Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Art of Tennis

by Savannah

If you say someone took a "beat down" many images come to mind. There's the person stomped by others laying on the ground bleeding. There's the baseball team that was beaten 14-0. The basketball team that was on the wrong side of a 130-75 score. In the sport of tennis beat downs can take many forms. A 6-0, 6-0 final score in a best of three match, a double bagel as we call it, would be considered a beat down. There were two beat downs administered yesterday and neither one was a double bagel.
The men's final in Dubai was won by Novak Djokovic. He defeated Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3. That score is sometimes called a virtual bagel. I'm not exactly sure why but it's common to see it called that now. That said the final score of the best of three final was indeed a double bagel.

You see Roger Federer was never in the match. With surgical skill Novak Djokovic executed his game plan to perfection. The commentators talked about Federer's backhand not working at all and that his forehand wasn't doing much either. What they didn't say was that Djokovic simply wasn't allowing them to work. They were more focused on Federer resurrecting himself in the second set and winning their hoped for third set. It wasn't going to happen.

Djokovic's play in the first set was nothing short of spectacular. It seemed he couldn't miss and lost no opportunity to flummox his opponent who was like a soldier under enemy attack with no foxhole nearby in which to take cover. You don't play the way Djokovic did without coming back to earth and when Federer got the break early in the second set it looked as if the commentators would get what they wanted. Instead the second set gave us a more methodical and devastating performance by Djokovic who simply continued the beat down he was administering and took it to it's logical conclusion.

Once again I have to say a soft draw does not a champion make. Federer opened against Somdev Devvarman. He next faced Marcel Granollers. When Richard Gasquet defeated Gilles Simon setting himself up to face Federer in the semi finals he ensured that Federer would make the final without facing a seed.

Djokovic opened against unseeded Michael Llodra and went on to face Feliciano Lopez, Florian Mayer and the #3 seed Tomas Berdych in the semi final. Berdych retired at 2-4 in the third set citing injury but he did so after forcing and winning the first set 7-6(5) tiebreak. I didn't see the match but Berdych lost the second set 6-2. Still he took a set from Djokovic who had cruised through his early round opponents. In the end Berdych did something Federer couldn't do against Djokovic.

To be clear I'm not a Djokovic fan and don't think I ever will be but you have to give credit where credit is due. The man played his ass off in that final and didn't allow Federer to settle into a pattern. It was a masterful performance by Djokovic and he deserved to hoist that trophy.
The other beatdown occurred an hour away in Qatar where the WTA final was played between Vera Zvonareva and Caroline Wozniacki, the computer ranked world #1. I'd seen a lot of this tournament and noticed that Vera was playing very, very well. She opened against Dominika Cibulkova whom she defeated in straight sets. After that the going got tough. Vera defeated a determined Daniela Hantuchova in three tough sets 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-5. That match was followed by a semi final against Jelena Jankovic that again went three sets 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. That match was harder than it looked. JJ is always a challenge with her deflections and distractions and when Vera lost that second set 2-6 it looked as if she was going to be out of the tournament. What looks like a routine 6-4 third set wasn't. It was an all out war and Vera rallied herself mentally and came from behind in that set to win it.

Meanwhile Wozniacki was having an easier time of it. She opened against Nadia Petrova who appeared on court as Bad Nadia, best friend of Bad Sveta Kuznetsova. Bad Nadia lost in straight sets 3 and 2. Next up was Flavia Pennetta who tried but ended up doing nothing but playing the part every pusher wants their opponent to play letting Wozniacki set the pace and tone of the match. Hows this for a statistic? The winners to unforced errors was 35/7 for Wozniacki and 33/21 for Pennetta. And Flavia lost 6-2, 6-0.

Wozniacki's semi final was against Marion Bartoli. Bartoli defeated Wozniacki the last time they met and this match was expected to be a doozie. Instead a fitter Marion lost 6-1, 6-1 and was not able to change her strategy against Wozniacki. That led to Wozniacki making the final after having been able to have her way with three players who usually play better than they did against her but once again fell victim to a pusher. I have to say that if you think I'm nuts because I say Kim Clijsters is the older more experienced version of Caroline Wozniacki try and see the Bartoli match. I had to remind myself a few times that it was Wozniacki and not Clijsters playing Bartoli.

In my opinion the final would hinge on whether Vera would be able to play her own game and not do what the other players had done. She started the match with a break and after that never looked back. Vera's record in finals is dismal but yesterday she showed mental strength and played a match that had her opponent throwing racquets and talking to herself. Wozniacki found herself in positions where she was at her weakest and Vera was at her best. Vera moved her around the court like nobody's business and even when pressed didn't falter. It was a masterful performance from a woman who is best known for her waterworks and drama on court. At the end of the match she ran over and hugged her coach. It was the least she could do.
I saw absolutely none of the women's matches in Acapulco, one of my favorite tournaments of the year. The women's final wasn't even shown in the States, at least not on Tennis Channel. The winner, Gisela Dulko, looks quite stylish in her sombrero.
I did get to see the men's semi finals and final. Nicolas Almagro came into the final as the hottest player on the Golden Swing. He'd won two previous tournaments and was looking to add Acapulco to become the second man to win three clay tournaments in a row, something some other guy from Spain did back in 2009. He was going to face defending champion David Ferrer who had defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov in the semi finals. That match was expected to be a real throw down but in the end a mentally and physically tired Dolgopolov, who had also played the Golden Swing had nothing left and while winning the first set went down quietly after that. The final score was 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 for Ferrer.

Ferrer owns Almagro. The head to head coming in was 4-0 in favor of Ferrer. It is now 5-0. Still Almagro gave it his all and it was nice seeing a decent clay court match this early in the year.
A self admittedly tired Juan Martin del Potro defeated Janko Tipsarevic at Delray Beach. After his semi final win last evening Juan, breathing hard, said he was tired and also said the same thing today. Still he had enough in the tank to defeat Tipsarevic who seemed not to know what to do against the Argentine. Del Potro is not the guy to light up the court and I had to fight to stay awake. I'm sure Del Potro is happy to have a new trophy to add to his collection.

End Note

With the men's final in Dubai and the women's final in Doha taking place at almost the same time I ended up watching the ATP match and auditing the women's match knowing it would be on later if it was going to be worth my while to see it. Even though I wasn't watching the women every minute on TennisTV I knew every time Piotr came down to counsel his daughter. Imagine my confusion when none of those visits were shown on the Tennis Channel replay? It couldn't have been for time issues since the match wasn't overly long. I don't understand the black out on Piotr.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Fallout to a Cheat's Admission


On the day that Serena Williams posted a picture of herself getting ready for an event minus the now famous boot she tweeted the following:

serenawilliams Serena Williams
Question- I keep hearing about an admittance to someone cheating me & lying about it after at the French open? Did she confess finally?

I'm guessing most of you, including me, would not be surprised at the reaction to the simple question Serena posed. Some on Twitter even called on Serena to be the bigger person and move on. Really people? Someone lied about a situation to your face, acted as if you were the crazy one for being upset and you're supposed to be the bigger person? To add insult to injury the liar said that she was right to do what she did because you and your sister intimidated her and yet she should be given a pass?

All of us are entitled to our likes and dislikes in tennis, including players. In this situation I think likes and dislikes have to be put aside for the higher moral issue at stake here. I mean this liar didn't only cheat Serena, a polarizing player to say the least, but the supposedly universally loved St Kim Clijsters. Most of the posters aren't concerned about that part of the equation though. Their sole focus is Serena. Several Tweeters brought up the racial issue asking if the situation had been reversed would the people saying Serena should move on be saying that? Hell, Serena would've been run out of tennis if she'd done what Justine Henin has admitted to doing not once, but twice, and not apologizing for it.

In my opinion the best response came from Caroline Wozniacki who posted the following Tweet:

CaroWozniacki Caroline Wozniacki
@ serenawilliams hahahaha!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Justine Henin - Guilty As Charged

by Savannah

In an amazing television interview Justine Henin admits that she cheated by raising her hand in that match against Serena Williams and justifies it by saying part of the Williams sisters on court demeanor involved intimidation. First the French followed by an English translation done by tennis head "Apoleb".

"Peut-être que j'aurais dû dire, qu'effectivement j'avais levé la main, même si je reste de manière très honnête convaincue que c'est pas ça qui a changé le cours des choses, parce que si j'avais été persuadée, je pense, qu'elle l'avait vu, qu'elle avait été perturbée par ça, je pense que j'aurais vraiment réagi. Maintenant, y'a beaucoup de tension, on agit un peu à l'instinct, donc c'est vrai que c'est pas le meilleur souvenir... en même temps, ce qui allait se passer derrière était magique... Voilà, je ne sais pas si c'est le tournant du match. J'espère ne pas être de mauvaise foi en disant ça."
"C'était peut-être une façon de me faire respecter [fail ], parce qu'il faut savoir que les Williams ont quand même eu des attitudes qui parfois étaient difficiles [...] Elles ont énormément joué, beaucoup, à l'intimidation. Faut savoir que quand on jouait une Williams, et qu'on marchait vers le court, vers l'entrée du court, il y avait toujours la deuxième à côté. Parce qu'elles deux, elles montraient qu'elles étaient deux en permanence. Une ça impressionne déjà, donc deux..."

Perhaps I should have said that I raised my hand even though in honesty I still think that this didn't change the course of the match because if I thought she was really perturbed by that, I think I would have reacted. Now, there's a lot of tension, we act according to our instincts, so it's true that this is not the best memory.. but in the same time, what happened beneath was magical. So there, I don't know if this turned around the match. I hope I'm not in bad intentions when I say this.

It was perhaps a way to respect me, because it should be known that the Williams sisters have attitudes that are sometimes difficult... They have played enormously on intimidation. It should be known that when we play a Williams, and we walk on court, towards the entrance of the court, there was always the second besides. Because they show themselves that they are two together. One already makes a big impression, and it's two.

The highlighted section can be translated as "I hope I don't appear biased"

So it was okay to cheat and then lie about it because she was scared of Venus Williams and Serena Williams?

She also says that she lost to Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon because Venus had already made the final and she didn't want to play her.
The screencap above created by "Shinjiro" shows Henin during the interview laughing at the expression on Serena's face after her lie.

She doesn't stop there. She admits that the ball she insisted Kim Clijsters hit out at the Australian Open in 2004 was in, and that she knew it was in.

Ironically no mention is made of the 2006 Australian Open where she retired against Amelie Mauresmo with what was said to be gastric distress.

It should also be pointed out that at no time does she apologize for any of this.
Here is a LINK to the entire interview for French speakers. It's an hour and a half long.

So what will the WTA do? I'm not sure what they can do. If a player admits they cheated and by doing so knowingly affected the outcome of a match can the win be nullified and the win granted to the loser? Henin apologists are already making the excuse that when the hand incident took place Serena was ahead and that when the incident against Clijsters happened Kim was behind. And?

I guess this means that Henin is really retired because I don't think anyone in their right mind will want anything to do with her.

I feel for the fans who really liked her and enjoyed her game and while tempted I won't do the "I told you so" dance. Once again Justine Henin manages to give a black eye to the sport that made her rich and that she claims to love so much.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Winners Circle

by Savannah

The Memphis mens singles final between twenty year old Milos Raonic of Canada and twenty eight year old Andy Roddick of the United States did not need to be hyped. A battle between the man who has made the serve the basis of his career and the young upstart who has a booming serve and good court movement should be a classic. For once the anticipation and the hype proved to be right.

Don't get me wrong; it didn't start out that way. Both men focused on their serves and to say it was dull is putting it mildly. I don't think there was even one rally in the first set. With neither man able to break the others serve a tiebreak was played to choose the first set winner. That is when things started to get interesting.
Roddick, no matter how you feel about his game, is an experienced player and he won the first set 7-6(7) over Raonic who appeared mentally and physically fried. As the saying goes looks are deceiving.

The second set featured a little more nuance and there were some rallies but once again a tiebreak was needed. This tiebreak was what got people "all up in this match" as Craig Tweeted. The serve dominated but it was obvious young Raonic was not going without a fight. As the tiebreak wore on I thought we'd end up with a 20-18 score. It ended up 7-6(11) in Raonic's favor and it appeared that just like he had all week Raonic would pull out a three set victory. Andy Roddick, however, was not having it. The third set ebbs and flows were epic and featured flashes of Raonic's reputedly epic temper. He and his coach had a major blowout in Johannesburg and Raonic has stated publicly that he's working on keeping his temper in check. The thing is, and I'm speaking as someone with a very bad temper, you can't let it even think it's got a chance to take over. all reasoning and focus goes out the window. That is what happened in the third set to Raonic. Still he got within 5-6 of Roddick and it looked as if there would be a third tiebreak to decide the match.

But the old warrior, the man who briefly slipped out of the top ten for the first time in years last year had other ideas. Showing that he still has it Roddick pulled out all the stops fighting off all challenges by the young man across the net. When it was all on the line Andy launched himself toward a ball that looked to be on it's way out and that he couldn't have really seen. Miraculously the ball landed in, Raonic couldn't return it and Andy Roddick, stunned at what he'd just done, was the Memphis champion.
Midway through the third set I started pulling for Andy. I thought about his Wimbledon loss and figured that if he lost to this kid his confidence would take a blow he might never recover from. I'm not a fan of his game, the last time I saw him live at the US Open was against Fabrice Santoro and to say that was not a tennis match is putting it mildly. Serve, serve, serve is not tennis in my opinion and it's worse in person BUT men's tennis needs veterans like Roddick. He needs to be there, in the top ten, holding his own. We can debate if he has another Slam in him or if the changes he's made will keep him among the sport's elite till the cows come home. Andy didn't win with his new tennis yesterday. He won with his old style and for one day, in a memorable match up between old and new, old and wise won the day.

First there was the comment Caroline Wozniacki made that she "gave" Kim Clijsters a week at Number One. Now there's this one given during her post match interview today in Dubai.

Q. Do you think it’s unfair when people criticize you or when people talk your game and they say, She gets lots of balls back, but she hasn’t got a big weapon? You’ve got to No. 1 in the world. Do you think that’s unfair when you hear people say that?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Um, well, if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think there’re (sic) not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.

I think Caroline needs to slow her roll. Svetlana Kuznetsova played like she'd never seen a tennis court before. Inexplicably she kept hitting to Wozniacki's strength instead of maximizing hers. Whenever she did step onto the court and use her forehand she won the points. I've sat through miserable finals before but what got me upset was that Sveta was simply playing dumb tennis. I made it through half of the second set before switching to HGTV to watch dreamboat Scott McGilivray redesign someone's income property. That is a first for me. If I didn't know that Sveta can play better, if I didn't know she could think and strategize better I wouldn't have been so pissed off. The thing is Wozniacki's sense of entitlement will only grow because absent Serena Williams, Venus Williams and while I hate to say it Justine Henin there is absolutely no one who plays the type of game that throws Wozniacki off especially in her age group.
What the WTA has managed to do with it's ranking system is make the Grand Slams irrelevant in women's tennis. As long as you can play every week and make at least the semi finals you can be #1. This is why the women's game, and ranking system, is a joke.
As for Kim Clijsters I've said it before and I will keep saying it. She is nothing more than an older version of Wozniacki. She came back during a time when the best players of her generation are in the twilight of their careers and her big competition is a younger version of herself. Who says there's no luck in sports?
Robin Soderling has been on a tear. He won his third winter indoor title at Marseille.
Magdalena Rybarikova won the women's title at Memphis after highly touted Canadian Rebecca Marino was forced to retire due to injury.
Nicolas Almagro won his second title in a row defeating Juan Ignacio Chela at Buenos Aires.
Lourdes Dominguez Lino took the title in Bogota.
Liezel Huber and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez won the doubles crown at Dubai.
Edina Gallovits-Hall and Anabel Medina Garrigues are the doubles champions of Bogota.

In other doubles news the team of Robin Haase and Ken Skupski defeated the French team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau at Marseilles.

Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor won the mens doubles at Memphis while the team of Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva won the women's title.

ATP Issues Security Warning for Acapulco

The Acapulco tournament, a combined ATP/WTA event has always been a favorite of mine. There is something about the heat, the late night matches on red clay, and the quality of the tennis that just makes me very happy. Despite that I was worried that the tournament might be cancelled when David Nalbandian made it clear that he was afraid to come to Acapulco because of security concerns. At first I thought it was just Nalby's way of getting out of a tournament he wasn't prepared for but two things happened. Reports of another massacre taking place inside the resort area brought me up short. The second was the ATP issuing a security warning to players.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -The ATP has warned players about security concerns at its tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, and has been reassured by Mexican officials that steps are being taken to ensure safety at the largest tournament in Latin America.

The Mexican Open begins Monday as a combined ATP and WTA event.

The Pacific resort city has been hit by a wave of drug violence in Mexico, although little of the violence happens in tourist areas.

In January, the bodies of 14 men with their heads chopped off were found outside a shopping center. A 15th body with its head intact was also found nearby.

The ATP, in a statement sent to The Associated Press, said it had received assurances from all levels of the Mexican government.

"Following an independent security assessment and discussions with tournament organizers, we are satisfied that responsible measures are being taken, and that the event has the full support of the authorities of Acapulco, the state of Guerrero, and the Mexican federal government," the statement said.

Players have received e-mails from the ATP about the situation, cautioning them about going out and suggesting they stay near their hotel. It's also been suggested they arrive as late as possible and leave once eliminated.

Tournament organizers have played down the security concerns, pointing out that the International Olympic Committee and President Jacques Rogge held their executive board meeting in the coastal resort in October.

David Nalbandian said Saturday that he was thinking about withdrawing since he already has a groin injury and could use the rest before Argentina's Davis Cup match against Romania March 4-6.

"It's a great and enjoyable tournament to play," said Nalbandian, who was beaten on Saturday by Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals of the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires.

"But for right now it's a little more difficult because of the security situation. We (players) are a bit scared about this and we're trying to decide what to do."

Defending men's champion David Ferrer has stated he's not afraid and was in the resort town for a few days prior to the start of the tournament.

I'm not aware of the WTA issuing a warning to it's players.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This and That

by Savannah

Won my match against Shahar Peer 6-2 6-4, playing the semis tomorrow and got my number 1 ranking back

It's amusing to listen to commentators go on and on about the computer ranked WTA #1 Caroline Wozniacki's need to cut back on the number of tournaments she plays. I mean do they say this with a straight face? If she were to play a sensible schedule would she be ranked Number One?

Another thing needs to be said. I don't really have anything against Ms Wozniacki personally. How could I since I don't know her personally? I don't like her game and question how the WTA feels about a girl who, when she plays, the commentators spend more time talking about what she needs to improve instead of what she's doing right. I suspect an edict has come down to reverse that though since I heard commentators today talking about the pressure she puts on her opponents and how she is such a great defensive player. No one will say upfront that she is still playing Junior level tennis and is learning on her feet how to play the pro game, something she may never really do if her Tweets reflect her world view. I mean most players would have said I got THE top ranking back not MY top ranking. One of the things I notice about all the younger players is their inflated sense of entitlement. It's amazing when their games are so limited in scope and complexity.

However, as the saying goes "don't hate the playa hate the game". Caroline will go on playing the brutal schedule she does until or unless the ranking system is changed. Will it be? As soon as a certain two sisters retire I'd bet a lot of virtual money that the system will be revisited and revised to look more like the ATP system. I'm just sayin'.
Meanwhile the tennis media continues to foam at the mouth about young Milos Raonic of Canada. The young man is playing in Memphis this week and is into the semi finals. If you like the serve and nothing but the serve young Milos is your man. He does come in and exhibits speed in tracking down shots but his game is built around the serve. I am worried that the people around him may be asking too much of him.

It was reported on Twitter today by Greg Sharko of the ATP that Milos has accepted a Special Entry into Acapulco, something he had previously said he wouldn't do. The young man has played a hell of a lot of tennis from Australia to now and while sitting on the sidelines during a break today he looked exhausted. I can understand them wanting him to get some clay court play in but right now I think what he needs most is rest, especially with Indian Wells and Miami coming up, tournaments which suit his game and where he will be expected to do well.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two time Slam winner, is still in contention in Dubai. Is she a headcase? Yes. Can she play extraordinary tennis? Yes. Is anyone talking about her? No. She will face Flavia Pennetta in the semi finals tomorrow while two Slamless #1's, the above mentioned Wozniacki, and Jelena Jankovic, will play each other. Wonder which match will have the better quality of tennis? It's hard to predict these things especially since Bad Sveta can show up at any given moment.

As for the other semi, the one that will grab all the attention, I have no idea.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Star is Born Eh?

by Savannah

There's an expression almost every American adult knows. Never assume because you will make an "ass" out of "u" and "me"
Fernando Verdasco. will look at the tapes of his match against the young Canadian Milos Raonic and realize that he may have come into the match with certain assumptions. Fernando was the defending champion. He'd played very well throughout the tournament defeating Juan Martin del Potro in the semi finals. Raonic is just 20 and was playing his first ATP final match. While it would probably not be a cake walk it was a match against another big server and he'd already won a match against a player like that.

I'm sure Fernando and his team will study that first set tiebreaker where he was up 6-2, four set points. In what can only be described as a complete mental collapse Verdasco lost that tiebreak 8-6. I guess he and his team felt that the kid would break under the pressure and Fernando would win the next two sets easily.

Instead Verdasco found himself in another tiebreak. And again he found himself on the losing end of a 7-5 tiebreak score.
We know that Verdasco has a broken bone in his foot. Someone posted on Twitter that he had a cortisone shot after the Australian Open since he wants to avoid surgery that will keep him out for weeks. He was shaking the foot on and off during the match but he didn't ask for or receive and medical attention.

As for Raonic the kid played with no fear. How important is he to the non European tennis establishment? When Justin Gimelstob went from mispronouncing Raonic to saying the name perfectly you know something is up. But where did Raonic go for a coach? Where was he hitting with top pros? Spain. The comment tonight was that he plays a little like a Canadian and a little like a Spaniard. That was when they weren't comparing him to Pete Sampras.

The Winter/Spring hardcourt season is now officially underway. Raonic has a Wild Card into the main draw at Memphis. Who is his first opponent? The #2 seed Fernando Verdasco. Hold on kids. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Doubles Results
Here are the results I omitted in the first weekend post.

Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares won the Doubles crown in Bahia.
Rajeev Ram and Scott Lipsky won in San Jose.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands paired with Meghann Shaughnessy to win the Paris Indoors title.

The team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci took the doubles crown in Pattaya City, Thailand.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Update 2/13/2011

by Savannah

"What I know is that I deserved to be the world number on in 2010, obviously, my results clearly show it. I mean, I've been the one who won more matches and more tournmaents on the WTA Tour than anybody else."

"I think that in every slam, I miss a little bit of luck and experience. It's not a big secret to play well seven matches in a row to win the title. And I learnt through my career that it's not that easy at all. But I'll do everything I can this year to work it out"

Caroline Wozniacki in Dubai as reported by French Eurosport. Fan translation by "MiiMo".

The French Open Will Remain in Paris

The USTA made $90 million at the gate for the 2010 US Open. Ninety million smackers just on ticket sales. That's not counting the overpriced and dreadful food, programs and other crap that's on sale during the US Open. What national tennis organization wouldn't see those figures and salivate?

That was the idea behind moving the French Open from it's present site near the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Bigger site. More modern site. More people. More money.
Today the victory went to the traditionalists as the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) voted to keep their Grand Slam in Paris and update the site.

While many of us outside of France see this as a victory many French don't seem to think it is. They look at the money the USTA makes on the US Open and want to cram more people into their tournament.

The French Open and Wimbledon remain the most fan friendly of the Slams in terms of how tickets are sold and providing fans with a venue made for watching tennis. I've ranted about the horrors of the stadium named for the late great Arthur Ashe in the New York City borough of Queens in the past so I won't go into them now. Let's just say that the FFT made the right decision.

The Weekends Winners

I think we can safely say it's time to pay serious attention to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. She got on a lot of people's watch lists last year but being as she's part of the WTA that means nothing in the wider scheme of things. Blondes with long braids are a dime a dozen in the WTA and they've mostly turned out to be flashes in the pan.

That all changed today. Playing against a hostile French crowd - I know there's no other kind but it still has to be said - Kvitova held her nerves together and didn't allow the newly anointed WTA #1 Kim Clijsters to get into a rhythm and dominate the pace of the match. Clijsters had no answers for Kvitova's serve and groundstrokes and since Petra was not about to beat herself Kim once again showed that she is not much more than a glorified pusher. As I've said before she's just better at it than Wozniacki.
I watched the match online on Eurosport2 and the British commentary was full of St Kim adulation and pictures of her husband and daughter. I don't know if eating crow is done in Europe but I hope it was cooked to their liking.

Despite all the pomp and ceremony in Paris Clijsters can be passed by the Deserving One (see above) if she reaches the semifinals in Dubai. It's still the WTA kids. But watch out for Ms Petra Kvitova.
Flanked by Bahian priestesses Nicolas Almagro (r) and Aleksandr Dolgopolov pose with their trophies. Almagro won the crown at Costa do Sauipe.
Robin Soderling successfully defended his crown in Rotterdam. He defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Rotterdam doubles champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner flank Tournament Director Richard Krajicek.
It seemed as if Daniela Hantuchova was tuning up to sing her swan song. After all her game seemed anachronistic and she'd always been considered physically fragile. Besides she hadn't won a title of any kind in four years. That drought has ended as she defeated Sara Errani of Italy in Thailand. Some found fault with her commenting that the semi final against Vera Zvonareva was a "mini final" but truth be told it was. I can't speak for everyone but I didn't expect her to win that match. I understand that Vera got very upset about a call and that was it for her.

That leads me to wonder why there are still tournaments - some majors as we saw in Paris this week and during Fed Cup play last week - being played on courts without HawkEye. It's expensive but it makes for much cleaner matches and less conspiracy theories from people like me. Oh well. Guess I'm shoveling shit against the tide again.

End Note

The highly anticipated match between Milos Raonic and Fernando Verdasco at the SAP Open will be played later today. Raonic got a walkover from an injured Gael Monfils into the final while Verdasco routined Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 for the chance to defend his title. Needless to say I hope to be watching and Tweeting about that match and posting about it later. I can't wait for Brad Gilbert to pronounce the young Canadian's name. On second thought I can.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The WTA Has A New Top Dog

by Savannah


The Official WTA Statement

Friday, February 11, 2011


Four-time Grand Slam Champion regains top ranking for the first time since March 2006

PARIS, FRANCE – By reaching the semifinals at the 2011 Open GDF SUEZ, Kim Clijsters will return to the
top of the WTA Rankings on Monday, February 14, 2011. Clijsters will surpass the current World No.1
Caroline Wozniacki who has held the top spot for 18 consecutive weeks since October 11, 2010. Clijsters
will be ranked WTA World No.1 for the fourth time in her career and will climb to the top of the WTA
Rankings for the first time since March 19, 2006. It has been 256 weeks since the last time Clijsters was
World No.1, the second longest streak between No.1 rankings in men’s or women’s tennis history (S.
Williams, 265 weeks).

“I am happy to regain the No.1 here in Paris as I feel like it’s close to home in Belgium,” Kim Clijsters
stated. “I’m proud that I have achieved this in my second career and as a mom. I hope that I can now go
on and win the tournament.”
“I congratulate Kim on achieving the World No.1 ranking once again in her career. It is incredible that
five years have passed since Kim was No.1, but the fans of women’s tennis are incredibly lucky to have
her back and playing the best tennis of her career. To be able to excel on the tennis court while being a
working mother is truly commendable,” said Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA.

Clijsters has enjoyed a great beginning to the 2011 season, winning 15 out of 16 matches, highlighted
by capturing the 2011 Australian Open title, her fourth career Grand Slam, and reaching the final at the
Medibank International (Sydney) where she lost to China’s Li Na. In the past 52 weeks, Clijsters has won
five titles, including the 2010 US Open, the year-end WTA Championships (Doha), the Sony Ericsson
Open (Miami) and the Western & Southern Women’s Open (Cincinnati), in addition to the Australian

Clijsters is the owner of 41 WTA singles titles – 13th all time – and has 495 career match wins. She
boosted her career prize money earnings to more than $23 million at the Australian Open and ranks
third best all-time, behind Serena and Venus Williams, respectively. Since her WTA comeback in August
2009, Clijsters owns the best match winning percentage (.861, 68-11) and has won seven WTA singles
titles, including three of the last five Grand Slams.



Steffi Graf (GER) August 17, 1987 377
Martina Navratilova (TCH/USA) July 10, 1978 332
Chris Evert (USA) November 3, 1975 260
Martina Hingis (SUI) March 31, 1997 209
Monica Seles (YUG/USA) March 11, 1991 178
Serena Williams (USA) July 8, 2002 123
Justine Henin (BEL) October 20, 2003 117
Lindsay Davenport (USA) October 12, 1998 98
Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) September 13, 2004 39
Dinara Safina (RUS) April 20, 2009 26
Tracy Austin (USA) April 7, 1980 21
KIM CLIJSTERS (BEL) August 11, 2003 20
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) August 11, 2008 18
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) October 11, 2010 18
Jennifer Capriati (USA) October 15, 2001 17
Maria Sharapova (RUS) August 22, 2005 17
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) June 9, 2008 12
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (ESP) February 6, 1995 12
Venus Williams (USA) February 25, 2002 11
Evonne Goolagong (AUS) April 26, 1976 2

The good news is that a Slam winner sits on top of the WTA heap. I know her fans are happy for what she has accomplished in her second career. As usual the tired phrase "you can only beat who's across the net from you" will be repeated by some. My comment on this is not mine. It comes from a tennishead calling herself "Lilac".

As I have written before. I feel cheated. Clisjters was second tier in her era; never able to beat her rivals, Capriati, Serena, Venus, Henin for a trophy. Each is either retired or on the downside of their careers; and she's returned after a long rest to compete in a women's field with no great champions. Like I told Craig Hickman -- hey, if you can't win in your era, just wait and come back in a less competitive one to pick up slams. I'm no fan of Davenport, but I think it sucks that Clisjters has surpassed her in slam titles. Booo.

Not much more to say is there?


Dmitry Tursunov has learned the perils of social media at severe cost to his reputation as a player and a person. He tweeted today that he was stealing wi-fi from someone riding on the same train he was and then made what in my opinion was a slur aimed at people of Jewish descent. His major defense was that he dogs Russians as well and no one cared about that.

We're all adults here so lets be real. Every group has things that are considered peculiar to their cultural, racial or ethnic group. That said most people in today's world don't repeat those things outside of the group, and certainly not on a platform like Twitter where you never know who is following you and posts can go viral in a matter of minutes. I thought Tursunov would say "sorry" and disappear for awhile. Instead he continued to try and defend his comments. Speaking personally I stopped following a person who made insulting racial comments about Serena Williams.

I hope someone has gotten to Tursunov and his attempts at defending himself stop.

Tennis Talk

I'm sorry I don't remember the names of the commentators who covered the Milos Raonic vs Richard Berankis match in San Jose this afternoon but I applaud their analysis of the current situation in men's tennis especially as it relates to the United States.

Raonic as we know is a young Canadian who has been the story of 2011 so far. He is tall, with a huge serve and mobility similar to Juan Martin del Potro. Long story short the commentators talked about how the USTA would simply love to have a talent like Raonic but that none is forthcoming at this time. They spoke frankly about Andy Roddick having been the standard bearer for men's tennis in the States and that he may not have another Slam in him. They discussed the wisdom of regional vs national centers for up and coming players, and the allure that baseball, football and even hockey have on young American athletes. They talked about Roger Federer and how he seems to think the change in his style of play was his brainchild and that new coach Paul Annacone has not been given the credit he should be in Federer's public comments. They spoke about the Player Development structure in Spain and France and how France, while producing good players has not produced Grand Slam winners while Spain has. Guys, I don't know your names but I hope to hear more from you. I doubt very seriously that ESPN2 will hire you because you speak frankly and honestly. Enjoyed your broadcast.

If Bethanie Mattek-Sands keeps it up she'll become known for more than just her on court attire. I read somewhere today that a lot of the credit for her improved level of play - she defeated Andrea Petkovic today in Paris - goes to Fed Cup Captain Mary Jo Fernandez. If so my hat is off to Mary Jo. She still has no business being a commentator but if she brings out the latent talent Bethanie has always had she deserves her props.

It should be noted that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is into the semi finals in Rotterdam after Tomas Berdych withdrew from the tournament due to illness.

There is also a flu epidemic sweeping Russia at the present time. As you all know Maria Sharapova withdrew from Paris due to a viral illness.

Both Alexandr Dolgopolov and Janko Tipsarevic have confirmed that the Tennis Integrity Unit has contacted them. The TIU is the sports anti-corruption arm that deals with suspicious betting. Dolgopolov said that he was not the only player contacted. "I wasn't really surprised because I knew some guys, you know, like Russian guys, they got those letters."

Janko Tipsarevic also confirmed that he was contacted over his three-set defeat to Horacio Zeballos in Moscow in October.

"I said to the TIU that I have no problem, they can send me a letter every week if they want," he told “All it needed was a phone call to my bank, to my phone company and I gave them everything. Easy, just took seven days, I sent them my account, the telephone list, everything they wanted, what’s the problem?"—


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heard Around

by Savannah


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga says the domination of the men's tour by two players is over

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Tuesday sauntered into the second round of the ATP Rotterdam Open after a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and declared the era of domination from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is over.

The eighth-seed who lost the 2008 Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic said that the Serb's victory in Melbourne little more than a week ago over Andy Murray marked a gate-crashing of the private party enjoyed by the Swiss and Spaniard for the last half-decade.

"Federer and Nadal are not alone (at the top of the rankings) any more," said Tsonga, who fired 11 aces in his 75-minute win over the 19-year-old Dimitrov.

"Maybe on clay, things (Nadal's victories) are still the same, but not on other surfaces.

"Djokovic and Murray are beating Nadal and Federer very often, all the players are improving their games. It's not just about Nadal and Federer any more."

Tsonga said that his present world ranking of 18 after an injury-marred 2010 season, which saw him fall out of the Top 10, was not a reflection of his present form.

"I've also improved my game but my ranking has gone backwards," he said. "I feel that I'm playing better than two or three years ago.

"I'm in good shape and taking the matches here step by step - but I still feel I have a chance to win the title," said Tsonga, who has won five ATP titles.

American Sam Querrey continues his charm campaign. After losing to Lukas Lacko 7-6(6), 6-3 at San Jose last evening Querry is reported to have "nearly walked from his press conference," by one source and to have blown the press off by others. I'm not sure what his problem is. Well, I do. It's a syndrome often seen in those who feel they're above everyone else due to their social status. Very often these types hate being called for their shit and become whiny babies when it happens. I guess he'll be riding that Porsche more and more if things keep up the way they have for him on the tennis court.

Meanwhile Juan Martin del Potro won his first round match at the SAP Open.

Yanina Wickmayer may be doubtful for Paris after a wall fell on her leg. It seems she was signing autographs after Fed Cup and a fan surge ended up with the wall falling.

The ITF has announced the draws for the Fed Cup World Group Playoffs to be held April 16-17.


Germany v USA
SPAIN v France


Belarus (*) v ESTONIA
Slovenia (*) v CANADA

Home teams listed first
Seeds in capitals
(*) = choice of ground decided by lot

Gee I wonder what surface Germany will choose?

Staying with the WTA Melanie Oudin got a good win (for her) over Vera Dushevina in Paris yesterday. The indoor surface plays very fast and she has done well in the past at the GDF Suez.

The most talked about person in tennis right now has to be Kim Clijsters. Most of the talk is about her ascension to the WTA #1 spot as preordained and what it means for women's tennis. Everyone is looking forward to Serena Williams return - her form will be closely scrutinized at that March 8 Nike exhibition - but I don't think anyone expects her to storm the ramparts and immediately reclaim her top ranking. Yeah I remember Australia and #81 but the Serena coming back is older and has suffered through a debilitating injury. Yes she's been practicing from her walker/wheelchair but the latest pictures taken at the Super Bowl show she is still wearing the boot on her foot.
Do I detect the whiff of desperation in the frenzied talk about Clijsters? Is that an acknowledgement that the current computer ranked #1 while the type of what the WTA wants in a top player is not a representative of what women's tennis wants to be about? Kim has now won a Slam outside of the United States and some are predicting she may do well at Wimbledon. Looked at in terms of accomplishments Clijsters has now won four slams and it would be good for the WTA to have a Slam winner sitting on top of the heap. I can't argue with that.
Do I like Clijsters game? No. Do I think she's a glorified, more experienced pusher? Yes. But she does have those Slams now. I guess I'll have to get used to turning the volume down when the commentators start worshipping at the altar of Saint Kim, the only woman on the planet ever to give birth.

Li Na just signed big contracts with Rolex and Haagen-Dazs.
Knowing the battles Li has fought in the past does this mean she gets to keep the proceeds or will she have to kick back a percentage to her tennis federation? I haven't seen any discussion about this. Also for clarification the Chinese custom is for the last name to go first. I try to respect that and call her Li Na. Na is her first name.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weekend Winners

by Savannah

The ATP champions club welcomed two new members over the weekend.
Kevin Anderson of South Africa captured his first ATP title on home soil. He defeated Somdev Devvarman of India 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The other new comer to the winners circle is Ivan Dodig of Croatia. He defeated Michal Berrer of Germany 6-3, 6-4 in front of a home crowd as well.
Tommy Robredo of Spain was not in front of his home crowd but he won his 11th title in Santiago, Chile defeating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(5).
Congratulations to them all.

Fed Cup - A Disaster For The United States
The only United States players who can come out of Antwerp with their heads high are Liezel Huber and Vania King. Their doubles win allowed the United States to avoid a 5-0 bagel served by the Fed Cup team of Belgium. The one rubber the US had to win, the opening one between Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Yanina Wickmayer went to Wickmayer and that was all she wrote. Mattek-Sands tried to redeem herself in the reverse singles winning a first set tiebreak 12-10 over Kim Clijsters but she was outplayed the next two sets and lost the rubber 7-6(10, 2-6, 1-6. Melanie Oudin did nothing for her team losing to both Clijsters and Wickmayer who both served her a bagel set. I do hope that Mary Jo Fernandez will be allowed to develop her team the way Patrick McEnroe was allowed to do with the US Davis Cup team. I don't see anyone on the horizon who will be able to compete on a grand stage with the better women's players. Most of the top American juniors are simply too small physically to compete with the bigger stronger women from overseas. They're also hampered by their lack of knowledge of how to play strategic tennis. What do I mean?

I hope you got a chance to see the ties played between Australia and Italy and Russia vs France. In both ties knowing how to strategize and how to react to what your opponent is doing on court won for the veterans who composed Team Italy and Team Russia.

In Moscow Captain Shamil Tarpishev saw Virginie Razzano of France make mince meat of Maria Sharapova . As we all know as goes Sharapova's serve so go her matches. Razzano played a crafty came frustrating Sharapova at every turn. With her serve misfiring Sharapova was run off the court. This debacle followed Alize Cornet's drubbing of Svetlana Kuznetsova putting France up 2-0 over Russia, something that surprised everyone to say the least. The reverse singles saw Tarpishev bench Maria Sharapova in favor of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who was supposedly injured. Couldn't prove it by me as Pavs defeated a frustrated Cornet 3-6, 6-3 6-2 to open reverse singles play. Sveta came ready to play and routined Razzano 6-4, 6-4. Russia also won the doubles 7-6(4), 6-0.

In Australia the Italian women were caught off guard when Francesca Schiavone lost the opening rubber to Jarmila Groth 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. That was the wake up call Italy needed. Flavia Pennetta won a battle against Samantha Stosur 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-4. The reverse singles saw Stosur push Schiavone to three sets but lose. Groth lost in straight sets to Pennetta who was not going to lose to her. Italy's doubles team beat back a determind Australian team 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-4.

In both ties fans got to see well played women's tennis. It was a beautiful sight.

Some tennisheads were taken back by a couple of Tweets made by Caroline Wozniacki in which she said (and I'm paraphrasing) "I won my matches. None of these bitches stepped up." She did neglect to mention that she lost the doubles she played but I'm sure it was the fault of that lazy bitch who played with her. There was a lot of surprise and of course there were excuses citing her age as the main reason she would make such immature comments in a world wide public forum. Does Denmark need to develop it's players? No doubt. Does the Danish Federation have the money to do so? I don't know. I do know that the Danish Captain tweeted some remarks that hinted he was not amused by Caroline's tweets. This is the second time questions about Caroline's judgment were raised by her Tweets. Someone on her team needs to slow her roll.

The full Fed Cup results are below. Congratulations to all the women who competed.


ITALY defeated AUSTRALIA 4-1
Venue: Domain Tennis Centre, Hobart, AUS (hard – outdoors)

Jarmila Groth (AUS) d. Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 67(4) 63 63
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) d. Samantha Stosur (AUS) 76(5) 67(5) 64
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) d. Samantha Stosur (AUS) 76(1) 36 75
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) d. Jarmila Groth (AUS) 62 63
Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA) d. Anastasia Rodionova/Rennae Stubbs (AUS) 26 76(1) 64

RUSSIA defeated FRANCE 3-2
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS (hard – indoors)

Alize Cornet (FRA) d. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 36 63 64
Virginie Razzano (FRA) d. Maria Sharapova (RUS) 63 64
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. Alize Cornet (FRA) 36 63 62
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d. Virginie Razzano (FRA) 64 64
Svetlana Kuznetsova/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. Julie Coin/Alize Cornet (FRA) 76(4) 60

Venue: Sibamac Arena, Bratislava, SVK (hard – indoors)

Lucie Safarova (CZE) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 75 61
Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) 62 63
Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 64 62
Jana Cepelova (SVK) d. Lucie Safarova (CZE) 57 76(5) ret.
Jana Cepelova/Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Kveta Peschke/Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 61 46 76(4)

BELGIUM defeated USA 4-1
Venue: Sportpaleis Antwerp, Antwerp, BEL (hard – indoors)

Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 61 76(6)
Kim Clijsters (BEL) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 60 64
Kim Clijsters (BEL) d. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 67(10) 62 61
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 62 60
Liezel Huber/Vania King (USA) d. Kirsten Flipkens/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL) 63 75


SPAIN defeated ESTONIA 4-1
Venue: Tere Tennis Club, Tallinn, EST (hard – indoors)

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP) d. Anett Kontaveit (EST) 62 60
Kaia Kanepi (EST) d. Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 63 62
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP) d. Kaia Kanepi (EST) 36 64 63
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) d. Anett Kontaveit (EST) 62 62
Nuria Llagostera Vives/Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) d. Maret Ani/Margit Ruutel (EST) 61 76(5)

Venue: Ljudski vrt Sports Hall, Maribor, SLO (clay – indoors)

Andrea Petkovic (GER) d. Masa Zec-Peskiric (SLO) 63 64
Polona Hercog (SLO) d. Julia Goerges (GER) 75 64
Andrea Petkovic (GER) d. Polona Hercog (SLO) 61 62
Julia Goerges (GER) d. Masa Zec-Peskiric (SLO) 64 62
Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Tatjana Malek (GER) d. Polona Hercog/Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) 76(3) ret.

SERBIA defeated CANADA 3-2
Venue: Spens Sports Center, Novi Sad, SRB (hard – indoors)

Rebecca Marino (CAN) d. Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 63 36 75
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) d. Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) 64 75
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) d. Rebecca Marino (CAN) 76(3) 63
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) d. Ana Jovanovic (SRB) 60 64
Bojana Jovanovski/Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) d. Sharon Fichman/Marie-Eve Pelletier (CAN) 76(5) 64

UKRAINE defeated SWEDEN 3-2
Venue: Idrottens Hus, Helsingborg, SWE (hard – indoors)

Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) d. Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 63 62
Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) d. Johanna Larsson (SWE) 76(2) 76(5)
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) d. Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 76(3) 64
Johanna Larsson (SWE) d. Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 67(3) 62 63
Kateryna Bondarenko/Olga Savchuk (UKR) d. Sofia Arvidsson/Johanna Larsson (SWE) 75 62


Rafael Nadal won the 2010 Laureus Sportsman of the Year award.