3 Reasons Why Na Li Can Win The US Open

Despite being a grand slam winner (French Open 2011), China’s Na Li has never really been thought of as a threat to winning another since  then. At the age of 30, you’d be inclined to agree with many that she has reached her peak already. Winning the title in Roland Garros saw Li jump to a career high ranking of No.4 but since then she has failed to get past the fourth round in five attempts in a slam including a first round exit here. After her exploits in the US Open Series, she has become many people’s dark horse so I am going to look at five reasons why she could win her second slam here.

New Coach

Before Madrid in 2011, Li hired a new coach in Michael Mortensen in the hope it would curb her run of bad form. She made back-to-back semi finals in Madrid and Rome in the lead up to the French Open. She told Reuters this when asked about the coaching change – “I don’t care what other people think. My confidence was low and I felt I had to change my coach, After Melbourne I didn’t do well and if you don’t do well you don’t have confidence.”

It seems to make sense that Mortensen gave her the confidence and focus back in her game that had gone sorely missing in the previous months. Li has now hired Justine Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez to hopefully repeat the trick. It seems to have been fairly successful so far, making the final in Montreal and going one better and taking the title in Cincinnati.

Current Form

Using form since the Olympics, only Petra Kvitova could have a claim to being in better form than Na Li. Li made back to back finals in Montreal and Cincinnati, defeating four Top 10 players in the process (Errani, Radwanska x2, Kerber). Most impressive were the victories over Radwanska where she completely tore apart one of WTA’s top 3 players twice, dropping just five games across the two matches. She also recovered from a 1-6 1-3 deficit against Kerber, and although the German was visibly tiring as the match went on, it was impressive to see the way Li did not let up when she saw her opponent was struggling.

For someone that is a huge confidence player, this is a big thing for Li and if she can take this form into the tournament then there is no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing her in the semi finals. She was also a winner in the lead up tournament to the Australian Open in 2011 which she was a finalist. Her early exits in the US Open in 2010 and 2011 were preceded by runs no better than the third round in both Cincinnati and Canada suggesting that it works both ways.

The Draw

I think this could be argued both ways, but the fact that Serena is not in Li’s half of the draw can only be a good thing and see her more likely to make the final. Potential quarter final opponent Victoria Azarenka showcased excellent hard court form at the start of the year but the lack of preparation due to injury can’t be ideal for the Belarussian. The same could well apply to Kim Clijsters who, despite being unbeaten here in her last three appearances, surely will be a bit rusty having not played since the Olympics. In her last two tournaments, Clijsters was knocked out in straight sets by two top 10 players in Sharapova and Kerber, picking up just nine games (2 vs Kerber, 7 vs Sharapova) in the process.

Samantha Stosur could be the key though, the defending champion is 6-0 vs Li but the added pressure will not be a good thing and in this form Li has a better chance than ever to make it 6-1 in favour of the Australian. Other top seeds in the half include Safarova, Sharapova and Kvitova, none of which have winning records against Li, Safarova has a losing one while Sharapova and Kvitova are tied. The ‘dark horse’ tag may also ease some of the pressure when you have numerous other former champions in your section, even if some aren’t in as great form.



WTA Dallas Preview

WTA International 


In one of two tournaments before the US Open on the WTA Tour, 2011 semi finalist Angelique Kerber is scheduled to headline the second Texas Tennis Open as top seed. It kicked off Kerber’s amazing rise which has culminated in her making the top 10 recently. Neither of last year’s finalists Sabine Lisicki or Aravane Rezai will appear here, Lisicki due to injury and Rezai due to ranking. Former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic and Roberta Vinci are amongst the other big names set to appear here.

Favourite – Having just made the final in Cincinnati Angelique Kerber should be a certainty to take this tournament, fitness permitting. With now over 50 wins on the tour this year, resting up for a week would be most advisable before next week’s US Open. Kerber very rarely drops matches to lesser opponents and it is this consistency that has saw her move up the rankings so quick in the past year. Since this tournament last year, Kerber has made the semi finals of six hard court tournaments with the most notable being her US Open run where she was finally defeated by eventually winner Samantha Stosur.

Outsider – Yaroslava Shvedova has begun to show the form that saw her make the top twenty a few years back and looked set for a meeting with Serena Williams in Cincinnati last week before health issues put paid to that, forcing her to retire against Urszula Radwanska. If fit, she can definitely go far here and begins with a winnable match against an out of form and low on confidence Jelena Jankovic. With fourth round appearances at her last two slams, it would not be a surprise  to see her follow this tournament with another run in New York.

One To Watch – Qualifier Eugenie Bouchard earned an impressive win over Melinda Czink to make the main draw here. The young Canadian has continued to impress since taking the Girls Singles and Doubles at Wimbledon this year. She has victories over Karin Knapp, Olga Govortsova and most recently Shahar Pe’er in main draw matches this year and pushed Na Li very close in a tight two set defeat where her potential was there for all to see. She also took the Challenger title in Granby last month defeating Stephanie Dubois in the final.

Finals Prediction – Angelique Kerber defeats 

Weekly Roundup: Rogers Cup


Novak Djokovic sealed his second Masters 1000 title of the year by defeating Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets. After facing break points in his first service game that were not taken, he took control breaking Gasquet on all three occasions he had a break point. Djokovic was dominant on serve throughout and dropped just eight points on his serve on the way to a 6-3 6-2 victory. This win means that Djokovic does not suffer any points hit as he defends the title that he took in 2011 where he beat Mardy Fish. Djokovic only dropped one set on his way to the title here, in the quarter finals against Germany’s Tommy Haas.

Second seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan carried on their excellent form picking up the Doubles title just a week after doing the same at the Olympics. The brothers dropped just one set on their way to the trophy, as they defeated Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-1 4-6 12-10 to make it five titles on the year.

Source: Rogers Cup Facebook


Petra Kvitova finally took her first title of the year in Montreal in an enthralling encounter with Na Li, defeating the Chinese star 7-5 2-6 6-3. Kvitova had gone down an early break in the first before reeling off four games in a row to serve for the first set. She could not do so and was pegged back to 5-5. Li eventually buckled under the pressure of serving to stay in the set as Kvitova broke in the twelfth game of the set to take the first. With the set in Kvitova’s pocket, one would expect that she had the momentum but that was not to be the case with the Czech dropping the first SIXTEEN points of the set to quickly drop into a 0-4 hole. Kvitova recovered slightly but Li eventually took the set 6-2. Kvitova’s serve reappeared in the third set as she was never in danger and after breaking for a 4-2 lead never looked back sealing the third set and with it, the championship and 900 WTA ranking points.

The Doubles title was taken by the surprise package of Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Kristina Mladenovic. The pair defeated their more storied counterparts Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik in a tight encounter 7-5 2-6 10-7. The title is their first as a team and Mladenovic’s first on the WTA Tour.

Weekly Roundup: Challenger/ITF

ATP Challenger Tour

Aptos (Hard)

Two-times NCAA Singles Champion Steve Johnson took his first title on the professional circuit with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Colombia’s Robert Farah. Johnson dropped his serve just once in the final breaking Farah four times overall. On his route to the trophy, wildcard Johnson did not lose a set and only once did an opponent get to five games in a set. South African Rik De Voest and Australian John Peers came from a set down to win the Doubles, defeating second seeds Frank Moser and Chris Guccione 6-7 6-1 10-4. This was Peers’ fifth doubles title of the year, but his first with De Voest.

Pozoblanco (Hard)

Roberto Bautista-Agut defeated fellow Spaniard Arnau Brugues-Davi in fairly straight forward fashion to earn his third title of the year on the Challenger circuit and second in three weeks.  Bautista-Agut was broken just once by Davi in a 6-3 6-4 to add Pozoblanco to his Rome and Portobello titles. The Russian/Ukranian pairing of Konstantin Kravchuk and Denys Molchanov took their third title as a pairing (Astana 2011, 2012) with an easy 6-3 6-3 win over the French duo of Adrian Mannarino and Maxime Teixeira.

Samarkand (Clay)

After losing last time out in the Portobello final Dusan Lajovic went one better in Uzbekistan as he took the title, defeating home hopeful Farrukh Dustov 6-2 6-3. Lajovic was dominant on serve throughout, dropping just 13 points and never having his serve broken. Meanwhile, there was a shock in the doubles as the unseeded Ukranian pairing of Oleksandr Nedoyvyesov and Ivan Sergeyev defeated the top seeds Divij Sharan and Vishnu Vardhan 6-4 7-6(1).

San Marino (Clay)

In what was an overall dominant tournament for the top seed, Martin Klizan took the title without dropping a set. He broke the serve of Italy’s Simone Bolelli five times on his way to a 6-3 6-1 victory. This was Klizan’s fourth challenger title of the year surely signals that he should make the step up to the main tour, given the ease of his victory here. Lukas Dlouhy and Michal Mertinak added another doubles title to their long list of successes, but this was only their second as a team. The Czech/Slovak team edged out Matteo Viola and Stefano Ianni in a tight 2-6 7-6(3) 11-9 victory.

Sibiu (Clay)

In an all-Romanian final between the top two seeds, it was Adrian Ungur who came out on top. Ungur, the top seed, did not drop a set throughout the whole tournament and broke early on and was always in control of the first set. Ungur wasn’t so comfortable in the second and had to come from a break down to earn a straight sets victory over Victor Hanescu 6-4 7-6(1). There was no Romanian success in the doubles as Alexandru-Daniel Carpen and his Chilean teammate Cristobal Saavedra Corvalan lost in a tight three setter to the Croatians Marin Draganja and Lovro Zovko. The second seeds won in a final set tiebreak for a 6-4 4-6 11-9 victory.

ITF Mens Pro Circuit

Latvia F1 Futures Arthur DE GREEF (BEL) [2]     6-3 1-0 Retired    Andis JUSKA (LAT) [1]

Russia F11 Futures Boy WESTERHOF (NED) [1]     6-4 6-4     Nikoloz BASILASHVILI (RUS) [4]

Brazil F20 Futures Jose PEREIRA (BRA) [4]     6-3 6-7(4) 6-3     Nicolas SANTOS (BRA)

Argentina F19 Futures Leandro MIGANI (ARG) [3]     6-4 6-4     Juan-Pablo AMADO (ARG) [4]

Serbia F8 Futures Ivan BJELICA (SRB) [2]     2-6 7-5 6-2     Dino MARCAN (CRO) [1]

Great Britain F13 Futures Daniel EVANS (GBR) [3]     6-2 7-5     Daniel COX (GBR)

Germany F13 Futures Steven MONEKE (GER) [3]     6-2 6-2     Dane PROPOGGIA (AUS) [5]

Slovakia F2 Futures Jan STANCIK (SVK)     6-2 6-4     Jan BLECHA (CZE)

Finland F1 Futures Vladimir IVANOV (EST) [2]     6-4 6-2     Milos SEKULIC (SWE)

Belgium F7 Futures Jonathan EYSSERIC (FRA) [3]     6-4 6-3     Julien CAGNINA (BEL)

Turkey F31 Futures Alberto BRIZZI (ITA) [2]     6-2 6-1     Claudio FORTUNA (ITA)

Austria F5 Futures Jiri VESELY (CZE) [2]     6-2 6-2     Marc RATH (AUT) [3]

USA F23 Futures Ante PAVIC (CRO) [2]     7-6(3) 7-5     Eric QUIGLEY (USA)

ITF Womens Pro Circuit

50k Bronx Romina OPRANDI (SUI) [1]     5-7 6-3 6-3     Anna CHAKVETADZE (RUS)

25k Hechingen Masa ZEC-PESKIRIC (SLO)     6-0 6-4     Mervana JUGIC-SALKIC (BIH) [7]

25k Monteroni D’Arbia Estelle GUISARD (FRA)     6-3 6-1     Anne SCHAEFER (GER)

25k Koksijde Annika BECK (GER) [1]     6-1 6-1     Bibiane SCHOOFS (NED) [2]

10k Pirot Teodora MIRCIC (SRB) [1]     6-3 6-1     Lina GJORCHESKA (MKD)

10k Piestany Katerina VANKOVA (CZE) [5]     3-6 6-3 6-2     Katerina KRAMPEROVA (CZE) [1]

10k Bursa Victoria KAN (RUS) [5]     7-6(4) 6-4     Laura-Ioana ANDREI (ROU) [3]

10k Arequipa Aranza SALUT (ARG) [7]     7-6(4) 4-6 6-1     Luciana SARMENTI (ARG)

Western & Southern Open Preview

I ran out of time for an ATP preview here but check out once again my preview for it at Stevegtennis.

Cincinnati Premier 5 Draw

Only Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova miss out of the top 10 stars, Azarenka was never scheduled to play this tournament while Sharapova is still carrying the illness that saw her withdraw from Montreal. Due to the late Monday finish in Canada, two “performance BYE’s” for the finalists were designated if they were outside of the top eight seeds, Na Li takes advantage of one with her run to the final.

No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska becomes No.1 seed in a Premier 5 for the first time ever and will take on either Tamira Paszek or Sofia Arvidsson first. Paszek was fairly impressive in Montreal, making the quarter finals with little trouble before being disposed of by Petra Kvitova. However, Arvidsson lost in the first round to qualifier Jana Cepelova in fairly tame fashion. The pair have met twice and won one match each. The incredibly inconsistent but talented wildcard Sloane Stephens faces a tough first round clash with Tsvetana Pironkova. While Pironkova is known more for her grass court exploits she has been showing improvements on other surfaces and actually has a win over Angelique Kerber this year on a hard court. In a match of two wildly differing styles, Camila Giorgi plays Francesca Schiavone. Giorgi plays an incredibly attacking style that can go incredibly well (see Wimbledon run, defeats of Pennetta, Petrova) or very badly. Meanwhile, Schiavone’s grinding style may not be as pretty to watch at times but it will likely be effective in taking out her younger opponent.

Na Li has a chance to repeat her Montreal win over Radwanska in the quarter finals if she makes it that far, she gets a ticket to the second round due to her exploits this past week. After that, either Yanina Wickmayer or Sorana Cirstea will be up. Both Wickmayer and Cirstea are capable of beating top ten players when on form, but can often be very bad when low on confidence. Cirstea beat Li just recently at Wimbledon and would fancy her chances again. However, Wickmayer owns a 3-0 record over the Romanian on three different surfaces including a straight sets victory at the US Open last year. Qualifiers Johanna Larsson and Casey Dellacqua face off for the chance to play Marion Bartoli. Both earned their spot in the draw in fairly straight forward fashion, having won both matches without dropping a set.

Samantha Stosur has had a fairly consistent year until the grass court season but disappointingly fell to Lucie Safarova last week in two tie-break sets. Simona Halep will play Anabel Medina Garrigues to decide who takes on the Australian, Medina Garrigues defeated Halep in consecutive weeks on the grass so perhaps should have the edge. Halep will mostly likely be dreading the idea of playing Stosur again so soon after choking a 5-1 lead away in the first set in Montreal before a 7-5 4-4 ret. defeat. In a Russian-heavy section, there is a good chance of an all Russian round two affair. Nadia Petrova and Ekaterina Makarova‘s match ensures there will be at least one, Makarova will be slight favourite having taken the last three meetings between the two but constant draws with Angelique Kerber leave Makarova exiting in the early rounds of tournaments. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could complete the matchup and will be confident of beating Klara Zakapalova, as she has done in their last two hard court meetings.

Sara Errani completes what looks yet another lopsided draw in terms of the top seeds. She has a fairly difficult first match, against either Daniela Hantuchova or Jie Zheng. Zheng is a dangerous player on her day and this showed as she pushed eventual Wimbledon champion Serena Williams far into the third set before being defeated. Strangely though, Hantuchova has a 5-0 record over Zheng, including three times on American hard courts. In one of the ties of the first round Maria Kirilenko takes on wildcard Venus Williams. Both come off winning medals at the Olympic Games and will be full of confidence. The pair have not played in five years but Venus holds a 3-0 record over Kirilenko, all in hard courts. The winner of this match will face either Chanelle Scheepers or Christina Mchale. Both exited at the same stage in Montreal in straight sets and will be both disappointed to have not taken at least one with Mchale holding set points and Scheepers a break lead against Wozniak and Radwanska respectively. Mchale defeated Scheepers earlier in the year in Doha in a fairly simple 6-4 6-3 victory.

Caroline Wozniacki kicks off her tournament with a match against a qualifier, either Sesil Karatantcheva or Kiki Bertens. Karatantcheva has had some bizarre scorelines in recent weeks including a double bagel of Sorana Cirstea and more notably winning both her qualifying matches 3-6 7-5 6-0, against Olga Govortsova and Arantxa Rus. Wozniacki faced Bertens last week and after an early slip-up, won fairly comfortably in straight sets. Julia Goerges and Shahar Peer will be keen to get their poor Montreal results out of their head and one will have the chance to do so as the pair face off in the first round one. Goerges looked to be back to some sort of form after defeating Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics but then took just three games against Tamira Paszek last week while Peer lost from one set up against youngster Eugenie Bouchard. While Goerges and Peer disappointed last week, their results were nothing in comparison to the double bagel Ana Ivanovic received from Roberta Vinci last week. While Ivanovic often disappoints against the very top players, she usually does well against the second tier and below so to lose in this fashion was astonishing. Her first round opponent is Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard was 1-6 1-4 down in their Doha clash this year before retiring.

Losing finalist Jelena Jankovic will have a hard time defending her points from last year, especially in the dire form that she is in. Jankovic has won just four matches since the clay season ended and has been defeated by the likes of Coco Vandeweghe, Sofia Arvidsson and Yung-Jan Chan. She does a possess a lopsided head to head record against her first opponent though, winning 6 of 8 encounters against Shuai Peng, but more notably has lost their last two meetings. Youngster Madison Keys qualified with ease for the main draw with a 6-3 6-0 win over Timea Babos. Keys has won just one of the four matches she has played on the main tour this year with win number two unlikely this week. She faces an incredibly tough opponent in Roberta Vinci who will be confident after her performances in Montreal. After bursting onto the scene with two hard fought defeats against Azarenka earlier in the year, Mona Barthel‘s form seems to have let up some what. After taking the first set against Agnieszka Radwanska, it looked possible that she may be back. However, a blown match point and a commanding lead in the tie-break was not enough as she faltered, much like in her battles against Azarenka. If she can make it past Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round she can test herself against another of the top players on tour in Petra Kvitova, who appears to be showing she can play on hard courts in North America after all having made the final of Montreal.

In an extraordinary quarter that holds 2 byes, 7 qualifiers and 1 lucky loser, Serena Williams appears to have herself a dream draw to the quarter finals. It is possible that she could play qualifiers in round two and three if all goes to plan. With a 6-16 record on the year Eleni Daniilidou will be a big outsider to qualify for the next round. She faces Vania King who can seal an all-American second round tie with victory. King made the semi final of Washington in her last tournament, being defeated by losing finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. While Urszula Radwanska had to qualify for the tournament, she will be expected to come through her tie with Ksenia Pervak. The younger sister of Agnieszka is improving rapidly and reached her career high of 44 just a few weeks ago after starting the year outside the top 100. On her way to the S’Hertogenbosch final earlier this year, Urszula defeated Pervak in a three set encounter. Much like Radwanska, many feel that Yaroslava Shvedova is only going one way and that is up. Shvedova’s mid-season form has been excellent and the prospect of her meeting Serena again would be one to look forward to. She has an excellent chance against Lucie Safarova, whose mental frailties showed up once more as she dropped a double break lead to Na Li in the semi final of Montreal.

After being rejected a wildcard for the tournament by the directors, Varvara Lepchenko finally made it into the tournament as the last direct acceptance when more withdrawals were announced. Her opponent is one even more fortunate to make the draw, Timea Babos is a lucky loser who was handed the spot after the other “performance bye” was left unused. Monterrey champion Babos has had an up and down year and will be disappointed to have lost so easily in her final qualifying round to Madison Keys. Lepchenko was impressive in Montreal as she defeated Dominika Cibulkova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two sets before pushing Caroline Wozniacki all the way in a three setter. Multiple injuries have seen qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands plummet in the rankings to outside the top 200 but an impressive comeback win over Yung-Jan Chan saw her progress to the main draw here. She has a winnable match against the Czech Andrea Hlavackova who has had a disappointing year going 5-10 in singles main draws, most recently exiting in the first round at Baku. Having taken the Carlsbad title a few weeks ago Dominika Cibulkova will be fairly confident in her form and really should win against Akgul Amanmuradova. The Uzbek is much more comfortable on clay and even shocked Cibulkova earlier this year, defeating her in Stuttgart.

WTA Montreal – Rogers Cup Preview


Tamira Paszek or Julia Goerges drew the short straw with the winner going on to face the No.1 Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka started the season off 26-0 on hard courts and was defeated just once (Marion Bartoli, Miami) after picking up four straight titles including the Australian Open. Despite an embarrassing defeat to Serena Williams in the tennis, she will be full of confidence having earned the bronze medal in Singles to go with her Mixed Doubles title with Max Mirnyi. Azarenka made the semi final last year where she was defeated by Serena Williams and will be happy that the American has skipped the tournament this year. If fully fit, she will be a huge threat for the title here but has the tougher half of the draw. Sabine Lisicki is a potential third round opponent but her inconsistencies have been shown all season, including a shocking defeat to Lourdes Dominguez-Lino on the hard courts of Miami. Her grass court form has improved though, and she should have too much for Carla Suarez Navarro or Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez. Navarro leads the head to head between the Spaniards 3-1.

Azarenka’s quarter also contains the only player to defeat her on hard courts this year in Marion Bartoli. Bartoli has been fairly inconsistent this year and is yet to take a title this year but in her last outing made the final in Carlsbad where she was defeated in straight sets by Dominika Cibulkova. Her first opponent will be either Shuai Peng or Aravane Rezai, the latter of which has finally shown some sort of form recently. The former No.15 qualified for the tournament after defeating Galina Voskoboeva in three sets and will hope to build on last weeks result at the Citi Open where she made the second round as a qualifier. While Petra Kvitova is notoriously poor on North American courts having not got past the third round on any in the last two years, it gives slight hope to Ksenia Pervak or qualifier Anna Tatishvili.

Maria Sharapova will be hoping for a quick return to form having been annihilated by Serena Williams in her last match in the Olympic Final. Potential round two opponent Arantxa Rus has very little hard court experience and qualified in a long match against Vera Dushevina. More likely though is Christina Mchale, the American has big potential and owns victories over Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova and Marion Bartoli in North America. In probably her last week as a seed at big tournaments before her Cincinnati points come off, Jelena Jankovic will hope to go far. Jankovic is unbeaten against four encounters against wildcard Aleksandra Wozniak while other potential opponent Daniela Hantuchova showed improvements in London as she took out Na Li in a three set encounter.

The top half of the draw is rounded off with Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has not took one title this year and dropped out of the top five after starting the season as No.1 in the WTA rankings. Qualifier Kiki Bertens is yet to play a main tour match on hard court this year but does possess one more title than Wozniacki on the year, having taken Fes as a qualifier also. More likely though is that she will face Nadia Petrova. Wozniacki has won their last four encounters but Petrova is in much improved form over the past two months and should really have done better against Dominika Cibulkova in Carlsbad having been in a great position to take the first set of their semi final on a number of occasions. Cibulkova is a potential third round opponent who could cause trouble for Wozniacki, having taken two of their last four matches including Wimbledon 2011. She faces either Varvara Lepchenko or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova was a finalist in Washington D.C. last week but took just two games in a lopsided final against Magdalena Rybarikova while Lepchenko exited early in the Olympics and was also took to three sets by an opponent whose only grass court experience was a 2012 Wimbledon qualifier.

On paper,Agnieszka Radwanska again seems to be the recipient of a softer draw, with the other side looks decidedly more stacked than this side. Two of the youngest top 100 players battle it out for the chance to play the Pole. Monterrey champion Timea Babos qualified after getting through two three set matches and has shown glimpses of her talent throughout the year while Mona Barthel has been decidedly shaky after her good start to the year where she twice threatened the unbeaten streak of Victoria Azarenka. Fourteenth seed Flavia Pennetta has lost her last three encounters with Radwanska but should have a chance to try and turn her luck around as Chanelle Scheepers has been fairly disappointing recently while Stephanie Dubois was a recent retiree in the Granby Challenger final so injury questions may hang over the wildcards fitness.

Sara Errani is the surprise eighth seed thanks to her clay court exploits but when it comes hard courts it is somewhat of a false ranking. She has suffered disappointing defeats to the likes of Vania King, Sloane Stephens and Timea Babos earlier in the year in North America. Sofia Arvidsson is already a winner this year having taken the Memphis title and takes on the qualifier Jana Cepelova first. Cepelova is fairly new to the tour but gave a good account of herself at Wimbledon when she made the third round and was defeated 6-3 6-3 by Victoria Azarenka.

Another highly touted youngster follows in Eugenie Bouchard, the young Canadian wildcard has had a great month or so, taking the Wimbledon Girls’ title and also an ITF in Granby. She has an extremely winnable match as she takes on Shahar Pe’er. Pe’er has had a fairly quiet year and failed to get past the third round at any tournament this year. The winner will face Na Li in the second round. Although Li has not took a title this year, most of her defeats have not been surprising having been taken out by Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska amongst others.

Another player glad to get off the grass will be Samantha Stosur. The Aussie yet again had a horror grass season, excelling herself this time by getting defeated by Carla Suarez Navarro in London. Michelle Larcher de Brito takes on Simona Halep for the chance to take on Stosur. Larcher de Brito has been impressive in qualifying for the past three WTA events but fell at the first hurdle in three set encounters both times. Meanwhile, Halep is on a five match losing streak and could be there for the taking. Lucie Safarova has had an up and down season but most recently there has only been negatives as she we nt down in straights to Kiki Bertens and Laura Robson on the Wimbledon grass. She can redeem herself when she takes on either Sorana Cirstea or qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva. Cirstea looked excellent in Stanford before one Serena Williams halted her charge while Karatantcheva did not drop more than three games in any set that she played on her way to qualifying.

Angelique Kerber rounds of the top seeds in the draw and first up is either Ekaterina Makarova or “Lucky Loser” Urszula Radwanska. Kerber has found a whole new consistency in the past year since her shock US Open run and has two titles to show for her efforts. Much like Na Li, a lot of Kerber’s defeats are against the top players and she rarely suffers shocks. Urszula Radwanska made the draw as the highest ranked seed not to qualify directly, after a suspect defeat to Anna Tatishvili. Recently, she was notable for taking the most games off Serena Williams in her amazing Olympic win. Ekaterina Makarova will be hoping for third time lucky if she makes it through to the second round – her last two defeats have been to Angelique Kerber. Ana Ivanovic will be hoping to avoid Roberta Vinci in the second round. The Italian defeated her in the same tournament last year in straight sets but first faces Yanina Wickmayer.

Finals PredictionAgnieszka Radwanska defeats Maria Sharapova in three sets

Weekly Roundup: Challenger/ITFResults

ATP Challenger Tour

Vancouver (Hard)

Dutchman Igor Sijsling earned his third challenger tour title of the year with a straight sets win over Sergei Bubka 6-1 7-5. Sijsling was very strong on serve for much of the game and dominated the Ukranian in the first set dropping just one game. Bubka did manage to break through in the second set and led 4-2 before being pegged back. After saving championship points at 5-4 down in the second, Bubka was not so unfortunate as he could not hold on for the tiebreak and dropped his serve at 6-5.

Neighbouring Belgium also were successful here as the pairing of Ruben Bemelmans and Maxime Authom took the title in the Doubles defeating Aussie pairing of John Peers and John-Patrick Smith in straight sets 6-4 6-2. The pair had been fairly dominant throughout and only dropped one set on the way to the title.

Beijing (Hard)

The Slovenian domination of the Chinese challenger events continued as Grega Zemjla made it three in a row with a dominant performance over the Chinese Wu Di. The unseeded Di had took advantage of Aljaz Bedene’s retirement earlier in the tournament to make the final but could not do much against Zemjla, holding just twice in a 6-3 6-0 victory. Zemjla’s title adds to the one he took in An-Ning earlier in July and Aljaz Bedene’s title in Wuhan last week.

Thai brothers Sanchai Ratiwatana and Sonchat Ratiwatana followed the Slovenians lead in their domination of the Chinese tournaments by making it three titles in a row in the Doubles. This time, the unlucky pairing in the final were the Indians Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan. The Ratiwatana’s won a final set tiebreaker to earn a 7-6(3) 2-6 10-6 victory.

Manta (Hard)

No.2 seed Guido Pella dropped just one set (the first of the tournament) on his way to victory in Ecuador. Pella broke fellow Argentinian Maximiliano Estevez five times in a 6-4 7-5 victory for the second title of the year, in his first hard court event this year. Peruvian Dulio Beretta and Argentinian Renzo Olivo comprehensively defeated the top seeds Victor Estrella and Joao Souza to win the doubles title in 6-3 6-0 win.

ITF Mens Pro Circuit

USA F22 Futures Ryan ROWE (USA)     6-4 3-6 6-4     Sanam SINGH (IND) [3]

Austria F4 Futures Nicolas REISSIG (AUT)     6-4 7-6(5)     Jose STATHAM (NZL) [2]

Belgium F6 Futures Yannik REUTER (BEL) [7]     6-3 6-1     Kimmer COPPEJANS (BEL)

Turkey F30 Futures Marin BRADARIC (CRO) [4]     6-3 6-4     Alessandro PETRONE (ITA)

Spain F22 Futures Ivan NAVARRO (ESP) [1]     6-3 6-3     Taro DANIEL (JPN) [2]

Slovakia F1 Futures Andrej MARTIN (SVK) [1]     1-6 7-6(5) 6-1     Miloslav MECIR (SVK) [6]

Germany F12 Futures Steven MONEKE (GER) [4]     6-0 6-2     Pablo GALDON (ARG) [1]

Italy F20 Futures Michael LINZER (AUT) [4]     0-6 6-4 6-2     Leonardo KIRCHE (BRA) [7]

Great Britain F12 Futures Josh GOODALL (GBR) [1]     6-3 6-3     Mathieu RODRIGUES (FRA) [2]

Serbia F7 Futures Aldin SETKIC (BIH) [4]     6-2 6-1     Ivan BJELICA (SRB) [2]

Brazil F19 Futures Tiago LOPES (BRA) [4]     7-5 7-6(2)     Thales TURINI (BRA) [1]

Russia F10 Futures Boy WESTERHOF (NED) [1]     7-5 6-1     Anton ZAITSEV (RUS)

India F12 Futures Saketh MYNENI (IND) [3]     6-3 6-2     Antoine ESCOFFIER (FRA) [4]

Lithuania F1 Futures Hans PODLIPNIK-CASTILLO (CHI) [1]     6-1 6-1     Joss ESPASANDIN (SUI)

ITF Womens Pro Circuit

100k Vancouver Mallory BURDETTE (USA)     6-3 6-0     Jessica PEGULA (USA)

75k Beijing Qiang WANG (CHN)     6-2 6-4     Yung-Jan CHAN (TPE) [2]

50k Trnava Anastasija SEVASTOVA (LAT) [7]     w.o    Ana SAVIC (CRO)

25k Bad Saulgau Mervana JUGIC-SALKIC (BIH) [6]     6-2 6-4     Carina WITTHOEFT (GER) [8]

25k Rebecq Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) [1]     6-2 6-1     Myrtille GEORGES (FRA)

25k Moscow Yuliya KALABINA (RUS)     3-6 6-3 6-4     Mayya KATSITADZE (RUS)

10k Vienna Barbara HAAS (AUT)     6-1 6-4     Amandine HESSE (FRA) [1]

10k Wrexham Chiaki OKADAUE (JPN) [4]     2-6 7-6(6) 6-4     Jade WINDLEY (GBR) [6]

10k Ankara Laura-Ioana ANDREI (ROU) [3]     6-1 6-0     Sabina SHARIPOVA (UZB) [2]

10k Gardone Val Trompia Yuliana LIZARAZO (COL) [2]     7-5 3-6 6-4     Catalina PELLA (ARG) [1]

10k Fort Worth Elizabeth FERRIS (USA) [1]     6-1 6-1     Dianne HOLLANDS (NZL)

 10k Sao Paolo Roxane VAISEMBERG (BRA) [2]     6-4 4-6 7-6(3)     Ana-Clara DUARTE (BRA)

10k Savitaipale Piia SUOMALAINEN (FIN) [1]     3-6 6-3 6-3     Laetitia SARRAZIN (FRA)

10k Santa Cruz de la Sierra Camila SILVA (CHI) [6]     6-4 6-7(1) 6-3     Cecilia COSTA MELGAR (CHI) [3]

Olympics Tennis Roundup

This weekend saw the conclusion of the Olympics tennis tournaments and it was a good weekend for the United States – who took three of the gold medals up for grabs – while Great Britain and Belarus took the other two. Argentina and Switzerland also picked up their first and second medals respectively of the Games.


Andy Murray took gold for Great Britain with an astonishing performance over Roger Federer. Murray saved all 9 break opportunities in an incredibly dominant performance while breaking Federer five times in a straight sets victory. In the first and second set Murray took 9 games in a row from 2-2 to 6-2 5-0 as Federer just could not deal with the Brit’s play. Murray could not seal the bagel in the end but served out for the breadstick after saving a break point. After breaking for 3-2 in the third set, Murray did not let up on serve and finished off in style serving an ace to take the match 6-2 6-1 6-4 to earn his first Gold Medal and his first best of five sets victory over Roger Federer.

Juan Martin Del Potro recovered from Friday’s gruelling encounter to take the Bronze Medal defeating Novak Djokovic. After failing to make any headway on the Djokovic serve for most of the first set, Del Potro broke at 5-5 to serve for the set. Djokovic hit back in the next service game bringing up multiple break points but Del Potro stood strong to save them and eventually take the set 7-5. An early break in the second for the Argentinian was never reclaimed by Djokovic who only had one break point in the set. Del Potro went down 15-30 serving for the match but as with most occasions where his service games looked in danger, Del Potro brought out the big serves to close out the match for a 7-5 6-4 victory and earn his first Olympic medal.

Olympic Mens Singles Medalists

Source: Getty Images/Paul Gilham

Serena Williams continued her complete dominance of the Women’s circuit with a thrashing of Maria Sharapova in the Women’s Singles final 6-0 6-1 in only 63 minutes. Serena quickly rushed into a 5-0 lead but it looked like Sharapova would avoid the bagel when she took a 40-0 lead in game six. Unfortunately, she was pegged back to deuce and eventually broken to drop the first set without winning a game. It looked like there was a chance of a double bagel as Serena quickly rushed into a 3-0 lead in the second to make it nine games in a row. However, Sharapova eventually held for 3-1 and even had chances to get back on serve in the second but could not take advantage of her only two break points in the match. After holding for 4-1, Williams broke once more and served it out to complete the humiliation of the World’s No.3 player. Victoria Azarenka took the Bronze with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, Azarenka had taken 3-0 leads in both sets before being pegged back on both occasions to 3-3 only to push on and win the last 3 games of both sets without reply.

Source: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill


Serena Williams and Venus Williams became the first four-times Olympic gold medalists in Tennis as they dominated the Women’s Doubles once more, dropping just two service games in the whole tournament on their way to a third Gold in the doubles tournament. They defeated the Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-4 saving all four break points faced in the match and breaking the Czechs in one game in each set to seal the victory. The Bronze Medal was taken by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova who came from a set down to beat the top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. The victory will be especially sweet for Kirilenko who failed to take a medal in the Singles after making the semi final. The Russians took both their break point opportunities in the final set to pull away and seal a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan joined Serena Williams in completing a career golden slam after defeating the French pair of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the Men’s Doubles final. The brothers were not broken once on their way to a 6-4 7-6 victory. In an incredibly serve-dominant second set, they took 27 of 29 points on the serve giving Llodra and Tsonga no chance at all. The French doubled their medal haul in the doubles as Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau took Bronze with a 7-6 6-2 victory over the Spanish team of David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. Ferrer and Lopez failed to make any inroads into the French serve and dropped their serve twice in the second set in their defeat.

Andy Murray failed to join Serena Williams in becoming a double gold medalist this year as he and Laura Robson were defeated in the Mixed Doubles final. After in an impressive first set, Murray and Robson could not hold off the pairing of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka who were too strong in the end. Robson’s double faults in the final set tiebreak did not help as the Belarussian’s sealed the victory with a huge serve from Max Mirnyi on their third match point to win 2-6 6-3 10-8. After defeat in the Bronze Medal match in Women’s Doubles, Lisa Raymond was more fortunate as she and Mike Bryan overcame the German pair of Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas. Serve was fairly dominant in this as the pair traded sets with just one break the difference in both. The Germans had no chance in the final set tiebreaker though, losing the first seven points before Raymond and Bryan took their third championship point for a 6-3 4-6 10-4 victory.

ATP 1000 Toronto Masters Preview

Due to the Olympics, Toronto has suffered a big number of withdrawals including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. The field still does contain three of the four semi finalists though, with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro scheduled to play at the time of writing.

Favourites – With such a depleted field in terms of the top players, the two big favourites are clear. Defending champion Novak Djokovic has not quite been showing his 2011 form with two recent semi final exits on the grass but is still a huge danger. The Australian Open champ has only lost twice on hard courts this year to Andy Murray and John Isner, both of which reside in the other half of the draw.

Andy Murray will be big on confidence after taking the Gold Medal and defeating Roger Federer with such ease. Murray did not take a hard court title post-Australian Open but was twice a finalist losing to Federer and Djokovic in Doha and Miami respectively. The draw appears to favour Murray, with the top seeds in his half being an out-of-form Tomas Berdych, Juan Monaco and John Isner – who Murray always performs well against.

While both players fitness is in question after record breaking matches at the Olympics, Juan Martin Del Potro (match length in minutes) and Milos Raonic (match length in games) are dark horses for this tournament. Raonic will be hoping for an excellent tournament in his home country, and has a nice route to the final if he can defeat the No.2 seed Andy Murray in a potential Round 3 clash. While Murray has dealt with big servers well in the past, Raonic will take heart from his victory on the clay in Barcelona earlier this year. Raonic has some extraordinary serving stats this year, topping the aces count as well as winning the highest percentage of service games this year.

Meanwhile, Juan Martin Del Potro looks somewhat back to his best after an excellent Olympics in which he picked up the bronze medal after defeating Novak Djokovic in straights. While often thought of as just a forehand, the tall Argentinian showcased it all in the latter stages as possibly should have beat Roger Federer in the semi final. After a long time out with injury, Del Potro finally looks like he is ready to take on the top players again.

One To Watch
Canadian number two Vasek Pospisil is one of three home players to receieve a wildcard. The 22 year old reached his career high of 85th in the world after taking the title in Granby Challenger, his second of the year. Pospisil will most likely float between low level ATP tournaments and North American challengers this year but does have a win over No. 8 seed John Isner to his name. He faces a tough tie in Round 1 taking on the Italian Andreas Seppi

Did You Know…?
The last eight Toronto Masters titles have been shared equally by the top four players – Roger Federer (04,06), Novak Djokovic (07,11), Rafael Nadal (05,08) and Andy Murray (09,10).

Novak Djokovic has winning records against all of the other top 8 seeds – though John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic and Andy Murray have all defeated him in their last encounters.

Finals Prediction Andy Murray defeats Novak Djokovic in three sets

For a more detailed preview of the tournament check out the write up I did for Stevegtennis here.

Federer edges past Del Potro in record breaking semi-final

Roger Federer has qualified for the Gold Medal match at the Olympics after an extraordinary semi final victory over the Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro winning  an Olympics record 4 hour and 26 minutes epic 3-6 7-6(5) 19-17. The World No.1 broke vitally in game 35 of the third set to set himself up for the victory.

Del Potro had been written off by most pre-match, with the 6-0 head to head since Delpo’s return from injury sticking out like a sore thumb while many felt that the Argentinian was not the same player that took the US Open title three years ago defeating the very same opponent as today. After a straight forward start where the pair exchanged holds to 15, it looked like Federer would be on his way to 7-0 with some ease when he earned himself a break point in the third game of the set. In what was to be recurring theme throughout most of the match, Del Potro got himself out of trouble with a mixture of poor returning and big serving to hold, with Federer vitally slicing the break point return long.

After this, it was only Federer being in danger on serve as he faced lost the first point in both games 6 and 8. While he was fortunate enough to get out of a 0-30 hole in the first instance, he was not so lucky the second time. Ironically, after his match point against Isner yesterday, a lucky net cord at 15-30 caused the Swiss to put a tough running-backwards backhand volley long. Del Potro took advantage of the second break point, forcing Federer deep with a powerful backhand that the No.1 could not return. The set was sealed as a great display of serving earned Del Potro a love hold and the set 6-3.

While Del Potro faded in his most recent encounter at Roland Garros as time went on, it didn’t seem to show here as he held his own in rallies and had a slight look-in in game 1 at 30-30 showcasing his huge forehand. The pair exchanged straight forward holds as serve began to become even more dominant. Much like the first set, it was Del Potro doing the damage but this time he failed to convert break points this time as Federer delivered more clutch serves to eventually hold. It looked like he would pay as a slack forehand long gave Federer another chance to break, but he failed to convert as a huge serve set up Del Potro for the open court forehand which he took easily. Excellent play at the net finally sealed the game to tie it up again.

With serve continuing to remain dominant throughout, a tie break looked a certainty. Bar the 4-4 game, where Federer rescued a break point after being 40-0 up with big serving, there was little to threaten that and so a tie break would decide whether this went three or Del Potro would be a silver medalist at worst.

Federer took control early with a mini-break for 2-1, Del Potro unable to return with any conviction after Federer had hit the baseline dead on. He had a chance to earn it straight back but his trusted forehand let him down at the vital moment as he put a gimme wide. After an ace had given him a 4-1 lead, a mix of poor returning and at 4-3 a dodgy volley tied it up. Federer won a lengthy point to go 5-4 up, which he ended with a comprehensive smash with Del Potro way off the court. Federer finally earned set points after a disappointing back hand from Del Potro who had controlled the point, and took the second with an ace to tie it up.

After the disappointment of the tiebreak, Del Potro had chances early on to redeem himself as he earned two break points. Unfortunately both were wasted as a vital slip on the second gave Federer an easy put away before eventually holding.

That was the last Del Potro saw of the Federer serve as he held comfortably time after time, while Del Potro’s service games looked ready to buckle at any moment but clutch play avoided breaks at 3-3 and 4-4 as the serve-forehand combo continued to work wonders.

After missing break points in the fifteenth game and going up 0-30 in the seventeenth (where Del Potro started the comeback with an incredible diving volley winner) but not breaking, Federer finally made the break through in game nineteen. Two double faults did not help his cause, and the break was sealed when Del Potro hit well long at 30-40.

Having broke for the first time, it looked as if it would be straight forward for the Swiss who had looked dominant on serve all set after the early break points had been saved. A shank started the rot as he served for the match and when the net took his shot and dropped it wide, Del Potro had got the break back to love. This turned out just to be a blip, as Federer had no such issues next time out, holding to love, finishing off with one of his trademark drop shots.

When Federer took a 0-40 lead in the twenty-ninth game of the set, it looked surely over. However, Del Potro had other ideas as the forehand wound up once more to assist him in a vital hold.

When Federer next held a 0-40 lead, he would not be so unfortunate. A netted backhand on the second break point gave Federer the opportunity to serve for a place in the Gold Medal match at 18-17.

Federer double faulted to bring up 15-30 and perhaps raised some concern with the wary centre court crowd who had witnessed this marathon match. He brought up match point when Del Potro hit way long but he failed to take it after dumping a poor volley into the net.

At the second time of asking, a beautiful slice into the corner of the court was too much for the tall Argentinian who couldn’t get it back to give Federer the victory and a minimum silver medal – the first for his country these games.

While Juan Martin Del Potro did not take victory here, this was a huge step in the right direction for him. Holding his own on grass with Roger Federer was extremely impressive and he deserved a lot of credit. More than just a serve and huge forehand, Del Potro showcased it all from an excellent array of backhands to some brilliant volleys at the net – none more so than his diving one midway through set three. If he can transfer this form to a five set tournament there is no reason why he cannot deliver a repeat of his 2009 US Open victory.

Federer will take on Andy Murray in a rematch of the Wimbledon final after the Brit defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5 7-5, breaking in game 12 of both sets.

Aces RF 24 JMDP 11
First Serve % RF 68% JMDP 70%
First Serve Points Won % RF 75% JMDP 72%
Winners RF 64 JMDP 51
Unforced Errors RF 41 JMDP 34
Net Points Won % RF 63% JMDP 71%
Total Points Won RF 186 JMDP 180