
Sara Errani vs. Ana Ivanovic: After the Serb had won their two previous meetings, the Italian turned the tables at Roland Garros last year in a match that Ivanovic controlled initially before letting it slip away. The steadiness of Errani has allowed her to outlast streaky shot-makers like the former Roland Garros champion over the last year, but the latter displayed her best form in several months during her two victories here. For her part, Errani has lost just five games in two matches, the fewest of any woman left in the draw. If Ivanovic bursts to a fast start and sustains it, as she did against Kuznetsova, she could overwhelm this opponent before she settles. If Errani can find her footing and extend the rallies, meanwhile, she could complicate the plot for a woman who prefers her matches straightforward.
Sorana Cirstea vs. Jelena Jankovic: Until Jankovic won their most recent encounter in Dallas last summer, Cirstea had swept all of her meetings against an opponent consistently ranked higher than her, although each stretched into a final set and none came on an outdoor hard court. The Romanian brunette managed to upset Kerber a round after barely eking out a victory over Silvia Soler-Espinosa, a pair of results that illustrates how wide her range of form extends. Almost as impressive as the Kerber upset was Jankovic’s victory over Nadia Petrova, her seventh win in her last eight matches with the only loss coming in an airtight clash with Kuznetsova. Both women thus should enter this match with confidence, and they eye a similar opportunity to Vinci and Cornet, the winner of whom would meet the winner of this match in the quarterfinals.
"Lucky Loser" Lauren Davis Out of Luck in Miami
By Jane Voigt
MIAMI, FL (March 24, 2013) — How does a tournament fare when it loses star power? Sure, Venus Williams is out, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were never in, and Juan Martin del Potro lost early. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see here at Sony Open Tennis, where a slew of story-lines and drama played out today.
Case in point: American and “Lucky Loser” Lauren Davis.
Davis’ chance to play in the main draw of the Sony Open Tennis finally materialized, as luck would have it, a couple of days ago. In her three previous appearances in Miami, Davis lost in qualifications with her first attempt coming in 2010 when she was ranked No. 896 in the world.
But when the No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka withdrew with an ankle injury the day of her second round opener (as a seed, Azarenka had a bye in the first round) on Friday, Davis jumped all over what many would call fate or a godsend. For Davis the green light was an obvious invitation to swing out.
Up against her friend and fellow American teen, Madison Keys in the second round, Davis fought through to a win taking the dramatic third-set tiebreak 9-7. Her victory came the same day as Jamie Hampton, another team America player lost her third-set tiebreak to Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, the No. 20 seed.
Davis had landed on the high plain and awaited Alize Cornet of France, the tournament’s 32nd-seed, in the third round.
With Cornet at 23 years old and Davis at just 19, both young women had a lot riding on their match today. Davis, ranked No. 81, continued to feel the breezes of a breakthrough and wanted nothing more to move on in the draw. Cornet aimed to sustain her upward trend in the rankings, which peaked in February 2009, at world No. 11, and fell to a low of No. 89 in 2011.
However, Lauren Davis’ luck ran out today. On fire from the first game and throughout the first set, Davis completely overwhelmed Cornet. Davis blasted winners off first serves and smacked backhands with the conviction of a champion. The match would certainly go her way, at least that was the vibe a predominantly American audience exuded.
Both women hunkered down as rallies lengthened, with fan murmurs rising as each stroke popped inside the small stadium and an anticipation became palpable. Who would make the error, the gusty winds proving a technical hazard from one end of the court.
They threw in loopy moon balls and Cornet executed precise drop shots that forced Davis to peddle with the speed of light up to the net and face the foreseen error. She consistently arrived late.
In the eighth game, Davis went down 0-40, and saved three break points only to lose her hold on the match with a double fault.
To add insult to injury, Davis was stung by a wasp.
In the third set, Davis obviously had nothing in the tank and a welt on her upper thigh to boot. Her crisp groundies struggled to penetrate the court. Cornet, although dragging, was quicker to take advantage of opportunities that had propelled her at the start of the match.
As the time clock ticked away — for a grueling 2 hours and 23 minutes — Cornet found rhythm and stamina and her serve, which were totally missing early on, while Davis meanwhile struggled to maintain her form. Cornet pressed the 19-year-old American in the second set, staking ground for her comeback and eventual win, 2-6 6-3 6-2.
“We were both pretty worn down at the end,” Davis admitted. “She kept the ball in play better in the end.”
Davis, though, was not discouraged by her loss. She knew the experience would benefit her game and pro career, which only began two years ago.
“It’s been a great experience,” she said, still showing signs of disappointment. “It was a pleasant surprise to make it this far. I’m happy to improve. I need to adjust my diet and fitness. I needed more endurance today.”
Davis will now return to the Evert Tennis Academy. She moved from Cleveland, her birthplace, to Boca Raton and smiled as she recalled the moment.
“It was the best decision of my life to move from Cleveland,” she said emphatically. “It’s like a family there for me. I’ve learned so much.”
Over the course of her young career, Lauren has scored wins over Yanina Wickmayer, a top 25 player, and Sorana Cirstea earlier this year in Hobart. Today, Cirstea surprised No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber in a lopsided 6-4 6-0 victory also in Miami.
Although Davis’ match could be categorized as lopsided, it ended up as a match of attrition.
Fans were obviously disheartened, as they tromped down the stairs and out to another match. But they should remain heartened. Davis’s five-foot-two stature embraces a huge heart, competitive spirit and game that could lift her to the top 20 in the near future.
Sunday at the Sony: Sharapova, Serbs, and More
As the third round begins in the men’s draw, the women finish deciding who will reach the final sixteen at the Sony Open.
Maria Sharapova vs. Elena Vesnina: The world #2 has won 14 straight matches against fellow Russians, but she lost her last meeting with Vesnina in the fall of 2010. An Indian Wells doubles champion, her opponent has compiled a quietly solid season in singles that has included her first career title and a second-week appearance at the Australian Open. Each Russian handled a rising young star in her opener with ease, Sharapova crushing Eugenie Bouchard and Vesnina dismissing Donna Vekic. The only Indian Wells finalist still in the Miami draw, the women’s champion there may face her greatest challenge from the heat and humidity of a tournament that she never has won.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Ana Ivanovic: Sony Open organizers showed their knowledge of tennis when they chose this match for the evening marquee ahead of those featuring higher-ranked champions. While neither Kuznetsova nor Ivanovic has won a major in nearly four years, one should not miss this battle of fellow major champions with ferocious forehands. Kuznetsova possesses the superior athleticism and Ivanovic the superior serve, an advantage less compelling on a slow surface where she never has reached the quarterfinals. A champion here in 2006, the Russian aims to build on her miniature upset of countrywoman Makarova, but Ivanovic looked as brilliant as she has all year in an opener beset by rain and power failures. Nerves beset both women when they try to close out sets and matches, so no lead will be safe.
Albert Ramos vs. James Blake: An unthinkable prospect when the tournament began, a quarterfinal appearance for James Blake now looms well within the range of plausibility. Much improved from recent form at Indian Wells, he continued to turn back the clock with a resounding victory over seeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau. Meanwhile, the upset of Juan Martin Del Potro in this section has left him no significant obstacle to overcome. The Spanish lefty across the net plays a steady game that will test Blake’s consistency, but the American should relish the opportunity to showcase his flashy skills under the lights at this prestigious event.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Tommy Haas: Each man survived talented opponents in the previous round, Dolgopolov dominating 2008 champion Nikolay Davydenko and Haas weathering a three-setter against Igor Sijsling. The unpredictable quirks in the Ukrainian’s game could fluster the veteran of the famously flammable temper, but the latter has produced more impressive results over the past several weeks. When they met in last year’s Washington final, Dolgopolov rallied from losing the first set to outlast Haas.
Kevin Anderson vs. Janko Tipsarevic: Profiting from his vast advantage in height, Anderson defeated the second-ranked Serb three years ago on North American hard courts. He started this year more promisingly than any year before, outside a February injury, and has won multiple matches at every tournament. In contrast, Tipsarevic had lost ten consecutive sets (some resoundingly) from the Australian Open through Indian Wells before snapping that skid against a qualifier here. Hampered by nagging injuries, he has suffered a sharp loss of confidence that could trouble him when he attempts to break the South African’s intimidating serve. When the rallies unfold, however, Tipsarevic’s superior movement and balance could reap rewards.
Roberta Vinci vs. Carla Suarez Navarro: On the gritty, slow hard courts of Miami, these two clay specialists look to continue their encouraging results from last month. While Vinci reached the semifinals in Dubai, Suarez Navarro reached the Premier final in Acapulco. Gone early from the California desert to an unheralded opponent, the Italian narrowly avoided a similar disappointment in navigating past Christina McHale. She has lost all of her previous meetings, and all of her previous sets, to Suarez Navarro in a surprising head-to-head record considering their relative experience. Just six rankings spots separate these two women, so one can expect a tightly contested encounter of elegant one-handed backhands.
Jelena Jankovic vs. Nadia Petrova: Among the most entertaining women’s finals in recent Miami history was the three-setter that Jankovic contested against Serena Williams in 2008. The sluggish court speed showcased her counterpunching game at its best, a level from which it has long since receded. While she has won her last four meetings from Petrova, none of those has come since her precipitous plunge from the #1 ranking that started in 2009. The Russian’s game has aged more effectively, allowing her to stay within range of the top ten even at the age of 30, and she enjoyed an unexpected renaissance with two titles last fall. Like Jankovic, her two-handed backhand down the line remains her signature shot, but she will look to set the tone with penetrating first serves and aggressive court positioning as well.
Alize Cornet vs. Lauren Davis: The only singles match not on a televised court, this overlooked encounter pits a French former prodigy against an extraordinarily lucky loser. When Azarenka withdrew from the Sony Open, Lauren Davis filled her shoes with poise in an epic victory over countrywoman Madison Keys that climaxed with a third-set tiebreak. Having benefited from Azarenka’s bye as well, Davis has progressed through more rounds in the main draw than she did in the qualifying draw. The last American woman left in this half, she faces a winnable match against Cornet, who also survived a tense clash with Laura Robson in which she remarkably never lost her serve through the last two sets.
What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Dubai, Memphis, and Bogota
Shifting down the Persian Gulf, eight of the top ten women move from Doha to Dubai for the only Premier tournament this week. In North and South America are two International tournaments on dramatically different surfaces. Here is the weekly look at what to expect in the WTA.
Dubai: Still the top seed despite her dethroning last week, Azarenka can collect valuable rankings points at a tournament from which she withdrew in 2012. She looked far sharper in Doha than she did for most of her title run in Melbourne, and once again she eyes a potential quarterfinal with Sara Errani. Although the Italian has rebounded well from a disastrous start to the season, she lacks any weapons with which to threaten Azarenka. Between them stands last year’s runner-up Julia Goerges, an enigma who seems destined to remain so despite her first-strike potential. If Sloane Stephens can upset Errani in the second round, meanwhile, a rematch of the Australian Open semifinal could loom in the quarterfinals. The top seed might expect a test from Cibulkova in the second round, since she lost to her at Roland Garros last year and needed a miraculous comeback to escape her in Miami. But Cibulkova injured her leg in Fed Cup a week ago and has faltered since reaching the Sydney final.
Having won just one match until Doha, Stosur bounced back somewhat by recording consecutive wins in that Premier Five field. The Aussie may face three straight lefties in Makarova, Lepchenko, and Kerber, the last of whom has the greatest reputation but the least momentum. While Makarova reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Lepchenko displayed her newfound confidence in upsetting both Errani and Vinci on clay in Fed Cup—a rare feat for an American. Vinci herself also stands in this section, from which someone unexpected could emerge. Azarenka need fear little from either Kerber or Stosur, both of whom she has defeated routinely in most of their previous meetings, so a semifinal anticlimax might beckon. Not that Doha didn’t produce a semifinal anticlimax from much more prestigious names.
Atop the third quarter stands the greatest enigma of all in Petra Kvitova, who won four straight matches between Fed Cup and Doha before nearly halting Serena’s bid for the #1 ranking. Considering how far she had sunk over the previous several months, unable to string together consecutive victories, that accomplishment marked an immense step forward. Kvitova can capitalize immediately on a similar surface in the section occupied by defending champion Radwanska. In contrast to last week, the Czech can outhit anyone whom she could face before the semifinals, so she will determine her own fate. If she implodes, however, Ivanovic could repeat her upset when they met in last year’s Fed Cup final before colliding with Radwanska for the third time this year. Also of note in this section is the all-wildcard meeting between rising stars Putintseva and Robson.
Breaking with her usual routine, Serena has committed to the Middle East hard courts without reserve by entering both Doha and Dubai. Whether she plays the latter event in a physical condition that looks less than promising may remain open to question until she takes the court. So strong is the draw that Serena could open against world #11 Bartoli, who owns a Wimbledon victory against her from 2011 but has not sustained that success. The eighth-seeded Wozniacki proved a small thorn in her side last year by defeating her in Miami and threatening her in Rome, so a quarterfinal could intrigue if the Dane can survive Safarova to get there and if Serena arrives at less than full strength.
Final: Azarenka vs. Kvitova
Memphis: Overshadowed a little by the accompanying ATP 500 tournament, this event has lacked star power for the last few years. Rather than Venus, Sharapova, or Davenport, the top seed in 2013 goes to Kirsten Flipkens, a player largely unknown in the United States. This disciple of Clijsters may deserve more attention than she has received, however, rallying to reach the second week of the Australian Open in January after surviving blood clots last spring. Former finalist Shahar Peer and 2011 champion Magdalena Rybarikova attempt to resurrect their careers by returning to the scene of past triumphs, but lefty Ksenia Pervak may offer the most credible challenge to Flipkens in this quarter.
Of greater note is the hard-serving German who holds the third seed and should thrive on a fast indoor court. Although Lisicki has struggled to find her form away from grass, she showed flickers of life by charging within a tiebreak of the Pattaya City title earlier this month. Kristina Mladenovic, a potential quarterfinal opponent, delivered a key statement in the same week at the Paris Indoors, where she upset Kvitova en route to the semifinals. Before then, though, this French teenager had displayed little hint of such promise, so one feels inclined to attribute that result more to the Czech’s frailty for now.
Part of an elite doubles team with compatriot Andrea Hlavackova, Lucie Hradecka has excelled on surfaces where her powerful serve can shine. Like Lisicki, she should enjoy her week in Memphis amid a section of opponents who cannot outhit her from the baseline. Among them is the largely irrelevant Melanie Oudin, who surfaced last year to win her first career title before receding into anonymity again. Neither Oudin nor the fourth-seeded Heather Watson possesses significant first-strike power, so their counterpunching will leave them at a disadvantage on the indoor hard court. But Watson has improved her offense (together with her ranking) over the last few months and should relish the chance to take advantage of a friendly draw. Interestingly, Hradecka’s doubles partner Hlavackova could meet her in the quarterfinals if she can upset Watson.
Finishing runner-up to Sharapova here in 2010, Sofia Arvidsson holds the second seed in this yaer’s tournament as she eyes a potential quarterfinal against one of two Americans. While Chanelle Scheepers anchors the other side of the section, Jamie Hampton could build upon her impressive effort against Azarenka at the Australian Open to shine on home soil. Nor should one discount the massive serve of Coco Vandeweghe, which could compensate for her one-dimensionality here.
Final: Lisicki vs. Hradecka
Bogota: Like the ATP South American tournaments in February, this event offers clay specialists an opportunity to compile ranking points in a relatively unintimidating setting. Top seed and former #1 Jankovic fits that category, having reached multiple semifinals at Roland Garros during her peak years. She has not won a title in nearly three years, but a breakthrough could happen here. In her section stand Pauline Parmentier and Mariana Duque Marino, the latter of whom stunned Bogota audiences by winning the 2010 title here over Kerber. As her wildcard hints, she never quite vaulted from that triumph to anything more significant. Serious opposition to Jankovic might not arise until the semifinals, when she faces the aging Pennetta. Once a key part of her nation’s Fed Cup achievements, the Italian veteran won their most recent clay meeting and looks likely to ensure a rematch with nobody more notable than the tiny Dominguez Lino blocking her.
The lower half of the draw features a former Roland Garros champion in Schiavone and a French prodigy who nearly broke through several years ago before stagnating in Cornet. Testing the latter in a potential quarterfinal is Timea Babos, who won her first career title around this time last year with a promising serve. For Schiavone, the greatest resistance could come from lanky Dutch lefty Arantxa Rus. Known most for her success on clay, Rus won a match there from Clijsters and a set from Sharapova, exploiting the extra time that the surface allows for her sluggish footwork. Also of note in this half is Paula Ormaechea, a rising Argentine who probably ranks as the most notable women’s star expected from South America in the next generation. Can she step into Dulko’s shoes?
Final: Jankovic vs. Schiavone
Check back shortly for the companion preview on the three ATP tournaments this week in Marseille, Memphis, and Buenos Aires!
Wizards of Oz (III): Stosur, Venus, Sharapova, Djokovic, and More on Australian Open Day 3
The first day of the second round looks rather sparse in general, but we picked out a few potential diamonds in the rough. Let’s start with the ladies for a change.
Zheng vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena): When they met a week ago in Sydney, the Aussie suffered from a slow start, rallied to reach a final set, and then let a late lead slip away in a match of unpredictable twists and turns. Although Stosur improved on last year’s performance here by escaping the first round, her first victory of 2013 did not come without a series of wobbles such as donating an early break and failing to serve out the first set. She won fewer free points from her serve than she usually does, which could spell trouble against Zheng again. Despite her limitations on return, due to her short wingspan, the Chinese doubles specialist competes ferociously and should outlast Stosur from the baseline with her more balanced weapons. But she struggled even more to survive her opener and had stumbled through a string of losses before that upset of the Aussie in Sydney.
Venus vs. Cornet (RLA): At the 2009 Australian Open, Cornet stood within a point of the quarterfinals and a signature victory over then-#1 Safina. Match point upon match point slipped away, confidence evaporated, shoulder trouble sidelined her soon afterwards, and the petite Frenchwoman remained too mentally and physically dubious to fulfill her promise as a junior. The relatively slow court might suit her game more than the volatile, inconsistent style of Venus, but the American raised her level dramatically from the Hopman Cup while dropping just one game in the first round. By contrast, the Frenchwoman struggled to hold throughout that match, especially under pressure, so only an implosion by Venus could repeat the Suarez Navarro upset from the same Australian Open in which Cornet faced Safina.
Sharapova vs. Doi (Hisense Arena): On a late afternoon without many marquee matches, the Sharapova Show offers a decent way to end the day session. The 2008 champion has blitzed almost all first-week opponents at majors since the start of 2012, but the caliber of those opponents often has prevented one from accurately judging her form. Doi, who defeated Schiavone last year, may surpass expectations after defeating the more familiar Petra Martic in the first round. In general, though, the value of this match comes from juxtaposing Maria’s form here against what Venus shows in the night session, two days ahead of their highly anticipated third-round collision.
Pervak vs. Watson (Court 8): While Murray and Robson attract most of the attention currently circulating around British tennis, and justly so, Heather Watson may develop into a meaningful talent in her own right. The Bolletieri-trained baseliner twice has taken sets from Sharapova and defeated fellow rising star Sloane Stephens last year before finishing her season with a title in Osaka. Not lacking for durability, she won one of the season’s longest finals there and will attempt to grind down Pervak with a combination of depth and court coverage. Teenagers have excelled in the women’s draw so far, eleven reaching the second round, so this youth movement might bode well for the 20-year-old Watson.
Djokovic vs. Harrison (RLA): The Serb has won all five of their sets and looked his usual imposing self in the first round against Paul-Henri Mathieu, showing off his elastic movement and transition game at the major that most rewards it. For Harrison, who avenged his Olympics loss to Giraldo in four sets, an upset bid will require greater focus and competitive stamina than he has shown so far in his career. Typical of his stop-and-start results was a week in Brisbane when he defeated Isner and lost meekly to Benneteau in the next round. Harrison will need to take more chances earlier in the rallies than he did against Giraldo, especially on his forehand, to take Djokovic outside his comfort zone against an opponent who does nothing better than he does. As with his match against Murray last year, this meeting offers a useful measuring stick to test Harrison’s progress.
Malisse vs. Verdasco (MCA): Even in the twilight of his career, the Belgian defeated the Spaniard on the latter’s weakest surface at Wimbledon last summer. Malisse still can unleash blistering backhands when he times his short swings effectively, and Verdasco looked thoroughly human in a five-set rollercoaster against David Goffin. Both men have shown a tendency to alternate the sublime with the ridiculous, often finding the latter at the least opportune moments, but a comedy of errors could provide its own form of entertainment.
Lacko vs. Tipsarevic (Court 2): The eighth seed played his best tennis in months when he battled past Hewitt in a straight-setter closer than it looked. Ripping winner after winner down the sidelines, Tipsarevic looked every inch the elite player that he has become and could charge deep into a draw where he inhabits the least formidable quarter. He has struggled for much of his career with sustaining a high performance level from match to match, though, which makes a letdown a plausible possibility. If he does, Lacko might have just enough talent to punish him for it.
Lopez vs. Stepanek (Court 3): Aligned opposite each other are two net-rushers from opposite sides, the Spaniard from the left and the Czech from the right. As a result, the tennis might trigger memories of decades past before baseline tennis established its stranglehold over the ATP. Stepanek rallied from a two-set deficit in the first round to ambush Troicki, but a comeback would prove more difficult against a server like Lopez, who has won sets from Federer before. While the Czech has dominated most of their rivalry, the Spaniard did win their last meeting on a similar speed of court in Montreal.
Querrey vs. Baker (Court 6): The man who mounted a long-term comeback meets a man who mounted a more ordinary comeback that culminated last year when he rejoined the top 30. Querrey typically has struggled at majors other than the US Open, however, and he lost a set to an anonymous, underpowered Spaniard in his opener. If he can bomb a high percentage of first serves, Baker may not match him hold for hold. On the other hand, a sloppy effort from Querrey would open the door for his compatriot to expose his meager backhand, one-dimensional tactics, and unsteady footwork.
WTA Bad Gastein – Cornet prevails over Wickmayer, as Goerges and Craybas take doubles title
By Romi Cvitkovic
Although the WTA tournament in Bad Gastein started off with days of rain, the tournament ended in tears of joy for one of its winners, Alize Cornet. In just her second career title, she dispatched of Yanina Wickmayer 7-5, 7-6(1) in just over two hours.
“It has been four years I haven’t won a singles title, so it’s just happiness now. I’m so happy,” Cornet said. “It’s been a super week. I really love this tournament. I love the people here and I feel everybody loves me as well. I’m not Austrian, but I feel like I’m Austrian when I’m here. It’s my favorite tournament … What more can I ask for than winning it?”
After struggling for most of the season, Cornet made a breakthrough in Stuttgart this April, blasting through the qualification rounds before retiring to Maria Sharapova in the second round. She then bested her results by losing in the finals of Strasbourg to Francesca Schiavone in two tights sets.
The doubles final featured the standout duos of Julia Goerges and Jill Craybas defeating Petra Martic and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-7(4), 6-4, 11-9. Although Goerges was the number one singles seed and Martic the fifth seed, both fell out in the first round only to enjoy Bad Gastein a little longer and meet in the doubles finals.
Check out the full gallery of the singles and doubles matches, as well as both awards ceremonies. All photo credit to Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.
WTA Bad Gastein – Martic goes paragliding as Cornet and Wickmayer setup finals showdown
Full singles results from the Nurnberger Gastein Ladies WTA tournament in Austria. Check out the full gallery below, including on-court action shots and a paraglider ride with Petra Martic!
 Alize Cornet d. Estrella Cabeza Candela 6-1, 6-2
 Ksenia Pervak d. [Q] Chichi Scholl 6-4, 6-1
Mandy Minella d  Johanna Larsson 1-6, 6-2, 6-2
[2/W] Yanina Wickmayer d. Yvonne Meusburger 6-3, 6-2
 Alize Cornet d.  Ksenia Pervak 6-2, 6-2
[2/W] Yanina Wickmayer d. Mandy Minella 7-6(3), 6-3
WTA Bad Gastein gallery – Wickmayer, Cornet, Minella through to quarterfinals
After several days of rain in Bad Gastein, the sun finally arrived on the courts of the Nurnberger Gastein Ladies tournament in Austria, and the quarterfinals have been set. Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm has been in Bad Gastein all week, including today’s on-court action. Check out his full gallery below!
Results – Thursday, June 14, 2012
Singles – Second Round
(2/WC) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) 76(4) 63
(3) Ksenia Pervak (KAZ) d. Sarah Gronert (GER) 62 63
Mandy Minella (LUX) d. (4) Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) 62 36 63
(Q) Chichi Scholl (USA) d. (6) Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 63 64
(7) Alizé Cornet (FRA) d. Sacha Jones (AUS) 63 62
(8) Johanna Larsson (SWE) d. Jill Craybas (USA) 62 63
Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) d. (Q) Dia Evtimova (BUL) 62 63
Estrella Cabeza Candela (ESP) d. (Q) Richel Hogenkamp (NED) 64 63
Doubles – First Round
(1) Groenefeld/Martic (GER/CRO) d. Cabeza Candela/Duque-Mariño (ESP/COL) 36 64 103 (Match TB)
(4) Craybas/Goerges (USA/GER) d. (WC) Neuwirth/Rottmann (AUT/AUT) 62 62
Birnerova/Hogenkamp (CZE/NED) d. (WC) Haas/Toljan (AUT/AUT) 64 61
Jugic-Salkic/Klemenschits (BIH/AUT) d. Abramovic/Tomljanovic (CRO/CRO) 76(5) 61
Order Of Play – Friday, June 15, 2012
Centre Court (from 11.00hrs)
1. Ksenia Pervak vs. Chichi Scholl
2. Yvonne Meusburger vs. Yanina Wickmayer (NB 13.00hrs)
3. Johanna Larsson vs. Mandy Minella
4. Estrella Cabeza Candela vs. Alizé Cornet
5. Jugic-Salkic/Klemenschits vs. Begu/Minella
Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Jurak/Marosi vs. Birnerova/Hogenkamp
2. Groenefeld/Martic vs. Lee-Waters/Moulton-Levy
3. Costas-Moreira/Ferrer Suárez vs. Craybas/Goerges
WTA Bad Gastein gallery – top seed Julia Goerges stunned by Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp
By Romi Cvitkovic
The WTA tennis tournament in Bad Gastein, Austria is off to a rough start — not only because of the consistent rain delays, but also because top seeded Julia Goerges went down Tuesday in three sets.
Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp ousted Goerges after losing the initial set, but regained her momentum and handed the 2010 Bad Gastein titlist a first-round loss, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“Today I played without any pressure,” the 20-year-old Hogenkamp said. ” I tried to make it as tough as possible for her, and I’m happy I won.”
Number 2 seed Yanina Wickmayer made quick work of Mariana Duque-Marino as she broke her five times to take the match, 6-3, 6-4.
Seventh-seeded Alize Cornet may best be known for her unique style and expressions on court, and she didn’t disappoint, disposing of her opponent Edina Gallovits-Hall, 7-5, 7-5 in just under two hours.
Marta Domachowska went out to fourth-seed Carla Suarez Navarro, 4-6, 5-7, as Mandy Minella finished her match against Alja Tomljanovic and prevailed 6-3, 6-4.
Estrella Cabeza Candela d. Laura Pous-Tio, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
Sacha Jones d. Yuliya Beygelzimer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Sarah Gronert d. Eva Birnerova, 6-2, 6-0
The schedule for Wednesday includes first-round matches that did not play or finish today, and will be played warranted the rain holds out.
In the mean time, check out the day’s on-court gallery from resident Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm below.
WTA Bad Gastein – Toga-themed player's party with Julia Goerges, Alize Cornet, Yanina Wickmayer
By Romi Cvitkovic
The rain at WTA Bad Gastein forced play to halt for most of the day Monday, but the players still attended a toga-themed Player’s Party in the evening before calling it a day. Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is on-hand in Austria all week. For the full scoop, check out his gallery below!
Not much occurred on-court today, but luckily, the last of the qualification round matches were able to finish before the heavens opened. One main draw match began between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic but was unable to finish, and the weather doesn’t look much better for tomorrow either. But that is not bumming out German Julia Goerges as she gets an extra day to relax, according to her WTA blog here.
Check out the full gallery from the player’s party below which features Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer (did she not get the “toga” memo?), Alize Cornet, Jill Craybas, Marta Domachowska, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Yvonne Meusburger, Petra Martic, Dia Evtimova, Sarah Gronert and Nicole Rottmann. Also catch a promotional photoshoot featuring Austrian players Barbara Haas and Yvonne Meusburger, as well as the main draw match between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic.