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Tenaciously Tennis


2011 French Open Predictions: WTA Tour

With the first matches of the 2011 French Open underway, here are some last minute predictions on who will hoist the title with a number of key players, including Serena and Venus Williams, out with injury. Maria Sharapova looks confident as ever, breaking back into the top ten. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki’s consistency might just prove enough to win her a title in the weakened field. Last year’s winner Francesca Schiavone also has a chance, although she faces a tough first round against the American sweetheart, Melanie Oudin.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Section: This tough first section features a lot of talented players, many of whom have seen a recent drop in the rankings. As typical of her game, Wozniacki has proven tremendously solid in her last few clay tournaments, winning in Brussels and Charleston. She’ll take that same consistency to Roland Garros, and hopefully make that next leap by getting to her second Grand Slam final. At least, it seems highly likely that she can break past last year’s finalist Sam Stosur this year, for a spot beyond the quarters. Quite notably, Stosur had a strong clay season, making it to the finals against Sharapova in Rome before falling to the Russian in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

Ones to Watch: Again, this top section is laden with a multitude of talent, including Daniela Hantuchova, Shahar Peer, Aravane Rezai, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Julia Goerges, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Marion Bartoli. I’ll go with Kuznetsova to make a strong showing from these players.

Bottom Line: This is Wozniacki’s tournament to win on the women’s side. She’s proven she has the capability, it’s just a matter of translation to the Grand Slams at this point, especially when the field is relatively wide open. The bottom section of the draw, however, is very heavy, trying to prevent her from hoisting that maiden title.

Vera Zvonareva’s Section: Here’s another heavy section of the draw, featuring last year’s surprise champion, Schiavone. After a strong stretch on clay, however, the no. 3 seed Zvonareva hasn’t been looking as sharp on the clay court circuit thus far. It looks like Schiavone might have the chance to put together some of last year’s confidence to produce the magical, fairytale story that won her a first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. In the end, however, I’m going against her from winning again.

Ones to Watch: Another heavy part of the draw, this section holds players, including Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, Alize Cornet, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Jelena Jankovic, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Flavia Pennetta, Peng Shuai, and Melanie Oudin (who gets Schiavone first). Of these names, Jankovic, who made the semifinals last year before falling to Stosur 6-1, 6-2, stands out most. Look for her to make the upset against Schiavone in the fourth round.

Bottom Line: Zvonareva battles through her section and the tough Pavlyuchenkova. There she’ll meet Jankovic in the quarterfinals (the winner over 2010 champion Schiavone).

Victoria Azarenka’s Section: The number four player in the world looks poised to go deep at this year’s French Open, having dropped her first round match against Gisela Dulko last year. Her biggest competition comes with Australian Open finalist Na Li and Serbia’s resurgent Ana Ivanovic.

Ones to Watch: Ivanovic, the champion in 2008, obviously has the talent to win on the biggest courts. As of late, however, she seems to have returned to a slump in play, falling early in Rome and Madrid. As the no. 20 seed, however, look for her to find some of her form to get a match against Azarenka in the fourth round. Petra Kvitova, the no. 9 seed, also looks ready to roll in this section, potentially defeating Li to do much better than last year’s disappointing first round loss. Additionally, Kvitova’s fresh off a win in Madrid against Azarenka, beating the Belarussian, 7-6(3), 6-4 and also making the final in Prague more recently. Also, props to American Sloane Stephens for battling her way through to the qualifying. A personal favorite, she meets up with Elena Baltacha first.

Bottom Line: Azarenka advances to the quarterfinals over Ivanovic, meeting Kvitova (the winner over Li).

Kim Clijsters’ Section: Since winning the Australian Open, Clijsters hasn’t played much tennis. Meanwhile, Sharapova has just the opposite experience, claiming her biggest career title since succumbing to a shoulder injury in 2008 with a title in Rome over Stosur. Look for Sharapova to defeat Clijsters, who may lose earlier due to her ankle injury, in the quarterfinals.

Ones to Watch: But before we go claiming a Sharapova victory, it’s important to note the wide range in talent that appears in this section of the draw. Players of particular note include: Yanina Wickmayer, Sania Mirza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Andrea Petkovic, Jarmila Gajdosova, Bojana Jovanovski, and Maria Kirilenko. Look for Wickmayer to give Sharapova trouble, while Petkovic has the potential to defeat the injured Clijsters.

Bottom Line: Sharapova keeps stringing the wins together on clay to defeat Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals: Given the above predictions, we’ll see Wozniacki take on Stosur; Zvonareva against Jankovic; Kvitova versus Azarenka; and Sharapova versus Clijsters.

In the Semifinals: Look for Wozniacki to defeat Stosur; Jankovic to beat Zvonareva; Azarenka to win against Kvitova; and Sharapova to defeat Clijsters.

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Australian Open 2011 Predictions: WTA Tour

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

Serena Williams is out of her second consecutive major, and that means only one thing: the draw opens up substantially. Who can rise to the occasion with the favorite out of the mix? Will it be Kim Clijsters, who comes fresh off wins at the US Open and the year-ending championships, and has done well so far in 2011? There’s also Caroline Wozniaki trying to prove her number one ranking by her maiden Grand Slam title. Last year’s finalist Justine Henin must be mentioned, while Venus Williams plays after a knee injury kept her off tour. The Australian Open this year is bound for some surprises. Here’s a breakdown of the brackets.

Caroline Wozniacki’s Section:

The top seed should make it to the fourth round with Wozniacki’s toughest competition being Dominika Cibulkova. The 29th-seed recently scored a straight sets win over the Dane in Sydney. In the bottom of that portion of the draw, Yanina Wickmayer could very well defeat Marion Bartoli with confidence inspired by her finals showing in Auckland. Bartoli, however, does enjoy a 2-0 head-to-head record over Wickmayer.

In the bottom half, last year’s finalist Henin looms as the 15th-seed with Svetlana Kuznetsova as a potential third round match. The reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone also looks promising to advance. Henin, however, has won seven of eight matches against the Italian.

Ones-to-Watch: Australian Jarmila Groth recently won the Hobart tournament and may pose trouble for Wickmayer in the first round. The two met only once in 2009 with Wickmayer pulling through in three sets. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Wimbledon semifinalist, who has been struggling since the result, also appear in Wozniacki’s bracket.

Bottom Line: Wozniacki has some tough tests, but I believe she’ll advance to the quarterfinals over Wickmayer. Henin shouldn’t have a problem against Schiavone.

Venus Williams’ Section:

Here’s home to the fourth-seed, Venus, who faces a couple tests before the fourth round. In the third round, Andrea Petkovic could push her. The two have never met, and Petkovic looks confident with a recent string of wins in Brisbane. In the fourth round, however, Venus potentially meets Maria Sharapova. The head-to-head makes the Russian’s  possible success slim as Venus leads 5-3 in their head-to-head. She’s also won the last three matches in straight sets.

It’ll be a toss-up between 2010 semifinalist Na Li and the ever spirited Victoria Azarenka in their probable fourth round match.

Ones-to-Watch: The other seeded players, Kaia Kanepi (no. 20), Aravane Rezai (no. 17) and Daniela Hantuchova (no. 28) also appear here.

Bottom Line: Venus will likely defeat Sharapova, while Li can take out Azarenka in a battle.

Kim Clijsters’ Section:

Possibly the most open part of the draw belongs to Clijsters, where she’ll no doubt benefit. Competition comes in the form of Nadia Petrova and Ana Ivanovic. Clijsters, however, should get through to the quarterfinals unless Ivanovic can out-perform her in the fourth round. It’ll be an interesting match between Clijsters and Dinara Safina in the first round.

With a struggling Jelena Jankovic as the seventh-seed (she’s lost eight of her last matches, including six straight) at the top, the section looks perfect for an up-and-comer to make a move. Agnieszka Radwanska (no. 12), although she’s battling some injury, might do well. Jankovic can also squeak through the bracket as she has before. One never knows with the former world number one.

Ones-to-Watch: Personal favorite Patty Schnyder could meet Ivanovic in the second round. Greta Arn, the surprise winner of Auckland, also appears in this section, facing the 26th-seed, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, in the first round.

Bottom Line: Jankovic looks like a big question mark, while Clijsters should sail through to the second week.

Vera Zvonareva’s Section:

One of the strongest sections of the 2011 Australian Open on the WTA tour, this bracket is home to the second-seeded Zvonareva and home-favorite Sam Stosur (no. 5). These two names stand above the rest, although there are some, such as Petra Kvitova (no. 25), Shahar Peer (no. 10), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (no. 16), who serve as fierce competition.

In a potential fourth round match, Kvitova, who won Brisbane — but lost in a walkover at Sydney — would face Stosur. The Australian hasn’t been quite up to form as she lost to Kuznetsova in Sydney’s second round.  Israel’s Peer would probably face the victor. Zvonareva lost to Flavia Pennetta — also of this bracket — early in Sydney. Zvonareva should, however, shake off the loss to make a run to the quarterfinals.

Ones-to-Watch: American Melanie Oudin might make a move in her section of the draw, where she’d face Zvonareva in a potential third round match. There’s also Maria Kirilenko (no. 22) and Anna Chakvetadze.

Bottom Line: It looks like Zvonareva and Stosur get through to the quarterfinals, but not without some strong tests from a number of good competition.

In the Quarterfinals: With the above predictions, the quarterfinals will showcase Wozniacki against Henin; Venus against Li; (potentially) Jankovic against Clijsters; and Stosur versus Zvonareva.

In the Semifinals: Watch for Henin to face Venus and Clijsters against Zvonareva in the final four.

Querrey and Venus Advance; Isner Falls in Four

Sam Querrey and Venus Williams won their respective third and fourth round matches at the US Open, while John Isner fell in four tight sets to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The news comes a day after Americans James Blake and Beatrice Capra failed to advance in their own matches.

Here’s what to make of the American’s results, and what to look forward to in future action at the year’s final major.

Querrey’s straight sets win over Nicholas Almagro sets the stage for speculation over the American’s strong form going into his next match. His opponent, however, Stanislas Wawrinka cannot be written off. He recently beat Andy Murray, the tournament’s 4th seed, in a surprising 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory. With a tied head-to-head record, this is a tough match to call. I’m going with Querrey in five sets.

Getting into the quarterfinals was Venus, who advanced in another straight sets victory. This time, she beat Israel’s Shahar Peer 7-6 (3), 6-3. Her next opponent: Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone’s form seems to be back after a roller-coaster couple months after winning the French Open. The Italian plays some beautiful tennis, reminiscent of Tsvetana Pironkova’s brand of game, which knocked out Venus in the Wimbledon quarters. In the end, however, this is a hard court. I take Venus advancing in two. With a 7-0 head-to-head against Schiavone and a chance to reach her first US Open semifinal since 2007, Venus wants the win very badly.

Although Isner served 33 aces in his match against Youzhny, he lost 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-4. With a staggering number of errors, Isner’s game wasn’t up to par, and he suffered as a result. Let’s hope the American giant makes some real noise at the Grand Slam events next year by getting deep into a major — quarters or better. He’s certainly had some dramatic runs in 2010, but they’ve been cut a little too short for his ability.

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.

US Open Qualifying: Day Three

The skies opened up, and a beautiful day of tennis ensued at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. On my second visit to the home of the year’s final major, I made my way through throngs of fans to find some of the most promising American talent.

After arriving in the early afternoon — missing Jesse Levine’s heartbreaking loss to Brazil’s Caio Zampieri due to retirement — I arrived at Court 7. The match featured the 21st seed Maria Elena Camerin of Italy against the 15-year old Madison Keys of Florida. Keys began her Grand Slam debut firing away to capture an early break against Camerin. Nerves, however, set in with the players trading breaks until Keys pulled away to take the first set 6-3.

The young American, who trains at the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, hit crisp backhands, while sporting a powerful serve and a strong mental game. Errors started to creep in Keys’ game as Camerin found her form — although never her serve. While the young American lost in the next two sets, bowing out against her 28-year old opponent3-6, 6-3, 6-4, expect success from her in the future once she finds increased consistency.

Also noteworthy about the match and the US Open atmosphere in general: after the first couple games finished, I looked up to see Keys’ mother enter the stands. Another arrival: Tom Gullikson, the brother of Tim Gullikson, who was Pete Sampras’ former coach. I suspect Tom works with Keys in Florida, the state in which he resides. Sightings like this happened for most of the day, once again highlighting the wonderful atmosphere for which the qualifying tournament shines.

With that match over, I went to Louis Armstrong stadium, catching Gael Monfils hitting. In the nearby court, the Australian Open finalist and world number four Andy Murray was practicing with the 25th-ranked Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Talk about a fan-friendly experience — for free!

On the way to see the men practicing, I ran into Melanie Oudin — my second sighting of the Georgia teenager at the qualifying event. In fact, over the course of the day, I saw Oudin a number of times, supporting her compatriot Sloane Stephens and other Americans, among others.

I caught most of the 17-year old Stephens’ match, and I can safely say that she’s another one to watch. Currently ranked inside the top 300 in the world, Stephens enjoyed a good run at the BNP Paribas Open during which she advanced to the second round after qualifying. Although she fell  in the second round the US Open Qualifying for the second straight year — this time to veteran Zuzana Ondraskova 6-3, 7-5 — Stephens hits hard and with passion. She’s still streaky, especially on the forehand side, but with Venus and Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters as self-proclaimed idols, a good volleying technique and a powerful backhand, the Florida-native looks poised to one day get into the top 100.

Once finished, I went to Court Four, which is notable for its easy-viewing access to the practice courts. There, I yet again saw Oudin along with Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, Donald Young, and personal favorite Patty Schnyder.

I next scanned the courts for another match to view, making it in time to see Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac close out the first set against Guillermo Alcaide. Bozoljac, known for taking a set from Roger Federer in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon, is an exciting player to watch. He hits a big serve, rips backhand winners, and surprises with his tricky slice and two-handed forehand. After winning 6-3 6-2, a person in the audience — presumably a friend — mentioned his match against Federer to which he replied, “One set and one point.” Meaning: he only needed to win one more set and one more point against the greatest of all time to win the match and move on to the third round. Bozoljac will remember that fact for the rest of his life.

I ended the day by watching parts of Sania Mirza’s match against Elena Bovina. The former top 30 Mirza looked sharp, hitting winners and powerful groundstrokes to win 6-3, 6-3. I also caught Wimbledon junior winner Kristyna Pliskova — identical sister to this year’s Australian Open junior winner Karolina Pliskova and — beat the 18th seed Aranxta Rus. Are the Pliskova sisters the next Williams sisters? It’s too soon to say, but it will be interesting to see how the sisters’ games develop in the coming years.

My second trip to the qualifying tournament ended by viewing Ryan Harrison versus 10th-seeded Rui Machado. The young American advanced in a riveting 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 match filled with heavy support from the home crowd under the blazing lights of the US Open.

Stosur Outserves Oudin; Querrey and Safina Lose

It’s been another packed day of tennis for the US Open series, all of which I didn’t get to see, as usual. But going by the scores, it was an exciting day. Wouldn’t it be fun to follow the results live, in-person, actually enjoying the beauty of the game, being there to witness the fight of the competitors in real, tangible time, and then following-up the exctimenet by meeting the athletes after the match concludes? Well, that’s the plan. One day.

Enough of the crystal ball (well, for now at least). On to the results.

Sam Stosur, who made it to the semifinals last week at the Bank of the West Classic, breezed through her match against the sprightly Melanie Oudin in two humdrum sets. Using her powerful kick serve, the Australian ousted the American youngster 6-4, 6-4.

I hate hearing about Oudin’s losses. I really do. Ever since I watched her beat Russian after Russian after…(you get the point), I’ve been a fan of her fight and, yes, belief. Her counter-punching, athletic style entices the fan so used to “big babe” tennis. Oudin’s is a refreshing game, and she still has a refreshing face and spirit, which equate to likability.

And, so, when someone beats Oudin, I don’t like it, ever. But, Stosur did a great job, I’ll give her that. She’s shed the air of mental mystery after getting to the French Open final and then falling at Wimbledon’s first round — she’s ready to fight.

Meanwhile, Oudin’s still learning her game and filling in the big shoes she made for herself getting to the quarterfinals at that US Open. Mentally, she wasn’t with it for most of the year following the tournament. This result, although a loss, is a positive in my opinion. Melanie think so, too. In an Associated Press article, she’s quoted: “I thought I played pretty well. She’s five in the world and I was right in there with her the whole time. I’m not going to get down on myself.” I like this response — it’s real, and it portrays the inner reserve of confidence that will eventually get Oudin to the top ten in the world. Yup, there’s the crystal ball again.

In other news, comeback kid Sam Querrey lost to Janko Tipsarevic. The Serbian sought revenge after a painful loss to the American in the semifinals of the Los Angeles event. He beat (an I’m guessing fatigued?) Querrey 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Safina also lost, again. This time to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-3. Marion Bartoli, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Lleyton Hewitt were other big names to fall.

Schnyder Teams with Klemenschits in Istanbul

Patty Schnyder and Sandra Klemenschits make for a compelling story as the third-seeded pair at the Istanbul Cup. Schnyder, who’s potentially retiring after this year, is out of the singles, but looked strong with Klemnschits in their first round match. The duo won over Johanna Larsson — the player that defeated Schnyder in singles — and Tatjana Malek in two sets, advancing 6-3, 6-4.

Klemenschits made news not necessarily for her doubles play, although she did win 20 titles on the ITF circuit, but more so for the cancer that took the life of her doubles partner and twin sister Daniela in 2008.

Seeing both players come together in doubles must be a special thing to watch. I hope they go far in the tournament.

Here’s a recap of some of the highlights on the WTA tour at both the Istanbul Cup and in the US Open Series tournmanet at Stanford:

  • Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova continues to be a rollercoaster ride on tour after her amazing run. She lost to Anastasia Rodionova 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
  • The Latvian teenager Anastasija Sevastova, who beat Petra Kvitova in the first round, was ousted from Istanbul with a three-set loss to Vera Dushevina, 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-2.
  • At the Stanford tournament, Sam Stosur reached a career-high ranking of 5 in the world after beating American qualifier Christina McHale in two sets. Stosur advanced with her 6-1, 7-5 win.
  • Agnieszka Radwanska and Yanina Wickmayer both needed two sets to advance. Melanie Oudin, however, needed a tough three-setter to close out Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada. The teenage Oudin eked through 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-3.

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.

Soderling Survives in Three; Pironkova Loses

It was an iffy day for the French Open finalist Robin Soderling and the Wimbledon semifinals Tsvetana Pironkova. While the former needed three sets to win, the later failed to advance.

In Soderling’s case, the 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2 relatively rough win at the SkiStar Swedish Open is understandable. He’s been playing at such a high level these past few weeks. Losing a tie-break isn’t bad form by any standards, it just shows that his opponent, the wild card Andreas Vinciguerra, played well on a big point to close out the set. There’s also the possibility that Soderling was nervous before a home crowd. Whatever the reason, I don’t doubt that Soderling will steamroll in the next few rounds to live up to his high standards and go far in the tournament.

Pironkova, on the other hand, shouldn’t have lost to Jill Craybas of the United States in such a lopsided defeat. After crusing 6-2 in the first set, she lost the next two, 6-2, 6-2, to the veteran. Wow, that’s a lot of “2’s.” Anyway, this isn’t what I expected from her. She needs to focus and bring back the game that allowed her to handily dispatch Venus Williams in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. I’ll be tracking her progress over the US Open Series closely. Hopefully, she doesn’t fail to meet (and exceed) expectations.

Pironkova, Kanepi Prevail After Wimbledon Runs

Tsvetana Pironkova and Kaia Kanepi, who made it to the semifinals and quarterfinals of Wimbledon, respectively, continue to succeed by enjoying first round wins at the Palermo Open. Writes an Associated Press article, “Bulgaria’s Pironkova beat Anna Floris of Italy 6-4, 7-6 at the claycourt tournament at the Country Time Club Viale dell’Olimpo stadium, while Estonia’s Kanepi beat Rossana De Los Rios of Paraguay 7-5, 6-4.”

This is an excellent effort for the two players, and it’ll be interesting to see how their improved form and confidence inspire their games once the US Open series starts in the next couple weeks. I’m guessing that Pironkova’s finesse, slice forehand, and strong serve take her to new heights.

At the same time, Kanepi’s game might be more prone to falter. I don’t see her outhitting the top guns. With less variety than Pironkova, I wouldn’t give her the same chance to reach the upper echelon of WTA players as the Bulgarian.

What Pironkova has going for her is the surprise factor. Players these days — except for a few notable players, such as Patty Schnyder — go for overwhelming power. When an opponent has the ability to absorb that power, like Pironkova, and then turn that power into offense through pace-changing play and getting every ball back, chaos ensues. Pironkova has that ability; Kanepi doesn’t.

Plus, if Pironkova can keep up the serving throughout the hard court season, her chances to win a title on the WTA tour — can you believe it’d be her first title? — would be high. One would think a game like hers doesn’t translate well to the hard courts, but if it worked on grass — who really knows?

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