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.

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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.

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!

Weekly Roundup: This Week’s ATP/WTA Winners

ATP Tour

Bastad

David Ferrer extended his winning record over Nicolas Almagro to 11-0 with an easy straight sets victory 6-2 6-2. Ferrer only faced one break point through out the whole match and was always in control breaking Almagro twice in each set including the final game of the match. In the doubles Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau eased a little bit of the heartbreak of losing another Wimbledon final by taking the title, defeating second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-3 7-6(5).

AFP/Getty Images

Stuttgart

Janko Tipsarevic picked up his first title of the year with a far from straight forward victory over Juan Monaco in Stuttgart. The Serbian failed to take a break point for a 6-4 5-0 and was consequently pegged back to 4-4. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Tipsarevic made silly errors gifting the set away. With all the momentum seemingly in the Argentinian’s favour, Tipsarevic broke three times in the third set to take the match 6-4 5-7 6-3. The Doubles title was taken by Jeremy Chardy and Lukasz Kubot who convincingly beat Michael Mertinak and Andre Sa 6-1 6-3.

AFP/Getty Images

Umag

Marin Cilic defeated Marcel Granollers in straight sets to make up for his 2011 final defeat. Cilic came back from a 4-2 deficit in the first set, reeling off four games in a row to take the set. A break early in the second saw Cilic take control and despite a minor blip in failing to serve the match out at 5-1, he broke back straight away winning in 92 minutes 6-4 6-2. Granollers didn’t fare much better as an all Spanish final in the doubles saw David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco defeat Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-3 7-6(4).

AFP/Getty Images

Newport

Another dominant serving display saw John Isner defend his Newport title beating Lleyton Hewitt 7-6(1) 6-4. The first set saw no breaks of serve, and after that Isner took control in the tiebreak dropping just one point. An early break at 1-1 in the second was enough for Isner to hold on to for the remainder of the match, with his 16 aces certainly a big help. Santiago Gonzalez  and Scott Lipsky  took the doubles title with a 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchings, breaking in the vital eighth game of the second set to earn the opportunity to serve it out which they did to 30.

via @TennisHalloFame twitter

WTA Tour

Palermo

Sara Errani took yet another WTA International title with a 6-1 6-3 victory over Barbara Zahlavova Strycova. An excellent performance from Errani in the 25 minute first set saw Errani drop just 1 game and break her opponent twice while managing a  96% first serve percentage (24/25) facing zero break points. The second set was slightly tougher as Errani dropped two service games but was never in danger of losing the set, sealing the victory by passing a helpless Strycova at the net. Strycova fared much better in the Doubles taking the title alongside partner Renata Voracova with a 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over Darija Jurak and Katalin Marosi.

Stanford

Serena Williams fought off a spirited Coco Vandeweghe to win the Stanford final 7-5 6-3 for the second time in a row. Williams was *3-5 0-30 down before taking the first set and fought off a set point to win the first despite an unconvincing performance in the set. Williams took full control in the fourth game of the second set breaking to love. At 4-1 30-0 on Vandeweghe’s serve, the potential for a breadstick was looming but she held on and forced Serena to serve for the match at 5-3 which she did to 15, finishing off  with a forehand down the line. In the Doubles Jarmila Gajdosova and Vania King suffered defeat to Marina Erakovic and Heather Watson 5-7  (7) 6-7. The pair came from a break down in the first set and saved set points in the second to win in straights.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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!

Weekly Roundup: The Week’s Winners

A quick look at the week’s winners…

ATP Challenger Tour

Thomas Bellucci picked up the Braunschweig singles title with a 7-6(4) 6-3 win over Tobias Kamke while Polish pairing Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk picked up the Doubles trophy winning 7-5 6-7 10-8 for their second victory as a pairing this year.

Unseeded Guido Andreozzi notched another shock in the Lima final over Facundo Arguello, making it three seeds he has defeated on his way to becoming the champion, this time with a 6-3 6-7(6-8) 6-2 victory for his first Challenger title. Arguello wasn’t so unlucky in the doubles though, as he and partner Agustin Velotti defeated Italian pair Luca Vanni and Claudio Grassi in two tiebreak sets 7-6(4) 7-6(5).

John Patrick-Smith  is another first time winner on the Challenger tour, defeating Richard Berankis 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) to take the Winnetka title. He wasn’t so fortunate in the doubles though, being on the losing side of a three set encounter with Devin Britton and Jeff Dadamo who took the title 1-6 6-2 10-6.

Unlike his young compatriots at Wimbledon Peter Polansky had a weekend to forget in Panama City. He was beaten convincingly by Rogerio Dutra da Silva 3 and 0 in the Singles final and didn’t fare much better with his parter Daniel Kosakowski in the Doubles against Júlio César Campozano and Alejandro González who took the final 6-4 7-5.

In Arad, Victor Hanescu was unable to hold on to a 1st set lead, losing 5 games in a row from 4-1 up to Facundo Bagnis who gained his 2nd Challenger title with a 6-4 6-4 victory. It was an all Croatian affair in the final as Nikola Mektic and Antonio Veic took the Doubles title with a 7-6(5) 4-6 10-3 win over Marin Draganja and Dino Marcan.

ITF Men’s Pro Circuit Results

Romania F5 Futures Jordi SAMPER-MONTANA (ESP) [1]     6-3 3-6(6) 7-6(5)     Theodoros ANGELINOS (GRE)

Netherlands F4 Futures Matwe MIDDELKOOP (NED) [5]     4-6 6-2 6-3     Niels DESEIN (BEL) [8]

Italy F16 Futures Nicolas PASTOR (ARG) [1]     6-4 6-3     Sandro EHRAT (SUI) [8]

Great Britain F9 Futures Albano OLIVETTI (FRA) [2]    7-5 6-1    Josh GOODALL (GBR) [1]

Serbia F4 Futures Ivan BJELICA (SRB) [1]     7-6(3) 6-4     Vladimir OBRADOVIC (SRB) [4]

Argentina F16 Futures Leandro MIGANI (ARG) [1]    6-1 6-1 Hernan CASANOVA (ARG)

Indonesia F2 Futures Yuichi SUGITA (JPN) [1]     6-2 7-5     Ti CHEN (TPE) [2]

Brazil F16 Futures Nicolas Gustavo KAUER (CHI)     6-2 6-1     Daniel DUTRA DA SILVA (BRA) [8]

Armenia F1 Futures Arthur DE GREEF (BEL) [5]     6-0 6-1     Nikoloz BASILASHVILI (RUS) [6]

Belgium F2 Futures Yannik REUTER (BEL) [5]     5-7 7-6(8) 7-6(1)     Juan Carlos SAEZ (CHI) [7]

USA F18 Futures Alex BOGDANOVIC (GBR) [1]     6-2 6-4     Matheson KLEIN (AUS)

Canada F3 Futures Nikita KRYVONOS (USA)     6-3 4-6 6-4 Nicolas MEISTER (USA) [4]  

Turkey F26 Futures Sergio GUTIERREZ-FERROL (ESP) [1] 6-1 6-4 Miljan ZEKIC (SRB) [2]

Spain F19 Futures Brydan KLEIN (AUS) [2]     6-2 6-2     Jules MARIE (FRA) [3]

France F12 Futures Pierre-Hugues HERBERT (FRA) [3]     7-6(8) 7-5     David GUEZ (FRA) [5]

Germany F8 Futures Uladzimir IGNATIK (BLR) [2]     6-4 7-6(3)     Jan MINAR (CZE) [6]

ITF Women’s Pro Circuit Results

100k Biella Johanna LARSSON (SWE) [7]     6-3 6-4     Anna TATISHVILI (GEO) [3]

50k Denver Nicole GIBBS (USA)        6-2 3-6 6-4      Julie COIN (FRA)

50k Versmold Annika BECK (GER)     6-3 6-1     Anastasija SEVASTOVA (LAT)

25k Denain Kristina KUCOVA (SVK) [5]     6-2 1-6 6-2     Michaela HONCOVA (SVK)

25k Torun Danka KOVINIC (MNE)     6-3 4-6 6-3     Paula KANIA (POL)

25k Middleburg Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) [2]     6-1 6-0     Aravane REZAI (FRA) [1]

15k Huzhu Chang LIU (CHN) [8]     6-3 6-4     Kai-Lin ZHANG (CHN) [5]

15k Rovereto Timea BACSINSZKY (SUI) [7]     6-0 6-2     Anne SCHAEFER (GER) [2]

10k Brussels Natalia RYZHONKOVA (RUS)     6-2 Retired    Karolina WLODARCZAK (AUS) [2]

10k Istanbul Melis SEZER (TUR) [1]     7-6(5) 6-4     Sandra ROMA (SWE)

10k New Delhi Miyabi INOUE (JPN) [3]     6-2 6-2     Ankita RAINA (IND) [8]

10k Pattaya Luksika KUMKHUM (THA) [1]     6-2 6-2     Nungnadda WANNASUK (THA) [4]

10k Prokuplje Victoria KAN (RUS) [5]     6-1 6-2     Maria MOKH (RUS)

10k Sharm-el Sheikh Anna MORGINA (RUS) [8]     6-3 6-1     Kamila KERIMBAYEVA (KAZ) [3]

 

Not to forget these two…

(Photo: Getty Images)

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.

Strong Is Beautiful…

What do you make of this video?

This is the WTA’s new advertising campaign, which you may have guessed is called Strong Is Beautiful.

Along with this sensual slow mo of Victoria Azarenka, there are 37 other female tennis players who have been photographed looking glammed up to accompany further videos of high-profile names such as Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic.

I wanted you to take a look yourself and make your own judgement before I tell you my thoughts.

Firstly, I don’t really get it. What is it advertising exactly? I had to read the related article to fully understand what the impact this campaign was meant to be having and even then I was skeptical.

This is how they put it anyway:

Drawing upon athleticism and grace – a unique combination that has turned the stars of the WTA into the most recognizable and followed female athletes on the planet – the campaign places the personal stories, pressures and dreams of the players front of stage. The creative is designed to support the WTA’s efforts to establish a deeper engagement with fans around the world and to promote both the sport’s next generation of players along with current established names.

To me that’s just a polite way of saying it’s a massive sexualisation of female athletes. Admittedly it has a good chance of working but is that really how they want to attract more fans?

I’m all up for having Ivanovic tell me about how she’s come through war-torn Belgrade and made it big as well as how Clijsters deals with the issues surrounding her children as I find that to be more inspiring than sweaty athletes in low-cut outfits.

If you pay attention to my blog then you may have noticed I have a soft spot for women’s tennis. As of yet I haven’t quite figured out why I prefer it to the ATP Tour but, believe it or not, it isn’t so I can perv on the competitors.

In fairness, some of the clips try to fight for equality both sexually and racially. They’re fine and well done to them on that count. Also I understand to encourage young girls to pick up a racquet they’re trying to target them so having Serena Williams talk about clothes might do that.

But it just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I look at the message “Strong Is Beautiful”. That conveys girls can do and look how they want and feel good about themselves. Putting the players in fancy dresses and make-up is a bit contradictory.

Judge for yourself though. All the images and videos are available on the WTA website. Please comment and tell me what you think; I’d love to know your thoughts.

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