WTA Tour News

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Citi Open Exclusive: Spotlight on Alexandra Mueller

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During the opening weekend of the inaugural WTA Citi Open held just outside of Washington, DC in College Park, MD, Alexandra Mueller made a name for herself. She flew through three rounds of qualifying, en route beating the #1 seed 6-1, 6-0, and debuted her talents in her first WTA tour-level main draw.

I had a chance to sit down and chat with the statuesque Pennsylvania-born 23-year-old about her goals, recent doubles’ titles, and influence of social media.

Mueller’s current claim to fame is that she was the winner of the first U.S. Open National Wildcard Playoff Tournament held last year, in which the winner received a direct entry into the Qualifying draw of the U.S. Open. With 372 other women vying for the spot, it took hard work and confidence to get there. Sectionals were held all across the country while nationals took place at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. When asked about what she learned from the experience and her run at Stanford, she stated that “it proves to me that I can win a lot of matches under pressure situations. It was a big moment and I was able to play well and come away with the victory.” If she seems to talk like a pro, it’s maybe because she already is. As Mueller was a standout junior doubles player reaching #35 in the world in 2003, and she transitioned to the pro tour shortly thereafter.

By the end of the 2011 Mueller hopes to be in the top 200, and that is certainly an attainable goal. Although she is currently ranked #432 in the world, she is playing at, or better than, her highest singles ranking of #280 back in 2009. With an aggressive and athletic game, she is climbing the ladder steadily. She is currently # 189 on the doubles’ tour following her recent back-to-back titles in Boston and Waterloo, the latter partnering with rising-star Asia Muhammed. And the wins have certainly given her that extra confidence going into the summer hard court season. “Winning matches and being able to close it out, in either singles or doubles, gives me a lot of confidence going forward.” She has been working on her fitness throughout the off-season and spring, and it shows, as she physically dominates on-court dictating points and running her opponents down.

As a touring professional, traveling most weeks of the year, she delves into social media as a way of interacting with fans. With over 2500 friends on Facebook, it’s clear she holds a special spot for her fans. “I’m totally into Facebook and social networking and that’s a problem!” she says as she laughs. “The smartphone was definitely it for me. I like Twitter as well since it’s great to get support, like congratulatory and good luck messages … no matter where you’re getting them from. It feels like someone is pulling for you.”

As I write, Mueller is battling former World #3 Nadia Petrova for a spot in Citi Open’s second round. It’s certainly a historic moment for the young American as she looks to continually improve her game and learn from the sport’s top players. She credits Monica Seles as an inspiration and replicates the champion’s style on- and off-court with a charming personality and a quality game.

Follow Alexandra on twitter: @kentonmueller.

Check out more photos by Neal Trousdale from the Citi Open.

Petra Kvitova wins Mutua Madrid Open 2011

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Petra Kvitova has won the Mutua Madrid Open 2011. Even though touted by many as the underdog to win Sunday’s finale, she won versus an in form Victoria Azarenka in straight sets 7-6, 6-4. With her win at the Mutua Madrid Open, Kvitova forces her way into the top 10 of the WTA Tour ranking for the first time.  Her tournament win is the third title she has won in 2011. She first won the Brisbane International  and then Open GDF in Paris.

“I was very nervous and perhaps that was the problem,” said Kvitova, who will be the sixth Czech player to reach the top-10 when she jumps to No. 10 in the WTA rankings coming out Monday. “I think it’s the best tennis that I’ve played. I was very offensive.”

Azarenka, who will reach an all time high ranking of 4 on Monday on the WTA Rankings, praised her opponent:

“She played great this week, (she) deserved it,” said Azarenka

Enjoy the photos. Credit ofcourse to Ralf Reinecke!

How can you say that Caroline Wozniacki has already won the French Open 2011?

Petkovic-Wozniacki

I was going to write a treatise on the meaning of life this week, but I put it aside at the last moment when I was shown a new video of the WTA Tour with players talking tactics on clay.

The clay season 2011 is only a few weeks old and has already given us a few surprises. Elena Vesnina in the finals of the Family Circle Cup, Julia Goerges winning Stuttgart, Francesca Schiavone losing in the early rounds of Stuttgart where she was a French Open winner in 2010.  Ofcourse this by no means is an indication that Schiavone will do bad at the French and who knows, she may even prolong her title.  And both the Family Circle Cup and the Porsche Grand Prix had Caroline Wozniacki play the finals. That has to say something, right?

With Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams still uncertain for the French Open and Serena Williams recovering from surgery and enjoying other activities, some  people already are getting ahead of themselves by saying that Wozniacki will be the next winner of the Roland Garros 2011 tournament. I would like to know what Crystal Ball these people fondled and how come my Crystal Ball fondling only gets me answers to the meaning of life.

“The French Open is a great tournament. It’s a fun event. We definitely want to be there,” Venus Williams said. “We’re taking it week to week right now.

And even if Venus Williams is in, I don’t see her win the French Open or any other Grand Slam tournament any time soon. I think that Venus Williams is pretty much over the hill since not having a single Slam since her 2008 Wimbledon and reaching the finals in 2009.

The clay season is still young and as it progresses in the coming weeks more and more players will adapt their game to the red sands of Europe and we will see in a few weeks who’s hot and who’s not.  Until then enjoy these photos of Ralf Reinecke taken in Stuttgart last week and I would hereby like to thank Footfault for last week’s coverage of the Porsche Grand Prix Tennis tournament.

Weekly links

Check  Luís Santos’ reports of the Estoril Open this week (TennisGrandstand)

Silence is golden. Just check Exihibit A and Exhibit B at Foot Fault.

He is just not that into you (Forty Deuce)

WTA’s most emotional players (Women’s Tennis Blog)

Maria Sharapova shows her political awareness (Tennis Served Fresh)

And last but not least the YouTube video of the WTA Tour with players talking tactics.

Top WTA tennis players discuss strategies & preferences when it comes to playing on clay courts. Tips on adjusting to this surface from Francesca Schiavone, Andrea Petkovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur & Vera Zvonareva.

 

 

 

 

Maria Sharapova on a comeback trail at the Sony Ericsson Open

Sharapova at the Sony Ericsson Open in 2009

Much to my surprise I see a Maria Sharapova in the semis of the Sony Ericsson Open 2011. She even beat her flamboyant and colorful opponent Andrea Petkovic in three sets 6-3, 0-6, 2-6. Petkovic proved that she has top 10 potential beating the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic. She ran out of steam against Sharapova however. But all in all not a bad tournament for Petkorazzi at all.

But I disgress, this post is supposed to be about Maria Sharapova and that is exactly who I am going to write about. As you may well know Maria Sharapova had a lot of injury woes since 2008, her shoulder injury being the worst of it. It took Sharapova a lot to get back on track.   Her first round losses, her not making it to finals anymore. All that stuff people just threw it at her. Was this fair? My honest answer? Who cares. It gave people stuff to talk about and it gave me writing material.  And that is exactly what Sharapova is all about: We talk about her tennis, we talk about her outfits, we talk about that huge ring and we talk, talk and then some…It is great for tennis to have such a player. Someone we will always talk about. It breathes life in the WTA Tour in my opinion  and I think with Sharapova back into the top 10 this Monday, regardless of her win or loss versus either Victoria Azarenka or Vera Zvonareva in the finals, we will soon have even more to talk about.

For now you can enjoy the photos of Sharapova at the Sony Ericsson Open of 2009. Thanks to Chris Rogers and his Miami Tennis Photos.

WTA Tour girls go Xperia and we gladly follow

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So the Xperia was launched. “What? Xperia?” I hear you say? Yes, the Xperia. I have to admit that I have never heard of the Xperia but then again I use a very old phone bought in an era where texting was just in, y’know back in the late 90s. No? I must be getting old.  However these girls may just convince me to get a new phone and perhaps even a Xperia and that’s not just because of Sorana Cirstea, Sabine Lisicki, Alize Cornet, Heather Watson, Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Dominika Cibulkova.  It is basically because the Xperia is quite a good phone to be honest.

So at the Sony Ericsson Open they had a little show with the Xperia Hotshots and Maria Sharapova!

We weren’t there but we got YouTube for the rescue!

From the Xperia Hot Shots channel:

Interviews with Maria Sharapova and the Xperia Hot Shots in Miami at the launch event, March 20th, 2011.
Sony Ericsson are a long time supporter of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Xperia Hot Shots follows six young female players on the 2011 WTA tour as they embark on the road to superstardom.

Indian Wells observations: Who says American tennis is weak?

John Isner

Americans have a history of doing well in the California desert. Since 1987, when the men’s tournament moved to Indian Wells, the event has been won by an American eight times and on six occasions, an American has come in second. In just 24 years, half of the finals have showcased at least one American man. There’s been plenty of talk lately about how weak American tennis is, particularly in terms of young players on both the ATP and WTA tours. Frankly, we as Americans have been spoiled by players like Connors, McEnroe, Agassi, and Sampras. American tennis isn’t weak. We just don’t have the best player in the world anymore. What we do have is an incredibly solid field of American men, rather than one or two stars.

At this points in the tournament, there are still six Americans remaining in the draw at the BNP Paribas Open, more than any other country. Andy Roddick, last year’s runner-up, still leads the field even at the age of 28. He beat fellow American, and good friend, James Blake yesterday in the 2nd round, and will have to face another American, John Isner, in his effort to pick up his sixth Masters title and his first in Indian Wells.

John’s struggled a bit so far this year, but he managed a convincing win over Ricardo Mello yesterday to set up his meeting with Roddick. When asked about his slow start this year, John said, “I still think my best tennis is three, four years ahead of me, even though I’m 25 right now. That’s just how I feel. It’s just going to take a little time. I have always been a late developer, and this year hasn’t been the greatest year so far.” Honestly, I believe him. John didn’t take the conventional route to professional tennis. He went to college, and while NCAA match play certainly helped develop his game, it’s not the same as being on the pro tour day in and day out. Most 25 year olds have been on the pro tour for seven or eight years, but John’s had less than four years.

John’s buddy and sometimes doubles partner, Sam Querrey, has also had a rough start to the year with some very disappointing losses, including the 1st round at the Australian Open. Until this week, Sam had been just 2-5 this year in wins and losses, not exactly what you’d expect from a guy who started the year in the Top 20. But, his first match at the BNP Paribas Open was no walkover. He beat Janko Tipsarevic, who has had quite a good start to 2011, going 10-5 and making his third career final just a few weeks ago in Delray Beach. I think this was a huge match for Sam, in terms of gaining back some confidence. He comes off as a laid back guy, but it’s tough to imagine that such a rough start to the year wasn’t weighing on him a little. He’s got a positive outlook for the rest of the week and going into Miami, saying, “I feel like I’m off to a good start, and, you know, I played really well. You know, Janko, it’s tough seeing him in the first – second round for him, first round for me. I thought I played great. I want to play like that in the next one against Verdasco.” If Sam really does play the way he played against Tipsarevic, he should have no trouble making his way past Fernando Verdasco, who’s also had some rough losses lately.

Sam was asked in his press conference what he thought of Donald Young’s win over Andy Murray, certainly the most surprising result of the tournament thus far. He said, “that was awesome. I’m so excited for him…He’s a good friend of mine. I have been practicing with him a lot. I’m excited for him and happy for him.” I love to see the players being so supportive of each other, and Donald gave Sam some of the credit for his win, saying, “I’ve been around like in LA in the offseason with Sam and Mardy and I saw how hard they work every day, I’m like, this is what they do all the time and I’m dying. It was tough. I kind of made the decision where this is my living. This is what I want to do. I really don’t want to go get a real job, so I want to give 100% of my effort and have no regrets.” I’m not sure a few weeks training in LA is enough for Young to turn over a whole new leaf, but if he can pull off big wins like he did against Murray, nothing’s stopping him. Young is his own worst enemy, so if he can pull it together and really look for consistent results, we’ll have another very talented young American.

The last two Americans left in the draw are Ryan Harrison and Ryan Sweeting. Harrison is actually the youngest player left in the tournament, at just 18 years old, and he was quick to point that out to journalists when they said he and his next opponent, Milos Raonic were around the same age, saying, “He’s two years older. He’s not a teenager anymore, so let’s clarify that.” I’m not sure how big a difference there really is between 19 and 20, but Harrison is doing a pretty good job for someone who probably just got their real driver’s license. Sweeting is a slightly different story. Sweeting is 23 and attended the University of Florida before turning professional in 2007. While he’s been on tour for a while, he’s only just beginning to be noticed.

I doubt each of these guys has the potential to be No. 1, but not every player needs to be No. 1. America can still have a strong tennis tradition without having the very best player, and who knows what these youngsters will do in the next few years? Even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had to start somewhere?

On a sidenote, the only American woman left in the draw is 18 year old, Christina McHale. Probably not what you expected, huh?

Andrea Petkovic is a Riot!

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After my last article about the perfect date for the WTA stars, one name in particular stuck in my head: Andrea Petkovic and when Addilson Strahovsky commented that he/she absolutely loved Andrea Petkovic’ part in the film, I figured that I should do a post about Andrea Petkovic.

Ofcourse for those who don’t know yet who she is, I took the liberty of digging through her profile on the WTA Tour website and came up with the following:

Coached by Petar Popovic; trains at Waske-Schüttler-Akademie … Baseliner whose favorite shot is forehand; favorite surface is clay … Began playing at age 6 when father introduced her to the sport … Formerly coached by father, Zoran; mother, Amira, is a dentist’s assistant; younger sister, Anja, is a student … Speaks French, German, English, Serbian … Favorite movie is 300; favorite actor is Edward Norton … Favorite types of music are rock, funk; favorite group is Bloc Party … Enjoys reading, writing; favorite authors are Goethe, Wilde; people most admired are Goethe (genius in writing) and Che Guevara (genius in fighting) … Other favorites include eating McDonald’s, watching baseball when in America … Favorite city is Barcelona; favorite tournament is Stuttgart … Most memorable experience was playing first Grand Slam at 2007 Roland Garros … Self-described as thoughtful, outgoing, happy.

Now on to the cool stuff. I browsed around some more and found her videoblog and this girl is hilarious!! She does her own vlog and I have never ever seen a WTA player go wild like that.  Long live YouTube and long live Andrea “Petkorazzi” Petkovic for being tech savvy and create her own vlogs!!

This video is about Andrea visiting the players party at the Dubai tennis tournament 2010:

Andrea gives dance class and hires a Chinese robot:

And the funniest video of her, that I found was the one from the Australian Open.

The Perfect Date

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So anyone else enjoyed Valentines day? A box of chocolates, a Valentines card or whatever that made it a day of celebrations.  The girls of the WTA tour talk about how their perfect Valentines day with their loved one would look like. Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Vera Zvonareva all describe their perfect day.

Valentine’s Day – in fact romance in general – is all about red roses, candlelit dinners and strolls along the beach, right? Well, for some people it is. But is it for the tennis players on the WTA? We caught up with some of our stars to find out what they think makes the perfect date (and how they intend to spend Valentine’s Day this year).

Ana Ivanovic Splits with Coach – The Friday Five

Ana Ivanovic

By Maud Watson

Abrupt Ending

Few saw this one coming, but following her defeat to Italian Francesca Schiavone on the last day of the round robin competition at the WTA Championships, Elena Dementieva shocked fans with the announcement that she was retiring, effective immediately.  She later cited one of the main reasons behind her decision was the desire to start a family, and while tennis fans undoubtedly understand and wish her the best, the hard-hitting Russian will still be missed.  Arguably the best of her generation to have never won a major, she was a steady presence at the top of the women’s game.  Her serve may have been near the bottom of the barrel, but she could compete with the game’s biggest hitters stroke for stroke and played some of the most exciting matches against the game’s top stars.  So while her value may not be weighted the same as a Williams sister or one of the Belgians, Dementieva’s departure will leave a hole on the WTA Tour.

Nerves of Steel

Trying to win a top tier event like the WTA Championships when competing against the best players in the world is a difficult task in and of itself.  Managing to take the title after enduring a frightening car crash is a near impossible ask.  Yet that is exactly what Kim Clijsters did.  En route to play her semifinal match against Sam Stosur, a truck “came out of nowhere” to hit the car Clijsters was in.  Thankfully, the only person hurt in the accident was Clijsters’ manager Bob Verbeeck, who suffered some minor cuts from all of the shattered glass.  Hats off to Clijsters who quickly found her composure to reach the finals, where she took out the current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki in three sets.  After an ordeal like that, a fourth Grand Slam title might prove to be a walk in the park.

The Nightmare Continues

The frequently-injured Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is suffering from knee problems yet again.  After sitting out nearly three months following Wimbledon, Tsonga revealed that he has suffered a tear in the patella tendon while in Montpellier.  While there is a slight silver lining in that the injury is not as serious as the post-Wimbledon setback, he has been forced to heed his doctor’s advice and end his season early, which includes missing the trip to Belgrade as part of the French squad that will face off against Serbia for the Davis Cup title.  Tsonga has done much to get himself into better shape over the course of the past few years, and some players are naturally just more prone to injury.  But these recurring injuries might suggest that Tsonga needs to start searching for more solutions, be they tweaking his workout or perhaps adjusting his style of play.  As one of the most fascinating players on tour to watch, it would be shame to see the curtain fall on his career prematurely due to a multitude of injuries.

Leader of the Pack

The BNP Paribas Open will be leading the way as far as Hawkeye technology is concerned when the event is staged in 2011.  Tournament Director Steve Simon announced on Wednesday that not one, not two, not even three, but that all eight match courts will be equipped with Hawkeye.  This has to be welcomed news to players at all levels of the game, who will always have the option to challenge a call, irrespective of the fact that they may not be on one of the main show courts.  Spectators at the event can also relax at the Stadium Plaza, which will now provide feeds from three show courts, while the Garden Club displays will be providing feeds from two.  Bearing in mind that finances are a potentially large hurdle, hopefully other tournaments will follow suit with the BNP Paribas Open as the situation allows.

Coaching Split

Earlier this week Ana Ivanovic announced that she would be splitting with Steffi Graf’s former coach Heinz Gunthardt, as he is unable to be with her fulltime due to other commitments.  Gundthardt and Ivanovic began their relationship earlier this year, and they enjoyed success in a relatively short amount of time.  Ivanovic cut her ranking woes by more than half by going from 58th to 24th in the world, and she ended a two-year title drought with her win in Linz last month.  Having finally righted the ship and still in her early 20s, it is hard to imagine that there won’t be some high profile coach willing to pick up where Gundthardt left off.

Maria Sharapova Needs to Regroup and Move Forward

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While many hoped that 2010 would be the comeback year for Maria Sharapova, it has been disappointing a little. Early exits in Tokyo and Beijing and I am sure many fans have their faith in their star shaken.

What does Sharapova have to say for herself?

“I’m definitely not as good as I wanted to be,” Sharapova told the WTA Tour website. “After the U.S. Open I wasn’t able to train as much as I would’ve wanted to, and I feel like the last couple of weeks I’ve just been trying to play catch-up.”

And there is more. She talks about rhythm and how she is disappointed with her losses but that it is not the end of the world.

“My rhythm hasn’t been where it should be. Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’ve lost and won many matches in my career. I’ll just have to regroup and move forward.”

And I sincerely hope that she will regroup asap because a Sharapova in top form is a threat for any player at any tournament!

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