Thursday, August 28, 2014


by Karen

Sloane Stephens

From Serena Williams, to Maria Sharapova, to Eugenie Bouchard, everyone and their mother repeats the well known Billie Jean King quote “pressure is a privilege”.  What exactly does this phrase mean? I went to my favourite research tool, Google and typed in the phrase along with Billie Jean King.  Turns out that the complete phrase is “Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I've Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes” and is the title of a book penned by Ms. King herself.  It is available on Amazon and a link to the page is here.

I find it a bit conceited that so many players, as well as fans spout this phrase without a real awareness of the pressure which Ms. King references. As soon as a player who has been thrust into the media spotlight does not perform to tennis fans’ overly inflated expectations, they echo King's sentiments. Frankly, until you have lived what Ms. King and others of her ilk have experienced, especially in the context of being a female professional athlete, you really don’t get to use that phrase willy nilly. The latest  victim of the pressure narrative is Sloane Stephens;  she has failed to live up to tennis media and fans' expectations

In 2013, Sloane Stephens, then a young up and comer with loads of talent beat  Serena Williams at the Australian Open quarter-finals.  It was a wonderful performance by the youngster and it shot her into the tennis spotlight.  The last  person to be thrust into the spotlight after beating Serena, was none other than Maria Sharapova. Immediately thereafter,  there was the interview in Rolling Stone where she called out Serena for slamming the door on their “friendship”, one manufactured by the press. As well as comments to suggest that Serena  "was never my favourite player anyway”.  There was the unfollow on Twitter as well as the  unfriending on BBM.  In short, the so-called friendship that was constantly referred to via the press went up in smoke.

While there was some initial sympathy for Sloane, whom many deemed too  immature to know what to share with the press, she no longer gets a pass for her  youth. The shift is directly related to her dip in form in Grand Slams. She has gone  from being celebrated for her exuberance and love of the big stage to a problem child. After making the second week of 6 straight Slams from 2013-2014, Sloane has now been ousted in the early rounds of her last 2 Slams. In her defeat today against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, she made 63 unforced errors.

I admit that I had great expectations for Sloane after she took on Thomas Hogstedst.  I believe, and still do that it is a better hire than Paul Annacone, who really did not  bring much to the table in terms of tactics.  Sloane and Thomas will need time before we can see results. Yet, all I see is criticism of Sloane by tennis media and fans for failing to fall in line with their expectations. They did it to Oudin and are probably about to begin with Bellis.  

Who knows why Sloane has not been able to back-up the promise she showed in her take down of Serena in Australia. Is it about her lack of hunger?

Many of you will remember that part of growing up was moving out of your parents’ home.  If you did not wish to move out voluntarily, your parents made your life a living hell, forcing you to move out.  Once you were on your own you found that you developed a drive and determination to succeed because if you did not, not only would your rent not be paid, but you could never afford that pair of shoes or that vacation that you wanted.  Sloane still lives at home, and that maybe part of the problem.  From Sharapova to Federer to Azarenka, most players who have succeeded in this sport will tell you that part of that whole process was learning to tough it out.  From Federer being sent away by his parents to a training camp to live, to Sharapova leaving Russia and coming to America, to Azarenka leaving Belarus, all these players have had to make sacrifices to achieve their dreams.

I don’t like to compare players, but after watching Azarenka’s match yesterday and seeing her come from behind and win a match that she should have lost, not playing her best tennis, but giving it her all, you see the hunger and determination and the will to succeed.

I believe Sloane still has to find that drive and desire to succeed in tennis on her own terms. It is disappointing that she has to manage others' expectations as she tries to find her way in the sport. Now, these thwarted expectations have created an unduly negative storyline about a perfectly normal and natural evolution for a young player.  I say give her some time.  Let her try and figure it out.  Remember, Rome was never built in a day and neither were Grand Slam champions.


by Karen

If you missed it last night, Venus’ match against Timea Bascinsky was must see tv.  Watching Venus in full flight in some of the points played brought many fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and some of us watching from our living rooms on our feet.  The athleticism and ball striking of Venus in that match was amazing.  Who would have thought that this 34 year old wunderkind still had that kind of tennis inside her?  Venus moves on to the third round where things will get a bit trickier for her. Her next opponent is Sara Errani. If Venus manages to pull out that win it will see her through to the round of 16.  How amazing is that?

Alexandra Dulgheru gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in her second round match.  If Sharapova does not get her game together, she will no doubt be ousted in the next round by Sabine Lisicki who seems determined in proving that she can play on surfaces other than grass. 

Aga Radwanska continues her dismal performance at the US Open by losing to Shuai Peng in straight sets.  Sloane Stephens was also ousted by No. 96 Johanna Larsson in an epic 3 set battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The piling on of Sloane has begun and frankly I am sick of it. 

Day 4 features play from the top half of the draw and sees some very tasty match ups. The Order of Play is below as well as Spin’s Picks

Arthur Ashe

Christina McHale v. Victoria Azarenka
Vania King v. Serena Williams
Sorana Cirstea v. Eugenie Bouchard

Louis Armstrong

Karolina Pliskova v. Ana Ivanovic
Aleksandra Krunic v. Madison Keys


Petra Kvitova v. Petra Cetkovska

Court 11

Coco Vandeweghe v Carla Suarez Navarro
Flavia Pennetta v. Shelby Rogers

Court 13

Varvara Lepchenko v. Mona Barthel
Casey Dellacqua v Qiang Wang
Polona Hercog v Ekaterina Makarova

Court 5

Samantha Stosur v
Kaia Kanepi
Marina Erakovic v Elena Vesnina

Court 17

Nicole Gibbs v A.Pavlyuchenkova
Catherine Bellis v Zarina Diyas

What to Watch

Can American wunderkind Catherine Bellis follow up her performance against Dominika Cibulkova in her next match.  The hard hitting Diyas has been an up and comer for some time and it is good that all her talents will be on a show court for the world to see.  I think Diyas’ experience will prevail in this one.

Samantha Stosur v. Kaia Kanepi should be a good battle if Kanepi shows up to play.  This will be a hard fought battle as you have two hard hitters with lots of variety in their games. 

Upset Alert

Eugenie Bouchard looked really good in her first round match.  It could be because she is getting her game back together at a Grand Slam, or it may have been that her opponent was held together with kinesio tape and could not offer much in the way of resistance.  That being said, is Sorana Cirstea ready to perform under the lights?  Is she ready to show us that her run to the Toronto finals last year, as well as her epic quarterfinal run to the 2009 French Open was not a fluke.  We wait with bated breath.  This could either be a long 3 set affair or a blow out of epic proportions.  Either way, it should be fun to watch.

Is Victoria Azarenka getting match tough?  Her match against Misaki Doi had her calling upon that toughness, which made her No.1 and the winner of 2 Grand Slam titles to the fore.  Her match against Christina McHale has upset written all over it and while I expect Azarenka’s experience playing on the big stage to prevail, she is playing an American and she will be playing in the heat of the day.  Even though I have picked Azarenka to win this one, I think she will have a tough time of it and may end up losing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


by Karen 

Whew, what a day.  From seeing Azarenka struggling to win her first round match, to being knocked out of Suicide Pool, to watching Petra Kvitova show us why many thought she would assume the keys to the WTA Penthouse, to having lots of snark from the ladies in the press room, Day 2 of the US Open finally came to an end, when Serena Williams showed off her best tennis in taking out up and coming teenage prodigy Taylor Townsend in straight sets.  The hug at the net was symbolic of the respect that both women have for each other.

15 year old Ceci Bellis pulled the upset of the tournament when she took out No. 12 seed and this year’s Australian Open finalist, Dominika Cibulkova in 3 hard fought sets.  While credit should be given to Bellis for pulling the upset, we should really take stock of Cibulkova and try and find out just what has gone wrong with her since having that wonderful run in Australia and now.  I have watched a few of Cibulkova’s matches this year and I can only assume that she is playing with an injury of some sort, either that or her mental game has completely deserted her in tight moments.  This is the same woman who saved multiple set and match points to defeat Radwanska earlier this season in a match that was must see tv.  The Spin team hopes that whatever it is that ails Cibulkova will not derail her too much.

Day 3 Order of Play is below with the Spin’s Picks in red.

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Sloane Stephens (USA) v Johanna Larsson (SWE) 
Maria Sharapova (RUS) v Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Venus Williams (USA)

Louis Armstrong

Shuai Peng (CHN) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Jana Cepelova (SVK) v Simona Halep (ROU)

Grand Stand

Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

Court 17

Madison Brengle (USA) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)

Court 5

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Alize Cornet (FRA)
Sara Errani (ITA) v Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) 

Court 11

Angelique Kerber (GER) v Alla Kdrayavtseva (RUS) 

Belinda Bencic (SUI) v Kurumi Nara (JPN)
Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Monica Puig (PUR) 

Court 13

Mirjani Lucic-Baroni (CRO) v Shahar Peer (ISR) 
Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Saisai Zheng (CHN)

Court 7

Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)

Match(es) of the Day

Pironkova v Jankovic – how good is Jankovic playing or better question, will Pironkova make her life miserable out there today?  This one should be a good one as if Jankovic is not on her game, then Pironkova can make her life a living hell.  This will be a battle of the backhands as the outcome of the match will be between which player can use her signature shot to finish points.

Radwanska v Peng – Peng has been playing really good tennis and she seems to be healthy.  Is she ready to take her game to the next level?  Only time and perhaps this match will tell. Radwanska did little or nothing in her first round match but Peng is a much better opponent. 

Upset Alert

Is it an upset if Sabine Lisicki goes out to Madison Brengle?  The pro-US crowd will be behind Brengle and this could have either Lisicki playing balls to the wall tennis or fading away.  The other question is whether Lisicki is looking forward to her potential third round match against Sharapova?  That third round match would be a pretty juicy affair if it happens, but Sharapova will no doubt have to get past Dulgheru who can frustrate her into hitting error after error with her dogged defence.

Monday, August 25, 2014


by Karen, 

What a day of tennis.  As I am writing this, Muguruza has just lost the first set to Lucic-Baroni, Sabine Lisicki is making sure she makes it to the anticipated third round match against Sharapova, Sloane Stephens showed today why she is still being considered a contender and Venus Williams battled her way past a bee and Kimiko Date-Krumm to make her way to the second round. 

No. 2 seed, Simona Halep was given all she could handle against wildcard recipient, Danielle Rose-Collins.  After going down in a tiebreaker in the first set, Halep showed why she is the No. 2 ranked player in the world as she used all her skills to outfox her opponent, winning 4 games in the final 2 sets. Young Belinda Bencic took out 2009 semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets and Camila Giorgi, up a set and a break and served for the match was ousted by Rodionova. 

This evenings matches promise some really good entertainment and I do hope they live up to expectations.   

Tomorrow's matches features the top half of the women's draw and sees the debut of defending champion and holder of the keys to the WTA Penthouse, Serena Williams. Williams will mark her defence of her title by facing wildcard, Taylor Townsend.  This one should be good. 

Day 2 OOP with Spin's Picks in red are below:-

Serena Williams (USA) [1] v Taylor Townsend (USA) 
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Vania King (USA) 
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) v Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 
Mona Barthel (GER) v Shuai Zhang (CHN) [32]

Samantha Stosur (AUS) [24] v Lauren Davis (USA) - 3 setter for this one 
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Kaia Kanepi (EST) 
Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Donna Vekic (CRO) 
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) [15] 

Flavia Pennetta (ITA) [11] v Julia Goerges (GER) 
Shelby Rogers (USA) v Maryna Zanevska (UKR) 
Nicole Gibbs (USA) v Caroline Garcia (FRA) 
Teliana Pereira (BRA) v A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [23]

Casey Dellacqua (AUS) [29] v P.Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) 
Paula Kania (POL) v Qiang Wang (CHN) 
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) 
Alison Riske (USA) v Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [8]

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [3] v Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 
Klara Koukalova (CZE) v Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 
Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) v Katarzyna Piter (POL) 
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) v Madison Keys (USA) [27] 

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [20] v Marina Erakovic (NZL) could be close
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Yung-Jan Chen (TPE) 
Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) v Christina McHale (USA) 
Misaki Doi (JPN) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [16] (if she is not 100% could have problems

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [12] v Catherine Bellis (USA) 
Zarina Diyas (KAZ) v Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 
Elina Svitolina (UKR) v Polona Hercog (SLO) 
Grace Min (USA) v Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [17] 

B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) [30] v Ashleigh Barty (AUS) 
Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) v Monica Niculescu (ROU) 
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) v Heather Watson (GBR) 
Olga Govortsova (BLR) v Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [7]

Match to Watch

Serena Williams v Taylor Townsend
Samantha Stosur v Lauren Davis 

Upset Special 

Olga Govortsova v Eugenie Bouchard

Fashion Focus

Not much into fashion, but I loved Sloane's outfit today. Hopefully, I can get a better picture the next time she plays.  Jelena Jankovic channelled her inner Mystique today in her outfit.  Will post pictures in a separate post. 


by Karen 

Morning All.  Man, life just gets in the way of tennis sometimes, which can really suck if you have a blog that needs to be updated on a fairly regular basis.  I should have been home on vacation for the next two weeks, but there is this little thing called work which always seems to get in the way of my tennis watching plans.  As the job pays the bills that allows me to actually enjoy tennis and have this little blog, I won't bitch and moan too much. 

The top half of the bottom half of the draw starts play today and sees the No. 2 seed Simona Halep going up against American qualifier Danielle Collins. I admit that I have never seen Collins play, so I am looking forward to that match up.  Hopefully Halep will have her game together after that really dismal performance in New Haven.  In the night session, Maria Sharapova goes up against Maria Kirilenko in what should no doubt be an early round rout by Ms. Sharapova.  

Venus Williams, the reason for this blogger actually watching tennis goes up against perennial wunderkind Kimiko Date-Krumm.  I have a comment, can we leave the "there are now [insert number of players] now playing tennis who were born since Date-Krumm retired from tennis".  Rather than pointing out just how old Date-Krumm is, how about we respect her work ethic and the fact that she is beating players who could be her daughters?  Enough of the same old schtick. 

The Order of Play is below with the Spin's picks in red.

Angelique Kerber (GER) [6] v Ksenia Pervak (RUS) 
Ying-Ying Duan (CHN) v Alla Kudrryavtseva (RUS) 
Belinda Bencic (SUI) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Kurumi Nara (JPN) [31]

Sloane Stephens (USA) [21] v Annika Beck (GER) 

Virginie Razzano (FRA) v Johanna Larsson (SWE) 
Karin Knapp (ITA) v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [9]

Lucie Safarova (CZE) [14] v Timea Babos (HUN) 

SaiSai Zheng (CHN) v Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 
Romina Oprandi (SUI) v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 
Amandine Hesse (FRA) v Alize Cornet (FRA) [22]

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [28] v Paula Ormaechea (ARG) 

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) v Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 
Shuai Peng (CHN) v Jie Zheng (CHN) 
Sharon Fichman (CAN) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4]

Maria Sharapova (RUS) [5] v Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 

Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) v Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 
Julia Glushko (ISR) v Madison Brengle (USA) 
Francoise Abanda (CAN) v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [26]

Andrea Petkovic (GER) [18] v Ons Jabeur (TUN) 

Tereza Smitkova (CZE) v Monica Puig (PUR) 
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) v Aliaksandra Sasnovich BLR 
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [10]

Sara Errani (ITA) [13] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 

Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) v Camila Giorgi (ITA) 
Kiki Bertens (NED) v Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) v Venus Williams (USA) [19]

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [25] v Mirjani Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 

Johanna Konta (GBR) v Shahar Peer (ISR) 
Jana Cepelova (SVK) v M.Torro-Flor (ESP) 

Danielle Rose Collins (USA) v Simona Halep (ROU) [2]

Remember to do your Suicide Pool picks over at Talk About Tennis as Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has gifts for the winners. 

Bring it on!!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


by Karen 

Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York
I can’t believe it.  It is almost time for the US Open.  The USO Series is almost finished, I say almost because even though Serena Williams has been crowned for the second year running as the winner of the USO Series, there are still tournaments happening in the Series, i.e. Connecticut Open in New Haven and Winston Salem in North Carolina.

Qualifying has started for the US Open.  There are some really dangerous women in the qualifying draw and I will be watching to see if they make it into the main draw.  It is disheartening to see some of the names who are in the qualifying draw, Tamira Paszek, Ashleigh Barty, Putintseva amongst others are all in the draw.  Should make for some very tasty match ups.

The first 3 Majors have crowned 3 very distinct champions, but most notably they have all been women who have lifted Grand Slam trophies.  What has made this US Open a bit more tasty in terms of trying to predict who will win, is that none of the 3 women who have lifted trophies this year is named Serena Williams.  The World’s No.1 and current holder of the US Open has not made it to the quarter finals of the year’s first 3 Grand Slams.  She has been ousted by Ana Ivanovic (Australia), Garbine Muguruza (Paris) and Alize Cornet (Wimbledon). The one thing that defined those 3 wins was the lack of Serena’s main weapon of choice on the tennis courts.  As many of us who have watched Serena play, if her serve is on, it is game over.  In the three matches that she lost her serve, while hitting in the high 100s was absent for most of the matches in which she lost.  Her second serve, usually the best on the women’s Tour (in my opinion) because of its variety and disguise was feasted on by all 3 women in taking down Serena.  Only one tennis writer has made mention of the serve speed and power on Serena’s serve and that is Kamakashi Tandon.  A link to the article is here.

Most tennis writers are going to pick Serena to win it all in New York.  They all picked Serena as well to win one of the year’s first 3 Majors.  If you are a die hard tennis fan and you really pay attention to the women’s game, and if you really think about it, who else other than Serena can you pick?  It is a lazy pick, but you have to ask yourself the question, if not Serena who? 

  • ·         Maria Sharapova – has not made the final in New York since winning it in 2006
  • ·         Simona Halep – her dismal showing during the USO Series can only be summed up as resting for the big one
  • ·         Petra Kvitova – has never done anything remarkable in New York and it will not start this year
  • ·         Aga Radwanska – will perhaps make it as far as the quarters before she is hit off the court
  • ·     Kerber, Bouchard, Ivanovic round out the top 10 (Li Na is ranked No. 3 but is absent due to injury).  Of these 3 only Ivanovic has tasted success at the Grand Slam level by winning the French Open in 2008.  She has been to 3 Grand Slam finals in her career having a win/loss record of 1-2.  Bouchard is 0 and 1 and Kerber made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam once in her career, losing to eventual champion Sam Stosur in a tough 3 setter. 

A look at the top 10 shows you why journalists are always picking Serena to win it all.  However, the Spin team is going to go out on a limb and leave the top 10 behind.  In a year full of upsets, break out players, mid-match meltdowns and shaking my head because I can’t believe that happened moments, we think that this year’s US Open winner will come from left field to win it all.  We here at the Spin think that if Serena falters (and that first round match is nothing to shake a stick at), we think the following players have a chance at lifting the Billie Jean King trophy. Here goes

Name of Player

Venus Williams
·         Has won here before
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Sjorgen’s

Madison Keys 

    Huge serve;
·         Big forehand
·         Mentally tough
·         Loves the big stage
·         Confidence from winning her first title of her very young career

  • Movement

·         That backhand is either a kill short or will be beaten to a pulp by her colleagues
·         Second serve can go off during testing times

Sam Stosur
·         serve – when was the last time you watched a women’s match where there was not one break of serve.  Even though she lost that match against Serena in Cincinnati, Stosur has shown some remarkable mental improvement during this USO Series
·         forehand – all that top spin just keeps pushing her opponents right where they don’t want to be
·         ability to mix it up with superb slices and volleys
·         she has won here before
·         backhand – it has improved … a lot – see match against Bouchard in New Haven
·         Mentally can go walkabouts
·         If serve is not clicking or she comes up against an opponent on fire she can go away

Svetlana Kuznetsova
·         Confidence has returned in abundance.  That can happen when you win your first title in 4 years;
·         Forehand – is there a bigger forehand in the women’s game when it is on
·         Movement and firepower
·         Has won it all before – champion in 2004.  What better way to cement her legacy than to win it all again 10 years after lifting her first Grand Slam title
·         This is Sveta we are talking about.  Take your pick and you would probably be right, but Sveta’s greatest weakness is Sveta herself.

Lucie Safarova
·         Big forehand
·         Great backhand
·         Variety

·         Too many to mention. Safarova is one of those players that I absolutely love to watch playing.  Her game is compact and when it is on, it is really great to see her play very good tennis, but this year, Safarova has lost many matches from a winning position.  How great would it be if she actually won a tournament that she was slated to lose?

Caroline Wozniacki
·         Single
·         No more Rory

If Rory thinks that breaking off his engagement has improved his game, then it has put a certain amount of renewed focus in his ex-fiancĂ©e’s game.  Wozniacki has been playing really good tennis, especially during the USO Series.  She has played incredibly well during this USO Series and has been unfortunate to come upon the buzz saw that is Serena Williams.  The matches have not been easy but her improved serve and the fact that she has more pop on her ground strokes makes me think that Wozniacki could make a push this year for the title.  After all in her lone Grand Slam final, she did push Clijsters to a tough 2 set win in 2009.  Amazing what can happen when you don’t have some man distracting you from your professional goals.


Most of those who I have picked are veterans, but what about those young players who are making lots of noise.  I think Muguruza if she is healthy has a chance, just as much as Sloane Stephens, who is playing really good tennis since teaming up with Thomas Hogstedt.  I like that Sloane is showing that she cares, because for a minute there, we were all wondering if she thought she wanted to be somewhere other than a tennis court. More of that please Sloane.


A Grand Slam preview would not be complete without an upset special.  Eugenie Bouchard is in the doldrums.  Whether it is that humiliating loss to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam final, or maybe it was the sandwich bagel that she endured in front of her home town fans, but Bouchard seems to be dealing with her sophomore slump right in the middle of her breakout year.  I don’t see her completing the semi Grand Slam this year.