Friday, January 24, 2014

LADIES SINGLES FINAL - WHO YA GOT



Li Na

Road to final (with ranking of opponent in brackets):-

First Round - Ana Konjuh (WC)
Second Round - Belinda Bencic (Qualifier)
Third Round - Lucie Safarova (26)
Fourth Round - Ekaterina Makarova (22)
Quarterfinal - Flavia Pennetta (29)
Semifinal -  Eugenie Bouchard (31)

 Li's first two matches were against the youngest players in the tournament and she rolled in the first 3 sets but Bencic gave her a battle in the second set forcing a tiebreak that Li escaped. Then, against Safarova, Li was not on her game while her opponent was and came inches away from leaving Melbourne. With that reprieve, Li rallied to win the tiebreak then the deciding set to advance. She admitted in an interview that her coach, Carlos Rodriguez, would not be pleased. With new life, Li managed to win her next three matches with only one set being contested and that was the second set against Bouchard. In her last match, she consistently was winning points with her cross court backhand.

 Li is the streakiest player in the WTA today and when she is hitting her shots with accuracy, very few players can play with her but if her shots are off, she is subject to lose to anyone. We know that Li can hit her backhand very well but one thing that is not talked about much is her movement around the court. Her coach has helped her develop a way to end points quicker. Besides her shots being off, she can also get nervous at crunch time if the set and/or match is close. If Li, who has made the finals three out of the last four years, can continue to hit accurate shots, hold off nerves, use Slam finals experience and reduce unforced errors, she will win her first Australian Open title and 2nd career Slam title overall.


Ace Prediction: Li 6-3,7-6(7)



Dominka Cibulkova

Road to Final (with ranking of opponent in brackets)
First round – Francesca Schiavone (42)
Second round – Stefanie Voegele (46)
Third Round  - Carla Suarez-Navarro (16)
Fourth Round - Maria Sharapova (3)
Quarterfinals – Simona Halep (11)
Semifinals – Agnieska Radwanska (5)

Tennis players start their careers earlier than most other professional athletes. When you read the biographies of tennis players, most of them started from a very early age, some as early as 4 years old.  Many of them are the children of teaching pros, or their parents were members of a tennis club, or they saw older siblings playing and wanted to be a part of the excitement.

Not many tennis players get to attain their dreams. Tennis fans have become so used to an abundance of riches from certain players that sometimes we forget how hard it is to succeed at the top level of tennis.

One of these players is Dominika Cibulkova.  Domi, as she is known by many tennis fans hails from the tiny country of Slovakia.  This is the country where another player who is more well known to tennis fans originated, Daniela Hantuchova.  Domi, known for being height challenged, was also known for being one of the few players to enter the top 20 and not win a title.  She lost her first 3 finals and found it difficult to compete with the rest of the Tour’s bigger women.

Come 2011 that changed however when Domi won her first WTA title at the Premier event in Moscow, the Kremlin Cup beating Kaia Kanepi in 3 tough sets.  It was a hard fought battle and her joy at winning that first title after a string of tough losses rejuvenated a career that was on its way down.

At the Grand Slams Domi did not fare very well, reaching only the semifinals once before this at the French Open in 2011 when she beat Maria Sharapova 0 and 2 in the quarter finals.  Since that time success has been limited for Domi at the Grand Slam.

In 2012 she took on coach Zeljko Krajan and not only did he add some power to her game he taught her to become more aggressive from the baseline.  Her serve, which was a weakness in her game, due to her height suffered against the great returners.  She continued to improve under Zeljko, but after awhile, like many other of Krajan’s charges, she parted ways with him. That year she beat Marion Bartoli to win a Premier level event in the California desert, Carlsbad.

Her renaissance however, really started last year in Sydney when after being blitzed by Aga Radwanska in the final love and love, she would go on to beat Radwanska in a tough 3 setter at the Bank of the West Classic in California. 

This year she is playing with a new racquet and a new outlook.  Domi came into the Australian Open as the No. 20 seed in the bottom half of the draw.  Her road to the final is as  comprehensive as it got.  She lost 5 games through the first 3 rounds, struggled a bit against Sharapova in the round of 16 and completely blitzed her last 2 opponents by dropping only 8 games.  One of these players was a top 5 player, Radwanska.

Tonight Domi faces Li Na, a woman against whom she holds an 0 and 4 lifetime record with their last meeting coming in Toronto last year.  However, I think we should throw these results out the window.  The Domi that is playing now is a far cry from the Domi of 2013.

Many pro athletes yearn to play on the biggest stages of their careers.  A hockey player dreams of lifting the Stanley Cup.  Basketball players the NBA Championships.  Tennis players dream of winning a Grand Slam.  We all saw what happens when a tennis player makes the final of a Grand Slam when Marion Bartoli, herself ranked outside the top 10 made the finals of Wimbledon for the second time in her career and ended up hoisting the trophy from the perceived favourite, Sabine Lisicki.  It is a bit coincidental that Domi’s best friend on tour is a player who took advantage of her opportunities herself and won a Grand Slam.

I don’t think that Domi will be overawed by the moment.  She has been playing this tournament as if she belongs.  Her serve has been clicking this tournament and apart from a small measure of doubt after being up 5-0 in the second set against Sharapova, she has taken the court and played with consistent aggression and belief.

Her opponent has been here before in the finals of the Australian Open.  She is the crowd favourite as this is as close to a home Slam as she will have.

I think however that Domi will take this in 3 sets.

Spin’s Prediction:  6-3, 4-6, 7-5 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

LADIES DOUBLES FINAL

by Master Ace

Even though Na Li and Dominika Cibulkova are resting today, there is a final to be played today and it is the Ladies doubles final. 


featuring No. 1 seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci going up against Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. If Errani/Vinci win, they will retain their number 1 ranking but if Makarova/Vesnina wins, Vesnina will be number 1 with Makarova at 2 so  there is a lot is on the line. Last time these teams met in a Slam final, Makarova/Vesnina got their only Slam in their career winning the 2012 French Open, a result that was as much a shocker to tennis enthusiasts as it was to Makarova and Vesnina. 

Errani/Vinci both lost their first round singles matches before the defense of their doubles title started. In the quarterfinals, Errani/Vinci had to rally from 4-1 down in the third set to defeat the team of Cara Black/Sania Mirza but they won in straight sets over another good team in Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik. 

Makarova/Vesnina have been tested in their last three matches defeating Daniela Hantuchova/Lisa Raymond, Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Safarova, and Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears. 

Will the momentum of having to battle hard carry on to the final? Until winning the 2013 French Open, Vesnina has came up short in her doubles career in Slams losing in the finals three times. If her mixed results are included, she has lost a total of 6 doubles Slam finals.  

Prediction : Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in 3 sets.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LADIES SEMIFINAL DAY

Under incredible pressure at work but below is a quick review of the 4 semifinalists and Ace's match previews:-





Eugenie Bouchard vs Na Li
Bouchard has made a surprising run to the semifinals with a generous draw where the highest seed she defeated was Ana Ivanovic, who took out Serena Williams. Of the 6 recent that Serena Williams has had at a Slam, only 1 person has gone on to make the final and that was Sabine Lisicki at the 2013 Championships at Wimbledon. Her calm demeanor on court belies the fighter that Bouchard is and this has enabled her to tough out some matches. On the other hand we have Li, who ever since saving match point by inches against Lucie Safarova, has won her last two matches in convincing fashion as her weapons have been clicking with accuracy. Li has made it to the finals twice in the last three years while this is Bouchard's  first ever Slam semifinal (this is her first time playing in the main draw at Melbourne). Will Genie's Army be able to overcome the overwhelming crowd favourite or will Li use her experience to overcome the youngster.  
Ace Prediction: Li 6-3,6-1




Dominika Cibulkova vs Agnieszka Radwanska
Cibulkova has been sharp this fortnight and in the process took out Maria Sharapova running away with the final set. In her other matches, she won very easily in straight sets that included losing only 3 games to Simona Halep. In my opinion, she is the best player that is currently playing that has not reached the Top 10 in her career. Radwanska finally got over the quarterfinal stage in Melbourne and she announced it very loudly as her crafty play frustrated the 2 time defending champion Victoria Azarenka.  If you did not see the match, all you need to see is the game where Azarenka served at 0-4 in the final set to see Radwanska's craft on display. In the match, there were shots that you can not believe that Radwanska pulled off.
Ace Prediction : Radwanska 7-5,6-2






Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DAY 9 REVIEW AND DAY 10 PICKS

by Karen


The men are jealous.  With so many wonderful epic matches by the women at this year's Australian Open, the men felt like they were the sideshow in this tournament, so what better way to focus attention on themselves but by delivering a marathon 5 set match. 


picture courtesy of National Post 


However, for the women it was Eugenie Bouchard's coming out party.  For the better part of 2 hours she played like a veteran on a big stage.  There were no histrionics.  No fist pumps.  No glaring at her box when she missed a shot. At 19 years old, she carries the poise of a player much more experienced than herself. Many will talk about the injury that Ivanovic suffered during this match.  My take, it is all a part of the game.  As much as I did not take away from Ivanovic's win against Serena Williams in the 4th round, I will not take away from Bouchard's win in the quarterfinals.  

As the tournament draws towards its conclusion and some of my sentimental favourites have been shown the door, I am thinking that I would love to see a final between Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep.  2 young women being rewarded for their steady workmanlike reach in the rankings. 

However, before we look ahead here are Spin's Picks for Day 10. This sees the 2 quarterfinals from the bottom half of the draw.  First up is Dominica Cibulkova against surprise quarterfinalist Simona Halep.  This is going to be either a mauling by Cibulkova or a master class in how to frustrate your opponents into making errors.  I am picking Halep in 3 tough sets. 

Next up is 2 time defending champion Victoria Azarenka going up against the No. 5 seed who has been flying way below the radar, Agnieska Radwanska.  the head to head on this one is all in favour of the defending champion and I am thinking that this will be another win for Azarenka now that she can see the finish line in sight.  


THIS AND THAT 

This blog is about women's tennis.  The writer (me) and most of the people who read this blog are fans of women's tennis. That being said there are times when we do comment on men's tennis if only because a situation calls for it.  What happened last night/early this morning with David Ferrer and the linesman should never happened. Don't know what I am on about. Let Ace tell you all about it.  

"There was a situation during the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals between Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer. During the match and the point was finished, Ferrer angrily shoved a linesperson out of the way in order to get to his towel (Spin "because you know those ATP players need their security blanket a.k.a. towel at every single point that is played") .  At this point, Ferrer was seemingly frustrated as he was losing to Berdych. Ferrer has played 11 consecutive tennis weeks (what do you have debt or something Ferrer?) (not counting Abu Dhabi exo) and changed coaches recently saying that his departure from his previous coach was personal. I wonder if the frustration of all the events finally caught up to him". 

What has Ace concerned though is this?  

However, there has been no outburst in the media about his behavior. Now, let say that was Serena Williams and you can imagine the flack that she would receive. People would not stop talking about her ranging from her weight, color, attitude, needs to be fine, suspended and etc.. 

How do we know that Serena's name would have been dragged into something that has nothing to do with her? Because commentators did this after the incidents at the United States Open in 2009 and 2011.   In 2012 in London at the Queens tournament) David Nalbandian kicked a sign in anger and the sign hit the linesperson in the knee causing blood to flow. After a few minutes, the tournament defaulted Nalbandian for this action giving the title to Marin Cilic and Nalbandian was not allowed to receive his prize money. What punishment should Ferrer receive? Since the Slams are run by the International Tennis Federation ("ITF") , suspension from other Slams may be too much but a heavy fine is in order. If the ITF decided not to let Ferrer receive his prize money for his action, I would not be surprised. That being said, the ITF must decide Ferrer's fate on shoving the linesperson".

Well Ace, here is where I disagree with you.  This is not the first time that Ferrer has done this.  Remember the hitting the ball (via ESPN, the Buzz)  in the stands when the baby was crying, or perhaps the one where he went off on the umpire because of a bad lines call.  What I find amazing is how the commentators in the booth are at pains to let us know just what a gentle person Ferrer really is.  I am sure if I am so minded I can troll Youtube and find lots of instances where Ferrer has lost his cool.  These things do not happen in a vacuum. 

In addition, it would seem as if many journalists have chosen not to comment on Ferrer's action or indeed to even given an opinion as to what his punishment should be.  This only goes to emphasise the type of reporting that happens in tennis these days.  The men are given a pass for any type of bad behaviour, while the women are seemingly held to a different standard. 

Consider the kerfluffle last year when Azarenka took a legitimate medical timeout.  1 year later it is still the subject of conversation in the ESPN and Tennis Channel booths. 

This type of thing has to end.  If there is going to be equality let it be equality across all things, including condemning players when they step out of line. 

For the record, I think David Ferrer should be suspended for at least 1 Grand Slam and given the maximum fine that can be imposed in this situation. He should also be made to attend Anger Management Classes.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

OF PRESS CONFERENCES AND WTA PLAYERS

by Karen

I started this blog a little under 5 years ago after I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of visibility afforded the WTA at combined events, that is, those events where the men and women compete together.  I would get annoyed when the top women, many of them former Grand Slam champions were regulated to non-tv court time while the men, many of whom tennis fans have never heard of, were afforded the luxury of tv courts. 

I joined Twitter so that I could make representations to the powers that be by speaking to them directly.  Many other tennis fans joined the chorus and today I have to say that the coverage of the women in these Combined Events has improved significantly. 

However, this post is not about court assignments for the women or anything of that nature.  This post is about the questions that are being asked of the women when they meet the press after their matches.  I can understand when questions are posed to elicit comments about a venture that the player's representative or the WTA is promoting, i.e. the 40th Anniversary of the WTA, or when Sharapova launched her candy line or when Serena decided that she was going to nail tech school.  These questions, while they have nothing to do with what these women do on court, at least taps into what they do off the court. 

In some way I can even understand players being asked about their private lives, especially when it is a public romance, as in Sharapova and Dmitrov and Wozniacki and McIlroy.  I can understand, even though I don't think it is anyone's business, but I can understand.  What I cannot understand and cannot possibly find any reason to think why a journalist thought it was appropriate, is why Simona Halep, 22 years old and possibly having her own issues from having breast reduction surgery, is asked about the impact of having the size of her breasts reduced.  

If you think I am lying, below is the extract of the questions that the noted journalist (I don't know who) decided was appropriate to ask. 

  As your profile rises, people find out more about you, your breast reduction surgery was three or four years ago.  Does that play any part in your success?
SIMONA HALEP:  Yeah, it was a long time ago, my breast reduction.  I am happy for that.  Now if I have to do again for tennis, I would do, yeah.  It was a good decision for me.


Q.  What about outside the tennis?
SIMONA HALEP:  Sorry?


Q.  What about outside the tennis?
SIMONA HALEP:  Outside the tennis what?


Q.  You said you would do it again.
SIMONA HALEP:  I don't want to say anything about this (laughter).


I could possibly understand if the journalist (and I use that term loosely) was going to go in a direction of how her breasts prior to the reduction affected her game, then I could possibly find some leeway, but the question was not only inappropriate, but it just did not make sense, considering the historical nature of what Halep had just achieved in her career. 

I have seen extracts of interviews where the WTA is front and centre and discourages questions regarding grunting by the women in tennis, so I know for a fact that a WTA representative is on the ground at these sessions.  I therefore find it inexplicable that there was no one from the WTA, or it did not seem like it, who could in all good conscience issue a seize and desist order to the journalist in question that this line of questioning was inappropriate. 

I can't imagine if I was successful in my job and I went in for my performance review (which is what a press conference really is), if my boss enquired of me, so Karen, now that you have attained your degree, do you attribute that to your weight loss or the fact that you had your boobs done?  Clearly, my answer would have been one which would have left me firing off a lawsuit and looking for employment elsewhere. 

Inasmuch as the WTA seems to be taking the grunting debate seriously, (and I don't know why it is), I hope that they do take the type of questions that are continuously demeaning the women of the WTA by so-called journalists very seriously as well. 

DAY 8 REVIEW AND DAY 9 PICKS

by Karen

Welcome to the top 10 Simona Halep.  There was a wonderful display of all court tennis by Simona Halep yesterday, in taking down former World No.1 and Grand Slam finalist, Jelena Jankovic in 3 tough but highly entertaining sets on Hisense Arena.  As someone who has been a fan of Halep for a long time, to see this former Junior No. 1 finally make the latter stage of a Major does so much to me and many more of her fans who saw her potential, even though she may not have had the big weapons of those who have been earmarked for greatness. 

Making her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and doing it in such style against a veteran opponent speaks highly of Halep's use of her weapons and her mentality in playing the big points.  Her serve, which is by no means a weapon, can aid her in tricky situations, but it is her movement and anticipation and her willingness to go for her shots when the chips are down that marks her as one of the stars of the WTA for the future. 

Contrast that match with that of Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka.  Billed as the "highly anticipated revenge match", Azarenka showed why those who have really short memories should really not do tennis commentary. Todd Spiker over at the Backspin gave a comprehensive review of that particular match, and I will not bother to add anything to his analysis.  Suffice it to say that Paul Annacone has his work cut out for him.  Many of us long time Stephens fans bemoan the laziness of her footwork, her reliance on her athleticism to try and outlast opponents and her attitude on court, which just gives the impression as if she does not care what is happening out there. 

One can only hope that as time goes by she will realise that it is one thing to be considered the future of American tennis, it is quite another to be the face of American tennis. 

Maria Sharapova went down in 3 sets to Dominika Cibulkova and Garbine Muguruza went out to No. 5 seed, Agnieska Radwanska.  

Today's matches sees the quarterfinals of the top half of the women's draw and Spin's Picks are below:-

Surprise quarterfinalist Ana Ivanovic v another surprise quarterfinalist, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.  The head to head is in favour of the Canadian who took out Ivanovic at Wimbledon last year on Centre Court.  Bouchard has poise and belief.  She believes that she belongs on the bigger stages of tennis and she is not afraid to perform.  She has also beaten Ivanovic on the big stage already so she knows what it will take to win.  As far Ivanovic, this is her second quarterfinal at a Major since wining the French Open in 2008 and it will be interesting to see whether she adopts the same attittude as in her 2 previous matches.  Will she be as aggressive as she was in her match against Serena, or will she sit back and wait for her opponent to crumble having never been in this situation at a Major before.  I am picking Bouchard to make her first Grand Slam semifinal. 

The battle of the veterans.  Who wants it more.  Li is a 2 time finalist at this event, while Pennetta is making the quarterfinal for the first time in her singles career. The head to head is tied at 2-2 piece with the last meeting taking place in Sydney, Australia in 2010.  Both ladies made the semifinals of the last hard court major, the 2013 US Open.  I think this will either be a battle or a blow out by Li.  She is the more experienced opponent at this stage of Major events and while Pennetta battled her way past Kerber, I don't think she will be able to do that here.  Li in 3 sets. 

THIS AND THAT

Stacey Allaster needs to do something about the questions that are asked of players at press conferences.   This is the transcript of Simona Halep's interview right after she won her 4th round match against Jelena Jankovic.  How disrespectful can it possibly be for a young woman, in the early stages of her career to be asked about the breast reduction surgery that she had in an effort to alleviate the chronic back  pain that she used to suffer?   Is there no one from the WTA standing in the media room who can possibly say that this type of questioning is not appropriate?  How is it relevant to her game and what she has accomplished that you should be asking her about the surgery that she did so many years ago?  

While many media types are harping on the women screaming, grunting, shouting and hurling curses, perhaps the media should start reigning in the unprofessional journalists within their midst and stop them from asking questions such as these of our female athletes.  



Sunday, January 19, 2014

DAY 7 REVIEW AND ACE'S DAY 8 PICKS

by Karen 

Whew, what a day.  From Flavia Pennetta playing some of the most inspired tennis I have ever seen in a 6-1 first set takedown of No. 9 seed, Angelique Kerber, to Ana Ivanovic returning Serena's serve as if it was nothing, to finally seeing breakout star Eugenie Bouchard coming into her own and making the quarter finals of a Grand Slam to Li Na finally showing us what she can do when the end is in sight, Day 7 saw some epic matches on the women's side.

However, the greatness of the matches have been overshadowed by players and media who have done the usual schtick by not focusing on what is important in women's tennis, i.e. the tennis.

Ana Ivanovic played a magnificent match yesterday.  For someone who has always been mentally fragile, for her to hold her nerve and serve out a match against Serena Williams shows where her mentality and indeed her game is at.  I made mention on Twitter that I found it wonderful that she is having her best season in a long time with a coach that I had to research when I first heard his name.

Credit also to Serena Williams who gave a master class of a press conference after her defeat.  She was professional, complimentary and ensured that even though she was carrying an obvious injury, that was not the take away from the match.

Flavia Pennetta, 31 years young is into her second consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal.  She played magnfiicent tennis yesterday in taking out Kerber.  Putting the disappointment of serving for the match out of her head, Pennetta would regroup and with some real laser like forehands and backhands she had Kerber all over the court.

Of all the young players, I have always like Bouchard and Keys.  I have always felt that the way they carry themselves on court said a lot about where they were mentally.  You could see it in their eyes and body language that they were not out there to be cute.  They wanted to win.  They wanted the adulation. They are never satisfied with just reaching a semifinal or round of 16 at a Major.  They both wanted more.

There is lots of room for improvement in her game but I think rather than constantly harping on the lack of movement, foot speed, forehand, backhands and serve, we should really focus on her mentality.  I think we became so accustomed to players accomplishing so much in their teenage years that we expect a player to have a full arsenal of shots by the time they are 20 years old.  We can't all be Serena Williams at age 19 or 20. 

Today's matches features the final 8 matches from the bottom of the draw and there are some blockbusters on paper which I am hopeful will turn into blockbusters on the court. Ace's picks are in brackets) 

First up is Jankovic v Halep (Jankovic).  Last year's winner of the Most Improved Player and winner of 6 WTA title goes up against Jelena Jankovic, former No. 1 and 2008 USO finalist.  Jankovic has been making great improvements since last year and even though those results have not been rewarded with any big titles, I agree with Ace that Jankovic should come through here.  However, don't be surprised if there is an upset and Halep makes her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. 

No. 3 seed and former champion here Maria Sharapova (Cibulkova) goes up against Dominka Cibulkova who annihilated Carla Suarez-Navarro in the previous round.  This should be a blockbuster as if there is one player who is not intimidated by the top women it is Cibulkova.  She not only believes she belongs in the top tier of women's tennis, she plays like it.  Looks for lots of breaks of serve as Cibulkova plays an extremely aggressive game.  Lots of come ons and Pome's in this one. 

No. 5 seed Radwanska goes up against young up and comer Muguruza.  I agree with Ace that this one could be the match of the day in the same way that Muguruza's match against Wozniacki was so good.  Radwanska pulled out a tough 3 setter in her previous round as her opponent succumbed to the heat.  I think Muguruza will take this one in 3 tough sets. 

This is the rematch that most tennis media who want validation for their views last year.  Victoria Azarenka is the No. 2 seed and 2 time defending champion.  She is steady, consistent, powerful off the ground and in my view the best returner on Tour especially when it comes to placing the ball in really uncomfortable positions.  Sloane Stephens is again caught up in another Mean Girl controversy of her own making.  As most people know my view is that Stephens did not have a chance to win that match last year and I am with Ace, I think Azarenka is willing to show that last year's win was no fluke.  Look for the World No. 2 to come out focused and determined to make a statement at this stage of the tournament (Azarenka). 

THIS AND THAT 

Sloane Stephens was shown on video either celebrating Ivanovic's win over Serena or Serena loss to Ivanovic.  Either way, she does not come across as looking very professional.  I don't care that Channel 7 have issued a rebuttal as to her behaviour.  Even if she was mocking the celebration of Ivanovic's team, it was still in poor taste, as was her comments about meeting her new coach Paul Annacone. 

Doug Robson wrote an article about the never ending story of the women of the WTA not being friendly.  I would tell Mr. Robson to take a look at a doubles draw at any WTA event and he will see that the majority of the doubles pairings are filled with women from different countries, speaking different languages, coming together to work together.  In order to become a successful doubles team it is important for both players to not only be able to communicate but have some amount of regard for each other.  In this sense, I think what the women are showing by teaming up with each other to work together shows a lot more than what the men do when they go to the net hug each other, and talk out of both sides of their mouths about the respect that they have for each other. 

I don't see the men going on vacation together and there are countless pictures of the women being seen out and about together all the time, even so far as going on vacation together. 

Frankly, why is there this constant harping on whether the women are friendly or not.  I don't see Djokovic and Nadal teaming up for doubles, except when they were probably forced to do so.  I don't see Federer inviting Andy Murray over for chocolate and fine wine.  There is no need for the women to be overly friendly to each other and this notion that there is a lack of friendliness on the women's tour needs to stop.  


Saturday, January 18, 2014

RESET, RECHARGE, REFOCUS - WEEK 2

by Karen

From the complaints about the heat to tennis fans bad mouthing tennis commentary in social media, to the rehashing of a long dead feud that never was, the first week of the year's first Major saw some big surprises happening in the women's draw, coupled with some head scratching play from some of the top women. 

Our week 1 review saw top 6 seed and former Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova going down to Kumkhum from Thailand in the first round.  I confess that I had never heard of Kvitova's opponent before that match and I made sure that I watched her next match.  There is a lot to like about her game, and it will be interesting to see what happens to her during the rest of the season. 

Mona Barthel remembers how it is to win matches and it was good to see her hitting her trademark backhand down the line shots.  Unfortunately, she went out to Pennetta, who herself is on an upward curve since coming back from wrist surgery. 

Maria Sharapova continues to struggle with her game and she has put this down to rust.  Serena Williams continues to show us that even with a D game she is still head and shoulders above everyone else.  2 time defending champion and No. 2 seed, Victoria Azarenka battled her way through to the second week to face off against Sloane Stephens, the player she vanquished in the semifinals last year and who the media is convinced would have won that match if not for the MTO that Azarenka took. 

Sloane Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza are showing us why the WTA is in such a good place right now.  All 3 women made the second week of the year's first major.  Muguruza did it in fine style taking out former No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki in a very nice 3 set battle. 

Samantha Stosur lost the chance to make it to the fourth round of her home Major when she lost to Ana Ivanovic in a tough 3 set battle.  

Day 7 beings tonight and sees the following 4 matches scheduled for the top half of the draw:-

Serena Williams goes up against Ana Ivanovic.  Williams has never lost to Ivanovic in none of their 4 meetings and I don't think that today is that day either.  Williams in straights sets. 

Casey Dellaqua is the feel good story of this tournament.  I recall sometime ago reading that Dellaqua had gotten her cosmetology licence.  It is good to see her playing well again.  She goes up against up and comer Bouchard from Canada.  It will be interesting to see if Genie's Army will turn up today as they have done for most of her matches.  I think the Aussies will have something to say about that. 

Li goes up against another lefty and a player who loves playing Down Under, Ekaterina Makarova.  I expect this one to be the upset of the day as Makarova has recovered from that early scare in the first round from Venus Williams.  Then again Li also overcame her own scare in the previous round against Safarova, saving match points.  This will be a battle and could very well be the match of the day. 

Finally, we have Angelique Kerber, really flying under the radar here going up against Flavia Pennetta, the veteran from Italy.  The head to head is tied at 2 a piece with Pennetta winning 1 each on clay and hard courts and a similar win record by Kerber.  Funnily enough Kerber has beaten her twice at Majors so I am thinking to look for the same results here.  However, this will be a hard fought match and the winner is a pick em. 

THIS AND THAT

Am I the only one who sees a conflict of interest in Annacone doing commentary on Tennis Channel and possibly calling matches featuring his charge?  I recall the constant hue and cry when Mary Jo Fernandez even sits with Federer's wife.  Is there a different standard regarding conflicts when the only time it is pointed out is when it affects Roger Federer?

I love Cliff Drysdale.  I really do, but the man needs to retire from tennis commentary.  He is no longer aware of who is on court playing.  He has clearly not kept up with the names of the players on Tour and he continues, after almost 20 years, of calling Venus, Serena and vice versa.  Someone needs to make it stop. 

Why is it that ESPN and Tennis Channel cannot find a way to have a pre-game show which precedes the opening day of play?  They have a highlight show which features matches that you may have missed while you were sleeping.  That is all well and good, but it would be nice if they did a pre-game routine which looks at the matches that are coming up, talk the potential strategy surrounding the matches, and get viewers interested in what is coming next.  What seems to happen is that the commentators have all the time in the world and then as soon as play starts, they start talking about everything except the tennis. At some point they start throwing around keys to the match, and while it is nice that they are using the IBM slamtracker to give them the keys to the match, it would be nice if the analysts, many of whom are former players themselves, would at least give their views on the strategy that the players should employ during the match.  I think that would enable viewers, some of whom are club level players themselves to really get into the match. 

Could it be that the analysts have no clue about strategy?

Friday, January 17, 2014

DAY 5 REVIEW AND ACE'S DAY 6 PICKS

by Karen 

Well we are counting down to the end of the first week and the beginning of the second week.  There have been some scarey times from some of the top players on the women's side but our top 4 seeds are still in the tournament gearing themselves up for what could possibly be a blockbuster semifinal day for the ladies. 

However, before we get to that point, we have the third round of Day 6 action and Ace's picks are below:-

Jankovic vs Nara - Jankovic
Diyas vs Halep - Halep
Suarez Navarro vs Cibulkova - Suarez Navarro
Cornet vs Sharapova - Sharapova
Radwanska vs Pavlyuchenkova - Radwanska
Muguruza vs Wozniacki - Muguruza (match of the day)
Stephens vs Svitolina - Stephens
Meusburger vs Azarenka

Yesterday for about a set and a half Lucie Safarova showed us why for years many of us pegged her as a Grand Slam champion in the making.  For about a set and a half Lucie Safarova showed us why for years we have given up thinking that she is a Grand Slam champion.  The Spin thought she had a chance against Li for the simple reason that Li had been playing dismal tennis through the first 2 rounds.  Her forehand and her serve were a bit off and in my view it was only because she faced opponents who were inexperienced why she was making it through as comfortable as she was.  

If Li wants to be known as more than a 1 Slam wonder and perennial finalist she will have to step up her game and not place so much reliance from the hand gestures in the stands. 

Many people were shocked when I picked Ivanovic over Stosur in last night's marquee match but Ivanovic has been playing great tennis since the latter part of last year so I was not shocked at the result this morning.  However, someone needs to point out to Ivanovic that playing and beating Venus, a player well past her prime, ranked at the lower end of the scale, is a far cry from playing her sister, the current World No. 1 Serena.  In addition, the experience of beating one sister in no way prepares you for playing or even beating the other sister.  It takes a special kind of player to accomplish that and I doubt that Ivanovic is that special player.  That being said, I do hope she goes out there and gives her best effort because after all, who does not love an upset. 

Ace has picked the Muguruza v Wozniacki as his match of the day.  I am going to go on a limb and pick the Radwanska/Pavlyuchenkova match as my match of the day.  I am still reminded of the final played by these two in Seoul at the end of the 2013 season. 

There are some really intriguing matches on tonight and I am glad that tomorrow is not a work day as I will be burning the midnight oil watching these matches and I hope everyone else will be as well. 

Remember to vote as to who you think is doing the best under their new coaching arrangements. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

DAY 4 REVIEW AND DAY 5 PICKS

by Karen 

"Heat is not a curve.  It is an opportunity to separate yourself" Andre Agassi, 8 time Grand Slam champion, 4 of which were won at the Australian Open. 


Day 4 saw the return of the heat narrative.  I understand that it has been unbearably hot in Melbourne but to hear the players and the media on site talk about it, you would think that the heat in Melbourne caught everyone by surprise.  A quick search of Google turned up lots of articles before the tournament got underway that there would be record temperatures at the beginning of the tournament.  Perhaps the tournament did not do enough to inform the players, who apparently, do not even bother to check to see what the weather would be like, but apparently wait on the tournament officials to provide this information, but I digress.  Suffice it to say that there were lots of melting players in Melbourne and play was eventually suspended to allow for cooler temperatures before play resumed.

However, before that, in an encounter reminiscent of her 2007 campaign, No. 3 seed, Maria Sharapova went up against Karin Knapp of Italy and the only thing that was left to happen was for both players to melt into the court.  Credit to Sharapova for staying focused (you know what, I can’t even say it).  Well done to Sharapova for reaching the fourth round. Karin Knapp will live to fight another day.

Varvara Lepchenko of the US led 4-0 in her match against Simona Halep in the first  set and served for the set at 5-1.  She would eventually close it out at 6-4 and then would win 1 game in a 3 set loss.  She took a MTO due to heat illness.  Her opponent by the way looked as fresh as a daisy (just saying).

Carla Suarez-Navarro and Galino Voskoboeva also played a 3 setter, as did Alize Cornet and Camila Giorgi.  Navarro looked as if she ahd been through the ringer as did Cornet.  Both losers, Giorgi and Voskoboeva were understandably disappointed.  It did not help that poor Voskoboeva had to go to a doping test shortly after her match. Oh the horror.

Today will see another scorcher of a day and Spin’s Picks are below:-

Serena Williams v Daniela Hantuchova
Samantha Stosur v Ana Ivanovic 
Jie Zheng v Casey Dellacqua
Eugenie Bouchard v Lauren Davis
Na Li v Lucie Safarova
Ekaterina Makarova v Monica Niculescu
Angelique Kerber v Alison Riske
Flavia Pennetta v Mona Barthel

Thoughts on Day 5 matches. 

The world No. 1 has been conserving energy through the first two rounds but look for her to show her dominant self against an opponent against whom she has an 8-1 record. She will be looking to send a message to the rest of the field as the second week of this tournament looms. 

Ana Ivanovic and Sam Stosur. It depends on who wants it more. I think Ivanovic is hungry for a second Grand Slam and she will be feeling very confident, especially after having won a title for which she did not have to receive a wild card and beating Venus Williams in a 3 set match. 

Casey Dellaqua will be trying to be one of 2 Australian women into the second week.  I don't think Jie will allow that to happen.  

In a battle of the juniors, I expect Bouchard to come good.  Look for the upset even though the head to head is so skewed.  Makarova may have some issues with Nicolescu but nothing to make her have a headache.  Riske for the upset and Pennetta over Barthel, but I would not be shocked if Mona finally makes good and gets to the second week. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DAY 3 REVIEW AND ACE'S DAY 4 PICKS

by Karen 

I was surprised when so many tennis fans were shocked when Monica Nicolescu took out Sabine Lisicki in 3 tough sets last night. Lisicki's tweet, which was later deleted, about being beaten by the heat just shows the over inflated ego of Ms. Lisicki.  

Serena Williams continued her march towards the next round by taking out Vesna Dolonc in what I can only describe as a half hearted match.  I mentioned on  Twitter that the top 4 women seem to be playing with much ennui.  There is no spring in their step or even any emotion on the court through the first 2 rounds.  I am hopeful that as all 4 women progress through the rounds, we will see a lot more fire, rather than ice not only flowing through their games but in their on court demeanour as well.  It could very well be that they are tempering their emotions as a result of playing in what has been described as hellish heat. 

Overnight results certainly seem to have gone to plan with Stosur and Dellaqua flying the home flag high in their respective matches.  Genie Bouchard overcame a very dangerous opponent in Razzano and Keys fell flat to Zheng Jie, a semifinalist here a few years ago. 

Day 4 OOP sees the return of Sharapova and Jankovic and dark horses Stephens, Halep and Wozniacki. Ace's picks are below 

Jankovic vs Morita - Jankovic
Nara vs Rybarikova - Rybarikova
Erakovic vs Diyas - Erakovic
Lepchenko vs Halep - Halep
Suarez Navarro vs Voskoboeva - Suarez Navarro
Voegele vs Cibulkova - Voegele
Cornet vs Giorgi - Cornet (match of the day)
Knapp vs Sharapova - Sharapova
Radwanska vs Govortsova - Radwanska
Minella vs Pavlyuchenkova - Pavlyuchenkova
Muguruza vs Schmiedlova - Muguruza
McHale vs Wozniacki - Wozniacki
Stephens vs Tomljanovic - Stephens
Rogowska vs Svitolina - Svitolina
Jovanovski vs Meusburger - Jovanovski
Zahlavova Strycova vs Azarenka - Azarenka


Sharapova starts proceeding on Day 4 and I am reminded of her match in 2007 against Camille Pin when Sharapova almost melted in the heat of Melbourne.   It has been 6 years since that match.  Pin has since retired and Sharapova is a lot fitter.  Temperatures are forecast to be in the 100+ F range again today. 

This and That

I read a recent interview where Sloane Stephens indicated that she was checking her phone during her match and knew what the temperature was.  Call me cynical and correct me if I am wrong but I thought bringing electronic devices on court during a match was forbidden.  I seem to recall Bethanie Mattek-Sands was prevented from using Google Glass during matches.  I can't see why a player should not also be prevented from bringing a phone, especially a smart phone on court. The possibilities of said player receiving coaching advice is to my mind very apparent.  I am surprised that none of the journalists on site pointed out that fact in their reports. 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DAY 3 PICKS AND DAY 2 REVIEW

by Karen 

The word out of the Australian Open on Day 2 was that it was hot.  There were complaints from players as well as the ever present defending fans.  The Spin's advice, shut up and play.  

I have to confess that I barely watched any of the Day 2 action.  I glimpsed Simona Halep doing her thing against a player I had never heard of, Piter and it was great to see Halep, winner of 6 titles in 2013, running away with her match with a scoreline of 0 and 1. 

Jelena Jankovic, one of the Dark Horses in this tournament took care of her opponent with a very impressive scoreline as did Caroline Wozniacki who dealt with what could have been a very tricky opponent in Lourdes Dominguqez-Lino.  

The No. 3 seed, Maria Sharapova had a bit of a struggle in the second set against Bethanie Mattek-Sands but pulled away in the dying moments of the match with a score line of 3 and 4. 

Svetlana Kuznetsova lost to Elina Svitlonia.  I don't know whether to call this a loss or just Sveta being Sveta. Either way Sveta is out of the tournament. 

Victoria Azarenka battled the heat, her opponent and her wayward strokes to gut out a straight set match on Rod Laver Arena against Johanna Larsson.  Larsson served for the first set on 2 occassions but was unable to do the deed.  However, this match led me to consider the reason why a 2 time defending champion continues to get such shitty court assignments, or rather why does it seem as if her matches get scheduled either during the early in the day sessions or late at night.  Meilen Tu get on that STAT. 


Below are today's Day 3 matches with Spin's Picks

Serena Williams  v Vesna Dolonc
Karolina Pliskova v Daniela Hantuchova 
Samantha Stosur v Tsvetana Pironkova
Annika Beck  v Ana Ivanovic 

Jie Zheng v Madison Keys
Casey Dellacqua v Kirsten Flipkens 
Eugenie Bouchard v Virginie Razzano
Lauren Davis v Julia Goerges 

Na Li v Belinda Bencic
Lucie Hradecka v Lucie Safarova 
Ekaterina Makarova v Irina Falconi
Monica Niculescu v Sabine Lisicki 

Angelique Kerber v Alla Kudrayvtseva
Yanina Wickmayer v Alison Riske 
Flavia Pennetta v Monica Puig
Mona Barthel v Luksika Kumkhum