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.

Advertisements

July 9th-16th Previews

With Wimbledon over, the ATP and WTA tours have a hefty schedule this week with six tournaments over three surfaces and two continents. From the hard courts in Stanford to the clay courts of Umag and Palermo and even the continuation of the Grass season in Newport, there is plenty to look forward to this week.

(Click titles for draw)

ATP Tour

Newport – 250

Often seen as an afterthought in the short grass season, Newport was always likely to generate more interest this year with the chance to provide extra practice for the Olympic Games. Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and John Isner top a fairly strong field.

Favourite – With John Isner’s decidedly dicey form over the last few months, it is fair to say that Milos Raonic is the favourite to win the tournament. Raonic is topping many of the service stats on the tour this year and the surface will suit the young Canadian’s game.

Outsider – Showing signs of the form before his injury is Sam Querrey, the former finalist is unseeded here but can go far – he is in what many would perceive to be the favourable side of the draw away from John Isner, Milos Raonic and Gilles Muller.

One to Watch – Another returning from injury is US Open Mixed Doubles Champion Jack Sock, the 19 year-old has been handed a wildcard and will face Igor Kunitsyn in the first round.

Bastad – 250

With two other European clay tournaments to compete with, Bastad looks to have suffered the most competition wise with 8th seed Ungur being ranked only 81st, however David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro ensure there is some top level quality at the Swedish tournament. The currently inactive Robin Soderling is unable to defend his crown here.

Favourite – Arguably one of the best clay courters outside of his fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer looks certain to take this, he possesses a 10-0 head to head record over Nicolas Almagro.

Outsider – Grigor Dimitrov is another who has promised so much in his early years but as of yet has failed to deliver. A generous draw could see him making the Semi-Finals here where he would expect to face No.1 seed David Ferrer.

One to Watch – Tommy Robredo is back after a long spell out with injury, and full of confidence after taking Milan challenger a few weeks ago. However, he did withdraw from Braunschweig last week but hopefully it was just for precautionary measures than anything serious.

Stuttgart – 250

Stuttgart possesses a slightly stronger field led by the likes of Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Monaco as well as two former top 5 players in Tommy Haas and Nikolay Davydenko.

Favourite – Juan Monaco is another who looks at his best on clay with 2 titles to his name this year and despite not being No.1 seed is in my view the best player in the tournament with a great chance to make it three tournament victories for the year.

Outsider – Tommy Haas has found a new lease of life recently taking the Halle title and beating Roger Federer to go with it. The former World No.2 can definitely still be a threat in a three set format but has not won a clay title since 2004.

One to Watch – It will be interesting to see how Lukas Rosol fares the week after his giant-killing of Rafael Nadal. Many expect to see him revert to the form that sees him around No. 100 in the world but perhaps the victory will give him newly found confidence.

Umag – 250

Perhaps one of the most picturesque stops on the tour, the Croatian town is a favourite for tourists and fans alike. The field is led by Spaniards Fernando VerdascoMarcel Granollers and former World No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero while home hopes will be held by No.2 seed Marin Cilic

Favourite – No.1 seed Fernando Verdasco has gone two years without a title now but has a good chance to end that here. He was unfortunate enough to bump into David Ferrer in his last clay-court final but will not be so unlucky here. The Spaniard has obvious talent as shown by his recent victory over Rafael Nadal but mental issues often hold him back.

Outsider – Carlos Berlocq has shown great improvement over the past year, including reaching a personal high of No.37 in the rankings, only one spot above his current position. A regular winner on the Challenger Tour last year, Berlocq has made the step up and was unfortunate to suffer defeat in his only tour final to date in Vina del Mar.

One to Watch – Aljaz Bedene of Slovakia has been slowly making a name for himself on the Challenger Tour picking up three titles on clay this year but as of yet, has been unable to make the step up to the main tour.

WTA Tour

Stanford (Premier) 

Hosted at the University of Stanford’s tennis complex, the Bank of the West Classic is the oldest women-only event on the tour. The outdoor hard court tournament is also the first tournament in the US Open Series and the field is led by Serena Williams with Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli amongst the big names.

Favourite – If her exploits at Wimbledon do not lead to a withdrawal, then it is incredibly difficult to see past Serena Williams defending her title. She is serving incredibly well and in this form will be hard to break, never mind defeat over a three set match.

Outsider – Marion Bartoli made the final here last year and looks the superior player in the bottom half of the draw. Any slip up from Serena and she will be sure to take advantage.

One to Watch – Nicole Gibbs is a decorated athlete at college level with numerous NCAA awards as well as being the 2012 Womens’ Champion while representing Stanford. She can earn a second round tie with Serena Williams if she defeats Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the first round here.

 Palermo (International)

New no.2 Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew from Palermo after making the Wimbledon final making Sara Errani the top seed above compatriot Roberta Vinci. Defending champion Anabel Medina Garrigues also appears in the draw and is seeded No. 4.

Favourite – Sara Errani is an excellent clay court player and against all but the elite achieves very good results as shown by picking up tournaments in Barcelona, Budapest and Acapulco before her shock final appearance at Roland Garros.

Outsider – A five time winner of the tournament, it is hard to rule out Anabel Medina Garrigues, results indicate that she enjoys it a lot here and will likely go far again with an expected semi final between herself and Errani where I would think the winner would go on to become champion.

One to Watch – Yulia Putintseva is a promising Kazakh prospect, but will be disappointed at her recent result in nearby Biella where she was disposed of easily by Barbara Zahlavova-Strycova in straight sets. In less recent form, she did pick up an ITF 100k title in May which led her to her highest ranking of 122. If not for the tennis, she will be one to watch here for her famous tantrums!

The Golden Girl: A Look At Yaroslava Shvedova

With Kazakhstan’s campaign to boost its sporting profile, a number of Russian imports have converted nationality to represent the side at international level. From Ksenia Pervak and Galina Voskoboeva to the feisty Yulia Putintseva, there is no doubt they are acquiring some very useful players. However, Yaroslava Shvedova appears to be the greatest prospect with back-to-back Grand Slam performances indicating she may be back to the form that took her into the top 30 back in June 2010.

Her performance at the French Open last month matched her best Singles performance of her career, also in Paris in 2010. As a qualifier she reached the quarter finals defeating and handing out a bagel to the reigning champion Na Li before dropping out to Petra Kvitova, but not before giving the Czech an almighty scare by taking a set and break lead.

On the back of her exploits in France, she was awarded a wildcard to Wimbledon where she continued her great form. While giving Serena Williams a big test was very impressive, she will be forever remembered for her third round match against Sara Errani. Shvedova pulled off the very rare feat of a golden set** – where no points have been dropped in the winning of a set. Shvedova hit 14 winners including four aces on her way while Errani made only one unforced error, indicating it was much more about Shvedova playing well than Errani playing badly.

Ironically, she also holds the closest attempt at this record for a female when she won the first 23 points against Amy Frazier at the Memphis tournament in 2006 before going on to lose the next 2 sets without winning a game!

Much like fellow tennis star Janko Tipsarevic, Shvedova’s prescription eyewear makes her much more identifiable. It is not coincidence that once the rain fell and she had to remove her glasses that her game suffered, losing three games in a row to fall to a 5-7 defeat including two double faults to give Serena the crucial break points that she was not going to fail to convert.

Shvedova’s power game can match up with the best and this was in full force when she matched Serena for large points and even dictated many of the points. She moves well and is impressive at the net, something she can owe to her vast doubles experience. Her serve is a big weapon too with only Sabine Lisicki and Serena Williams serving a faster individual serve at any point at Wimbledon this year. Her first serve is consistently over 100mph and her average second serve speed was faster than Serena’s in their encounter.

Although Shvedova has picked up impressive wins in her singles encounters, there is no doubt the majority of her success has lay in the doubles. Her partnership with American Vania King led to a 5-4 record in finals winning Cincinnati, Washington and Moscow as well as back-to-back Slam victories at Wimbledon and US Open. With the Olympics coming up, the pair have disbanded for the time being with Shvedova teaming up with Galina Voskoboeva to play in London.

After an impressive 2010, the next year was not so good for Shvedova. Injury had caused her to miss the Australian Open and when she returned things didn’t get any better – winning only four main draw matches before the US Open. While some success was found on the Asian swing, she resorted to playing a number of challengers to regain form having made the quarter finals in her last tournament of the year in Taipei. March 2012 saw her make two ITF finals in Mexico, losing to Kiki Bertens in Irapuato and defeating Monica Puig in Poza Rica. Upon returning to the main tour she made a small run from qualifying to make the third round before suffering defeat to Sabine Lisicki in Charleston.

I think there is no arguing Yaroslava’s talent and she can definitely be a fixture of the top 20 and possibly top 10 in future. As with many women, talent is usually not the issue but the consistency of playing level. If she can showcase the form she has shown recently on a more regular occasion then she will be going deep into slams more and more often.

** Hot on the heels of Shvedova’s golden set was one completed in Panama City Challenger qualifiers by Colombian Felipe Escobar against the local Luis Nieves.

%d bloggers like this: