Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Grass Court Awards: To Serve is Divine

"The older I get, the better I serve."
-- Serena Williams

*2Q.2 Grass Court Awards - Wks.24-27*
1. Serena Williams, USA

...from the low of a 1st Round exit in Paris to the high of her fifth Wimbledon Ladies crown six weeks later, Williams once again showed that no one is going to beat her when she's healthy, focused and determined to make something her own. Thirteen years after winning her first slam title in New York, she's still better than anyone else if she's anywhere near her best. While it took a while for her entire game to coalesce in London, her serve -- better than EVER - more than made up the difference until it did.
2. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
...A-Rad and her alter ego had the "best two weeks" of their lives in London, reaching a maiden slam singles final and coming within one set of taking over the #1 ranking
3. Serena Williams & Venus Williams, USA
...they hadn't played doubles together in two years, but the Sisters rebounded from Venus' 1st Round singles loss to claim their 5th Wimbledon crown (and will now look to grab a third doubles Gold Medal)
4. Angelique Kerber, GER
...she's climbed nearly 100 spots in the rankings since last summer, and her Wimbledon semifinal result gives her two slam Final Fours in the last eleven months
5. Tamira Paszek, AUT
...never better than when she's behind in a match on grass, Paszek's "Zombie Queen" heroics won her a title in Eastbourne and carried her all the way to a second consecutive Wimbledon QF
6. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN (junior) junior was better on the grass than the Canadian, who swept the singles and doubles crowns BOTH at Roehampton and in the Wimbledon Girls competition
7. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...her RG disappointment behind her, Azarenka matched her '11 Wimbledon SF result and took back the #1 ranking after a month in exile
8. Lisa Raymond, USA
...Raymond & co-top ranked partner Liezel Huber flamed out in the Wimbledon SF against the Williams Sisters, but Raymond rebounded to claim her eleventh career slam crown in the SW19 Mixed Doubles with Mike Bryan
9. Melanie Oudin, USA
...her Wimbledon was a disappointment, but her first career tour title run in Birmingham marked her return to singles relevance for the first time since her '09 breakout season
10. Nadia Petrova, RUS
...her first grass court crown in the Netherlands gave her a career singles "surface slam"
HM- Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci, ITA
...their overall 25-match winning streak came to an end in the Wimbledon QF, but their title in the Netherlands showed that the Italians aren't just a clay court phenomenon

1. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2. Angelique Kerber, GER
3. Tamira Paszek, AUT
4. Melanie Oudin, USA
5. Sara Errani & Roberta Viinci, ITA/ITA
6. Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
7. Elena Vesnina, RUS
8. Maria Kirilenko, RUS
9. Sabine Lisicki, GER
10. Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
HM- Vesna Dolonc, SRB

1. Urszula Radwanska, POL
2. Sloane Stephens, USA
3. Camila Giorgi, ITA
4. Heather Watson, GBR
5. Jana Cepelova, SVK
6. Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
7. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
8. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
9. Coco Vandeweghe, USA
10. Annika Beck, GER
HM- Karolina Pliskova, CZE

1. Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2. Elina Svitolina, UKR
3. Francoise Abanda, CAN
4. Anett Kontaveit, EST
5. Ana Konjuh, CRO
6. Antonia Lottner, GER
7. Sabina Sharipova, UZB
8. Marcela Zacarius, MEX
9. Carol Zhao, CAN
10. Allie Kick, USA
HM- Jamie Loeb, USA

1. Sandra Zaniewska, POL
2. Varvara Lepchenko, USA
3. Maria Elena Camerin, ITA
4. Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
5. Anna Tatishvili, GEO
6. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, ESP
7. Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, FRA
8. Romina Oprandi, SUI
9. Nina Bratchikova, RUS
10. Melanie South, GBR
HM- Jade Windley, GBR

1. Serena Williams, USA
2. Serena Williams & Venus Williams, USA/USA
3. Lisa Raymond, USA
4. Nadia Petrova, RUS
5. Zheng Jie, CHN
6. Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka, CZE/CZE
7. Kim Clijsters, BEL
8. Roberta Vinci, ITA
9. Liezel Huber, USA
10. Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
11. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
12. Marion Bartoli, FRA
13. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
14. Melinda Czink, HUN
15. Flavia Pennetta & Francesca Schiavone, ITA/ITA
HM- Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE

1. Mirjana Lucic, CRO
2. Melanie Oudin, USA
3. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
4. Nuria Llagostera-Vives & Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP/ESP
5. Venus Williams, USA (doubles)
HM- Ana Ivanovic, SRB

"It's like watching her drive a Ferrari without using the top three gears." - coach Thomas Johansson, on watching Caroline Wozniacki play without aggression

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2. Venus Williams, USA (doubles)
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
4. Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
5. Taylor Townsend, USA (jr. singles)
6. Petra Kvitova, CZE
7. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
8. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
9. Flavia Pennetta, ITA (singles)
10. Mona Barthel, GER
HM- Kai Kanepi, EST

**ITF PLAYERS, Wk.24-27**
1. Urszula Radwanska, POL
2. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
3. Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
4. Ashleigh Barty, AUS
5. Johanna Larsson, SWE
6. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, ESP
7. Anna-Lena Friedsam, GER
8. Ana Savic, CRO
9. Alexandra Krunic, SRB
10. Nadiya Kichenok, UKR
HM- Ysaline Bonaventure, BEL

"Today I laid a golden egg." - Yaroslava Shvedova, after winning every point in a set against Sara Errani at Wimbledon

[At Your Service]
Serena Williams wins her fifth Wimbledon title, setting records for aces in a match (24... in TWO sets) and a slam (102... more than any male player in the tournament)
[From the Brink, Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4]
At Eastbourne, Tamira Paszek charged back from a 6-4/4-0 deficit against Marion Bartoli in the semifinals, then overcame the 5-3, 40/love 3rd set lead of Angelique Kerber in the final, saving five match points to win the title. Her heroics carried over to Wimbledon, as her QF run included saving two match points against Caroline Wozniacki in the 1st Round and surviving Yania Wickmayer serving for the match in the 3rd Round.
[Shvedova 24, Errani 0]
In her 3rd Round match at Wimbledon against Sara Errani, Yaroslava Shvedova swept the 1st set -- 24 points to zero -- to claim a "Golden Set." She's the first woman to ever do it, and only the second (after Bill Scanlon in 1983) in WTA/ATP Open era history.
[Junior ]
Eugenie Bouchard sweeps the singles and doubles Girls at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian junior slam winner

"I believe I can win Wimbledon." - Caroline Wozniacki, at the start of the grass court season

Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Tamira Paszek def. Caroline Wozniacki
After come-from-behind wins in Eastbourne over the world #9 and #8, Paszek came to London and did it again to the world #7. After failing to convert five set points of her own in the 1st, Paszek saved two match points in the 2nd, then outlasted the Dane in a 3:12 match. After saying she could win Wimbledon, Wozniacki suffered her earliest slam loss since her '07 debut season, and finished the grass court season with a 0-2 record.
Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Serena Williams def. Zheng Jie 6-7/6-2/9-7
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Serena Williams def. Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1/2-6/7-5
sometimes there's a fine line between brilliance and disaster on a tennis court. When it comes to Serena Williams, successfully walking that tightrope usually results in a grand slam singles title. Six of Serena's previous thirteen major wins came in slams which included matches in which she either came back from match point, a huge deficit or saw her opponent serve for the match. Thanks to a serve that colored over all her game's early cracks at SW19, Williams never allowed herself to quite fall into such a potentially-dire situation en route to slam win #14, but, in the heat of battle during both these matches, there was surely just as much chance that she'd lose to either Zheng or Shvedova as she would defeat them. History sometimes turns on a dime... and Serena is the WTA's longtime treasurer of precious currency.

[Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice...]
Wimbledon QF - Angelique Kerber def. Sabine Lisicki
Less than two weeks after failing to convert five match points in the Eastbourne final, Kerber failed on three attempts in the 2nd to put away a straight sets win over countrywoman Lisicki. Fighting herself and her memory of what could be again, Kerber twice lost break advantages in the 3rd set. But, with Lisicki serving for the match at 5-3, Kerber broke her and never looked back. After blowing the 5 MP in Eastbourne, Kerber put this match away at Wimbledon on MP #5.

[Killing Two Poles with One Serve]
Wimbledon Final - Serena Williams def. Agnieszka Radwanska
A point from a 6-1/5-3 lead, Serena saw The Radwanska swoop in to push the final to a 3rd, and get Agnieszka to within a set of the #1 ranking. In the end, though, Serena's serve was too good for either of them to deal with... especially the ace-ace-ace-ace game #5 of the final set.

[And Then There's...]
Bad Gastein Final - Alize Cornet def. Yanina Wickmayer
The Pastry's quiet '12 resurgence became a little louder in Austria... or as loud as it could be in a clay event crazily scheduled smack dab in the middle of grass court season could be. It was Cornet's first title in four years.

Birmingham 2nd Rd. - Jelena Jankovic def. Melanie South
After floundering following her Fed Cup SF heroics, JJ let her Queen Chaos flag fly again in Edgbaston. In her first match, she fought off two set points in the 2nd while taking a break (and running into the backcourt) as she was chased around the court by a bee. In her next match, she got a walkover. Then, after a series of rain-outs, was forced to play two matches on Sunday, then contest the final on a Monday. JJ ultimately lost to Melanie Oudin, as the American kicked her career up a few notches three years after she'd first started her breakout summer in '09 by upsetting Jankovic at Wimbledon. Ah... it was such a delight to have just a little of the lovely "madness" back.

Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Elena Vesnina def. Venus Williams
From the start, Venus just wasn't there. She opened with five straight service faults, and fell behind 5-0 in the 1st. With her noticeable fatigue, listlessness and lethargy, her day-to-day "questionability" due to her Sjogren's disease was put on full display for all to see. Her long trudge back to the locker room was arguably one of the saddest sights ever seen at a tennis tournament, though Williams insisted that she intends to return to SW19 for more than just this summer's Olympics. Ultimately for Venus, even THIS Wimbledon had a good ending, as she and Serena combined for their thirteenth slam doubles crown.

"I don't have time to be negative. It doesn't feel good." - Venus Williams

Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Mirjana Lucic def. Alexandra Panova
A qualifier-turned-semifinalist all the way back in 1999, Lucic qualified again this year. This win was her first main draw victory at SW19 since 2000, and she followed it up with another win over #9-seeded Marion Bartoli to reach the 3rd Round.
's-Hertogenbosch 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone def. Irina-Camelia Begu
Down 6-0 in the 3rd set tie-break, Schiavone won six straight points to save five MP, then staved off two more later in the TB. She ultimately won 10-8, showing that, after a mostly-lackluster season, there's still some drama left inside the Italian's heart, after all.
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Petra Kvitova def. Francesca Schiavone
Kvitova was 0-for-10 in break point attempts in the 1st, and was down a break in the 2nd set. But after a rain delay at 4-4, and a mini-sit in from Schiavone over the court conditions, Kvitova returned to win nine of the last eleven games.

**By the Numbers...**
1... number of career tour singles finals reached by Urszula Radwanska after her runner-up result in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
1 (again)... number of career slam singles finals reached by Agnieszka Radwanska after her runner-up result at Wimbledon. Obviously, there were a lot of melons that unselfishly sacrificed their lives over the past month for the sake of Ula and Aga's careers.
3... number of the Top 3 seeds that lost their first matches at Eastbourne, as #1 A.Radwanska, #2 Kvitova and #3 Wozniacki all lost on the same day
20... age of Birmingham champion Melanie Oudin. Only two younger American women have claimed titles in the last thirteen years: a 17-year old Vania King (2006) and a 19-year old Serena Williams (1999)
24... aces by Serena Williams in her Wimbledon semifinal against Victoria Azarenka, a single match WTA record... she set in a TWO-set match
25 (and 27)... number of consecutive doubles matches won by Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci before their QF loss at Wimbledon (and the active match win streak on clay that the Italian duo carries over into the 3Q)
27... years since a British woman won a match on Centre Court before Heather Watson's 1st Round win over Iveta Benesova at Wimbledon. Watson ended up becoming the first Brit to reach the Ladies' 3rd Round since 2002.
38-2... career doubles match record at Wimbledon of five-time champs Venus & Serena Williams
208... Oudin's ranking when she won her title in Birmingham, making her the fifth-lowest ranked woman to ever win a singles title in tour history
1970... year Prince Charles last visited Wimbledon before he showed up this year. Also in attendence during the fortnight: Prince William, Princess Kate, (royal sister-in-law) Pippa Middleton and (tennis royalty) Andre Agassi & Steffi Graf. Hopefully, it won't be 42-year wait before THEY make a return visit to the All-England Club.

"It was great match and u are better player and person on and off the court than your partner!!!" - Tweet from Elena Vesnina to Lisa Raymond, after the Russian's latest on-court disagreement with Liezel Huber, Raymond's doubles partner, during a Wimbledon QF match

=THE GOOD (if you like drama)=
Elena Vesnina vs. Liezel Huber, coming soon to a doubles court and Twitter account -- and maybe back alley? -- near you

The All-England Club's steadfast reluctance to use its multi-million dollar roof over Centre Court, juxtaposed with the USTA's steadfast reluctance to accept the reality that a roof -- any roof, on any court, not necessarily Ashe Stadium -- is a must since, you know, it tends to rain (a lot) in New York City in late August and early September.

The WTA's desire to eventually use a hand-held on-court device to measure whether or not a player should be penalized when her grunts/shrieks/moans exceed a set decibel level during a point, believing that it will quell the latest it's-the-most-important-issue-in-the-game-although-you've-lived-with-it-just-fine-for-twenty-years-until-ESPN-told-you-that-you-should-be-outraged-at-players-subjecting-you-to-such-so-called-torture "controversy." In the words of Victoria Azarenka, "Good luck with that."

=AND... THE COVERING ALL HER BASES, BUT NOT MUCH OF HERSELF (not that there's anything wrong with that)=
Daniela Hantuchova, following up her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue a few years ago with one in ESPN the Magazine's latest "Body Issue"

"Well, I'm just happy. I'm so happy to be playing. I'm so happy to on the court. I feel like this is where I belong. I mean, maybe I don't belong in a relationship. Maybe I don't belong somewhere else. But I know for a fact I do belong on this court." - Serena Williams, on Centre Court

**2012 Weeks in WTA Rankings - of 28**
[Singles Top 10]
23...Li Na
20...Vera Zvonareva
13...Andrea Petkovic
CAPS- in current Top 10

*Longest Active Streaks*
[Top 10]
165 weeks...Caroline Wozniacki
93 weeks...Victoria Azarenka
67 weeks...Maria Sharapova
62 weeks...Petra Kvitova
48 weeks...Samantha Stosur
40 weeks...Agnieszka Radwanska
39 weeks...Marion Bartoli
14 weeks...Serena Williams
8 weeks...Angelique Kerber
5 weeks...Sara Errani
[Top 20]
266 weeks...Marion Bartoli
230 weeks...Agnieszka Radwanska
218 weeks...Victoria Azarenka
203 weeks...Caroline Wozniacki
161 weeks...Li Na
155 weeks...Samantha Stosur
106 weeks...Vera Zvonareva
92 weeks...Maria Sharapova
76 weeks...Petra Kvitova
67 weeks...Andrea Petkovic
46 weeks...Sabine Lisicki
43 weeks...Serena Williams
39 weeks...Dominika Cibulkova
23 weeks...Ana Ivanovic
21 weeks...Angelique Kerber
12 weeks...Maria Kirilenko
12 weeks...Flavia Pennetta
5 weeks...Sara Errani
5 weeks...Kaia Kanepi
1 weeks...Jelena Jankovic
Note: Jelena Jankovic has ranked in Top 20 302 of last 308 weeks

=UPDATED 2012 "Ms.Backspin" RANKINGS=
[w/ post-2Q.1 rank]
1. Victoria Azarenka (1)...back at #1, and looking more like herself. She's 43-5 on the season.
2. Maria Sharapova (2)...rarely has a rekindled star been "eclipsed" so quickly. She DID win in Paris, right? It wasn't a fantasy?
3. Serena Williams, USA (6)...24-1 since the start of spring, and 34-3 on the season. Last summer, she won 18 straight in North America. Is a SerenaSummer in order yet again?
4. Agnieszka Radwanska (5)...the North American hard court season is where she caught fire LAST year.
5. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (4)...proved on the grass that they they're not just clay courters
6. Angelique Kerber (8) all-surface threat, and maybe the most likely "next first-time slam finalist?"
7. Sara Errani (3) her best on clay, but not to be overlooked elsewhere, either
8. Czech Fed Cup Team (7)...might the upcoming FC final turn out to be a "face-saving" situation for Petra Kvitova's season?
9. Serbian Fed Cup Team (10)...see above, but substitute "Jankovic" for "Kvitova," and "career" for "season"
10. Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond (9)...they're -- or, should I say, Huber is -- not going to win any popularity contests, though
HM- Petra Kvitova (HM)...hanging onto those two slam semifinals, but hoping for a Medal in London to give her SOMETHING to show for her singles efforts

"(I'm) too old. Too old to play the game I want to play physically. I've put my body through enough strain and everything. The whole lifestyle, that's what I'm dealing with now, the lifestyle I've had for the last 15, 20 years. It's been great. I wouldn't change a thing." - the soon-to-retire Kim Clijsters, who'll soon embark on the final stretch of her career this summer

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

In terms of major tournaments, the season seems (at least to me) to be flying by. I'm already wondering who else, besides Kim, is going to announce her retirement from the sport. I think I'm gretting ahead of things.

I thought Daniela was a nice choice for the Body Issue. I hope that, some day, Petkovic gets selected. (I hope that, some day, Petkovic plays tennis.)

Will TJ last the whole season as "coach," I wonder. Wozniacki's best chances are always on hard courts, so it will be interesting to see what she does in the next several weeks. It's also going to be interesting to see what Kerber does, since she doesn't appear to havea "bad" surface.

Sat Jul 14, 11:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

found this really funny from vika on WTA using the noise meter.

“People complain about the noise I make but I can get louder. Maybe I should get to 100. I haven’t had any luck so it may help me put more of myself into my matches.”


Sat Jul 14, 12:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


It has flown by, hasn't it? Only a little more than three months left. And, to think, I bet we wouldn't have even believed ourselves if we'd traveled back in time from today to January and let us in on the fact that by this time of the year neither Kvitova nor Wozniacki would have won a title, and Petra wouldn't even have reached her first final! And, yet, it's been a great, very well-played season.

A bit off topic, but I know that Bravo is supposed to be the network carrying NBC's official coverage of Olympic tennis. I guess most matches will be available online since NBC is showing most everything live there during the Games, but I wonder how much is actually going to air on Bravo? Especially with it being at Wimbledon, it really should be covered like a mini-slam, but I bet they only show about one match a day, then everything from the SF to the Medal matches.

Petkovic would actually be a really good choice for that, maybe even more so than Hantuchova at this point in their careers. She'd probably be willing, and she's a different body type than DH (who's more model-thin), and could strike a more athletic pose -- i.e. how they pose many of the men -- than the thin, more model-like Hantuchova does in her shots (both in the main photo and on her version of the cover).


It's great how she isn't afraid to twist the knife. :)

Sat Jul 14, 01:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Petkovic is--or at least, was--in fantastic shape for any sport. And what fun she'd have posing! I have a soft spot for Hantuchova, though, so I was glad to see her included. Nice photos.

Jo--thank you so much for that. Vika is my hero.

Sat Jul 14, 09:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Oh, I forgot--Olympic coverage. I have no idea what's going to happen. I'm expecting the worst, though.

Sat Jul 14, 09:44:00 PM EDT  

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