mishit: mattek-sands and allaster ring nyse bell

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Stacey Allaster ring NYSE bell 2013

 

Purple, like the logo: Not sure if Bethanie Mattek-Sands is the WTAer I’dve taken with me to the NYSE to ring the opening bell, Ms. Allaster. Is this the image we want to project to the world about who is playing tennis these days? I guess we can mix things up, seeing that Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka got a chance to thank SAP when that data partnership was announced in Cincinnati (Western & Southern Open).

(image via)

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.

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!

sunday survey: who's your lady?

All roads have led to Istanbul. Or flights, that is. The WTA‘s season will (mostly) wrap up this week in Istanbul, Turkey, with the WTA Championships (some women will compete in the Championships 2.0 event next week in Bali). But after Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli pulled out of Moscow last week the eight-woman field was set, ending the run-off between herself and Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska joins Caroline Wozniaki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka (fresh off a title in Luxembourg), Li Na, Vera Zvonareva and Sam Stosur for the round-robin format. Play begins on Tuesday.

But we’re curious: Who is your pick to win the title this year in Istanbul? Vote below.

(getty images photo)

sorana straps on her dancing shoes

The Sorana two-step? No, we’re not huge fans of the ill-advised headband that Sorana Cirstea is rocking in the latest Xperia Hot Shots video, but once we got past that, we were completely digging the latest video installment from the behind-the-scenes series. Rosero McCoy, a choreographer most recently known for his work on America’s Best Dance Crew teaches the Romanian a few moves of her own in a two-part video sequence. The next vid, yet to be released, will feature Sorana in a Katy Perry-inspired get up with a crew of back-up dancers strutting her stuff. But does she have the (dance) game? “Tennis, it’s easier, to be honest,” Sorana says during rehearsal at one point. Bring your A-game, SC!

TSF Vault: Our one-on-one interview with Sorana (2009)

sabine gets the giggles (and throws a frisbee)

Creative juices, please. The WTA is doing something different with new-found star Sabine Lisicki. And we sort of love it. Sure, Sabine isn’t new to most insider tennis fans, but her semifinal appearance at Wimbledon has vaulted her into quite the public eye in tennis terms, and also has inched her ahead of the blossoming talents of Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges, who — among the three of them — are trying to bring somewhat of a women’s tennis renaissance to Germany post the Steffi Graf (and Anke Huber?!) era.

So, what are they doing exactly? The tour has teamed up with Lisicki this week in the beautiful Bay Area at the Bank of the West Classic, asking tennis fans to submit creative, quirky, fun, off-beat ideas for a tennis video that features none other than Miss Lisicki herself.  Have an idea? Post it on the WTA’s YouTube page and watch to see if they take you up on your creative juices…

Here at TSF we’re still brainstorming. But something involving Lisicki, a frisbee, the Stanford swim team and a Gladiators-like course just won’t leave our thinking space…

More: Lisicki on TSF | Stanford draw

sorana and bethanie: paintball warriors

Great shot! The WTA has found the perfect mix between its “Strong is Beautiful” campaign and the ATP‘s creative sportraits for the year-end championships. It’s paintball. Yep, paintball! Here Sorana Cirstea and Bethanie Mattek-Sands take out some London frustration on two willing fellas in a back alley. Sure, there are a couple close ups we could do without, but the paint and music and fun of it makes it a great watch. The targets are Matthew Pritchard and Lee Dainton, two parts of a British comedy group (think of the Jackass boys) known as Dirty Sanchez. And yes, they get a little dirty here, too.

(WTA video)