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Tenaciously Tennis


Former Semifinalist Zheng Out of 2011 Australian Open

Posted in Jie Zheng,Na Li by Ben on December 28, 2010

Photo: Sbsradio

After beginning 2010 with a bang by making it to the Australian Open semifinals, Jie Zheng won’t have that option this year. Due to a nagging wrist injury, she’ll be out of the year’s first major tournament.

Zheng hasn’t played a tournament since losing in the second round of the US Open.

“It’s a hard decision for me to make. But I believe there will be more Australian Opens for me to attend if I can regain my health,” she wrote on her Twitter profile page.

It’ll be sad for the world’s 26th-ranked player to be out of the tournament after so much success last year. Maybe Na Li, her compatriot who also made the 2010 semifinals, will fare well once more in Zheng’s absence.

For a nice tribute to Zheng and Li’s success last year, watch below.

For more on their results from last year, see this article.

Also, for CNN’s coverage of Zheng’s withdrawal, click here.

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US Open Predictions – WTA Tour

The action at the US Open has begun. Without Serena Williams and Justine Henin, the year’s final major looks open for the taking. Here are my thoughts on the tournament.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Quarter:

Wozniacki looks sharp as the number one seed. She’s won three US Open Series titles in a row, capturing the Pilot Pen Tournament just a few days ago. She won the Series and could very well dominate the competition on her way to a major title. But before we look that far ahead, Maria Sharapova looms in her future as a potential fourth round match.

In that set-up, I take Wozniacki’s consistency over Sharapova’s experience, drive, and power. Plus, Sharapova needed three sets in her first round win to advance. I say Wozniacki wins in three sets.

Other notables: Aravane Rezai, the 18th seed, is one to watch, possibly meeting Sharapova in the third round.

Na Li’s Quarter:

The highest seed in this section of the draw got knocked out early on. Therefore, the stage is set for Svetlana Kuznetsova to get to the quarterfinals. Maria Kirilenko, however, recently got the the semifinals at the Pilot Pen Tournament. Can she make another big move at a major, like this year’s Australian Open?

Other notables: Kateryna Bondarenko beat Li. Will her form continue against a tough Dominika Cibulkova in the next round? If so, a fourth round result might just be in the cards for her.

Jelena Jankovic’s Quarter:

Jankovic isn’t a threat for the title in my opinion. She’s coming off of injury and needed three sets to get to the second round. If the seeding stays true to form, she could very well lose to Yanina Wickmayer, the 15th seed, in the fourth round.

Other notables: Kaia Kanepi, the Wimbledon quarterfinalist, might make some noise against Jankovic in a possible third round match. Personal favorite and veteran Patty Schnyder gets a shout-out for her dominating 6-1, 6-3 win over Kirsten Flipkins in the first round.

Vera Zvonareva’s Quarter:

This is a tough section with Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska heading the field. Zvonareva, this year’s Wimbledon finalist, should get to the fourth round without a problem. I see her playing against Radwanska to decide the quarterfinal spot.

Radwanska wins that match in three, using finesse, tactics, and superb counter-punching consistency to get inside Zvonareva’s head.

Other notables: Nadia Petrova, the Pilot Pen Tennis finalist, already lost to Andrea Petkovic, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands should find strong support at her home major.

Francesca Schiavone’s Quarter:

In what I view as the hardest section of the field, the French Open winner won’t live up to expectations. Instead, I’m rooting for Melanie Oudin, last year’s fairytale story, to get to the fourth round. Against her could be either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sania Mirza, or Victoria Azarenka. The seeding says Azarenka, but I’ve been seeing great things from Pavlyuchenkova lately. Then again, Mirza’s back in action, and looked sharp in her qualifying matches and especially against Michelle Larcher de Brito in the first round.

Other notables: Can Alona Bondarenko find some surprise honeymoon success?

Venus Williams’ Section:

Okay, so the draw doesn’t get much easier in this section. Shahar Peer, Flavia Pennetta, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Venus are all contenders. I’ll take Venus to exact revenge over Pironkova, who beat her in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in straight sets during potential third round action.

The winner of that match could face Pennetta, although I’m a fan of Peer’s game.

Other notables: Can Pironkova bring the same amount of trickery against Venis this time around? Probably not.

Sam Stosur’s Quarter:

Elena Dementieva immediately comes to mind as the winner for this part of the draw. Stosur did well to get to the French Open final, but her form has suffered since then. Dementieva lost in a close match against Wozniacki and will bring that same drive and intensity in search of her first major title. She wants it badly. I’ll predict she advances in straight sets to the quarterfinals.

Other notables: I’m curious to see if Vania King can beat Daniela Hantuchova, who defeated an ailing Dinara Safina, in the second round. I hope King gets a lot of love from the New York City crowd.

Kim Clijsters’ Quarter:

Clijsters is likely to dominate this field. While Petra Kvitova plays a big, athletic game that got her all the way to the Wimbledon semifinals, she doesn’t have the experience to beat last year’s champion. Clijsters’ opponent for a spot in the quarters, however, is by no means locked. Ana Ivanovic, Marion Bartoli, and Jie Zheng are all big threats. Regardless, I’m not overly worried.

Other notables: Ivanovic versus Zheng should be an interesting match. Is the Serb ready for the top tier once more? I hope so. She looked promising in Cincinnati before withdrawing from injury against Clijsters in the semifinals.

The Quarters and Semis:

In the top half, Wozniacki beats Kuznetsova in two sets to make the semis. She’ll face the winner of Radwanska and Wickmayer. I like the chances of Wozniacki versus Radwanska. who takes out Zvonareva, in this semifinal section.

In the other matches, Azarenka loses to Venus, while Clijsters and Dementieva battle it out. Clijsters prevails in three sets.

The final four: Wozniacki against Radwanska, and Venus versus Clijsters.

Bryan Brothers Make History with 62nd Title; Davenports Wins

Bob and Mike Bryan joined Sam Querry in the winner’s circle at the Farmers Classic, rewriting history by collecting title number 62 and making it to their 100th career final. The twins took out American Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles to get one more title than the famous doubles champions and Hall of Famers, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia. The Bryans won the historic match 6-7 (8-6), 6-2, 10-7.

Joining the American success in California was Lindsay Davenport at Stanford, who teaming up with Liezel Huber, beat Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng in a close 7-5, 6-7 (8), 10-8 affair. The win was Davenport’s first doubles title since 2008, and her first tournament since the 2008 US Open, where she made it to the third round.

Davenport and Huber, who’s now ranked number one in doubles with the win, will play at this week’s second US Open Series WTA event in San Diego.

Querrey, Murray, Sharapova, and Azarenka Advance to Finals

Andy Murray and Sam Querrey will meet in the Farmers’ Classic final as the number one and two seeds, respectively. As for the WTA event in Stanford, Victoria Azarenka ousted Sam Stosur in two quick sets, while Maria Sharapova beat Agnieszka Radwanska in three.

Murray looked incredibly sharp in the first set against Lopez, closing the Spaniard out easily with a bagel (6-0). In the second set, however, Lopez brought his game up a few notches, winning 6-1. The third saw Murray get back on track to finish 6-4. Amid a switch in coaches and a late entry into the tournament, he’s looking great to get to the finals of the event. His opponent across the next seems to have luck on his side (along with a ton of skill and confidence going into the event).

Querrey came back from the edge of defeat once more against Janko Tipsarevic. After being unable to close out the first set in the tiebreak, Querrey evened the score in the second after the tiebreak went his way 7-6 (5). He fended off a 5-1 deficit to take the set, boosting his belief to take the third 6-4. With a ranking of 20, one spot shy of his career-best of 19, a home crowd advantage, and three titles in single to his name this year, everything’s going right for the American. It’ll be a battle out there, and I see the upset occurring with Querrey defeating Murray in three tight sets.

For the WTA tour, Azarenka looked back to top form in her 6-2, 6-3 domination of Stosur, a player she hasn’t had trouble with in the past. Stosur, however, is a different player these days with her excellent French Open. For Azarenka to push that confidence aside and player her game means she’s ready to take on anyone once again.

Regardless, her opponent, Sharapova, might just have the answer. After a three-set battle against Elena Dementieva in the quarterfinals, it looked like she might have an easier time against Radwanska. That wasn’t the case at all. With a beautiful display of finesse, spins, angles, and penetrating groundstrokes, Radwanksa kept Sharapova from getting a rhythm in the first set. In the second, Sharapova got focused winning almost all of the points on her serve. In the end, her mental toughness and desire to win got her the match. Sharapova prevailed 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Also noteworthy, Lindsay Davenport and Liezel Huber made it to the doubles finals after their semifinal opponents retired. As wild cards, they’ll face the second-seeded Chinese pair of Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng.

WTA Tour Heats Up in Stanford and Istanbul

Things are getting intense for the WTA tour in two very different parts of the world — California and Istanbul. At the Stanford tournament, winners included: a struggling Ana Ivanovic, who looked good as she sailed through to the second round, Maria Sharapova in a tough first match against Jie Zheng, defending champion Marion Bartoli, Shahar Peer, and Maria Kirilenko. In Istanbul, Wimbledon semifinalists Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova met with mixed results as the former won her match and the later continued to struggle. A lot of other headlines graced the tournaments’ action — let’s look at the results.

The seeding is holding relatively true to form so far in Stanford. That is, except for unseeded Dinara Safina’s bleak second straight loss to the veteran Kimiko Date Krumm. Safina, who’s suffering from back injuries and low confidence, lost to Date Krumm at the French Open in the first round. At Stanford, she fell in another three set affair: 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. Things aren’t going well for the former world number one and three-time Grand Slam finalist. She needs to sit out for the rest of the year in my opinion and heal once and for all, instead of coming back prematurely and falling against players she has the skill to beat.

At the same time, for Date Krumm to win consecutively against Safina means she’s doing well in her comeback, even if Safina isn’t in top form. We’ll see if she can do some more damage in her section of the draw as the tournament unfolds.

In Istanbul, the French Open winner Francesca Schiavone advanced in straight sets. After a hugely disappointing Wimbledon — Schiavone lost in the first round — we’ll see if she’s done celebrating, and ready to prove she has more big titles in her future. The win is in the right direction.

Kvitova, on the other hand, lost in the first round again. This time to Anastasija Sevastova, the Latvian player, who won her first title this year at the Estoril Open. It’ll be interesting to follow how Kvitova recovers from this post-Wimbledon slump, and to see if Sevastova picks up her talent during the US Open series, something we got a glimpse of a few months ago.

In other news, Patty Schnyder, who had a great clay run weeks ago, including getting to the finals at Budapest and the semifinals at the EMC Prague Open, lost in straight sets to Johanna Larsson. Meanwhile, Pironkova, the sound tactician that ousted Venus Williams at Wimbledon, beat Tatjana Malek 7-6 (4), 6-2 to get to the round of 16.

Kvitova Loses; Ivanovic Forced to Play Qualifying

In her first match since an unexpected run to the semifinals at Wimbledon, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic lost against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 7-5, 6-2 at the Slovenia Open.

Kvitova, the tournament’s second seed behind Jelena Jankovic, should have easily won against the 98th player in the world. Instead, she succumbed to mental pressure, which isn’t a good sign after the career-changing result. An interesting fact, Kvitova — now a career-high rank of 30 — is just two days younger than Voegele. The only time the two 20-year-olds met was at Stuttgart in 2007. Kvitova won that match in three sets.

Kvitova beat a string of seeded players to get to the semifinal match against Serena Williams. Players that fell due to Kvitova’s powerful athleticism and blistering serve included: Jie Zheng, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki.

Hopefully, we aren’t seeing the (Melanie) Oudin-effect — where a string of wins against high-profile players at a major is followed up by paltry results for a stretch until confidence is regained. I don’t think this is the case. In fact, I’m not sure if even Oudin deserves such a poor reputation just yet. I believe Kvitova (and Oudin) have the ability to go strong at the US Open Series. If these two can get their heads back in the game, the US Open is wide open, especially with Serena’s injury, which might keep her from the year’s final major.

Just as Kvitova seems poised to be a player going places, 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic is sinking to a new low. The once high-profile glamor girl from Serbia now must play the qualifying tournament at the Montreal tournament with her ranking of 63 in the world. I can’t say I blame the tournament directors for denying Ivanovic the wild card, and giving it to Canada’s Stephanie Dubois.

Ivanovic only made it to the second round at the French Open and the first round at Wimbledon. At other events, she’s barely won two matches in a row. Something needs to start clicking for Ivanovic, quickly. Otherwise, she might just end up as another Nicole Vaidisova — a player with big promise that retires years too early.

Unseeded Kvitova Secures Big Win Over Azarenka

The twenty year old Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic has advanced over the Belarussian Victoria Azarenka in compelling fashion, winning 7-5, 6-0. Her year, which has been otherwise unspectacular, has taken a huge turn with the win. Kvitova is now in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the third time in her career. Her other best Grand Slam results include the fourth round at the French Open in 2008 and at the US Open in 2009.

With one career title to her name already, and these compelling results at the majors, I see Kvitova making a big run in the near future. She’s already taken out Jie Zheng of China, a player seeded 23rd and well known for the fantastic run to the Australian Open semifinals this year. Up next, she plays Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 7-5, 6-4, another up and coming young star.

In the fourth round match, I think Wozniacki’s defensive game and experience will prove a little too much for Kvitova. I see the number three seed edging out Kvitova in a tight third set.

As for Azarenka’s loss, it was a good effort as she’s been having a difficult year with injuries. Her play is improving, which is a great sign. I think she’ll be completley back in action for the US Open; don’t expect a loss before the second week.

Also posting wins include Serena Williams over Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska over Sara Errani, and Na Li over Anastasia Rodionova.

In doubles, the third-seeded team of Nadia Petrova and Sam Stosur beat Svetlana Kuznetsova and Aravane Rezai. Vania King of the US and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated the 14th seed of Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer to make it to the sweet 16.

Day Three Results Rundown

Day three proved to be filled with upsets and sharp play from the top tier of the current tennis all-stars. Here’s a brief summary of noteworthy results.

The WTA:

  • Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Sharapova all record easy victories in their first round matches.
  • Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka advance with their 6-3, 6-3 wins. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova only needs one more again to beat Iveta Benesova.
  • French Open finalist Sam Stosur joins Francesca Schiavone in defeat after straight sets loss to Kaia Kanepi.
  • Na Li and Jie Zheng make it to round two in straight sets.
  • Petra Kvitova, a player I have my eye on, takes out Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2.
  • American Vania King set to play decisive match against Daniela Hantuchova tomorrow.
  • Serena and Venus Williams team up to continue their doubles major title string up success. They’re shooting for five in a row.

The ATP:

  • Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Sam Querrey, and Robin Soderling advance in three sets.
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga comes back strong in first match after retiring at the French Open.
  • Seeds Nicholas Almagro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marcos Baghdatis fall, while unseeded American James Blake continues to struggle. Fabio Fognini upset Fernando Verdasco, too.
  • John Isner’s match is held at two sets apiece against Nicholas Mahut.

Wimbledon Predictions – The WTA Tour

Should I even be looking at anyone besides the Williams sisters given their track record at Wimbledon? Probably not. But, then again, anything can happen, and it’s always fun tracking the draws of a Grand Slam. There’s a strong showing this year with the Belgians back, others making big moves, a certain Russian looking good, and a slew of other players vying for the breakthrough feeling Francesca Schiavone captured at the French Open. So, without further ado, here are my predictions.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Serena Williams (1), Dominika Cibulkova, Lucie Safarova (25), Daniela Hantuchova (24), Maria Sharapova (16), Na Li (9), Anne Keothavong, Svetlana Kuznetsova (19), Sara Errani (32), Agnieszka Radwanska (7)

This section of the draw belongs to the younger Williams sister and Sharapova. With Michelle Larcher de Brito along the way, Serena faces a loud opponent, but should dismantle her easily. In the fourth round, the decibels will drop, but the competition will get much fiercer with Sharapova in her future. I see that match being an excellent display of tennis. It’s too bad it’ll need to come so soon. Of the two, I’m going with Serena to win in three sets. Sharapova brings the intensity and the grass court experience from the pre-Wimbledon warm-up, but Serena’s healthier, and she has the career edge with a 5-2 record against the Russian. In fact, the only times Sharapova prevailed over Serena was during her momentous 2004 Wimbledon final win and in the tour championships later that year. Fast forward a few years, and it’s a completely different setting. On the bottom half, I see Radwanska making it to the fourth round, where she’s likely to face Na Li of China. There, Li’s recent win over Sharapova will show itself, and she’ll make it to the quarterfinals to face Serena.

The Final Four: Serena plays and beats Sharapova, while Radwanska loses to Li in two lopsided sets.

The Second Quarter:

Notables – Caroline Wozniacki (3), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29), Jie Zheng (23), Sorana Cirstea, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka (14), Flavia Pennetta (10), Aravane Rezai (18), Alexandra Dulgheru (31), Kimiko Date Krumm, Sam Stosur (6)

This is a difficult part of the draw. So many strong players appeal to the avid tennis fan that I can hardly make a decision. Going based on the seeding might not work. Therefore, I’m going to go with my gut. Wozniacki should make it to the third round, where I suspect she’ll meet Pavlyuchenkova. I think the Russian will put up a stronger fight than in the past, despite her poor record against Wozniacki. She’s lost each of their three meetings. Regardless, I see the Dane advancing. In the fourth round an even tougher test awaits her with the feisty Azarenka back on track. Although she lost to Makarova last week, I don’t see her being stopped by Wozniacki. She’ll win in three sets to make it to the quarterfinals, proving she belongs back in the top ten. I’m also seeing something interesting happening with Cirstea and Kvitova, whichever one passes their first round battle. In the bottom half, I like Rezai and Sam Stosur to advance to the fourth round. Sam’s experience should pay off, although her loss at the French might still be effecting her. I put Rezai as wanting it a little more than Stosur.

The Final Four: Azarenka surprises Wozniacki, and Rezai tops Stosur in three sets (although that’s a serious question mark).

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Kim Clijsters (8), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Kirlenko (27), Justine Henin (17), Patty Schnyder, Nadia Petrova (12), Yanina Wickmayer (15), Vera Zvonareva (21), Alyona Bondarenko (28), Jelena Jankovic (4)

The battle of the Belgians is bound to take place in the fourth round. There, I put Henin a notch above Clijsters, who was out of the French Open with injury. Henin wants it more — this is the reason she’s back, and she will go down fighting her hardest. Along the way, she needs to watch out for Petrova (unless Schnyder takes her out first, which I really hope will happen!). In the bottom section, I’m betting that Alison Riske of the United States continues her exceptional streak at Wimbledon. If she can take out Wickmayer in the first round, I see her fighting her way in a string of three set wins to the fourth round, where’ll probably meet up with Jankovic. At that point, she’s likely to be too tired out and mentally fatigued for the experienced Serb, who by the way won’t have problem making it there with a pretty open draw as it stands.

The Final Four: Henin dismisses her compatriot Clijsters in three sets. In the bottom half, Riske (who I hope can take out Wickmayer) reaches the fourth round before falling to Jankovic in another serious showdown that goes the length.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Francesca Schiavone (5), Yaroslava Schvedova (30), Kateryna Bondarenko (34), Marion Bartoli (11), Shahar Peer (13), Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Melanie Oudin (33), Alisa Kleybanova (26), Ekaterina Makarova, Venus Williams (2).

I like this section a lot. There’s a lot of potential for a strong showing by a few surprises, although ultimately there’s no picking against Venus to make the quarterfinals. The top section is a much easier pick. I don’t see Schiavone channeling the champion spirit that won her a Grand Slam. I do see her making the fourth round, where she’ll face Bartoli. Remember her? She made it to the Wimbledon final a few years ago (although it really feels like decades. I have a feeling we’ll see a quarterfinal rematch with Bartoli losing to Venus eventually. In the bottom section, Ivanovic is likely to fall to the Israeli peer in the first round. Another disappointment for the former world number one. Hopefully, Oudin gets her game back to take out Peer in the third round. If so, she’ll no doubt meet Venus. However, the older Williams sister will face a tough challenge in Makarova, the winner over Azarenka a few days ago.

The Final Four: Schiavone falls to Bartoli in two sets, while Venus ousts Oudin.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Sharapova screeches to a halt against Serena in three. Serena sends off Li in two sets.
  • Azarenka raises her game to defeat Rezai in two sets.
  • Henin handles Jankovic easily in the hopes of finally realizing her dream to hold the Wimbledon trophy up high.
  • Venus comes away with another win against Bartoli.

In the semifinals, Serena beats Azarenka in a repeat of the Australian open semifinal, although much quicker this time. In the bottom half, I’m having difficulty deciding between Venus and Henin. Both want to make it so badly. I think Venus’ experience will pay off, and she’ll stop Henin in three close sets to prevent deja vu of this year’s Australian Open final.

As for the men, I’m waiting on predicting the champion of the event until I feel strongly one way or the other.

Click here to look at the complete women’s draw.

Sharapova Surprised by Zheng; Federer Through in Three

Another blackhorse pick to win Indian Wells is out. This time, the number ten seed, Maria Sharapova, fell in three sets to the number eighteen seed and Australian Open semifinalist, Jie Zheng of China. Although it looked like Sharapova’s confidence would be enough to make a real run for the trophy, Zheng’s powerful groundstrokes proved too much. Sharapova lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

With Sharapova gone, Zheng should surely make it to the quarterfinals, where she’ll potentially meet the third seed, Caroline Wozniacki, who will soon meet Maria Kirilenko in the round of 32. Should Wozniacki pull through, and make it to a match with Zheng in the quarters, I pick Wozniacki to win in three.

On the ATP tour, Roger Federer had a scare in his match against Victor Hanescu, needing three sets to advance. Federer won 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1. The win shows that while he’s a little rusty, Federer’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, playing a three set match is good for Federer in that he got the challenge and game play necessary to succeed as the tournament continues. His next opponents to watch out for? Marcos Baghdatis in a third round re-match of the 2006 Australian Open final and, potentially, Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. I see both opponents putting up strong fights against the Swiss champion to no avail.

Other develoments of note: American James Blake defeated the thirteenth seed, David Ferrer and Nikolai Davydenko withdrew from the tournament with a broken wrist.

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