Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Ana Ivanovic says that she overtrained last year, and overtraining caused her to become injured. She is now working with Damian Prasad on her fitness in preparation for the Australian Open; her fitness work with Mark McGrath ended after two weeks. She is also back with former coach Sven Groenefeld.

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison has purchased the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, and has also purchased the complex where the tournament is held.

Justine Henin says she expects to be a better player this year than she was before.

Vera Zvonareva is in Florida working with Scott Byrnes following her rehab from surgery.

James LaRosa calls Dinara Safina the most compelling tennis character of 2009. I think I agree.

I don't usually find the "funny" items on blogs and websites very funny at all, but--partly because I so dislike the "Looking For a Hero" slogan and campaign--I cannot stop laughing over the Marion Bartoli Fan Site's take on it. If you're a Marion fan, then you know this is also the perfect tribute.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Molik and Rogowska get Australian Open wild cards

Alicia Molik, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Australian wild card playoffs, has been given one of the tournament's discretionary wild cards. Also getting a wild card is Olivia Rogowska, who lost to Casey Dellacqua in the final of the playoffs.

Eight wild cards are granted to the tournament. In addition to Dellacqua, Molik and Rogowska, one player from Asia, one player from France, and one player from the USA are given wild cards. Former world number 1 Justine Henin was granted the first wild card, and the final one will be awarded next month. Yanina Wickmayer is hoping to get it, but Australian officials say that it is unlikely that she will be the recipient. However, since "rising stars" are eligible, Wickmayer is, at least technically, still in the running.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Dinara Safina is blogging from Monte Carlo.

Tom Perrotta says that going through qualifying to get into the Australian Open main draw may not be the worst thing that can happen to Yanina Wickmayer.

Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who won the Sony Ericsson Championships, were honored in Barcelona last week by the Association of Tennis Journalists.

Bobby Chintapalli has my respect for number 8 on her list.

A shout-out to Peter Bodo for his realization that the end of the decade is a year away.

Kamakshi Tandon has put together a list of memorable 2009 quotations. Of course, Serena Williams and Marat Safin earned their own post.

Williams named AP Female Athlete of the Year

Serena Williams has been named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. 66 of 158 editors cast their votes for Williams, who also won the award in 2002.

Williams, who finished 2009 as number 1 in the world, won two majors this year, as well as the Sony Ericsson Championships. She and her sister, Venus, won three majors in doubles.

It was a good year for tennis: Kim Clijsters placed third in the voting.

William was also named the ITF female World Champion for 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Zheng Jie has parted ways with the China Tennis Association. Like countrywomen Li Na, Peng Shuai and Yan Zi, Zheng will manager her own career.

Oracle is considering buying both the BNP Paribas Open and the Indian Wells complex in which it is played.

Dubai, facing debts, may have to scale back its commitment to major sports events.

Anne Keothavong, determined to save her countrywomen from showing up in the usual Euro-trash attire, is working with Paul Costelloe to design Great Britain's Fed Cup off-court outfits for 2010. (Thanks to On the Baseline for this story.)

Justine Henin has been given a wild card to the Medibank International Sydney in January.

"Players to Watch" series

I am pleased to once again be a guest writer for On the Baseline's "Players to Watch" series.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dellacqua wins wild card playoff

Casey Dellacqua has won the Australian Open wild card playoffs in Australia. Dellacqua defeated Olivia Rogowska 1-6, 6-7, 6-3. Rogowska, who was the number 1 seed, served for the match in the second set, and held three match points in the tiebreak, but could not convert them.

There is still a chance that Rogowska will receive a discretionary wild card.

Dellacqua, who was off the tour most of this season because of shoulder surgery, made it to the round of 16 in last year's Australian Open.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dellacqua and Rogowska to meet in final

Top seed Olivia Rogowska defeated Jessica Moore today in the Australian Open wild card playoffs in Australia, while Casey Dellacqua defeated Sally Peers. The winner of tomorrow's final will get a wild card into the main draw in Melbourne. Should Dellacqua lose, however, she--like Alicia Molik, who lost in the quarterfinals--will still be under consideration to receive a discretionary wild card.

Molik knocked out of wild card playoffs

Jessica Moore defeated Alicia Molik 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 yesterday in Australia's wild card playoffs for the Australian Open main draw. Moore now advances to the semifinals.

Since her return to professional tennis, Molik has put together a 37-4 win record and has reached the finals of four ITF events, winning three of them. When she first announced her comeback, she said she would play doubles only, but she has since competed well in singles.

Molik can still get a discretionary wild card into the main draw.

Friday cat blogging--autumn chill edition

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Players saved at least one match point and went on to win the tournament seven times this season.

Victoria Azarenka is no longer being coached by Antonio van Grichen.

Jelena Dokic has become the latest player to join the Moratoglou Academy in Paris. She joins Aravane Rezai and Sorana Cirstea. Dokic's principal coach will still be Borna Bikic.

Serena Williams and Andy Roddick have responded to the addition of mixed doubles to the Olympic Games by announcing their desire to compete as a team. There is also speculation that Venus Williams will team with Bob Bryan.

Sam Stosur has been working on her slice backhand.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Azarenka enters Family Circle Cup

World number 7 Victoria Azarenka has entered the 2010 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Azarenka reached the third round in Charleston in 2008, then lost an exciting match against Elena Dementieva.

The Family Circle Cup will be held April 10-April 18. Melanie Oudin, Maria Sharapova and Caroine Wozniacki have already entered.

ITF lifts Wickmayer ban

Yanina Wickmayer had to wait only one day--though that was probably a very long day--to get her one-year suspension officially removed by the International Tennis Federation. Cleared by a Belgian court on Monday, Wickmayer then had to wait for the ITF to make its decision. The ITF consulted with the World Anti-Doping Agency, and today, announced that the Belgian player was free to compete.

Wickmayer has a wild card to play in Brisbane, and hopes to obtain a wild card to play in the Australian Open.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Justine Henin has won another exhibition match, this time in Cairo. She defeated Nadia Petrova 7-6, 6-2.

Melanie Oudin defeated Serena Williams 7-5 in an exhibition match in Athens, Georgia.

Naomi Broady has now won three ITF tournaments in three weeks.

Unseeded Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski upset top seed Kristina Mladenovic in the final of the 18s singles final of the 2009 Orange Bowl.

Virginia Ruano Pascual will play doubles with Sania Mirza at the Australian Open.

On the Baseline has an exclusive interview with Martina Hingis.

Belgian court removes Wickmayer's suspension

Yanina Wickmayer's one-year suspension was removed today by a Belgian court. The suspension was imposed--despite the prosecutor's recommendation of imposing a warning only--because of the Belgian player's failure to report her whereabouts to anti-doping authorities three times during 2009. The International Tennis Federation then made the Belgian ban international.

The ITF has yet to comment on the the reversal. Wickmayer also appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, and will get a ruling from that body within the next three months.

Now comes the twist: The World Anti-Doping also appealed to CAS--to give Wickmayer (and countryman Xavier Malisse) a two-year suspension instead of a one-year suspension.

To add to the complexity of this issue, Wickmayer's attorneys are planning to challenge the "whereabouts rule" in the European Commission in Brussels and the European Court of Human Rights.

It is still unknown whether Wickmayer will be able to compete in the ASB Classic next month. She was given a wild card to the New Zealand tournament.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mauresmo on video--a fitting tribute

This is the final video in the series. Please enjoy this lovely blend of Amelie and the Indigo Girls. Perhaps you'd like to leave a comment for the creator of this touching tribute to a great sportswoman.


Kim Clijsters defeated Venus Williams 6-1, 7-5 in the Diamond Games exhibition in Antwerp.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario has been ordered by the Spanish Supreme Court to pay $5.1 million in back taxes. The Spanish star maintained she was not a resident of Spain from 1989 to 1993, but the court rejected her claim. (via On the Baseline)

Mixed doubles is returning to the Olympic Games.

Dinara Safina has withdrawn from the Brisbane International tournament because of her back injury.

On January 7, Yanina Wickmayer will learn whether her one-year suspension will be lifted. She appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have the ban removed.

Friday cat blogging--casual Friday sunshine edition

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mauresmo on video--Wimbledon

Amelie's greatest moment came at Wimbledon in 2006.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Win a racquet signed by Justine Henin!

Women's Tennis Blog is giving one lucky--and eloquent--fan a tennis racquet signed by four-time French Open winner Justine Henin. To enter the contest, all you have to do is subscribe, via email, to Women's Tennis Blog, and then answer the question, "How will the comeback of Justine Henin change/affect the women's tennis scene in 2010?" To answer the question, you simply leave a comment on the contest post.

A jury of six will evaluate the comments and choose the winner. The contest closes on December 19 at 6 p.m. CET. Details are available at Women's Tennis Blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mauresmo on video--oops...

A reader of this blog was able to find what I could not. Thanks to Paulina, you, too, can see Amelie fall out of her chair.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mauresmo on video--"I am what I am"

Amelie was one of the featured athletes in Reebok's "I am what I am" campaign.

Vandeweghe gets wild card to Australian Open

Coco Vandeweghe, playing in the first three-set match of the Australian Open wild card playoff tournament in Atlanta, defeated Christina McHale 7-6, 0-6, 6-3 in today's final.

McHale was last year's wild card playoff winner, but she had to retire in the first round of the Open because of severe cramping. Vandeweghe, the 2008 U.S. Open junior champion, turned 18 yesterday.

Wozniacki enters Family Circle Cup

World number 4 and last year's finalist, Caroline Wozniacki has entered the 2010 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. Wozniacki, who was also a finalist at the U.S. Open, won three titles in 2009. She lost to Sabine Lisicki in last year's Charleston tournament.

Also entered are Melanie Oudin and Maria Sharapova.


Justine Henin recently defeated Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-4 in an exhibition match in Belgium. Henin says of her return: "I have nothing to prove to other people, only to myself. I want to prove that I am calmer and more mature now."

Abigail Lorge looks back at the 2009 season.

Nine out of the tour's top ten women are scheduled to play in Sydney. Venus Williams has not entered the tournament.

Here is a preview of Maria Sharapova's Australian Open dress.

Here is a summary of who moved up and down the most in ranking points this season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mauresmo on video--Australian Open championship

Winning the 2006 Australian Open was one of Amelie's greatest achievements.

Vandeweghe and McHale to compete for Australian Open wild card

The second round of the Australian Open wild card playoffs was held today in Atlanta. Coco Vandeweghe defeated Julia Boserup 6-4, 6-4, and Christina McHale defeated Alison Riske 6-4, 6-2. Vandeweghe and McHale will play tomorrow to determine who goes to the main draw of the Australian Open. McHale won last year's wild card playoffs.

Australian Open wild card playoffs in progress

Julia Boserup is the final entrant in the USTA's Australian Open wild card playoffs. Also, Julia Cohen is not playing; she was replaced by Grace Min. Play began yesterday, with these results:

Boserup def. Brengle, 6-3, 6-4
Riske def. Min, 6-4, 6-4
McHale def. Goldfield, 6-3, 6-2
Vandeweghe def. Muhammed, 6-4, 6-2

Today's matches are:
Boserup vs. Vandeweghe
Riske vs. McHale

The final will be played on Monday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mauresmo on video

During the next several days, I'll be posting some videos of Amelie Mauresmo, who retired from professional tennis yesterday. I'm sorry to report that the video of Amelie falling off the chair during a press conference is no longer available. That bit of unintentional slapstick only added to her charm.

To start, here is the famous slice backhand in slow motion.

Friday cat blogging--cozy nap edition

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Au revoir, Amelie--the pleasure was all ours

original image courtesy of after atalanta

Amelie Mauresmo retired from professional tennis today, telling those gathered at her press conference that she could no longer put in the hard work that is required to play at the top of the game. The 30-year-old Frenchwoman's announcement was hardly a surprise; she said earlier in the year that she was considering retirement.

"I was lucky enough to have an exceptional career and to experience very strong feelings on the court," Mauresmo said. "I lifted trophies in every city in the world, and I lived ten magical and unbelievable years."

I can't remember when I first noticed Amelie Mauresmo. I do recall, though, that she very quickly became my favorite player on the tour. Her grace, shot variety, court intelligence, and wit drew me to her and made me a big fan. And of course, there was that gorgeous backhand with the deadly slice.

Each generation produces a player of superior grace: Maria Bueno, Evonne Goolagong, Hana Mandlikova, and Gabriela Sabatini all engaged in the dance of tennis, as well as the game. Then came Mauresmo. A sports writer once said of the Frenchwoman, "Tennis flows from her," and that is a wonderfully concise description of what Mauresmo's elegant game is all about.

When Mauresmo was only four, she watched Frenchman Yannick Noah win the French Open, and she decided that she would become a tennis player. It wasn't easy for her. For a long time, she had to deal with a fragile back, a problem she got around by changing her service motion, which then led to other players doing likewise. More significant, however, was Mauresmo's fragile court psyche. For a long time, she was considered the biggest head case on the women's tour, and Roland Garros was the scene of her shakiest mentality. Mauresmo is wildly popular in France, and the presumed pressure on her to win the French Open was more than she could handle.

It wasn't that Mauresmo was weak on clay. She won big tournaments like Rome and Berlin, continually fueling French hope for victory at Roland Garros. But it was not to be; rather, it was on an indoor court, a bouncy hard court, and a grass court that the French star created her greatest victories.

Mauresmo turned pro in 1993, and in 1999--19 years old and unseeded--she was the finalist at the Australian Open, losing in straight sets to Martina Hingis. She also made the top 10 for the first time that year. In 2002, Mauresmo made it to the semifinals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and lost to Serena and Venus Williams, respectively. The next year, she led France to Fed Cup victory.

Hampered by injuries to her back, leg, knee, rib, and ankle, Mauresmo missed a lot of tennis, but nevertheless continued to win important tournaments and to make consistently high showings at other tournaments. In 2004, she became the first French player, male or female, to be ranked number 1 in the world, but held the position for only five weeks. She made it to the Wimbledon semifinals and lost to Serena Williams again. At the end of the year, Mauresmo scored 3-0 in round-robin play at the year-end championsips. One of her victories was over Maria Sharapova, who won the tournamnent.

The next year--still plagued by back and adductor injuries--she reached the Wimbledon semifinals again, this time losing to Lindsay Davenport. Then, at the end of 2005, came what was later seen as a major breakthrough: Mauresmo, having announced that she felt "burned out," nevertheless proceeded to win the year-end championships, defeating Mary Pierce in the final. The Frenchwoman took the confidence that came from that victory into her 2006 season, which--for some of us--became the Year of Amelie.

Mauresmo was number 1 in the world for most of 2006, which began with a subdued and bittersweet victory in Melbourne. In the second set of the Australian Open final, with Mauresmo leading 6-1, 2-0, her opponent, Justine Henin, retired because of illness. After waiting so long to win a major, the Frenchwoman was denied hearing "Game, set, match--Mauresmo!" Instead of falling to the ground or jumping into the air, she walked over to Henin, sat down, and consoled her, then addressed the crowd with relative restraint.

However, Mauresmo was to get her sweetest victory of all later that year, when she and Henin competed in the final of Wimbledon, and Mauresmo took the title, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. With this win, she became the first Frenchwoman in the Open Era to hold the Venus Rosewater Cup. In her interview, Mauresmo suggested that fans stop talking about her nerves. I will never forget the moment she won; later, I bought champagne to celebrate the occasion.

Many of us assumed 2007 would also be a great year for Amelie, but--as so often happens in sports--a bit of bad luck all but ruined her season. She had to withdraw from several tournaments because of an emergency appendectomy. Following her recovery, an adductor strain (most likely caused by insufficient post-operative healing) knocked her out of both Toronto and the U.S. Open, and she finished the year as number 18 in the world.

In 2008, Mauresmo suffered repeated injury to her thigh. She parted ways with long-time coach Loic Courteau, who is also a close friend, and hired Hugo Lecoq. She was obviously low in confidence, and she finished the year as number 24 in the world. 2009 looked like it would be a year of resurgence when she won her 25th title in Paris in February. On her way to victory, Mauresmo defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva. "She's back!" we thought, but that French victory was to be her last. Mauresmo continued to deal with injuries to her thigh and her abdomen, and--having played some of her best tennis in New Haven--she ended her season early, and finished this year just outside the top 20.

The woman who best exhibits what tennis commentator Mary Carillo calls "French flair" has had an impressive career. She won Paris, Philadelphia, Berlin, and Rome twice apiece, and she also had victories in Linz, Warsaw, Dubai, Nice, Amelia Island, Sydney, and Bratislava. Mauresmo also won the Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp three times within a five-year span, which earned her a diamond-encrusted racquet.

Mauresmo won two doubles titles with friend Svetlana Kuznetsova, and one with Chanda Rubin. She was on the French Fed Cup team for a total of nine years, and she was also on the 2000 and 2004 French Olympic teams. In 2004, she won an Olympic silver medal in singles. In 2007, Mauresmo received the French Legion of Honor award.

An avid collector, the articulate Frenchwoman was always ready to discuss fine red wines in her interviews. She went on a difficult annual mountain climb to prepare for each tennis season, and she has long been a familiar figure, roaring through the streets on her motorcycle, in both Geneva and Paris.

She can also be quite funny. Once, after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, a sports writer reminded her that there would be no French-speaking crowd to encourage her in Flushing Meadows. "Well," Mauresmo deadpanned, "there's a really big French-speaking crowd in Paris, and that hasn't helped me at all." On another occasion, she described the closeness of the French players as being similar to the closeness of the Russians. "We all go out and eat together at a restaurant like they do...but it's a smaller restaurant."

In 2007, I was very excited to learn that Mauresmo had entered the Family Circle Cup, which I attend every year. There is an award-winning vineyard where I live, and I made arrangements with the tournament to deliver a bottle of very good red wine to Amelie. I was so looking forward to meeting her, but she had to withdraw following her emergency surgery. Several big names withdrew that year, but it was Mauresmo's withdrawal that disappointed me the most.

Retirements are always sad for fans, and I've been through my share of them. To have my favorite player retire, however, creates a special kind of sadness. Amelie Mauresmo was a class act, on and off the court, and I was always proud to be her fan. But perhaps more significant is the fact that her departure also accentuates the rapid disappearance of the stylish, precision-based kind of tennis that is filled with strategy and variety--the kind of tennis that is a joy to watch. Mauresmo could volley, chip, charge, slice, and spin an opponent into total frustration, all the while performing with exceptionally graceful athleticism.

I know I speak for many when I say that Amelie will be missed, and will be remembered with great fondness. She was a model sportswoman who brought intelligence and style to the court, and who overcame difficult obstacles in order to become one of the most gracious and respected champions of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Best matches of 2009

Andy Schooler talks about the best matches of 2009, and you're likely to see your own favorites in this article.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Date Krumm wins in Toyota

Kimiko Date Krumm won another tournament yesterday--the $75,000+H in Toyota. She defeated Bojana Jovanovski 7-5, 6-2 in the final, and--along the way--she also defeated Marina Erakovic and Tammy Tanasugarn. Date Krumm was seeded number 2.

Quote of the week

"Because Prince [has] no money. Crisis. I know Prince give everything to Sharapova and no money anymore."
Nikolay Davydenko, on why he has no racquet endorsement

Williams receives fine and probation

As expected, Serena Williams has been levied a hefty fine--$82,500--for her behavior at the 2009 U.S. Open. In addition, Williams was put on a two-year probationary period. If she should commit another "major offense" at one of the four major tournaments within this period, she would be barred from the next U.S. Open, and her fine would be increased to $175,000.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Serena Williams hits most aces in 2009

Not surprisingly, world number 1 Serena Williams hit the most aces in the 209 season. Here are the top 10:

1. Serena Williams--346
2. Nadia Petrova--306
3. Samantha Stosur--277
4. Sabine Lisicki--243
5. Venus Williams--240
6. Alisa Kleybanova--215
7. Lucie Safarova--202
8. Flavia Pennetta--199
9. Magdalena Rybarikova--189
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova--186

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final decision on Serena Williams is close

The ITF's Grand Slam Committee is expected to deliver a final verdict on the Serena Williams U.S. Open incident very soon. Most sources of information close to the decision-making contend that Williams is not likely to be banned from the Australian Open; rather, she will face a heavy fine (the figure of $1,000,000 is being circulated) and also be levied a good behavior bond.

Other options include having Williams give back her U.S. Open prize money and take away her U.S. Open ranking points. The committee could also ban her from the 2010 U.S. Open.

The final recommendation will come from ITF Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock, but the committee has to power to overturn his verdict.

Friday cat blogging--relaxing at home edition

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Alexa Glatch will not be competing for a wild card into the Australian Open main draw, after all. The latest contenders announced are Julia Cohen and Ester Goldfield. One more contender will be announced at a later date.

Jarmila Groth has been granted Australian citizenship.

Yanina Wickmayer will know within four months whether the appeal of her one-year suspension is successful. One hopes that "within four months" will be sooner than later.

Sun Tiantian recently married, and there is speculation that she will retire soon.

The second BNP Paribas Showdown, better known as the Billie Jean King Cup, will be played March 1 in Madison Square Garden. The competitors are Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Serena was last year's winner.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Svetlana Kuznetsova says she has outgrown the nickname "Kuzy."

Remember Samantha "Get those lesbians away from my daughter" Stevenson? Last week, she was acting out again, this time in Toronto.

Sony Ericsson is trying to turn things around.

WTA Backspin's final five of the list of Players of the Decade are now being revealed. Number 5 is Kim Clijsters and number 4 is Venus Williams.

Sabine Lisicki has some new photos on her Facebook page.

Patty Schnyder has a new website, which is currently under construction.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ruano Pascual ends outstanding career

Virginia Ruano Pascual, one of the greatest doubles players of the Open era, is retiring. Ruano Pascual, who is 36 years old, holds 42 doubles titles and three singles titles on the tour. Ten of the Spanish player's women's doubles titles are majors, and eight of those were won in partnership with the great Argentine player, Paola Suarez.

Ruano Pascual won the French Open six times. The last two victories, in 2008 and 2009, she shared with countrywoman Anabel Medina Garrigues. Ruano Pascual also has a mixed doubles major title; she and Thomas Carbonell won the French Open in 2000.

Ruano Pascual played on the Spanish Fed Cup team a total of 14 years, and was on the Spanish Olympic team three times. "Vivi," as she is known to fans and friends, always made playing championship doubles look so easy. She and Suarez were known as much for their humor and enthusiasm as they were for their crack doubles skills.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Australian wild card playoff initial list published

The U.S. wild card playoffs for the Australian Open begin December 5. So far, entered in the playoffs are: Alexa Glatch, Madison Brengle, Christina McHale, Asia Muhammad, Alison Riske, and Coco Vangeweghe.

Last year's winner was Christina McHale, whose main draw experience turned out to be an unfortunate one.


The Chris Evert/Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic just concluded; four former number 1 players were on hand to help Evert raise money for at-risk children. Evert, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, and Lindsay Davenport all participated.

Yanina Wickmayer has begun an appeal of her one-year suspension.

Virginia Ruano Pascual is expected to retire in the near future. The word is that her doubles partner, Anabel Medina Garrigues, will team with Caroline Wozniacki.

In case you were wondering...Sam Sumyk is still Vera Zvonareva's coach; he was just unable to accompany her during the last part of the season. Zvonareva is currently resting after having ankle surgery in Rotterdam.

ESPN is preparing a documentary on the rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Who is Ms. Backspin for 2009? Find out here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2009--a look back at a year of drama

At the end of last year, I called 2008 a "strange" season. 2009, however, was just as strange, if not more so. The year did not lack drama; in fact, there was too much of it. The U.S. Open alone provided enough drama to fill an entire season, but there was even more to come after the last ball was struck in Flushing Meadows.

There was quite a bit of coming and going: Larry "I don't sell sex" Scott resigned as CEO of the tour, and was succeeded by Stacey Allaster. Justine Henin announced her return to the tour, and U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer was given a one-year suspension for violating an anti-doping rule.

The perennially popular Ai Sugiyama retired, after enjoying a long and excellent career, and Maria Sharapova made a shaky, but hopeful, return after being out for months with shoulder problems. Then there was Kimiko Date Krumm, who punctuated her comeback by winning the Korea Open the day before her 39th birthday.

Some of the tour's best players had significant problems this year. Former world number 1 Dinara Safina continued to go to pieces in major finals, losing both the Australian Open and French Open, and losing the former in a spectacular fashion. Jelena Jankovic finally got everything just about right, including the addition of a very respectable first serve, but--for various reasons--didn't get beyond the quarterfinals of a major event. Ana Ivanovic, who won the 2008 French Open, continued to slide down the rankings.

Some players did especially well this year. Flavia Pennetta became the first Italian woman in the Open era to enter the top 10. And Caroline Wozniacki moved to the elite top 5 in the world and was a finalist at the U.S. Open. Wozniacki, who probably entered too many tournaments this season, nevertheless played very smart tennis against a variety of opponents.

Sabine Lisicki, whose entire season was filled with injury and illness, nevertheless stunned the crowds in Charleston when she won the tournament as the 16th seed. Lisicki defeated Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki. After last year's superb 35th anniversary tournament, fans might have expected a letdown in 2009, but Lisicki's out-of-nowhere victory added a fresh layer of excitement. Lisicki, despite her physical problems, would go on to advance to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, but would then succumb to a bad case of match anxiety.

Also in 2009, some fans were able to watch more matches through the introduction of Tennis TV, the online service. I was able to see many matches I would not normally have been able to watch. At the same time, however, most of us lost the Wimbledon Live service, which was very disappointing. Both the U.S. Open and Tennis Channel sites offered several free online matches during the Open, which was a great addition.

Unfortunately, the general public may remember 2009 for the U.S. Open foot fault incident in which Serena Williams behaved in a menacing manner toward a line judge. Williams' failure to grasp the meaning of "apologize" was possibly topped by the behavior of both fans and members of the sports media, many of whom had not seen footage of the incident (including the foot fault). There was also a veritable festival of sexism and racism, directed equally at both Williams and the line judge. In short, a great number of people behaved in a disgusting manner, logic and reason went out the window, and narcissism and bigotry ruled.

And there was much more. Here are my own top 10 occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Shahar Peer is forbidden from playing in Dubai.
Dubai officials, fearing a fan boycott, denied a visa to Shahar Peer, who was entered in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. There was no boycott by anyone on the tour, and unofficial tour spokeswoman Venus Williams was somehow hailed as "brave" for saying that there would be no boycott, sponsors were important, etc. The officials of Tennis Channel, who showed no spine at all when they retained the openly misogynistic Justin Gimelstob, suddenly developed one and refused to broadcast the tournament. That was an admirable move, but it was topped by defending ATP champion Andy Roddick's withdrawal from the tournament because of the Peer ban.

9. The Williams sisters win three major doubles titles.
Serena and Venus Williams, who do not play doubles very often, won three of the four major titles this year. The sisters won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. They have now won ten major doubles titles, as well as two Olympic gold medals in doubles. They also hold a career grand slam in doubles.

8. A new Spanish team becomes a major force in doubles.
Though they had played together now and then, Spaniards Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez didn't become a committed team until this year. The next thing we knew, they were challenging the dominance of Black and Huber. Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez won seven tournaments, including the Sony Ericsson Championships. To win that title, they defeated both the Williams sisters and Black and Huber.

7. Kuznetsova finally wins the French Open.
On paper, Svetlana Kuznetsova "should" have won the French Open long ago, but she was hampered by such details as a shaky mentality and Justine Henin. In 2009, though, she did it. Kuznetsova defeated then-world number 1 Dinara Safina to take her second major.

6. Dokic has a dream comeback run in Australia.
Jelena Dokic, one of Australia's "adopted daughters," had one of the most emotional runs I can recall at a major tournament. The former world number 4, off the tour for 3 1/2 years, received a wild card to the main draw of the Australian Open, and she used it to go all the way to the quarterfinals. Dokic, playing three sets each time, defeated Tamira Paszek, Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki, and Alisa Kleybanova. By the time she reached the quarterfinals, she was clearly exhausted, and lost to Dinara Safina. Neither woman played well, but Dokic--who had considerable chances--simply ran out of steam. The backstory involving the abuse Dokic had endured from her father, and her emotional recovery, added to the high emotion of this wonderful run.

5. 2009 U.S. Open--Oudin def. Russia
Nicknamed "Little Miss Upset," Melanie Oudin knocked out four tall and formidable Russians--Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, U.S. Open Series winner Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, and Nadia Petrova--in a row, to get to the U.S. Open quarterfinals. She did it the hard way, too, coming from behind over and over, and providing delectable thrills for fans both in Flushing Meadows and at home. Part of the excitement, of course, had to do with the fact that an American not named "Williams" was putting on such a great show. But there was more to it than that: Oudin is only five and a half feet tall, which--in pro tennis--is considered a major liability. And then there were those shoes, and that almost indomitable spirit. I say "almost" because when she played under the lights in the quarterfinals, Oudin finally caved to the pressure--and to a very clever Caroline Wozniacki. Still, it was a run that will never be forgotten.

4. Italy wins Fed Cup.
While I'm on the subject of defeating Russia, Oudin wasn't the only one who had a go at the Russian players. Italy, having defeated France 5-0 in the Fed Cup quarterfinals, enjoyed a 4-1 victory over the defending champions and dominant Fed Cup team. The Italian team then went on to defeat the USA 4-0 in the final, and to become the number 1 ranked country in the world. When it comes to Fed Cup, no one is more fun to watch than Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. And the doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci is top-notch, too.

3. Serena Williams wins 2 majors and the SEC.
After all these years, who is still winning the big titles? Serena, of course. This year, Williams won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Sony Ericsson Championships. She didn't win any other titles, which is interesting, but in the majors, she dominated.

2. Clijsters puts the "back!" in "comeback.
For so many years, Kim Clijsters struggled--usually against Justine Henin--to win major titles. Then she went away, had a baby, came back, and beat the likes of Marion Bartoli, Li Na, both Williams sisters, and a red-hot Caroline Wozniacki, to win her second U.S. Open. In a tournament already filled with drama of every sort, Clijsters' amazing comeback victory was a moment of very high drama, not just for tennis, but for all women's sports.

1. 2009 Wimbledon semifinals--Williams def. Dementieva, 6-7, 7-5, 8-6
"Instant classic" doesn't begin to describe the 2-hour-and-49-minute extravaganza that was the Serena Williams-Elena Dementieva Wimbledon semifinal. The longest women's semifinal in Wimbledon history, this match had just about everything--brilliant shot-making, big serving, constant changes of momentum, significant netcord points, and some tense challenges. There was a hardly a moment that didn't provide precision, artistry, excitement--or all three. Each woman elevated her game to such an extent that almost every groundstroke or volley seemed more important than the last. Williams would go on to defeat her sister, the defending champion, and win the tournament.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday cat blogging--rare moment edition

Tarzan and Roxie aren't exactly the best of friends, but sometimes, when they're really tired, they wind up sharing bed space.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raymond and Stubbs, together again...

As you always wanted to see them.

Recently, a reader tipped me off to the rumor of a Raymond/Stubbs reunion, but I didn't want to say anything until I had confirmation. Was this inevitable, or is it just what comes of another big turnover in women's doubles?

For those who are new to women's tennis, or who have just stopped keeping up with doubles, here is the short version:

In 2000, Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs won the Australian Open, the first of three majors they would win as a team. They also won the 2001 Sony Ericsson Championships. After the team split, Raymond played with various partners, then settled on Sam Stosur, with whom she also won a number of titles, including two majors.

In the meantime, Stubbs played with various partners, then formed a stable team with Cara Black. They won six titles, including Wimbledon. Stubbs then played with Kveta Peschke, and they won four titles.

At the beginning of 2009, Stosur announced that she and Stubbs would play doubles together, but only during the Australian season. That idea went out the window, and they remained a team all year. Raymond then teamed with Peschke, but then Peschke sustained a serious injury and could not play for much of the season. Stosur and Stubbs did not win any titles, but they qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships.

The word is that Stosur, a very accomplished doubles player, wants to concentrate on singles now that she has finally made a singles breakthrough. I have no word yet on her doubles schedule.

"We’re both on the same page, trying to be aggressive, and when we’re both in at the net it’s pretty hard to get the ball through us or around us because most people would consider us two of the better volleyers in the world," says Stubbs.

They won't get any disagreement about that.

Wickmayer not talking about possible appeal

Yanina Wickmayer spoke with the press today, but evaded the question of whether she will appeal her one-year suspension. Given that the Belgian anti-doping tribunal prosecutor recommended she get a warning for violating the ADAMS "whereabouts" rule, most observers think Wickmayer would have a good chance if she appealed the decision. Perhaps she has not made up her mind, or perhaps her attorneys have advised her to not talk about her decision.

Wickmayer said that anti-doping officials are "are not really conscious of what this means for my future."

When she received the suspension, Wickmayer explained that she had had problems using her password when she tried to alert anti-doping officials of her whereabouts. Now--at least according to the not always reliable Associated Press--she is saying she was not sufficiently educated about the process.

Most of us, I think, are sympathetic to Wickmayer's plight. A year's suspension is very harsh, and also very suspicious, coming on the heels of Andre Agassi's "I took crystal meth and lied" world tour. But Wickmayer does need to take some responsibility; no one else has complained about not being educated about the rule. Also--probably because she is young and perhaps does not have sufficient guidance--Wickmayer does not appear to realize that having password problems does not mean that one stops trying to contact the anti-doping authorities.

I hope Wickmayer appeals, I hope she wins, and I hope she learns that she is ultimately responsible for abiding by the rules, no matter how silly some of them are.

Living in Slump City

Players get into slumps for various reasons, some physical, some mental, some emotional, and maybe even some that defy explanation. A number of players are in some type of slump as the season ends, and fans hope that off-season training and/or relaxation will remedy the situation:

Relative Slumps

Dinara Safina: It may sound strange to describe a world number 2 as being in a "slump," but she is. Safina went from winning big tournaments but not winning any of the majors to not even winning the big tournaments. She's been living with a back injury, which has contributed to her decline. Her mental issue with the finals of majors could only feed on themselves, and one wonders what Safina has to do to get back on top.

Jelena Jankovic: Her fans have waited a long time for to finally put everthing together. This year--even more than 2008--she did, by significantly improving her first serve. But she returned from her off-season with a bulked-up body that made her movement (and Jankovic's movement is her greatest gift) sluggish, so she had to drop the weight, get a new fitness coach, and re-train. Then her mother became seriously ill, a fact which preoccupied her for months. Finally, she won Cincinnati, and looked good for the U.S. Open, but during that tournament, her grandmother died, which (understandably) distracted her.

Jelena's plight, sadly, makes me think of Roseanne Roseannadanna: "It's always something."

All-out slumps

Ana Ivanovic: What happened here? She had some injury issues, and then she never really came back to where she was when she won the French Open in 2008. Ivanovic always sounds hopeful about her career, but opponents now see her as someone they can beat.

Agnes Szavay: Szavay's 2008 slump was probably the biggest on the tour. Things got a bit better this year, but not consistently so. Szavay was once considered one of the most promising young players on the tour, but something has happened.

Yan and Zheng: Zheng Jie's injuries have taken a big toll on this team, which--just a couple of years ago--was winning big. She and Yan Zi are playing more these days, and we can only hope that in 2010, they return to the elite section of doubles players.

Alize Cornet: Cornet looked to be a real talent, at least on clay, but her performances have been lackluster this season.

Kaia Kanepi: Just when Kanepi was getting noticed, she went into a major slump, and has yet to show signs of getting out of it.

Anabel Medina Garrigues: The Spaniard had a poor season, and did not even do as well as usual in doubles. This was a surprise to me, and I have no idea what caused it.

Daniela Hantuchova: Hantuchova's comeback a few years ago was most impressive, but things haven't gone as planned. She has always had issues in big matches (like our next player), but now she is struggling to compete at the high level which formerly defined her game.

Not exactly slump:

Patty Schnyder: Schnyder, a player who--in my opinion--never reached her considerable potential, has finally started her slide down the rankings. To the delight of many, however, she had some very good wins in the latter part of the season, proving that perhaps she isn't done yet. And, playing with Anna-Lena Groenefeld, she's had a solid doubles career lately. In general, though, I think we are looking at the winding down of an excellent, if frustrating, career.

Vera Zvonareva: It's not easy to slump in your biggest year on tour, but thanks to a terrible injury she sustained in Charleston, Zvonareva has done just that. She continues to have trouble with her ankle, and her emotional issues--of which she had taken control--have crept in again. Zvonareva said, not that long ago, that she had learned to let her anger out and then move on, but ever since the U.S. Open, there appears to have been a regression. Nevertheless, I don't think any of the emotional untangling would have occurred if the talented Russian had not seen her best season ruined by an injury.

Zvonareva had arthroscopic ankle surgery in Rotterdam this week, and should be back on the court in four or five weeks. One hopes she can take up where she left off right before the Charleston incident.

Jelena Dokic: Dokic's Australian Open run filled fans with hope, but the comeback player became exhausted and ill, and had problems competing. The good news is that lately, she has been doing extremely well in challengers. If she can stay healthy, she has a chance to make 2010 a good season.

Beyond slump:

Amelie Mauresmo: Mauresmo may retire at the end of this season. Despite winning in Paris during the early part of the season, she has had another disappointing year, and it is probably time, or nearly time, for her to move on to her next career.

Michaella Krajicek: Krajicek's career has been plagued with injury. Just when she gets it going, she gets hurt. Some players are just like that. At this point, after so many tries, it's hard to imagine Krajicek in the mix.

Nicole Vaidisova: Vaidisova, in case you're wondering, still travels with the tour--the other tour. She is often seen at ATP tournaments where Radek Stepanek plays, but we don't see her much anymore in matches of her own. An acquaintance of the Czech player said earlier this year that Vaidisova is constitutionally incapable of engaging in competition, and that explanation was good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


WTA Backspin's list of the top 25 best players of the last decade now includes players 6-10.

Serena Williams has set a goal of winning an Olympic gold medal in 2012 (via On the Baseline).

2010 will be Pilot Pen's last season to sponsor the U.S. Open Series tournament in New Haven. The tournament is looking for a new sponsor.

In clarifying her remarks about Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova makes it clear that she does not think players should be penalized for using recreational drugs.

On a similar subject, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster has called for some changes to be made in the ADAMS "whereabouts" rule. Her remarks come in response to the one-year suspension of Yanina Wickmayer. Wickmayer's countrywoman Kim Clijsters referred to the suspension as "extremely harsh."

Sharapova enters Family Circle Cup

Maris Sharapova has entered the 2010 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Sharapova played in Charleston in 2008, during the tournament's 35th anniversary, and was defeated in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Serena Williams. She also made it to the first round as a qualifier in 2003, when she was 15 years old.

Sharapova, ranked number 14 in the world, is the second player to enter the tournament, which will be held April 10-18 on Daniel Island. Melanie Oudin was the first to enter.

Last year's Cup was awarded to Sabine Lisicki, who--seeded 16th--defeated Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Italy won the 2009 Fed Cup today, and in doing so, became number 1 in the world in ITF rankings for the first time in history. The Italian team of Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci defeated the USA 4-0 to take the title. Even more impressive--the Italians defeated Russia 4-1 to get to the final. Prior to that, they also took France out of the competition with a 5-0 score.

Yesterday, Pennetta defeated Alexa Glatch and Schiavone defeated Melanie Oudin. Today, Pennetta defeated Oudin 7-5, 6-2, which gave Italy the win. It was the fourth time that Pennetta has scored the winning point in a Fed Cup tie.

The fourth singles rubber was skipped, and the doubles match was played as a dead rubber. Italy won that, too, defeating Liezel Huber and Vania King 4-6, 6-3, 11-9.

To me, Schiavone and Pennetta are Fed Cup. There is nothing quite like the attitude they bring to every event, and Schiavone in particular captures the spirit of Fed Cup like no one else.

Some special Fed Cup awards were also presented today. Mary Joe Fernandez, USA Fed Cup captain, and Silvia Farina, who has the most Italian Fed Cup wins in history, were given the Fed Cup Award of Excellence today. The award is presented by the ITF Hall of Fame & Museum and the ITF.

Fernandez, a member of the winning 1996 USA Fed Cup team, coached the USA to its first final in six years. Farina played on nine Italian teams, and recorded 23 Fed Cup victories.

On Thursday, Melanie Oudin was presented with the inaugural Fed Cup BNP Paribas Heart Award. The new award recognizes "a player who has represented her country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during Fed Cup by BNP Paribas." Oudin was selected by fans to be the first recipient. She was given a silver bracelet and $5,000 to donate to the cause of her choice. Oudin gave the money to Children's at Egleston, the hospital where her younger sister had open-heart surgery.

Tennis Channel reaches new depths of sexism

Tennis Channel has a series called "Best of Five." This series includes the five biggest upsets, five worst calls, five best one-slam wonders, etc. This morning, for the first (and only) time, I saw "Five Best Breakups." Rated at number 3 was "black widow" Martina Hingis, whose ATP romantic partners' careers tended to dive after they became involved with her. Of course, with the exception of Radek Stepanek, she was not involved with players who had especially high rankings, anyway.

I don't have any problem with the whole "black widow" thing. It's mildly amusing (though I can think of tennis breakups more deserving of being in the top five--the other breakups all involved parnters, coaches, etc.). But Tennis Channel, just like Tennis magazine, made the segment all about how Hingis "went through men" on the tour. Not only did she "go through" a "lot" of men--she was a "good date" because she "took care" of them.

In short, the segment is a disgusting piece of sexism. So Hingis dated men on the tour. So she had sex with them--oh, no!--that makes her a slut, doesn't it? Because that's close to what Tennis Channel (and Tennis) said. But she gets a bit of a pass because she "took care" of them.

Sexism aside for a moment, it's only logical that tennis players are likely to date one another; it's not like they have time to hang out in their hometowns and meet romantic partners socially. There are several men on the ATP Tour who date women on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and there are a few who dated several WTA players, but the sports media does not crudely imply that they are trashy and indecent, or announce that they "go through a lot of women."

The fact that--with regard to the sexual double standard (and all gender double standards)--nothing has changed since the 1950s is maddening. Tennis Channel should be ashamed, but hey--we're talking about the organization that kept Justin Gimelstob on its payroll.

Rezai wins CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions

How surprised was I when I woke up this morning and read that Marion Bartoli had retired in the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions final in Bali?

Not at all.

This is the story of Bartoli's career--get some momentum, and then sustain an injury. In this case, it was her thigh, which began troubling her toward the end of the first set. Rezai won that set 7-5, and then Bartoli retired. I have written extensively for a long time about Bartoli's injury problems, so I won't address that issue here.

Aravane Rezai is a player who has endured some unpleasant times on the tour. She survived those times, and it is really nice to see her win a title that carries some prestige. Rezai is a big hitter, and this has been a really good season for her. She won her first tour title in Strassbourg, and she also reached the round of 16 at the French Open.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Italy 2-0 in Fed Cup final

Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone won their matches against the USA in Reggio Calabria today, giving Italy a 2-0 lead in the 2009 Fed Cup final. Pennetta defeated Alexa Glatch 6-3, 6-1, and Schiavone defeated Melanie Oudin 7-6, 6-2.

I didn't see the match between Pennetta and Glatch, but I did see about 2/3 of the other match. Oudin--though she dropped a 4-2 lead--looked good in what I saw of the first set; my understanding is that she was rattled by a rain delay that occurred earlier. In the second set, she made too many unforced errors to have any real momentum, and her ability to move on a clay court is clearly a liability when playing someone like Schiavone.

Pennetta will play Oudin in the third rubber. Italy needs one more win to take the title.

All-French final in Bali

Top seed Marion Bartoli defeated Kimiko Date Krumm 6-1, 6-3 today to advance to the final of the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions in Bali. Bartoli, who played a clean match, hit seven aces, and had a 78 first serve win percentage.

Her opponent will be countrywoman Aravane Rezai, who defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-3. Rezai, with an 82 first serve win percentage, kept her errors low and thrived on hitting winners throughout the match.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fed Cup final draw announced

The 2009 Fed Cup final, featuring team USA and team Italy, takes place this weekend on a clay court in Reggio Calabria, in southern Italy. After completing the draw ceremony, the players had their photos taken and did some buffet dining, and they are now ready for the main event:

Round 1: Flavia Pennetta vs. Alexa Glatch
Round 2: Francesca Schiavone vs. Melanie Oudin
Round 3: Flavia Pennetta vs. Melanie Oudin
Round 4: Francesca Schiavone vs. Alexa Glatch
Round 5: Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci vs. Liezel Huber/Vania King

In case you are not that familiar with Fed Cup, here are some things you should know:

  • The USA has a 9-0 head-to-head record against Italy in Fed Cup play.
  • Italians are clay court specialists; North Americans are not.
  • Roberta Vinci has a 13-0 doubles win record in Fed Cup play.
  • Flavia Pennetta has had some injury issues lately.
  • Melanie Oudin is probably under as much pressure as we think she is under.
  • Francesca Schiavone has been known to turn into an Italian Superwoman in Fed Cup matches.
  • Alexa Glatch won both of her matches against the Czech Republic earlier this season.
  • The team captains may make substitutes, provided official rules are followed.

Bali semifinals to be played tomorrow

Top seed Marion Bartoli, who represents Group A, increased her Bali round robin record to 2-0 today, which puts her into the semifinals. Bartoli defeated Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-2.

In Group B, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez got a ticket to the semifinals when she defeated Sam Stosur, 7-6, 7-5.

In Group C, Vera Dushevina defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues, which gives Medina Garrigues a 0-2 record. However, Dushevina--who, as an alternate, replaced Yanina Wickmayer--does not get Wickmayer's one win to count as part of her record, so she is out of the running. Kimiko Date Krumm has a 1-1 record and goes to the semifinals.

Group D's winner today was Sabine Lisicki, who defeated Melinda Czink 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. The semifinalist from that group is Aravane Rezai.

Here are the standings, after three rounds:

Bartoli: 2-0
Peer: 1-1
Rybarikova: 0-2

Stosur: 1-1
Martinez Sanchez: 2-0
Szavay: 0-2

Wickmayer: 1-0
(Dushevina: 1-0)
Medina Garrigues: 0-2
Date Krumm: 1-1

Lisicki: 1-1
Czink: 0-2
Rezai: 2-0

In the semifinals, Bartoli will play Date Krumm, and Rezai will play Martinez Sanchez.

Friday cat blogging--That's what friends are for edition

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wickmayer gets 1-year suspension

Just a little over a week ago, I reported that Yanina Wickmayer was unlikely to be suspended for violating the anti-doping "whereabouts rule." Though a warning was recommended by the Belgian anti-doping tribunal prosecutor, the tribunal voted in favor of a one-year suspension.

The International Tennis Federation reported today that it had not received written notification from the Belgian tribunal about the suspension, and therefore could not comment on it.

Wickmayer, who is playing in the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions in Bali this week, was told that the suspension begins immediately, but that she may appeal it, which she intends to do. The Belgian has maintained for some time that she attempted to make her whereabouts known to anti-doping authorities, but the computer password system malfunctioned. Registered mail sent to her house could not be opened because she was traveling and could not sign for it.

Rezai successful in Bali

Aravane Rezai, who defeated Sabine Lisicki earlier this week at the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions, defeated Melinda Czink today. Rezai's 6-3, 7-5 victory in Group D puts her into the semifinals.

In Group A, Shahar Peer defeated Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 7-6. This was Rybarikova's second loss in as many rounds. In Group B, the winner was Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who defeated Agnes Szavay. And in Group D, Kimiko Date Krumm defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-4, 6-3.

Here are the standings so far:

Bartoli: 1-0
Peer: 1-0
Rybarikova: 0-2

Stosur: 1-0
Martinez Sanchez: 1-0
Szavay: 0-2

Wickmayer: 1-0
Medina Garrigues: 0-2
Date Krumm: 1-1

Lisicki: 0-1
Czink: 0-1
Rezai: 2-0

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bartoli succeeds in 1st day round robin play in Bali

Top seed Marion Bartoli, a member of the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions Group A, began her tournament well today with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Magdalena Rybarikova.

In Group B, Samantha Stosur defeated Agnes Szavay 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Stosur hit 10 aces; Szavay, unfortunately, double-faulted 12 times.

The winner in Group C was Yanina Wickmayer, who defeated wild card Kimiko Date Krumm 7-5, 6-3. And in Group D, Aravane Rezai defeated wild card Sabine Lisicki 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Lisicki is also seeded 4th in competition.

Tomorrow's competition:

Group A: Shahar Peer vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
Group B: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez vs. Agnes Szavay
Group C: Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Kimiko Date Krumm
Group D. Melinda Czink vs. Aravane Rezai

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2010 season doubles pairings a bit of a mystery

In her Doha blog, Liezel Huber hints that big changes are in store for doubles teams next season. Of course, that really wouldn't be anything new--for various reasons, many players change doubles partners quite a bit. A few players have consistent partners, and some--like Gisela Dulko--have more than one partner, and rotate, depending on the tournament.

Huber says that she will remain with Cara Black, and I think we all know that the Williams sisters will also remain a team. Katarina Srebotnik lost her partner, Ai Sugiyama, to retirement, and will play with Kveta Peschke next season. Peschke has been out for a long time with injury (like Srebotnik, until recently), so her 2009 partner, Lisa Raymond, has done without her for the past several tournaments. It is unknown right now who Raymond's new partner is; she has not revealed the name, as far as I know.

Will Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs continue to play together? They were supposed to have been a team for the 2009 Australian season only, but they stayed together for the year, and did well. Alicia Molik is back in the mix, too. She did well in the past with Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has been playing doubles only at major tournaments, and always with Amelie Mauresmo. Right now, Mauresmo's plans are unknown.

One can safely predict that Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will stay together, and--if Virginia Ruano Pascual continues to play--that she and Anabel Medina Garrigues will stay together. Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder did well this year, as did Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova, but there is no word as to whether these teams will compete next season.

I miss the team of Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung. Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, though still together, have faded from the spotlight for various reasons, and I haven't heard whether they will be playing together next season.


Unless the proposed expansion of Roland Garros takes place soon, there are threats to move the French Open.

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and Sony Ericsson are approaching a contract extension deadline, but no agreement has been reached. This comes as no surprise, considering how poorly Sony Ericsson has fared lately.

World number 1 Serena Williams has set a single-season prize money record. In 2009, she was paid $6.5 million.

Chris Bowers and Craig Gabriel are on Fed Cup Radio now, hosting a show that previews the 2009 Fed Cup final.

Laura Robson will team with Andy Murray to represent Great Britain in Hopman Cup competition.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bali draw announced

The singles draw has been completed for the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions, which begins Wednesday in Bali. Round robin play will occur in four groups, as follows:

Marion Bartoli
Shahar Peer
Magdelena Rybarikova

Samantha Stosur
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
Agnes Szavay

Yanina Wickmayer
Anabel Medina Garrigues
Kimiko Date Krumm

Sabine Lisicki
Melinda Czink
Aravane Rezai

Bartoli is the top seed; Date Krumm and Lisicki have wild cards.

The composition of the groups is causing me to slightly warm up to this tournament, whose existence I oppose, simply because I think the Sony Ericsson Championships should be it. I also think that scheduling the Bali tournament after Doha erodes and compromises the meaning of the SEC. (And on a more personal note, I resented the SEC being changed to the week I take my vacation.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dokic wins 100k tournament in France

Jelena Dokic defeated Sofia Arvidsson 6-4, 6-4 today in Poitiers to win the 100k tournament there. Also entered were Dominika Cibulkova, Alla Kudryavtseva and Michaella Krajicek.

Bien hecho!

Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez had never before been to the Sony Ericsson Championships. It was only this year, in fact, that they began playing together exclusively. Yesterday, they defeated Serena and Venus Williams in the semifinals, and their opponents in today's final were Cara Black and Liezel Huber, who make up the number 1 team in the world.

Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez won, 7-6, 5-7, 10-7, and the first set tiebreak score was 7-0. This very big title is the seventh of the season for the Spanish team. It would have been impressive enough to have defeated either the Williams sisters or Black and Huber: Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez defeated them both, making for a memorable championship.

Serena wins Sony Ericsson Championships

The world number 1 put some impressive icing on the cake today when she defeated her sister, Venus, also the defending champion, in the final of the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha. Serena won in straight sets--6-2, 7-6--to take her second SEC title.

It took Serena just over half an hour to win the first set, but the second set was very competitive. Serena had a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak, Venus took it to 4-5, but Serena was able to win with a three-point lead.

Serena Williams had already regained her number 1 ranking, but winning in Doha certainly puts some emphasis on her status on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quote of the day

"The relationship with the people—that’s what I missed the most."
Justine Henin

Spanish team goes to Doha final

The team of Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez did today what few thought they could do: They defeated the Williams sisters in the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Championships. They will play Cara Black and Liezel Huber in the final tomorrow.

Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez, the "other" Spanish team, have had a great season. In their first year to play together exclusively, they won six titles, and were finalists in two other tournaments. Black and Huber, the number 1 team in the world, won five titles this year, and were finalists at the U.S. Open. They are 6-0 head-to-head against Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez.

Looking ahead to Fed Cup final

The last time the USA played Italy on clay in Fed Cup competition was ten years ago. At that time, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Monica Seles were on the USA Fed Cup team, and the USA won the World Group 1 semifinal. In fact, the USA has won all nine of its Fed Cup matches against Italy.

This is the first time that the two countries have played in a Fed Cup final. Italy defeated Russia to get to the final, and if Italy wins this year's Fed Cup, it will go to the top of the ITF rankings for the first time. Italy won Fed Cup in 2006, and the USA has won the title 17 times. Italy was the finalist in 2007.

Two Fed Cup specialists, Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta, will be playing for Italy. Roberta Vinci has a 13-0 record in Fed Cup doubles matches, and her record will be tested next weekend if she winds up playing against Liezel Huber.

The Italian team also includes Sara Errani, and the clay surface is the choice of the Italian team members. Vania King has just been added to the USA team, which also includes 2009 Fed Cup stars Melanie Oudin and Alexa Glatch.

Williams out of Fed Cup

"I'll play Fed Cup if I'm not in a wheelchair," Serena Williams declared three weeks ago. I don't know what her immediate mobility plans are, but she does have to play her sister tomorrow in the Sony Ericsson Championships final in Doha. In the meantime, USA Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez has selected Vania King to be on the team.

Williams' thigh is bandaged this week, so we can probably expect to hear more about her condition soon.

Venus and Serena in Doha final

Defending champion Venus Williams will meet her sister in the final of the 2009 Sony Ericsson Championships tomorrow in Doha; Venus defeated Jelena Jankovic, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals. Serena won her semifinal when opponent Caroline Wozniacki retired, with Serena leading 6-4, 0-1. Wozniacki has struggled all weak with cramping, and retired today with an abdominal injury.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Doha: All fall down

I'm on vacation, but I'm following (and watching a bit) the events in Doha, and I can't shake an image I have of Flavia Pennetta, sitting in her house, shaking a bottle of Peroni at the television and muttering. Pennetta has had her share of physical vulnerability at season's end this year, but--judging from the Fed Cup final schedule--she can still stand up, which might have made her a worthy contender in Doha. She lost her chance, though, and the opportunity to wither in the heat and fall down in pain went to other players.

As it is, Caroline Wozniacki is having serious issues with cramping, though she has steadfastly continued to play, losing today to Jelena Jankovic. Meanwhile, Victoria Azarenka retired with cramps today in the third set of her match against 2nd alternate Agnieska Radwanska. Radwanska was playing because 1st alternate Vera Zvonareva had to withdraw when she sustained an ankle injury. And Zvonareva was playing because Dinara Safina retired in her first match with a lower back injury.

Azarenka's retirement puts Wozniacki into the semifinals, but can Wozniacki play? If she cannot, the rules say that Azarenka may play if she believes she is able to and she has the permission of the tournament physician. And--in the strangest scenario ever--if she couldn't play, then Radwanska--who is about to undergo hand surgery--would wind up in the semifinals.

With me so far?

Enter Jelena Jankovic, who lost her first match to Azarenka, won her second match at 1-1 when Safina retired, and defeated Wozniacki in straight sets today. In 2007, Jankovic played herself into the ground, but Wozniacki must not have been paying attention because this year, she played more matches than anyone else on the tour.

The semifinal schedule for tomorrow involves a match between Jankovic and defending champion Venus Williams, and one between Serena Williams and Wozniacki. Venus Williams made it to the semifinals when Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Elena Dementieva today.

Doubles play begins tomorrow, too. Cara Black and Liezel Huber play Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs; Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez play Serena and Venus Williams.

Friday cat blogging--glamour edition

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quote of the day

"I don't even know what crystal meth is so, you know, that's what my reaction to it is. I haven't read anything about Andre Agassi's book. All I know is that I have a book coming out."
Serena Williams

Serena 3-0 in Doha

Serena Williams, having defeated Elena Dementieva in straight sets today, is now 3-0 at the Sony Ericsson Championships. Also winning in the maroon group was Venus Williams, who defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova.

In the white group, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-0, 6-7, 7-6. Zvonareva entered the competition as an alternate when Dinara Safina retired with a lower back injury yesterday. Now, Zvonareva has withdrawn from Doha because of a right ankle injury. For her part, Wozniacki developed a leg cramp at 3-1 in the third set, and was in considerable pain by the end of the two-hour and 48-minute match. At one point, she collapsed on the court.

Tomorrow, in the white group, Wozniacki (2-0 so far) will play Jelena Jankovic (1-1), and 2nd alternate Agnieszka Radwanska will play Victoria Azarenka (1-1). In the maroon group, Kuznetsova (0-2) will play Elena Dementieva (1-1).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Italy announces Fed Cup team for final

Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci will play for Italy in the 2009 Fed Cup final against the USA. Schiavone is undefeated so far this year in Fed Cup, and Errani has a 13-0 doubles record in Fed Cup competition.

Serena 2-0 so far in Doha

Serena Williams, playing another close match today in Doha, is now 2-0 at the Sony Ericsson Championships. Williams, a member of the maroon group, defeated her sister, Venus, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6. Yesterday, she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 7-5.

Williams' victory, combined with the retirement of Dinara Safina, makes her number 1 in the world again.

In the white group, Jelena Jankovic retired when Safina retired with a lower back injury at 1-1. And Caroline Wozniacki came from behind to defeate Victoria Azarenka, 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. The fifth game of the second set lasted 20 minutes, and had a bit of everything in it. Wozniacki and Azarenka, both good players, present a study in emotional contrast. Wozniacki appears to let most adversity slide, whereas Azarenka tends to become increasingly intense as a match goes on. Wozniacki, considered by many to be too depleted to compete at her best right now, hit 32 winners.

Tomorrow, the only white group match will feature Wozniacki against Vera Zvonareva, the alternate who is replacing Dinara Safina. Zvonareva was last year's finalist.

In the maroon group, Serena Williams will play Elena Dementieva, and Svetlana Kuznetsova will play Venus Williams.

Lisicki and Date Krumm get wild cards for Bali

Sabine Lisicki and Kimiko Date Krumm have been given wild cards to the CommonwealthBank Tournament of Champions in Bali. The new tournament features round robin play among the ten highest-ranked players who have won at least one International tournament, and who are not playing in the Sony Ericsson Championships. The addition of two wild cards means that twelve women will compete in the tournament.

The other players who will play in Bali are:

Marion Bartoli
Samantha Stosur
Yanina Wickmayer
Anabel Medina Garrigues
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
Shahar Peer
Melinda Czink
Agnes Szavay
Aravane Rezai
Magdalena Rybarikova

The alternate is Vera Dushevina.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

USA Fed Cup team announced for final

Captain Mary Joe Fernandez has selected Serena Williams, Melanie Oudin, Liezel Huber, and Alexa Glatch to play in the 2009 Fed Cup final against Italy. The final will take place November 7 and 8 in Italy.

Sony Ericsson Championships--day 1

Day 1 in Doha produced victory for Victoria Azarenka in the white group, and for Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in the maroon group. Azarenka defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-3. Azarenka will play Caroline Wozniacki next, and Jankovic will play Dinara Safina.

In the maroon group, Serena Williams defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 7-5, and Elena Dementieva defeated Venus Williams 3-6, 7-6, 6-2. Serena Williams' next opponent will be Venus Williams.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Justine Henin will make her official comeback at the Brisbane International in January.

Agnieszka Radwanska will soon have a surgical procedure done on her right hand. Radwanska has had problems with her hand for some time now. The world number is currently in Doha, serving a an alternate at the Sony Ericsson Championships.

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, along with Tommy Robredo, will represent Spain in Hopman Cup competition in January.

It appears unlikely that Yanina Wickmayer will be suspended for violating the anti-doping "whereabouts rule." Rather, it has been recommended that she receive a warning. Wickmayer says that she had problems using her computer system password when she traveled, and that there was no one at her house to sign for registered mail.

Dinara Safina is again number 1 in the world.

WTA Backspin's Players of the Decade continues with players 11-15.

Luxembourg champion Timea Bacsinzky's new website is now online.

Round robin draw released for Sony Ericsson Championships

The white group and the maroon group will compete, round robin style, in Doha, beginning tomorrow, in the 2009 Sony Ericsson Championships. Here are the groups:

Dinara Safina
Caroline Wozniacki
Victoria Azarenka
Jelena Jankovic

Serena Williams
Elena Dementieva
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Venus Williams

2008 finalist Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska are the alternates. Venus Williams, who is seeded 7th, is the defending champion. The first match to be played tomorrow will be between Azarenka and Jannkovic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bacsinzky wins her first title

In the Luxembourg semifinals, she upset 5th seed and Yanina Wickmayer, and today, Timea Bacsinzky upset 6th seed Sabine Lisicki to win the BGL Luxembourg Open. Bacsinzky's 6-2, 7-5 victory gave her her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

The doubles title was won by 2nd seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Carla Suarez Navarro 1-6, 6-0, 10-7.

Schiavone wins Kremlin Cup

Though she often found it difficult to win a final, Francesca Schiavone had no trouble doing it today. The 8th seed defeated Olga Govortsova 6-3, 6-0 to win the 2009 Kremlin Cup. Schiavone now has a 2-10 record in finals.

Yesterday, Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova won the doubles title, defeating Maria Kondratieva and Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 6-2.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Schiavone and Govortsova to meet in Kremlin Cup final

8th seed Francesca Schiavone, who just doesn't stop surprising us, will play Olga Govortsova in tomorrow's Kremlin Cup final. Schiavone defeated Alona Bondarenko, 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals today. Govortsova defeated Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 6-1.

Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, 6th seed Sabine Lisicki came back from being down 2-4 in the third set against Shahar Peer, and won her semifinal match 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. In the final, Lisicki will play Timea Bacsinzky, who upset 5th seed Yanina Wickmayer, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogging may slow down for a while

There isn't a lot of blogging going on right now, anyway, but there may be less for a while as I depart for a vacation. But I'll be checking in and doing my best to keep up with the Sony Ericsson Championships. The new calendar places them right during my vacation; I usually watch them upon my return. However, I think I'll get to watch some of the action while I'm gone.

Semifinals set in Moscow and Luxembourg

The big news today is that 2nd seed Jelena Jankovic was defeated 6-4, 6-3 in the Kremlin Cup quarterfinals by Alisa Kleybanova. The only seed remaining is Francesca Schiavone, who defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-2. Also defeated in straight sets were Tsvetana Pironkova, who lost to Alona Bondarenko, and Vera Dushevina, who lost to Olga Govortsova.

In Luxembourg, Timea Bacsinzky defeated Katarina Srebotnik, Shahar Peer upset 4th seed Daniela Hantuchova, and Patty Schnyder--having taken out both Petra Kvitova and Kim Clijsters--lost to 6th seed Sabine Lisicki. Also winning, and thereby putting herself in another semifinal, was Yanina Wickmayer, who defeated Kirsten Flipkens 7-6, 4-6, 6-1.

In doubles, the top seeds, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder, were upset by the team of Vladimira Uhlirova and Renata Voracova.

Friday cat blogging--tote bag edition

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jankovic becomes number 8 for Doha

Jelena Jankovic defeated Lucie Safarova in the second round of the Kremlin Cup today. In an earlier match, Vera Zvonareva was defeated 6-0, 6-2, by Tsvetana Pironkova, who--this time--followed a big win (over Pavlyuchenkova) with an even bigger one. The upshot of all this is that Jankovic is now the eighth contender in the 2009 Sony Ericsson Championships.

By the way, we're just out of the second round in Moscow, and only two seeds remain--Jankovic (2) and Schiavone (8).

In Luxembourg today, wild card and 2nd seed Kim Clijsters was upset by Patty Schnyder, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, in the second round, and 8th seed Carla Suarez Navarro was upset in the second round by Shahar Peer.

Between them, Daniela Hantuchova and Lucie Hradecka, hit 18 aces. Hantuchova won the match, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Radwanska out of contention for Doha

Agnieszka Radwanska, until today, had a chance to be the eighth woman to compete at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, but her fate was sealed today when she lost in straight sets to Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the Kremlin Cup. Kirilenko is now 2-1 against the world number 10.

Flavia Pennetta retired in the first round in Moscow today because of a left knee injury. She was a contender to be an alternate in Doha, but today's events removed that chance. Rather, Radwanska will be an alternate, and now it is down to either Vera Zvonareva or Jelena Jankovic to take the final spot in the competition.

There were a couple of upsets today in Moscow, also. Qualifier Evgeniya Rodina defeated 6th seed Elena Vesnina in the first round, and Alona Bondarenko defeated 5th seed Nadia Petrova in the second round.

Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, qualifier Kirsten Flipkens upset 3rd seed Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retirements in Moscow

Sara Errani and Sorana Cirstea both retired during their first round matches in Moscow today--Errani with a right shoulder injury, and Cirstea with a right foot injury. Akeksandra Wozniak and Monica Niculescu were the beneficiaries of the retirements.

Tsvetana Pironkova, who is known for sometimes knocking off higher-ranked players, did so today when she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenko 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Top seeds Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic both advanced to the second round, also. Zvonareva defeated Ioana Raluca Olaru, and Jankovic defeated Yaroslava Shvedova, the woman who took her out of the U.S. Open.

Jankovic won 6-4, 5-7, 6-1, and the sixth game of the last set featured eight deuces; Shvedova saved six match points on her own serve, and had a break point against Jankovic, but could not convert it. Jankovic hit six aces and double-faulted seven times.