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.

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The Week That Was: July 6-12

13 07 2009

In the calm that follows Wimbledon a lot of players are taking a few weeks off to rest and prepare for the hardcourt season, but there were two tournaments to enjoy this week. Both were on clay courts and took place in Båstad, Sweden and Budapest, Hungary.

In Bastad we had an upset in the final as Caroline Wozniacki, hoping to celebrate her 19th birthday with a trophy, was beaten in straight sets by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez as the Spaniard claimed her second title of the year. Her first was in Bogota in February but no doubt this one will mean more as she took out three top 50 players en route to the final before she met world number 9 Wozniacki. Sanchez, who stressed that she is not related at all to Lawrie (okay, she didn’t) promised to buy Caro something for her birthday instead, before holding up her trophy with a charming smile.

The tournament in Budapest was won by the native Agnes Szavay, claiming her first Tour title since 2007. She beat Patty Schnyder in a three-set final, having dropped the first set to the Swiss. Schnyder had played the best part of two matches the day before to reach the final, her Quarter Final match against Alisa Kleybanova being delayed due to rain, but her efforts would prove to be ultimately fruitless.

This week we have two more tournaments taking place, again both on clay, in Prague and Palermo.

Other WTA news… Monica Seles was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame at the weekend, and deservedly so of course. News of that and the other 2009 inductees can be read here: http://www.tennisfame.com/tennisfame.aspx?pgID=889&newsID=143&exCompID=56

Jelena Dokic, who has been pulling out of tournament after tournament recently, has been diagnosed with mono and told to rest, so hopefully that will be treated and when she returns she’ll be healthy and ready to give her comeback another try.

Indian star Sania Mirza was engaged late this week but not before two obsessed fans – both engineers apparently, and both on seperate days – had gone to her home and insisted that Sania marry them, one of them threatening to kill himself unless she did so. Both men were arrested and Mirza’s engagement went ahead as planned.

Switching sides to the mens tour briefly we had three stories of interest. The first is a positive one as Rajeev Ram won ATP Newport as a Lucky Loser, fighting from a set down to beat fellow American Sam Querry and claim his first ATP title. Ram, who had played in four matches the previous day, winning them all, also took the double title. Secondly Brydan Klein was given a six month ban and ordered to attend a ‘racial sensitivity course’ – no, really – after making racist comments towards a South African opponent at Eastbourne last month. And finally the tragic news that Mathieu Montcourt was found dead on Monday. Montcourt, who reached the 2nd round of the French Open this year, suffered a heart attack in his apartment block in Paris. Toxicology reports have come back negative and the Frenchman died of natural causes, aged just 24. As always this kind of news surpasses sport and thoughts go out to his family and friends. RIP Mathieu.