bracketology: it’s all about serena (plus more predictions)

By Christopher Phillips

Venus and Serena: potential final showdown? Or just posing for the red carpets? At the Hamptons magazine cover party last week. (Getty)

More: See Christopher’s breakdown of the men’s side of things here.

Caroline Wozniacki — Quarterfinals | Maybe the world’s no. 1 will play better now that her relationship with Rory McIlroy (someone who has actually won a US Open) is out and she’s back to her winning ways in New Haven. Her draws not the easiest of the top eight. She opens against no. 127 Nuria Llagostera Vives, then would likely play no. 43 Elena Vesnina in the 2nd round. 29th seed Jarmila Gajdosova could be trouble in the third round, but her summer’s been as underwhelming as the Dane’s. Wozniacki’s first challenge is in the 4th against Daniela Hantuchova, the 21st seed. Can the Slovak knock Wozniacki out of a slam for the second time this year?

Vera Zvonareva –- 4th round | The Russian opens against a qualifier and meets either hard-serving Lucie Hradecka or Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round. 30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues is the first seed Zvonareva will face and shouldn’t pose any difficulties. With all the attention on the slamless Wozniacki, the Williamses, and Maria Sharapova, maybe this is Vera’s year to sneak back into the finals. We can’t completely imagine it, though.

Sharapova –- Finals | The serve seems to be less of a question for Maria coming into this year’s US Open than it has been in recent memory. Maybe because her return game has improved? She beaten four of the top 15 players in the world to win her last tournament in Cincinnati and, given her draw, it’s difficult to see her meeting any real challenges until 5th seed Petra Kvitova or 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka –- 3rd round | Were it not for one woman –- 28th seed (?!???!?) Serena Williams –- Azarenka would be a bonafide lock to the semifinals. Unfortunately, Serena stands in her way. Don’t be surprised if some of Azarenka’s nerves about her upcoming match with Serena start showing during her second round battle against Rebecca Marino or Gisela Dulko.

Petra Kvitova –- Quarterfinals | If anyone can get in Sharapova’s way to the finals, it’ll be Wimbledon champ Kvitova. The Czech got the better of the Russian in England –- can she make it two for two this year? She could have a tricky first round against Alexandra Dulgheru and 27the seed Lucie Safarova could prove problems (if not an upset) in the third round.

Li Na –- 4th round | Li is capable of winning this thing or flaming out to Simona Halep in the first round. How about middle of the road? We see her losing to the ever-improving 10th seed, Andrea Petkovic, who has become the belle of the media’s ball this year and will do so even more with a run here.

Francesca Schiavone –- Quarterfinals | She’s got a relatively easy draw until a potential match-up with Cincinnati finalist Jelena Jankovic, the 11th seed, in the 4th round. Winner of that match loses to Serena in the quarters.

Marion Bartoli –- Quarterfinals | Bartoli’s strong statements in Toronto and Cincinnati? They didn’t happen. Marion made the semifinals in Brisbane and Doha earlier this year, finals at Indian Wells and Strasbourg, semis at the French, wins Eastbourne and takes out Serena at Wimbledon in route to the quarterfinals then follows it up with a trip to the Stanford finals. Hopefully early losses in Canada and Cincy — as well as a lackluster performance in New Haven — leaves Marion even more hungry for a run at Flushing.

Serena Williams –- Winner | Somehow she manages to look almost more relaxed and hungrier at the same time than ever before. Her play this summer only reinforces the fact that the rest of the field is just playing for second place. But can she stay injury-free?

Dark Horses | Potential winners? Probably not. But these gals could pull a few upsets and find themselves in week two at Flushing.

Petkovic | Sadly she’s made more news this summer for running off the court mid-match, but she’s got two wins over Kvitova since the Czech’s Wimbledon title, plus hard court wins over Wozniacki, Sharapova, Bartoli, Jankovic and Venus from earlier this season.

Can JJ find her 2008 form at Flushing this year? (Getty)

Jankovic | If anyone has enough gumption and attitude to upset Serena, it’s Jelena. A potential quarterfinal match-up between the two looms.

Hantuchova | With wins this year over Wozniacki, Zvonareva, Azarenka, Li, Bartoli and Venus, she’s capable of beating any given player on any day. Oh, Dani!

22nd seed Sabine Lisicki | The Dallas champ and Xperia Hot Shots winner is on her way back to the top after injury –- nowhere to go but up! But Venus looms in the second round…

TSF Vault: US Open | Bracketology

First Round Matches to Watch

13th seed Shuai Peng vs. Varvara Lepchenko | The Chinese no. 2 pulled out of this week’s tournament in Dallas and withdrew from Toronto and Cincinnati mid-tournament. If she’s not fully healthy, the American Lepchenko could end up with the biggest win of her career.

15th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Sara Errani | The world no. 38 Italian narrowly missed out being seeded and lost a three setter to the 2004 Open champ earlier this season.

26th seed Flavia Pennetta vs. Aravane Rezai | The former top 10 Italian has been slumping the past couple years. Has Rezai shaken off her Aussie Open family drama?

Gajdosova vs. Iveta Benesova The big-serving Aussie has lost in the first round at six of her last seven tournaments.

Jill Craybas vs. Madison Keys | Battle of the Americans –- the old guard versus the new guard.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Polona Hercog | It’s the no. 2 American’s first match back since Wimbledon. If she looks good here, you’ve got to believe she can upset 24th seed Nadia Petrova in the second round and give 10th seed Samantha Stosur a run for her money in the 3rd round.

See the full women’s draw here | Qualies

Predictions | 4th round
Wozniacki d Hantuchova
Petkovic d Li
Serena d Peer
Schiavone d Jankovic
Kvitova d A. Radwanska
Sharapova d Peng
Bartoli d Stosur
Lisicki d Zvonareva

QFs:
Petkovic d Wozniacki
Serena d Schiavone
Sharapova d Kvitova
Lisicki d Bartoli

SFs:
Serena d Petkovic
Sharapova d Lisicki

Finals:
Serena d Sharapova – 2 (relatively easy) sets

short balls: tennis in cincy is a BFD, is the open draw fixed? and more

Cin-sational: If you didn’t think that the Western & Southern Open wasn’t a big deal, take a peek at Cincinnati.com. The online hub for everything Cincy can’t get enough of the ATP‘s Masters 1000 event that is now a double dip (and mini US Open) with the women joining the men for the first time this year. The .com team has littered (in a good way) their homepage with blown-out coverage for the entire week of the tourney, which goes through this weekend. Think the New York Times should take note? We’re not so sure that they can fit some 19 links on their top bar alone, as the Cincinnati site did on Thursday. #crowded

It doesn’t stop there: If a regular old news site isn’t enough for you, CincyTennis.com offers some of the best coverage of a tournament’s site outside of the four majors. We’ve been keeping an eye particularly on the writings of TSF contributor Benjamin Snyder, who is writing for CincyTennis. | Draws: Men | Women

Fixed? ESPN‘s Outside the Lines had quite the compelling report (with plenty of fancy numbers) saying that the top two players in the US Open get a fixed draw to deal with year in and year out. Watch the report for how they average out the players’ rankings that the no. 1 and no. 2 seeds must play against. You think it’s rigged too? We can’t quite buy it. | Reaction: Busted Racquet

What’s up with the Williamses? Both Venus and Serena are expected to be at America’s wedding of the year. That’s right, Kim Kardashian is finally tying the knot! Was Serena’s injury well timed? We all know Serena doesn’t like to miss a big party, and if she did well in Cincy that meant no E! red carpet for Kim’s nuptials. Just… thinking out loud. Meanwhile, Venus sat down with Tennis.com and revealed that she is, indeed, a grunter. And what else? She sees more of a future for herself in the design world than running the WTA from Stacey Allaster‘s spot. And while Venus said she wasn’t “a committer” in her interview, she and Serena committed to a December exhibition — in Italy. They will be joined by Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta.

Roddickulous: It was a manic Monday for Andy Roddick in Cincinnati, who was attempting a mini comeback of sorts prior to the US Open. A-Rod blew a set and a break lead, then was broken in the third set when a point was awarded to his opponent as Roddick was serving at break point down and smashed a ball into the crowd. Cue the arguing from Andy. | Change of plans: Roddick takes Winston-Salem wildcard

Love kills? Things didn’t go so well for love birds Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy this last week. Rory finished 64th at the PGA Championship while Wozy was stunned by American upstart Christina McHale in the second round in Cincinnati. At least they could cuddle, right? Rory visited Caroline in Cincy for the tourney. | Open Court blog: Caro’s dad/coach just dad now

short(er) balls: Commentators (and brothers) John and Pat McEnroe talk all about the US Open in ESPN call. | Trendy, chic fashion for black men? A new duo is emerging on the cutting edge. | Who is running things at J.Crew? That’d be Jenna Lyons. | Check out New York magazine’s fall fashion coverage. | A teaching professional has been arrested in the Boston area for video taping a male member in the locker room. | New York fashion makes its way to Cincinnati for runway show during W&S Open. | Are you a recreational player trying to look cool? That’s uncool, the Wall Street Journal says. | Johnny Mac knows that your body starts to break down as you get older. | US Open wildcard playoff (for a spot in the main draw) will go through Sunday. Among those playing: Beatrice Capra. | Blake Strode looks to win the National Playoffs once again, gaining entrance to the USO qualifying draw. | Headed to the Open but not sure where to eat in Queens? The NYT has got you covered. | Rafael Nadal will appear at Macy’s in New York on Thursday for an unveiling of Armani jeans.

(Caro and Rory photo by the AP)

short balls: a ‘dead’ week in tennis

Summer sorrow? The three weeks between Wimbledon ending and the US Open Series beginning (Note: we understand that the USOS already began in Atlanta, but surely you can understand that it really feels like summer when Stanford and Los Angeles start, no?) can always be a bit awkward. Sure, there is the beautiful thing that is World TeamTennis, and yes, there are those random events in Europe and the historic after-Wimbledon beacon known as Newport. But this is the time of year that tennis usually takes a breather. Or, at least, tennis news. In 2011, however, not so much. Don’t believe us? Read your way through this week’s short balls – there’s plenty to be had!

Up in arms: Folks in Canada (and beyond) were up in arms over a Rogers Cup poster being used to advertise the women’s tournament as a lead in for a senior’s event that featured Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. The tag line? “[C]ome for the ladies, stay for the legends.” Wait, really? Yes, really. Busted Racquet has a good shot of the poster, which Chris Chase says isn’t really that big of a deal — arguing that the tag line just sort of sucks. And while we partly agree, it was a double slap in the face from the TSF POV: sexually charged (“come for the ladies”) and wait … you want folks to stick around for two retired legends? To us, it should be the other way around. But the Rogers folks changed it up after the outcry, instead using: “[M]aking history, re-living history.” Done and done.

Wozy’s new boo? Always a flirt on Twitter, Caroline Wozniacki might actually have a boy following through on all those winky faces and nudge, nudge LOLs. Who’s the new fella? That’d be Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the 22-year old who stormed through the golf world earlier this summer to win the US Open — you know, just around the time that Caro was crashing out of Wimbledon. But Rory has a complicated (and catty?!) ex GF (Holly Sweeney — they were childhood boos!) and when trying to make an international relationship work in the 21st century, there are only so many #missubabe hash tags that will suffice. Stay tuned.

Dulko, Lena tie the knot (but (k)not to one another): Both Gisela Dulko and Elena Dementieva were married recently, Lena’s nuptials being quite the gathering of Russian tennis royalty. WomensTennisNow.com has a bevy of pictures, and Jon Scott wrote in the Daily Spin on Tennis.com that Safina, Kirilenko, Kuzentsova, Dushevina, Vesnina Zvonareva, Kudryavtseva and Igor Andreez (Kirilenko’s beau) were all in attendance. Dementieva married Maxim Afinoginov, a Russian hockey palyer, at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.

Johnny be good. Seems as though John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg can still bring in the big bucks — and crowd. Their well-documented encounter on the World TeamTennis court last week in NYC helped raise more than $300,000 thanks to a sell out crowd. Where does the money go? To the youth, of course! “The funds raised will benefit the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, which provides scholarships, coaching, tournament travel and introductory programs for area youth who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend the Academy or to participate in recreational tennis programs,” a Sportimes release said. Dunlop and Nike are corporate sponsors of the academy, which starts its second school year this coming September.

Do you think she did it herself? Pakastani doubles expert Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi announced his engagement to Faha Akmal Makhdoom. The two, above, celebrated over the weekend. Quite the tattoo, right?! But seriously, Erwin, that should make our tattoo watch list, right?!

Time-lapse goodness. Before short(er) balls, a bit of other thread (ot) delight: the video below shows the NYTimes.com homepage in time-lapse from September of last year until this month. Be amazed.

Short(er) balls: Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish have signed up to play an exhibition match in Oklahoma City — near where Andy’s bro John Roddick is the University of Oklahoma coach — on Steptember 25. John will join the gents for a doubles exo, as well. Ticket info here. | Things are shaping up well in Cincy. The Mason, Ohio-based stops gets the men and women at the same time this year (Aug. 13-21) and has six new courts, including a 4,000-seat show court. | Remember Robby Ginepri? The oft-injured American is on somewhat of a mini-comeback. The 2005 USO semifinalist beat former world no. 2 Tommy Haas in Atlanta this week and remains in the draw. Oh, and he’s engaged, too. | Ice cream sandwiches are all the rage in NYC right now. And for good reason. | The Museum at FIT in New York is currently showing a fashion exhibit that focuses on sports wear and its (huge) influence on the rest of the fashion and clothing industry. | A 17-year-old Lexington, Ky., tennis stand out is the new face of Hollister. The teen — Chad Buchanan — has no relation to American upstart Chase. Though, his mom was runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 1984.

(Serena-Hingis image via the AP; Elena image via Sports.ru; and Qureshi image via Getty)

trophy watch: those who bounce back

No Wimbledon hangovers here: For those players who choose to play the week after Wimbledon on the tours, they never know quite what they’re getting themselves into until they get onto the court and realize, Hey, this isn’t Wimbledon! For the men the surface transition might be a little easier (the only event offered is a grass court tune-down — is that what you call a surface-specific post-Slam small event?), though they go further geographically, crossing the Atlantic while the women stay in Europe (Sweden and Hungary, respectively). 

Newport: While John Isner was left off the losing US Davis Cup team, the 6-foot-9 big-serving American took a wild card into the Campbell’s International Tennis Hall of Fame Championships and won the tourney, the first top seed to do so in its 35-year history. And while he stood much taller than 5-foot-6 Olivier Rochus, the 26-year-old barely inched past the Belgian, 6-3 7-6 (6). The 15-inch difference between the two players was the greatest in ATP history.

Clay ladies: Polona Hercog and Roberta Vinci were happy to be back on the red stuff, winning titles in Bastad and Budapest, respectively. Hercog nabbed her first WTA win with help of an injured Caroline Wozniacki (who withdrew in the second round), beating local Johanna Larsson in the final, 6-4 7-5. Vinci, meanwhile, captured her third title of the year, defeating Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-4 1-6 6-4. See Vinci below.

(Isner and Vinci via the AP; Hercog image by the Swedish Open via the WTA)

short balls: the post-wimbledon edition

Changing of the (screen) guard: While the victories of Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic marked somewhat of a changing of the guard on the respective tours, the biggest change at Wimbledon came in the week after the tournament was over: in its TV coverage. It was announced earlier this week that ESPN had outbid NBC for full TV rights of the tournament, meaning the peacock network was pushed out of a gig it had held for some 43 years. And for ESPN? They’ll have the whole shebang for the next 12 Championships. The network team of ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will take over from London starting next year.

That’s a wrap? Did you miss the slew of Wimbledon post ops? If so, here’s a collection: Tignor’s A-List. Tignor’s the rest of them. Wertheim’s mail bag. ESPN’s Wimbledon grades. ESPN’s power rankingsWTA’s video highlights. Forty Deuce’s hilar “pic this.” The Guardian. Oh! The list goes on and on…

Too sexy for ya?  Time ran an interesting piece from its business section on the WTA‘s ad campaign, “Strong is Beautiful.” The thrust of the article: what the ?!?#?#%% Well, not exactly. But, the article points out that sexualizing the women the way this campaign does undermines women’s sports in a sense, and their ability to compete as athletes on court. We certainly see such a point.

The Journal recommends some tennis whites — including Boast — this summer. (WSJ)

Feeling Boastful? You guys know that TSF isn’t the only place online that talks about tennis fashion. OK, but we admit it: we’re the only ones that talk about it everyday. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal got in on the tennis fashion game during Wimbledon, running a piece that examined the cultural shift of the industry as it’s moved through the decades. Nope, tennis isn’t a rock-star sport driven by John McEnroe anymore, but the clothes he wore might be making a bit of a comeback. Featured in the article were one of TSF’s faves, Boast. | TSF Vault: Boast

Doesn’t it vibrate? While most of us have learned to silence our phones or at least put them on vibrate while at work or in public, it doesn’t seem as though Alize Cornet has attained such a habit. The Frenchwoman was down match point in the first round of the Swedish Open this week against world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki when a phone started ringing. Wozy first tried to ignore the noise, but it persisted, and she stepped back from the line to see if someone would answer/silence/ignore the call. It was then that her opponent, Cornet, ran to her bag to switch off the phone that had been ringing — hers! Hilarity. Video below:

Roll the tape: Seems as though the fellas at Tennis.com — Peter Bodo, Steve Tignor and Ed McGrogan — have a new outlet for their weekly chats. The trio has teamed up with BNP Paribas for a sit down in a round-table discussion called “The World of Tennis.” This week they talk about Andre Agassi, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame tomorrow in Newport, R.I. | ESPN: Agassi’s top 10 moments

Short(er) balls: It ain’t “Wimble-TIN.” Sportscaster raises money for charity by fueling PSA over pronunciation of Wimble-DON. | In case you forgot, Novak Djokovic is no. 1 in the world now. HEAD hails the king. | Are you reading Jonathan Scott‘s musings on Tennis.com’s “The Spin?” If not, you should be. | Lindsay Davenport is preggers and (tastefully) pulls out of the WTT season, via doctor’s orders. | This might be a little old, but who cares? It’s Maria Sharapova talking about Cole Haan. Take note, Martina Hingis. | Shouldn’t every short(er) balls end with Djoko dancing on stage? We think so.

(Image by George Ellison via Flickr.)

for traveling pros, a tale of two approaches

By Jonathan Scott



Is that a sweater vest? Meet Roger Federer, amnesiac. (Getty)

Tennis is a tricky bitch. In no other sport does nostalgia ring so supreme as the calendar moves about — both in mind and spirit but in sport, too. And by sport we mean rankings. A great Wimbledon one year means everyone will be watching you the next. As Billie Jean King said: “Pressure is privilege.” But for some touring pros, pressure is just that — pressure. So as the raindrops (and strawberries and cream) start to fall across the pond, we look at two very different approaches to that pressure: those who seem to enjoy it and others who would rather the past was dumped just like a carton of sour, meant-for-strawberries cream.

The difference between an Amnesiac (the ones who’d like to forget Wimbledon 2010, and perhaps the 12 months since) and an Android (those who will be looking to methodically defend and go just as far again, if not a step further) will indubitably be a matter of psychological and physical fortitude. But, let’s be real, mostly mental. A lot of mental.

AMNESIACS

Tsvetana Pironkova: How to explain the free-fall? This quick-striking Piron-ha 2010 made the Wimby semis before evaporating. She gave Serena a fair fight in round one at Eastbourne this month, but the gal who vanquished Venus last year has all but vanished since, nearly as much as the House of Williams itself. A likely and foreboding second-rounder against Vania King or Petra Martic looms. Danger, dear Piron-ha!

Caroline Wozniacki: No way around it, the future no. 1 had her Stella McCartney-branded clock cleaned by Petra Kvitova at this time last year, submitting 2-and-0 to the Czech’s lashing strokes. A hard-court tuneup at home in Copenhagen – dubbed the Wozniacki Open by, well, everyone – wasn’t the best prep, but Caro simply has to forget last year’s lawn debacle if she’s going to vie for that virgin Slam. A potential second-round fracas against Sania Mirza lurks; lest we forget, Mirza took Justine Henin to three sets in Melbourne six months ago.

Full TSF Wimbledon coverage: Men’s preview | Women’s | Your winners?

Mirjana Lucic: The doe-eyed teen once tapped by Steffi Graf as an heir apparent in women’s tennis would probably rather forget the past decade more than just the last year. Lucic competed gamely against Jelena Jankovic at the 2010 U.S. Open but, no thanks to her father, her career and her life have been a piping hot mess since her dreamy ascension to the 1999 Wimbledon semis. First up for the comeback girl: Dominika Cibulkova, the no. 24 seed. Expect a shootout.

Nicholas Mahut: Think the lawn gods are at all kind? Rethink that right quick. Mahut drew John “Tall Tree” Isner in the first round AGAIN. If there’s any justice in the world, Mahut may even notch a W at the Big W this time out, provided that he serves well (you’d think 103 aces last year would have done the trick) and has, you know, developed his return and groundstroke game.

Roger Federer: Fed claimed his back ailed him in going down to Tomas Berdych last year, a gripe that Big Berd received sorely. If his French Open form holds, Roger, who may as well refer to Centre Court as his “backyard,” is a threat to seize his 17th Slam here and now. It may be his best chance for the rest of his career, and subtly so. A possible third-round bout with David Nalbandian intrigues.

Novak Djokovic: The Djoker has done anything but laugh at the All England Club in his young career to date. In short, when this fortnight has come around, his ass is grass. A semifinal appearance in 2010 had him waving his Wimbledon whites to Berdych’s missiles. This year’s streaking artist has much to prove on the surface, and no doubt he feels that heat. To make the semis again would honestly be to break even. Robin Soderling, Phillip Petzschner, Xavier Malisse, Jurgen Melzer, Victor Troicki, Michael Llodra, James Blake, Florian Mayer, fresh-faced Brit James Ward, and even Alejandro Falla (who nearly pulled the early rug out from under Fed last year) are all in his section. In a word, wow. He’d have better luck to play them all at once…

ANDROIDS

Ever the android, Kvitova levitates at the 2010 Championships. (Getty)

Vera Zvonareva: Life itself is like Ms. Zvonareva: You never know what you’re gonna get. Last week’s Eastbourne triumph over Serena (7-5 in the 3rd!) had to help, but VZ has scads and oodles of points to defend here or her ranking may dive. Elena Vesnina, her doubles partner in a run to the final last year, awaits in round two, but Vera should and will be wise to not look past Alison Riske first. The American girl has a grass-tastic forehand and likes the turf.

Serena Williams: Nary a new word can be crafted as far as what Serena’s presence does for the media and entertainment prospects at these Championships. The defending champ rained down a record 89 aces in taking the title in 2010 without losing a set – and then POOF! we didn’t see her again until this present time. Her makeshift match play at Eastbourne belies the fact that, when all’s on the line, you doubt a Williams and you likely get burned. A funked-up Aravane Rezai is her first foe, and it’s hard to see anyone in her quadrant giving Serena an alley fight until Marion Bartoli or Na Li in the later rounds.

Petra Kvitova: Mmm, too Kvit to quit – Petra means “rock” in Greek, but this Czech sensation can be a bit malleable in high-risk situations. Sure, she blasted Wozniacki en route to a combative 2010 semi against Serena, but she’s not dazzled when it mattered most in Slams since then. A Paris victory indoors over Kim Clijsters is her best showing in the past year. She needs a defining statement at this Slam to regain her form and inflict terror in opponents about her ground game, if not her endearing pterodactyl-esque squawk after lasering winners. Hard-serving Canuck Rebecca Marino may give her game like whoa in round three.

Tomas Berdych: Forget the fact that T-Berd fell in the French’s first round 9-7 in the fifth, less surrendering his 2010 semifinal points there. He has finalist credentials in London, and simply must go about his work robotically and avoid considering that his last year has been a wipeout. He didn’t handle the new media attention well in the wake of his surprise showing last year, but the sole seeming trouble he may have in his eighth of the draw arrives in the person of Philipp Kohlschreiber, a grass-court maven and heartbreaker who often plays the top guns tight. After that? Nadal. Then again, this is Berdych, and he might as well make his own life harder with Julien Benneteau early.

Rafael Nadal: The changing conditions of the court and heavier balls at Wimbledon have benefitted Rafa to no end. If the grass was as it was in the 1980s and ‘90s, he’d have no chance and Federer would be approaching 20 Slams now. Even so, the reigning champ (who should be sporting an “I’m still no. 1, no?” tee these days) has done everything right to capitalize on his strengths and impose his will here. A third-round boxing match with Milos Raonic and/or a fourth-round duel against Juan Martin del Potro both entice.

Andy Murray: Besides James Ward, who just alighted upon the grass courts and the front pages in the UK with recent success, there’s a strapping lad by the name of Andy Murray who, like Federer, is poised in a prime spot to turn the tables on Nadal and Djokovic, the two who have garnered all the 2011 press to date. Mr. Fuzzy Muzz should shed his thin skin (in addition to his overgrown Chia head and whiskers) and put his (tennis) balls to the (purple and green) wall. He may get Ivan Ljubicic, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Andy Roddick in succession, but Raggedy Andy proved himself on clay this spring and now could catalyze a tennis revolution in Great Britain by channeling all his nervous energy into a real run to the final. No time like now for the cunning no. 4 star.

Jonathan Scott is the keeper of the Daily Spin column at TENNIS.com and a freelance music scribe when he’s not caught up by tennis, which is hardly ever. Follow him on Twitter: @jonscott9

bracketology: the women at wimbledon

By Christopher Phililps

For Wimbledon, our resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, takes a look at both the men’s and women’s draws and breaks down who he thinks are going to be the winners — and losers — in the London this year. -NM

Look who’s back! Both Williamses are seeded for the Championships — and on opposite sides of the draw. (Photo by Stuart Tree via Flickr)

Caroline Wozniacki
Prediction: R3

Caroline’s only made it as far as the fourth round here twice in the past, including last year. Unfortunately, we don’t think this time she’ll be as lucky as her likely third round opponent will be hard-serving Jarmila Gajdosova. A loss to the upstart Gajdosova will only cast more doubt on her no. 1 ranking.

Vera Zvonareva
Prediction: QF

Last year’s finalist should feel good coming into the Championships winning a tough three-setter over Serena Williams in Eastbourne. Her consistency alone could ensure her another run to the final, but we think she’ll only make it as far as the QFs. Even in this questionable era of women’s tennis, Vera just doesn’t have what it takes to win a Major.

Na Li
Prediction: R2

Historically — well, the past couple years at least — it seems the women’s French Open champion hasn’t fared too well (Ivanovic, Kuznetsova and Schiavone are a combined 4-3) at Wimbledon. Given Li’s post-Australian Open slump, I fear history is set to repeat itself.

Victoria Azarenka
Prediction: R3

She’s only been a QF here once and went out to Marion Bartoli in Eastbourne — with an injury. Vika’s just too mercurial for us ever to put too much hope in her. She’s beginning to beg the question: is it ever going to happen? So far, it doesn’t look like it. Vika’s results just don’t live up to the hype (or the grunt).

Maria Sharapova
Prediction: Winner

It’s been a long, hard road for Maria back to the top and this will be the title that signifies to the world that she’s finally back. The one achilles’ heel will be her serve — it must stay on. But Maria loves the grass, and seven years after she won her first Slam we think it’s due time for a little bit of dejå ju in the final. Over Serena in the semis? Why  not.

Francesca Schiavone
Prediction: R16

If she can get past her first match with the recently-hot Jelena Dokic – which could be awfully difficult on grass — she’s got a pretty soft draw until she’ll run into Andrea Petkovic or Shahar Peer in the fourth round.

Serena Williams
Prediction: SF

How she’ll do is anyone’s guess. (Not even Serena knows!)  She could take the whole thing, but with probably the most unfavorable draw of the top eight seeds, she’s going to have a hard time getting there. If Serena gets past Aravane Rezai in her opener, she may have to deal with tricky Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the second round, with sometimes giant-killer Maria Kirilenko possibly waiting in the third round and former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in the fourth. | More: Ladies’ draw

Petra Kvitova
Prediction: Finalist

One of last year’s surprise semifinalists and this year’s Eastbourne finalist should do well on the grass courts this year again. Kvitova shouldn’t have too much trouble until running into Venus Williams or Zvonareva in the QFs, but she has a good relationship with the All England Club and will go a step further this year, solidifying her spot as a contender for future Slams.

Marion Bartoli
Prediction: R16

Even though Bartoli won Eastbourne, we’re still a little concerned about a (groin?) injury she seemed to obtain. Assuming she’ll be fit enough to play, Marion has a soft draw until she’d meet Serena in the fourth round.  The winner of that match — likely to be a slug-fest — should make it to the SF. Serena’s superior movement should get her past the French Open semifinalist, even if she isn’t at her baseline best.

Samantha Stosur
Prediction: R16

Another player who’s grass court play hasn’t seemed to have lived up to her potential. Another big server who’s yet to make it past the third round.  That’ll be her first battle here where her likely opponent will be the Chinese player Shuai Peng. But like Sharapova, if Stosur can get along with her serve and make it work for her, she could be dangerous.

Read Chris’ “Best of the Rest” (that includes Venus!) and see the most anticipated first-round match-ups after the cut. [Read more...]

wta pre-wimbledon party: no grey areas

Black and white: The ladies of the WTA know how to play with a good margin of error, and it’s hard to go wrong with donning some black and white to a party. Laura Robson took a simple, cap-sleeve dress to the next level with a scooping neckline; Sorana Cirstea played sexy peekaboo with lace; Tsvetana Pironkova bared a shoulder and threw on a leather belt; Francesca Schiavone channeled Diane Keaton, Caroline Wozniacki wore Stella McCartney, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova matched her updo with a cocktail (napkins) dress, aaaand Monica Niculescu.

More: See the rest of the black and white ladies from the WTA pre-Wimbledon party after the cut…

trophy watch: hometown heroes x3 (+ more short(er) balls)


Feeling blue? Andy Murray
certainly isn’t, even if he and all of Queen’s Club seems to be wearing the color. The Scot boy took another step towards winning his country’s big title by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an entertaining final, 3-6 7-6 (2) 6-4. (Image via Getty) | TSF Vault: Andy Murray 


Me, too. Caroline Wozniacki
showed that Murray wasn’t the only one who could win in front of a home crowd. The Dane won the e-Boks Copenhagen Open in a decidedly easy draw, beating Lucie Safarova, 6-1 6-4 in the final.


Third time’s a charm. Philipp Kohlschreiber
wasn’t about to be left out of the home-country equation, either. The German 27-year-old won an all-German final when countryman Philipp Petzschner retired during their match with a lower back injury. It was the world no. 49′s third career title and second on home soil. Kohlschreiber led 7-6 (5) 2-0 when Petzschner called it quits.

Short(er) balls:
With Wimbledon right around the corner, we figured there were too many good tennis-y items out there to pass up. Here’s a few we scooped together earlier today. | The first — it would happen — is a golf item. With the US Open underway today, this hilarious vid of four pro golfers doing their best boy band impersonation has gone viral. And for good reason. |  Wimbledon qualies are underway (Men | Women). Some notable notes: American Ryan Harrison is the last Yank standing. The no. 14 seed has made another good showing in the lower ranks. He has one more match to win to get in. As do Americans Alexa Glatch, Irina Falconi and veteran Lindsay Lee-Waters. Bernard Tomic is in the final round of the men’s as well, as is former main draw quarterfinalist Tamarine Tanasugarn on the ladies’ side. Glatch took out Caroline Garcia – of almost-beating Sharapova fame — 6-1, 6-0 in the second round. And disappointedly, Slovak Lenka Wienerova lost out in the first round. | The Guardian has this great look at tennis fashion through the years. | Missed Billie Jean King on the Today show this morning? Watch her appearance here. 

(Wozniacki image by Ron Angle via the WTA; Kohlschreiber via the Gerry Weber Open)

sunday survey: week one's 1-2 punch

Fabulous Franny: There’s been no stopping the Italian at this year’s French — so far. (Getty)

Era’s first. For the first time in the Open era the women’s no. 1 and no. 2 seeds are out of the tournament before the second week has even begun. For Kim Clijsters it was a dismal performance against unheralded Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus (who was promptly dispatched in the next round by Maria Kirilenko 1 and 1, thank you very much), in which she blew second-set match points. And for top seed Caroline Wozniacki it was an almost-as-bad showing against the always-lurking Daniela Hantuchova, bowing out 1-6 3-6.

But what was the biggest story line of the first week of the year’s second Slam? Novak Djokovic continued his impenetrable run through the men of the tour — a run not even 2009 US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro could stop. Roger and Rafa looked to be in all-right form thus far, though last year’s semifinalist Tomas Berdych continued his downward slide in a first-round loss to a French qualifier. And what about Francesca Schiavone? The defending champ that no one gave a chance was work-lady-like in her week one at Roland Garros, finding a spot in the QFs with a convincing 6-4-in-the-third win over Jelena Jankovic. And has everyone already forgotten about Sam Stosur??

What was the biggest story of week one? Your pick, below.