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.


Wimbledon Week 1 Review

29 06 2009

So here we are on the second Monday of Wimbledon and I thought I’d note down some points about the tournament so far:

Biggest surprise: Maria Sharapova crashing out in three sets to Gisela Dulko in the 2nd Round. Everyone knows that Maria has been out injured for a long time and this is only her fourth tournament on the road back to full fitness, but she should still have been capable of winning this match. Personally I thought her downfall would come against Victoria Azarenka today.

Biggest not-a-surprise: Jelena Jankovic losing to Melanie Oudin. Jankovic has had a torrid year so far and has herself said so and claimed she needs to go back to square one and start again. Her warm-up for Eastbourne was a 1st Round loss to headcase Anna Chakvetadze and you get the feeling with Jelena that she would happily just come off the tour for the season right now and start again next year. She was bound to go out of this tournament early, the only surprise is that she lasted until the 3rd Round.

Also listed here is Sabine Lisicki beating Svetlana Kuznetsova. After her opening round defeat on grass last week to Aleksandra Wozniak, Kuznetsova said that after playing so much tennis on clay she was still in that mindset and hadn’t adjusted her game at all for grass. Coming up against Lisicki, who’s only young but announced herself when she won the Family Circle cup in April – beating Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki to do so – this wasn’t the terrific shock it’s been made out to be.

Waiting for a challenge: Venus and Serena Williams, plus Dinara Safina are yet to face anybody who should give them a troublesome match. Today should change that as Venus plays Ana Ivanovic, who seems to be slowly finding a bit of form again, Serena plays Daniela Hantuchova who also seems to have found some of her old form here, and Safina faces former Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo. Should be interesting.

Young gun: Vika Azarenka is cruising along too. Azarenka is the 3rd favourite, after both Williams sisters, and has been pretty much on fire so far. She has a tough match today against Nadia Petrova and will face Serena Williams in the QF’s if they both win. They’ve met twice this year but both matches have been inconclusive – Azarenka was forced to retire at the Australian Open due to her throwing up everywhere, having won the first set (trailing 4-2 in the second I think) and when Vika beat Serena in the final at Miami, Serena came out sporting a bandage on her leg and seemed to be carrying a slight injury. So it would be interesting to see a match between two fit players and discover whether a changing of the guard is on its way.

Biggest disappointment: For me anyway, was Marion Bartoli going out 7-6, 6-0 to Francesca Schiavone.

Television coverage: As a UK resident I can’t really knock the BBC too much for their broadcasting of matches, as there’s usually been a WTA match to watch. One slight gripe would concern them twice cutting off broadcast during a match to make way for the Glastonbury festival coverage, as they were currently showing three mens matches and one womens. So yes, get rid of the one womens match you’re showing.

My bigger gripe with them is that there has been several exciting matches so far and yet all the focus has instead been on the noise made by one or two players, falling to very low levels with ‘Gruntwatch’. Apparently the Schiavone-Larcher De Brito match was actually pretty good but what did we get to see of it? A report on Larcher De Brito’s shrieking. Pretty pathetic stuff.

4th Round: If I could only watch one match today, I’d choose Venus Williams vs Ana Ivanovic, which should be very good and has the potential at least for a surprise result. Maybe.