julia goerges

WTA Katowice Monday Gallery: Opening Ceremony with Goerges, Lisicki, Kvitova and more

KATOWICE (April 8, 2013) — Main draw play of the BNP Paribas Katowice Open kicked off today with not only first round matches, but also the Opening Ceremony as well as a doubles exhibition match which featured Poland’s top doubles players pairing up with top wheelchair players, Marcin Matkowski partnering with Kamil Fabisiak while Mariusz Fyrstenberg teamed with Albin Batycki.

Full WTA Monday Results below:

SINGLES – FIRST ROUND
Petra Martic (CRO) d Elina Svitolina (UKR) | 6 (2) – 7 | 6 – 3 | 6 – 2 |
[3] Klara Zakopalova (CZE) d Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) | 7 – 6 (2) | 6 – 2 |
Annika Beck (GER) d Marta Domachowska (POL) | 6 – 3 | 7 – 5 |
Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) d [8] Laura Robson (GBR) | 5 – 7 | 7 – 6 (7) | 6 – 1 |
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) | 6 – 1 | 3 – 6 | 6 – 0 |

SINGLES – QUALIFYING – FINAL ROUND
Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) d Katarzyna Piter (POL) | 6 – 2 | 6 – 4 |
[2] Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) d Raluca Olaru (ROU) | 6 – 0 | 6 – 0 |
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) d [3] Shahar Peer (ISR) | 6 – 4 | 6 – 1 |
Jill Craybas (USA) d Irina Buryachok (UKR) | 6 – 3 | 6 – 2 |

DOUBLES – FIRST ROUND
R Olaru / V Solovyeva (ROU/RUS) d M Linette / K Piter (POL/POL) | 6 – 4 | 6 – 1 |

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Sony Open in Photos: S. Williams, Petkovic thru, Goerges bows out

MIAMI, FL (March 22, 2013) — Thursday at the Sony Open saw several seeded players bow out, found gripping battles on the outer courts, and plenty of sunshine for fans to enjoy all the happenings on the Key Biscayne grounds.

Below are Tennis Grandstand’s “Best Shots of the Day” by our photographer Christopher Levy.

Nadia Petrova Goes Back to the (Live Score)Board

Growing up as a tennis fan in the mid 2000s, I remember staying up past 3AM watching matches played in Australia. I remember matches I’ve seen in person around, from New York to New Haven. But if there has been one constant through my tenure in tennis fandom, it has been the omnipresent Live Scoreboard.

Like most who have followed a tournament in the last decade, I cannot tell you how many hours I have wasted staring at a pair of names, willing numbers to flash for one combatant or the other. I would skim the pittance of stats the scoreboard offered in the effort to create a mental picture of the match. How was the momentum swinging? Who was converting the most break points? Did refreshing the webpage make the scores update any faster?

Analyzing a match this way can be more difficult than guessing a meal based on five or six uncooked ingredients. Oh, and you’re blindfolded.

But the more you “watched” a player via the Scoreboard, the simpler it became to a trace certain seemingly minute patterns. Suddenly, why a player wins or loses becomes as black and white as, well, the Scoreboard itself.

Over the years, the technology that aids tennis fans has evolved, and marquee matches are indiscriminately broadcast on streams (legal or otherwise). But every so often, usually during big tournaments like Indian Wells, matches of interest get moved out of the spotlight, and spectators are once again subjected to that maddeningly numerical game of Pong.

Today, the flashing names in question were Nadia Petrova and Julia Goerges. While a match between these two naturally talented athletes would have been a joy to watch by court or by stream, this match-up was fascinating to dissect via the (almost) all-knowing Scoreboard. From years of following the tall Russian’s matches, I can attest that her serve, particularly the first delivery, makes all the difference.

Far from the Tour’s best mover, Petrova’s powerful serve literally makes or breaks her. Serving at a high first serve percentage, she can take advantage of short returns and finish points quickly with thundering groundstrokes or aggressive forays to the net. Forced to hit too many second serves, her biggest weapon is neutralized and big-hitters like Goerges can take control of rallies by getting the Russian on the run.

The first set was over in a flash, but the Scoreboard made it easy to see how Petrova was able to tame her German opponent. Serving at nearly 70% against an intimidating returner, the Russian veteran kept her service games short and efficient, without facing a single break point. With an apparent rhythm on serve, she was allowed to take risks on the return, breaking the Goerges serve three times in the process.

But anyone who has watched Nadia Petrova play (on any medium) in the last decade can tell you that her biggest hurdle is anything but technical. Blessed with immense physical gifts, the Russian has struggled to maintain composure at a match’s critical stages to the point where her career will likely be defined by its losses rather than its wins. A successful campaign to cap off the 2012 season came to an abrupt end when she split with coach Ricardo Sanchez in January, and her results have been middling all year.

Against Goerges, Petrova was clutch in the important moments. Facing six break points in the second set, she saved five. Faced with the opportunity to break Goerges’ serve six times, Petrova achieved a rare perfect conversion rate. Put those numbers together and the Russian easily dispatched the No. 21 seed 6-1 6-2 to set up a fourth round encounter with Caroline Wozniacki.

Theoretically, one has not seen Nadia Petrova hit a tennis ball, save for those who have been courtside. How can we, the tennis cognoscenti, know if she is playing as well as she was last November, when she last played (and beat) Wozniacki? The arcane system of live scoring can be frustrating at first, but taking a few cues from what it tells can help a fan uncover a match’s nuances, and be amazed by what the numbers truly show.

Biggest Fashion Disasters at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open

We’ve all been there: worn something that we wish we hadn’t, only to have pictures of our mistake permanently ingrained on Facebook to haunt us for the rest of our lives. Well, tennis players face the same predicament — just on a much grander scale.

This week at the BNP Paribas Open, we’ve seen some unfortunate apparel disasters from some of tennis’ biggest names, and we’ll give you the full (and hilarious!) rundown, starting with the one and only Jelena Jankovic.

When Jelena Jankovic stepped onto Stadium 2 on Friday, not only did she catch her opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova off guard (she served her first set bagel), but Twitter exploded with puns regarding Jankovic’s kit. Bottom line: When your skirt looks like a legitimate stand-in for the mops at a carwash, you know there’s a problem.

Unfortunately, fellow Fila athlete Julia Goerges suffered the same skirt fate on Saturday during her own second round win. The colors and design of the top are good, but they detract heavily from the unfortunate carwash skirt.

Keeping with the somewhat “cheerleading” theme, Chanelle Scheepers looked more like she belonged on the NBA’s Sacramento Kings dance lineup than a tennis court.

With the drop in temperatures on Friday, the ladies came out in full legging force. While a few of them were able to pull it off (ahem, Maria Sharapova’s was passable), several decided to pair their kits with black leggings, which already had some sort of random design. Marion Bartoli and Francesca Schiavone were two of the worst offenders and the outcome was not pleasant on the eyes in any way, shape or form.

 

Another legging offender was the usually do-no-wrong Maria Kirilenko, but boy did her legging/skirt combination do A LOT of wrong this time around. When she dipped low in her yellow lizard leggings, it made her legs look like something out of Dr. Seuss book. And the stark delineation between the leggings and shorts make it look all the more extraterrestrial.

 

Leather on a tennis court is never a goo—- Oh, wait. How did this get in here? Moving along …

In the case of David Nalbandian‘s Topper kit, “X” does NOT mark the spot. It could have done without a few of those criss-crossed lines.

Petra Kvitova may not be debuting this kit at the BNP Paribas Open, but the Nike color block of orange and purple simply don’t work for the Czech lady. From the starry two-tone top to a skirt that doesn’t even match the neon orange on the shirt/sweat bands/shoes, this kit is all wrong for her — or anybody, for that matter. Kvitova has always looked good in simple lines and colors, and this attempt to spice her up has failed miserably. Good form on that wide forehand though, Petra.

Lleyton Hewitt‘s very own clothing line “C’mon” has missed the mark as well. The shoulders take a cue from Andy Murray’s adidas kit, and the frontal design just adds to the confusion. It’s just a little too much going on for any one shirt.

Vania King had the potential to be “pretty in pink” with her kit, but instead her clothing sponsor made her look like she got into a serious fight with a pink tiger, claw marks and all. And I can’t figure out if that skirt is suede or just makes really awkward sweat stains. You decide.

Laura Robson‘s all-white kit is also not new as she wore it at the Australian Open, but that is part of the problem. While the lines themselves are great, the color is what bothers me. Not only should all-white be reserved almost exclusively for Wimbledon, but come summer, adidas will have had Robson in all white all year! What fun is it putting a rising sparkling 19-year-old in a dull tone for that much of the season?

Much like Robson above, Lacoste decided to put John Isner in oversimplified colors: black and white. And what a mistake — it sent him home on his first match in Indian Wells after having reached the final here last year. Lacoste has been doing great yet simple designs the last few years; let’s hope this was just a momentary oversight.

Agree/Disagree? Did I miss any fashion disasters from this year’s BNP Paribas Open? Sound off in the comments below!

Their Just Deserts: The Mega WTA Indian Wells Draw Preview

Read about what to expect from the first Premier Mandatory tournament of 2013 as we break down each quarter of the WTA Indian Wells draw in detail!

First quarter:  For the second straight year, Azarenka arrives in the desert with a perfect season record that includes titles at the Australian Open and the Premier Five tournament in Doha.  Able to defend those achievements, she eyes another prestigious defense at Indian Wells on a surface that suits her balanced hybrid of offense and defense as well as any other.  In her opener, she could face the only woman in the draw who has won multiple titles here, Daniela Hantuchova, although the more recent of her pair came six long years ago.  Since reaching the second week of the Australian Open, Kirsten Flipkens staggered to disappointing results in February, so Azarenka need not expect too stern a test from the Belgian.  Of perhaps greater concern is a rematch of her controversial Melbourne semifinal against Sloane Stephens, who aims to bounce back from an injury-hampered span with the encouragement of her home crowd.  Heavy fan support for the opponent can fluster Azarenka, or it can bring out her most ferocious tennis, which makes that match one to watch either way.  Of some local interest is the first-round match between Jamie Hampton, who won a set from Vika in Melbourne, and Kuala Lumpur runner-up Mattek-Sands.

The most intriguing first-round match in the lower section of this quarter pits Laura Robson against the blistering backhands of Sofia Arvidsson.  In fact, plenty of imposing two-handers highlight that neighborhood with those of Julia Goerges and the tenth-seeded Petrova also set to shine.  The slow courts of Indian Wells might not suit games so high on risk and low on consistency, possibly lightening the burden on former champion Wozniacki.  Just two years ago, the Dane won this title as the world #1, and she reached the final in 2010 with her characteristic counterpunching.  Downed relatively early in her title defense last year, she has shown recent signs of regrouping with strong performances at the Persian Gulf tournaments in February.  On the other hand, a quick loss as the top seed in Kuala Lumpur reminded viewers that her revival remains a work in progress.  She has not faced Azarenka since the latter’s breakthrough in mid-2011, so a quarterfinal between them would offer fascinating evidence as to whether Caro can preserve her mental edge over her friend.

Semifinalist:  Azarenka

Second quarter:  Unremarkable so far this year, Kerber has fallen short of the form that carried her to a 2012 semifinal here and brings a three-match losing streak to the desert.  Even with that recent history, she should survive early tests from opponents like Heather Watson and the flaky Wickmayer before one of two fellow lefties poses an intriguing challenge in the fourth round.  For the second straight year, Makarova reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, and her most significant victory there came against Kerber in a tightly contested match of high quality.  Dogged by erratic results, this Russian may find this surface too slow for her patience despite the improved defense and more balanced weapons that she showed in Melbourne.  Another woman who reached the second week there, Bojana Jovanovski, hopes to prove that accomplishment more than just a quirk of fate, which it seems so far.  Also in this section is the enigmatic Safarova, a woman of prodigious talent but few results to show for it.  If she meets Makarova in the third round, an unpredictable clash could ensue, after which the winner would need to break down Kerber’s counterpunching.

Stirring to life in Doha and Dubai, where she reached the quarterfinals at both, Stosur has played much further below her ranking this year than has Kerber.  A disastrous Australian season and Fed Cup weekend have started to fade a bit, however, for a woman who has reached the Indian Wells semifinals before.  Stosur will welcome the extra time that the court gives her to hit as many forehands as possible, but she may not welcome a draw riddled with early threats.  At the outset, the US Open champion could face American phenom Madison Keys, who raised eyebrows when she charged within a tiebreak of the semifinals in a strong Sydney draw.  The feisty Peng, a quarterfinalist here in 2011, also does not flinch when facing higher-ranked opponents, so Stosur may breathe a sigh of relief if she reaches the fourth round.  Either of her likely opponents there shares her strengths of powerful serves and forehands as well as her limitations in mobility and consistency.  Losing her only previous meeting with Mona Barthel, on the Stuttgart indoor clay, Ivanovic will seek to reverse that result at a tournament where she usually has found her most convincing tennis even in her less productive periods.  Minor injuries have nagged her lately, while Barthel has reached two finals already in 2013 (winning one), so this match could prove compelling if both silence other powerful servers around them, like Lucie Hradecka.

Semifinalist:  Ivanovic

Third quarter:  Another woman who has reached two finals this year (winning both), the third-seeded Radwanska eyes perhaps the easiest route of the elite contenders.  Barring her path to the fourth round are only a handful of qualifiers, an anonymous American wildcard, an aging clay specialist who has not won a match all year, and the perenially underachieving Sorana Cirstea.  Radwanska excels at causing raw, error-prone sluggers like Cirstea to implode, and she will face nobody with the sustained power and accuracy to overcome her in the next round either.  In that section, Christina McHale attempts to continue a comeback from mono that left her without a victory for several months until a recent breakthrough, and Maria Kirilenko marks her return from injury that sidelined her after winning the Pattaya City title.  Although she took Radwanska deep into the final set of a Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, and defeated her at a US Open, the Russian should struggle if rusty against the more confident Aga who has emerged since late 2011.  Can two grass specialists, Pironkova and Paszek, cause a stir in this quiet section?

Not much more intimidating is the route that lies before the section’s second highest-ranked seed, newly minted Dubai champion Kvitova.  Although she never has left a mark on either Indian Wells or Miami, Kvitova suggested that she had ended her habitual struggles in North America by winning the US Open Series last summer with titles in Montreal and New Haven.  Able to enter and stay in torrid mode like the flip of a switch, she aims to build on her momentum from consecutive victories over three top-ten opponents there.  The nearest seeded opponent to Kvitova, Yaroslava Shvedova, has struggled to string together victories since her near-upset of Serena at Wimbledon, although she nearly toppled Kvitova in their most recent meeting at Roland Garros.  Almost upsetting Azarenka near this time a year ago, Cibulkova looks to repeat her upset over the Czech in Sydney when they meet in the fourth round.  Just reaching that stage would mark a step forward for her, though, considering her failure to build upon her runner-up appearance there and the presence of ultra-steady Zakopalova.  Having dominated Radwanska so thoroughly in Dubai, Kvitova should feel confident about that test.

Semifinalist:  Kvitova

Fourth quarter:  Semifinalist in 2011, finalist in 2012, champion in 2013?  Before she can think so far ahead, the second-seeded Sharapova must maneuver past a string of veteran Italians and other clay specialists like Suarez Navarro.  Aligned to meet in the first round are the former Fed Cup teammates Pennetta and Schiavone in one of Wednesday’s most compelling matches, but the winner vanishes directly into Sharapova’s jaws just afterwards.  The faltering Varvara Lepchenko could meet the surging Roberta Vinci, who just reached the semifinals in Dubai with victories over Kuznetsova, Kerber, and Stosur.  Like Kvitova, then, she brings plenty of positive energy to a weak section of the draw, where her subtlety could carry her past the erratic or fading players around her.  But Sharapova crushed Vinci at this time last year, and she never has found even a flicker of self-belief against the Russian.

Once notorious for the catfights that flared between them, Jankovic and Bartoli could extend their bitter rivalry in the third round at a tournament where both have reached the final (Jankovic winning in 2010, Bartoli falling to Wozniacki a year later).  Between them stands perhaps a more convincing dark horse candidate in Kuznetsova, not far removed from an Australian Open quarterfinal appearance that signaled her revival.  Suddenly striking the ball with confidence and even—gasp—a modicum of thoughtfulness, she could draw strength from the memories of her consecutive Indian Wells finals in 2007-08.  If Kuznetsova remains young enough to recapture some of her former prowess, her compatriot Pavlyuchenkova also has plenty of time to rebuild a career that has lain in ruins for over a year.  By playing close to her potential, she could threaten Errani despite the sixth seed’s recent clay title defense in Acapulco.  Not in a long time has anyone in this area challenged Sharapova, though.

Semifinalist:  Sharapova

Come back tomorrow before the start of play in the men’s draw to read a similar breakdown!

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!

 

Wizards of Oz (VII): Djokovic, Ivanovic, Radwanska, Sharapova, Berdych and More on Australian Open Day 7

At the start of the second week, all of the singles matches shift to the three show courts.  We organize our daily preview a bit differently as a result, following the order of play for each stadium.  From here to the end of the 2013 Australian Open, you can find a preview of every singles match in Wizards of Oz.

Rod Laver Arena:

Kerber vs. Makarova:  When two left-handed women last met on Rod Laver, the match unwound deep into a final set.  Viewers can expect less drama but higher quality from a meeting between the world #5 and a Russian seeking her second straight quarterfinal here.  In this round last year, Makarova recorded probably the best win of her career in upsetting Serena, and she rekindled some of those memories with a three-set upset of Bartoli.  Advancing through the draw more routinely, Kerber reached the second week here for the first time and will look to exploit the ebbs and flows in her opponent’s more volatile game.  Makarova will aim to take time away from the German counterpuncher, in part by opening the court with wide serves behind which she can step inside the baseline.  In a close match, Kerber’s outstanding three-set record and her opponent’s relative frailty under pressure could prove decisive.  The German won all three of their 2012 meetings in straight sets.

Ferrer vs. Nishikori:  Despite his clear superiority in ranking and overall accomplishments, the fourth seed might feel a bit anxious heading into this match.  Nishikori has won two of their three previous matches, both at significant tournaments.  More notable than his victory over Ferrer at the Olympics was a five-set thriller that he won from at the US Open, which introduced the Japanese star to an international audience four years ago.  Chronically beset by injuries, Nishikori overcame a knee problem early in his first match and has won nine straight sets.  As he pursues his second straight quarterfinal here, like Makarova, he cannot afford to encounter any physical issues in a grinding encounter filled with protracted rallies and few outright winners.  Ferrer wore down Baghdatis, a former nemesis here, in a routine third-round clash as his level rose with the competition, but now it rises again.

Sharapova vs. Flipkens:  Perhaps benefiting from the guidance of retired compatriot Clijsters, Flipkens has reached the second week at a major for the first time.  Still, she defeated nobody of greater significance than Zakopalova to reach that stage, and it is difficult to see any area of her game that can trouble the rampaging Russian.  Following her two double bagels, Sharapova conceded just four games to Venus in a highly anticipated encounter that turned into a demonstration of just how crisply she has started the season.  The Belgian’s best chance may lie in the hope that the world #2 enters this match a little complacent or satiated with her statement triumph, not likely from someone of her professionalism.  Their only previous hard-court meeting, in Luxembourg ten years ago, bears no relevance to what might unfold here.

Ivanovic vs. Radwanska:  Early in their careers, the Serbian former #1 hit through the Pole’s defenses with her serve-forehand combinations.  As Ivanovic has grown more erratic with time, the balance of power has shifted towards Radwanska with three straight victories in 2009-10 before a retirement from the former in their most recent meeting.  All of those matches have stayed very close, though, which can give the Serb as she realizes that she will have chances against a player who will not overpower her.  Stalling in the fourth round of majors for most of the last few years, Ivanovic has suffered a long string of losses to top-four opponents.  Currently undefeated in 2013 with two titles already, Radwanska has shown greater discipline and steadiness here (no surprise, really) than the flustered former #1, who has oscillated wildly in form.  Expect the fourth seed to outlast and outwit Ivanovic in an entertaining battle.

Djokovic vs. Wawrinka:  Not exactly known as a steely competitor, the Swiss #2 has acquired a reputation for folding at majors against elite opponents—not just Federer, but Djokovic and Murray has well.  He has lost his last ten meetings against the defending champion, last winning in 2006, although three times since then he has won the opening set.  Demolishing his first trio of victims without dropping serve, Djokovic has not shown any vulnerability that might offer Wawrinka a reason to believe.  Granted, the latter has not lost a set here either, but a matchup with the world #1 in a night session on Rod Laver Arena seems like the type of environment calculated to bring out the worst from the Swiss and something near the best from the Serb.  Parallel to Sharapova and Flipkens, one struggles to imagine any part of the underdog’s game that can threaten the favorite consistently.

Hisense Arena:

Almagro vs. Tipsarevic:  Never before have they met on a hard court, discounting an Abu Dhabi exhibition.  To no surprise, the Spaniard defeated the Serb comfortably when they met at Roland Garros last year, the most favorable surface for the former and the least favorable for the latter.  Almagro remains almost as lethal a threat on hard courts as on clay, producing a handful of fine results in Melbourne and New York behind an impressive serve and plenty of groundstroke first-strike power.  Both men can strike winners down the line from either groundstroke wing, nor will either hesitate in attempting a bold shot at any moment.  That factor, combined with their proximity to each other in the rankings, bodes well for a tightly contested match, as does their mixture of impressive and unimpressive results in the first week.

Li vs. Goerges:  If Almagro and Tipsarevic never have met on a hard court, this pair of women never has collided at all.  Whereas Li rolled through the first week without dropping a set, Goerges needed to claw through a long three-setter in her opener against Dushevina and salvage a third-round epic against Zheng after the Chinese served for the match.  Despite the accumulated fatigue, that resilience under pressure might aid her in a match likely to feature several twists and turns between two streaky women.  Under Henin’s former mentor, stern taskmaster Carlos Rodriguez, Li has hinted at improving her consistency from one tournament to the next.  Starting the year with a title and a Sydney semifinal, she enters this match with an 11-1 record in 2013.  On the other hand, Goerges has wobbled through a long span of the unpredictability typical of WTA Germans, leaving her stagnant until this week.

Margaret Court Arena:

Anderson vs. Berdych:  The first South African to reach the second week of a major since Wayne Ferreira ten years ago, Anderson did it the hard way by winning the last two sets of a five-setter against Verdasco.  Few players have started the year more impressively than he has, marching from a strong week at the Hopman Cup to the Sydney final and now a week in which he twice has won matches after losing the first set.  But Anderson may find himself eyeing adversity again when he meets a man who won all four of their matches last year.  The last two of those reached final sets, offering him some hope in this contest of crackling serves, ferocious forehands, and meager backhands, which should produce repeated holds and perhaps some tiebreaks.  Berdych has dominated the opposition through three rounds with the relentless focus that he does not always show, although he has not faced anyone of a quality approaching the South African.

 

WTA Bad Gastein – Cornet prevails over Wickmayer, as Goerges and Craybas take doubles title

By Romi Cvitkovic

Although the WTA tournament in Bad Gastein started off with days of rain, the tournament ended in tears of joy for one of its winners, Alize Cornet. In just her second career title, she dispatched of Yanina Wickmayer 7-5, 7-6(1) in just over two hours.

“It has been four years I haven’t won a singles title, so it’s just happiness now. I’m so happy,” Cornet said. “It’s been a super week. I really love this tournament. I love the people here and I feel everybody loves me as well. I’m not Austrian, but I feel like I’m Austrian when I’m here. It’s my favorite tournament … What more can I ask for than winning it?”

After struggling for most of the season, Cornet made a breakthrough in Stuttgart this April, blasting through the qualification rounds before retiring to Maria Sharapova in the second round. She then bested her results by losing in the finals of Strasbourg to Francesca Schiavone in two tights sets.

The doubles final featured the standout duos of Julia Goerges and Jill Craybas defeating Petra Martic and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-7(4), 6-4, 11-9. Although Goerges was the number one singles seed and Martic the fifth seed, both fell out in the first round only to enjoy Bad Gastein a little longer and meet in the doubles finals.

Check out the full gallery of the singles and doubles matches, as well as both awards ceremonies. All photo credit to Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.

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WTA Bad Gastein gallery – top seed Julia Goerges stunned by Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp

By Romi Cvitkovic

The WTA tennis tournament in Bad Gastein, Austria is off to a rough start — not only because of the consistent rain delays, but also because top seeded Julia Goerges went down Tuesday in three sets.

Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp ousted Goerges after losing the initial set, but regained her momentum and handed the 2010 Bad Gastein titlist a first-round loss, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

“Today I played without any pressure,” the 20-year-old Hogenkamp said. ” I tried to make it as tough as possible for her, and I’m happy I won.”

Number 2 seed Yanina Wickmayer made quick work of Mariana Duque-Marino as she broke her five times to take the match, 6-3, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded Alize Cornet may best be known for her unique style and expressions on court, and she didn’t disappoint, disposing of her opponent Edina Gallovits-Hall, 7-5, 7-5 in just under two hours.

Marta Domachowska went out to fourth-seed Carla Suarez Navarro, 4-6, 5-7, as Mandy Minella finished her match against Alja Tomljanovic and prevailed 6-3, 6-4.

Other results:
Estrella Cabeza Candela d. Laura Pous-Tio, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
Sacha Jones d. Yuliya Beygelzimer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Sarah Gronert d. Eva Birnerova, 6-2, 6-0

The schedule for Wednesday includes first-round matches that did not play or finish today, and will be played warranted the rain holds out.

In the mean time, check out the day’s on-court gallery from resident Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm below.

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WTA Bad Gastein – Toga-themed player’s party with Julia Goerges, Alize Cornet, Yanina Wickmayer

By Romi Cvitkovic

The rain at WTA Bad Gastein forced play to halt for most of the day Monday, but the players still attended a toga-themed Player’s Party in the evening before calling it a day. Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is on-hand in Austria all week. For the full scoop, check out his gallery below!

Not much occurred on-court today, but luckily, the last of the qualification round matches were able to finish before the heavens opened. One main draw match began between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic but was unable to finish, and the weather doesn’t look much better for tomorrow either. But that is not bumming out German Julia Goerges as she gets an extra day to relax, according to her WTA blog here.

Check out the full gallery from the player’s party below which features Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer (did she not get the “toga” memo?), Alize Cornet, Jill Craybas, Marta Domachowska, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Yvonne Meusburger, Petra Martic, Dia Evtimova, Sarah Gronert and Nicole Rottmann. Also catch a promotional photoshoot featuring Austrian players Barbara Haas and Yvonne Meusburger, as well as the main draw match between Mandy Minella and Alja Tomljanovic.

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