Sunday, August 17, 2014

Serena Williams wins her first Cincinnati title

Top seed Serena Williams got off to a slow start in today's Cincinnati final against Ana Ivanovic. but then she did what she needed to do early in the first set, which she won 6-4. After that, it appeared that the Serbian star was all but sleep-walking through the match. Williams won the second set 6-1.

Despite losing the final, Ivanovic had a good tournament. Her 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 semifinal victory over Maria Sharapova was definitely the highlight of the event, for the drama, if nothing else. Ivanovic led a set and 4-0 when Sharapova made her almost last-minute comeback. A questionable line call upset Ivanovic, and (in a style more reminiscent of Jankovic), she went to pieces, letting Sharapova in. Sharapova, of course, lives for these moments, when she can wipe out an opponent's momentum and take over the match.

But this turned out to be no ordinary match. At the start of the third set, Ivanovic took a medical timeout. She said later that she felt nauseous and had stomach pain. A blood pressure check was done on her, and that action would lead to an "instant classic" 'Pova moment later in the match. Sharapova, after double-faulting and getting broken to put the score at 4-all, tapped her arm with her racket and said to the umpire, "Check her blood pressure."

Okay, so it isn't as good as "Allez up your f___ing ass!" and certainly not as good as "Isn't she back in Poland already?" (one of my all-time favorite tennis quotes), but it still made me laugh. Apparently, it angered some people, and I understand and respect that, but then again, I burst out laughing when I heard "...and you're unattractive inside," so my spontaneous laughter mode apparently overrides every other mode I possess.

Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears won the doubles title when their opponents, Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic, retired early in the second set of the final. They retired because Mladenovic sustained a back injury

Anyway, systolically and diastolically speaking, the WTA tour is vibrant and healthy. Both Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki (who lost to Sharapova in the semifinals) look really good. Aga Radwanska has picked her game up considerably, and even Sam Stosur looks like she's ready for serious action.

And then there's Serena, who hasn't won a major this year, but she gets a final shot in Flushing Meadows in just a little while. She's the winner of the 2014 U.S. Open Series, so she'll also be going for a $1 million bonus at the U.S. Open. It's rare for the world number 1 to play three events in a row, but she did, and she won two of them.

Iveta Melzer retires from professional tennis

Iveta Melzer, whom we knew mostly as Iveta Benesova (name changes always baffle me), has retired from professional tennis. It's sad to see a lefty Czech player go, but we haven't seen much of Melzer lately, so this announcement isn't a surprise.

In singles, the talented Melzer was often frustrating for fans. She had an unusually good serve, and could certainly use it to her advantage, but she also had an especially fragile temperament and was often her own worst enemy on the court.

It was in doubles that she really showed her gifts, even though she was most often paired with a player with an equally fragile temperament--Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Together, though, they could make trouble for the best of doubles teams.

Melzer won two WTA singles titles, 14 doubles titles (10 of them with Zahlavova Strycova), and--with not-yet-her-husband Juergen Melzer--she won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title in 2011, the year that Czech players swept all the Wimbledon titles. Melzer reached a career-high ranking in singles of number 25 in the world, and a career-high ranking of 17 in doubles. She was a member of the Czech Fed Cup team and the Czech Olympic team.

In 2012, Melzer sustained a shoulder injury that kept her off of the tour for a year and a half. In announcing her retirement, the 31-year-old Czech player said that being out for a year and a half contributed to her decision to stop playing professional tennis.

"I would have never believed that time would fly so fast," Melzer said. "I still remember like it was yesterday when my father brought me to the court when I was seven and I started to hit my first tennis balls, or later, when I decided to put in all of my devotion and try to become professional.

"I remember the first points on tour and the goals I was trying to reach; the hard times I was giving my coaches, because there were certain situations i was difficult, but also the fun we had along the way; all of the great and successful moments and also the bad ones. I would have done a few things differently, but I have absolutely no regrets.

"I am grateful for every single experience and I believe it was part of the process to learn, become stronger and a better person. Today I can say I enjoyed my career with all the ups and downs."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Radwanska wins Rogers Cup

Isn't it just like Aga Radwanska to sneak a big win in just when fans are talking about her 2014 slump? That sneak attack is so very Radwanskian, to borrow a term from WTA Backspin. In today's Rogers Cup final, the world number 5 defeated Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2 to win her 14th title. It was a great week for both players, with Venus beating Serena for the first time in five years, and with the Polish star taking out Sabine Lisicki, Victoria Azarenka and Ekaterina Makarova.

It wasn't such a great week for the "all Bouchard all the time" trend network. The Canadian player went out in the second round with a bagel sandwich delivered to her by Shelby Rogers. That seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Rogers herself would win only one game in the next round, when she became the victim of Caroline Wozniacki.

Top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci. who are so "back," won the doubles title, defeating 4th seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza, 7-6, 6-3 in today's final.

And now on to Cincinnati, where Serena Williams is the top seed. Williams has a bye in the first round, and will play--well, will maybe play--Sam Stosur in the second round. Stosur plays a qualifier in the first round, and we all know how that might turn out. Andrea Petkovic and Sloane Stephens play each other in the opening round, as do Alize Cornet and Madison Keys. Another first round match to keep an eye on--Lucie Safarova vs. Montreal finalist Venus Williams.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Princess Diaries

July 5, 2014--got my ass kicked, 6-3 6-0 by Kvitova in Wimbledon final

July 15, 2014--IMG wants me!

July 24, 2014--withdrew from Citi Open with French Open knee injury

August 2, 2014--Genie Army lands in Montreal with new song!

August 5, 2014--got my ass kicked 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 by Shelby Rogers in Montreal second round

Many years ago, when I was in the public relations business, my business card was somewhat of a collector's item because in small print, on the bottom, were the words Hype Springs Eternal. It does. The hype machine has damaged players before; in fact, Petra Kvitova comes to mind right away. The charming and somewhat introverted Czech star didn't really know how to handle being looked at by the world as The Wimbledon Champion in 2011. It took her three years to win Wimbledon again, and when she did, she beat the young woman who is now the hype machine's number 1 victim.

Hailed as "the next Sharapova," Genie Bouchard has rightly stated that she doesn't want that comparison. "I don't want to be the next someone," she said recently, "I want to be the first of me." I have never liked the comparison, partly because I don't like those kind of comparisons, but also because I don't think there are many young players made of the stuff that Sharapova is made of. Sharapova is as tough as they make them. Bouchard is tough, I think, but not yet tough in a Sharapova sense.

Bouchard pulled out of the Citi Open for somewhat vague medical reasons (a common enough action in pro tennis) that seemingly had to do with a knee injury she sustained during the French Open. A very big deal was made of her Rogers Cup participation, and that big deal was wiped out rather emphatically earlier this evening when Shelby Rogers put on a serving show that sent Bouchard packing in the second round (she had a bye in the first).

No one (except Bouchard) can say for sure exactly what went wrong tonight. For one thing, Rogers was the anti-Bouchard: She was cool and focused, even when she lost the second set. She gets all credit. But as good as Rogers was, it was obvious that Bouchard was giving Rogers plenty to feel confident about. The Canadian star "wasn't feeling it," as commentators like to say. How much does the excessive hype have to do with that? Some, you can be sure.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Williams wins third Stanford title

Down 1-5 in the first set against Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams--not surprisingly--turned on "the switch" in today's Stanford final and overcame Kerber 7-6, 6-3. Kerber served for the first set at 5-4 and was broken, then saved a set point and took the set to a tiebreak. The German star won only one point in that tiebreak, however, and the rest of the match was pretty much about Serena.

3rd seeds Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro won the doubles final, defeating Paula Kania and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

At the Citi Open in Washington, DC, Svetlana Kuznetsova claimed her first singles title in four years. Kuznetsova defeated Kurumi Nara 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final. Nara, with partner Hiroko Kuwata, had to settle for runner-up status in the doubles final, too. 2nd seeds Shuko Aoyama and Gabriela Dabrowski won the title, defeating Nara and Kuwata 6-1, 6-2 in yesterday's final.

Rogers Cup qualifying was tough. Elena Vesnina, Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Mladenovic failed to make it to the main draw. Donna Vekic and Kimiko Date-Krumm failed to make it out of qualifying, too, with Vekic losing in the first round. Defending champion Serena Williams, the top seed, has a bye in the opening round.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Petkovic reaches Stanford semifinals

Andrea Petkovic continued her upward climb yesterday with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 victory against Venus Williams in Stanford. There were eleven breaks of serve in the match, which lasted just under an hour and 50 minutes. Top seed Serena Williams had to go three sets against Ana Ivanovic, but Williams prevailed, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. Ivanovic continues to impress, and maybe this time, her fans can breathe a little easier when they think "comeback."

Angelique Kerber made short work (not many do, these days) of Garbine Muguruza. Kerber will play Varvara Lepchenko in the semifinals, while Petkovic will have to face her second Williams sister in a row.

At the Citi Open in Washington, DC, Kurumi Nara will face off against Marina Erakovic in the semifinals. In the quarterfinals, Nara and Erakovic defeated on-the-rise Kiki Mladenovic and Bojana Jovanovski, respectively.

I haven't been around here much because I lost a fight against what seemed like a thousand choking vines on a small fence in my yard. Somewhere in there was some poison ivy, and--though I had an immunity to urushiol for many years following extreme childhood exposure--I'm now very sensitive to it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kastles win fourth straight WTT title

The Washington Kastles won their fourth straight World Team Tennis title over the weekend when they defeated the Springfield Lasers 25-13 in the WTT final, which was held in Springfield, Missouri. Martina Hingis was named the final's Most Valuable Player. The Kastles won all five events--women's singles, men's singles, women's doubles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles.

San Diego Aviators player Daniela Hantuchova won the Female MVP award for the season, and Texas Wild's Anabel Medina Garrigues won the Female Rookie of the Year award.

An especially interesting WTT score is Townsend-1, Huber-0. Because it isn't a match until someone hits Liezel Huber in the face, in the head, or down to the ground. Townsend doesn't have the scary firepower in her forehand to knock down Huber the way Sania Mirza did, but she did manage to hit her partner in the head.

It was an odd series of events. Townsend hadn't planned to play on the WTT tour this year, but she stepped in to play for the Philadelphia Freedoms when Vicky Duval had to withdraw. Last Thursday, Townsend and Huber played doubles against Martina Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova of the Kastles. Townsend hit a crosscourt forehand that landed her racket on Huber's head and Huber had to stop playing.

So Townsend played on, but with no partner. And she wasn't allowed to return serve from what had been Huber's side of the court. This is a WTT rule. If this had happened to anyone, it would have been funny in a bizarre kind of way, but there's something about having it happen to Townsend that especially cracked me up. I think it's because she looks so deadpan about the whole thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Women Who Serve now available on Twitter

For some time now, I've avoided putting Women Who Serve on Twitter for professional reasons, and also because I didn't want to make my blogging life more complicated. Then it occurred to me that not having a Twitter extension was actually making my blogging life a lot harder. Not only was I leaving myself out of a loop of tennis bloggers and journalists I very much like and respect, I was also spending too much time and energy collecting odds and ends and trying to figure out what to do with them.

Now, you will see fewer of those "odds and ends" on the blog, but you'll find them on the Women Who Serve Twitter page, and they will appear in a more timely fashion.

Occasionally, it seems, I plug my brain in and have a revelation. Please enjoy, and thanks, as always, for reading.

Catalina Castano retires from professional tennis

Charleston, 2006
Columbia's Catalina Costano announced Thursday that she is retiring from professional tennis because she has a diagnosis of breast cancer. Castano is undergoing chemotherapy to treat her illness.

The 35-year-old Colombian player reached her highest ranking, number 35 in the world, in 2006. She is the most decorated player in Colombian Fed Cup history, with the most ties played, the most years played, and the most matches won. She played 50 Fed Cup ties in her career.

"I live day by day because with cancer you never know when everything suddenly ends," Castano said in making the announcement.  "I hope to recover as soon as possible and from there I will see what I'll do. For sure something related to tennis because tennis is my passion."

Svitolina repeats as Baku champion

We don't see titles successfully defended that often, but today, Elina Svitolina was the exception, winning her second Baku Cup title in two years. The 19-year-old from Ukraine defeated Bojana Jovanovski 6-1, 7-6 in the final. Winning the doubles title were Alexandra Panova and Heather Watson upst 3rd seeds Raluca Olaru and Shahar Peer 6-2, 7-6.

Meanwhile, Peng Shuai moved a step closer to winning a "real" WTA title. She defeated Liu Fangszhou 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in today's Nanchang final. The 18-year-old Liu, ranked number 422 in the world when she entered the tournament, has impressed all week. Peng, it should be noted, entered the final following her victory in a three-hour and 22-minute semifinal.

Chuang ChiJung and Junri Nanigata won the doubles championship by defeating Chin-Wei han and Yi-Fan Xu 7-6, 6-3 in the final.

The Zhonghong Jiangxi International Women's Open is a WTA 125K Series event.