wta yec: armchair commentary, day four

By Matt Trollope

UPDATE: Kvitova is already into the semis with a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win over Stosur. Who said the ladies’ season ender had to be a bust? (AP)

Stat of the day: A lot was made of the H2H records involving Sam Stosur entering the tournament — 0-9 against Maria Sharapova, 0-4 against Victoria Azarenka, yet 5-0 against against Li Na. Playing the Chinese player in Istanbul, Stosur improved that to 6-0, with a demoralizing 6-1 6-0 win handing Li her heaviest professional loss in five-and-a-half years. Stosur has only ever dropped one set against Li in her career, and thanks to the victory, now takes her place in the semifinals in Istanbul.

Typical WTA moment: Women’s tennis is never short of drama, with cat-fights, tears, and the grunting issue among its many facets. Controversial figures have also been a mainstay — how many times have we seen crowds in the past turn on Venus and Serena, Sharapova, Henin and Hingis? Today it was Vika’s turn. The Belorussian has never made a habit of trying to please people — her shrieking being a prime example — and today was no different. Already having qualified for the semifinals, she appeared to tank in the final set of her last round-robin match against alternate Marion Bartoli, gave the Frenchwoman a poor handshake, and was booed off the court at the Sinan Erdem Arena.

Startling admission: All Agnieszka Radwanska had to do was win a set in her match against Petra Kvitova to qualify for the semifinals, and leading 5-1 in the opening set, it appeared she was on track. But Kvitova improved her level, took the set in a tiebreak, and ran out a 7-6(4) 6-3 winner. “Even when I was 5-1 up in the first set, to be honest, I didn’t feel I was close to win[ning] the set,” Aga said following the match. That’s (a lack of) confidence right there. The result allowed Vera Zvonareva to progress to the semis, and despite Vera owning a mediocre 1-2 win-loss record this week, her overall game-winning percentage proved better than the Pole’s.

Thought for today/tomorrow: Can anybody stop the Kvitova juggernaut? The Czech is the only player to go undefeated in Istanbul — she hasn’t dropped a set — and enters her semifinal against Stosur with a 2-0 winning record over the Australian. A final against Azarenka seems to be looming.

Flashback: We know some of you have been nostalgic for classic women’s tennis this week, so why not a little taste of it from the Chase Championships in 1996. Steffi Graf beat Martina Hingis in one of the few five-set encounters in women’s tennis history, 6-3 4-6 6-0 4-6 6-0. Cheers, ladies!

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

wta sec: armchair commentary on day 1

By Matt Trollope

Look! There are other fans here, too!

At home in Melbourne, Matt Trollope is keeping tabs on the ladies of Istanbul.

Day one stat of the day: Sam Stosur entered her first round-robin match against Maria Sharapova sporting a dismal 0-9 win-loss record against the Russian. She hadn’t even won a set against Sharapova in more than six years. But in a monumental upset, the Aussie triumphed, 6-1, 7-5. “You never want to lose to someone ten times in a row,” Stosur said after the match. You can say that again Sam. But understatements aside, kudos must go to Stosur for approaching the match differently compared to ones against Sharapova in the past: She mixed up her shots well including judicious use of her slice backhand and exploited the Russian’s rust from not having played a match in almost a month.

Typical WTA moment: Petra Kvitova‘s performance against Vera Zvonareva was emblematic of the inconsistency that rules the modern WTA Tour. Kvitova started out nervously in her first-ever appearance at the Championships, spraying the ball everywhere but on court before she then went on a tear to win seven of eight games to lead 6-2, 4-1. Then came the inevitable nervousness and collapse, with more errors allowing Zvonareva to level at 4-4. But instead of capitalising on her momentum, Zvonereva’s own errors allowed the Czech to take the next two games and the match.

Pleasant surprise: The venue. After three listless years at the perennially-empty Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha, the move to the glittering Sinam Erdem Stadium in Istanbul has breathed life back into the WTA Championships. While I’m yet to decide if I like the unusual colour-scheme adopted for the court, the fact that the spectators remain in darkness while the court is spotlighted (like the ATP World Tour Finals in London) gives the tournament a “main-event” feel. And with more than 10,000 spectators attending the first session and the final three days of the event reportedly sold out, it’s just what the event desperately needed to retain its status as the unoffical “fifth major”.

Photo of day: Oh, Caro…

Thought for today/tomorrow: Despite a form dip after their maiden Grand Slam victories this year, Kvitova and Stosur both picked up solid straight-set victories in their opening round-robin matches. Will the similarly-slumping French Open champ Li Na be able to right the ship when she takes on Sharapova tomorrow?

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

(fan image via getty/wta; caro via the ap)

statology: runnings the #s on the wta sec field

By Christopher Phillips 


Maria is rearin’ to go.
(Getty Image)

Who said the numbers don’t matter?
TSF’s resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, has run the numbers on the upcoming WTA Season Ending Championships to try to shed some light on just what, exactly, may come of the tennis being played in Istanbul. Will Caroline crumble on the pressure? Is Maria meant to be an afterthought for the rest of her carry? Chris carries the 3’s and breaks down the head-to-heads to help us understand.1. Lay off, will ya? Despite all the crap on Caroline Wozniacki not doing well at the Slams, she has the second most points of all the players accumulated at Slams with 3240 point accumulated. That puts her behind Li Na with 3505 — pretty much all from Australia & Roland Garros). Wozniacki maybe hasn’t won one, but she’s definitely the most consistent at them.  The next closest is Petra Kvitova (2785), and then Maria Sharapova(2740).2. Dark horses in a field of eight? Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka are clearly the players to beat this fall. Aggie is 11-1, winning Tokyo and Beijing and perhaps serendipitously losing in her opener against Lucie Safarova in Moscow. Vika is 9-2, winning last week in Luxembourg.

3. H2Hs m-a-t-t-e-r. Kvitova has the best record against the rest of the field (8-4) followed by Sharapova (7-5). The worst? Azarenka (4-8).

4. Play it, girl. Vera Zvonareva has the most matches against the field with 14 meaning … she’s generally the most consistent out of everyone? It’s hard to say exactly what it means, but Vera’s consistency has helped pay off in the past. Perhaps she can conjure up a big title in Istanbul.

5. A new No. 1? Wozniacki is 1025 points ahead of Sharapova, 1425 ahead of Kvitova and 1805 ahead of Azarenka.  1500 points go to the tournament winner if they don’t lose a round robin match. That means that Sharapova and Kvitova are the only players with a chance of finishing 2011 No. 1.  All Wozniacki has to do is play two round robin matches and Kvitova is out of the running for the top spot. If Sharapova wins the title and Wozniacki fails to make it to the semifinals, Maria is your new No. 1.

6. Li Nahasn’t beat a top 10 player since the French Open. And all five of her wins over the field came from the Australian and Roland Garros.

7. Playing indoors could give Sam Stosur and her booming serve an edge. And she won’t need to worry about Maria Kirilenko.

8. Apart from Auckland and Stanford, Sharapova has only played the Slams and Premier tournaments. She is the only player in the field to win at least one match at every tournament she entered – everyone else had one first-round loss (or second-round loss if receiving a bye).

Chris’ picks: Red Group
1. Kvitova 3-0 2. Wozniacki 1-2 (def. Zvonareva) 3. Radwanska 1-2 (def. Wozniacki) 4. Zvonareva 1-2 (def. Radwanska)
With a three-way tie for second, I’d give the final spot to Wozniacki.
White Group
1. Sharapova 2-1 (lost to Azarenka) 2. Azarenka 2-1 (lost to Stosur) 3. Stosur 2-1 (lost to Sharapova) 4. Li Na 0-3
With a three-way tie for first, I’d give the SF spots to Sharapova and Azarenka.
Semifinals: Kvitova def. Azarenka and Sharapova def. Wozniacki
Finals: Kvitova def. Sharapova
***Wildcard?! Sharapova’s ankle. Chris says: If she doesn’t finish RR then that gives Azarenka and Stosur a good chance to get in there. 

After the jump: Chris breaks down the ladies number by number to give you a clear head on what might/could/should happen. Hey, it’s the WTA!

trophy watch: american hardware

Slam season? It’s ova! I’m out of my let’s-research-this mindset from writing for USOpen.org after two glorious weeks with a great staff at the National Tennis Center, so I’ll give someone else a go at this stat: when was the last time a Slam included no “ova” winner? Barring one-half of the girls’ doubles winning team — that’d be Irina Khromacheva — and she’s an “eva,” so does she even count? For all I know it could have been the French this year, but it certainly seems like a shocker, no?!

The men’s tournament, in the end, wasn’t a shocker itself. Sure, it was shocking that Novak Djokovic for the second year in a row denied Roger Federer a shot at the title by saving match points (how ’bout that forehand?!), but in the end, it was a result that many in tennis expected: Djokovic defeats Rafael Nadal in the final. And what a final it was! Thanks for ending a semi-mediocre tournament with such a glorious match, fellas. ‘Til next time!

Sam-a-Slam: Let’s just talk about the tennis. Sam Stosur played lights-out ball for two sets against Serena Williams on Sunday night at the Open. For us it was reminiscent of the way Maria Sharapova pounded her way past Serena in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Sure, Stosur’s style is completely different that Maria’s, but the result was the same: she lost just five games against her heavily-favored opponent to win her maiden major. One can only wish that the Aussie will show up with similar form at her home slam come January.

TSF Vault: Trophy Watch | 2011 US Open

Cindarella story.  This one really was written in the you-can’t-make-it-up category. Melanie Oudin, two years ago the Open’s golden girl, had paired up with this year’s golden boy in Jack Sock, and the two just stormed through the mixed doubles draw. No, they didn’t smooch! But we sure wish they would have. More? Doubles and juniors after the cut! [Read more…]

happy as a sam

Say “stripes!” The US Open champ, Sam Stosur was reportedly running on some 90 minutes of sleep today — the day after she trotted past Serena Williams in an incredible display on Arthur Ashe Stadium court, winning 6-2, 6-3 for her first slam. The Aussie made a trip to Times Square for a I-just-won-the-Open photo-opp, donning an adorable striped red and white, loose-fitting dress by Lacoste.

Normally we’d want something like this belted, especially if you have a body like Sam’s. But it was 70 and breezy in New York today and somehow Aussie Sam made the concrete jungle feel quite beachy. And check out that sock tan, mate!

TSF Vault: Lacoste USO tees | Lacoste archives

(Photo by Angus Mordant via Detomix)

what do the ladies do in new york?

When in New York… The WTA asked some of its top ladies about their “musts” while in New York City. And it basically came down to shopping (Fifth Avenue!), eating, or in Vika‘s case, being weird.

The rundown: Caro loves the Meatpacking District; Maria recommends the Halumi sandwich at Aroma (in Soho); Bartoli ends up in Shoe Heaven at Sak’s; and Schiavone enjoys a burger, fries, and a jukebox — from a location that will remain nameless.

(video courtesy of WTA)

SGs in the QFs

Os at the Open. While the persistent rain the last couple of days has left little room for sunshading gear — or play, for that matter — we couldn’t help but notice the fact that two of the game’s most popular sunglass wearers have made their way into the quarterfinals of the US Open: Janko Tipsarevic and Sam Stosur. While it wasn’t a great Open for fellow-Oakley teammates Bob and Mike Bryan, Tipsy and Sam have each had stellar weeks at Flushing Meadows, advancing to the final 8.

Sam didn’t much need her shades on Sunday night against Maria Kirilenko, outlasting the Russian in a three-hour grueling battle, 6-2 6-7 (15) 6-3. But when she does play under the bright glare of the sun, she opts for Enduring Edge glasses (see below), which you can find on Oakley’s site for $180 in both metallic black and pearl white, each of which Sam uses from time to time.

Janko switches things up from time to time with his sun-Gs, but lately has been sporting the Flak Jacket Transitions Solfx, which run for $220 on Oakley.com. Though these are a little pricier, we like their simple look — especially with all the brights happening in player kits these days.

Draw: Janko vs. Djoko in QFs | Sam-Vera

Above: Sam’s Enduring Edge glasses.

More browsing: Sunglasses on Tennis Express

(Stosur and Janko photos by Getty; Oakley screengrab)

trophy watch: serena's (and nole's) sizzling summer

Streak this: While Novak Djokovic may be 53-1 this year and 29-0 on hardcourts, he doesn’t have as many wins this summer as Serena Williams. Serena hasn’t lost since Wimbledon, winning her second straight US Open Series tournament in Toronto over the weekend, running through the field with a only hiccup here or there — much like she had in Standford at the Bank of the West Classic. Serena’s final triumph was over Sam Stosur, who beat Williams in the French Open quarterfinals last year in a tight affair. Not this time: Serena won the Rogers Cup for the second time, 6-4 6-2.

King Nole: While it is clear that Serena is having a banner summer, so, too, is Nole. You just can’t take it away from him — he’s having a banner year. Prior to his final yesterday against Mardy Fish, Djoko had dropped just 20 games in four straight-set matches. Remember: this dude hadn’t played since Wimbledon! Seriously: undisputed world no. 1 on l-o-c-k. The final was a good one, thanks to a gamely Fish, who we hope will show up in similar form in two week’s time at Flushing Meadows. Nole, as he has 52 other times this year, emerged the winner with a 6-2 3-6 6-4 effort.

Clear as day: As for the trophies, we can’t say we’re the biggest fan of the clear glass look, but if we had to choose, we’ll take Serena’s lighter, thinner option over Nole’s marginally phallic offering. But the real question? Who had the better celebration?!

TSF Vault: Serena Williams | Novak Djokovic | Trophy Watch

(Serena images by the AP; Djoko images by Getty)

roland garros bracketology: the ladies

By Christopher Phillips

[Ed note: Chris Phillips, part of TSF West, files his thoughts on who’s hot, who’s not and who might just make a run at this year’s Roland Garros. -NEM]

Franny was feeling it last year. But can she re-capture her Parisian glory?

Caroline Wozniacki | I know Caro’s spring hasn’t been the best, but she’s 15-3 on the dirt, winning in Charleston in April. Yes, she lost to upstart German Julia Goerges twice and went out to Maria Sharapova in Rome, but with her earliest loss being the round of 16 in Madrid, I still think she has to be the favorite going in — just not as big of one as she was a few weeks ago. Result: Runner-up (to Kvitova in three-set loss)

Maria Sharapova | I’ve always been a bigger fan of Maria on clay than she has been herself.  She won Rome beating four of its top ten seeds (Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur and Shahar Peer) without too much difficulty and went out the week before that to former FO semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova in Madrid in the round of 16. A semifinalist back in 2007 and three-time quarterfinalist, Maria pushed Justine Henin to three sets last year before bowing out.  She’s got nothing to lose. Result: Semifinal

Francesca Schiavone | I think I was the only one who wasn’t surprised — okay, completely surprised — by her victory last year. Even though her results on clay this year have been sub-par, I think Franny will have more confidence and desire going into Roland Garros than she did last year. But will it all come together? Result: Quarterfinal

Vera Zvonareva | She’s only played two clay court tournaments all season losing to Stosur and Petra Kvitova but Vera is as unpredictable as her emotions — you can’t count her out. Result: Semifinal

Victoria Azarenka | She’s 12-3 on clay this year but was forced to retire against Sharapova in her last match. Azarenka’s best victory on the dirt this season has been over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. And here’s something that might surprise you: Of the five times she’s played the French, she’s lost in the first round three out of five tries — including last year to Gisela Dulko. Result: Quarterfinal

Petra Kvitova | The Madrid champion (and Prague challenger finalist … what?!) has wins over Zvonareva, Li Na and Azarenka on the dirt. But can she make a deep run here? Result: Champion

Kim Clijsters | She’s decided to play Roland Garros, her first clay court tournament of the season after injuring her foot in April. A two-time finalist and semifinalist last year, she’ll be a contender but I don’t know if she’ll be a threat. It all depends which Kimmie shows up, and the two months of not playing could help or hurt — depending on how you look at it. Result: Fourth round

Sam Stosur | Since Roland Garros last year, where Stosur reached the final, she was yet to make it to the finals of another tournament until this past week in Rome. Granted, her loss to Sharapova wasn’t pretty, Stosur has beaten Zvonareva, Schiavone and Li Na in the past few weeks on red clay. She was a semifinalist in 2009 and came into the French last year on a hot streak but can she repeat her success? As we’ve learned with Sam, it’s up to her head more than anything else if that forehand can swing freely — and controlled. Result: Fourth round

Jelena Jankovic | Jankovic has underperformed as well this year but she’s reached the semis in Paris three times before. If she equals that mark again, I don’t think many would consider it a surprise. More trouble: Janky upset in Brusells Result: Fourth round

Li Na | Li started 2011 on a hot streak Down Under, but has fizzled since. The last two weeks she’s shown signs of life again with semifinal appearances in both Madrid and Rome. Granted Li had no real significantly mentionable wins in those two tournaments, maybe that’ll be the kick she needs to get back on track for the year in Paris where she’s never lost before the third round. Result: Fourth round

Who are the dark horses in the women’s field? Find out after the cut.

[Read more…]