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.

Singles

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

Doubles

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.

Advertisements

July 16th-22nd WTA Previews

Unlike the ATP Tour, the WTA has a slightly less packed schedule with again only the two tournaments this week. The clay courters move on from Palermo to Bastad while the North American hard court swing carries on with the players taking their talents to Carlsbad, San Diego.

Carlsbad (Premier)

Much like Stanford last week, Carlsbad has suffered in terms of the lineup due to the inconvenience placing the tournament between Wimbledon and the Olympics. Last year the tournament featured 16 seeds, of which the lowest was ranked 39 but this year the eighth seed ranks at 42! Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova head a field which has been weakened by the withdrawals of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki and Angelique Kerber. Bojana Jovanovski will not be competing this year but famously arrived at the wrong Carlsbad last year in the buildup to her first round match.

Favourite – Top seed Marion Bartoli will be hoping to make up for her disappointing performance at Stanford last week with a title in Carlsbad. Bartoli has always performed reasonably well on North American hard courts, having made two finals last year at Stanford and Indian Wells, but losing to Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki respectively. The Frenchwoman has the chance to gain revenge over her conqueror Yanina Wickmayer in a potential quarter final match.

Outsider – Nadia Petrova appears to be having somewhat of a career revival over the past few months. She earned the title in S’hertogenbosch defeating Urszula Radwanska to jump back into the top 20 for the first time in over a year. Hard courts should suit the former US Open quarter-finalist’s big serve and with a lack of outstanding candidates in the field the winner could be someone that can remain more consistent.

One To Watch – Coco Vandeweghe is hot off a Final appearance in Stanford having given Serena Williams an almighty scare before collapsing after having had a set point. She can cause big trouble with her serve as shown by her ace count throughout the week though the quality can be inconsistent. She will face Chanelle Scheepers in the first round who was also beaten by Serena last week.

Did You Know…?

Christina Mchale (5th seed, WTA Rank 28) is the highest ranked player without a WTA title to their name.

The draw contains three of the four youngest players in the top 100. If Camila Giorgi had qualified (lost 1st round qualifier), it would have made it four of five.

Bastad (International)

Favourite – As usual when it comes to lesser WTA tournaments on the dirt, Sara Errani is the obvious pick. The French Open runner-up added the Palermo title to her collection this year after defeating Barbara Zahlavova Strycova in the final and will be confident 0f doing the same again this week as No. 1 seed to make it 5 clay titles on the year.

Outsider – Handed a wildcard by the organisers here, Laura Robson will be hoping to build on her surprising semi-final appearance in Palermo last week. The left-handed put in some impressive displays last week on what many expect is her worst surface. If it wasn’t for a complete serving meltdown in the semi-final, where she served 18 double faults, we would be talking about Britain’s first finalist for a long time. If she can cut out the service errors, she has potential to go far again. The serve when it lands in, and her lefty forehand are two huge weapons that can do damage to a lot of players here.

One To Watch – Kiki Bertens has shot up the rankings this year, to a current high of No. 72.  As a qualifier, she won Fes defeating Laura Pous-Tio in the final. Her good form continued afterwards, qualifying for the French Open and taking Christina Mchale to 3 sets. Her most impressive win to date this year would be against Lucie Safarova at Wimbledon where she won surprisingly easy in straight sets 6-3 6-0. She has drawn the slumping Mona Barthel in the first round.

Did You Know…?

Sara Errani has dropped just two sets in her four WTA International tournament wins (Pennetta, Acapulco final and Czink, Budapest 2nd Round)

Eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro is the only seeded player not to have won a title having gone 0-3 in clay finals.

Home Sweet Home

Could Christina McHale be the new queen of American tennis? The in-form 19-year-old has backed up her win against world number one Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati with a straight sets victory over Marion Bartoli at the US Open.

If it’s not her then perhaps her fellow teens Coco Vandeweghe or Sloane Stephens could take the mantle from Serena Williams.

At the age of 31 and after pulling out of the US Open second round with illness there doesn’t seem many more opportunities for her sister Venus to help keep America’s head above water.

The pair are mostly looking towards the Olympic Games next year as their main challenge, as indicated by their scheduled Fed Cup participation, and so the younger players have got until then to step up.

So far they’re doing better than expected. Vandeweghe won a Grand Slam match for the first time in her career at the age of 19 while Stephens has already achieved a maiden victory at a major aged 18.

There was also good news for wildcard junior Madison Keys as the 16-year-old made it to the second round on debut before suffering defeat to Lucie Safarova despite winning the first set against the 27th seed.

Add that to Irina Falconi’s third round run, Vania King’s progress and Lauren Davis also coming through, the USA has hope again.

Be wary though. Melanie Oudin, a quarter-finalist at the US Open in 2009, crashed out of the first round this year to compound a miserable 2011 which has seen her ranking drop well outside the top 100.

At least this time around there is strength in numbers and with a top 20 containing a lot of players in their mid-20s there’s every chance at least one of these youngsters could crack it at the top.

Christina McHale

While several women progressed in the competition, for 19-year-old Ryan Harrison it proved too much of a task to overcome Marin Cilic as he showed signs of promise but ultimately lost out due to a wavering mentality.

Jack Sock has emerged as a promising new face though after beating former top 50 player Marc Gicquel and faces what could be a changing of the guard match with the declining Andy Roddick in the second round.

The 18-year-old Sock won the junior event in New York last year which earned him his wildcard to this year’s men’s singles and with Bjorn Fratengelo a junior winner at the French Open this year, there’s hope for the future in both categories.

Elsewhere things are looking up for British tennis too. Heather Watson may have been beaten by former champion Maria Sharapova but forced the Russian into a third set and tested her all the way.

It was Laura Robson who shone the most though. She made the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time without the help of a wildcard after coming through qualifying. She then won her first round match, leading her opponent before she retired, but succumbed to Anabel Medina Garrigues after making several unforced errors.

The run will give her a great boost in both ranking points and morale as her year had been disappointing at one stage, having dropped out of the top 200.

Other noteworthy results to report are Ernests Gulbis‘ straight sets win against Mikhail Youzhny, Bernard Tomic’s victory over Michael Yani and Grigor Dimitrov’s loss to Gael Monfils. Bojana Jovanovski and Rebecca Marino lost their opening matches in the women’s singles but Simona Halep defeated French Open champion Li Na in a shock result.

All results for the men’s singles and women’s singles so far can be found via the US Open website.

Wimbledon 2011 – Ranking Review

The grass court season is over and with the end of Wimbledon it means more ranking points have been lost or gained during the fortnight.

The women’s top 20 is pretty much unchanged with Petra Kvitova up one place after her Grand Slam success, progressing two steps further than her performance last year.

Sabine Lisicki is the biggest mover in the top 100 after having no ranking points to defend and then duly making it to the semi-finals. She’s jumped 35 places from #62 to #27 and sits just six places from her highest ever ranking position which she achieved in 2009.

Laura Robson’s first round victory was enough to see her enter the top 200 again and to a career high of #185.

The 17-year-old beat Angelique Kerber and rattled eventual finalist Maria Sharapova but lost to the Russian. She can now take heart from a season which looked like a step backwards as she’s now 32 places ahead of where she started in January having been much lower than that.

After always being behind her sister Karolina, Kristyna Pliskova has now moved ahead of her 19-year-old twin following a first round appearance against Marion Bartoli thanks to getting though qualifying. The Czech left-hander is in a career high position of #188.

Austrian Tamira Paszek has moved into the top 50 from #80 after the 20-year-old’s quarter-final run as Bojana Jovanovski dropped out of it.

There were also ranking rises for Rebecca Marino, Christina McHale and Coco Vandeweghe. Heather Watson remained at #106 and one place ahead of 19-year-old Misaki Doi who has shot up from #133.

The significant mover from the men’s tour was not surprising. Bernard Tomic’s breakthrough quarter-final run as a qualifier means he’s not only into the top 100 but deep into it at #71, an increase of 87 places.

Fellow 19-year-old Ryan Harrison is on the edge of the top 100 after qualifying and progressing to the second round. He’s at an agonising 101 in the world.

Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori both went up two places after second round appearances and had decent matches against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lleyton Hewitt respectively.

Milos Raonic and Alexandr Dolgopolov dropped a solitary place and are next to each other in the mid-20’s of the rankings. They’ll be looking at the return of the hard courts to make further impact this season.

Sabine Returns

Prior to Sabine Lisicki’s incredible victory against French Open champion Li Na, this post was due to be titled “Anyone for bagels?” as the young players struggled to make an impact at Wimbledon this year.

Two 19-year-olds in Melanie Oudin and Kristyna Pliskova were destroyed 6-0 in their opening sets of the first round before going out to Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli respectively.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another 19-year-old, made it to the second round but after reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and being 14th seed it was a surprise to see her lose in straight sets to Nadia Petrova.

Sticking with the pre-20 age group Simona Halep almost produced a stunning result against one of the title favourites Serena Williams.

The Romanian, who beat Bojana Jovanovski in round one, took the first set versus Williams before the American turned up the heat and showed why she’s won at The All England Club for the past two years. Halep eventually lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and saved suffering a bagel in the last set.

Second round casualties also came for Rebecca Marino, Polona Hercog and Christina McHale with the latter producing a great first round result beating 28th seed Ekaterina Makarova 8-6 in the third set.

Speaking of 8-6 in the third set, Sabine Lisicki is now firmly back amongst top level tennis again. You may have heard her story several times over the last few hours but it’s worth repeating.

Ranked outside the top 200 this year having been out for seven months with a severe ankle injury, the current world number 62 and Aegon Classic champion saved two match points to reach the third round of Wimbledon over Chinese sensation Li Na.

The tennis was outstanding, the drama even better and now her chances of equalling the quarter-final run she had in 2009 is seemingly possible.

Her next opponent is another Asian player but with very much less experience. Japan’s Misaki Doi is 19-years-old and ranked outside the top 100 but has come through qualifying and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ tennis ball sleeves along the way to the third round.

Another good match-up is Maria Sharapova vs. Laura Robson. If Robson wants to announce herself on the WTA Tour then she’ll have no better chance to do so against the woman who won at SW19 as a 17-year-old.

Robson is at that age now and although her chances of emulating her junior win on centre court in the seniors, a victory over the fifth seed would top anything she’s done in her career up to this point.

For her compatriot Heather Watson, it was a disappointing end to a steady-looking win as an elbow injury ultimately left her serving redundant and an often wild Mathilde Johansson took the match 2-6 6-4 6-4.

The men didn’t have much luck either although there were some promising signs which still need to be decided tomorrow.

Grigor Dimitrov has been likened to Roger Federer and you can see why. He possesses such talent and looks like a Grand Slam winner of the future.

This year Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved to much of a task to overcome after several rain delays but the recently turned 20-year-old fought all the way to the end, producing wonderful tennis along the way.

On the other courts Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison were busy announcing why they’ve been hyped along with Dimitrov.

Tomic continues tomorrow against Igor Andreev after winning the third set to make it 2-1 and David Ferrer will try to come back from 2-1 down against Harrison.

Elsewhere the dream third round tie between Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal didn’t materialise after the Canadian had to retire in the previous round whilst Kei Nishikori battled but couldn’t prevent Lleyton Hewitt rolling back the years and taking a first round win. Alexandr Dolgopolov also lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the opening round.

Wimbledon 2011

A little thing called Wimbledon returns tomorrow and it never fails to deliver shocks, surprises, high-quality and new names.

Take, for example, last year. Petra Kvitova reached the semi-finals as an unseeded player and is now ranked in the top 10.

In my mind, she’s a Grand Slam winner in the making. Three WTA titles have come since then and with the Williams sisters rusty after only just coming back from injury, Kim Clijsters out and the courts on grass again, the 21-year-old could easily match her performance or even go beyond it.

Perhaps the biggest surprise 12 months ago belonged to Tsvetana Pironkova whom I’d followed every year at SW19 where she’d lose in the first or second round but mostly the first. Remarkably she then made the semi-finals.

Her record of zero WTA titles and only ever reaching the second round of the other majors indicates the 23-year-old’s unbelievable run was indeed a fluke and should those first round exits return then the 32nd seed will dramatically fall out of the top 100.

She can, though, savour and draw inspiration from beating Venus Williams (again) and should they meet this year, it will be very interesting.

Vera Zvonareva provided a different form of shock last year as her career renaissance started. Aged 25 and seeded 21st, not many expected her to reach the final but since then she’s come close to winning the US Open and has been in the top 5 of the rankings ever since.

It’s not just restricted to the women either. Tomas Berdych reaching the final, beating Roger Federer along the way, will go down as a monumental upset and despite all the hype of a “Fedal” final, the last two have been contested with Andy Roddick and Berdych.

Wimbledon Court One Panorama

The young players looking to make a name for themselves this year include a wealth of British talent. Laura Robson, who split from her coach just days ago, and Heather Watson have been given wildcards along with German Sabine Lisicki, a former quarter-finalist who’s back for the first time since that 2009 last eight appearance.

Kristyna Pliskova, junior Wimbledon winner in 2010, has made it through to the first round having qualified and will not have it easy against Marion Bartoli who was another shock face in the 2007 women’s final after conquering Justine Henin from a set and a break down in the semis.

In men’s qualifying Bernard Tomic is finally regaining the sort of form which saw him reach the third round of his home tournament, the Australian Open.

Despite being outside the top 150, he reached the first round in the French Open and has followed that up with a second first round appearance at Wimbledon.

There was also good news for American Ryan Harrison who qualified as a lucky loser. Tomic plays Nikolay Davydenko, Harrison faces Ivan Dodig and Grigor Dimitrov (the man compared to Roger Federer) will play 20-year-old German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

Elsewhere, Milos Raonic is in the same group of eight as defending champion Rafael Nadal while other men’s matches to look out for include Lleyton Hewitt vs. Kei Nishikori, Fernando Gonzalez vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov and Dmitry Tursonov vs. Ernests Gulbis.

The women’s draw contains a whole host of 20-year-old qualifiers but regularly-tracked American teenager Sloane Stephens didn’t join them after defeat in the second round of qualifying.

There are so many more young players in the women’s field than the men’s so some selected highlights include Christina McHale vs. Ekaterina Makarova, Melanie Oudin vs. Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep vs. Bojana Jovanovski.

Ace of Baseline’s main coverage over the two weeks will centre around the juniors which start on 25th June but news from the young up-and-coming players in the main draw will also be featured. The full draws for the men’s singles and women’s singles are available via the official Wimbledon website.

Britain’s Rising ‘Sons’

Britain’s tennis history has a bad reputation. Constantly the press remind us it’s been x amount of years since Fred Perry became the last man to win a major title with that number currently standing at 75.

Although not as bad as the males, it doesn’t make for better reading when you look at the women’s game either. If you take a journey back through the decades you’ll find the likes of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker winning Grand Slam titles in the late 1970’s.

Now their great achievements are limited to mere captions on Wimbledon’s annual summer coverage.

Having not enjoyed any success in the womens’ singles for more than 40 years now there seems to be more of a desire to have a top ranked British female to support alongside Andy Murray.

Not since Annabel Croft has a female star emerged from the UK and even she quit the sport at the age of 21 despite winning both the Wimbledon and Australian Open juniors in 1984.

Instead Britain’s female tennis players are in effect long distant relatives. Whilst you may only see your great aunt on birthdays or at Christmas the British public only see the likes of Katie O’Brien and Melanie South once a summer as a wildcard entry into the first round of Wimbledon.

Once amongst those wildcards were Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong who have now gallantly broken into the top 100 but have a combined age of 54. Though they may have four or so more years competing at high levels on the WTA tour, the chances of them holding down a top 20 place or going on a great run at a Grand Slam are dwindling every year.

The hopes of the success-starved nation rests instead with Laura Robson and Heather Watson – the prodigal “sons” so to speak.

Since winning the Wimbledon girls’ singles title as a 14-year-old much has been expected of Melbourne-born Robson. Despite her 239 world ranking she is seen as Britain’s finest hope of repeating those 2008 scenes on the senior tour.

Watson, the third best female tennis player in Britain aged just 18, sits 108 places higher than her fellow Brit. In 2009 she won the US Open juniors which you may not know much about due to the media spotlight surrounding the potential future pin-up girl Robson.

Neither has yet won a WTA title but at the moment it’s a matter of amassing ranking points via qualification rounds and a few runs on the bigger stage.

Robson missed out on the 2011 Australian Open’s qualifying event due to injury which has also seen her position in the world rankings fall. This year she’s based in Paris with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou who’s seen previous success guiding Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai into top 20 players.

Whilst Robson will probably take a few months to break through properly, Watson is pretty close already.

Quarter-final runs in the Auckland Classic and Cellular South Cup this year have given her valuable experience against quality opposition and the environment of larger courts and crowds.

Should the pair’s progression continue at its current rate this year’s Wimbledon audience might be introduced something to shout about for many summers and tournaments to come.

33 Girls' Singles - Finals
Laura Robson (left) is all smiles after defeating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the 2008 Wimbledon girls’ singles final

Heather Watson
Heather Watson at the 2009 US Open juniors final where she beat Yana Buchina 6-4, 6-1

You can follow the fortunes and thoughts of both Laura and Heather on Twitter but be sure to check back to Ace of Baseline for the latest news on the young duo.

%d bloggers like this: