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Tenaciously Tennis


All-American Affair Hits Italian Open Doubles Final

There may not be any Americans in the top ten for the men or women, but at least there’s a strong US presence in doubles at the Italian Open this week. For the men, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish advanced to final with a huge upset over Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarterfinals. Meeting them in the championship match will be Sam Querrey and John Isn.

And who said US talent can’t play on clay? Step aside, Michael Chang.

What’s exciting about this marquee match-up is that it symbolizes the older wave of American talent taking on the young guns. Both Roddick and Fish have been in the top ten (with Fish actually replacing Roddick for a brief period before a recent slip in the rankings). Meanwhile, Querrey and Isner have the talent, but not the results quite yet when it counts most.

Therefore, it’ll be a fascinating display of tennis and a potential coming-of-age if the Querrey-Isner combo can overcome the favorites, Roddick and Fish.

My thoughts? It’s not quite their time yet. Roddick’s serve will match up well with Isner’s, so it should go into at least one tiebreak in this best-of-three format. I’ll give Fish the edge over Querrey on groundstrokes.

It’ll be a battle, but the older guys will prove to be just a little stronger in the end.

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American Tennis Analysis: Why Does Sam Querrey Keep Losing?

A loss at the Davis Cup last year, Beijing, Basel, Paris, and twice in Australia. Then, a straight sets defeat in California as the third seed.

These are all American number three Sam Querrey’s most recent first round defeats.

To paint an even clearer picture, the California native, 24, has won just two of his last 11 matches. If he wants to stay in the top 20 and one day take over from Andy Roddick, whose career can’t last forever, Sam needs to make a move. He needs to start winning again.

Despite matching his career-best showing at last year’s US Open by getting to the fourth round, and taking home four titles in 2010 on all the surfaces, Querrey’s had a tough time reclaiming the consistency needed to win. He’s proven he has the firepower and the belief in the past, but this needs to happen more regularly to make a move into the top 10.

30-year-old Mardy Fish, like Roddick, can’t hang on at this level much longer, despite holding the 16th spot. The younger Americans must step in and play big to claim their rightful spot as the next wave of American tennis talent. And with 23rd-ranked John Isner, another US hope, at 6’9, and with Querrey at 6’6, they certainly don’t lack the physicality necessary for success.

The rest is mental, and Querrey’s time to prove this strength starts now.

Serena Williams to Play Exhibition: Why Tennis Needs Her Now

Serena Williams needs to get better, quickly. Skipping out of the last couple majors with a foot injury sustained after her win at Wimbledon in July, it’s been long enough.

And not only for the purposes of her own career — Serena recently dropped out of the top ten for the first time in about four years –, but also to resuscitate the current state of American tennis. Andy Roddick didn’t do too hot at the Aussie Open, neither did Sam Querrey or John Isner on the men’s side. For the women, there’s sister Venus, who retired in the third round and is currently sidelined with injury after hurting her hip during her second round match against Sandra Zahlavova. US Open sensation Melanie Oudin continues to disappoint, too, with a first round loss at the Australian Open.

It’d be nice to get the WTA-dominating force that is Serena back on the big stages. Kim Clijsters pretty much owns that role now in unchallenged fashion. Remember, she dropped just one set at the Sunny Slam and that came in the final against Li. Justine Henin’s retirement also leaves more room for the Belgian to keep conquering competition.

But, apparently, things are starting to look up for the younger Williams sister as she’ll be (potentially) playing in March at a Nike exhibition with other big names Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. United States Fed Cup captain Mary Jo Fernandez also said Serena would be available to playing in a possible April tie. Given her track record, I wouldn’t count on it, although she’d needs to be around for two to play in the 2012 Olympics.

The real thing is: We need Serena at majors again. Sure, this year’s Australian Open was a feel-good story featuring the lovable mom Aussie Kim triumphing over Chinese sensation Li Na in a high-stakes, historic match. The whole tournament, however, wasn’t the same without Serena. Plus, who wants to keep a Grand Slam singles title count at an unlucky number 13?

Also, Serena’s absence is making mother Oracene antsy. She recently went Twitter-crazy, writing, “Will some one tweet me who is in the final on the women’s side?” and after getting the answer, “Thank you I hope Na is not to nervous to kick some butt,” among many other comments. Poor Oracene, she wouldn’t have to stoop to that level. If only she should could just enjoy her daughters’ success at majors.

Well, the drought continues, but let’s hope for not much longer. When March rolls around, let’s see an in-shape Serena on court, who’s back to stay.

Australian Open 2011 Predictions: ATP Tour

Note: Please see my most recent predictions for the ATP tour’s 2011 Australian Open here.

With just two days until the Australian Open begins, it’s time to predict the finalists with a bracket-by-bracket breakdown. Will a recently ailing Rafael Nadal overcome any physical woes to take his fourth straight major title? Maybe Roger Federer feels the need to get to his first Grand Slam final since his win Down Under last year. Then, there’s the rest of the tour aching for a title. Here goes the potential results of the year’s Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal’s Section:

As the top seed and winner of the 2008 Australian Open, Nadal has proven he can take the title once more, especially with the win at the US Open against Djokovic in September. Nadal has a relatively easy draw as his first match against a seeded player pits him against compatriot Feliciano Lopez, a man he owns in their career head-to-head. That is, if Lopez, who lost to Nadal in straight sets in the fourth round of the US Open, can even make it that far. He’s lost an astounding eight-of-ten matches, since losing to Nadal. Although the seventh-seeded David Ferrer looks formidable with a win over David Nalbandian in the Auckland finals, Nadal hasn’t lost to him since 2007.

The only foreseeable obstacle standing in the number one’s way, therefore, is Nadal’s own health. He lost in a lopsided affair to Nikolai Davydenko in the Doha semifinals, but came back to win the doubles title.

Ones to Watch: John Isner, who helped the United States win the Hopman Cup, could put together some wins to get to the fourth round. He’ll potentially meet Marin Cilic, last year’s semifinalist along the way. The tenth-seeded Youzhny also lurks in the bottom half. Lleyton Hewitt, who made it to the fourth round last year, also appears in the bottom half, but faces Nalbandian first.

Bottom Line: Nadal has a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Robin Soderling’s Section:

Fresh off a title, Soderling is a dangerous fourth-seed. Having never made it past the second round, there may be some doubts. That, however, should change with a pretty comfortable draw until he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a possible fourth round match.

At the bottom of the section, Murray, last year’s finalist cannot be discounted. He won his last three matches at the Hopman Cup. He’ll be in the fourth round, where he might meet a number of solid-looking players.

Ones to Watch: Besides Tsonga, things look clear for Soderling at the top of this section. Murray’s half, however, seems stronger with 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and the 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro back after a wrist injury both present. Jurgen Melzer, seeded eleventh, may also put up a strong effort as his semifinal appearance at last year’s French Open and subsequent fourth round finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open illustrated.

Bottom Line: Soderling and Murray should get to the quarterfinals. There, it’s tough to say who will win. Murray edges Soderling with a recent victory at Barclays in their 3-2 career head-to-head. They’ve never played at a major, however, so endurance will also play heavily into the match. In that case, I see Murray advancing to join Nadal.

Novak Djokovic’s Section:

Things get tougher here with a slew of talented players. Djokovic, however, shines through, having won his last five matches between the Hopman Cup and the Davis Cup at the end of last year. His trip to the US Open final against Nadal also proves relevant along with his lone major title at the Australian Open in 2008. His biggest challenges come against Sydney finalist and compatriot Viktor Troicki in the fourth round. Djokovic, however, probably won’t have a problem. He’s defeated Troicki six straight matches in their seven match head-to-head.

Ones to Watch: For sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, a cast of characters could prevent him from getting far in the draw, such as the American Ryan Harrison, the resurgent Richard Gasquet and Kei Nishikori, who now has Brad Gilbert on his team. Nikolai Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco also loom in potential fourth-round matches.

Bottom Line: Djokovic looks like a clear favorite into the fourth round. For Berdych, that’s not the case at all. I’ll go with Davydenko defeating Verdasco as he boasts a 7-1 head-to-head against the ninth-seed.

Roger Federer’s Section:

Federer, like Nadal, won’t have it too hard to get into the second week of the Sunny Slam. He’ll need to beat a number of Americans to do it, but that shouldn’t pose any threat. He owns Andy Roddick (21-2), Sam Querrey (2-0), and Mardy Fish (6-1) in their respective head-to-heads.

Ones to Watch: Gael Monfils and Chennai winner Stanislas Wawrinka also appear in Federer’s section.

Bottom Line: This is Federer’s chance to advance to the quarterfinals without dropping a set. Can Andy Roddick fight through, too?

In the Quarterfinals:

With these predictions, we’ll see Nadal facing Ferrer; Soderling against Murray; Davydenko against Djokovic; and Federer versus Roddick.

In the Semifinals:

Here, I see Nadal against Murray and Federer versus Djokovic to emerge as the final four.

US Open Predictions – ATP Tour

The US Open is finally upon us. The stage has been set, the qualifying is over, and the last major of the year is underway. Here’s my review of each section of the draw.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter:

This section of the draw is owned by one man: Rafael Nadal, the number one player in the world, and the winner of both the French Open and Wimbledon. He’s primed to take home his first US Open title on paper, but his US Open Series has been severely lacking, raising some questions about his most recent form on the hard courts. Regardless, this is a major tournament, and there’s no one that enjoys the grind more than Nadal.

The first real test for the Spaniard seems to be Ivan Ljubicic, but even that’s a stretch. I’m going for Nadal to get through to the quarterfinals in dominating fashion.

Other notables: Ryan Harrison, the young American qualifier, plays Ljubicic in the first round. Can he get the upset? Probably not.

Fernando Verdasco’s Quarter:

Verdasco and David Ferrer, both Spaniards, own this section of the draw. There is, however, a very dangerous 31st seed in the Argentinian David Nalbandian. Something about Ernests Gulbis, the 24th seed, is also enticing. I’ll pick Gulbis to face against Nalbandian for a spot in the quarters. In that match, I’m going with Nalbandian to find himself across the net from Nadal.

Other notables: None. I’ll just stress that Gulbis and Nalbandian are ones to watch.

Andy Murray’s Quarter:

With a strong US Open Series, including his win over both Nadal and Federer in Toronto, I like the looks of Murray going into this event. And his path doesn’t look to difficult until getting to the fourth round. There, I’m going with Sam Querrey to fight for the chance at the second week.

Murray, however, will win in three or four sets. He’s too masterful of a tactician to get shocked by Querrey’s power.

Other notables: Can the 14th seed Nicholas Almagro make any noise by defeating the home favorite Querrey in the third round?

Tomas Berdych’s Quarter:

The tennis world hasn’t heard too much from Berdych since his stunning run to the Wimbledon finals, where he was promptly dominated by Nadal. This section of the draw won’t make a repeat performance any easier. With Mikhail Youzhny, Xavier Malisse, and John Isner looming in the background, Berdych will need to prove he’s ready to continue his success at the majors. He made the semifinals at the French Open, too. Can he keep up the form when the pressure’s really on?

I’m going for the compelling match-up featuring Isner and Berdych. Although Isner’s health looks questionable, get injured in the last tournament he played, I’m looking for a good showing for the American giant. In the fourth round, however, Berdych stops the big guy without a problem.

Other notables: Youzhny could very well break my prediction with some inspired play against Isner in the third round. Watch out.

Nikolai Davydenko’s Quarter:

While this is called Davydenko’s section — he’s the sixth seed?! — it really belongs to Andy Roddick. Davydenko has been suffering recently with injury, and while Roddick isn’t doing too much better health-wise with his mono, he’s proven he’s on the fast track to recovery. I say it’s already a thing of the past.

Roddick shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to the fourth round. Gael Monfil had a lot of trouble in his first round match, barely getting by Robert Kendrick in the first round. I predict Roddick gets into the quarterfinals.

Other notables: The Frenchman Richard Gasquet may very well have the form to take out Davydenko early on. Even so, I’d say Roddick can dispatch Gasquet without too much trouble.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter:

This section also reads incredibly tough on paper. While Djokovic stands out as the heavy favorite to get through by seeding, one American, Mardy Fish, has been playing some incredible tennis recently. At the top of the quarter, the 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis is more fit than ever before. I call Fish advancing in a tight and dramatic four-setter against the Cypriot. The winner faces Djokovic without a doubt.

Other notables: Wild card James Blake and Robby Ginepri might become inspired by the home crowd. Both made the US Open quarterfinals a few years ago.

Robin Soderling’s Quarter:

Although Soderling, the 5th seed, looked shaky in the opening round, he gains confidence as the tournament progress. He’ll make the fourth round without dropping another set.

Marin Cilic finds good form — he looked good in practice when the qualifying tournament was going on — and doesn’t drop a set on his way to play Soderling. That is, unless one Japanese qualifer doesn’t get in his way (explained below) In the probably match Cilic-Soderling, however, Soderling prevails in five sets.

Other notables: Qualifier Kei Nishikori, who made the fourth round before injury set in, has looked sharp so far in his four matches. With a withdrawal after two sets in the first round, he’ll have the extra rest to do some damage. He may give Cilic a real test in the third round. In fact, I hope he does.

Roger Federer’s Quarter:

This section, of course, belongs to Federer. He’s gunning for his second major in a year and number 17 in total. After losing in two straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, he’s hungry for the win. With Paul Annacone as his full-time coach and his new, aggressive brand of tennis, he’s looking very, very good. Federer cruises into the quarterfinals in straight sets all the way.

Other notables: Jurgen Melzer and Lleyton Hewitt are promising, but there’s no way either can get past Federer in a major tournament.

The Quarters and Semis:

In the top half, Nadal defeats Nalbandian in four, while Andy Murray loses to Berdych in five sets. In the semis — a rematch of Wimbledon — Nadal dispatches Berdych, although this time in four sets.

In the bottom half, Roddick faces Djokovic, a player he’s beaten four times in a row. He continues the streak to make the semis. There, he faces Federer, the winner versus Soderling to avenge his quarterfinal defeat at Roland Garros. Federer beats Roddick in three.

Wozniacki Wins; Harrison Qualifies for US Open Main Draw

Caroline Wozniacki beat Elena Dementieva in the semifinals of the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven to make her third straight US Open Series final, winning the event as a result. In an exciting, drama-filled match, Wozniacki played just a little more consistently in the final few games to win in the deciding tiebreak. She advanced 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

After Dementieva looked to be in control of the final set with an early break, she served for the match at 5-4, but failed to convert. Wozniacki then held multiple match points at 6-5, but couldn’t win as Dementieva raised her game. In the end, Wozniacki lived up to her number two ranking in the world, showing she’s meant to be the US Open’s number one seed as well.

The Dane next faces Nadia Petrova, who shook off negativity and errors in the beginning of her match versus Maria Kirilenko to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. Petrova, ranked 19th in the world, is actually a wild card in the event after Ana Ivanovic declined it. Petrova entered last minute, and she’s probably very glad as this result is her first final all season.

I predict Wozniacki cruising to take the title for her third time. Petrova needed a lot to beat Kirilenko mentally, and she has a much tougher opponent in Wozniacki. Basically, Wozniacki plays Kirilenko’s game, but much better. Therefore, I see Petrova melting down a little as her shots miss and Wozniacki’s consistent, counter-punching style overwhelms.

At day four of the US Open Qualifying Tournament, American Ryan Harrison got into the main draw after defeating Ricardo Hocevar 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. This win shows a positive sign for the teenager’s young career and the future of the sport here in the US. Hopefully, he continues playing at this high level and gives it everything in the first round.

Other qualifying matches of note: Nicholas Mahut, who lost to John Isner in the longest match ever, is one step away from qualifying. He beat Uladzimir Ignatik 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Wild card Blake Strode lost, joining the 14th seed Ilija Bozoljac in defeat.

In the WTA event, Michelle Larcher de Brito dominated Anastasiya Yakimova 6-0, 6-0, and Sania Mirza qualified for the main event with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 win against Catalina Castano.

US Open Qualifying: Day One

I just got back from the first day of the US Open Qualifying tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. Although rain delayed play for a few hours, the tournament eventually commenced pitting former top players hampered by injury, rising young talents, and journeymen dedicated to the sport despite rankings hovering in the 200s, and more, against one another in the windy, rainy conditions.

A dog fight ensued, to say the least, and a lot of passion filled the New York City air — both on the court and off. Here’s what happened during my first day back at my favorite tournament of the season.

With the inclement weather, not too many fans showed up to see the inaugural action for the 2010 tournament. Those that did manage to get to the free event, however, embodied the die-hard fan, among a slew of officials, players, and media people.

You could feel the excitement in the air, the crowd’s energy was palpable. Almost everyone looked happy to be there, despite the annoying drizzle that hit the courts just enough to halt action. Personally, I’m always amazed by the energy, and the intensity around the grounds — the players fighting it out on court, players, trainers, vendors, and more rushing to courts, and other obligations, fans hurrying to get see matches, and other activities that fill the time in between.

After taking in the scene — and despite the rain — it was fun just taking it all in and people watching, eating a pretty good vegetarian crepe, and waiting for the rain to subside, workers took to the courts to start the process of drying. With squeegees and other equipment, matches resumed around 2pm.

The first match I watched presented one of the United States’ future hopefuls, Ryan Harrison against Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy of France. Harrison, currently ranked 219, looked sharp in his first round qualifying match. Despite a shaky season so far, the 18-year old played with a impressive variety from stinging slices, high topspin lobs, and wicked forehands that put the French journeymen on the defensive for most of the match.

Near the beginning of the first set, I looked to my left and saw none other than Sam Querrey, the fourth-ranked American after Andy Roddick, John Isner, and a recently resurgent Mardy Fish. The 22nd-ranked Querrey, who’s having a strong US Open Series leading up to the US Open, looked to be supporting the young American, which was refreshing to see.

Harrison, probably inspired by the New York City crowd that heavily on his side, and Querrey, closed out Dasnieres De Veigy 6-1, 6-4.

After taking in some of Katie O’Brien’s match against Lesya Tsurenko — she won in three sets — I got the chance to simultaneously view the end of Anna-Lena Groenefeld’s match against Rika Fujiwara and the start of Michelle Larcher de Brito’s versus Karolina Pliskova.

Groenefeld looked ready to close out the match easily in the second, she was up 4-0. Her serve, however, got shaky, while Fujiwara improved her play with compact swings and raw emotion. The former top 20 player Groenefeld, who’s now ranked 129 in the world, eventually regained her form with poise to close out the match 7-5, 6-3. Seeing Groenefeld brought me back a few years to watching her on television. It was the first tennis match I’d ever watched, and it was fitting I got the chance to see her again today after about six years of watching, playing, and writing about tennis.

In the other match, Larcher de Brito impressed from the start with powerful forehands and a Maria Sharapova-like intensity. After trading service breaks with Pliskova, Larcher de Brito grunted her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win. Near the end of the first set, however, I’d be remiss to forget mentioning another player-sighting — none other than crowd favorite Melanie Oudin, who wowed fans with her surprise quarterfinal run at last year’s event. I was star struck to say the least. Let’s see how Oudin handles the pressure at this year’s tournament with her less-than-stellar results at other events so far this season.

Other matches of note I caught bits and pieces of as the day of tennis continued included: American Bobby Reynolds’ win against Chris Guccione, Sloane Stephens’ victorious match over Anais Laurendon, and Kei Nishikori’s successful play after an elbow injury hampered most of the season versus Paul Capdeville.

Injury Timeout — How the Big Name Pros are Faring

The fourth major is almost upon us. And, fitting with the final few months of the season, players on the ATP and WTA tours feel the burn. For many, however, it’s not just a burn, but an injury, curbing their success on the tennis court. Here’s a partial list of who’s feeling the aches and pains preventing play, and who’s back trying to salvage the year.

  • After suffering a foot injury just after her Wimbledon win, Serena Williams has been sidelined for the US Open Series. It’s still inconclusive whether or not the 13-time Grand Slam champion will play in the US Open. My call: She does, but doesn’t have the match experience to win.
  • While her younger sister is out of action, Venus Williams has been doing schoolwork for her interior design classes. Oh, and she’s also missing from the tour with a nagging knee ailment. She skipped the tournaments in Cincinnati and Montreal to recover. Unlike her sister, she’s publicly committed to playing at the US Open. After losing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and then having not picked up a racket since then, Venus isn’t a favorite for the title.
  • Just as Maria Sharapova looked ready to crack into the top ten for the first time in a couple years, injury set in. This time, during the final of Cincinnati against Kim Clijsters. The Russian sustained pain in her heel, forcing her to go through the motions for the rest of the match. After holding match points, Sharapova lost in three. On her website, she wrote, “I felt some pain in my foot late in the second set which kind of scared me so I have been forced to pull out of Montreal. I am hoping I just need a few days of rest.” Here’s to that wish being realized! In my mind, she’s a big contender to win the US Open title if physically fit.
  • Dinara Safina isn’t having a good year at all. Currently ranked 70 in the world, the former top-ranked woman and three-time Grand Slam finalist has suffered from a back injury on and off for most of the season. Now, however, she’s won a couple matches in Canada. The question: Can she keep it going, both physically and mentally?
  • Justin Henin looked ready to punctuate her comeback  with a major title at some point this year. After diving for a ball against Clijsters at Wimbledon, however, she hurt her elbow, damaging ligaments. Since then, she’s been out recovering. Henin recently announced that she won’t play for the rest of the reason.
  • Ana Ivanovic’s health has been on and off for a while now. In Cincinnati, she made it all the way to the semifinals, before getting hurt once more. On her website, she wrote, “I had almost non-stop icing for two days, to prevent swelling. My ankle has reacted quite well to the treatment and I still hope to play in New Haven next week.” Hopefully, Ivanovic keeps up the high level of play that finally got her far in a tournament.
  • James Blake, now ranked outside the top 100, cites injuries as the main reason for his poor play. He recently lost to Denis Istomin in Cincinnati 6-3, 6-0. The American, however, will be playing in New Haven and the US Open in an attempt to get back on track.
  • John Isner is one of the latest big names to get hurt on tour. In the second round of Cincinatti, he retired against David Nalbandian with an ankle injury.
  • Although he probably won’t defend his US Open title, Juan Martin Del Potro’s wrist seems to be recovering well. Since his wrist injury at the beginning of the season, Del Potro hasn’t played on tour. It’s a shame the Argentine won’t make it back to his best major result. He’ll drop out of the top ten as a result, too.

No American Men in Top Ten — Why I’m Not Worried

With Andy Roddick’s recent loss  in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, there is no American man in the ATP’s top ten — a first since 1973. While Roddick may be suffering (physically or otherwise), I don’t believe American tennis is in trouble at all. In fact, there’s a lot of which to be proud.

Even Roddick isn’t doing too shabby — he’s simply hitting a rough patch right now, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back in the coming weeks. Plus, he just announced he’ll be out of the Rogers Cup due to illness. If he’s down enough to pull out of such a major North American event, there’s something serious going on. Roddick isn’t the type of guy to simply drop playing a tournament over a loss. Time’s too precious.

Back to the positive: John Isner and Sam Querrey are big threats hovering around the top 20 in the world. Right there, we have three Americans ranked in the top 20. Mardy Fish, too, has been playing some spectacular tennis claiming titles and being extremely fit. He’s playing the best in his career, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Robby Ginepri, not typically in the conversation, did well to make it to the fourth round at the French Open — the major that most Americans typically don’t fare well playing. That’s a big deal right there, and a welcome one.

Outside of singles, there’s doubles excellence: Bob and Mike Bryan just claimed their 62nd title to make history, while Fish teamed up with Mark Knowles to take home the trophy together at the Legg Mason tournament.

So, while there hasn’t been an American man hoisting a major title since Roddick’s US Open win in 2003 — an event that may not happen for some time — there are serious contenders poised for the spotlight. Will it be Isner? Querrey? Or a veteran making a surprise run to a big title? The US Open would be the place for it to happen.

I’m excited by these results the past few months on tour for US tennis, and I don’t think anyone should get too caught up in the rankings. These days, the field has great depth — especially in the men’s field — to linger on it too long, except, of course, if we’re talking about Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. That’s another matter entirely.

Vandeweghe Victorious Against Zvonareva

In an excellent upset for teenager Coco Vandeweghe, the American stunned the Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round of the Mercury Insurance Open to get to the quarterfinals. Until this point, Vandeweghe, currently ranked 205, has lost 13 of her 15 WTA matches. To make it to her match against Zvonareva, she won three qualifying matches.

This big win could very well be a career-changer. If Vandeweghe can continue to hold the belief and consistency that won her the match, she has a strong chance to be a top player in the future. While she lost in the quarterfinals against her next opponent, a player prone to choking, Svetlana Kuznetsova, things are looking up for the young American.

Kuznetsova beat Vandeweghe 7-5, 6-2 to get to the semifinals. It’s a strong result for the Russian, who barely got through her match against Sara Errani of Italy in the second round. After winning the first set easily, she slid through 6-1, 5-7 (5), 7-5.

Kuznetsova hasn’t had a good year until making the semifinals of this tournament. The two-time Grand Slam champion couldn’t perform in her attempt to defend her 2009 French Open title — she lost in the third round. At Wimbledon, the Russian succumbed in the second round, dropping her ranking outside the top twenty (she’s now ranked 21st). If she continues this mediocre track record at the majors, she’ll find her way outside the top 20 for the first time in seven years when the year-end rankings are announced. It’s a big slip, indeed.

While I haven’t seen Vandeweghe play since her match against Ekaterina Bychkova in the first round of US Open qualifying last year, I think the confidence from beating Zvonareva and holding her own against Kuznetsova will get her far in the match-up. Even if she doesn’t come out the victor, she should see a bump in the rankings and a good chance to win a few more matches before the US Open.

Zvonareva, known for her emotional outbursts, reportedly cried during her press conference after the match. She’s quoted: “I don’t think she surprised me. I’ve seen her play before. It’s more that I surprised myself. I started pretty good and then I just started playing stupid. I didn’t change anything, I just kept playing stupid.”

The semifinals of the event are as follows: Agnieszka Radwanska versus Daniela Hantuchova and Kuznetsova against Flavia Pennetta, who beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-3. I see Radwanska taking the title of the four — she’s the most consistent, and I believe the most mentally tough.

In other headlines:

  • John Isner lost to Xavier Malisse in Washington, joining Sam Querrey. Malisse defeated him 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5) in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
  • Joining these two in a big surprise upset: Andy Roddick, the tournament’s second seed. He lost in a lopsided 6-3, 6-3. Said Roddick of the match: “It was just a bad night. I don’t really have any defense for it. I didn’t feel right physically. I didn’t feel right mentally. I wish I had answers for you right now, but I just don’t. I promise you, I’m going to figure this out before I do that again.”
  • Both Lleyton Hewitt and Venus Williams pulled out of their next events. Hewitt will be out of the Toronto Masters with a calf strain, while Venus cited knee pain.
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