trophy watch: paris & pattaya + dc rubbers



Mona Barthel wins the 2013 Open GDF Suez in Paris over Sara Errani

Paris: German Mona Barthel took out top seed Sara Errani 7-5, 7-6(4) to win her second career title — and first at a Premier-level event. She is now 2-1 in finals, with her other title coming at Hobart in 2012. Russian Elena Vesnina stopped Barthel from taking the title this year, knocking out the defending champion in the final.

“When I came here [to Paris] I wasn’t expecting to win the title at all,” said Barthel, who is the second German to win the title in the past two years (Kerber chose not to defend). “I was just taking it round by round, hoping to win the first round, then hoping to win the second round, and so on. When I got to the final I knew it would be tough, because Sara had such an amazing year last year and is playing so well – she just doesn’t give anything away.”

Errani did not leave empty-handed, teaming with Roberta Vinci to take the doubles trophy over the team of Hlavackova and Huber. The 6-1, 6-1 victory gave the Italian duo their 15th career title as a team.

More: Kirilenko wins Pattaya and Davis Cup rubbers — after the cut…

stay, don’t go



By Jonathan Scott

Another brand of March Madness is upon us: With the unisex goodness that is the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells tournament, the 2011 pro tennis campaign kick-starts into high gear. This 1-2 punch of Cali and Miami makes for a full month of top-notch tennis. Indeed, spring’s done sprung.

Now a curious trend seeped into tennis again in 2010: jumpy observers of the sport seeking to retire players -– good, even great stars who reaped some solid results -– before they themselves are ready to hang up their racquets. The guilty parties: too many tennis writers and other observers and “personalities” involved to various degrees. Their victims? Among them, Andy Roddick, Venus Williams, and even Roger Federer, proving that not a single star is exempt from these hasty calls to exit.

But Roddick won Memphis last month, dousing the ballyhooed, raging fire that is young Milos Raonic and coming up with possibly the best championship-point winner ever. He also ignited his fellow Americans’ effort on the Chilean clay in Davis Cup, punctuating his clinching win with a scissor kick (Video: here) that would make Sally O’Malley salivate. Too many quickly forgot that Venus seized some early 2010 titles and vaulted to no. 2 in the world before injuries in part derailed both her autumnal and 2011 Aussie exploits. (Oddly, she’s now singing 311 karaoke on a MIA-to-Turks cruiseship and showing off some fly dance moves for someone with chronic knee issues.). Fed himself ran the table at the London year-end championships in December, outdoing even Rafael Nadal in the final, and snagged an early 2011 title before a taking-all-comers Novak Djokovic rolled over him in Melbourne.

Still, retirement happens. It’s inevitable. Justine Henin’s departure has itself turned into a piece of music with multiple movements, the strings swelling and falling at different points. Henin has been like that lover who breaks it off and then loiters for attention: Mercy. And merci.

All of the brouhaha catalyzed a thought: Who or what in the sport truly needs to go?

Without further ado, a few items –- persons, peccadillos, and other pesky minutiae –- that best get gone. Now. Conversely, some other talents and trends are welcome to get comfy. So there it is: Stay, or Go.

GO: Foremost, let’s be done with the freak injuries. Some stars are making the maladies on TV hospital dramas seem realistic: Victoria Azarenka scarily passed out on court after bopping her head during a warm-up run, and then Anna Chakvetadze did her best Vika impression. Meanwhile Andy Murray strained his hand by playing video games excessively (okay, that one proved a fib). It seems a few players just need to be grounded.

Granted, Serena’s recent pulmonary embolism/hematoma scare is more than legit. Anyone who relishes compelling tennis, even if no fan of hers, whether onlooker or media, can only hope she makes it back into the mix again. Tennis needs her fight and her bite. Not every player needs to be Mama Kim Clijsters, portrait of civility.

Speaking of, GO: Can we just be done with all the talk about Clijsters’ motherhood? Cute turned to precious in a hurry there, and not in a good way.

GO: That hand-strain hoax aside, Murray might want to consider tempering his video gaming: Girlfriend Kim Sears reportedly already broke up with him once over the habit. Word to the wise, young gun: the lady has you on watch.

Judy Murray, we heart thee.

GO. STAY. Good dog: Not to pick on the Murray familia too much (see below), but what of these tweets from the family’s resident cur, this Maggie? So let it be written, so let it be done: No more Murray mutt tweets, at least not until Andy bags that virgin Major. It’s no less lame to put your pet on Twitter than it is to fashion a Facebook profile for it.

STAY: Judy Murray, British tennis coach and mom to Andy and Jamie. Yes, she advises her son. She also isn’t afraid to shoot a witty retort at a former player who yaps about her spawn’s chances at winning big with her on board.

GO: Boris Becker. Just let it be, Boorish. You were a fine player, a flame-maned, serve-and-volley stud on grass. Then you knocked Murray and his mum for his underperforming at Slams, chiding him for his closeness to Judy and (good grief!) for standing by his girl at age 23. So a former player cheats on his pregnant wife with a Russian model (in a closet), resulting in a lust child, and then doles out unsolicited relational advice? Laughable. Not content to merely stand by his statements from the fall, BB waxed on again after Murray’s mopey, one-sided loss to Nole in the Aussie final. Sigh. Everyone’s a Carillo. Click to read more, kids. You don’t want to miss these musings.

[Read more...]

sunday survey: sotw (story of the week)?



This week was full over storylines from across the globe: Roger Federer made a triumphant return to the tennis court; Andy Murray one-upped the Mighty Fed to win Shanghai; Ana Ivanovic won her first title in two years; Tamarine Tanasugarn collects a WTA trophy at the ripe-old age of 33; and Kimiko Date Krumm becomes the oldest finalist in WTA history, losing to Tanasugarn in the Osaka final at 40. Above, Ivanovic is a women among girls (AP photo).

the fierce 40s



Kimiko Date Krumm wowed us with a return in her late 30s, but her 40s are already looking that much better. A day after stunning top seed Maria Sharapova in the first round at Tokyo, KDK took down Daniela Hantuchova, 13 years her junior, 2-6 6-0 4-0, retired, to move into the third round. Oh, and did we mention it was her 40th birthday?!

History lesson: KDK has taken down the likes of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Lindsay Davenport, Iva Majoli and Conchita Martinez at her home tourney. The latter three wins came in 1995, when she was crowned Princess with a win, and the last time she advanced this far. She meets the resurgent Francesca Schiavone in the third round.

More: American Coco Vandeweghe won her fourth match in a row Tokyo with a second-round win over Aravane Rezai. She takes on Julie Goerges, who took down a sputtering Sam Stosur in a second-round clash. Prior to Tokyo, Vandeweghe had lost four straight matches after a quarterfinal run in San Diego.

(ap photo)

adatbotw (a day at the bank of the west)



I wrote this post a couple weeks ago the day after attending the Bank of the West in Palo Alto. Please excuse its tardiness! -NM

Eight years ago I attended a professional sporting event for the very first time at the age of 16. It was the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, and my dad and I took in two night session matches on the stadium court(s). Back then, the tennis facility at Stanford kept its two-courts-in-one-stadium format for the tournament, allowing fans to watch two high-quality matches going on at once. While part of that set up was maddening, the other part was refreshing and invigorating: two tennis matches happening side by side and one crowd to enjoy them at once.

The night that we went was a crowd-pleasing one: Anna Smashnova versus Anna Kournikova on one court and Lindsay Davenport versus Anne Kremer on the other. The crowd was highly entertained by the presence of Kournikova, and everyone split their watching time between her match and the Davenport drubbing of former Stanford player Kremer, who got encouraging calls from the bleachers.

Today marked somewhat of a full circle for me as I arrived back in Palo Alto for the first time to attend this tournament again, this time as a member of the media. I feel semi-adult, wearing an “M” media badge and sitting in the press room typing away at important documents (read: “a puppet’s ode to lynn welch“). The thrill is still child-like for me, though. Going from the stadium to the practice courts, I’m not necessarily analyzing ground strokes and checking out who is practicing with whom, but rather just watching the tennis take place, taking in the action like a giddy teenager.

There was plenty to be giddy about on this day: the walk through California-big trees from parking to the tournament grounds; watching Melanie Oudin practice the day after another harrowing win; finally seeing Kimiko Date Krumm in person; judging Christina McHale for her Jersey-ness; wondering what happened to Dominika Cibulkova; Palo Alto-perfect weather; and meeting fellow bloggers along the way.

More than anything, this tournament reminds me of watching my childhood hero, Monica Seles, battle through a tough three-set encounter with Tamarine Tanasugarn from the second row. I could see the sweat beads dripping off Monica’s forehead as she battled that night, and was impressed by the will and determination of Tanasugarn. Much of that was brought back in the Date Krumm-Dementieva battle that occurred Wednesday night, three sets of I-won’t-give-this-up tennis in which KDK fought with all her might to get Elena off balance for the win.

Spending the day at Stanford was an absolute joy, something I don’t think all media folk can say for another weekday at a WTA event. For us tennis geeks, there’s nothing better than a small-time tournament with big-time names that make us feel like we’re running into Madonna on her way to pick up some groceries or her morning coffee. Not much drama, just some pretty good match tennis to take in, and some practice court fun to be had and some players to cross paths with in between. Maybe the WTA should go with that as their new marketing campaign?

(photo by amorimur via flickr)