In a surprising climax to a women’s event that saw last year’s finalist dumped out in the first round and some of the biggest stars of the game lose their way early, it was the cagey veteran Francesca Schiavone, who most casual tennis fans had probably never heard of, who used her spin and guile to her advantage in taking down the giant slayer Sam Stosur in the finals of the French Open 6-4, 7-6(2) making her the first Italian to win a Grand Slam in the Open era and one of the oldest winners ever at just shy of 30 years of age.
For Schiavone, it’s a dream come true and perhaps a fitting end to a long ride on the WTA tour. For Stosur, despite having a dream tournament herself, it could be a turning point in her own career, either for the best or the worst.
Early on in the first set, it looked like Stosur would completely outhit Schiavone as the Australian held in her opening two service games to love. Continue reading
Filed under French Open, WTA
When a tennis match is a tight contest between two players, it almost always comes down to who wants it more rather than a winning shot. In today’s quarterfinal matchup between Serena Williams and Sam Stosur, one could say it was an amazing dipping backhand passing shot that Stosur hit at 6-6, 15-40 in the third set to give her the service break she needed to finally win 6-2, 6-7, 8-6. But really what gave Stosur the victory was her willingness to stare down Williams so to speak from the first point. Meanwhile, for Novak Djokovic who was even more in control of his encounter with Jurgen Melzer, Djokovic inexplicably lost the thread after being up two sets and a break to lose a match that could haunt the Serb for some time. Continue reading
I was all set to write a preview of the potential Serena Williams/Justine Henin rematch and talk about all the variables that go into that rivalry, but a very quiet and calm Australian had different ideas today. When Sam Stosur took the court against Henin in their fourth round encounter, the partisan French crowd rooted for the Belgian as if she were a native. But it wasn’t enough to help Henin deal with the work Stosur put on the ball as well as her composure that allowed the Australian to hand Henin her first defeat in six years on the red clay of Paris in a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win that is probably the biggest of Stosur’s career. Continue reading
Filed under French Open, WTA
Although the scorelines were a bit similar, the impressive play by Rafael Nadal and Sam Stosur in winning each of their respective finals today was very much the same as both issued “Serena-like” beatdowns of their opponents. Although the clay court season is still young, both players sent a message that they could be the ones to beat at Roland Garros in May.
As expected all week, Nadal easily won his sixth consecutive Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title as he defeated fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in just under 90 minutes. Continue reading
The New Year is not but two days old but the pros are already gearing up for the Australian Open by taking part in the warm-up events with the first one, the Brisbane International, already underway.
Unlike the clay court or hard court seasons, the “Aussie” season is a two week whirlwind of several events, some playing concurrently, and even on different continents with some of the top men, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, choosing to get ready at the Doha event in Qatar.
All eyes will be on Justine Henin this week at Brisbane as she makes her return to the tour with an opening match against No. 20 Nadia Petrova. Even if Henin gets some big wins here and at Sydney, featuring nine of the top ten women, I still think her draw at the Open will be the deciding factor if she’s got a shot to win it all.
With the brevity of the AO series it would be hard to look for trends or players on winning streaks to gauge what might happen in Melbourne later this month. Still, I would look out for Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Stosur, Jelena Dokic and rising star Bernard Tomic as they all will want to make strong showings now if they have any hopes of winning their country’s Grand Slam.
Check out the Brisbane International Site here.
Nikolay Davydenko proved he is back as an elite player in the ATP tour by taking out top seed Rafael Nadal at the Shanghai Masters final 7-6 (3), 6-3. Davydenko’s 36 winners to Nadal’s 9 for the match overall illustrated the Russian’s game plan for attacking Nadal on all corners.
In the first set, after jumping out to a 4-2 lead, Davydenko missed three down the line forehand break point chances to allow Nadal back in at 3-4. Nadal broke back at 4-4 and appeared to be grinding his way back into the match. Nadal had a set point on Davydenko’s serve at 4-5 but an ill-timed lob put away by the Russian squandered that lone chance for the Russian. Nadal’s tactic of staying far behind the baseline did not deter Davydenko who again found his favorite down the line shot again in the tiebreaker which he eventually won.
The second set stayed on course until at 3-2, Davydenko again hit several return winners at extreme angles allowing him to break to go up 4-2. Nadal tried to put pressure on the Russian when he served for the match at 5-3, but it was a little too late as a Nadal forehand sailed just over the baseline sealing the win and third Masters title for the Russian.
Davydenko’s win puts him in seventh place in the ATP Finals Race and with him likely playing every other event until the end of the year, his place in London is all but assured.
In WTA finals action, Samantha Stosur finally won her first singles title after five tries by defeating Francesca Schiavone at Osaka 7-5, 6-1. Yanina Wickymayer of Belgium proved her U.S. Open run was no fluke by winning the Generali Ladies Linz event over Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4. The win also puts “Wicky” into the WTA top 20 for the first time in her career.
Filed under ATP, Tennis, WTA
Asia is an important stop for both tours as tennis is one of the fastest growing sports for that region. Players with hopes of reaching the year end finals look to this three-week swing to pick up much needed points and perhaps salvage a so-so year with a tourney win.
But yet placing the Asia events just after the U.S. Open and at the tail-end of a long year always leads to dropouts and substandard play. We’ve already seen most of the top seeds fall early at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Japan while injuries forced Rafael Nadal out of Thailand and Roger Federer, due to exhaustion and an unknown ailment, dropped out of Beijing and Shanghai altogether. This means no one in Asia will get a chance to see the world number one play at all.
Is this fair to a region, who let’s face it, have enough fans with cash to buy tickets to support these events? Of course not. Wouldn’t it make sense to move some of these events up to the beginning of the year, just after the Australian Open since the players would already be in the Pacific region? Or perhaps have some of the Asia events take over slots of smaller clay courts events in Europe, that in reality don’t draw in as much interest or top players?
Since this probably won’t happen for awhile, if ever, all we can do is take a look at who could benefit during this year’s Asia swing. For the men, watch Andy Roddick. Since he lost early at the U.S. Open and didn’t play Davis Cup, he should be fresh going in. And with his mortal foe Federer not even showing up, Roddick could easily win Beijing again and challenge at Shanghai.
For the ladies, it’s hard to say since the substandard play from the U.S. Open seems to be continuing. Perhaps Sam Stosur could breakthrough and win her first title as the indoor/hard court surfaces suit her all-court game.
Filed under ATP, Tennis, WTA