slam

Clijsters and Venus Serve up Spectacular

Well, given Venus’ penchant for a double fault last night I’m not too sure if that is the correct title.

Fans of beautiful tennis may not have been heavily impressed by the first two and a half sets but those who appreciate sheer guts and determination would have been gripped to their TV sets like never before.

The sporting cliché “refuses to lay down and die” was whipped out by both players who looked like two ageing stars playing their last Slam in terms of grit and determination to stay in the competition.

Then, with Clijsters 4-3 and 30-0 up in the third set the match exploded in to one of the most breathtaking and clinical displays of tennis seen this fortnight.

Venus showed some trademark Williams grit and clawed her way back to 4-4, courtesy of a horrifying Clijsters miss with an over-hit volley.

At this point it looked curtains for Belgian Kim. Surely her wits were abandoning her and it was time to return to baby Jada while Williams slugged it out with Vera Zvonereva for the title? Not a chance!

Putting pressure on Venus’ serve Kim began finding some impossible angles with that backhand and then produced one of the most sumptuous lobs I have ever witnessed to fight back and put Venus to the sword.

At 5-4 and Clijsters serving for the set Venus looked perilously close to tears. She, more than anyone else, was wondering how this had happened.

Venus had looked dominant taking the first set off the two-time defending Champion and when Clijsters threw away a 2-0 lead in the second it looked like Venus was to stride home in straight sets.

But Kim showed the fighting spirit which has epitomised her comeback from becoming a mother and those who claim that tennis now plays second fiddle to her family probably haven’t watched her play too often. This was definitely pride in tennis. A pride in her career and a will to give Jada something to be immensely proud of as she grows older.

The records are waiting for her. She is now unbeaten in 20 consecutive US Open matches which equals Venus’ best effort as well as Monica Seles, Margaret Osborne du Pont and Martina Navratilova. Only Chris Evert stands ahead of her on 31. Three more titles Kim and then you can stop.

Awaiting her is Wimbledon finalist Zvonereva who is gunning for her first Slam. Kim has a 5-2 record over the No. 7 seed but Vera has won both matches since Kim’s return to the tour.

A few people are backing Vera after she toppled the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki but for me it is written for Kim to lift this. I have been wrong (many times) before but I will be gunning for Kim to keep the flag flying for working mothers above Flushing Meadows.

“I just tried to make the points and when I felt I had an opportunity to step up and accelerate I tried to take advantage,” Clijsters said in typical modest fashion.

But play it down all she likes this girl is dynamite. And come 3am tomorrow morning (British time) Kim will be lifting her third consecutive crown and taking all the plaudits once more.

Zvonereva is a quiet player with efficient and effective shot selections. She has snuck in to this final through the back door as all the talk has been of other stars. This makes her extremely dangerous. But Kim knows all about doing that from last year’s Championship. This will give her the upper hand and she’ll be too much for young Vera.

Kim to take it in three.

Paul Annacone Joins Team Roger Federer Full Time – The Friday Five

Player Down – In one of the scarier moments at the US Open in recent memory, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka collapsed on court near the tail end of the first set during her match encounter with Gisela Dulko. Heat was initially deemed the culprit behind the collapse (and it probably did add to the situation), but it was later confirmed that Azarenka was suffering from a mild concussion, which came as a result of a fall she had taken earlier in the day. In hindsight, Azarenka should recognize the foolishness of her actions in staying on the court. Health should never be that severely compromised, and there were plenty of signs that she needed to throw in the towel well before she collapsed. But at the same time, I have to applaud Azarenka. Many a player has retired from a match for far less than she was experiencing, and while she did push the limits too far, I do admire her attitude of wanting to try to find any way to cross the finish line, even when things aren’t going well.

It’s Official – It’s probably no surprise, but Roger Federer did confirm prior to the start of the US Open that Paul Annacone would be joining his team full time. While Annacone is with Federer in New York, Annacone will not be able to go full time with Federer until he finishes his commitment with the LTA later this year. Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi will also remain a part of the Federer team. All are in agreement that having Annacone in his corner is likely to pay some big dividends for Federer down the road, and it would appear that Annacone’s advice is already creeping into the “Maestro’s” game, with Federer finding his way to net with increasing frequency. There’s still plenty of tennis to be played, but a major win in their first Slam together as official coach and pupil could be in the cards for Annacone and Federer.

Hall Bound? – Earlier this week, the International Tennis Hall of Fame announced the names of those individuals who will be on the ballot for possible 2011 induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the spotlight belonged to Andre Agassi. There were a few grumblings about the Hall putting Agassi forth as a candidate after he had confessed in his autobiography Open to using drugs, but Agassi’s situation is not the same as the performance-enhancing drug problem that baseball currently faces and should not stand in the way of his candidacy for induction consideration. Hard to imagine he won’t make the cut at the first time of asking, so expect to see him take his place among the legends next July.

Roddick Bounced – A few upsets have already occurred at the 2010 US Open, including the loss of Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych to tricky Frenchman Michael Llodra in his opening match on Wednesday. But later that same night, in a men’s second round encounter, Janko Tipsarevic caused an even bigger upset, bouncing crowd favorite Andy Roddick in four sets. While this match did go down as an upset (and certainly a disappointment to the home crowd), it wasn’t a total shocker. Tipsarevic has shown he can produce phenomenal tennis, as few will forget his memorable five-set encounter with Federer at the 2008 Australian Open. That was the kind of spectacular brand of tennis Tipsarevic brought to the court this past Wednesday, and coupling that with the fact that mono prevented Roddick from being match tough going into the Open proved a recipe for disaster for the veteran American. The question to keep an eye on for now will be how Tipsarevic follows up that win in his next round.

Spare a Thought – A former Top-10 player, who along with countryman Nicolas Massu brought glory to Chile at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Fernando Gonzalez now finds his career in a freefall thanks to a niggling knee injury. The Chilean had only been able to compete in one other tournament since Wimbledon, and it showed. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak in his first round match with Ivan Dodig, Gonzalez appeared just a shadow of his former self, quickly surrendering the second set before retiring from the match down 1-0 in the third. A colorful character who hits his forehand as big as anybody, my fingers are crossed that his body cooperates and allows him to have at least one more go near the upper echelons of the game.

By Maud Watson

Andy Murray’s Mum Wins Him Prizes – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

No Coach, No Problem – It’s been mere weeks since the news broke that Murray was sacking Maclagan as his coach. The decision didn’t come as a surprise given the relative slump that he’s endured throughout the bulk of 2010. But what did come as a bit of a surprise is the recent resurgence in his game that has come right on the heels of going solo with just a few notes from mum (who does know a thing or two about the game). His most recent results have included a finals appearance in Los Angeles, and more importantly, successfully defending his crown at the Rogers Cup just last week. The young Scot produced some of the best play to come off his racquet in recent memory, taking that Masters 1000 title with wins over the red-hot Nalbandian, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. It will be interesting to see how he fairs in Cincy, but there’s little doubt that in spite of the fact he’s without a coach, he’s perhaps never looked more ready to end the major title drought for Great Britain.

Swan Song? – Earlier this week, James Blake announced that following the conclusion of the US Open, he would be taking a break from the sport to assess where he is in his career. No one could really find this piece of news shocking based on how his 2010 season has unfolded, which includes a recent thumping by Denis Istomin in the first round of Cincinnati this week. Blake’s ultimate goal is to take off enough time to hopefully recuperate and be able to log in more practice hours in the future, but he has admitted that his patience is being tried, and his career may be over sooner than anticipated. Blake is a nice guy who deserves to go out on his own terms and on a high note, but if you’re in a position to attend the final Slam of the year, you might go see Blake while you still can. This could very well be his last appearance in the Big Apple.

Additions to the WTA DL – After reaching the finals of Cincinnati, Russian Maria Sharapova was forced to pull out of the event in Montreal with a foot injury. The injury was acquired in her finals loss to Kim Clijsters (though hats off to Kim for fending off match points to emerge with the title). No word yet on how this will impact her chances at the US Open. The same goes for Serb Ana Ivanovic, who is suffering from some strained ligaments around the ankle. It’s an unfortunate injury given that Ivanovic was finally starting to make a bit of headway as far as rebuilding her rankings and confidence, but it’s better than the fracture she initially thought she was had. She is still holding out hope of making an appearance this coming week, and hopefully both of these young starlets will be able to wow fans with their presence in New York in just under two weeks time.

Additions to the ATP DL – With just under two weeks to go until the final major of the year, John Isner and Denis Istomin find themselves in a fitness race to be ready to go in the Big Apple. Both men sustained foot injuries in their matches on Wednesday at the Cincy Masters 1000 event. The severity of the injuries is unknown, but Isner wasn’t taking any chances, pulling out of the doubles as well. Isner has put together a nice season and has a real opportunity to raise his ranking even more with a good showing at the Open. Istomin, for his part, is an up-and-comer to watch and might well have been ready for a breakout performance at the last major of the year. Fingers crossed that both men make a full recovery and end the Grand Slam season with a bang.

Out of the Running – Justine Henin is out for the season as a result of the injury she sustained when she fell at this year’s Wimbledon Championships. The Belgian stated that while things are progressing, she won’t even be able to start practicing again until October. This has to be a disappointment, especially when considering the way her season began, but she’s certainly struggled since reaching the finals of the Australian Open. Perhaps this break will give Henin a chance to regroup and wage a more successful, and consistent, campaign in 2011.

ELENA DEMENTIEVA INCIDENTALLY

I wish I knew then what I know now. That’s pretty much my opinion when it comes to Elena Dementieva. As I am writing this I am staring at her photos from the Medibank International in Sydney. Two photos in particular draw my attention. It’s the two dark shots.

In the meantime Dementieva has told the press that she found the Hopman Cup in Perth as an ideal preparation and a good way to get her going in the 2010 season.

“I had some good matches here, — singles and also mixed doubles — and it is good for your confidence to be playing real matches, but also to be able to relax and enjoy them,” she said.

“I think it was good preparation — we had done all the hard work already off the court.

“Now it is just about playing points and matches and feeling your game.”

I am seriously hoping that she can win a slam this year. I know her nervosity on critical moments is a problem but I am hoping she will get over it. In my view she should have won a slam many moons ago.

I am actually even going to insert a little poll here, just because I am curious about your opinions. Will Dementieva ever win a slam before she retires? Cast your votes after the photos!

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