Weekly Roundup: Rogers Cup

ATP

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

WTA

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.

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Olympics Preview – Women’s Singles

After a 64 year break, Tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988 as a medal sport (returned in 1984 as a ‘demonstration sport’) and the list of female singles winners makes for some impressive reading. The likes of Steffi Graf, Venus Williams and Justine Henin have won since the sport’s revival in the Olympics and only 2008 winner Elena Dementieva is not a multiple grand slam winner.

Draw

Quarter 1  (1) Victoria Azarenka – Angelique Kerber (7) 

The new World No.1 Victoria Azarenka should have no issues on her way to making the quarter final, facing first Irina-Camelia Begu. The Romanian is far more comfortable on clay and has very little experience on the grass, most recently exiting Wimbledon in the 1st round and throwing away a 6-0 lead in a final set tie break against Francesca Schiavone in their match in S’hertogenbosch. A second round tie will be with another clay courter, be it Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez or the in-form Polona Hercog who took the title in Bastad last week. Potential third round opponents Jie Zheng or Nadia Petrova both have had impressive runs at Wimbledon in the past and have decent grass court credentials – Zheng pushing eventual winner Serena Williams at Wimbledon this year to 3 sets stands out, along with her Semi Final appearance a while back. Petrova took the S’hertogenbosch title this year but appeared to be carrying an injury in her defeat to Dominika Cibulkova in Carlsbad last week.

Perhaps the most appealing seeded player to draw for the unseeded is Sara Errani, the French Open finalist is far less comfortable on the grass and even suffered the humiliation of the golden set in her defeat to Yaroslava Shvedova last month. Errani has drawn five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. Although she was incredibly disappointing at Wimbledon this year, winning only four games against Elena Vesnina, I don’t think you can write her off completely. She may feel her medal chances are much better in the doubles with sister Serena where they are favourites for the gold medal. Timea Babos has shown great potential this year, winning the title in Monterrey and earning a surprise victory over Birmingham champion Melanie Oudin. Angelique Kerber should be the favourite to come through the other side of this quarter, and potentially has the chance to exert revenge over Errani who defeated her in the French Open. She faces Petra Cetkovska in the first round.

My Quarter Final Prediction –  Victoria Azarenka defeats Angelique Kerber in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Venus Williams vs Sara Errani

Did You Know…?

Nadia Petrova owns a 7-1 head to head record over first round opponent Jie Zheng

Venus Williams is the only female tennis player to win three gold medals (1x Singles, 2x Doubles)

Quarter 2 (4) Serena Williams-Caroline Wozniacki (8)

Serena Williams will be very happy with her section of the draw. The Wimbledon champion is on an 11-match winning streak after taking the title in Stanford. She looked ominous at Wimbledon and her serve is one of the best of all time, meaning that she is almost unbreakable if it is working. Her first round tie will be a battle of the former World No.1’s as she takes on Jelena Jankovic. The Serb has been on a very bad run of form of late with a string of first round exits to her name, although she did make the final in Birmingham (though perhaps more due to a favourable draw). Jankovic appears to be lacking motivation at times but if there is an opponent that can inspire her to play well, it has to be Serena. Young hopefuls Mona Barthel and Urszula Radwanska will battle for the presumed second round match-up with Serena, both can cause a lot of trouble but inconsistency is likely to be their downfall. Klara Zakapolova will be looking to improve on her 0-3 head to head against Francesca Schiavone, and was mostly recently defeated by the Italian this year at Wimbledon. 2010 Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva still looks to be suffering slightly from a number of injuries but she has potential to be a surprise medalist if she can recover sufficiently.

Serena’s potential quarter-final opponent could be Caroline Wozniacki, whom she has a 4-1 head to head record over. The Dane faces British hopeful Anne Keothavong first up – who was embarrassed by college star Mallory Burdette at Stanford a few weeks back. Many more eyes will be on Daniela Hantuchova, who is enjoying new found fame after posing for the ESPN Body Issue. The Slovakian has been disappointing in the middle part of this year, not helped by a foot injury that left her out for almost two months.  She suffered a poor straight sets defeat to Jamie Hampton at Wimbledon this year and will have a big job on her hands here, facing Na Li. Li has not quite hit the heights of last year, but is still a very dangerous player on all surfaces. Tamira Paszek will be confident with her position in the draw here, possessing recent grass court wins over Hantuchova and more famously under the roof against Wozniacki this year.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Serena Williams defeats Tamira Paszek in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Serena Williams vs Jelena Jankovic

Did You Know…?

With victory here, Serena can equal her sisters gold medal haul of three.

This quarter of the draw contains five former, or current top 5 players.

Quarter 3 (5) Samantha Stosur-Maria Sharapova (3)

While Samantha Stosur is notoriously poor on grass, she will be happy with her first round draw against a clay specialist in Carla Suarez Navarro who she beat fairly comfortable in Wimbledon this year. The second round is much more likely to be where she departs – Roberta Vinci can be a threat and only made the fourth round of Wimbledon while Kim Clijsters is still a class act even if recent form has been sketchy. The Belgian will want to finish off in style at her last visit to SW19 before she retires. She holds a 2-0 head to head over Vinci, but both are a long time ago so not much should be made of that. Agnes Szavay makes her return after a long time out with injury and has a winnable match against Great Britain’s Elena Baltacha, but her fitness is a huge question mark after so much time out. Ana Ivanovic is the other stand out name in this section, she takes on the highly rated Christina Mchale. This is a wide-open quarter where someone has the potential to make a name for themselves.

Whoever takes the previous section is more than likely just waiting for a quarter final with Maria Sharapova. The Russian disappointed at Wimbledon, losing to Sabine Lisicki and has the chance for revenge here in the third round. A first round tie with a slumping Shahar Pe’er should pose no issues at all. Lefties Laura Robson and Lucie Safarova could trouble her in the second round but Sharapova should progress with little trouble. Yaroslava Shvedova could disturb the balance in this section here, two good Grand Slam runs have seen her ranking improve greatly over the past two months and she has begun to show the potential of a few years ago again. She takes on Simona Halep in an interesting first round tie for the chance to take on Lisicki, who should dispatch of youngster Ons Jabeur with ease. Although losing the most recent meeting, Sharapova has a 3-1 head to head over Lisicki including the previous two slam meetings between the pair – Australian Open 12, Wimbledon 11.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Maria Sharapova defeats Ana Ivanovic in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Ana Ivanovic vs Christina Mchale

Did You Know…?

Samantha Stosur is a three times semi-finalist at Eastbourne but has never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Against the 3 seeds in her section she has faced, Kim Clijsters has a 17-3 record (6-3 Sharapova, 5-0 Stosur, 6-0 Ivanovic)

Quarter 4 (6) Petra Kvitova-Agnieszka Radwanska (2)

2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova opens her account against Kateryna Bondarenko – the Ukrainian will have full attention on the Singles event now after he sister withdrew from the doubles but it is unlikely she can trouble the Czech here while Shuai Peng or Su-Wei Hsieh will ensure an Asian presence in the next round. Bulgarian grass specialist Tsvetana Pironkova is probably the biggest danger to Kvitova here, she excels on grass and is a former semi-finalist at Wimbledon – where she was defeated by Vera Zvonareva in 2010. She also reached the quarters in 2009, losing to potential opponent Kvitova. Pironkova takes on the in-from Dominika Cibulkova, who recently took the Carlsbad title.

When talking about Agnieszka Radwanska, she is always accused of having the easy draws in tournaments and it is hard to argue with people on this showing. She faces an out-form Julia Gorges in the first round with a potential second round tie against either a very poor wildcard choice in Veronica Cepede Royg or an inferior version of herself in Varvara Lepchenko. A third round tie is likely to be against Maria Kirilenko. Radwanska has proved recently she can beat her, even if the weather conditions were not suitable the Pole’s playing style. Heather Watson was dispatched off with ease at Wimbledon while Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Mariana Duque Marino are both most at home on the clay and will pose little threat.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Agnieszka Radwanska defeats Petra Kvitova  in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Tsvetana Pironkova vs Dominika Cibulkova

Did You Know…?

South Americans Mariana Duque Marino and Veronica Cepede Royg have not won a main draw match on Grass courts between them. Mariano has one in Wimbledon qualifying 2008.

Tsvetana Pironkova’s difference in results off and on a grass court are staggering – other than her Wimbledon QF and SF’s in 2009 and 2010, she has never made the 3rd round in a slam.

Medal Predictions

Gold Serena Williams 

Silver Maria Sharapova

Bronze Victoria Azarenka

Who are your medal predictions for the tourney? Who do you think can spring a surprise here? Feel free to leave your comments below!

Gotta Love Fed Cup

Petra Kvitova earned the clinching point for defending Fed Cup champion Czech Republic against Germany.Take a look at Petra Kvitova here. There’s fire in her eyes, passion in her stance and pride all over to be wearing the flag of her native Czech Republic.

That could have been one of many images from the WTA’s galleries displaying such hunger and desire to succeed at last week’s Fed Cup. The reason I mention it is due to a recent encounter on our university’s student radio sports show. They drafted me in as a tennis ‘expert’ to discuss the ATP World Tour Finals and the topic of Davis Cup came up.

Surprisingly I heard some resentment for what many believed was a format designed to make an individual sport a team game. It could have been hot air in order to provoke debate but it will be hugely disappointing if the majority of tennis fans dislike the Davis Cup as that’s considered in a far higher regard than it’s female equivalent the Fed Cup.

At the start of the year when sporting calendars are out in every newspaper, the Fed Cup final didn’t even get a look-in. Perhaps us Brits aren’t used to success and seeing us fail in another form of tennis is too much to take but our new-look team gives me reason to believe they’ll turn things around.

Captain Judy Murray (aka Judmoo) has so far guided a strong field of female players both experienced and youthful to the play-offs of World Group II. Although Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong don’t have too long left in their careers they could leave the British team in a very strong position for Heather Watson and Laura Robson.

The British Fed Cup team featured Anne Keothavong, Laura Robson, Elena Baltacha and Heather Watson.

It’s not just my own country that gets me interested in the Fed Cup though. The idea of a World Cup-style tennis tournament every year is incredibly exciting, particularly as the current teams are only going to get better.

Russia is always churning out top professionals and choosing just five players is the toughest decision of all. Germany’s strength in depth is also impressive whilst the camaraderie in the camp shown across the board makes it a pleasure to watch.

The trouble is, players often see the Fed Cup as less important. The Williams sisters have only returned to play for the USA this year in order to qualify for the Olympic Games. For the other three years there’s a significant lack of participation from the world’s elite players, which I’m more disappointed than angry about. It’s the same with the Hopman Cup which I also believe is a great concept.

Look at these photos and tell me it’s not worth participating in. If everyone gave as much as Kvitova up top then we could have a tournament which is the highlight of any tennis season.

http://www.wtatennis.com/javaImages/1f/80/0,,12781~10453023,00.jpg

The Kvitova Years

Every era of tennis, whether it’s men’s, women’s or doubles, has its standout players.

The 1980’s were dominated by several names in the men’s field while Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras rose highest in the 90’s before the Williams sisters took over during the turn of the millennium.

Today we are in the twilight of the titanic rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the Bryan brothers are kings of the two racket game and the Williams sisters are still around.

But for the future of women’s tennis, today’s Wimbledon final result could be the start of a new shift in power.

Petra Kvitova is a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic and only the third left-hander to win at SW19, joining probably the best female player ever in Martina Navratilova (originally from Czechoslovakia) and Ann Jones.

Navratilova had overwhelming success in the 1980’s before Graf came in and took the mantle. Now with Navratilova herself declaring the Williams sister era of tennis dead her fellow lefty is now the prime candidate to become the new icon.

All the reporters, commentators, ex-players and presenters are saying Kvitova will win more majors. At the present time no one looks like a potential challenger as the inconsistency on the WTA tour is rife.

Caroline Wozniacki can go from beating a top 10 player in a premier final to crashing out of a Grand Slam in the fourth round whilst Victoria Azarenka can win a set and look the best player on the planet before her body or form gives in.

The other two women holding Grand Slam titles are Kim Clijsters and Li Na who are both approaching 30; too late to claim dominance. It’s the perfect stage for Kvitova to take advantage of.

She now has Grand Slam winning experience so the nerves which may have occurred in the final will gradually recede completely. But who’s to say she was nervous? At times she looked like a multiple Wimbledon finalist.

Perhaps her game is mostly suited to grass but as of this moment she looks somewhere between a Martina Hingis and Monica Seles level of Grand Slam winning potential. Graf and Navratilova may be too much to ask for.

99

Like in all eras, there is always one or two challengers who tussle for the top prize.

Azarenka is still young and made her first Grand Slam semi-final at this year’s Wimbledon. Wozniacki may only need one success for more to follow with the US Open her most likely Grand Slam breakthrough victory.

The teenagers that this blog has followed (Bojana Jovanovski, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Caroline Garcia) who’ve yet to peak have that potential plus Kvitova’s opponent in the final Maria Sharapova is seemingly back to her best but another maiden semi-finalist has been tipped.

Germany’s Sabine Lisicki is also 21 and has the added pressure of being “the next Steffi Graf”. With big things expected of her she could challenge at the top of the game in the future as well but again, grass is her favoured surface.

For both Lisicki and Kvitova, the way they handle the hard courts for the rest of the season will be pivotal. The evidence shows Kvitova will more than likely pull ahead as her return of serve is lethal and she already has three WTA titles from earlier in the year.

Lisicki relies more on her serve and has been known to clam up in the past. She was out for most of the 2010 season though so her progress might be late in development.

With confidence and experience this pair could be the ones to fear in future draws but Kvitova particularly has the serve, firepower and coolness to grab women’s tennis by the neck and carry it forward.

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.

Kvitova Controversy

Petra Kvitova at Brisbane International 2011 After beating Victoria Azarenka in the third WTA Premier Mandatory event of the year, Petra Kvitova will next be seen on the clay at Prague’s $100,000 ITF tournament.

Instead of facing opposition such as Vera Zvonareva or Australian Open finalist Li Na, the Czech will play a first round tie against Anne Keothavong and come across several players around the brink of the top 100.

Is this really going to aid the new member of the world’s top ten? Yes it’s her home tournament, but you can expect fellow Czechs Klara Zakopalova (world #34) and Lucie Hradecka (#45) to partake as these ranking points mean more to them.

If Kvitova is going to progress then surely she must continue playing high-class opposition whilst on her best form since the semi-final run at last year’s Wimbledon. That would be at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome where Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur and other high-quality clay court specialists will be present.

Plus the expectation of her to easily win the tournament in Prague could be off-putting. Should she somehow lose, it could affect her confidence.

But there are some advantages for her however. She gets to enjoy the warmth of her home crowd who probably knew very little of her this time last year. It should be a gentle experience for her going into the French Open which could aid her performance in Paris.

On the other side of the court in the Mutua Madrid Open, Azarenka lost but will find herself at number four in the world after three wins and a final appearance from her last four tournaments.

With both currently being 21, they have a great chance at winning a Grand Slam in the future. The worrying thing is the lack of a crowd at the final.

I watched it on Eurosport and it took something out of the occasion. It felt like a first round tie against two mid-50 ranked players rather than two of the WTA’s best athletes.

One can only hope the crowds pick up for the rest of the tournaments no matter who is playing the final but particularly so as these two could be in a lot more finals to come.

The lack of atmosphere did allow us to hear Kvitova’s trademark celebratory scream; just another part of the Mutua Madrid Open final highlights.

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