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Tenaciously Tennis


Predictions for Wozniacki Versus Dementieva

While I haven’t been following too much of the tennis post-US Open, the Pacific Pan Open has had a lot of great tennis and compelling stories in the past few days.

There’s Maria Sharapova’s early exit, the strong showing by the now 40-year old Kimiko Date Krumm, Coco Vandeweghe’s trip to the quarters, and more. It’s nice to see the mix of familiar faces and newcomers making a push towards success as the season comes to a close.

At the end of the day, however, two of the top women have advanced to the finals: Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two, who is poised to take the number one ranking from Serena Williams, and Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed.

Both overcame tough opponents in the semifinals to grab their spots in the final. For Wozniacki, it was a real test from Victoria Azarenka. She needed three sets to advance, eventually closing out the feisty Belorussian 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4. At the same time, I could see the fight being a real positive for Wozniacki, who only played five games in her win over Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska retired with a left foot injury after trailing in that first set.

For Dementieva, US Open and Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva and French Open champion Francesca Schiavone stood in her way. Like the veteran and champion that she is in her own right, Dementieva won both matches with poise, experience, and the brand of shot-making that seems so capable of winning her a major title. Regardless of her disappointing inability to win  a major, she advanced in both rounds in straight sets, defeating Zvonareva 7-5, 6-2, and Schiavone 6-4 7-5.

Given the last two rounds, their results so far this year, and their match history, this is a truly compelling final. Both have played a somewhat even amount of tennis in the quarters and semis. Fitness won’t really be a factor, although Dementieva’s arguable playing stronger tennis given her easy advances.

On the other hand, pressure could very well be a factor: Wozniacki needs to win this event and reach the quarters in Beijing next week to secure the world’s top ranking. She would also walk home from the event with her sixth title of the year.

The head-to-head record of Wozniacki and Dementieva is also noteworthy: It’s currently locked at 3-all. In this regard, I give Wozniacki the edge as she won the last meeting, during a high-energy and high-drama semifinal match at New Haven. In the final tournament of the US Open Series, Wozniacki prevailed in three sets, winning 1-6 6-3 7-6 (5).

I’m going with Dementieva to pull-off the upset and win the tournament. She’s on a roll, the pressure’s on Wozniacki, and I don’t think there will be much to stop the Russian from exacting revenge after a disappointing loss in New Haven.

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Sharapova Wins in Singles; Davenport Advances in Doubles

Maria Sharapova beat Olga Govortsova in straight sets to get to the final 8 at Stanford. Lindsay Davenport paired with Liezel Huber to win, too. Here’s a brief recap of what happened today at the WTA tour even in California, a part of the US Open Series.

In Stanford:

  • Sharapova wins in a  6-3, 6-3  match over the 43rd-ranked Govortsova. Compatriot Elena Dementieva looked shaky against Dinara Safina’s slayer, Kimiko Date Krumm. Dementieva beat the veteran in three sets: 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Date Krumm played a great tournament  by ousting the former top women’s player Safina. She followed up the act with this impressive play, meaning she’s still a real threat these days — even at 39.
  • Ana Ivanovic, who showed signs of life by winning a match, lost to Marion Bartoli in two sets. Yes, Bartoli is a strong player, known for her two-handed strokes on both sides and run to the Wimbledon semifinals. The loss, however, just shows Ivanovic isn’t even close to being back to the level that won her a Grand Slam title a couple years ago. She has a long way to go before any titles — at any stage — go her way.
  • Sixth-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel fell to Maria Kirilenko, who made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, 6-4, 6-3. Is Kirilenko ready for another surprise run? She proved earlier this year she has the skill and belief to make it happen.
  • Victoria Azarenka beat the fan favorite Melanie Oudin 6-3, 6-1 to get to the quarterfinals. Oudin, entered in the doubles event with Michaella Krajicek, lost to Davenport and Huber. The pair, playing together for the first time, were defeated 6-4, 6-2.

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.

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.

Henin and Nadal Begin with a Bang

Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal, my two picks to win the event, began their French Open campaigns with strong showings. Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova (try saying that ten times fast), 6-4, 6-3, while Nadal took out Gianni Mina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. There easy wins portray two players confident on the red dirt, and it will be interesting to see how these two stories develop over the next two weeks.

And, yes, they will both last for all of the two weeks. Henin, despite winning a title in Stuttgart, did not come back to the WTA tour after her retirement simply to win a title in Stuttgart. She’s hungry for much, much more. And while her draw is far from easy (one could make a strong case that it’s the worst in the draw with potential meetings against Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, and Serena Williams before the finals), she knows how to succeed at Roland Garros. Nadal no doubt feels quite the same. He needs to prove that not only is he back in the swing of things, he can swing his way to another Grand Slam title. There’s no reason why these dreams cannot become a reality soon enough.

Besides these two, the Americans were in action today, with wins posted by Andy Roddick in a five-set thriller, Robby Ginepri, who upset compatriot Sam Querrey, veteran Jill Craybas, and Betthanie Mattek-Sands, the winner over another American, Vania King.

While it will be difficult for any of them to make a real run for the title, it’s nice to see each fighting through themselves and making the effort to win on the surface on which Americans are notoriously poor players. Who knows what can happen, really.

Other matches of note: Sharapova won in straight sets and Kimiko Date Krumm (one of, if not, the tournament’s oldest player at age 39) took out last year’s finalist, Dinara Safina in the biggest upset so far.

What a day! And the tournament has only just begun.


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