Rogers Cup

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Eugenie Bouchard eager for her next tennis transition

Eugenie Bouchard is ready for her first full year on the pro circuit.

By Melissa Boyd

Dec. 3, 2012 — Eugenie Bouchard has been on the Canadian tennis radar for almost as long as she has been swinging a racquet. Labeled early on as the potential ‘next one’ to follow in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, and Aleksandra Wozniak, Bouchard has begun carving her own path to greatness thanks to a breakout season in 2012.

The 18-year-old native of Montreal made history in July when she was crowned girls’ singles and doubles champion at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Bouchard actually won 19 consecutive matches this summer with her Wimbledon triumph sandwiched between titles at the ITF junior event in Roehampton and the $25,000 pro Challenger in Granby.

“Winning Wimbledon was a really tough tourney. It was a junior (event). I had the pressure all week. People expected me to win because I was playing women younger than me. So it was a big mental test and I was really proud that I was able to come through,” said Bouchard in an interview last week with a select group of reporters.

Many in attendance on Court 1 at SW19 were impressed with Bouchard’s poise and maturity in posting a convincing win over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final on one of the biggest stages in tennis. She put her mental toughness on display at the Rogers Cup in Montreal when she out-toughed Shahar Peer, one of the best competitors in the women’s game, to earn her first Top 50 victory.

Perhaps the most impressive stretch of Bouchard’s year came during the Fall indoor season when she put her aggressive style of play on full display, reaching the final at the Saguneay Challenger and the following week winning her first $50,000 Challenger in Toronto. Bouchard suffocated her opponents with her offense-first mentality, losing just a handful of games en route to the title in Toronto and dominating Melanie Oudin in the Saguenay semifinals. The run secured her place in the Australian Open qualifying draw which will be her first Grand Slam as a pro.

“I had great coaches when I was young and they taught me to take the ball on the rise. I think that’s it really important in the women’s game,” said Bouchard. “Of course you want to hit fast, but you want to hit it early as well … Hitting it fast takes time away from your opponent.”

With 2012 now in her rear view mirror and the tennis world at her fingertips, Bouchard is ready to make the transition to becoming a full-time WTA pro in 2013. She is fully aware of the challenges awaiting her if she wants to prove that her 2012 campaign was no fluke.

“The top players in the world have a little something extra,” said Bouchard. “They don’t make mistakes and they don’t give you any free points, you have to earn them.”

Even though her career is just getting started, Bouchard is already turning heads off the court as much as she is impressing on it. Their obvious physical likeness and similar game styles have people drawing comparisons between the Canadian and her idol Maria Sharapova. Not to mention that Bouchard was recently chosen by Sharapova to wear her line of Nike tennis clothing. She is the whole package and her bubbly personality is a hit with fans. Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement surrounding Bouchard and she knows that the onus is now on her to deliver on those expectations and send a message that the future is now.

“There is pressure from everyone around me, but I already put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Bouchard. “It’s nice to know that people think I am going to be good because that’s what I believe too, but I have to focus on what I have to do to become that player.”

Rogers Cup presented by National Bank to welcome 59 of the top 60 players in the world

Caroline Wozniacki returns to Montreal to defend her 2010 title

By Melissa Boyd

Tennis Canada has unveiled the official player acceptance lists for the 2012 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal and Toronto. This year, 59 of the Top 60 players in the world will be descending upon Canada, including both current world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and defending Rogers Cup champion Novak Djokovic. The Top 35 men of the ATP World Tour will play at Rexall Centre in Toronto from August 4-12, while 24 of the Top 25 women of the WTA will compete August 4-13 at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal.

“We are thrilled to welcome back all the best male players in the world to Toronto,” said Toronto Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale. “The depth in the men’s game makes for riveting storylines and unparalleled rivalries and we look forward to watching all the action up-close and personal when the players hit the courts in Toronto.”

“We are very pleased to announce that 24 of the Top 25 players in the world will be in Montreal this year,” said Rogers Cup Montreal tournament director Eugène Lapierre. “Our list shows that the Rogers Cup continues to be one of the most important and appreciated tournaments on the tennis calendar, one that the ladies don’t want to miss.”

Other past champions expected at the tournaments include seven-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, two-time Rogers Cup titlist Andy Murray, and former world No. 1 players Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic. Joining them will be last year’s Rogers Cup finalist and US Open champion Sam Stosur, Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and home-grown Canadian hero Milos Raonic.

“I think that Rogers Cup in both Montreal and Toronto do a tremendous job in organizing the event and it’s one of the best [Masters] 1000 events that we have in the world of tennis,” said Djokovic. “Every player enjoys playing there. I’m really looking forward to coming there and playing my best tennis.”

For the second year, the two internationally-recognized Rogers Cup events will be staged during the same week making them “virtually combined”. As with last year, all necessary elements will be in place to ensure that spectators, journalists and players are able to interact across venues.

New for 2012, both draws will consist of 48 players with the Top 16 seeds receiving first-round byes. Main draw action in Montreal will begin one day later than usual on Tuesday, August 7 with the women’s final taking place in the evening on Monday, August 13. An evening final is also scheduled in Toronto for the first time ever on Sunday, August 12 with doubles starting at 5 p.m. and singles at 7 p.m.

The draws in each city will be completed with the addition of qualifiers, tournament wildcards and Tour special exemptions. These entrants will be announced at a later date.

With the smaller draw size, qualifying weekend at both tournaments will be extremely competitive with fan favourites such as Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Marcos Baghdatis and Shahar Peer all possibilities based on their ranking to be part of the group fighting for a spot into the main draw. Entry to the grounds during qualifying is free for spectators both in Montreal and Toronto.

Tickets for Rogers Cup presented by National Bank start as low as $20. Session seats, group offers, packages and executive suite opportunities are still available. Inventory for championship weekend is limited. For more information and to purchase tickets visit rogerscup.com or call 1-877-2TENNIS (Toronto) or 1-855-TENNIS-0 (Montreal).

Kids’ tennis coming to Olympic Park in Montreal

Kids' tennis courts will be built at Olympic Park this summer

By Melissa Boyd

The Sun Life Financial Esplanade, Tennis Canada, Tennis Quebec and Tennis Montreal have announced the implementation of a unique project, as they are combining their efforts to build kids’ tennis courts at Olympic Park in Montreal where the city’s Olympic Stadium is located. The new courts will allow kids from all over the province of Quebec to learn how to play the sport with equipment adapted to their size.

“This project is unique and innovative because these permanent courts will be built from scratch according to the correct kids’ tennis sizes and not from already existing courts,” said Mr. Eugène Lapierre, Vice-President of Professional Tennis in Quebec and Tournament Director of the Rogers Cup. “It will be one of the few places in Quebec where kids will have their own courts built exclusively for them. It will be great for kids and families who are looking for an activity on the weekends and want to learn how to play tennis.”

In addition to the kids’ tennis courts, equipment rental kiosks (racquets, balls and games), resources to help the kids and organize tournaments, events and leagues will be available throughout the year.

“We are very proud to benefit from a renowned space like Olympic Park to organize tournaments and activities for our future tennis players,” said Mr. Jean-François Manibal, Director General of Tennis Quebec. “We are working together with the Sun Life Financial Esplanade to ensure we offer activities which target our young athletes.”

The location of these courts is very interesting strategically for Tennis Montreal who have very few courts in the eastern part of Montreal.

“This project will mark the first time that kids’ tennis courts have been set up in this neighbourhood,” added Mrs. Nicole Nobert, Director General of Tennis Montreal. “We will offer programming for elementary schools in the area to get more kids involved in tennis and this, in optimal conditions. Among our many projects, we will also launch a new activity for three and four-year olds called Little Tennis, something offered to kids in daycare and of course, families with young children.”

Furthermore, the participating organizations are exploring the possibility of making these new courts available year round with tennis on the snow during the winter months with appropriate equipment.

A mini Rogers Cup will be held to inaugurate the courts during qualifying weekend of the  Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal, from August 3-5. An official launch event featuring a WTA player is scheduled for August 3.

The construction of the kids’ tennis courts will begin in May and will be completed in July.

The Rogers Cup Recognized for its Green Initiatives

The Rogers Cup is committed to being green

The Rogers Cup in Montreal was recognized for its green initiatives last week at the first edition of the “Vivats” Awards which are meant to recognize the work of event organizers in the province of Quebec who have exemplary green initiatives in place.

The tournament won the Transportation and Energy Efficiency award which acknowledges an event’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its spectators and participants. The Rogers Cup was also one of three finalists nominated for the prestigious “Grand Vivat” award, the highest honor given by the Quebec Council for eco-responsible events.

Since 2007, Tennis Canada has been committed to sustainable development based on the organization’s own values including adopting a healthy lifestyle, responsible citizenship, ethics, and pride. Involved in the socioeconomic activities of its community, Tennis Canada has for a mission to promote sustainable development in sport.

Here are some of the initiatives put forth during the 2011 Rogers Cup:

  •  Attain a recovery rate of 86 percent.
  •  Free public transportation offered to all spectators and volunteers.
  •  Compensation of  133,75 tons of Greenhouse Gas Emissions related to tournament operations and player transportation, thus becoming a carbon neutral certified event by Planetair.
  • The addition of stands giving free access to matches on Court 9 to 900 people as a well as a big screen showing tournament matches for free in Jarry Park.

Furthermore, Tennis Canada has given itself a carbon neutral objective for the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and is getting closer every year. Here are the results for 2011:

  •  50 percent of spectators used public transportation at least once to come to the tournament thanks to a partnership with the STM.
  •   6,000 people used the shuttle service between downtown Montreal and Uniprix Stadium, reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 13 tons while communication and awareness activities reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions by nearly 8 tons.
  • 133,75 tons were compensated with the purchase of Gold Standard carbon credits. Tennis Canada also made the decision to compensate for all of the players in the tournament in 2011.

Montreal will host the ladies of the WTA for the 2012 edition of the tournament which will be held from August 4-13 at Uniprix Stadium. Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli, Ana Ivanovic, Na Li, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva have already confirmed their participation. This year, for the first time in tournament history, main draw play at the Rogers Cup will begin on Tuesday August 7 with the singles final scheduled for Monday August 13 at 7 p.m. in the evening.

Emergence of Canadian Tennis: Raonic, Marino, Pospisil

Rebecca Marino and Milos Raonic © Tennis Canada

For years, Canada’s tennis accomplishments could be found in one man’s trophy case, that of doubles legend Daniel Nestor. The country’s tennis community has been starving for its first bona fide singles player since the days of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi and Canadian turned Brit Greg Rusedski.

Over the past few seasons, Canadian tennis has turned over a new leaf. The proverbial ball started rolling in 2008 when Aleksandra Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title and reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in June of 2009. Fast forward two years and the emergence of a trio of 20-year-olds with big serves, Milos Raonic, Rebecca Marino and Vasek Pospisil will arguably make 2011 the greatest single season in Canadian tennis history.

An unexpected run to the fourth round of the Australian Open put Raonic on the tennis map, and in a big way. He proved his performance was no fluke, backing it up with his maiden ATP title in San Jose and a finals appearance in Memphis where he lost a dramatic championship match to Andy Roddick. His breakthrough season has allowed Raonic to become the highest ranked Canadian man in history and also earned him nomination for the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year award. In the process, Raonic has become Canada’s tennis ambassador, and a very good one at that. After recovering from hip surgery this summer, the sky is the limit for Raonic in 2012.

With Raonic watching on the sidelines, Vasek Pospisil single-handedly propelled Canada into the Davis Cup World Group for the first time since 2005, winning all three of his matches against Israel including the decisive fifth rubber. Pospisil also posted the first two Top 50 wins of his career in 2011 over Juan Igancio Chela at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and over John Isner at the Valencia Open.

A second round showing at the Australian Open, an appearance in the final at Memphis and a run to the third round of the French Open allowed Rebecca Marino to crack the Top 40 on the WTA rankings, overtaking Wozniak as the top Canadian in the women’s game.

At the junior level, Eugenie Bouchard won the Wimbledon doubles title this season and is the no. 5 ranked junior player in the world. At no. 20, Françoise Abanda is the top ranked 14-year-old on the planet.

The establishment of three National Training Centres in Montreal, Toronto and just last week in Vancouver, as well as talent id programs, is further proof that Canada is serious about developing tennis champions and intend on starting at an early age.

For the first time in a long time, the tennis world is sitting up and taking notice of Canada as one of the fastest growing tennis nations in the world. Perhaps what is most encouraging is the fact that success is coming by committee and not just the result of one player’s exploits.

McIlroy calls Wozniacki his girlfriend, Ana Ivanovic and I are looking forward to the US Open and win another Virtua Tennis 4 goodie bag!

ana-ivanovic-adidas-us-open-2011

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog entry for TennisGrandstand. I have been on vacations and what good is a vacation if you take your laptop with workstuff with you? It’s just not a vacation.  Did you go on vacations? If so, how was the weather? I hope a lot less rainy than mine was.

Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy make it official

Caroline Wozniacki has been struggling for quite a while now. She hasn’t won a tournament since April and her performances at the French Open and Wimbledon weren’t exactly, to put it mildly, of high quality. Then the US Open series started and  two second round losses at the Cincinnati Open and the Rogers Cup versus Roberta Vinci and America’s upcoming talent Christina McHale followed in quick succession.  But this week everything seems to be good. Caroline Wozniacki made to the finals of New Haven and won in straight sets versus Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4 , 6-1.

Rory McIlroy confirmed that Caro and him are dating by telling the press that you can “refer to her as my girlfriend now.”

Ana Ivanovic arrives in New York and shows off US Open attire

Has anyone kept up with Ana Ivanovic lately? She is making quantum leaps since she hired coach Nigel Sears. And it is as I have been saying for years now: Girl’s got game! Just got to have the right coach to put the finishing touches on her style. Just like myself, Ana is excited for the US Open 2011.

It’s always great to be back in New York and go to some of my favourite restaurants here. Practice has been going well this week – let’s just hope the weather holds up. Now that the draw is out, the excitement is even greater…

And I am not just excited because I think Ana can survive the first week but also because I like her US Open dress. For more information you can always take a look at Ana Ivanovic’ official Facebook Page.

Bondi Bands: Because I hate it when sweat gets in my eyes!

Don’t you just hate it when you are playing a sport intensely and sweat gets in your eyes. You spend more time whiping the sweat off your forehead instead of actually doing what you are supposed to do: Play the sports!  That’s why I started to use Bondi Bands.  Bondi Band is awesome athletic headwear for men, women and children. The  headband that has no slip and no drip.

 

More contests: Win a Virtua Tennis 4 goodie bag!

The last time it was won by Adilson Strahotski! The man answered the question correctly and was the first one to reply so he won.  But now I have a new contest. You can win the same goodie bag but this time I am changing the contest a little.  Join the TennisGrandstand – Unique Tennis Perspectives Facebook page and tell me why you of all people should get the goodie bag!

Thanks to Sega for making it possible!

 

Many Players miss US Open through Injury, the Seeds are Named and Evert Praises Serena

Clijsters out of US Open:

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to defend my US Open title this year,” the Belgian said in a statement.  “Two weeks of rehab was not enough. Obviously I’m very disappointed. I trained very hard this summer and felt in a good shape to play. If a gradual approach is not taken I will relapse, and therefore I have also no other possibility than to withdraw from the [upcoming] tournaments in Tokyo and Beijing [as well].” The 2001 men’s Champion Lleyton Hewitt is also out of the tournament after failing to recover from a foot injury. He had been handed a wildcard and hoped to partake in the tenth anniversary of his triumph but he has had to withdraw, his wildcard going to fellow Aussie Marinko Matosevic. “He’ll definitely play next year. He wants to help Australia get back into the World Group [of the Davis Cup],” his manager David Drysdale told The Herald Sun. Also disappointingly for neutrals, Canadian prospect Milos Raonic will also miss the year’s final Grand Slam as he recovers from hip surgery. “After extensive deliberation with my doctors + team, I have decided to delay my tournament return until after the US Open at DC vs Israel,” he revealed on his Twitter account. That Davis Cup match takes place September 16-18. “I am feeling great, and working hard w/ my coach, physio, and fitness coach. I am excited to comeback and will continue to keep u updated,” another post read. Sam Querrey and Tommy Robredo will also miss out.

US Open Seeds Named:

World number one Caroline Wozniacki will lead the 2011 US Open women’s draw when the tournament proper kicks off at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York on Monday. The 21-year-old Dane has struggled for form this term but has kept her place at the summit of the women’s game and so has been rewarded with the top billing at the tournament for a second successive year. The returning Serena Williams, who missed nearly an entire year due to a foot injury which then led to life-threatening blood clots, used her injury-protected ranking to enter the tournament. But despite her recent excellent form which has seen her win her first titles since her return, back-to-back crowns at Stanford and then the Rogers Cup in Toronto, she has only been seeded 28 in the draw. Russian players Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova make up the top three, while Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is seeded fourth and Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova makes up the top five. As with the women’s seeds, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has used the current world rankings for the men, meaning world number one Novak Djokovic will get top billing at Flushing Meadows next week. 2010 winner Rafael Nadal is seeded second with five-time champion Roger Federer third. British number one Andy Murray is seeded fourth with Spain’s David Ferrer making up the top five. Mardy Fish will be the biggest American hope as the eighth seed continues his Indian summer towards the end of his career with a semi-final posting at Cincy last week. 2003 winner Andy Roddick is seeded only 21st, while John Isner is the number 28 seed. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is also in good form and he enters the tournament seeded 11th, while the 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro is seeded 18th as he continues a return from a long injury spell that has hampered much of his playing time since shocking Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium almost two years ago.

Serena Receives Highest Praise:

There are few better sources of praise for a modern female tennis star than Chris Evert, and that is just who has been labelling Serena Williams as the favourite to win the US Open. Further to that, she believes the 13-time Grand Slam winner should be compared to Martina Navratilova (who won 18) and Steffi Graf (22). Evert herself won 18. “We saw her at Wimbledon, and I think even though she lost a close match to [Marion] Bartoli, Bartoli played out of her head,” said Evert in an ESPN conference call. “I think that exceeded people’s expectations, that Serena would do that well at Wimbledon after being out for a year and all her health issues. She committed herself. She practiced. She’s won two tournaments. That’s unbelievable. Not to undermine the rest of the field, but it just shows that she’s head and shoulders above anybody else, again, when she’s healthy.  I’d put her right up there [as the greatest of all time] with Martina and Steffi,” she continued. “She’s the best comeback player we’ve ever seen. If you look at the last 10 years, she’s been out, she comes back. Even when she hasn’t been in shape, she can still win a Grand Slam. She is an incredible athlete. She’s got the power. She’s got the speed. She’s got the mental toughness. There isn’t a chink in the armour there at all. Her health is her own worst enemy. Her health is her rival or competitor.”

Nadal “Considered Golf”:

In his upcoming autobiography Rafael Nadal talks about how he considered switching to golf when doctors diagnosed him with a career-threatening foot injury in 2005. The Spanish multi-Grand-Slam-winner described a feeling of “deepest gloom” upon hearing the news. “(The) diagnosis had initially been like a shot to the head,” Nadal writes. “The bone still hurts me. It remains under control, just, but we can never drop our guard.” He also talks of the mental strength that has helped him to his many victories, and speaks of how it also helped him through tough periods such as then. “What I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind…should a thought of victory suggest itself, crush it,” he continues. “I think I have the capacity to accept difficulties and overcome them that is superior to many of my rivals.”

Roddick Denies Slump:

American Andy Roddick has denied he is currently in a slump despite dropping out of the world’s Top 20, instead blaming injuries and illness suffered this year for the decrease. “I’ve read a lot and heard a lot about a slump, but this is my third event in six months or five months so it’s tough to win when you haven’t been playing,” Roddick told reporters.

Murray Hits Big Milestone:

Andy Murray’s 6-3, 7-6(8) win over Mardy Fish in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters last week was the 300th win of his ATP Tour career.

Kendrick Ban Reduced:

America’s Robert Kendrick has had his ban for doping cut to eight months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Kendrick had originally been banned by an ITF independent panel for 12 months, backdated to May 22, for failing a drugs test. The CAS has decided to cut the initial period down to eight months, meaning he will be able to return to competitive action as of January 22 2012. His results and ranking points he received for Roland Garros have been scratched, and he has been ordered to pay back all the prize money he received for the tournament.

Pre-US Open Rankings Watch:

Spain’s David Ferrer climbed above Robin Soderling in to fifth in the world in this week’s ATP Tour World Rankings just in time to make him the fifth seed at next week’s US Open. Gael Monfils climbs above Mardy Fish in to seventh and Nicolas Almagro climbs back above Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in to the Top 10 and takes the tenth seeding as a result. Fernando Verdasco climbs back in to the Top 20 at No.19. Marcos Baghdatis drops 20 places to No.60 as Japan’s Kei Nishikori (No.48) and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen (No.50) climb in to the Top 50. While Andy Roddick has dropped out of the Top 20 at No.21, there are two Americans celebrating big climbs as James Blake leaps 21 to No.63 and Ryan Harrison climbs 11 to No.67. Ivo Karlovic, Andrey Golubev and Marsel Ilhan all climb in to the Top 100. Cincinnati Champion Maria Sharapova is in her highest ranking slot in three years as she climbs back up to No.4 in the world in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. China’s Peng Shuai has risen another spot to No.14 in the world to get another career best, and she has also overtaken Zheng Jie as China’s second-highest ranked player ever behind Li Na. Petra Cetkovska is also at a new career-high; No.40. Petra Martic leaps from No.72 to No.59, while Chanelle Scheepers is up from No.101 to No.82. Anastasia Rodionova also leaps in to the Top 100 from No.113 to No.97.

Another Quarters Exit for Rafa and Roger ahead of US Open:

Both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer prepared for the US Open with quarterfinal exits from the Cincinnati Masters last week. Nadal lost 3-6, 4-6 to Mardy Fish, while R-Fed crashed out 2-6, 6-7(3) to Czech star Tomas Berdych. They both received 25 points for the GOAT Race totals, Federer’s points helping him break the 1,000 points mark.

Roger: 1000 Rafa: 1710

Serena Williams makes big statement by winning the Rogers Cup

Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup 2011

Serena Williams made a big statement in Toronto as she easily defeated Samantha Stosur to claim the Rogers Cup 2011 by a score of 6-4, 6-2. Williams looked every bit the champion that we have come to know over the years and is without a doubt the favorite as the U.S. Open approaches.

Few gave Stosur much of a chance to realistically win the match. With a 2-8 record in WTA finals, the Australian seems to lack the composure to play her best game during these types of moments. Add to the fact that Williams has been gaining confidence with every victory over the past two weeks and it was going to be awfully tough for anyone to beat her. Between her title in Stanford and here in Toronto she has now won 11 matches in-a-row.

The two players managed to hold their serves through the opening eight games and for a short while it appeared we might have a competitive final on our hands. Instead, Serena managed to break thanks to a beautiful cross-court volley to take a 5-4 lead. She would close out the set in the following game.

While the tournament did not provide a comparison of winners to errors I noted a lack of clear-cut winners from both players. That does not mean there were not some impressive points between the two, but rather that with Serena making such high-quality groundstrokes, Stosur was often forced into making errors.

Stosur did crumple however as the second set got going and could not seem to find a way to counter Serena’s powerful attack. Williams quickly found herself up 2-0 and would break again a bit later to take a 4-1 lead.

With dark clouds looming overhead and thunder rattling nearby, it looked for sometime that rain might halt play and give Stosur a chance to re-group. Instead it held-off just long enough to complete the match, which Serena did in her final service game thanks to four aces including one on match point.

In the post-match interview on court Serena showed off a different side from the one she revealed to Stosur during their hard-hitting rallies.

“I always wanted to win this trophy ’cause it’s so cute,” Williams gushed to the adoring crowd.

Not exactly what you’d expect from the winner of 13 Grand Slam titles, but you never do know what to expect from the American tennis legend.

After the match Williams alternated between answers that were at times modest and at others incredibly confident, perhaps even cocky.

On the one hand she said that she never doubted she would be able to return to playing this quality of tennis. On the other she claimed that she felt like the underdog coming into the Rogers Cup. Take what you want from her comments, at the end of the day she is suddenly the one to beat after nearly a year absence from the tour.

While Kim Clijsters truly shocked the tennis world two years ago with her victory at the U.S. Open following her first retirement from the sport, I don’t think that anyone will be surprised if Williams can pull-off a similar result in her comeback from injury and illness.

Novak Djokovic seems to have found a way to keep his magical results going all year long – Around the corner

Novak Djokovic

As the Rogers Cup is set to wrap-up this weekend in Montreal with the men, the draw for the second consecutive Masters 1000 event has just been released in Cincinnati. With the U.S. Open just two weeks away now, players will be looking to fine-tune their games and round into form for the finalGrand Slam of the year.

How will Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray rebound after poor showings in Canada? The answer to that question has a lot to do with the draws they have received as well as how they deal with their mental and physical short-comings from this past week.

World number one Novak Djokovic will enjoy the benefits of a first round bye at the Western and Southern Open and gets the winner of American Ryan Harrison and Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela. The progress that Harrison has made this year has been quite positive and he is giving U.S. tennis fans some real hope as they continue to search for the successor to Andy Roddick. Harrison should get by Chela, a player whose game is never really that dangerous on hard-courts.

Djokovic also has Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils in his section of the draw. Both of those players made the quarter-finals in Montreal this week. Djokovic can handle either, especially evidenced by his 6-2, 6-1 beating of Monfils on Friday evening.

Andy Roddick makes his return to the ATP World Tour after some injury issues of late. Currently ranked 12th in the world, Roddick could see his ranking start to fall quickly if he cannot put together some results this summer. Roddick has not played since a Davis Cup loss to David Ferrer on hard-courts in early July. He will open in Cincy against Philipp Kohlschreiber, a tricky opponent to be sure.

Djokovic should be able to advance through this section but having too much success just prior to the Open could be problematic down the road. A player does not want to peak too early, although it seems that Djokovic has found a way to keep his magical results going all year long.

In the following quarter of the draw, Roger Federer is not going to have an easy run. While he was fortunate to draw Canadian wildcard Vasek Pospisil in Montreal, his first adversary in Cincy will be either Juan Martin Del Potro or Andreas Seppi. No offence to Seppi, but it would be shocking if he could get by the 6’6” Argentine.

Federer will be pushed to the limit by Del Potro and could see his U.S. Open preparations seriously harmed if he’s not on top of his game. Federer holds a 6-2 advantage in their career head-to-head, but Del Po has won the last two encounters.

Tomas Berdych is also in this section of the draw as the 8th seed, but you can never get your hopes up with this guy. It seems like a mix of quarter-final and semi-final appearances this year are all we are going to get out of the talented but enigmatic Czech. He hasn’t beaten a quality opponent all year long, so I wouldn’t expect that to change now. This guy must drive his coach nuts!

On the other side of the draw Rafael Nadal will try to get things back on track after a surprising second round defeat to Ivan Dodig. While Federer losing to Tsonga in Montreal was always within the realm of possibility, I don’t think anyone really saw that Dodig loss coming for Nadal.

The Spaniard will play either Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or a qualifier in his opening match. That should be the perfect prescription to get things going to him. A quarter-final match against Mardy Fish is a possibility for Nadal, although with Fish going deep in Montreal I wonder how much energy he will want to expend in back-to-back weeks.

Keep an eye on the talented Alexandr Dolgopolov who opens against Richard Gasquet in this quarter as well as Fernando Verdasco and veteran Xavier Malisse as a longshot who can still play the game quite well.

Finally, Andy Murray will try to find his form against the winner of David Nalbandian and a qualifier. Nalbandian can’t seem to catch a break as he opened against Wawrinka in Montreal. Murray should be a good bet to dispatch of the veteran Argentine and hopefully the doubles action he saw with his older brother Jamie in Montreal will help him out here.

David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are also in this section and are fantastic hard-court players who could go deep here if Murray is still working out the kinks in his game.

Of the top-twenty players in the world, only Sweden’s Robin Soderling is missing in action.

My picks for a final four this week will be Djokovic vs. Del Potro and Murray against Dolgopolov. I don’t see Federer getting by his first opponent and something just didn’t seem right with Nadal while practicing or playing in Montreal this past week.

Let the speculation for the U.S. Open continue. It will be here before we know it!

It’s Sam Stosur versus Serena Williams in the finals of the Rogers Cup 2011

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Agnieska Radwanska’s attempt to go on a Novak Djokovic-like winning streak came to an end today at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. After nine consecutive victories she was defeated today by 10th seeded Samantha Stosur 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Broken three times in the first set it was a tough-go for Radwanska initially. She had not dropped a set thus far in the tournament and until today had looked like she was carrying over her momentum from her tournament win in Carlsbad, California from last week. Instead, she appeared to be sluggish today on the court against Stosur.

In the second set, the pressure got to Stosur, as it often does, when serving at 5-6. She would lose all four points on her serve in that game, culminating with a double fault to hand the set over to her Polish opponent.

In the third set Stosur would get the chance she needed to pull away. Radwanska got down 0-40 when serving at 2-2. The Australian would capitalize on the second break chance she got to take a 3-2 lead. After holding her own serve with ease, Stosur would then break Radwanska again to increase the margin by a score of 5-2 and get a chance to serve for the match.

There were no nerves this time around as Stosur would close out Radwanska without any difficulty. She advances now to her second WTA final of the year and her first on hard-courts. The last time Stosur won a title was in April 2010.

In the night match, Serena Williams came through in fine style as she defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-3 to advance to play Stosur in the Rogers Cup final.

Williams played a remarkably clean game for someone who is only playing in her fourth tournament back after missing a year from the WTA Tour. There are very few players, man or woman, who could accomplish such a quick return to the top of the game.

Azarenka was coming in playing some terrific tennis as she had only dropped six games through three matches in the tournament. While she started strong in the opening few games against Williams, she could not sustain the same level of play tonight that we have seen all week long.

Williams broke to go up 4-2, yet Azarenka was able to promptly break her right back. Instead of then building on that momentum, the fourth ranked player from Belarus dropped her serve again to allow Serena to serve for the first set at 5-3. The American won all four points on her serve in that important game and took the opening frame 6-3 with an ace.

In the second set Azarenka was never able to mount a real challenge and could not break Serena’s serve. She would double fault at 3-3, 15-40 to give Serena the break she would need to move on towards victory.

While Azarenka has many great skills on the tennis court, her soft second serve was far too easy for Williams to pounce on tonight.

The final score was 6-3, 6-3, which was a cleaner victory than many expected in this match-up. Williams was happy with the progress she has been making here this week yet feels she still has another gear to reach. Just what the rest of the tour wanted to hear, right?

“I feel like…I still can do a little better,” Serena said. “But overall, I’m almost maybe where I was almost (before the time off), but I want to exceed that level.

Looking forward to the final against Stosur, Williams had the following assessment:

“Well, the last time we played, she got the best of me. It was an intense match, and she played really well. So being ranked 10th in the world…I think that, you know, she definitely has an opportunity to take it all. She’s been playing well. I think this court really suits her game. We’ll see. I have nothing to lose, and I’m happy to have gotten this far. Hopefully if I take another title, that would be great. If not, you know, hey, there’s next week.”

Despite holding only a 3-2 record against Stosur, the way she is playing right now, it is hard to imagine Serena losing tomorrow. With her stellar play of late, coupled with Stosur’s lackluster 2-8 record in WTA finals, expect Williams to win her second tournament in-a-row and head towards the U.S. Open as the definitive favorite.

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