Arantxa Rus

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Bastad and Bad Gastein Previews

Simona Halep brings a remarkable winning streak in pursuit of a fourth straight International title.  This week, a bit more competition might await her than at the three others.

Bastad:

Top half:  The second-ranked Maria Sharapova spent a brief holiday in Sweden this month, but world No. 1 Serena Williams will mix at least some business with pleasure.  One would not have expected to see Serena at an International event on clay rather than her usual US Open Series stop at Stanford.  But her undefeated clay record this year will go on the line against an overmatched group of opponents—on paper, at least.  Sure to collect a huge appearance fee in Bastad, Serena may or may not play with her usual intensity at a tournament that means nothing to her legacy.  The top-ranked junior in the world, Belinda Bencic, stands a win away from facing the top-ranked woman in the world shortly after earning the girls’ singles title at Wimbledon.  Serena’s own disappointment on those lawns may motivate her to bring more imposing form to Bastad than she would otherwise.

The player who came closest to defeating Serena on clay this year, Anabel Medina Garrigues, might await in the quarterfinals.  On the other hand, Medina Garrigues won just two games from projected second-round opponent Dinah Pfizenmaier in Palermo last week.  Also suffering an early exit there was Lara Arruabarrena, a Spaniard who shone briefly this spring.  Arruabarrena joins Lesia Tsurenko among the women vying with third seed Klara Zakopalova for the right to face Serena in the semifinals.  At a similar level of tournament in 2009, Zakopalova outlasted a diffident Serena on the clay of Marbella.

Bottom half:  Grass specialist Tsvetana Pironkova holds the fourth seed in a quarter free from any dirt devils.  Almost anyone could emerge from this section, perhaps even one of Sweden’s top two women.  Johanna Larsson will meet Sofia Arvidsson in the first round, an unhappy twist of fate for home fans.  The lower-ranked of the two, Arvidsson has accumulated the stronger career record overall.

Riding a 15-match winning streak at non-majors, Simona Halep seeks her fourth title of the summer.  She went the distance in consecutive weeks just before Wimbledon, on two different surfaces no less, so an International double on clay would come as no great surprise.  One aging threat and one rising threat jump out of her quarter as possible obstacles.  After reaching the second week of Wimbledon, Flavia Pennetta may have gained the confidence needed to ignite her stagnating comeback.  Assigned an opening test against clay specialist Alexandra Dulgheru, young French sensation Caroline Garcia looks to unlock more of her potential.  And Serena’s notorious assassin, Virginie Razzano, cannot be discounted entirely.

Final:  Serena vs. Halep

Bad Gastein:

Top half:  To be frank, this tournament boasts one of the least impressive fields on the WTA calendar (if “boasts” is the proper word).  On the bright side, Bad Gastein should feature some competitive, unpredictable matches from the first round to the last.  The only top-50 woman in the draw, Mona Barthel will seek her third final of 2013 but her first on clay.  Barthel wields more than enough power to hit through the slow surface, but her patience can be ruffled in adversity.  Her most notable pre-semifinal challenge might come from Kiki Bertens, who won a small title on clay last year.  Barthel has dominated their history, though, including a victory this year.

As she builds on an encouraging Wimbledon, Andrea Petkovic holds the fourth seed in a tournament near home.  Her family traveled with her from Germany before the draw ceremony, images of which appear elsewhere on this site.  A finalist on clay in Nurnberg last month, Petkovic drew one of the tournament’s most notable unseeded players in her opener, Petra Martic.  Just as injuries have undermined Petkovic for many months, mononucleosis has hampered Martic’s progress.  But her balanced game and keen feel for the ball still emerges, making her a greater threat than other players in the section.  Palermo semifinalist Chanelle Scheepers, who solved Martic there, might test Petkovic’s consistency.  Nor should one ignore elite junior Elina Svitolina in the draw’s most compelling section.

Bottom half:  Romanians enjoyed strong results last week, highlighted by Halep’s extended winning streak and semifinals from Alexandra Cadantu and Victor Hanescu.  This week, third seed Irina-Camelia Begu seeks to echo the success of her compatriots as she rebounds from a first-round loss in Palermo.  While her only career title came on a hard court, Begu reached two clay finals in 2011, her best season so far.  Near her stands home hope Yvonne Meusburger, who surprised by reaching the Budapest final.  The star-crossed Arantxa Rus simply hopes to halt the longest losing streak in WTA history, although she has drawn a seeded opponent in Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.

Yet another rising German, second seed Annika Beck has reached the quarterfinals or better at three International tournaments on clay this year.  Beck can look forward to a second-round meeting with doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka with resurgent Italian Karin Knapp awaiting the winner.  Knapp returned to the top 100 when she exploited an imploding section of the Wimbledon draw to reach the second week.  Her skills suit clay less smoothly than some of the women around her, such as Palermo semifinalist Cadantu.

Final: Petkovic vs. Beck

Wimbledon Tidbits: Tomic Wants Father Back on Tour, Odesnik Denies Involvement with Clinic, Rus Ties an Undesirable WTA Record

(June 25, 2013) Despite plenty of on-court action at the All England Club on Tuesday at Wimbledon, several stories were making quite a stir off the courts as well.

Bernard Tomic Calls Out ATP’s Handling of Father’s Case

It has been more than seven weeks since John Tomic’s physical attack of son Bernard’s practice partner in Madrid, but the issue is still a topic of debate.

According to the ATP, John has been banned from the ATP Tour for a 12-month period both in accreditation rights and in accessing grounds via a paying ticket. The ITF and the recent Grand Slam tournaments have followed suit, including Wimbledon this week.

After his first round win over Sam Querrey, the younger Tomic spend most of his post-match press conference defending his father and instead pointing the finger at the ATP’s mishandling of the situation.

“Growing up with your father is a good thing for me because this is how I became good at tennis at a young age,” Bernard said. “I was there with my dad. We worked hard. We were on the court together. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a change. There’s always a change in life, a decision that was made. I’m going to blame the ATP a lot for this. They have a lot of bad decisions, a few good ones, but I’m saying this is a very bad one.”

Bernard then commented on how Wimbledon upheld the ATP’s decision to ban his father, “so at the end of the day, it’s the ATP I’ve got to be talking to” to fix anything, he stated. He also said that he would ask Wimbledon officials to reconsider the ban before his second round match against James Blake, but as of Tuesday evening local time, no such appeal had been filed.

Just as we thought the younger Tomic would be somewhat freed of his father’s antics on the court at least, it seems to not have really helped all that much. If anything, it’s alarming to think what Bernard’s home life may be like now that his father is not able to vent his frustrations at his son during practice. John is still apparently traveling with his son, so that must still weigh heavily into how Bernard acts and what he says publicly. Despite all of Tennis Australia’s and past Australian tennis legend’s willingness to help Bernard, no real progress can really be made until Bernard actively separates himself from his father in all aspects of his life. It’s simply a poisonous relationship that he has become too comfortable playing the victim in.

Wayne Odesnik Again Denies Involvement with Florida Clinic

It’s not easy being the target of discussion any time a reference to doping in tennis comes up. It’s also not easy when two of the top Google searches of your name include the words “snitch” and “rat.” But this is exactly what American Wayne Odesnik deals with week in and week out on the ATP Tour.

Odesnik was issued a two-year ban when he was found in possession of eight vials of the performance-enhancing drug HGH upon trying to enter Australia in 2010. His suspension was eventually halved  when he cooperated with officials.

The American is now again being questioned about his involvement with a Florida clinic that is under investigation for reportedly selling performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players such as Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted to using PEDs in his past. Odesnik’s name was apparently found among handwritten notes kept at the clinic, and the American simply calls this “erroneous.”

“None of that’s true,” Odesnik continued. “I don’t have any connection to it.”

In a March 2013 New York Times article, Odesnik recounted his involvement with the clinic a little differently.

“I have no idea what that was about,” Odesnik said. “They had called me, and I said I had no idea what that was about. They probably saw my name from three years ago and thought that they’d put my name in something. And yeah, I had nothing to do with it.”

Tuesday’s comments from Odesnik leave his connection to the clinic murky, and it doesn’t help that he initially admitted to having been a part of the clinic years earlier, then calling his name on the clinic’s records “erroneous.”

The judgement is out on Odesnik, and as much as he tries, he seems to only dig himself into a bigger hole when answering questions about his doping case.

Arantxa Rus Ties Record for Most Consecutive Losses

There are many records that tennis players would be happy to hold, but most consecutive tour-level match losses is not one of them.

With her first round exit from Wimbledon on Tuesday, Dutch player Arantxa Rus has extended her losing streak to 17 — tying the WTA record that Sally Collins set in the 1980s. On the men’s side, American Vince Spadea holds the ATP record, with 21 consecutive matches lost from 1999 to 2000.

“I lost a lot of matches,” Rus said on Tuesday. “Yeah, it’s hard, but I try to keep working hard. That’s the only thing you can do.”

The 22-year-old last won a tour-level match on August 19, 2012 – that’s more than ten months ago. Rus has had some notable wins on tour, including over Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open and Sam Stosur at last year’s Wimbledon. She was also a No. 1 ranked junior and won the Junior Australian Open title in 2008. Clearly, the Dutch player is no slacker on the court, but just going through a rough patch.

Despite having fallen 90 ranking spots since last August to world No. 151, Rus may want to look to Jelena Jankovic for encouragement.

The Serb went through a similar streak between October 2005 and May 2006, where she held a 2-15 losing record. She admitted to seriously considering quitting tennis at that time, but just over two years later, Jankovic went on to climb to world No. 1. How’s that for inspiration?

And Rus seems to understand the transient nature of her current predicament, saying it hasn’t changed who she is.

“I’m still the same person,” she said. “You have … life (apart from) tennis.”

WTA Nürnberg Photo Gallery: Practice Sessions, Press Conference

(June 9, 2013) The WTA International event in Nürnberg continued its qualifying action today, as several main draw ladies hit the practice courts. No. 8 seed Annika Beck and wildcard Dinah Pfizenmaier held a joint press conference prior to the start of main draw play scheduled on Monday.

As Nürnberg celebrates its inaugural year young German Beck had nothing but praise for the event.

“The facility is super nice,” she said with a smile. “The courts are great. I cannot complain.”

Given the rarity of German WTA players being able to play at a home tournaments, Pfizenmaier commented on the positive effect this has.

“The fact that there is a second German tournament in addition to Stuttgart is great,” she stated. “The support of the spectators is much larger which gives more energy to the players.”

The final round of qualifying kicks off tomorrow, as well as the first round of main draw play, which will see Beck, Alize Cornet, Lucie Safarova and Julia Goerges among others.

Today’s gallery also includes Arantxa Rus, Olga Savchuk, Grace Min, Simona Halep and more.

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What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Acapulco, Florianopolis, and Kuala Lumpur

While eight of the top ten men are active in the week before Indian Wells, only two of the top ten women have chosen live matches over practice sessions.  Two clay tournaments in the Western Hemisphere accompany an Asian hard-court tournament as the last chance to reverse or extend momentum before the March mini-majors.

Acapulco:  One of those two top-ten women playing this week, Errani hopes to begin repeating last year’s success on red clay while extending her success from reaching the Dubai final.  Little about her section suggests that she should not, although she stumbled unexpectedly on clay against Lepchenko in Fed Cup.  Considering that mishap, she might find Arantxa Rus a worthy test in the quarterfinals.  Rus once upset Clijsters at Roland Garros and owns a lefty forehand smothered with topspin that cause damage on this surface.  She might struggle to survive an all-Dutch encounter in the opening round against Kiki Bertens, though, who broke through to win her first career title at a clay tournament in Morocoo last year.

Gone early in Bogota, where she held the second seed, Alize Cornet will hope for a more productive week in a draw where she holds the third seed.  The Frenchwoman lacks weapons to overpower her opponents but will find few in this section who can overpower her.  The most notable name here (probably more notable than Cornet) belongs to the returning Flavia Pennetta, who got through one three-setter in Bogota before fading in a second.  Tiny Lourdes Dominguez Lino hopes that this first-round opponent still needs to shake off more rust.

An odd sight it is to see an American, a Croat, and a Swede all playing on clay during a week with a hard-court tournament, and yet all of them occupy the same section in Acapulco.  Perhaps more notable than Glatch or Larsson is Ajla Tomljanovic, a heavy hitter from a nation of heavy hitters who once looked like a sure rising star before recent setbacks.  Facing this Croatian wildcard in the first round, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu knows better how to play on clay, as 2011 finals in Marbella and Budapest showed.  Begu won her first career title last fall in Tashkent, which places her a notch above the other seed in this quarter.  Spending most of her career at the ITF level, Romina Oprandi recorded a strong result in Beijing last fall.

Handed a wildcard to accompany her sixth seed, Schiavone searches for relevance after a long stretch in which she has struggled to string together victories.  The sporadically intriguing Sesil Karatantcheva should pose a test less stern than second seed Suarez Navarro, who shares Schiavone’s affinity for the surface.  Humiliated twice in one week at Dubai, where she lost resoundingly in both the singles and the doubles draws, the small Spaniard owns one of the loveliest one-handed backhands in the WTA since Henin’s retirement.  Schiavone owns another, which should make their quarterfinal pleasant viewing for tennis purists.

Final:  Errani vs. Begu

Florianopolis:  In the first year of a new tournament, the presence of a marquee player always helps to establish its legitimacy.  The outdoor hard courts at this Brazilian resort will welcome seven-time major champion and former #1 Venus Williams as the top seed, and her draw looks accommodating in its early stages.  While young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza showed potential at the Australian Open, the American’s sternest challenge may come from a much older woman.  Extending Venus deep into a third set at Wimbledon in 2011, Kimiko Date-Krumm could unsettle her fellow veteran with her clever angles and crisp net play, although her serve should fall prey to her opponent’s returning power.

In the quarter below lies Kirsten Flipkens, who lost early as the top seed in Memphis after reaching the second week of the Australian Open.  Also a potential semifinal opponent for Venus, Caroline Garcia possesses much more potential than her current ranking of #165 would suggest.  Unlike most of the counterpunchers in Florianopolis, she will not flinch from trading baseline missiles with the top seed should she earn the opportunity.  Another young star in the eighth-seeded Annika Beck might produce an intriguing quarterfinal with Garcia.

Counterpunchers dominate the third quarter, bookended by Medina Garrigues and Chanelle Scheepers.  When the two met at the Hopman Cup this year, endless rallies and endless service games characterized a match filled with breaks.  The heavy serve of Timea Babos might intercept Scheepers in the second round, while Medina Garrigues could encounter some early resistance from the quirky Niculescu or Shahar Peer.  With her best years well behind her, the Israeli continues to show her familiar grittiness in attempting to reclaim her relevance.

Midway through 2012, the second-seeded Shvedova climbed back into singles prominence by reaching the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  Starting with her three-set loss to Serena at the latter major, she has suffered a series of demoralizing setbacks in early rounds since then, often in tightly contested matches that hinged on a handful of points.  Shvedova once led the WTA’s rankings for overall pace of shot, though, and her power might overwhelm those around her.  Aligned to meet her in the quarterfinals is Kristina Mladenovic, the surprise semifinalist at the Paris Indoors who delivered the first signature win of her career there over Kvitova.

Final:  Williams vs. Mladenovic

Kuala Lumpur:  With a direct-entry cutoff even lower than Florianopolis, this tournament features only eight players in the top 100.  Headlining the list, however, is a former #1 who still occupies the fringes of the top 10.  After she produced solid results in the Middle East, reaching a quarterfinal in Doha and a semifinal in Dubai, Wozniacki should feel confident in her ability to secure a first title of 2013.  Few of the names in her quarter will strike chords with most fans, although some might remember lefty Misaki Doi as the woman who upset Petra Martic in Melbourne before eating a Sharapova double bagel.  Aussie lefty Casey Dellacqua sometimes can challenge higher-ranked foes but has struggled with injury too often to maintain consistency.

Doi’s highest-ranked compatriot, the double-fister Ayumi Morita holds the fourth seed in Kuala Lumpur.  Like Wozniacki, she could face an Aussie in the quarterfinals, and, like Wozniacki, she should not find the test too severe.  Although she has won the Australian Open wildcard playoff twice, Olivia Rogowska has stagnated over the past few years since winning a set from then -#1 Safina at the US Open.  Evergreen veteran Eleni Daniilidou rounds out this section with one of the WTA’s more powerful one-handed backhands—and not much else.

Surely pleased to recruit another player of international familiarity beyond Wozniacki, Kuala Lumpur welcomes Pavlyuchenkova as a third-seeded wildcard entrant.  The Russian often has excelled at this time of year, reaching the Indian Wells semifinals before and winning consecutive titles at the Monterrey tournament that has shifted after Miami.  This year, Pavlyuchenkova has shown a little of her promising 2011 form by reaching the final in Brisbane to start the season and much more of her dismal 2012 form by dropping three straight matches thereafter.  She could end her four-match losing streak here in a section filled with qualifiers.  But yet another Aussie in Ashleigh Barty hopes to continue what so far has become an encouraging season for WTA future stars.

When not conversing on Twitter with our colleague David Kane, 16-year-old phenom Donna Vekic has compiled some notable results.  Seeded at a WTA tournament for the first time, she will look to build upon her final in Tashkent last year, a win over Hlavackova at the Australian Open, and a solid week in Fed Cup zonal play.  Vekic does face a challenging first-round test in the powerful serve of American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but no match in her section looks unwinnable.  While second seed and potential quarterfinal opponent Hsieh Su-wei won her first two titles last year, the late-blossoming star from Chinese Taipei still does not intimidate despite her presence in the top 25.

Final:  Wozniacki vs. Pavlyuchenkova

(Actually, can we just combine these last two draws and have Venus play a super-final against Caro?)

 

 

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Dubai, Memphis, and Bogota

Shifting down the Persian Gulf, eight of the top ten women move from Doha to Dubai for the only Premier tournament this week.  In North and South America are two International tournaments on dramatically different surfaces.  Here is the weekly look at what to expect in the WTA.

Dubai:  Still the top seed despite her dethroning last week, Azarenka can collect valuable rankings points at a tournament from which she withdrew in 2012.  She looked far sharper in Doha than she did for most of her title run in Melbourne, and once again she eyes a potential quarterfinal with Sara Errani.  Although the Italian has rebounded well from a disastrous start to the season, she lacks any weapons with which to threaten Azarenka.  Between them stands last year’s runner-up Julia Goerges, an enigma who seems destined to remain so despite her first-strike potential.   If Sloane Stephens can upset Errani in the second round, meanwhile, a rematch of the Australian Open semifinal could loom in the quarterfinals.  The top seed might expect a test from Cibulkova in the second round, since she lost to her at Roland Garros last year and needed a miraculous comeback to escape her in Miami.  But Cibulkova injured her leg in Fed Cup a week ago and has faltered since reaching the Sydney final.

Having won just one match until Doha, Stosur bounced back somewhat by recording consecutive wins in that Premier Five field.  The Aussie may face three straight lefties in Makarova, Lepchenko, and Kerber, the last of whom has the greatest reputation but the least momentum.  While Makarova reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Lepchenko displayed her newfound confidence in upsetting both Errani and Vinci on clay in Fed Cup—a rare feat for an American.  Vinci herself also stands in this section, from which someone unexpected could emerge.  Azarenka need fear little from either Kerber or Stosur, both of whom she has defeated routinely in most of their previous meetings, so a semifinal anticlimax might beckon.  Not that Doha didn’t produce a semifinal anticlimax from much more prestigious names.

Atop the third quarter stands the greatest enigma of all in Petra Kvitova, who won four straight matches between Fed Cup and Doha before nearly halting Serena’s bid for the #1 ranking.  Considering how far she had sunk over the previous several months, unable to string together consecutive victories, that accomplishment marked an immense step forward.  Kvitova can capitalize immediately on a similar surface in the section occupied by defending champion Radwanska.  In contrast to last week, the Czech can outhit anyone whom she could face before the semifinals, so she will determine her own fate.  If she implodes, however, Ivanovic could repeat her upset when they met in last year’s Fed Cup final before colliding with Radwanska for the third time this year.  Also of note in this section is the all-wildcard meeting between rising stars Putintseva and Robson.

Breaking with her usual routine, Serena has committed to the Middle East hard courts without reserve by entering both Doha and Dubai.  Whether she plays the latter event in a physical condition that looks less than promising may remain open to question until she takes the court.  So strong is the draw that Serena could open against world #11 Bartoli, who owns a Wimbledon victory against her from 2011 but has not sustained that success.  The eighth-seeded Wozniacki proved a small thorn in her side last year by defeating her in Miami and threatening her in Rome, so a quarterfinal could intrigue if the Dane can survive Safarova to get there and if Serena arrives at less than full strength.

Final:  Azarenka vs. Kvitova

Memphis:  Overshadowed a little by the accompanying ATP 500 tournament, this event has lacked star power for the last few years.  Rather than Venus, Sharapova, or Davenport, the top seed in 2013 goes to Kirsten Flipkens, a player largely unknown in the United States.  This disciple of Clijsters may deserve more attention than she has received, however, rallying to reach the second week of the Australian Open in January after surviving blood clots last spring.  Former finalist Shahar Peer and 2011 champion Magdalena Rybarikova attempt to resurrect their careers by returning to the scene of past triumphs, but lefty Ksenia Pervak may offer the most credible challenge to Flipkens in this quarter.

Of greater note is the hard-serving German who holds the third seed and should thrive on a fast indoor court.  Although Lisicki has struggled to find her form away from grass, she showed flickers of life by charging within a tiebreak of the Pattaya City title earlier this month.  Kristina Mladenovic, a potential quarterfinal opponent, delivered a key statement in the same week at the Paris Indoors, where she upset Kvitova en route to the semifinals.  Before then, though, this French teenager had displayed little hint of such promise, so one feels inclined to attribute that result more to the Czech’s frailty for now.

Part of an elite doubles team with compatriot Andrea Hlavackova, Lucie Hradecka has excelled on surfaces where her powerful serve can shine.  Like Lisicki, she should enjoy her week in Memphis amid a section of opponents who cannot outhit her from the baseline.  Among them is the largely irrelevant Melanie Oudin, who surfaced last year to win her first career title before receding into anonymity again.  Neither Oudin nor the fourth-seeded Heather Watson possesses significant first-strike power, so their counterpunching will leave them at a disadvantage on the indoor hard court.  But Watson has improved her offense (together with her ranking) over the last few months and should relish the chance to take advantage of a friendly draw.  Interestingly, Hradecka’s doubles partner Hlavackova could meet her in the quarterfinals if she can upset Watson.

Finishing runner-up to Sharapova here in 2010, Sofia Arvidsson holds the second seed in this yaer’s tournament as she eyes a potential quarterfinal against one of two Americans.  While Chanelle Scheepers anchors the other side of the section, Jamie Hampton could build upon her impressive effort against Azarenka at the Australian Open to shine on home soil.  Nor should one discount the massive serve of Coco Vandeweghe, which could compensate for her one-dimensionality here.

Final:  Lisicki vs. Hradecka

Bogota:  Like the ATP South American tournaments in February, this event offers clay specialists an opportunity to compile ranking points in a relatively unintimidating setting.  Top seed and former #1 Jankovic fits that category, having reached multiple semifinals at Roland Garros during her peak years.  She has not won a title in nearly three years, but a breakthrough could happen here.  In her section stand Pauline Parmentier and Mariana Duque Marino, the latter of whom stunned Bogota audiences by winning the 2010 title here over Kerber.  As her wildcard hints, she never quite vaulted from that triumph to anything more significant.  Serious opposition to Jankovic might not arise until the semifinals, when she faces the aging Pennetta.  Once a key part of her nation’s Fed Cup achievements, the Italian veteran won their most recent clay meeting and looks likely to ensure a rematch with nobody more notable than the tiny Dominguez Lino blocking her.

The lower half of the draw features a former Roland Garros champion in Schiavone and a French prodigy who nearly broke through several years ago before stagnating in Cornet.  Testing the latter in a potential quarterfinal is Timea Babos, who won her first career title around this time last year with a promising serve.  For Schiavone, the greatest resistance could come from lanky Dutch lefty Arantxa Rus.  Known most for her success on clay, Rus won a match there from Clijsters and a set from Sharapova, exploiting the extra time that the surface allows for her sluggish footwork.  Also of note in this half is Paula Ormaechea, a rising Argentine who probably ranks as the most notable women’s star expected from South America in the next generation.  Can she step into Dulko’s shoes?

Final:  Jankovic vs. Schiavone

Check back shortly for the companion preview on the three ATP tournaments this week in Marseille, Memphis, and Buenos Aires!

 

Adidas tennis fashions for Roland Garros with Verdasco, Ivanovic, Rus and others

By Romana Cvitkovic

Just in time for the tennis season’s second Slam of the year, the adidas team has revealed the fashions that will be on display at Roland Garros for their top athletes, including Ana Ivanovic, Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray, Gilles Simon and their youngest sensation, 21-year-old Arantxa Rus from Holland.

A few things of note:

1. I like lime and I like orange, but I’m not fully sold on the combination for Ana Ivanovic’s dress. Even with the red clay, it might be an eye sore…

2. Fernando Verdasco’s face in his second photo below is absolutely priceless. Compare that with the first saucy photo, and I laugh every time I see it. But somehow both are fitting for his personality.

3. Arantxa Rus looks like a mini-Wozniacki in these photos, but I love the air around her as a player. Great potential, and the yellow and  blue kit combination with the ruffled tank works. I also LOVE the accents on her shoes.

4. Andy Murray, is that you? Looking more like a gladiator than a tennis player, he doesn’t have a knack for posing. While I like the orange shorts, the grey color seems a bit too muted on him.

5. Andrea Petkovic, oh, how I miss you … already. Skipping Roland Garros to nurse an injury, her blue and orange kit will probably be worn by Maria Kirilenko among others, but the German’s fire will be missed in Paris.

6. Gilles Simon’s baby blue collared shirt looks more fitting for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but I’ll let it slide because of the Frenchie smile.

All in all, the kits and colors look great and I’m excited to see them on the red clay of Roland Garros. For larger higher quality photos, click on the photos to expand.

(photos courtesy of adidas tennis)

Clijsters ousted by Dutch youngster, Myskina back as coach and Mauresmo makes comeback? – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Big Ask

That’s exactly what fans and tennis pundits were asking of Kim Clijsters when she announced that she would play Roland Garros. Unfortunately for her, it was too big of an ask, as she crashed out in the second round to Dutch player Arantxa Rus. After building a set and 5-2 lead that included holding two match points, the former World No. 1 went crashing out as she began leaking errors from every part of her game. This is not to take away from Rus. As her opponent began to crumble, Rus sensed her opportunity and began playing with more confidence to emphatically take the deciding set. But with upwards of sixty errors, Clijsters greatly helped Rus’ cause. The good news for Clijsters is that this loss is unlikely to have any lasting effect on her. She knows she came in on very little preparation and absolutely no clay court matches under her belt. Couple that with the fact that clay is admittedly her worst and least favorite surface, and there was always the chance that her French hopes would fizzle. Look for her to bounce back for the grass court season.

 

Off with a Bang

It didn’t take long to inject some excitement into the 2011 edition of Roland Garros, as on day three, the unthinkable nearly happened. American John Isner pushed five-time champion Rafael Nadal to his first five-setter at the French Open and led the reigning champion two sets to one before Nadal was able to turn it around. It’s difficult to label this opening match as an indicator regarding where Nadal’s game is at the moment. As a former Top 20 player last year with a big serve and attacking game, Isner was always going to be a dangerous floater, irrespective of who was waiting on the other side of the net. If anything, Nadal’s performance against Pablo Andujar, a match that he managed to win in straights, should have been more disconcerting for the Nadal camp as far as where his confidence and game are. But if Nadal can grind out a few more victories, he will become all that much more difficult to beat as he works his way towards the final. And if nothing else, Nadal’s thriller against Isner created the kind of buzz around the grounds that you normally don’t see until week two to really get this tournament underway.

Old Balls, Please!

One of the hottest topics (and gripes) among the players in Paris this week is the switch to the new Babolat tennis balls. Many of the players have commented that the balls zip through the air faster, with some stating that the speed of the ball makes the game comparable to playing in the altitude of Madrid. But for many players, the issue isn’t so much the fact that the balls are faster, as it is that they’ve just spent the entire clay court season leading up to the second major playing with one kind of ball, only to have to adjust to something different at Roland Garros. It’s certainly a head scratcher, and one wonders why the French felt the need to speed up the game. Clay court tennis is beautiful to watch, and those who have the patience and clay court prowess deserve to be rewarded. This switch to faster balls seems to make about as much sense as Wimbledon slowing down their grass courts. That decision only added to the demise of serve-and-volley tennis, and it’s ridiculous when more than one player is able to confidently state that the French Open plays faster than Wimbledon. Hopefully the French Open will listen to the players, and fans can once again look forward to true clay court tennis at its finest.

Technically No

The French crowd nearly had another reasonably strong tandem to cheer, and Amelie Mauresemo nearly had a legit shot at winning some type of a title at Roland Garros. The former Grand Slam champion had been slated to compete in the mixed-doubles competition with fellow French compatriot Michel Llodra when the two were granted a last-minute wildcard. Their plans were nixed, however, when tournament organizers learned that Mauresmo was not eligible to play due to her being out of the sport’s anti-doping program. No word yet on whether Mauresmo will opt to come out of retirement and subject herself to the anti-doping program in order to possibly compete with Llodra at future Grand Slam events. It’s hard to imagine her choosing to make this decision for so few events, but fans would undoubtedly enjoy watching these two make a formidable duo for the rest of the competition.

Coaching Call

Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova informed a group of reporters that Anastasia Myskina would be making a trip to Paris to help coach her compatriot at this year’s Roland Garros. Myskina defeated Kuzetsova in her Roland Garros title run in 2004, when she became the first Russian woman to win a singles major. For sure Myskina should be able to provide Kuznetsova with valuable insight and perhaps put a spark back into her fellow Muscovite’s game.

Down to earth Arantxa Rus is flying high!

It’s a joyful day for Dutch tennis.  Arantxa Rus caused a huge upset by defeating world number two Kim Clijsters in a thrilling three set match 3-6 7-5 6-1. And I don’t even want to hear or read about the bias of some journalists who keep bugging Kim Clijsters about her loss and come up with stats and whatever.  It’s simple: Clijsters lost because she lost her nerves and Rus took advantage of that.  Doesn’t take away the glorious victory of Arantxa Rus at all in my view but I am just a little annoyed that we hardly got to see international press coverage for Rus.

Even Kim Clijsters praised her opponent in her pressconference and refused to blame her loss on the little preparation she had for the Roland Garros 2011 edition. Clijsters said that she started to doubt and that’s what killed her game. Rus took advantage of that and walked off the court the winner.

The Dutch newspapers are filled with praise for Arantxa Rus who has performed pretty good so far this season reaching the finals of two ITF tournaments and taking Maria Sharapova to three sets at the Mutua Madrid Open.  But defeating her heroine Clijsters has this down-to-earth dutchie flying. Ofcourse, who  wouldn’t be?

Rus, who is described by coach Ralph Kok as a very down to earth young lady, is ecstatic with the win.

Rus, who is currently ranked 114 in the world, will make a quantum leap on the world rankings list regardless of her result in the next round where she faces Maria Kirilenko. And the plan is to never fall out of the top 100 again. I sincerely hope that she achieves that goal and hope to see more of her in the near future.

For now we have a whole bunch of pics of Arantxa Rus and we hope you will enjoy them.  Credit ofcourse to Ralf Reinecke and thanks for providing them on such a short notice!

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Kim Clijsters crashes out of French Open

World number two Kim Clijsters crashed out of the French Open today after an erratic performance saw her downed 6-3, 5-7, 1-6 by the Dutch 114th seed Arantxa Rus.

The 27-year-old seemed confident and disciplined as she eased to take the first set against her opponent who had never played on one of the grandstand courts at any of the majors before.

At 0-3 in the second set it seemed Rus’ experience was set to end sourly, but Clijsters, who was playing her first tournament since March due to an ankle injury, began to show her rustiness and collapsed spectacularly on court.

Rus clawed her way back from 2-5 to take the match to a deciding set and her run of winning 11 out of 12 games saw out the match for one of the biggest Roland Garros shocks in recent memory.

When questioned about her fitness, Clijsters said she was bitterly unhappy with her performance, but said that she was happy with her condition going in to the match.

“I had practised well. Physically everything was fine. I was definitely ready,” said the reigning US and Australian Open Champion. “I’m happy that I gave myself an opportunity. It’s better to try than not to try.

 

“If I had said: ‘It’s better not to come’, that would be the attitude of a real loser.”

Rus was understandably delighted with the victory, which was the greatest of her career.

“I just wanted to go for every point. I’d like to play every day like this,” said Rus, who had only previously won one match this year. “It was my biggest win. She is my hero. I played fantastic tennis. I was a little nervous as it was my first time on the stadium. When I faced match points, I thought ‘just go for it’. I was more aggressive in the second set.”

British number one Andy Murray was luckier as he progressed through to round three in straight sets while never looking his best against Italy’s Simone Bolelli.

A scrappy encounter never quite got going in the blustery conditions as Murray won through 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-5 and he now awaits either France’s Arnaud Clement or Germany’s Michael Berrer in round three.

The world number 126 showed glimpses of talent but was far too inconsistent with his shot selection and was a real disappointment with his serve, handing Murray points with various double faults.

Yet the Scot’s serve was little better for much of the encounter and he let Bolelli off the hook on a few occasions before settling in to rhythm and outclassing a man ranked in the Top 40 only two years ago.

Swedish fifth seed Robin Soderling is also through. He made short shrift of Spain’s Albert Ramos and saw his match out 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen before record-breaking Chinese star Li Na emerged to battle to victory over Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-4, 7-5.

Fernando Verdasco needed four sets to see off Belgium’s surprise package of 2011 Xavier Malisse. The world number 40’s fight had flickered out a little towards the end, though, as the 16th seed triumphed 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1.

Tenth seed Mardy Fish is also through after a straight sets win over Dutch ace Robin Haase while Germany’s Andrea Petkovic followed suit in the women’s draw after comfortably outclassing Lucie Hradecka.

Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer surprised Marcos Baghdatis 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(6) while Britain’s Elena Baltacha has lost at the second hurdle, giving up a set lead to go down 6-4, 1-6, 4-6 to American Vania King.

American 24th seed Sam Querrey has also fallen at the second hurdle, losing to the Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-7(2), 4-6, 4-6.

 

 

Mutua Madrid Open: Caroline Wozniacki wins opener, Sharapova struggles but wins and Pennetta upset

I have been trying for hours to write something interesting to write about the Mutua Madrid Open tournament but I just can’t seem to find the right words.  I suppose I could write about the Estoril Open but that’s my colleague  Luís Santos’ department. He does a great job by the way of covering the event. Who would have expected Anabel Medina Garrigues to win and be on par with the great Venus Williams when it comes to holding the most titles on clay. I sure as hell did not.

With the Mutua Madrid Open starting, tennis is back on the international stage with a Premier event. All the top players you missed are going to attend and so is my photographer Ralf Reinecke, who will shoot the photos of all the stars and more. Last year Ralf managed to get me photos of players of  Real Madrid. We had pics of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos and many others. Not sure if that is going to happen this year though. With the second leg match versus FC Barcelona for a spot in the prestigious Champions League finale at stake, match preparations are in full gear. The match will take place in Barcelona so I am not sure if the players of Real Madrid be able to watch a match or two from the stands. Has anyone seen the first match and its’ aftermath? Real Madrid fight harder off the pitch than they do on the pitch with complaints of schwalbes and videos to support their claims and whatever else. They should have included the two goals scored by prodigy Lionel Messi. Because that’s the harsh reality. They are going to play versus FC Barcelona for a spot in the prestigious Champions League 2011 finale trailing 2-0.  They should recruit Tom Cruise and his Mission: Impossible crew for that because there is no way they will be able to turn that into a win.  Ofcourse for football betters, I would call this a serious challenge. More so than  tennis betting on who will defeat Rafael Nadal on clay this year.

But I digress. TennisGrandstand is still a site about tennis and not about football.

I am sure all of you have viewed and reviewed and analyzed the Mutua Madrilena Open draw and it holds no surprises but some exciting match ups in the first round.  Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova are already through to the next round.

Caroline Wozniacki defeated Japanese Ayumi Morita in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. Maria Sharapova had to put in more effort to reach the next round beating Dutch talent Arantxa Rus 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In other results Daniela Hantuchova beat tour veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-3 while last year’s French Open winner Francesca Schiavone was made to work versus Shuai Peng 7-5, 7-6 to reach the next.  The biggest upset so far is the match between Arantxa (what’s in a name) Parra Santonja ousted former top 10 player Flavia Pennetta in straight sets 6-3, 7-5.

Keep an eye  out for photos from Madrid this whole week. Pictures are taken by rollin’ Ralf Reinecke!

Oh and for you Real Madrid fans there is a surprise for you at the end of this post.

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