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.

2013 indian wells player field announced

The BNP Paribas Open — the first major North American stop on the ATP and WTA calendars, will be held March 4-17, 2013 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It will feature a field highlighted by nine former BNP Paribas Open champions and 13 Grand Slam champions.

Men’s commitments: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (winner: 2008, 2011), defending champion and World No. 2 Roger Federer (winner: 2004-2006, 2012), Andy MurrayDavid FerrerRafael Nadal (winner: 2007, 2009)David FerrerTomas BerdychJuan Martin del PotroJo-Wilfried TsongaJanko Tipsarevic, and Richard Gasquet.

Women’s commitments: Victoria Azarenka (winner: 2012), Maria Sharapova (2006), Agnieszka RadwanskaAngelique KerberLi NaSara ErraniPetra KvitovaSam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki (2011), Jelena Jankovic (2010), Ana Ivanovic (2008), Daniela Hantuchova (2002, 2007), Francesca Schiavone, and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Other slots: The qualifying tournament will be held March 4-6, 2013. Wildcards will also be announced in the coming weeks.

Tournament info: Indian Wells Tennis Garden Box Office (800-999-1585) or www.bnpparibasopen.com.

kit count: australian open women’s QFs

Australian Open logo

The Women’s QF draw at the 2013 Australian Open: adidas (6), Nike (4), Lotto (2), and 1 each for Under ArmourFilaLacoste, and Qiaodan.

Breakdown: See the complete list after the cut…

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, 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.

trophy watch: sometimes, we like what we see

Pieces, people. Working. Sometimes the right trophies land in the right arms with the rights outfits covering the right bodies. That was the case last weekend, as the WTA wrapped up its regular-season play and the ATP moved toward its World Tour Finals in London set for the middle of November. Above, Gael Monfils complemented his globe-and-box trophy with a well-chiseled bicep and a head of looks-just-right locks. He downed Jarko Nieminen in Stockholm 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

Don’t harp on Vika. Seriously. We kind of love this one, too. The half tennis racket slash harp look works well with the stone texture. And, luckily Victoria Azarenka is wearing a well-matching dark tone. It was a bright week for the world no. 3 in Luxembourg, where she took care of Monica Niculescu in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Vika opens her Istanbul campaign tomorrow against Sam Stosur.

Double the fun. Since the US Open, Janko Tipsarevic has nabbed two ATP titles. Before it zero? Ever. Tipsy beat Viktor Troicki in the first-ever all-Serb final in Moscow, 6-2 6-4. Must be his new bod, right?

Saving the first for last. Last but not least: Dominika Cibulkova got her first trophy smooch of her career in Moscow. The pesky Slovakian downed Lucie Safarova, 3-6 7-6 (1) 7-5. | TSF Vault: More trophies to watch

(images by Getty; Azarenka photo by Fern Konnen via the WTA)

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!

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

nike preview: vika's wimbledon kit

The normally flirty Set Point Knit Dress from Nike gets a classy transformation for Wimbledon, replacing the contrast collars and ruffled, tiered skirts with an empire waist and subtle ruching. Vika Azarenka will wear this for the fortnight; she’s the tournament’s fourth seed.

Buy: Nike Set Point Knit Dress, $80, Midwest Sports.

More pictures: See detail shots of the Set Point Knit Dress after the cut…