Tenaciously Tennis

Sharapova, Ivanovic, and Pavlyuchenkova Win Big

Coming fresh off a big seesaw victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova advanced easily over Andrea Petkovic to get to the round of 16 at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s event in Cincinnati, Ohio. She won 6-3, 6-1 in the dominating performance. Other strong performers included Ana Ivanovic, who knocked out Victoria Azarenka in the previous round, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the winner over third-seeded Elena Dementieva in two sets.

Sharapova’s last two victories prove she’s regaining the top form that others on the WTA tour should fear. With every match, there’s more of that champion’s spark that brought her to three major titles, beginning at 17. I’ve hinted at it in the past few weeks, but this win only solidifies my sentiments: Sharapova’s prepared to go deep at the US Open. She’ll be seeded well within the top 20, and I see her taking out some other big-time threats to get to the major’s second week.

Her results this year are on an upward trend: first round at the Australian Open, third round at Roland Garros, and a tough loss to Serena Williams in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Here’s her chance to break through past the quarterfinals since her 2009 French Open showing. Sharapova’s next opponent? The tricky shot-maker, Agnieszka Radwanska, who’s having a great US Open Series so far, having made it to the semifinals and final of her last two events. I don’t see Sharapova letting up against Radwanska. She’ll win in two close sets.

Compared to Sharapova, Ivanovic’s results at the majors seem wildly unexceptional. She’s only made it to the second rounds at the Australian and French, falling in the first round at Wimbledon. And, yet, things are looking up (even if just slightly) with that win over Azarenka. She followed the upset with a straight sets victory over Yaroslava Shvedova, a quarter-finalist at this year’s French Open, and the winner of the doubles title with American Vania King at Wimbledon. Ivanovic needs to soak up the win and channel the confidence in her next round. She faces Elena Vesnina, the winner over a struggling Francesca Schiavone. I’m taking Ivanovic over Vesnina in three sets.

Pavlyuchenkova’s drubbing of Dementieva secures a huge step for the younger Russian to get to the semis of this event. That is, if she can take out Israel’s Shahar Peer in the quarterfinals. I see Pavlyuchenkova winning that match in three sets. She has the bigger game, and a good deal of experience so far throughout this summer season.

Bracket Breakdown:

In the top half, Jelena Jankovic will get to the semis despite some shaky play. She’ll potentially face Ana Ivanovic in the quarters.

In the bottom half, we see the return of Kim Clijsters, and an impressive showing from the American teenager Christina McHale — the winner against Nadia Petrova. Clijsters easily beat an ailing Dinara Safina 7-5, 6-2. For McHale, her win over Ayumi Morita means she’ll probably face the Belgian. There, I see her getting overwhelmed by the shots and experience of Clijsters in straight sets. I’m calling Vera Zvonareva to meet Clijsters in the quarterfinals.

On the other side of the draw, I like Pavlyuchenkova to make the semifinals in the top half, although she has stiff competition by facing either Na Li or Yanina Wickmayer to make it there.

In the bottom section, look for Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki to battle it out for the last spot in the final four. I’m predicting Sharapova overwhelms Wozniacki in three sets.

Final Predictions:

Jelena Jankovic defeats Ana Ivanovic in the quarters; Clijsters gets revenge over Zvonareva, who defeated her at Wimbledon in the other match.

Pavlyuchenkova surprises to make the semis, where she’ll face a fiery Sharapova.

The last two standing: Clijsters and Sharapova — a dream match.


Serena Wins Fourth Wimbledon, Collects 13th Major

Serena Williams has claimed her fourth Wimbledon title in dominating fashion. In a quick affair, slightly over the one hour mark, Serena took out surprise finalist Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2. The win marks her 13th major singles title, raising her above Billie Jean King’s record 12 major titles. Her next goal? 18 titles to tie with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

The win also means that Serena or Venus Williams has secured the title nine out of the past eleven years.

Serena looked composed throughout the match. Her serve was spot on as it has been all tournament. Zvonareva, the second-lowest-ranked woman to reach a Wimbledon final, was never an issue.

The win is the first title for Serena since her victory at the Australian Open this January. Her next title? The US Open. That is, of course, unless she decides to give it her all during the US hard court season leading up to the final Slam of the year. If so, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be a huge success for the rest of the season.

For Zvonareva, although she failed to be competition in the final, she played an excellent tournament. While I’m not sure if she’ll win a Grand Slam, there’s a lot of promise for her to secure big wins in the coming months. If she can keep her head in the game, there’s no reason why not she won’t make another she can make a deep run at the US Open.

Speaking of Zvonareva’s mental game, it’s interesting to take a look at the women’s doubles final, which she played with Elena Vesnina. The team, who  took out the Williams sisters in the quarterfinals, played against Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. After losing the first set 7-6 (6), the Russian began to cry, meaning she isn’t quite there yet (although it’s understandable given the two losses in one day).

But more about King and Shvedova, they’re the first unseeded pair to take the title since 1975. They pulled out the win, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Congrats to all who put their passion to the test and came out victorious in a truly exceptional Wimbledon.

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.

Soderling Sends Off Federer; Stosur Stops Serena

In the past two days, both world number ones lost to hard-hitting, confident underdogs willing to do anything for the win, and the chance to advance to the semifinals at Roland Garros. Roger Federer, last year’s champion, fell in four tight sets to the Swede, Robin Soderling, snapping his Grand Slam six year long semifinal streak. The loss also means that Federer will not be in the French Open final for the first time in four years. Should Rafael Nadal take home the title, Federer could also lose his number one ranking. Serena Williams succumbed to Australia’s Sam Stosur in three.

Soderling played the role of upset king on clay just as he did last year against Nadal. With his powerful winding shots, the Swede prevented Federer from really getting into the match and attacking. Moreover, Soderling’s high level of confidence presented a much different re-match of last year’s French Open, during which Federer won in three relatively painless sets. Of course, that was not to be this year. Federer, who had a strong clay court season towards the end, including making it to the final in Madrid, did have his chances to take the match to a fifth set. Soderling, however, proved relentless, playing the big points fitting of his number seven ranking in the world.

Soderling next plays Tomas Berdych, whose run has also been full of major upsets, including Andy Murray in the fourth round. With Soderling leading the career head-to-head by 4-3, the match can go any way. However, given Soderling’s experience at the French and the way he’s been playing, I’ll say he’ll make it to his second consecutive French Open final. It’s sure to be a real brawl on Roland Garros’ red clay, regardless. I take Soderling in four thrilling sets and a promising effort by Berdych, who’s playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. In fact, the best he’s played at the French was a fourth round showing in 2006.

While the loss certainly shakes up Federer’s invincibility (and his hopes to capture the Grand Slam of all four major tournaments in a calendar year), it will probably mean little going into Wimbledon, a tournament he’s won six times in total. In fact, Federer reportedly is confident going into the grass season as a result. Will he take the biggest title of tennis for a record seventh time? We’ll see. Luckily for fans the wait isn’t long.

Just as Federer was felled by an underdog and the seventh player in the world, so was Serena. Stosur, also ranked seven and seeded seven in the tournament, took an improved power and confidence to yet again make it to the semifinals of the Slam. She won in a seesaw 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6 win. In the previous round, Stosur took out the heavy favorite, Justine Henin of Belgium.

Although Serena had a less than stellar season, she should have taken the match. With a match point lost, the win truly was on her racket. She will, however, keep her number one ranking, regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, pairing with her sister in Venus, the two made it to the finals of the doubles tournament. The sisters also claimed the number one doubles ranking for the first time. So, Serena has a lot for which to be happy. Look for Serena to brush away the loss with the fast approaching grass season in stow.

In other matches, Novak Djokovic was upset by Jurgen Melzer of Austria, the tournament’s oldest male entrant at 29, in five sets. Rafael Nadal also advanced with a close three set win over Nicholas Almagro, 7-6 (2) 7-6 (3), 6-4. For the WTA, Jelena Jankovic beat Yaroslava Shvedova , 7-5, 6-4. She will next take on Stosur, while Dementieva will face off against Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

If my predictions have any worth in this tournament (despite the already horrendous ones), I see the ATP final being a rematch of last year’s fourth round with Nadal taking on Soderling. For the women, I foresee Jankovic and Dementieva battling it out, both vying for their Grand Slam first title.

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