by Terence Leong
Shenzhen, China - What happens when two top doubles players meet up against each other in singles? It happened in the second round of Shenzhen Open in China when Vania King, ranked No. 85 in singles and the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion, faced Sara Errani, ranked No. 7 in singles and No. 1 in doubles, in a New Year’s Day confrontation.
King prevailed in a grueling 2 hour 41 minute match 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 which started in the afternoon sun of southern China and ended in a chilly evening under the lights. King provided the first upset of a Top 10 player in 2014 on the first day of the New Year.
I caught up with her the morning after the match and got her insights into the flow of the match, some of its key moments and the various momentum swings she weathered to put the match away with a nice margin in the third set.
King disclosed that even seasoned Grand Slam champions can be anxious when it is time to step on the court. “I felt like I went into the match quite nervous, partly because I was playing on center court for the first time in a while,” she said. “I hadn’t played a tournament in a couple of months so it was getting back and getting used to the mental aspect of being on a big court and playing a top player.”
In spite of the nervousness, King came out swinging in the first game and immediately pressured Errani’s serve having a breakpoint which wasn’t converted. Unfortunately, King was broken in her first two service games while Errani, though pressured, held. The fact that she wasn’t holding serve and Errani was, got the first set to 4-0 for Errani, but one felt King was still in it bringing Errani to deuce in games one and three on Errani’s serve.
The action was more competitive than the score indicated, but with the set slipping away in a best of three-set match, and yet to get on the board, what would King do to respond? “She (Errani) also started quite well, like solid. She didn’t miss much. My tactic that I was trying, wasn’t really working, possibly because I was nervous. I wasn’t executing as well as I wanted to in the beginning. So around the end of the first/beginning of the second set, I started to think. I tried to be more aggressive because I was trying to do some more tactics in the beginning, like play a little bit high to her backhand, try and open the court, but for various reasons it wasn’t working as well as I hoped. So I simplified it for myself, and focused each point on being aggressive and not worrying if I was going to miss or not and slowly I started to be more consistent.”
We’ve all heard this numerous times from pros commentating on televised matches over the years and here was a tour champion reiterating that simple wisdom. When things aren’t going right, return to the fundamentals. Focus on each point not the score. Stay aggressive and play each shot one at a time fearlessly. Simple but not easy. With the adjustment, King started to change the results on the court. The first game King won in the match was a break of Errani’s serve for 4-1, and she held the next game as well for 4-2. She pressured Errani’s next service game with more unconverted breakpoints but the diminutive “Sarretta” from Italy held for 5-2. King double faulted to be broken and give the set to Errani 6-2.
The second set, started out with Errani holding. Also while Errani’s drop shots seemed to have worked against King early in the first set, King was now ready to track those down and was drop shotting Errani as well. King staying aggressive and more loose, broke Errani twice and raced out to a 4-1 lead, but Errani clawed back and took the lead 4-5 and King called for her coach again. Both players called for their coaches several times throughout the match. King met with her coach, Alejandro Dulko, during each set, she admitted with a sparkling self-deprecating laugh that the conference with him during the first set “didn’t really help” and “it doesn’t always help” her make meaningful adjustments to what’s happening on court. This time Dulko advised her to attack Errani’s forehand more since Errani’s backhand was proving solid thus far. After that King says, “I shifted my tactic a little bit and for the rest of the match I tried to attack her forehand a little more because she was giving me time there.”
At one point Errani, who is part of the loud grunting school, seemed minorly irritated by the crowd’s reaction to her expressive gasps when she saw a drop shot off of King’s racquet. The Chinese audience, perhaps the first live tour level tennis tournament for many in attendance, responded with some bemused laughter at the emotive surprise audible from Errani, but in a pure reaction to the sound, not meant to be disrespectful of Errani. In fact, when the appreciative crowd did venture a cheer, there was a lone voice in timid English urging “Come on Miss King” politely a few times endearingly between points.
The second set went to a tie break and King fell behind and held off two match points. I asked her what she was thinking after getting a nice lead, losing that momentum, and then being down match point not once but twice. Again, a return to solid proven basics was her response, “I wasn’t thinking about the score,” she said. “You shouldn’t play differently for the score. You should play the way that you want to play.”
So the classic playing one point at a time?
“It works,” Vania confirmed.
Especially with the match at risk, allowing King to rally to win the tiebreak 9-7. The crowd roared (that is sooo cliché, but how else do you describe it?) it’s approval for a third set of action.
The third set unfolded quickly and had some unique twists. Vania broke first and got to 3-1, but it isn’t a break until you hold and Errani broke back the next game for 3-2. Each held to get to 4-3 King up. At this point, the trainer was called and King had to take a medical timeout.
“In the beginning of the third, I felt a little bit of pain in my leg and was hoping it would go away,” she said. “I waited a few games to see if it would but it didn’t and I had to take the time out.”
The right upper thigh injury forced King to “try to finish off the points quicker. Try to be even more aggressive so she couldn’t move me wide.”
In spite of the injury, King came out and executed well in the colder night air, now over two and a half hours into the match. She broke Errani and would serve for the match. Errani was growing visibly and audibly more frustrated, and after losing a point to bring the game to 30-all, she screamed in anger and slammed her racquet into the court, probably cracking the frame.
Then from the deuce court which was furthest from her chair, Errani slowly worked her way over to her chair to get a replacement racquet and noticeably slowly walked back to get on court to receive. The chair umpire called a time violation against her as she sauntered back into position.
King stayed calm and coolly turned her back towards the suddenly slow motion Errani and seemed unfazed by the entire episode. Bouncing the ball and getting ready for her next serve. I admired how calm and focused King stayed and I think the crowd appreciated it as well, perhaps with some added empathy since we all knew she was now injured and playing a long match in the chillier and chiller evening.
Play resumed. On the second match point for King, Errani’s shot was called long, but Errani challenged the call. So the players lingered near the net, stuck in a different kind of no-man’s land for tennis, instead of the usual immediate clasp of hands cross net as is tennis’s hallmark of sportsmanship. The call was confirmed and Vania King had defeated Sara Errani with her mastery of simple tennis wisdom. Calm your nerves by going back to basics. Play one point at a time. Ignore the score and go for your shots. Stay aggressive. Don’t be afraid of making errors.
This may have only been a second round match at the Shenzhen Open, but was certainly the most exciting tennis of the tournament and an example of how a focused mind, constantly recalibrating and relying on her training prevails in the mental and physical battle against another champion.
For the second time in three days, inclement weather limited the action in Paris. This rewind tilts more towards the women’s side, which featured more headlines and more matches overall.
Match of the day: In a sequel to the Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Mother Nature confronted a host of ATP players today and defeated most of them. Fewer than half of the scheduled men’s matches finished on Thursday.
Gold star: Probably aware of the rain clouds overhead, Novak Djokovic lost no time in disposing of Guido Pella in 86 minutes. The world No. 1 lost just four games and gains a timing advantage over rival and semifinal opponent Rafael Nadal, who never took the court because of the rain.
Silver star: Grigor Dimitrov reaches the third round of a major for the first time, dispatching home hope Lucas Pouille in straight sets. Granted, Dimitrov would have had nobody to blame but himself had he failed to knock off the 324th-ranked Pouille, but a milestone remains a milestone. And the rematch with Djokovic looms on Saturday with both men on full rest.
Most improved: Also beating the raindrops was Benoit Paire, who regrouped from an unsteady four-setter against Marcos Baghdatis to oust Lukas Kubot in straight sets. People called Lukas generally had a bad day, though, as…
Rematch that won’t happen: Lukas Rosol fell to Fabio Fognini in four sets, the expected outcome but not the outcome that many of us wanted. With a mini-upset, Rosol would have faced Rafael Nadal in a bid to repeat his staggering Wimbledon upset.
Anticlimaxes of the day: The trickle of injuries continued to flow from the men’s draw with a walkover by Yen-Hsun Lu, advancing Philipp Kohlschreiber, and a retirement by Dmitry Tursunov, sending Victor Hanescu through.
Tough luck: Suspended within three games of a comfortable victory over Horacio Zeballos, Stanislas Wawrinka must come back tomorrow. His ability to finish off Thiemo De Bakker just before darkness in the previous round looks even more clutch now.
Question of the day: How much difference does it make that Djokovic can maintain his regular schedule, while Nadal will not?
Awards sweep of the day: Match of the day? Check. Comeback of the day? Check. Surprise of the day? Check. Across three sets and two rain delays, Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from a disastrous start against 2011 champion Li Na to oust the sixth seed. The upset bolsters a surprising resurgence on clay by the American veteran and ends a deeply disappointing clay season for Li, who fell short of the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome before exiting Paris in the second round. For Mattek-Sands, the door lies open for a deeper run in this relatively weak section of the draw.
Gold star: Building on her comfortable first-round victory, Samantha Stosur cruised past home hope Kristina Mladenovic on Court Philippe Chatrier. Stosur held the status of the heavy favorite in that match, but one could have imagined the difficult weather conditions and the challenge of playing a Frenchwoman on a show court might have flustered her. Not the case.
Silver star: Beating the rain more easily than anybody, Jelena Jankovic also built on a solid start to the tournament by dropping just three games to Garbine Muguruza. Like Stosur, Jankovic has reached three semifinals here, so she will bear watching as the tournament reaches its midpoint.
Lesser surprises of the day: A meager 2013 for Dominika Cibulkova continued when the former Roland Garros semifinalist fell in three sets to Marina Erakovic. Much less skilled on clay than her opponent, Cibulkova could muster fewer excuses for her loss than could the recently injured Yaroslava Shvedova. Last year’s quarterfinalist will lose plenty of ranking points after falling to qualifier Paula Ormaechea.
Most improved: After she wobbled through three sets against Aravane Rezai, Petra Kvitova advanced much more efficiently against a far more creditable opponent in Peng Shuai. This section of the draw has become fascinating with Stosur set to face Jankovic and the winner due to meet Kvitova.
Least improved: Dominant in her first match, Victoria Azarenka struggled to finish off the overmatched Annika Beck in two sets closer than they looked. Perhaps the rain derailed Vika’s rhythm. The good news of the day for her is that she cannot face anyone ranked higher than No. 12 Maria Kirilenko en route to the semifinals.
Tough luck of the day: Defending champion Maria Sharapova stood six points from victory at 6-2 4-2 deuce before the tournament suspended play for the night. Sharapova will need to return tomorrow for the coup de grace. On the other hand, she can thank Djokovicfor finishing his match so swiftly that she could play as much of her match as she did.
Good luck of the day: Top Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli would have faced Mariana Duque-Marino on an outer court had she played on Thursday. Following the rain and the rescheduling, she will return to Court Philippe Chatrier to start Friday’s matches. That setting and the amplified crowd support should boost Bartoli as she attempts to work through her serving woes.
Americans in Paris: Sloane Stephens pulled rank on Vania King, moving within one victory of a second straight appearance in the second week here. If you just look at majors, Stephens has compiled an excellent season. The rest of the American contingent stood at deuce, with Jamie Hampton a comfortable winner and Melanie Oudin a resounding loser to Zheng Jie.
Question of the day: After Li’s loss, who is most likely to face Azarenka in the quarterfinals?
Welcome back to your daily review of the studs and duds at Roland Garros 2013.
Match of the day: Five sets and four hours. Three tiebreaks and a 7-5 final set. A two-set lead squandered by the man who eventually won—after saving triple break point midway through the fifth. A home underdog firing 26 aces and 66 winners on his nation’s biggest stage to upset a top-eight seed who hit 72 winners of his own. Rarely is the match that looks like the best of the day in the first round actually the best of the day, but Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych put on perhaps the best show of any men’s match that we will see all week. The section has opened a bit for Monfils if he can defuse the equally dangerous dark horse Ernests Gulbis in the second round. That match looks like the highlight of Thursday, although it has a hard act to follow.
Comeback of the day: Last week’s Dusseldorf champion Juan Monaco looked well on his way to a routine victory when he won the first two sets by single-break margins and reached a tiebreak in the third. Perhaps aided by his opponent’s fatigue, Daniel Gimeno-Traver thrust himself back into the match by snatching that tiebreak and stormed all the way back to an upset over the seventeenth seed.
Surprise of the day: It was not an upset in the end, but Daniel Brands surely turned more heads than anyone when he came within a tiebreak of leading Rafael Nadal by two sets to love. The master of Roland Garros had not lost the first set in a first-week match there since 2006, although he once survived a five-setter against John Isner. Brands channeled his inner Soderling in explosive serving and bullet forehands that thrust Nadal on his heels for far longer than anyone could have expected.
Gold star: Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios gave his nation something to cheer amid the latest Bernard Tomic controversy. Kyrgios defeated veteran Radek Stepanek in three tiebreaks, saving several set points in each of the last two. The 53 total tiebreak points played might survive as a tournament record.
Silver star: Allez les bleus. While Nadal battled with Brands on Philippe Chatrier, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rolled through in straight sets on Suzanne Lenglen. Later in the day, second-ranked Frenchman Richard Gasquet did the same, and even Julien Benneteau won a match on clay for just the second time this year. Combined with the Monfils upset, these victories added up to an excellent day for the hosts.
Wooden spoon: When Andy Murray withdrew, Marcel Granollers moved up from unseeded to seeded position. That promotion served him no benefit as he lost his first match to countryman Feliciano Lopez in five sets and two days. By contrast, Tommy Robredo profited from the seed that he received with Juan Martin Del Potro’s withdrawal by advancing further into the section vacated by Berdych.
Americans in Paris: John Isner and Ryan Harrison, both of whom have struggled for most of the year, each notched comfortable straight-sets victories. Assigned Nice champion Albert Montanes, Steve Johnson battled gallantly into a fifth set as he had against Nicolas Almagro at the Australian Open. American men have no reason to feel shame so far at historically their worst major.
Question of the day: Who comes out of Berdych’s section of the draw to reach the quarterfinals?
Question of the day, II: Does Nadal’s first-round frailty reduce your confidence in him as a title threat?
Match of the day: None could compete with Berdych-Monfils or with Urszula-Venus the day before. This award goes to a battle between two clay-courters who have produced outstanding recent results. Rome semifinalist Simona Halep won the first set from world No. 20 Carla Suarez Navarro, but the Spaniard rallied with the form that brought her to two clay finals this year. A pity that the draw forced them to meet in the first round, and a pity that the match was not scheduled on a televised court.
Comeback of the day: Channeling a little of her inner Monfils, Garbine Muguruza scorched 46 winners and dropped serve just twice in three sets to ambush fellow power-hitter Karolina Pliskova. The Venezuelan-born citizen of Spain recorded her first career win at Roland Garros barely a year after her first appearance in a WTA main draw.
Statements of the day: Although they fell a bit short of Serena’s suffocating brilliance, top-four seeds Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska started the tournament in emphatic style. Defending champion Sharapova conceded just three games to top-50 opponent Hsieh Su-wei, while Radwanska yielded just two games to former top-15 player Shahar Peer. The latter result came as a mild surprise because of the newly blonde Pole’s struggles on clay this year.
Gold star: Everyone thought that Laura Robson would knock off world No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki in the first round, and everyone thought very wrong. Wozniacki ended a five-match losing streak by dominating the British teenager from start to finish. Perhaps a movie night with Rory McIlroy the day before (they saw Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained) allowed her to forget her recent futility.
Silver star: The most unsurprising surprise of the day came when the 2009 Roland Garros champion dispatched compatriot Ekaterina Makarova. In Serena’s quarter, Kuznetsova could meet Wozniacki in a rematch of their Australian Open three-set thriller. Sveta bounced back impressively from one of the worst losses of her career in Rome.
Wooden spoon: Outstanding performances on grass last year meant that Tamira Paszek received a seed at Roland Garros despite winning only one match in 2013. When the slightly less moribund Melanie Oudin dispatched her with ease, Paszek will head to the grass season with the vast majority of points at stake. Early losses at Eastbourne and Wimbledon will push her ranking down an elevator shaft.
Americans in Paris: In addition to the aforementioned Oudin, several other women from the United States fared well on Day 2. Bethanie Mattek-Sands set up a second-round meeting with Li Na, while newer talents Varvara Lepchenko and Madison Keys cruised. Vania King also advanced in straight sets to complete a perfect record today for the USA.
Question of the day: Which American woman of those who won day will go furthest?
Question of the day, II: Should we feel more impressed by Wozniacki or more disappointed by Robson?
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!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Citi Open tournament this week is full of opinionated and versatile players with the press conferences producing some memorable moments.
Check out some of the intriguing, honest and fun quotes from players Mardy Fish, James Blake, Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe, Tommy Haas and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as they talk about the Olympics, Twitter, trends in men’s tennis, heat exhaustion, and even “revenge matches” for one of the players.
“I think it speaks to the physicality of the game nowadays. It takes guys longer to develop. [The ATP Tour] is much more physical, much more mental. You just have to be mature in both areas to succeed at a high level. You just can’t come out of the blue anymore. You just don’t anymore see guys 21-years-old roll through and make the quarterfinals [of Grand Slams]. I think it just speaks to the physicality of the game now. And there are a lot of 30-years-old and older guys that are playing well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I think it’s the physical side of it.”
- Mardy Fish on the trend of older players doing well on the ATP Tour
“I feel 100 percent physically and structurally. The most important thing is getting my confidence back. Everyone knows the mind can play tricks on you. You can convince yourself of things. When you’re out there playing, you can convince yourself that you’re not feeling well. When I don’t feel 100 percent, because my confidence isn’t all the way back, my mind can go to bad places. But everything is fine [with my heart]. It’s all behind me. The [doctors] say it won’t happen again. I stay away from everything that can cause it.”
- Mardy Fish on his health after troubles with his heart earlier in the year
“As my knee is starting to feel better, my shoulder is feeling better, everything is feeling better … I don’t feel like I am a player that someone in the top 20 is looking at as an easy draw just because I am ranked outside of the top 100. I know I have been top 10 in the world before. So I am not scared of any of the top guys, I’m not feeling like I walk onto the court and I have already lost.”
- James Blake on his confidence against the top players even though he is outside of the top 100
“The WTA tournament is a lower tier tournament than the men. It’s the women coming into the men’s territory. This has been their tournament for a really long time. We’re kind of bombarding them. I think it’s fine that we play on the outside court. All in all, it’s all the same, and I don’t think any of the girls are disappointed about not being on the stadium.”
- Sloane Stephens on whether it was a diss to the women to not get to play on stadium court until the quarterfinals
“I don’t tweet sometimes for a while, but I love Twitter. I love reading what people have to say. That’s where I find all my gossip!”
- Sloane Stephens on how she has taken to being active on Twitter
“I boycotted the Olympics! I don’t like to watch it anymore because I see the results all on Twitter and Facebook. You already know what happens way before it happens. Now, I can’t go home and watch it and be excited because I know who won… You want to see Michael Phelps win live!”
- Sloane Stephens on whether she has been watching the Olympics
“We get along quite well off the court. I’m sure we’ll spend some time after our careers together, and it’s important for me to say to him at least that I’ve gotten him in the later years, which is huge.
- Tommy Haas on beating Roger Federer to win the Halle title this year
“When I was watching the Olympics, I am surprised I do not see myself playing. The German Olympics committee did not nominate me this year, which I think was a big mistake in my eyes. I am happy to be able to play tennis while the Olympic are going on and not sitting at home.”
- Tommy Haas on not playing in the Olympics
“I’m disappointed that I’m not competing in the Olympics. That’s a dream of mine to compete and win a medal. It’s almost more of a goal for me than to win a Grand Slam just because my mom was in the Olympics. The Olympics were on TV before tennis was on TV in my home.”
- Coco Vandeweghe on not playing in the Olympics
“I took that first match in Stanford against [Melinda] Czink, and it was a little bit of a ‘revenge’ match for me because she beat me in Charleston earlier in the year. I actually had a couple of ‘revenge’ matches in that tournament where I wanted to beat each girl because they have beaten me before.”
- Coco Vandeweghe on her mentality during her Stanford finals run
“I was suffering from the first game versus Vania. It was ridiculously hot out there. I don’t know, seriously, how people live here! I think they should consider changing the date of the tournament or just do night sessions. I’ve played in Australia for six years, and I know what is hot and that it’s the same for everyone. But the heat just hit me today.”
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on calling the doctor due to heat exhaustion during her semifinal match versus Vania King (as a note, it reached 95°F today with very high humidity)
By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand
Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova both have good records at Roland Garros as each player reached the semifinals in 2009 and Stosur went one better as runner-up in 2010. Prior to their quarterfinal meeting at the French Open, Stosur won the only match they have ever played against each other back in 2009.
To reach this stage of the tournament, Stosur defeated Elena Baltacha, Irina Falconi, Nadia Petrova and Sloane Stephens, winning all matches in straight sets. Cibulkova defeated Kristina Mladenovic, Vania King, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and world number one Victoria Azarenka.
In the first set, both players held serve for the first four games. During Cibulkova’s third service game, the umpire overruled an incorrect line call, which would have given Stosur a winner on break point but instead the point was replayed. Not distracted by the missed opportunity, Stosur won the game two points later. The girls then stepped up the attack during the sixth game, which went to deuce six times before Stosur won, giving her a double break at 5-2.
Stosur then served for the set but failed initially. At this point the match was starting to feel similar to her fourth round match against Stephens, when Stosur had a double break but twice failed to serve it out. But that’s where the similarity ended. During her second attempt Stosur successfully served for the set, saving three break points and winning 6-4.
Cibulkova came out firing in the second set with Stosur having to save three break points to hold serve during the second game. But then Stosur took control and went on to win the next four games. With Cibulkova double faulting to bring up the first match point, Sam confidently took the second set 6-1, winning the match in one hour and 25 minutes.
During the on court interview after the match, Stosur commented:
“I’m very, very pleased with the way I played today and to get through. The last few years have been very good to me in Paris. I love playing on this court and it doesn’t get any better than this.”
When asked about being the highest seed in her part of the women’s single draw, Sam replied simply:
“In the semifinals at Roland Garros that doesn’t mean much, whoever you play it’s going to be tough.”
Stosur has yet to drop a set during the tournament and will play 21st seed Sara Errani of Italy in the semi final on Thursday.
Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on all the Australian players’ progress throughout the main draw of the French Open.
Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.
By Kelyn Soong
What do Serena Williams and Varvara Lepchenko have in common? Both players are into the third round at the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open and are the only American women left in the tournament.
While the former has a much higher profile, Lepchenko, an Uzbek-born American, scored the bigger win with a first round upset over 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone – the best win of her career. She followed up the victory by beating former world No. 11 Shahar Peer in the second round and will take on 30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues next.
Currently ranked No. 77 in the world, Lepchenko reached a career high No. 73 just last month. The 25-year-old is now the fifth ranked American, behind only Williams (9), older sister Venus (72), and youngsters Christina McHale (36) and Vania King (57).
Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Lepchenko has lived in the United States since 2001 – the same year she turned pro. She switched nationalities from UZB to USA in 2007 and became a U.S. citizen last September. She currently resides in Allentown, PA.
Lepchenko has spent the past six years bouncing in and out of the top 100 – her highest year-end finish was at world No. 79 in 2010. Her best Grand Slam result has been reaching the second round, which she accomplished at the 2006 U.S. Open, 2010 Wimbledon, and 2010 and 2011 French Open.
But the success in Madrid may signal a breakout year for Lepchenko. Throughout the season she has battled through the qualifying rounds. In addition to Madrid, Lepchenko successfully qualified for the main draw in Melbourne, Paris, Doha, Indian Wells, and Madrid.
Even after more than a decade on the professional tour, it appears that Lepchenko’s best is yet to come.
The youth movement has stalled temporarily.
Among the American women, the 2012 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, SC has belonged to the tour veterans. The tournament began with 10 main draw players from the United States but only four remain: 5th seed Serena Williams, 30, wildcard Venus Williams, 31, qualifier Jill Craybas, 37, and Varvara Lepchenko, 25, an Uzbek-American who turned pro back in 2001.
The younger Americans have not fared well. Aside from fast-rising Jamie Hampton’s win over compatriot Sloane Stephens, 19, in the first round, none of the other players aged 23 or younger made it into the second round. The 22-year-old Hampton, who is ranked No. 92 in the world, would go on to lose in the following round to second seed Sam Stosur.
Eleventh-seed Christina McHale, 19, faded down the stretch in a three-set loss to Aleksandra Wozniak – marking the first time this year she has lost to a player ranked below her. Twenty-three-year-old Vania King, the 3rd ranked American behind the younger Williams and McHale, exited in straight sets to 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer.
Wildcard Irina Falconi, 21, has hit a slump after exceeding expectations last year. Currently ranked No. 99 in the world, Falconi will have to find her game quickly in order to reach her goal of qualifying for the Olympic team.
Melanie Oudin, ranked No. 304 in the world, needed to win two qualifying matches for a spot in the main draw. Despite losing in three sets to 10th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, the 20-year-old can take positives away from her experience in Charleston. Oudin showed glimpses of her confidence and fighting spirit that defined her earlier in her career with victories over Heather Watson and Petra Rampre, her first WTA Tour wins this season.
With plenty of tennis to be played, these young players have a lot to look forward to. The spotlight may belong to them in the future, but for the rest of the week in Charleston, it’s the veterans’ time to shine.
(Photo of Christina McHale by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America)
All of Tennis Grandstand’s exclusive 1-on-1 interviews with ATP/WTA players from the Sony Ericsson Open
Missed any of Tennis Grandstand’s one-on-one interviews with a particular player during the Sony Ericsson Open? Or just want to laugh along with the players as they answer funny and tennis-related questions? Well, you’re in luck as below you’ll find a full list of interviews from Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Janko Tipsarevic, Sabine Lisicki, Sam Stosur, Milos Raonic, Maria Kirilenko, Flavia Pennetta, Yanina Wickmayer, Robin Haase and Vania King.
- Caroline Wozniacki on being an actress, her biggest fear and future karaoke battles with Serena Williams