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…]

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…]

zvonareva's bunnies

Sequined bunnies showed up for Vera Zvonareva‘s presser on the eve of the 2011 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Buy: A similar Bad Bunny Sweatshirt, $59.99, from French Connection.

Fed Cup: Vera is on the Russian Fed Cup team that faces Italy in this weekend’s semi, to be played in Moscow. Others on the Russian squad: Kuznetsova, Pavlyuchenkova, and Makarova. On the Italian side, they’ll be without Fed Cup regulars Schiavone and Pennetta. Schiavone opted out in order to focus on defending her Roland Garros title; Pennetta’s nursing a shoulder injury. The roster’s made up of Vinci, Errani, Brianti, and Camerin. The Russians should take this, no prob. What do you think?

Read up: All the tie details are here.

(image via Getty Images)

trophy watch: where 'yee-haw' meets 'ole!'

There was a story on msnbc.com last week about U.S. cities and their slogans. You know, like New York is the “City that Never Sleeps” and “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” Our fave? That would be Eagle Pass, Texas: “Where ‘Yee haw!’ Meets ‘Ole!'” We’re feeling as though David Ferrer is channeling such a slogan, donning a sombrero after his win in Acapulco over Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-2.

Is this a sign of the future? Oh, we were talking about the trophies. You meant the scoreline? It was 3 and 3 to Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer.

And is this growing into a rivalry? It certainly could. Vera Zvonareva won a competitive bout with Caroline Wozniacki in Doha, taking out the world no. 1, 6-4, 6-4.

[Read more…]

short balls: ladies in wanting

Aussie Open contributor Benjamin Snyder is back for more. Taking on the longest of tasks: short balls.

Back in the habit: Vera – circa USO 2009 – got the meltdown bug again last week in Thailand. (Getty Images)

Well, it looks like we’re back to some shaky form for the top women — and, man, you girls were all looking so sharp in Australia, according to Tennis.com’s Tom Perrotta. Check out how world no. 3 Vera Zvonareva allowed a line call and a swearing violation get the best of her big game. She lost it versus Daniela Hantuchova in the Pattaya Open semis, prompting this charged statement: “There is a big difference between being mentally tough and being emotional. It’s a huge difference. I will always be emotional. As long as I use those emotions to my advantage, that’s only a plus to me. If I need to break the racquet to pump myself up, then I will break the racquet. I don’t care.” | Watch the drama

At least Vera stayed on her feet. This week in Dubai, Anna Chakvetadze collapsed due to a stomach bug against Caroline Wozniacki. Déja vu? Good thing she chopped her pony or she really could have hurt herself.

Before you call Petra Kvitova the next big thing, waiting for her to win everything, Federer-style, get this: she choked in her first-round match in Dubai.

Speaking out. Former world no. 1 Amelie Mauresmo isn’t scared to voice her opinion, especially when it relates to her home Slam at Roland Garros. She recently lowered the boom on French officials who bid to keep the clay-court major in Paris. “We are the smallest of the four grand slams and I think it is important to have the chance to grow, and for the public to have more room,” she said.

Ana Ivanovic split with coach Antonio van Grichen (just what we were thinking… who?!) last week, saying she plans to keep the solo mojo going for longer. Maybe that’s not working too well, Ana. The ’08 FO champ lost to veteran Patty Schnyder in the first round of Dubai, just three short months after snacking on her in the final of Linz.

ao sf predictions with christopher phillips (ladies)

Caroline Wozniacki is still no. 1 – and more importantly – still alive, at the AO. (Getty/ Clive Brunskill)

Christopher Phillips, a regular TSF contributor, weighs in on the semifinal match-ups over the next two days in Melbourne. Phillips lives, works and plays in Los Angeles, answering to a number of different bosses. Tragically, last year, he was speechless for weeks after learning of the retirement of Elena Dementieva and is currently on a search to find her replacement in his heart. | More: And for the gentlemen

Well… the semifinals have arrived (almost) as I predicted.  An on-fire Li Na takes on faux-kangaroo lover Caroline Wozniacki while Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva meet at a Slam for the third time in a row (they’re 1-1 so far).  But where does it go from here?

Li has won all of her matches in straight sets, with the most difficult coming in first round versus Sofia Arvidsson.  Li has broken her opponents no less than four times each match while maintaining her own first serve percentage at an average of 72.4%.

Wozniacki, on the other hand, hasn’t won her matches as decisively as her opponent, and I do have to admit I thought Francesca Schiavone still had a chance deep into the third set to win the match.  While Caro gutted through to the win, the way she let an injured, fatigued Schiavone dictate the match from the first point I think will be her downfall when she faces a stronger, healthier and confident Li.

Li leads the head-to-head 2-1 with both of her wins coming last year on Australian soil in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, so I pick her to make her home country proud by being the first Chinese woman to reach a major final.

On the other half of the draw it’s Clijsters pitted against a resurgent Zvonareva.  This one could go either way really.  Zvonareva’s only dropped one set in five matches – to Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the second round.  Clijsters, meanwhile, hasn’t dropped one yet, but was pushed to one tiebreak in each of her last three matches and looked shaky at times.

Apart from Vera falling apart during the USO final, the Russian beat Kim three times last year – including at Wimbledon.  Since Clijsters holds an advantage of second-serve points won (60% to Zvonareva’s 46%), I’m going with Clijsters in three sets in the battle of two baseliners.

aussie preview: the power list

Since we’re done with our fashion coverage for the year (we only kid!), we decided to look a little bit closer at the tennis that will be played at the upcoming Australian Open, which begins Sunday night on American television.

Tomorrow: Who’s Up, Who’s Down and the Dark Horses of the AO | Follow us on Twitter @TSFtennis

The Power List – How the top men (and women) stack up

 

1. No one can come into the AO feeling better than Roger Federer. The Swiss Mister won his season-opening foray in Doha without dropping a set, beating Nicolay Davydenko in the final. Along with his win at the World Tour Finals, Federer has notched 10 straight matches. Federer played three exhibitions during the off season – all against Rafael Nadal – and looks primed to defend his title in Melbourne.

2. Serena Williams. It might be strange to see Serena’s name second on this list, but the current world no. 4 will be the biggest female force in this year’s draw – absent force, that is. The defending champion hasn’t played a match since winning Wimbledon, and the ladies look lost without her. Serena beat Justine Henin in the most memorable Slam final of last year here, and the sticky courts of Australia won’t have the same female ferocity without her.

3. Rafael Nadal is appropriately third on our list – especially seeing that he has won three straight Slams. And there are three factors that play into Rafa winning an illustrious, fourth straight Major: his health (most namely his knees); his focus against lurking dark-horses (there are plenty – check back tomorrow); and his ability to rise against the Roger challenge. He failed in two of those in losing soundly to Federer in London in November, but will look to build his confidence one match at a time at the AO.

4. There is hard to find a more like-able – or more important, match-savvy – player on the WTA right now than Kim Clijsters. Clijsters captured the US Open for the second straight year in 2010, and then went on to dominate the women’s season-ending event. Her loss in Sydney’s final on Saturday to Li Na? We say that’s a good thing: A more-focused Kimmie won’t produce any 6-0, 6-1 third-round catastrophes this year.

5. Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick and Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. OK, it’s a little unfair that we bunched these four gents together, but at this point, it’s hard not to. Soderling had a hot start to 2011, winning Brisbane and once again proving that he is no flash in the pan. As for Roddick – who lost to Sod in the Brisbane final – the American is said to be in some of the best shape of his life had seems as hungry as ever. And it’s hard to believe that Murray and Djokovic have just one Slam between the two of them. How is that possible? (See Nos. 1 & 3 for answer.) Any of these fellas could walk away from Melbourne the champ, and few would be surprised…

6. Is there more of a mystery than Justine Henin on the women’s side? She is the female version of Juan Martin del Potro, hasn’t played since Wimbledon, but might be playing second fiddle to Kim’s current reign. Justine shocked us all by making the finals last year. It was in 2010 when she toughed through a straight-set win over now-retired Elena Dementieva, and again has a Russian seed (that’d be Kuzy) in the Round of 32. | Full women’s draw

7. While Tomas Berdych continues to be a mystery since his French-Wimbledon brilliance (he’s 12-13 since July), Nikolay Davydenko and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have made their own noise to start 2011: Davydenko took out Nadal in Doha and Tsonga fell to Roger at the same tourney. Tsonga is a former finalist here (downing Fed in the semis in ’08), while Davydenko has (shockingly) still not been to the last two of a major. Any of these three could fit in with our group at No. 5, but do they have what it takes to run seven matches straight?

8. Here’s a new trio for you folks: Jelena JankovicAna Ivanovic and … Bojana Jovanovski. While we could have included Janko Tipsarevic in this line-up, but this new ladies three-some is sure to have the eyes of some WTA followers over the next two weeks. Our guess: the three gals will chalk up 7 total wins (AI 4, BJ 1 and JJ 2) over the two weeks. The ultimate question? Who will have the best year of the bunch? Jelena is a dismal 9-13 since a French open semis run and Jovanovski beat Kanepi, Pannetta and Rezai last week alone. And another new coach for Ana… | Ana just wants to have fun?

9. Venus Williams didn’t win a set in two round-robin matches last weekend in Hong Kong. She hasn’t played a WTA match since the US Open. And before that? Wimbledon. It’s anybody’s guess for Family Williams in Melbourne this year.

10. Three ladies who have a solid shot at a week-two run and a decent chance of a first-round crash out include Caroline WozniackiVera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova. Wozniacki won just one game in an exo with Zvonareva last weekend, and both had bizarre early losses in Sydney. Sharapova’s ’11 debut? A second-round crash against Greta Arn. Just another (four) reasons that this might be Kim Clijsters’ Aussie to win.

Tomorrow: Who’s Up, Who’s Down and the Dark Horses of the AO

(federer photo future capetown; soderling photo via getty)

short balls: chanda’s (ch)tragedy


A week ago, Chanda Rubin was sitting
in her Louisiana home preparing for 2011 to come rolling around. Now that home barely exists. The former top 10 player and Major semifinalist endured the worst nightmare of many homeowners: her house caught fire. The destruction (and devastation) was caught by (Lafayette, La.) The Advertiser photographer Brad Kemp. “I’m like a vagabond now. I don’t have a home,” she told the paper. | Chanda’s career 

While the 2011 has officially kicked off, we’re still loving the WTA‘s batch of off-season pics. Our favorite? That’d be Maria Kirilenko sporting a different ‘do in Las Vegas. And Maria is supposedly “training” there during the off-season? Who does she think she is… Jennifer Capriati?! | Remember: Maria’s 2010 Aussie run 

Two-time Major finalist Vera Zvonareva also had a busy off-season, booking quite the spread(s) in the Russian versions of Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. While Zvonareva – who reached the Wimby and US Open finals – looked all dolled up for the shoots, she was giving plenty of lip to the work she has done with UNESCO as a global ambassador. | Vera’s Glam shots

Print is dead? Print is recycled!
If you’re worried about all those magazines we’re not reading going to waste, Nike is here to quell your fears: they are to begin making shoes from old mags. Now runners will have more than just the weather to talk about: “Yeah, so I was reading on my shoe that in 1932 Vienna…” | Flashback: Our picks for shoes you must have in 2011

short(est) ball: This ain’t no cowby prez.
While vacationing in Hawaii, the first family reportedly took the the Kailua Racquet Club courts for a little hit and giggle. No word on weather Bo served as their balldog or not.
(rubin pic by brad kemp of the advertiser; kirilenko pic via mariakirilenko.com)

on the 5th day of giftmas: more from santa’s helpers

OK, so those glistening ladies aren’t Santa’s helpers, but they could be, right?! On the 5th day of TSF’s 12 Days of Giftmas, we hear from four more WTA ladies on what they’re hoping for from Santa, what they’re getting their loved ones and their hopes for the year to come.

The other elves: Caro, Jelena, Elena and Vika tell us about their Christmas plans

TSF: What is one of your favorite Christmas presents from the past? Or something you look forward to during the holidays? A present you’re hoping for perhaps?!
Sam Stosur: “I haven’t even thought about it! Actually one of the best presents I’ve had was a few years ago when my brother brought me a ‘swim with the seals’ ticket for SeaWorld which was really cool.”
Kim Clijsters: “What I would really love is for Jada to draw or paint something for us, now that she’s getting old enough, and we can continue to do that every year. Maybe we could send that out as a Christmas card. What we’ve done in previous years is have a group photo with all the family and our 5 dogs! The thing I like most at Christmas is time at home with the family.”
Francesca Schiavone: “The most important thing for me every year at Christmas is to be there with all my family. In terms of presents, we’re not so focused on them, because it’s more important that for this one day of the year we can all be together. For sure I’ll be asking my parents for something! I just don’t know yet! Usually I arrive home on the 23rd or 24th and I think ‘what am I going to do now for presents?!’ So I go to the big mall and at the very last moment I buy everything!”
Vera Zvonareva: “A voucher for a spa, just spend the whole day relaxing, that would be nice! I’m not sure if it will happen this year, but I love spending that time with my friends out in the snow with all the decorations up and a hot chocolate in my hand.”

TSF: What are your 2011 resolutions?
SS:
I was thinking about that the other night and I was considering giving up French fries for a year…but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick to that….so maybe safer not to make that my resolution! So I think mine will be to stay healthy, fit, happy, and enjoy what I’m doing.
KC: “I’m not really good with electronics, and I’ve never been great at keeping track of my personal schedule on a computer or phone, I still use a diary to write everything in. I always start the year so neatly and I want to keep it like that but I usually find that by one month in I have scribbles and crossings out everywhere and it’s all messy, so that’s going to be my resolution – be more organized with my planning!”
FS: To be better and improve every day of my life.
VZ: To keep improving myself every day, keep fighting and keep my courage – that’s the most important thing.

trophy watch: beijing goes big, orbs in japan, and a little slice of belgium

Frenchie Adrian Mannarino (Troy!) took out Steve Darcis in straight sets to take this little slice of the Ethias Tennis Trophy in Mons, Belgium.

At the Rakuten Japan Open in Tokyo, Rafael Nadal beat Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5 to grab his first post-US Open title this year. (He lost to Gigi Lopez in the Bangkok semis last week.)

On the doubles side, Eric Butorac and former Bruin Jean-Julien Rojer won the final match against Fila boys Dmitry Tursunov and Andreas Seppi. Two snaps to Prince and Nike for coordinating the colors on the kits of the winning team.

And in Beijing, rain-delayed finals didn’t produce any upsets, with defending champ Djokovic and Wozniacki fending off Ferrer and Zvonareva. Caro takes her second trophy this week (the first for reaching the world No. 1 ranking by overcoming break advantages from Vera in the first set. (The Russian even won the second set.) Both ladies can take this performance as a confidence boost going into the women’s year-end championships, held in Doha.

(images via Getty Images)