wta sec: armchair commentary, day 3

By Matt Trollope

Stat of the day: Petra Kvitova now boasts a 16-0 win-loss record indoors this year after brushing aside Caroline Wozniacki. The Wimbledon champ has picked up indoor titles in Paris and Linz as well as claiming four Fed Cup indoor singles wins. Add to this her two round-robin victories in Istanbul and you’re looking at an extremely impressive record. The Czech is looking in dangerously confident form at the year-end event …

Typical WTA moment: People may have complained for ages now about the ignominy of slamless No. 1’s on the women’s tour and how attaining the top ranking seems to be a poisoned chalice. But should they be blamed? Wozniacki’s performances in Istanbul have gotten progressively worse: she scraped by Agnieszka Radwanska, then lost to Vera Zvonareva in three, before falling to Kvitova in straights. Had just a few points gone Aga’s way, we could be looking at a No. 1 with a 0-3 record in the round-robin stage. A disappointing year in the Slams and a poor performance against her fellow top players at the Championships is not great for the confidence. Are we starting to see the first signs of a Jankovic or Safina-esque descent?

Biggest surprise: For all the talk of how unpredictable the WTA Tour is these days — and I include myself among those voices — Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka‘s smooth progression has been one of the few times in recent memory a women’s event has followed the form guide. This year’s Championships were among the most open in history and without a clear favorite, yet experts were generally leaning towards an Azarenka or Kvitova victory, with both claiming titles in the lead-up weeks to the event. With each winning their first two matches in straight sets and already qualifying for the semifinals, it’s the first time in forever we’ve been able to use the words “as predicted” for anything to do with women’s tennis. Feels kinda nice, right?

Beer goggles? Is that you, Aggie? Stumbling?! We imagine this to be the front one viewpoint of Maria’s Sasha after he drank away his sorrows over his soon-to-be wife withdrawing from Istanbul. Oh right, and the fact that he still has no job.

Thought for today/tomorrow: All eyes will be on tomorrow’s match between Sam Stosur and Li Na, with the winner locking up the second semifinal place in the White Group. Both were obliterated by Azarenka this week with an identical 6-2, 6-2 scoreline, yet Stosur should go in with greater confidence thanks to a 5-0 winning record against the Chinese player.

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.

(Caro image via Getty; Radwanska image via the AP)

wta sec: armchair commentary on day 2

By Matt Trollope

Stat of the day: Vera Zvonareva defeated Caroline Wozniacki in three gruelling sets in the last match of day two action in Istanbul. The primary reason? The Russian’s 49 winners to the Dane’s 13. Note to Caro: relying solely on superb defensive skills just won’t cut it at the highest level. Yet while that may be, Wozniacki has secured the year-end No.1 ranking for the second straight year thanks to Maria Sharapova‘s withdrawal from the event due to a persistent ankle injury.

Typical WTA moment: Masha’s withdrawal continues the unfortunate theme of WTA events lacking in star power. The past four winners of the Championships since 2006 — Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Justine Henin — all failed to start, and with 2004 winner Sharapova now gone as well, the event is missing the five most successful players of the past decade. Could you imagine the equivalent scenario occurring at the ATP World Tour Finals? If Federer retired before it began, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray didn’t enter because of injury, and then Del Potro withdrew during the week, the tournament would be decimated.

Intriguing interviews: Caro added some spice to the event by telling reporters that she thinks some players grunt on purpose. “They don’t do it in practice and then they come into the match and they grunt. I think they [officials] could definitely cut it,” she said. Does this mean she thinks the same of her friend Victoria Azarenka, also in the draw and who’s one of the loudest shriekers out there? That potential match-up may have gotten a whole lot more interesting | Speaking of complaints: Agniezska Radwanska aired her grievances about the court at the Sinan Erdem Dome. “It’s pretty slow. It’s weird bounces, and surface very sticky so it’s hard to run, as well,” she said. But it’s not all doom and gloom in Turkey — Caro and Masha shared their enthusiasm about the potential combining of the ATP and WTA year-end events. “It would definitely be nice to see. I think that would be a lot more fun for the fans to see the men and women together,” Sharapova said. The ATP will have to streamline their calendar first — its World Tour Finals are still almost a month away.

Photo of day: We’ve always loved Vika’s intense post-match winning celebrations. Today’s win over Sam Stosur was no different.

My vocal chords are just fine, Caro. Thanks for asking… (AP photo)

Thought for today/tomorrow: Who will come up trumps in the match between Azarenka and Li Na? Given that both women own unblemished records in the tournament so far with one straight-set win apiece, the winner will break the deadlock in the White Group, vault to the top of the group standings and put themselves in prime position for a semifinal berth.

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!

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)

18 crumbs from taste of tennis

And by “crumbs,” we mean people, of course. Thursday night, TSF made its way to Taste of Tennis, the yearly event that combines food, the chefs that make it and a line-up of US Open tennis players for an evening that’s quite delectable. It was our first time there, and we were lucky enough to be joined by the talented photographer Billie Weiss, who snapped all 13 of these images in this post. But while Billie took in the visuals, we worked the green carpet and nabbed a few folks for a word or two before they headed in to snarf and socialize.

Our leading man, Gilles Simon, above, worked the green carpet longer than anyone else, happily obliging to speak with every single reporter and blogger (and there were plenty of us!) along his way.

TSF: What’s been the most surprising thing about year one of fatherhood? Hardest?
Gilles Simon: Well, it’s not surprising because I wanted it. [Smiling.] The mother, she is fabulous. When I have a match and the baby is crying in the night, I don’t wake up, she will always do that. For me, I just have the good things during a tournament: I get to enjoy him and when I don’t win a match he makes me smile because he is always happy to see [me]. I tend to forget about tennis around him.

TSF: Are you guys always traveling as a unit?
GS: We are not always together. But when we are, the mother helps me a lot — she is very patient. I try to have them with me as much as possible, of course.

TSF: What’s one thing you love about coming to New York?
GS: I am from Paris so shopping is not a big deal here. [Smiling.] It’s just being here. You cannot see this city anywhere else in the world. Nothing is the same. At night, sometimes it is too much for me, but it’s only two weeks. I can do that. I really enjoy traveling in different parts of the world. New York? You can’t find it anywhere else.

TSF: Tell us what you’re doing here tonight.
Gigi Fernandez: I’m here as an ambassador for the event. I’m delighted that I get to combine my two passions: tennis and drinking. [Laughs.] No, no. Tennis and food. Rums of Puerto Rico [one of the sponsors] asked me to come tonight and I’ve done stuff with them before. I did an event with them in Washington DC that was an Iron Chef-style competition where the chefs had to prepare food using different rums. And I was one of the judges… we got to drink and eat. It was great! It’s always fun for me to represent anything Puerto Rican.

TSF: OK, you’ve made two drink reference so far. What’s your favorite drink?
GF: Mojitos. They’re my favorite.

TSF: What else are you up to these days?
GF: Being a full-time mom is a full-time job. I do a lot of corporate clinics and several events during the Open. I play in the Senior event at the Open and I did so at Wimbledon and the French Open, too.

TSF: Do you care to weigh in on the women’s side this year?
GF: I think if Serena can stay fit then she’s clearly heads above the rest. When she’s 100% she’s the best player in the world.

TSF: Have any of the younger American girls caught your eye at all?
GF: Yeah, actually. Monica Puig is a Puerto Rican player. She’s the highest-ranked American junior coming up and she’ll have a similar dilemma to the one that I had in trying to figure out who she will represent. She’s definitely the one with the most potential.

TSF: What is on the iPod these days?
Vera Zvonareva: Well, I like Rihanna a lot. I like Nickelback right now and Linkin Park. There are a couple new songs from Bruno Mars out there, too.

TSF: Do you ever try to see anyone live when you’re traveling?
VZ: That’s something that I would love to do one day. Unfortunately, it never really works out with the tournaments. When you listen to music live it’s a great feeling. It’s something that I really want to do eventually.

TSF: What about when you have an afternoon or evening to yourself? What is me-time for Vera?
VZ: I lock myself in the hotel room and put a movie on and I can watch three or four movies at a time.

TSF: And your fave?
VZ: Bodyguard.

TSF: Touché V!

TSF: Pilates or yoga? What would you go for?
Janko Tipsarevic:
I would go for yoga. I tried it once on P90X and I only made it to two days because of my schedule. I was imagining that it was going to be really easy but it really is not. It’s all about focus.

TSF: What about starting a line of your own roller-bags at some point?
JT: I would, but the company — Technifibre — they were not really a big fan of that bag. But I always say, “Why wear it over your shoulder when you can roll it on the ground?” I know I look like I’m going to the airport but it’s so much easier.

TSF: Do you think that Djokovic’s run has motivated the rest of you Serbians to play better as well?
VZ: With winning the Davis Cup, it really inspired all of us to play better. With Novak, I’m really happy to have him as a friend. I have a front row seat to see what he is doing. I’m not afraid to talk to him and see what he is doing and what he is thinking. It’s only helped me improve.

TSF: What if you could make one meal? Where would it be? What would it include?
Tamira Paszek: One meal? That I cook? I love risotto, especially before the beginning of a tournament. Like a mushroom risotto with truffle oil. I cook sometimes … it’s relaxing. At Wimbledon we rented a house and we cooked then.

Tommy Haas chatted with a few folks on the line, then made a dash for the food. Leftovers? Loved the just-showered wet-hair look.

Rafael Nadal MUST have had a change-of-shirts after sporting the same outfit at Macy’s earlier in the day. He looked surprisingly fresh-faced after the mob on 34th. Leftovers? Benito responded to a question in Spanish with Italian.

Fernando Verdasco is really looking his best we’ve seen in a long while. Love the hair, love the (lack-of) facial hair. Leftovers? Has he lost weight?!

Click for more crumbs from TOT — and Billie Weiss’ photos. [Read more...]

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

trophy watch: winners, coast-to-coast

How are these for awkward? If last week was the week of the amazingly awkward trophies, this week it’s the humans who take their turn at awkwardness. We love the trio above, as finalist Gael Monfils and winner Radek Stepanek pose with a parks official after their Legg Mason Classic title match. Stepanek upset Monfils, the top seed, 6-4 6-4. Meanwhile, below, Agnieszka Radwanska and Vera Zvonareva look o-v-e-r it in San Diego following Radwanska’s 6-3 6-4 win over Vera at the Mercury Insurance Open. Are these two friends? We can’t tell. But oy! Isn’t Aggie’s bandage an ugly sight?

Oops! He did it again. Stepanek celebrates another US Open Series title with “The Worm”

(Images via Getty)

trophy watch: he who stands taller

Two straight for Fishy: Mardy Fish denied John Isner from pulling a Mardy Fish yesterday in Atlanta. Last year, Fish had won Newport and Atlanta to kick off a hot summer, and with Isner taking the North American grass court tourney this year, he was trying to pull a Fish and double dip to start his own US Open campaign. But Fish, the no. 9-ranked player in the world, fended off Isner in Atlanta at the Atlanta Tennis Championships, beating his countryman 3-6 7-6 (6) 6-2. John doesn’t look too happy now, does he? The reason? It was the second straight year Fish had beaten Isner in the final here, saving match points this time around to take a cup over a platter (better to drink out of!). There’s still a few weeks before the big show in NYC! Cheer up, Johnny boy!

Vera, unplugged. It was the turnaround that Vera Zvonareva was in desperate need of. The Russian had struggled through Europe, whimpering out of Wimbledon where she so forcefully made the final last year, losing out to Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round, 6-3 6-2. But Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Vera’s countrywoman, made the biggest Baku headlines for the week for her 25-double fault match that she WON. More importantly? Vera was the week’s winner. Zvonareva took down the tough Anna Tatishvili, 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-2.

Gilles, too. Meanwhile, on clay, Gilles Simon took Nicolas Almagro to task, winning in Hamburg, 6-4 4-6 6-4.

(Isner and Fish via Getty; Vera via the Baku Cup/WTA; Simon via the AP)

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