Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pironkova wins opening round-robin match in Sofia

Tsvetana Pironkova, playing in front of a home crowd at the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, won her first round-robin match today by defeating Zheng Jie 2-6, 6-4, 7-6. The match laster over two hours and 41 minutes, and the victory was Pironkova's first win over Zheng.

 "...I've never played in front of such a crowd," Pironkova said. "I just want to thank everyone who came out today, because I don't think I could have won this match without them."

Pironkova and Zheng were the only two to play from Group Sredets. In the Group Serkika, Roberta Vinci defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 6-2, and top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2, 6-2.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quote of the day

"It's funny, I feel like I'm a host here, and whenever there's a problem somewhere, I just want to help and keep everyone happy!"
Tsvetana Pironkova, on her Sofia experience

Passing shots

Take a break and put together a jigsaw puzzle.

Or, if music is more to your liking, take a look (and listen) to the tennis-and-music videos compiled by Courtney Nguyen, inspired by all of Redfoo's recent Vika-love. Bear in mind that--once you've re-visited the insane combination of Lil Wayne and Elena Dementieva--it's all really bad. You may ask yourself, "Why aren't the Bryan Brothers Real Housewives instead of tennis players?" (You may ask yourself, "My god, what have I done?!") And to go even farther back, I remind you, readers, that Elton John's song, "Philadelphia Freedom," was written by John and Bernie Taupin as a favor for Billie Jean King.

Julia Goerges is the latest Rado brand ambassador.

Tennis X puts the WTA Doubles Championships in the trunk this week, and the good news is--starting in 2013, there will be eight teams playing and not four. Sounds better to me.

Daniela Hantuchova is blogging this week from Sofia.

Tournament of Champions play begins tomorrow in Sofia. Here are the round-robin groups:

Caroline Wozniacki
Roberta Vinci
Hsieh Su-Wei
Daniela Hantuchova

Nadia Petrova
Maria Kirilenko
Zheng Jie
Tsvetana Pironkova

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Serena Williams wins WTA Championships

Hitting 40 winners and making just 14 unforced errors, Serena Williams won the WTA Championships in Istanbul today by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3. Williams has now beaten Sharapova nine consecutive times.

The victory in Istanbul gives Williams her seventh title of the season and also makes her the oldest player (31) to ever win the Championships. The champion's performance in the final was nothing short of stunning; her return game alone was deadly, even against the likes of Sharapova, who never even saw a break point. Williams also hit eleven aces along the way, and didn't drop one set throughout the tournament. This was her third time to win the Championships.

Williams is 58-4 for the season. She won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and two Olympic gold medals, as well as titles in Charleston, Madrid and Stanford. If that isn't Player of the Year, I don't know what is.

Sharapova, for her part, fared better against Williams in Istanbul than she did at the Olympic Games, when Williams beat her 6-0, 6-1.

Other Russians did better. Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, the last team to qualify for Istanbul, won the championship, defeating Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-1, 6-4. This has been an excellent year for both Russians, in doubles and singles.

The trophy ceremony was a bit intense, with the crowd expressing some of its local political likes and dislikes. All the winning players were worth listening to, and toward the end, we were treated to a rather endearing image of Maria Kirilenko picking confetti out of Serena's hair.

Women Who Serve gives a nod to Kevin Skinner, who chose to defy the WTA's official sexism and introduce and refer to Stacey Allaster as a "chairwoman." I enjoyed the commentating this week by Skinner and Alicia Molik on Tennis TV, and Brett Haber, working for Tennis Channel, made me laugh several times. It was also a treat to have Mary Pierce in the broadcast booth for just a while.

In the end, the 2012 WTA Championships event (or rather, the singles portion of the event) was a solid statement on The Way Things Are. The defending champion, Petra Kvitova, had to withdraw because of illness, which has been an unfortunate theme for the Czech star all year. And Williams, ranked number 3 in the world, beat both the number 1 and number 2 players in the world to claim the title.

It's nice when things go as they "should," but it's also fun to be surprised, and the team of Kirilenko and Petrova gave us the the surprise part of the tournament, taking out both the world number 1 team, and then winning the whole thing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Margaret Osborne duPont dies at age 94

Margaret Osborne duPont, one of the greatest women's tennis champions in history, died Wednesday in El Paso, Texas. Osborne duPont was 94 years old.

Osborne duPont, who never entered the Australian Open, won 37 majors in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Six of those titles were won in singles play (two French Open, one Wimbledon, three U.S. Open). Osborne duPont also had a perfect record in both singles and doubles during 20 consecutive years of Wightman Cup play.

Osborne duPont held the year-end number 1 ranking on four occasions. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.

Williams and Sharapova to compete for WTA Championships title

It certainly couldnt' have come as a surprise to anyone (least of all, to Radwanska) that Serena Williams beat Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets today in Istanbul. Radwanska--aside from having all the usual problems with Williams--did well to just show up and play after probably wearing permanent grooves into the court surface with her extremely long matches this week. Williams beat Radwanska 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour.

The other match was more interesting, but also kind of strange. Maria Sharapova looked quite commanding from beginning to end in her semifinal against world numer 1 Victoria Azarena. Azarenka, on the other hand, looked hesitant and distracted. She appeared to be having some type of problem with both legs--or both thighs--and was focused on them throughout the match. Sharapova won, 6-4, 6-2, and looked subdued until after the handshake, when she really let loose.

Having figured out Azarenka (at least today), Sharapova now has a tougher task at hand. The last time she beat Serena Williams was at the Championships in 2004. That was, of course, the same year Sharapova beat Williams to win Wimbledon. Things have changed since those times. A win over Williams tomorrow would boost the Russian's outlook considerably. She is looking more and more "Maria" as time goes on, so the contest to determine the champion should be a good one. Williams is now 9-2 against Sharapova, with the last victory coming in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The doubles team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka advanced to the final today, after beating defending champions Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 7-6, 6-1. In the other semifinal, Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova upset the world number 1 team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 1-6, 6-3, 10-4. Errani and Vinci had won the last four times the two teams had played one another.

As the scoreline indicates, the first set was a breeze for the Italian team Despite having played for three and a half hours yesterday in singles Errani was as animated as ever. In the second set, however, Nadia Petrova really came alive, serving very well and making life miserable for her opponents with her volleying. Kirilenko had trouble holding serve throughout the match, but the Russian pair was good enough to take the second set.

The super-tiebreak was all about Kirilenko. She had not played her best in the first two sets, but she was a whirlwind of expert shot-making and court strategy in the tiebreak, which her team won pretty easily, even after Errani and Vinci took away their 3-0 lead.

The Russians have won three titles together; Miami is their only title this year (in the past, they have not played together as a regular team, but only from time to time). Kirilenko and Petrova were also the runners-up at the 2012 French Open. Hlavackova and Hradecka have won nine titles together, including the 2011 French Open. This year, they were the runners-up this year at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympic Games.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Radwanska hoping "to stay in one piece"

You have to hand it to Agnieszka Radwanska: She went three hours and 29 minutes today to put away that pesky Fighting Italian, Sara Errani. It was an oddly satisfying match, even though both women had really bad patches of play. But in spite of their deficiencies--Errani sometimes tried to take the easy way out and paid for it, and Radwanska made senseless errors--the beautiful shot-making from both players more than justified the time it took to watch the match. Radwanska should have closed it sooner, but you know how Errani is--she's like Schiavone and Pennetta. She kept taking away her opponent's victory. In the end, though, after repeatedly serving for the match, Radwansksa won, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

This was the longest match in WTA Championships history. Radwanska also played for three hours and twelve minutes against Maria Sharapova in another White Group match in Istanbul. This has to be a very tired player. In fact, after today's contest, Radwansksa said that her immediate goal was to "stay in one piece." She plays Serena Williams in the semifinals tomorrow, right after the first doubles match. To borrow a phrase from someone we all admire: Good luck with that.

And speaking of Someone We All Admire--World number 1 Victoria Azarenka clenched her place in the semifinals today by defeating Li Na 7-6, 6-3. Azarenka's screaming toward the end of the match became so intense that even I took notice of it. Intense.

Check out this WTA photo gallery for a picture of Azarenka that just explains it all.

The day started, however, in a calm manner, i.e., Maria Sharapova ran over Sam Stosur 6-0, 6-3. Is anyone surprised?

So tomorrow, Radwanska plays Williams (they met in the Wimbledon final) and Azarenka plays Sharapova (they met in the Australian Open final). The top four players in the world are in the draw tomorrow.

Tomorrow also features the semifinals for the top four doubles teams of the year. Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond will play Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci will play Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. Errani will undoubtedly be somewhat tired, but she has Vinci by her side, and--you know--she's a Fighting Italian.

And in the latest Istanbul video, Redfoo gets down with Nouni, Serena does beautiful splits, Kerber brings out the frying pan, and Asderaki smiles!

Friday cat blogging--storage solution edition

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Quote of the day

"I can't wait to get to Australia. I wish it started next month."
Serena Williams

Williams beats Azarenka yet again

Relaxing in her vacation home inside Victoria Azarenka's head, Serena Williams completed a 3-0 round-robin record in Istanbul today by defeating the number 1-ranked player 6-4, 6-4. Williams hit eleven aces, and Azarenka double-faulted nine times, which says quite a bit about the state of each competitor's confidence.

There were eight breaks of serve in the match; it wasn't a simple task for Williams to win. But it wasn't that difficult a task, either, as Williams used both serve and movement to take charge at important moments, and Azarenka grew increasingly flummoxed as the match wore on. The level of competition just wasn't the same as it was in Flushing Meadows, and Azarenka is now looking at a 1-11 record aginst Williams. Today's victory, by the way, marked Williams' 16th career win aganst a world number 1. That puts her just two wins behind Martina Navratilova.

Angelique Kerber is feeling frustrated about now, I would think. She brought a really world-class serve to her match against Azarenka, but lost to the world number 1. That serve was absent today, and opponent Li Na efficiently handed Kerber a 0-3 record in Istanbul. The WTA website says "Li Loves the Lefties"--the Chinese star is 34-5 against left-handed players during the last four years. She is also 6-1 against Kerber, whom she beat in this year's Cincinnati final.

Credit to Kerber, by the way, for the way she made her exit, warmly acknowledging the crowd's support. And what a crowd it is! Fans have given the top eight a great reception during every match.

That brings us to the Fighting Italian, who should never be under-estimated (nor should any Fighting Italian). Sara Errani beat Sam Stosur 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 in today's round-robin play. Stosur gave Errani 18 break chances, and Errani converted seven of them. The final set was pretty much a meltdown for the Australian.

Tomorrow, Stosur plays Maria Sharapova, Errani plays Agnieszka Radwanska, and Azarenka plays Li. The winner of the Azarenka vs. Li match will join Williams in representing the Red Group in the semifinals.

If Azarenka beats Li and Stosur beats Sharapova, Azarenka is a lock to hold onto the world number 1 ranking. If Azarenka is defeated by Li, she will still keep the world number 1 ranking as long as Sharapova doesn't win the title undefeated.

The doubles draw has now been made:
Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci vs. Maria Kirilenko/Nadia Petrova
Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond vs. Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka

Here's a little Istanbul action:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Passing shots

Former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki will be the top seed at the Tournament of Champions, which will be held in Sofia October 30-November 4. The second seed is Nadia Petrova. Joining Wozniacki and Petrova as this year's big International Tournament winners will be Roberta Vinci, Hsieh Su-Wei, Zheng Jie, and Daniela Hantuchova. There are also two wild cards--Maria Kirilenko and Tsvetana Pironkova. If Wozniacki wins the event, she'll return to the top 10.

The American Psychological Association reported last month that when athletes fail to perform well under pressure, it may be that they are focusing too much on their movements. A study found that right-handed athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before an athletic event played better under pressure. Clenching with the left hand is thought to activate the right side of the brain, which is associated with automated movements.

The WTA has donated $25,000 to the USANA True Health Foundation, which helps "deserving" (no kidding--that's what it says) populations worldwide in times of need.

Petra Kvitova, who withdrew from the WTA Championships because of a viral illness, says she expects to be well by the time the Fed Cup final rolls around in a week and a half.

Victoria Azarenka has received the WTA Diamond ACES Award for 2012. The award is given to a player who does an outstanding job of promoting the sport of tennis both on and off the court.

Sizzling day 2 in Istanbul

Today was a big day in Istanbul. Defending champion Petra Kvitova withdrew from the Championships because of a viral illness that she seems to have had--on and off--all season. Kvitova has been ill so much that thinking about it only leads one to ask the same question (though perhaps in a somewhat different context) as always: What's wrong with Petra?

Sam Stosur, the first alternate, will now step into Kvitova's place in the White Group.

World number 1 Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber gave the crowds something to really cheer about today. The players competed for over three hours in a very high quality and thrilling match. Kerber took the first set and held two match points on Azarenka's serve in the second, but Azarenka was able to turn that set around and go on to win the match.

The first set alone was exhausting to watch, as Kerber saved five set points and won the set in a tiebreak on her sixth set point.

Azarenka's 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 victory could turn out to be the defining match of the tournament. At any rate, it was a memorable one.

Not to be outdone, Maria Sharapova and her some-time nemesis, Agnieszka Radwanska, also went three sets and played for over three hours in the early morning hours in Istanbul. It was another outstanding match, with Sharapova surviving (5-7, 7-5, 7-5) to reach the semifinals.

And while it wasn't that pretty, Serena Williams defeated Li Na 7-6, 6-3 in today's only Red Group action.

Here are the standings so far:

Victoria Azarenka. 1-0
Serena Williams, 2-0
Angelique Kerber, 0-2*
Li Na, 1-0

Maria Sharapova, 2-0
Agnieszka Radwanska, 1-1
Petra Kvitova, 0-1, withdrawn from competition
Sara Errani, 0-1
Samantha Stosur (first alternate), 0-0

*It's worth noting that Kerber drew the ultimate short straw, in that she got Williams and Azarenka as her first two opponents. And while she may have lost today, the German star was most impressive.

Stosur will play for the first time tomorrow; she gets Errani in the final match of the day.

Kerber plays Li tomorrow, and then--once again--Azarenka plays Williams. The world number 1's two big challenges on the tour have been playing Kvitova and Williams. Azarenka lost to Williams in the U.S. Open final, and the fact that these two will meet again in tomorrow's round-robin play probably cannot be over-promoted. Williams is the favorite, of course, but who doesn't want to see them go at it again?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is how to do a draw ceremony!

Radwanska gets first win against Kvitova

In the WTA Championships White Group, today's scores included Radwanska--1, Kvitova--0. For the first time, Agnieszka Radwanska beat Petra Kvitova, and she beat her in straight sets--6-3, 6-2. Kvitova had won in their three previous meetings. The defending champion did save two match points, but she also made 41 unforced errors.

Earth to Petra: It's an indoor court. You're the defending champion. It's the end of the season. Please join us!

Also in the White Group, Maria Sharapova defeated Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2. In the Red Group, Serena Williams beat Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-1.

Tomorrow, there'll be Red Group action as Williams plays Li Na and Victoria Azarenka plays Kerber. In the White Group, Sharapova will face off against You-Know-Who.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Passing shots

The eight Istanbl competitors (and one alternate) glam it up for the press.

Richard Pagliaro thinks Victoria Azarenka has what it takes to stay in the number 1 spot, and he makes suggestions for her, too.

I missed this truly wonderful post by Hudson Taylor on the relationship between sexism and homophobia (the two issues are, in my opinion, inseparable), but was directed to it by After Atalanta.

Vera Zvonareva's former coach, Sergey Demekhine, is now coaching Margarita Gasparyan.

Caroline Wozniacki says that all of her off-court promotional work contributed to her decline in the rankings. (link courtesy of On the Baseline).

Wozniacki, by the way, will enter the top 10 again if she wins the Tournament of Champions.

"You can't choose who can be in your group"

That's a quote from the WTA Championships defending champion Petra Kvitova, who got drawn into the White Group today for competition in Istanbul. But Kvitova's draw could be worse: She's 3-0 against White Group member Agnieszka Radwanska, and 3-0 against Sara Errani. She's 2-4, however, against Maria Sharapova, who has found a way to beat Kvitova since losing to her in the 2011 Wimbledon final. The Istanbul event is played on an indoor court, which is a potential advantage for Kvitova.

The Red Group contains world number 1 Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, and Li Na. That's a group against whom Williams has been dominant in general, though she's 1-1 against Kerber.

Both Errani and Kerber will be returning from time off to rehab injuries--Errani's thigh and Kerber's foot. The alternates, who are at the ready, are Sam Stosur and Marion Bartoli.

The WTA Championships singles competition employs a round-robin format, so each player in a group will get to play every other player in that group.

The doubles competition will be a regular knock-out event. Particpating are the following teams:

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci
Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka
Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond
Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova

The tournament begins on October 23.

And here's a quote fromn Williams: "...I'm really happy to be here. I'm on the red side, with Victoria, so it'll be good."

Serena has spoken.

Wozniacki wins Kremlin Cup

Caroline Wozniacki won her 20th WTA singles title today when she defeated top seed Sam Stosur 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 to win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Wozniacki won her first 2012 title in Seoul a few weeks ago. To get to the final, the former world number 1 had to take out defending champion Dominika Cibulkova, and she also had to fight a determined Sofia Arvidsson in the semifinals.

The all-Russian doubles final was won by top seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. They defeated 2nd seeds Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova 6-3, 1-6, 10-8.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams won the title in Luxembourg. Williams defeated Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Both finalists were unseeded. Niculescu, with partner Irina-Camelia Begu, was also the runner up in the doubles competition. Begu and Niculescu, the 2nd seeds, were defeated 6-3, 6-4 by top seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

Williams beat top seed Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals. The Luxembourg title is Williams' 44th, and her first since she won Acapulco in 2010.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Passing shots

2010 champion Samantha Stosur is the first player to enter the 2013 Family Circle Cup. The Charleston tournament will be held March 30-April 7.

Ula Radwanska was blogging from Moscow this week, but is now out of the tournament.

You can get to know Krystina Pliskova. And Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Donna Vekic.

Kirsten Flipkens says that one of the keys to her recent success is that she is being actively encouraged by longtime friend Kim Clijsters.

Sam Stosur is now the first alternate in the WTA Championships, and Marion Bartoli is the second alternate.

Here is yet another good story about Varvara Lepchenko (link courtesy of Beyond the Baseline).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Three Russians out in first round of Kremlin Cup

Nadia Petrova, Ekaterina Makarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, all Russian, were taken out of the Kremlin Cup in the first round today. They were defeated, respectively, by Simona Halep, 5th seed Dominika Cibulkova and former Russian player Yaroslava Shvedova. Tokyo champion Petrova was the 6th seed; Cibulkova is the defending champion.

Cibulkova's next opponent will be Tsvetana Pironkova, who defeated Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 7-6 in the first round. The top seed in Moscow is Sam Stosur, who had a bye in the opening round, and will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

In Luxembourg, wild card Kirsten Flipkens upset 5th seed Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. The top seed in Luxembourg is Roberta Vinci, who advanced to the second round with a win over Olga Govortsova.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Watson wins Osaka, Azarenka wins Linz

Today in Osaka, Heather Watson became the first British woman in 24 years to win a WTA tournament. Watson defeated Chang Kai-Chen 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 in the final. Neither player was seeded, and neither had ever before advanced beyond the quarterfinals of a tour event. Chang had taken out both top seed Sam Stosur and Watson's countrywoman, Laura Robson, in third set tiebreaks.

The 3-hour and 11-minute match was very close. Chang served for the first set but was broken. Watson held a match point in the second set, but was unable to convert it when she committed one of only two double faults in the match. In the final set, Chang led 5-3 and held four match points.

"She's an amazing returner, so I wanted to go for it," Watson said after the match.

Watson and her partner, Kimiko Date-Krumm, emerged as runners-up for the doubles title. They were defeated 6-1, 6-4 by top seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. This is the fourth title of 2012 for the USA team.

Meanwhile, top seed and world number 1 Victoria Azarenka won the title in Linz by defeating 5th seed Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Azarenka won in Beijing last week, and has won five titles this year, including the Australian Open.

Top seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Pesche won the doubles title. In today's final, they defeated 2nd seeds Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-4.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Qualifier and lucky loser reach semifinals in Linz

Lucky loser Irina Camelia-Begu advanced to the semifinals of the Generali Ladies Linz tournament today. Begu defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Also advancing was qualifier Kirsten Flipkens, who defeated 2nd seed Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-0.

The other quarterfinal winners were top seed Victoria Azarenka (def. Petra Martic) and 5th seed Julia Goerges (def. Sofia Arvidsson).

In Osaka, top seed Sam Stosur has reached the semifinals, and so have three players who have never before gotten that far in singles--Chang Kai-Chen, Misake Doi and Heather Watson. Watson and Kimiko Date-Krumm have also reached the semifinals in doubles.

Friday cat blogging--two heads better than one edition

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Passing shots

Agnieszka Radwanska is the face of Amica.

The 2012 Fed Cup final  (November 3 and 4) will be played in Prague on--surprise!--an indoor court.

There are so many ways to love Vika.

Sara Errani, who has won four singles titles and eight doubles titles this season, will compete in both singles and doubles at the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

Eat your heart out, Petko!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Azarenka does it again

She did it in Australia, she did it Indian Wells, and Victoria Azarenka has now beaten Maria Sharapova in yet another big final. The world number 1 defeated Sharapova 6-3, 6-1 today to win the China Open in Beijing. This the first title Azarenka has won since she lifted the tophy in Indian Wells over six months ago, and the confidence boost is sure to put her in a good position for competing at the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

"...I'm not really looking for them, but I'm looking to provoke them..." Azarenka said of Sharapova's errors. Sharapova made 39 unforced errors and hit 18 winners.

Azarenka, who beat Sharapova in the 2012 U.S. Open semifinals, is now 6-4 against the Russian.

In Beijing doubles competition, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina won their first title as a team. Makarova and Vesnina defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Sania Mirza (Vesnina's former doubles partner) 7-5, 7-5 in the final.

Makarova and Vesnina reached the finals in both Rome and Madrid, but lost both of those to Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.

Friday, October 5, 2012

And then there were 8

For the first time in the history of the WTA Championships, the eight competitors represent eight different countries:

Victoria Azarenka--Belarus
Maria Sharapova--Russia
Agnieszka Radwanska--Poland
Serena Williams--USA
Angelique Kerber--Germany
Petra Kvitova--Czech Republic
Sara Errani--Italy
Li Na--China

Kvitova is the defending champion.

Defending champion Radwanska out of China Open

Agnieszka Radwanska, the defending champin in Beijing, was beaten today in the quarterfinals by Li Na. Li won 30 of her 35 first serves and was never broken. Last week, Radwanska, who was also the defending champion in Tokyo, lost in the final to Nadia Petrova.

Li's 6-4, 6-2 victory over Radwanska puts her in the semifinals against Marion Bartoli, who defeated Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals.

Maria Sharapova had an easy 6-0, 3-0 victory over Angelique Kerber, who had to retire because of a foot injury. Sharapjova will play top seed Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. Azarenka defeated Romina Oprandi today.

In the doubles semifinals, 2nd seeds Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova were defeated by 3rd seeds (and countrywomen) Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Makrova and Vesnina will play Nuria Llagostera Vives and Sania Mirza in the final. Mirza is Vesnina's former doubles partner.

Friday cat blogging--inside out edition

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When she was good, she was very, very good

And when she was bad--

Oh, Petra.

Taken out of Tokyo in the second round (she had a bye in the first) by Petra Martic, Petra Kvitova has now made an early exit in Beijing, also. Kvitova beat Daniela Hantuchova in her first match, but lost in straight sets in the second round to Carla Suarez Navarro.

I've grown weary of asking "What's wrong with Petra?" but I will ask--is anyone doing anything about it? This is not a "slump." This is some strange stuff going on with a player who should be winning left and right on all surfaces. I have no idea what's needed--many things come to mind. I just hope that, whatever it is, it's provided sooner than later.

There are other stories in Beijing. Sara Errani had to retire in the opening round because of a hip injury. Jelena Jankovic beat her Beijing doubles partner Andrea Petkovic. Dominika Cibulkova had to retire in the first round, as did Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Simona Halep gave Maria Sharapova some trouble. Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur briefly reunited, but were defeated in the first round by Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Goerges also upset Stosur in singles, beating her 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 in the second round. Tokyo champion Nadia Petrova won only three games against Li Na, and qualifier Lourdes Dominguez Lino has now taken out both Roberta Vinci and Laura Robson.