Russian tennis player and current world #22 Maria Kirilenko may best be known for her beauty, but tennis fans know her as one-half of the best women’s match of the 2011 U.S. Open when she played eventual champion Sam Stosur. On the court, Maria is fierce and competitive, but off, she is feminine, charming and engaging. I had the opportunity to chat with Maria during the Sony Ericsson Open about the time she hit, as a 9-year-old, with Steffi Graf, how she was almost a ballet dancer, and sharks. (Photo gallery at bottom)
What is your most memorable moment on court?
Of course, when I win! There are so many matches … the first tournament that I won was Beijing and that was a big one. There are so many matches. (Smiles) I won twice against [Sam] Stosur, [Maria] Sharapova,[Jelena] Jankovic when she was #3.
What is the best part of being a tennis player?
The best is that you can compete at a good level and that people come and watch you. You play in front of – I don’t know how many people, 10,000 maybe more – it’s the greatest.
If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?
Difficult to answer, I don’t know. (Smiles)
Do you have any hobbies on the side?
I mean, before tennis, I was a ballet dancer, and I was good as well. I had a partner and we won first place. So I would be a dancer, maybe. But I like tennis more. (Smiles)
If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?
It would be nice to play against Steffi Graf, because when I started to play [pro], she already finished.
Did you ever have a chance to hit with her?
Yes. I was, I think, 9-years-old and she came to Moscow and did a kids’ clinic. They chose the best little girls and that was me as well, so I had a chance to hit with her then.
That was the last time?
Yes, it was the last time! Didn’t happen again yet.
If you are hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite and why?
Three tennis players? (Smiles).Of course, I’m going to invite my girls, Elena Vesnina, Nadia Petrova, and Victoria Azarenka. We are good friends.
What are two things that you couldn’t live without?
Um, my phone. Yea, the phone is important. (Smiles) And the second … maybe my credit card?! It’s tough to live without. (Laughs)
What is one thing that scares you?
I’m very afraid of sharks. (Smiles)
Do you like swimming in the ocean?
I like, but every time I go to the ocean or sea, I am so afraid. (Laughs)
I’m the same way. When I was little, I used to think there were sharks in the pool.
Oh yea? (Laughs) I have this in my mind as well! It’s silly. (Smiles)
(Sony Ericsson Open photos courtesy of Rachel Vinson of OnTheGoTennis; other photos courtesy of Neal Trousdale. For more photos from the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open by Neal, check out his full gallery on Flickr.)
Tennis From All Angles is a semi-weekly roundup of tennis happenings from the ATP and WTA pro tours, highlighting the most entertaining on-court and off-court news and gossip.
OnTheGoTennis‘ Rachel Vinson is in Indian Wells, CA this week covering the first U.S. outdoor tournament of the season. She snapped photos of tennis’ elite on the green carpet as they arrived for the BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party. The gallery includes Sam Querrey and Gael Monfils in their respective strange hats, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julian Benneteau in European chic, Ana Ivanovic in an elegant indigo sleeveless dress, and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki all in clean-cut blazers. Bonus: David Ferrer, simple and stunning.
- On a similar note, this year’s Hollywood themed Players’ Party posed the following question to tennis players: Who is your favorite actor and actress? Novak Djokovic keeps his allegiance to Robert De Niro, Ana Ivanovic goes with one of my personal favorites, Rafael Nadal sticks with the Spaniards, and Andy Murray picks a comedian. And guess which player answers “Sean Connery” as the actor who would play them in a movie. Doh! (Side note: Josh Hartnett still acts??)
- The BNP Paribas tournament website spotlights Novak Djokovic as he begins his title defense from last year. “I’m not really trying to position myself as a defending champion, because then defending is not really something that I want to have. I always try to get that aggressive approach… I still have the same daily routine, same approach to my career, to the life that I’m having. I don’t consider myself being in the top of the world, being untouchable or unbeatable. That’s out of the question.”
- Matt Fitzgerald caught up with past BNP Paribas champion Vera Zvonareva to get her take on winning the 2012 Australian Open Women’s Doubles title with countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova, and who she would most want to perform with at the Grammys and why. Good choice, Vera, but don’t party too much!
- After the recent retirement announcement from Fernando Gonzalez that he will hang up the racquet after the Sony Ericsson Open later this month, Croat Ivan Ljubicic is following suit. With 10 titles and a career-high world number 3 ranking, Ljubicic is expected to play his last pro tournament at April’s Monte Carlo Masters. Tennis will miss you, Ivan!
- Haven’t had a chance to check out the top 8 ladies on the WTA engage in a little “Fun Facts Challenge” about each other? Watch as they (sometimes unsuccessfully!) answer questions on IQs, Nickelback, and Sam Stosur’s dog. I won’t deny some of these moments are embarrassing to watch!
- Ever wonder how SI.com’s tennis writer Courtney Nguyen first fell in love with live tennis? Well, wonder no more.
(Photo © OnTheGoTennis)
The hot ticket in Rotterdam today featured a showdown at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament between two grand slam champions, Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro. While the Argentinean forced a good battle in the second set, his slow start in the first set to go down 0-5, cost him the match.
After only one hour and 26 minutes, and after saving all seven break points he faced, Federer prevailed, 6-1, 6-4.
“He couldn’t pull the trigger the way he wanted to,” stated Federer. “Just like yesterday, I had a good mindset. I really believed I was going to make it difficult for him, especially on the break points. I know the second set could have been a whole lot different.”
Federer even alluded to the slight shift in momentum between the first and second set. “In the first set, I was rock solid. I played great from start to finish. In the second set, it got tighter. I’m happy I was able to sneak it out.”
Although this is a great win for Federer in terms of his long-standing tradition to win titles and for his confidence, there is one aspect of his game that faltered severely, his serve. Federer’s serve has never been the strongest or the fastest on the men’s tour, but it’s been consistent for the most part. Today, however, Federer served only 49% for the match. 49%! From a champion holding 16 grand slams and 71 titles, how is this even possible? Perhaps it was the pressure of winning his first title of the season, or the anticipation of re-inventing himself as a top threat. But, what if Del Potro was in Federer’s head ever before the two stepped a foot on court?
Sure, the scoreline of this match might not let us believe it, but Del Potro shot down Federer’s dream of winning six US Open titles in a row back in 2009, when the Argentine came from behind to beat the Swiss. Why couldn’t Del Potro mess with Federer’s head and do it again on a smaller stage today? During the US Open final, Federer was dumbstruck as Del Potro powered forehands out of reach, but today, he expected (and was prepared for) a battle.
Could that really be all that there is between a winner and a true champion, fear and expectation that the other player may actually beat you? Sound off in the comments.
Also, watch Federer talk about what his 71st career title, and second in Rotterdam, means to him below, and check out photos from today’s final that photographer Rick Gleijm captured.
by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – Big serving Argentine Juan Martín Del Potro took to court with one mission on his mind – booking a place into the final. The 6ft 6” Del Potro was one of three top ten men in the semifinals and recorded his third victory over Tomas Berdych in four meetings 6-3, 6-1.
After a thunderous 6-0, 6-1 quarterfinal performance against Viktor Troicki, Del Potro proved he was in no mood to mess around once again. He took on second seed Tomas Berdych on Saturday afternoon and ignited his outstanding performance once again.
The first set saw Del Potro break the Czech in his opening service game after a slow start from the world No.7 and the third seed did not look back. He did not face a break point against his own serve and continued to unleash his heavy forehand during exchanged rallies.
During the ninth game, Berdych was serving to stay in the set at 3-5 and after executing a backhand into the tramlines and an untimely foot fault the Czech faced another three break points and ultimately lost the set 3-6.
The second set delivered another outstanding performance from the resurgent Argentine as he timed his shots with perfection. The Czech looked bewildered as he found no replies to the belligerence of shots and booming forehands and only managed to take one game in the entire set before losing to Del Potro 1-6.
During the press conference, the Argentine was understandably pleased with his performance and happy to reach the final on his debut at the tournament:
“I played almost perfect today. I was focused all of the time. I was focused with my forehands and I think that was the key of the match.”
Is he at his very best Grand Slam winning level yet? Not quite, but he’s not far away. “I am improving match by match. I played better than yesterday and should play better tomorrow.”
Tomorrow will bring a very difficult task for the former US Open champion as he faces 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer after his tough three set defeat over unseeded Nikolay Davydenko 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
It was the Russian who took first blood in the opening set after playing some sublime rallies. Davydenko ran faster than a cheetah and punched the ball harder than a boxer to continuously pull Federer from one side of the court to the other. The Russian refused to play high percentage tennis as he struck the ball exquisitely on the rise whilst gunning for the lines.
His patience was rewarded in the ninth game after striking a forehand at the feet of Federer and subsequently broke at 5-4.
After a long service game Davydenko’s nerves of steel refused to bow down to Federer and his cheering army of fans as he eventually took the set 6-4 after a mistimed Federer forehand sailed out of the court.
With the crowd stunned into silence, Davydenko’s game continued to progress and once again he put his wheels into motion and broke the world No.3 in the third game after Federer’s usually reliable forehand was struck wide into the tramlines. The atmosphere around the court intensified and the crowd murmured in speculation at the possibility of Federer losing.
Speculation and concern did not last long after a sloppy sixth game from the Russian and a change of tactics from Federer. He began to attack the net and mix up the pace of the game by adding in beautifully timed drop shots and lobs. The variation of play and supportive applause from the crowd spurred the former world No.1 to break back and the wheels fell off the game of the Russian as he received attention to his right leg. He was broken a further time in the eighth game before losing the set 3-6.
In the third set both players had opportunities to break and faced break point pressure during their service games. The spark that had ignited at the start of the first set appeared to be diminishing for Davydenko as he failed to convert three break point opportunities and during the next game was 0-40 in his service game.
To the delight of the crowd, Federer broke in the ninth game and comfortably served out the match at 6-4.
“I struggled sometimes with my timing but still thought I was right in the match. It was a fun match to play, but it was tough. I hope it is a big match for me in 2012 because these are the kind of matches that sometimes you show to yourself that if you have confidence the next thing you know, you could win the title tomorrow.”
The exhilarating semifinals will bring a rematch of the 2009 US Open match between Roger Federer and Juan Martín Del Potro, which saw the Argentine win his first Grand Slam of his career and hope that he can find the same form to beat the crowd favourite once again on Sunday.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes all the semifinals action, both on-court and the press conferences.
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – All systems were go yesterday at the Rotterdam tournament. With “oohs” and “aahs” echoing around the large arena, the crowd were treated to four exciting quarterfinal matches, which saw Berdych, Del Potro, Federer and Davydenko all make it through to the semi final stages.
First up was the cool as ice Tomas Berdych who beat Italian Andreas Seppi in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. After playing only three games against an injured Marcos Baghdatis (who retired due to experiencing problems with his calf muscle in the previous round), the tall Czech looked as fresh as a cucumber and ready for action.
It was all plain sailing for the second seed who comfortably took the first set 6-3 and broke again early in the second set with roaring topspin backhands that pushed Seppi back off the baseline onto his back foot.
A slight lapse in concentration by Berdych allowed Seppi back into the set after breaking during the fourth game, but at 3-3 the T-Berd regained his composure and consequentially broke again, before taking the second set 6-4.
The second match involved world No.10 Juan Martín Del Potro who floored Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-1 in his quarterfinal appearance. Throughout the first set, the Argentine hit very few unforced errors and did not allow Troicki into the set, bagelling him 6-0.
The second set served up much of the same as Troicki only managed to steal one game and had no answer to the power play of the third seed. Del Potro looked well adjusted to the slow speed and low bounces of the court and had adapted his game with prowess accordingly. Del Potro sailed through to the semis and has booked a mouth-watering contest with secondseed Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
Despite leading the head-to-head 2-1, Del Potro played down his chances against the Czech in his press conference:
“I think he could be the favourite. He has the better ranking.”
The opening evening match drew in full capacity crowds to watch world No.3 Roger Federer take centre stage against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. There was very little between them as they traded powerful rallies and after two close sets, Federer booked his place into the semi finals with a tight 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory.
Nieminen demonstrated how comfortable he was to go toe to toe against the 16-time Grand Slam champion and did not succumb to Federer’s steely determination until the eleventh game of the match. The champion of the Apia International in Sydney found himself squandering a 40-0 game to being break point down after firing untimely unforced errors. The Finn hit a backhand long and Federer readily accepted the break before serving it out 7-5.
The second set remained equally close, as Nieminen did not appear disheartened after the disappointment of a close first set. The crowd watched in amazement after a Federer unforced error such as the expectation for the Swiss to weave his magic and win every point.
They did not have to wait long as the top seed spun his web and snatched the victory comfortably in the second set tiebreak after a flurry of perfectly executed cross court forehands proved to be unassailable for the 30 year old Finn. To the delight of the crowd, Federer rallied through to the semi finals 7-5, 7-6 (1).
During the press conference, Federer gave full credit to Nieminen for his aggressive performance:
“You have to give Jarkko credit too, he played aggressive on both the forehands and backhands. He took every second serve of mine on the rise.”
The final quarterfinal match of the day involved Russian Nikolay Davydenko who caused an upset by beating fifth seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.
The first set was all swings and roundabouts as it was the Frenchman who had the early break at the start, but fought back only to be broken again as Gasquet served to take the opening set 5-3. Astonishing groundstrokes from the Russian prevent the fifth seed from securing the set and surprisingly it was the unseeded Russian who took the first set 7-5.
Davydenko continued his surge during the second set and broke Gasquet a further two times before wrapping up proceedings 6-3. He will now face top seed Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday.
Quarterfinals day was also busy for another legend – Boris “I was quite a famous guy too” Becker. He arrived at the arena on Friday and greeted the centre court crowd after he held a jovial press conference with the media during his promotion of Mercedes Benz, a company he has been sponsored by for over 15 years. During the conference, the tennis legend joked about pop stars in tennis and discussed one of the greatest debates rattling the lockers: the schedule.
“Tournaments like Rotterdam they need the top guys like Federer, they need Del Potro. What’s the perfect calendar? There is never going to be the perfect calendar.”
In a modern Tour that is plagued with scheduling issues Becker believes that Roger Federer has remained a positive, dominant force:
“The question about Roger is ‘is he ever going to get back to world No.1?’ I don’t think that should be the main focus. I think we are all happy that we have him around. Whether he is No.2 or No.3 in the world, that doesn’t matter. “
But what we all know what really matters to Roger at this moment – winning this tournament and fulfilling what he came to do.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews
The seeds had no trouble advancing to the quarterfinals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam today, as Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Viktor Troicki and Richard Gasquet all dispatched of their opponents, and Roger Federer was involved in an entertaining exhibition match for fans.
Second seed Berdych advanced to the next round after only 19 minutes on court as Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire due to a left foot injury.
Del Potro had to overcome not only his opponent in another battle, but a slightly bloody nose near the beginning that required a medical timeout. He eventually prevailed over qualifier Karol Beck 6-4, 7-5.
“He played so fast and hits with such a low bounce, I really had to keep up,” said Del Potro of Beck. “It was tough. But I focused in the last game on trying to get an ace. I got one and I’m just glad that I’m through.”
Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded fifth, continued his steady progress at his second tournament appearance by defeating Alex Bogomolov, 6-3 6-2, while Andreas Seppi dispatched German Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4 6-2. Viktor Troicki also defeated wildcard Jesse Huta Galung, 7-6(2), 6-3, but not before the match’s second game lasted a brutal 17 minutes.
Finally, what was supposed to be only a super tiebreaker between Roger Federer and Igor Sijsling turned out into an all-out battle, but with plenty of smiles from both players. Federer was given a place in the quarterfinals after his second-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny had to withdraw the day previously. Federer finally prevailed 6-7(2), 6-4, 11-9.
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes not only day three action, but a behind-the-scenes look at Ahoy Rotterdam, the indoor arena the tournament is held in.
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes day two qualifying matches highlighting Paul-Henri Mathieu, Simon Greul, Thomas Schoorel and Rik De Voest.
Earlier in the day, Matthias Bachinger defeated Dusan Lojda 7-6(1), 6-3, while Karol Beck came from a one-set deficit to beat Jan Hajek 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Wildcard Paul-Henri Mathieu then defeated Thomas Schoorel 6-1, 6-4, and Rik De Voest overcame Simon Greul 7-5, 7-6(4).
The four winners will all try to make their presence known in the main draw beginning tomorrow as Mathieu is set to take on fourth-seeded Feliciano Lopez. Full Monday schedule is below.
SCHEDULE – MONDAY, 13 FEBRUARY, 2012
CENTRE COURT start 12:30 pm
F Cipolla (ITA) vs  R Gasquet (FRA)
Not Before 1:30 PM
 F Lopez (ESP) vs [Q] P Mathieu (FRA)
Not Before 7:30 PM
[WC] J Huta Galung (NED) vs I Ljubicic (CRO)
L Kubot (POL) vs  A Dolgopolov (UKR)
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a professional tennis photographer covering the ATP and WTA tours, scrambling to capture the top players, racing back to edit and post your photos and catching the best angle on tennis? Our resident photographer Rick Gleijm has been in Paris all week covering the WTA Open GDF Suez tournament featuring players such as Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, and Na Li. This is his personal and candid feature “Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”
Check out all of Rick’s photo galleries from Paris this week! Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.
Sunday, February 4, 2012
Yesterday really wasn’t my day. I woke up at 2 am to make my way to Paris on the icy roads, but it had already been a terrible winter’s day the day before. I arrived to the Stade de Coubertin in Paris just to find out the tournament wasn’t ready to receive press. Wrong accreditation, no press center, no internet connection and worst of all, no parking spot. Since I didn’t fancy to leave most of my belongings in my car in a very expensive, but public garage, and also didn’t like the prospect of lugging around 20 kilos of equipment (and $20,000 in value as well!) I decided to check into my hotel early and try it again in the morning. Some things are just unexpected bumps in the road!
Sunday February 5, 2012
6:30 am: Woke up this morning to a very white world! As if I didn’t have enough problems getting to Paris yesterday, I have to drive a few kilometers to the tournament site from my hotel. Usually I am happy to stay a little further away from the site, in a quieter place, but now that means I have to travel over snowy roads. Roads? Well, there were some cars driving on a white plain, so I guess I must be on the road… Luckily the circumstances meant even the French will drive carefully.
9:45 am: Arrived at the venue without any more scratches or dents. I even found a safe and guarded parking spot right across from the entrance of the Stade de Coubertin. As I approached the accreditations desk, I noticed the staff was happily waving my prepared media card, the press center was open, the Wi-Fi was working — the tournament could start for me now! First up is to take a few shots from the second-round qualification matches before I go to the draw ceremony at 11:oo am.
[singlepic id=3377 w=320 h=240 float=right]1:05 pm: Quickly went to see a couple of points of the first two qualifying matches of the day and tried to take a couple of shots on court, but discovered the lighting is horrendous. On center court, there is a strange yellow/red glow around everything, while on court one everything is green. I took some time to adjust my camera settings but totally forgot about the time and thus, the draw ceremony. I quickly made my way to the VIP-village for the draw ceremony, but got completely lost in the corridors of the Stade de Coubertin. Thanks to a very nice hostess, I managed to arrive in time, just to find out everything was delayed for 15 minutes. After the draw, it was back to court one for Lepchenko versus Domachowska. I still had trouble getting my camera settings right, so that means there will be a lot of post-processing on my part to adjust for the color shift. The next match I’ll shoot will be Mattek-Sands, so that leaves me with a bit of time to edit some work.
4:55 pm: Shot the last three matches. After a time, the ligh on Center Court becam very decent after all. I will be doing some post-processing for Tennis Grandstand first and see if I can upload the pictures, before trying to slide back to the hotel where I can make a back-up of the portfolio. I do need to find some place to eat though — noticed there is a big M nearby so perhaps I’ll try that. I have survived a tournament or two just on junk food, so that’ll be no problem — although I may then easily star in the sequel to the movie “Supersize Me”. Starting tomorrow though, the tournament will offer full hospitality, so that’s one less worry.
Monday, February 6, 2012
[singlepic id=3407 w=251 h=188 float=left]9:30 am: Matches start at 12:00 pm today, so I was able to stay in bed a little longer, but that rarely happens at tournaments. Usually the qualification tournament finishes in the morning to make way for first-round matches in the afternoon. In Paris though, today will only feature the finals of the singles qualification tournament and one main draw doubles match with Lucie Safarova and Klara Zakopalova. Anyway, made myself a cup of coffee and went on my way to the site!
11:55 am: As luck would have it, I arrived at Stade de Coubertin together with Jelena Jankovic, but regrettably had my gear in my trunk so no candid photo opportunity with the Serbian. Some parking problems again, but I was saved by the lovely girls in the press center. Thank you ladies! Dumped my gear in the press center and went for my first match, Arn versus Muguruza Blanco. Hope I have plenty of time to catch before the end of the match between Brianti and Barrois.
[singlepic id=3380 w=215 h=161 float=right]1:05 pm: Checked the score on Center Court: Barrois is having Brianti for lunch! At the first possible change-over, I left Arn-Maguruza, just to witness the last couple of points by Barrois. Unable to get a decent shot of Brianti, I decided to wait it out on center court and stay for the start of Mattek-Sands versus Craybas.
2:15 pm: Went back to the press center to start editing the first three matches, but am keeping an eye out on the scores — don’t want to miss out on the last two matches. I’m hoping Craybas can make it a three-setter, and Barthel seems to have an easy start against Lepchenko.
3:05 pm: Time to get out of the press center and shoot the last two matches of the day. Everything turned out just fine: when Barthel was finished, I left for center court and the doubles teams were just being introduced.
5:05 pm: Back in the press center now to finish the pictures for Tennis Grandstand. Funny story: as I was walking back to the press center, I went by the WTA players’ desk where I saw Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova explaining that they were really players and that they were on the entry list. “Look right here, that’s my name on the list, Julia.”…….. It was quite a site to witness.
7:00 pm: Finished for the day, time to go back to the hotel.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
10:55 am: Today is sure to be busier. I arrived at the tournament, set up my laptop, readied my photo gear, and went to see Cetkovska versus Brianti. When the second set of Zahlavova-Strycova versus Barthel began, I moved over to center court.
12:25 pm: Back at the press center. Started post-processing pictures of first two matches, and have some time as Pironkova versus Li is not to start before 1:00 pm.
1:15 pm: The Pironkova vs. Li match has begun, but I have decided to go for the second set after Jankovic’s scheduled press conference – which should start soon. While waiting, I’m continuing work on photos.
[singlepic id=3421 w=100 h=75 float=left]2:00 pm: Jelena Jankovic arrived for her press conference to announce she was withdrawing from the tournament due to a left thigh strain she sustained in Fed Cup last week. I decided to then make my way over to the Pironkova vs. Li match. [singlepic id=3432 w=150 h=112 float=right]But, as irony would have it, at the change-over when I could finally enter the court, Na Li needed a medical timeout on her back. I took a couple of shots of Pironkova as she waited and tried to stay warm, bundled up in towels. When Li returned, I decided to stay with the Bulgarian for the game and then switch to Li. At 40-0, Li decided she couldn’t continue and had to retire from her match. So, no pictures of Li in action.
5:05 pm: With all that has happened, I almost forgot to update this! Not much currently happening though, just processing my pictures, uploading them etc., taking a few new ones along the way. Just when I nearly finished my editing, I noticed that I have to hurry if I want to take some photos at Goerges’ match. That girl is in a hurry to win!
[singlepic id=3420 w=150 h=112 float=left]5:45 pm: Got my pics. Am trying to finish them and upload them. There’ll be a post match interview which I’ll try to be present for as well. When I’m done with those I’ll call it a day.
The Open GDF Suez WTA event in Paris saw seeded players Na Li and Jelena Jankovic both withdraw due to injuries today: Li with a sore back and Jankovic with a left thigh strain she picked up in Serbia’s 3-2 win over Belgium in the Fed Cup last week.
[singlepic id=3426 w=320 h=240 float=right]Li received a medical timeout, with a trainer massaging her lower back, before playing a few more points and eventually retiring after trailing in the second set to Tsvetana Pironkova.
“It was so painful,” Li said. “That’s why I called the physio to come to the court. I tried to tape and then tried to play the point, but it didn’t work. I’ll go to the hospital to take an MRI to see what happened.”
“I hurt myself in the Fed Cup at the weekend,” elaborated Li. “It had gotten better since and this morning it didn’t hurt. But the stab of pain returned, very strong and I couldn’t continue. I don’t know if it’s because of the Fed Cup, maybe I’m getting old as well,” added Li, who turns 30 later this month.
Likewise, Jankovic picked up her injury while playing Fed Cup against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium last week and wasn’t able to heal in time to play in Paris.
“I had hoped that after treatment I could still play here but unfortunately it’s impossible,” said Jankovic. “Australia (Open) and the Fed Cup and then here, that’s a lot. But it’s important for me to play for my country… I don’t know when I will be able to resume playing but I don’t regret having played in the Fed Cup.”
Although the third and fourth seeds are gone, the tournament still has it’s top two marquee players scheduled to play, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.
[singlepic id=3416 w=320 h=240 float=left]Other winners include sixth seed Julia Goerges who dispatched of Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-3, while ninth-seed Angelique Kerber defeated Lucie Safarova 6-2, 7-6. Chanelle Scheepers defeated Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-2. Qualifier Mona Barthel easily dispensed of Barbara Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-2, while Petra Cetkovska defeated Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-3.
Catch all the great action our photographer Rick Gleijm caught during the first round main draw matches today! And make sure to check out his feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”
Stay tuned all week for full coverage in Paris and catch Rick at the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week!