Australian Open Predictions

17 01 2010

Okay, predictions for the Australian Open: (apologies for the layout, wordpress seems to be playing up)

1st Quarter Semi Finalist – Serena Williams (if her ‘knee injury’ comes into play again, Vika Azarenka)

2nd Quarter Semi Finalist – Caroline Wozniacki

3rd Quarter Semi Finalist – Kim Clijsters

4th Quarter Semi Finalist – Marion Bartoli

Okay, my own bias is probably coming into play there.  Bartoli is more than capable of reaching the Quarter Final here, in which she would likely play Maria Sharapova or Dinara Safina – I would see it as Bartoli vs Sharapova and I’m taking an upset special with the Frenchwoman.

Semi Finals

Serena Williams bts Caroline Wozniacki

Kim Clijsters bts Marion Bartoli

Held myself back from saying another Marion win!

Final

Serena Williams vs Kim Clijsters

WINNER – Kim Clijsters

Other possible contenders:

Justine Henin – falls to Clijsters

Elena Dementieva – falls to Henin

Svetlana Kuznetsova – falls to Clijsters

Vika Azarenka – falls to S. Williams

Flavia Pennetta – falls to Henin

Jelena Jankovic – falls to Bartoli

Dinara Safina – falls to Sharapova

Venus Williams – falls to an Upset Special

Finally, the two players I would have followed with lots of interest are the Slamless Dementieva and Italian Pennetta but unfortunately both are due to play Henin early – Dementieva in the 2nd round. If either of them were to beat Henin they’d still have to play Clijsters! Both of those players are capable of causing the upset against either of the Belgians.





Dementieva downs Serena in Sydney

16 01 2010

WTA Medibank International: Russian star Elena Dementieva picked up her first title of the season in Sydney, thumping Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2 in the Final.

Dementieva successfully defended a title for the first time in her career to cap a fine week and take her total to 15 tournament wins.  During the week she beat Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova before taking three Top Ten scalps; Dinara Safina (2), Victoria Azarenka (7) and Serena (1), dropping just one set along the way to Hantuchova.

The final was marred slightly by an apparent knee injury to Serena, who began wincing and limping when 6-3, 3-0 down but Dementieva had outplayed her from the start, just as she outplayed her other opponenents in Sydney, with some dominant, almost flawless tennis. Serena on the other hand made unforced error after unforced error but confirms that the injury isn’t serious enough to harm her chances in the Australian Open, which begins on Sunday night (UK time).

The tournament began with a strong field and contained nine of the top ten players, Venus Williams being the missing link.  Vera Zvonareva retired after six games of her opening match against Elena Vesnina and the ankle injury which hampered her last season looks set to continue in 2010.  Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic both crashed out in the first round, to Li Na and Agnes Szavay respectively whilst Kuznetsova was beaten by Cibulkova in the second round. Of the top players, it was Dementieva who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Perhaps the funniest match was played in the second round between Agnes Radwanska and Dinara Safina, as the Russian rallied from 0-5 down in the first set to take the match 7-5, 6-4. Safina looked in good form on occasions in her matches against Radwanska and Dementieva but too often struggled to hit the court.

Elsewhere this week, Alona Bondarenko was victorious in Hobart, beating Shahar Pe’er 6-2, 6-4 in the Final to collect her second career title.  Both players now head to Melbourne to join the rest of the assembled cast for the Australian Open.

Justine Henin was practising in Melbourne this week after pulling out of Sydney to protect a leg injury from becoming more severe, and was joined by Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.  Sharapova and Bartoli will go into the first slam of the year without playing a competitive tournament as a warm up, although Sharapova was active in a Hong Kong exhibition the week before.  Bartoli, following a succession of injuries last year, including being forced to retire against Aravane Rezai in the season-ending Bali championships, has opted to focus more on her physical maintenance as she aims for further improvements this season. As always, Allez Marion!

Australian Open preview to follow tomorrow.





Belgians set the pace for 2010

10 01 2010

After a ridiculously long absence of at least six weeks, the new tennis season has arrived with a bang! 2010 opened with tournaments in Brisbane and Auckland and both were won by Belgian players, Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer respectively.

The main focus this week has been the return of Justine Henin after 18 months out of the game and she didn’t disappoint, finally succumbing to Clijsters in the Brisbane final on a third set tie-break. Henin saw off Nadia Petrova in her first match and also took care of Sesil Karatantcheva and, after a tense battle, Melinda Czink before dispatching Ana Ivanovic without too much trouble. In the final against Clijsters the bar was raised in a rollercoaster match which saw Clijsters take a 6-3, 4-1 lead and appear certain for a comfortable win. Henin had different ideas and won the next eight games to take the second set and establish a 3-0 lead in the third, before herself collapsing as Clijsters fought back. Almost inevitably it went to a tie-break after Henin failed to finish off two match points in the final set, and the breaker was as giddy as the match itself; Clijsters took a 4-0 lead, then 5-1, but Henin clawed back to 6-6 before producing a double fault to give Clijsters match point on her own serve, and Clijsters screamed with joy for a second before a line judge called ‘out’ on what seemed a perfectly good ball. At that point it would have been very harsh for Clijsters to be denied but she wrapped the match up moments later, taking the tiebreak 8-6. Disappointing for Henin but just getting to the final in her first tournament back was a huge achievement.

So what next? Well, Henin has pulled out of this weeks tournament in Sydney citing a leg injury which she wants to rest, which makes sense. At times this week she has looked rusty, other times phenomenal so it’ll be great when she’s back in the groove of the Tour.

In Auckland it was Belgian youngster Yanina Wickmayer who triumphed, beating Flavia Pennetta in the final. Wickmayer, who was facing a one year ban just a month ago, couldn’t prepare properly for the new season of course as she didn’t know whether she’d be able to compete, but looked superb in her first tournament of the year. Pennetta also looked to be going with all guns blazing, playing some awesome tennis until the final, when she seemed unable to do anything right. Wickmayer will next have to qualify for the Australian Open despite being ranked No. 16 in the world, due to the issues surrounding her ban, so you have to pity the poor bollocks who draws her in qualifying.

Other notes from the tournaments this week, based mainly on my own interests… Alize Cornet is showing signs of getting over the slump of last year, beating Erakovic and Vesnina pretty comfortably before going out to feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone. She started this week in Hobart with a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.

Shahar Peer was the subject of a small protest in Auckland. The group, which I think consisted of about seven people, stood at the entrance to the tournament during her matches and called through a megaphone for the Israeli to withdraw from the tournament due to the government of her country. Peer didn’t seem to mind though and progressed to the semi finals before bowing out to Wickmayer in straight sets. The only player that seemed to be affected by the protest was Magdalena Rybarikova who was visibly shaken and seemed to agree that her match against Peer should be abandoned – well done protestors, Magdalena thanks you for ruining her tournament.

So where the hell were the rest of the top players in the opening week of the season? Hong Kong, playing an exhibition tournament which I’m not even going to bother going into. Rumours that none of them fancied playing Clijsters or Henin remain unconfirmed, but Serena Williams, Dementieva, Sharapova, Safina, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva and Jankovic will all be competing this week in Sydney. Venus Williams, however, decided that one exhibition tournament is more than enough preperation for the Australian Open and is putting her feet up somewhere – please, don’t suggest it’s because she’s not going to go far in the AO. Last year’s exit to the always-enigmatic Carla Suarez Navarro won’t be repeated.

So, Sydney and Hobart will lead us up to the AO, hopefully it’ll be another good week for the WTA but I suspect it’ll be littered with retirements and withdrawals as we approach the first Slam of the year one week from now – roll on!





Kim Stars in Fairytale of New York

21 09 2009

Fate, destiny, written in the stars; some of the descriptions I’ve heard since Kim Clijsters capped a remarkable return to tennis by winning the US Open. Featuring in just her third tournament since her comeback, she took a wildcard into the final Slam of the year as an unseeded entrant, and left with all the spoils. It’s the heart and soul of dreams.

She began with an expected win over Viktoriya Kutuzova before leaping her first hurdle, in the shape of Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, in three sets and then took out compatriot and friend Kirsten Flipkens. Next she faced the biggest test of her comeback thus far in Venus Williams and took a remarkable match 60 06 64 to progress to the Quarter Finals. Here she disposed of Li Na to set up a Semi Final match against world number 2 Serena Williams. Unless you’ve been in hiding for the last couple of weeks then you know what happened in THAT match as Clijsters progressed to the US Open Final in straight sets, 64 75. The final obstacle between the Belgian and an unbelievable victory was Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki, who had overcome her own personal millstone in Sorana Corstea before knocking out French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, American wonderkid Melanie Oudin and another Belgian in Yanina Wickmayer. Wozniacki, who capped a superb year by quailifying for the year end championships with this run, couldn’t halt the irrestible force and succumbed to Clijsters 75 63. Our champion was then joined on court by her young daughter Jada, much to the photographers delight.

So what next for Clijsters? Well she’s scheduled to play in Luxembourg next month, a tournament she’s won five times previously, and has announced her entry into Brisbane at the start of next season. Until then she’s going to relish the last couple of months and let it all sink in, I think – as well as enjoy looking after her daughter at home again. Clijsters has been a revelation since her return and has looked every inch the mature player, composed and patient, something she could perhaps teach some of her younger counterparts on the WTA Tour.

It was a grand way to complete the 2009 Slams and a better story couldn’t have been scripted; alongside the dream run of Oudin, the fall of big name players, Serena’s meltdown and a first-time Slam finalist, it was a tournament full of excitement and freshness. Well done Kim.





US Open: One Week In

7 09 2009

The US Open is now entering the second week and there’s been plenty of entertainment from the women, some matches good, some matches exciting and a fair share of big names sent packing.

Perhaps the most enticing story so far has been that of Kim Clijsters, continuing her return from retirement as an unseeded player in New York. She passed her first round test as expected with a 61, 60 win over Kutuzova to set up a rematch with Marion Bartoli; the Frenchwoman took the first 75 but Clijster flicked the switch and took the next two sets at the expense of just three games. In the third round she comfortably saw off compatriot and friend Kirsten “Flipper” Flipkens to set up a fourth round match against No. 3 seed Venus Williams. Her opponent has spent this tournament again playing with wrapped knees and had seen off Dushevina, Mattek-Sands and Rybarikova to reach this round, and although she  is clearly having problems with her knee, it isn’t stopping her from competing in doubles with her sister. The match was turned on it’s head in the first two sets as each player bagelled the other, first Clijsters and then Venus, and a tight third set saw just one break in favour of the Belgian, enabling her to send Venus crashing with a 64 victory. Next she faces Li Na in the quarter-final before potentially facing Serena Williams in the semis.

The American crowds are all excited about 17 year old Melanie Oudin who has had great success so far, coming from a set down to beat Elena Dementieva in the second round, before doing exactly the same thing in the next round to Maria Sharapova. After beating Shvedova, who herself pulled off an upset with the beating of Jelena Jankovic, Oudin faces another Russian today in the form of Nadia Petrova for a place in the QF, and the top half of the draw has really opened up following Oudin’s dismissal of two top players, added to the exit of Dinara Safina who lost to Petra Kvitova after scraping her way through the first two rounds. Victoria Azarenka is also out at the hands of Francesca Schiavone and the two main seeds left in that half are Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova – who face each other today in a fourth round match. Kvitova faces Yanina Wickmayer and the winner will meet either Gisela Dulko or Kateryna Bondarenko in the QF. Either Wozniacki or Kuznetsova will face the winner of Oudin-Petrova.

In the bottom half it’s a much tougher affair. Tournament favourite Serena Williams will face Flavia Pennetta in the QF after the Italian saved six match points to see off Vera Zvonareva, and the winner of that will probably face Clijsters. It’s heavily expected that the winner of the US Open will be whoever makes the final from the bottom half, although I’m sure Wozniacki and Kuznetsova – and others – will have an opinion on that.

With all the relentless talk about the number one ranking this year, it would be very interesting if Svetlana Kuznetsova were to win the US Open. I think we’re all sick to death of hearing how Safina is the number one even though she hasn’t won a Slam, and Serena holds three Slams but is number two… well, ff Kuznetsova comes out on top here, she and Serena will each hold two Slams; Serena the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Svetlana the French and US Open. But then Kuznetsova holds a Tour title and Serena holds none, so will the debate open up into fierce arguments of how Kuznetsova should be the number one ranked player? I doubt it, but it would be interesting.

Anyway, for what it’s worth I chose Clijsters at the start of the tournament and I’m sticking with my choice as we go into the second week. Go Kim!





Flavia On Fire; Clijsters Returns

13 08 2009

As the US Open series picks up speed, Italian Flavia Pennetta is keeping up pace with a 13 match winning streak that has seen her pick up back-to-back trophies in Palermo and Los Angeles. Along the way she’s picked up Top Ten wins against Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, beaten an in-form Sam Stosur and taken care of a certain Ms Sharapova, and tonight she has her sights on world number 3 Venus Williams. Pennetta will herself enter the top ten if she beats Venus in Cincinatti this evening – an accomplishment which will be a first for womens tennis in Italy. This week she has beaten Morita and Szavay with no real problems and perhaps the only question mark is over her stamina as she plays her 9th match in 11 days.

Venus on the other hand should be rested, having taken a week off following her Stanford final defeat to Marion Bartoli. This week she beat Olga Govortsova in straight sets but will face a tougher challenge in Pennetta and the real question mark over Venus is how much she is willing to put in this close to the US Open. On paper though, you’d expect Venus to be fully determined as we still have over two weeks before that Slam so really that shouldn’t be an issue.

The other big story in Cincinatti this week has been the return to the Tour of Kim Clijsters. Having been training and preparing for six months now, her first match back was against Bartoli, who was playing her first match since beating Venus in Stanford, and the hard work paid off for the Belgian as she tasted victory for the first time in 28 months, courtesy of a 64 63 win. Clijsters followed that up with a 62 75 win over Patty Schnyder and must now be in territory that is beyond what she was hoping for. Her fitness and physical shape seem to be great and she doesn’t seem as rusty on court as you may have expected following such a long absence from the game. As she enters her third match back it’s a question of how far she can go before the physical demands of being back in competition take their toll; tonight she faces French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Russian playing her first tournament since Wimbledon in June. Kuznetsova scraped through her first match against Lucie Safarova and Clijsters DOES have a 6-1 head-to-head record against Sveta, but the last time they met was almost three years ago.

Elsewhere, the favourites remain in the hunt this week; Serena Williams, Safina, Dementieva, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Zvonareva and Jankovic are all still in the mix as we head to the sharp end of the draw, and it should make for an exciting climax to the week. Tonight though the focus is on Pennetta and Clijsters, and whether they can continue their good runs in the build up to the final Slam of 2009.





Magnifique: Marion Earns Top Honours at Stanford

8 08 2009

An entertaining week of tennis was capped off with Marion Bartoli defeating Venus Williams in three sets to claim the biggest win of her career to date.

As the Final approached it was Venus who was heavily tipped to win her third hardcourt title of 2009; she had steamrolled Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva in the previous two rounds, dropping just five games in both matches combined. Bartoli on the other hand had played three sets against Sam Stosur in the Semi Final and the night before had fought back from a set down to beat Jelena Jankovic. That match had it’s own little mini-drama as Marion had claimed she prefers to be playing Jankovic rather than the Serbs’ beaten opponent, Sabine Lisicki, because “I always beat her”. Jankovic responded by saying that Marion isn’t exactly Serena Williams and can’t bring it to the big names, ending her interview by smiling and declaring that “Bartoli is going to get it tomorrow”. It looked as though Jankovic would be proved right when she was 6-3 3-1 in the lead but didn’t count on the French woman fighting back to take the second set 76 and then seal success with a 63 win in the third set. Someone had to eat humble pie and it turned out to be Jankovic.

On that same night Australian Stosur produced a surprise by downing Serena Williams. The American showed just why she isn’t the world number one by once again failing to produce her best game outside of a Slam and Stosur took advantage to roll her over 62 36 62 and claim herself a big scalp.

Back to the Final and Bartoli won more games in the first set than Sharapova and Dementieva had managed between them against Venus, taking it 62 to shake Venus up as she was unable to continue her great form in the tournament, partly through her own UE rate but also through her FORCED error rate, which was shown at one point in the second set as being at 17, but I’ve been unable to find final stats for this – if anyone can point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated. Marion’s aggressive game gave Venus very little time for her shots and proved to be the right gameplan in the opening set. In the second set Venus upped her game a little and earned herself a 75 win, despite Bartoli serving for the match at 54.

At this point all advantage seemed to be with Venus and it was generally voiced by commentators and bookmakers alike that there was only one winner, that Marion had missed her chance and would now fade away. That was not to be however and Venus was stunned to find herself 03 down before she knew it, and Bartoli showed energy and fight to continue her aggressive game and dismiss Venus 64 to earn the biggest title of her career thus far. Personally, it was a glorious moment to see Marion celebrate on court, the climax of a lot of hard work by the Frenchwoman and her coach/father, Walter. During the week she had dismissed myths and proved a lot of people wrong about a number of things, chiefly that she can’t fight back against a good player – see the set down comeback against Jankovic; that her head goes down and stays down if she loses the second set, having won the first – see the victory over Sam Stosur; that she doesn’t have the fight to beat a big name player in a tough tussle - watch the final against Venus Williams. Talk of her retiring at any opportunity was also put to one side as she played most of the week with both knees wrapped and had problems with her calf from the Quarter Final match with Jankovic onwards. In the final she was clearly struggling to stay loose but fought through this and was repeatedly seen stretching her body between games as she pushed against the court walls. The spirit and determination shown proved to be too much for her famous opponent and her victory here was greatly deserved.

It was a great week for Marion Bartoli, our WTA Stanford Champion 2009.








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