Tag Archives: Serena Williams

Vika conquered. Stosur wins WTA Carlsbad

5 Aug

Azarenka Carlsbad

Victoria Azarenka. The face of determination.

Aussie Sam Stosur had reason to smile following her upset 6/2 6/3 victory over top seed Victoria Azarenka in the Southern California Open. It was Stosur’s first singles title since her “breakthrough” 2011 US Open victory. That match caused the tennis world to sit up and take notice of the little Aussie with the big guns, mule kicking serve and hostile forehand. Many predicted Stosur would win several Slam titles following her demolition of Serena Williams in that 2011 US Open final.

It has been 2 years of frustration, floating around the edges of the top 10, and blowing many chances, most notably at the French Open, but also at this year’s Wimbledon where Stosur was unable to capitalise on a draw that just kept opening up for her. Stosur’s inconsistency has always been apparent, and just last week she lost 1st round at Stanford. That result made her change plans and push for a wildcard into this week’s Carlsbad event. Perhaps the unplanned is something that works for her. For many years there has been much soul searching as Stosur, a self described “choker” battled mental demons and self doubt.

The pleasing aspect of this win over Azarenka is that despite Stosur taking a daunting 8 losses to 0 wins head to head into the match, she was able to get the job done by playing the big points well, so well, in fact, that the WTA web-site described her as having “nerves of steel”. Nothing could make Stosur, and coach David Taylor happier. While many reconcile the fact that the win over Serena was an aberration, those at Tennis Australia have never stopped believing (they have little choice as Stosur is the only light at one end of a very long tunnel). So it was not entirely unexpected that my phone beeped this morning and the Tennis Australia good news spin doctors were quick off the mark with a congrats Sam text. Now for New York.

The PRO

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Sabine Lisicki’s happy hunting ground.

1 Jul

Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki – the moment of triumph.

Sabine Lisicki is one of those players who seems to grow a foot taller out on Wimbledon’s famed centre court. Super powers? Kryptonite? Super-hero status is something that happens to Lisicki – and for those driving Serena Williams into unbackable odds, they probably wish Sabine Lisicki would put away the cape. While Lisicki has never been past the 4th round at any of the other 3 Slams, she is through to her 4th quarter final appearance at Wimbledon in 5 years.

In a see-sawing battle which produced some stern tests of character in the deciding 3rd set, it was Lisicki who had the resolve and belief to get the job done. If you saw the post match Lisicki BBC breakdown you realise how big a deal it is for a player to overcome not just Serena, but their own demons, and the relief was tangible. Serena, the 5 time Wimbledon champion and world #1, bows out with a career best winning streak halted at 34 matches. That won’t please her, because it puts her second to sister Venus, who had a streak of 35. No one likes coming second to their sister.

The PRO

 

Caroline Garcia – school’s in.

26 Jun

Youth Gone Wild

French 18 year old Caroline Garcia. “Yes, I have a dream to be No. 1.

While Aussie Bernard Tomic, at 20 is the youngest player in the Wimbledon men’s draw, the women’s singles is littered with youth. And they are from all parts of the globe, not just traditional tennis strongholds. File away these names Monica Puig from Puerto Rico, Eugenie Bouchard from Canada, Brit Laura Robson and Anna Schmiedlova from Slovakia for starters. Big hitters, flair, talent and paving the way for others to follow from their homelands.

Another blazing a very bright trail, is France’s Caroline Garcia. At 18 Garcia is destined for greatness – a big call, but when Martina Navratilova is the person making the proclamation- we listen. Athletic with a pounding forehand, Garcia is drawn to meet Serena Williams – and in one of those strange quirks of tennis draws, she also met Serena 2 weeks ago at the same stage of the French Open, losing 6/1 6/2. Serena is in ominous form – a fact borne out by her current career best winning streak of 32 matches. It took her all of 19 minutes to win the first set last night against Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella. Ouch.

So what will Caroline Garcia do? From my perspective there is a macabre fascination – Garcia should still be in school – but in her chosen school, the WTA tour, the “exam” has come very early. Will Garcia have learned from the French Open loss? Her comments following that match suggest she has a strong analytical mind. “Serena’s accuracy is impressive, she strikes the ball hard, and I was running around a lot. Many balls were difficult to return. I have a lot of things to take home with me. I need to work on my game if I want to give her problems next time we play”. Study time is over, the exam is tomorrow.

The PRO

Linesmen ready. Ballkids ready. Players ready. Play.

24 Jun

Federer practices at Wimbledon

Roger Federer contemplates Wimbledon title #8.

With the countdown to Wimbledon entering the last few hours, it’s time to leave the ugly verbal jousting between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova aside, and focus on some really entertaining match ups the draw has thrown up. While many are distraught that Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal are in the same quarter (due to Rafa’s ranking of #5), it does remind us that tennis tournaments, despite allegations to the contrary by Damir Dokic, are subject to the vagaries of “the draw”.

Have at a look at these 1st round matches. In the women’s there are a couple of standouts. In a battle of emerging young USA talent Sloane Stephens (seeded 17) takes on in form Jamie Hampton. Hampton has risen from a ranking in the 50’s to sit inside the top 25 following her runner-up result at Eastbourne this week. A week earlier and that ranking would have had her also seeded at Wimbledon. Tough for Stephens. Tough for Hampton. My tip Hampton in 3 sets. And in a battle of big hitters – Angelique Kerber takes on Bethanie Mattek-Sands in what is sure to be a slug-fest or the diminutive fast feet of Maria Kirilenko against the hope of the British, lefty Laura Robson.

The men’s draw has thrown up some cracker match ups. Baghdatis versus Cilic, Lopez v. Simon, or the battle of the Serbs – Troicki v. Tipsarevic. All enticing for the fans – but the hottest 1 st round seats may well be at the Aussie matches. Perhaps we may learn something about the mental toughness of Bernard (sans Dad / coach John) Tomic. Tomic is already something of an enigma on tour – he challenges conventional thinking, appears to “coast”, and often leaves us with more questions than answers. In a defining moment in his fledgling career, Tomic plays big serving American Sam Querrey. Will Tomic’s guile and court craft be enough to get him across the line? Where is his head at?

THE match of the 1st round is undoubtedly Swiss ball striking maestro, Stan “The Man” Wawrinka against Little Lleyton Hewitt. These two have history, and a genuine respect for each other forged from their tie deciding Davis Cup battle on grass at Royal Sydney Golf Club. That particular match was an epic affair, where Wawrinka dragged himself across the line in 5 brutal sets. The match had to be stopped due to bad light, as neither player would wilt, and a broken Lleyton Hewitt – yes his BIG heart broke his little body – AGAIN – meekly surrendered his serve the next morning to lose the match. Hewitt has a long memory – and that match hurt. Hewitt in 4 for me.

The PRO.

Serena shines

9 Jun

Serena Williams raises a hand in victory, after a short and snappy 46-minute match in which Italian Sara Errani could only swipe a single game.

French Open champion Serena Williams celebrates with a trademark jig

A somewhat serene Serena Williams snuffed out the early spark from Maria Sharapova to take out her 2nd French Open singles title in Paris. In a dominant serving display, Serena, who loves the big occasion, closed out the match with 3 aces in the last game winning 6/4 6/4. It has been 11 years between celebrations in Paris for Serena, and today’s title takes her Grand Slam singles tally to 16, and kept alive her current career best winning streak of 31 matches.

It could be that Serena Williams knows how to hold a grudge. It has been said before that she has never forgotten losing the 2004 Wimbledon final to the then 17 year old Maria Sharapova. Since then Sharapova has lost 10 straight times to Williams, and despite getting close, doesn’t look likely to turn this around any time soon.

While on court Serena Williams will always play with a ruthless competitiveness, could it be, as she enters the twilight of her career that she is starting to get the bigger picture. Partly due to her relationship with French player maker, Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena addressed the crowd in French and referred to her love of Paris, perhaps she realises a few weeks shy of her 32nd birthday that every moment needs to be savoured. With Serena one thing will always stand out. “I want more…”

The PRO

 

 

Scream-fest # 13. It’s Vika v. Maria

6 Jun

Azarenka v. Sharapova

Bring your ear plugs as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka go head to head in the semi final.

In a battle of former WTA #1’s, Russia’s self proclaimed “cow on ice” and current world #2 Maria Sharapova, will take on Belarus world #3 Victoria Azarenka. The shriek-o-meter will also be on hand as these two are serial offenders when it comes to making a racket.

Azarenka leads the head to head battle 7-5, Sharapova leads the claycourt part of that equation 2-0. This looms as a titanic battle between two stars of the WTA tour. The PRO thinks this time it will be Vika in 3 sets – partly based on Azarenka’s self assessment when she said in her last post match press conference “while she wasn’t married to clay, we are moving in together”.

In the other women’s French Open semi final world #1 Serena Williams takes on Italian clay court specialist world #5 Sara Errani. What better way for the WTA to celebrate its 40th anniversary than to have these two matches interspersed with a ceremony on Roland Garros’s famed centre court featuring a cavalcade of great female tennis players from the past 40 years.

The PRO

US women. Out of the blue..

2 Jun

Serena Williams came into the final with a 12-0 clay court record on the year, losing just one set.

While US women’s tennis has, on the surface, looked healthy as far back as one cares to think, it has been riding on the dominance of Serena Williams. With a little help from sister Venus over the past 11 years, the “sisters” have amassed 23 Grand slam singles titles between them, Serena with an astounding tour win-loss % of .839 and Venus .800. They have battled every challenger: from Russia, Czech Republic, France, Serbia, China and even Belgium and Denmark have thrown up contenders. All the time they must have been looking in the rear view mirror wondering when, or even if, the cavalry would arrive. Where are the next line of US female players?

Perhaps they can breathe a little easier, after a breakthrough semi-final result for Sloane Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open, including a win over Serena herself. Stephens today joined Serena, Bettina Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton in the 4th round of the French Open. Hampton’s was a solid straight set win over WTA#7 Petra Kvitova. Following closely on their heels are improved WTA tour players Melanie Oudin, Christina McHale and Lauren Davis – all under 23 years of age.

And next in line. The prodigious junior talent, lefty, Taylor Townsend. Townsend just 17, won the 2012 Australian Open Junior Girls Singles and is the first US girl to hold the year end world #ITF junior ranking since 1982.

Taylor Townsend tennis.jpg

Taylor Townsend unleashes a forehand

While Serena is in no hurry to abdicate the throne it appears there are now likely candidates pressing their claims. Watch out for Taylor Townsend’s transition through to the senior tour. Perhaps the real question to ask of US tennis: where are the American men?

The PRO