victoria azarenka wants australian open title



Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open 2013

Victoria Azarenka had a lot to endure in the past couple of days: she was overcome by nerves and blew five match points in her semifinal match against teen sensation Sloane Stephens. Criticasters booed her for that but Azarenka would like to use the Australian Open finale to shush the naysayers and gain back some of that goodwill.

That 10-minute timeout, which the World No. 1 took during the 5-4 changeover right after she lost her serve, was necessitated by an apparent rib injury. Vika denies that she took a medical timeout to get an extra break to recover from the match. (Was Azarenka right in taking the medical timeout at 5-4 for nerves? Tell us!)

Azarenka told the press that it wasn’t nice to read and hear the criticism revolving her timeout but added that there are sometimes things that we don’t have control over and that the best you can do is learn from it.  Azarenka further added that the most important thing for her is to put up a great finale versus Li Na.

Stats: Azarenka and Li have played each other 9 times so far in their careers. And head-to-head is 5-4 in Vika’s favor. Azarenka has won the last four encounters.

fans’ POV: the weird women’s wimby semis



Even for avid tennis fans, the Wimbledon women’s semifinal line-up evokes a certain amount of confusion. “Puh-ronk-oh-va?” “Pet-rah Kee-vote-who?”

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals at the All England Club, winners were expected to be named Williams or Clijsters, but only was that the case in a single of three matches, as Venus Williams went down in straight sets and Kim Clijsters lost in three.

Serena Williams held up her end of the bargain, beating Li Na of China in her match, the same player that took out her sister Venus in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open this year. Unknown Petra Kvitova came through in her match against Kaia Kanepi, 8-6 in the third set.

Women’s tennis has a history with unknown semifinalists, though few compare to what will take place on Thursday at the All England Club in London. Earlier this month, Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur surprised all by making the semifinals (and then the finals) at Roland Garros, and earlier this year it was Na who beat Venus Williams while countrywoman Jie Zheng earned a final-four birth in Melbourne, as well.

Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova are the least known of the bunch, much like Belgian Yanina Wickmayer was unknown in her march to the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Open.

Here’s a few thoughts from TSF followers on what exactly the Wimbledon semifinals mean for women’s tennis as a whole, TV ratings, business, the future and all that jazz:

I think all this means now is that Serena’s got an easy path to the title.  She clearly looks the most dominant, and she’s the only one of the four that’s even been to a Grand Slam final before.  I think if it were a situation of four unknowns, we’d get a Roland Garros re-do, but to me this just seems to clear the road for Serena to win. She also has that intimidation factor that could put a stop to any streaking player that otherwise has the momentum. Chances are, if Serena can get past her semifinal match (which she should), it’ll be a pretty boring final.  My pick: Serena takes the title easily in straight sets. –Hilary Scurlock, Co-Editor, Strawberries & Scream

As great as it is these lesser known/ranked players are having the tournament of their lives (and of most player’s lives) NBC has to be fuming because of potential ratings drops.  We could be seeing a lot of Isner/Mahut re-aired that day. Maybe if Zvonareva makes it to the finals they’ll do some soap opera story line about her crying and decombusting all the time.  It was just last year that Zvonareva won Indian Wells and made it to #5 in the world … can she get back up there?

As for the other girls, I know Pironkova had upset Venus at a grand slam some years ago [the 2006 Australian Open].  She beat Dementieva in Warsaw R16 earlier this year. At least with the French we had a storyline with the veteran Schiavone and the hot up and comer (even though she’s not a rookie) Stosur.  I think with Schivone and Stosur, while not the “biggest” names in the sport, they are established names with signifant wins under their belt. –Christopher Phillips, Contributing Writer, TSF
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fresh perspective: an aussie welcome



TSF is excited to welcome Tobin Addington to the 2010 blogging team. Tobin holds a masters degree in Film from Columbia University, works as a director and screenwriter, and is a professor at Ramapo College in New Jersey. His tennis love has blossomed over the last few months, and the Australian Open is the first Slam he’s followed end-to-end. Tobin will contribute with a column called fresh perspective, giving his take of the game we all know with a new lens. -NM

I’m new to tennis.  Like, really new.  Six months ago, I didn’t know the difference between a break point and a backhand.  (Okay, so I probably could’ve figured out what a backhand was, but I didn’t care.)

All that changed last September at my local gym when I caught the end of Melanie Oudin beating one of those Russians at the U.S. Open.  I ran about five extra miles on the treadmill to see the end of the match.  (Yes, I know, the Oudin phenomenon was largely a media creation, a story designed to rope suckers like me into paying attention to tennis.  But it worked!)

Now I subscribe to the Tennis Channel, I’ve read all the Jon Wertheim tennis books and Agassi’s autobiography, I check TSF and Tennis.com daily, and I’ve started programming my social life around big matches.  (I even watched the Federer-Del Potro U.S. Open final from my computer at work.  Shhh.  Don’t tell…)

The guys here at TSF have kindly invited me to contribute a post every couple weeks from my perspective as a new (and increasingly avid) fan.  I’m flattered and excited, but I feel more full of questions than anything else.  So I’m hoping you, dear readers, will take me under your collective wing and guide my introduction to tennis.

I’m still figuring out who’s who and what all the rules are.  (Double break points?  Lets?  Slams?)    Heck, I’m still getting the scoring straight.

But I love the personalities, the psychological intensity, the combination of finesse and brutality.  And, yes, the outfits.  (Among the things I’ve already learned from watching tennis that I really should’ve known before: wristbands are used to wipe sweat off faces.  Maybe I’m a little slow, but this never occurred to me before.)

From outside the world of tennis fans, the sport maintains a pristine, genteel image.  Anyone whose read the introduction to Agassi’s biography understands there is so much more to this sport.

It truly is, to paraphrase Wertheim, our most gladiatorial sport.  And I can’t wait for more!

And I have a lot of questions.  First: what’s up with the skin-colored undies Venus Williams wore against Francesca Schiavone? Hello, freeze-frame-fanny shots?!

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the tennis season: it’s fall(ing) asleep



atp_fall

“Andy, Rafa! Did you guys see that the tennis season is still going? Who knew?! Maybe Marat will be on our flight…”

(tsf illustration by troy venechanos)

msg: the arena, not the flavoring



Nick here, parked deep in the confines of Madison Square Garden in the Press Room, awaiting the Big Show to get underway for the Billie Jean King Cup. If there’s little to write about the significance of tonight’s tennis, there’s plenty to write about the place – and the meaning – of where these great female athletes are going to perform. And what it could mean beyond these famous walls, if the tennis did end up mattering tonight.

garden-aerial-bjkcup09

The MSG has long been known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena” because of its size, its location, its experience and its tradition. But in the last decade, tennis has lost its vital connection to said holy place: the WTA Season Ending Championships went overseas, and the storied men’s and women’s tournaments of winter persuasion found different venues and sponsors to bear their names.

If you’re at all familiar with tennis in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, you’ll remember the name Virginia Slims. VS was a title sponsor of the tour for awhile, and was head sponsor for the SECs through 1994. It wasn’t the greatest combo – a cigarette brand and a professional sport – but it worked for a long, long time.

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