Tag Archives: sport

Wimbledon: Ladies’ quarter-finals day

28 Jun

Manic Monday has come-and-gone, and with both Williams’s and Caroline Wozniacki being losers on the day, the ladies’ quarter-final line-up at Wimbledon is quite different from what is was expected to be just 24 hours ago. Only three of the players seeded to reach to the quarters did so successfully, with the fourth seed, Victoria Azarenka, fifth seed Maria Sharapova and eighth seed, Petra Kvitova all moving through with relative ease.

Sabine Lisicki, who gained entry into Wimbledon 2011 by virtue of a wildcard, has been playing some excellent tennis on the grass which she seems to favour. Tsvetana Pironkova seems to only be capable of hitting the ball well on grass, with her performance outside of the grass court season being quite dismal for a Wimbledon semi-finalist. Ninth seed, Marion Bartoli is now 9 and 0 for the grass court season; she was touted as a dark horse for the title prior to the tournament starting by many who dabble in the precarious business of predicting winners. She has lived up to this billing, and has been impressive throughout Wimbledon. The other players through to the quarters are Dominika Cibulkova, who took out seeded players Julia Goerges and Caroline Wozniacki in consecutive matches and the Austrian player, Tamira Paszek.

 Quarter-Final 1: Dominika Cibulkova vs. Maria Sharapova

The form player versus the only grand slam champion remaining in the draw. Both these ladies are very capable of hitting the ball at great pace. The match will largely be on Sharapova’s racket. Her ability to hit first serves would greatly favour her to win, whereas if her dimunitive opponent got the opportunity to step in on many second serves, the unseeded player could yet extend her run. Sharapova will however be very motivated to win and is thus likely to maintain her favourite status with a victory over the battle ravaged Cibulkova who has played (and won) several tough three set matches at the Championships in the past week.

 The winner: Sharapova in three.

 Quarter-Final 2: Sabine Lisicki vs. Marion Bartoli

 Both ladies are brilliant tennis players, particularly on grass courts it seems. I expect this match to be a high quality affair with some great ball hitting if the conditions favour it. If the ball hitting is less than excellent, Bartoli’s Ninja style of play will serve to stimulate your mind and entertain. Either lady is likely to have chances to win this match; it ought to be decided by whoever’s resolve is greatest.

 The winner: Bartoli in three.

 Quarter-Final 3: Victoria Azarenka vs. Tamira Paszek.

 Paszek’s progress at Wimbledon has gone largely unnoticed with her yet to play a match on either of the four show courts at Wimbledon. Her most impressive result has undoubtedly been the three set win which she scored over former French Open winner, Francesca Schiavone. She has made the 4th round at Wimbledon before, demonstrating that she is quite comfortable on the grass at Wimbledon. Her opponent today will be hoping to reverse her fortune in grand slam quarter-finals with the conversion of her fifth quarter-final appearance into her first semi-final. While the young 20-year old Paszek will be determined to give Azarenka a go, I expect the Belarusian to seize the opportunity before her. Her straight sets route of Nadia Petrova was incredibly impressive, and I expect her to continue her Wimbledon run.

 The winner: Victoria Azarenka in straights.

Quarter-Final 4: Petra Kvitova vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

 Kvitova has been Brad Gilbert’s favourite for the title since the start of the tournament, and she certainly has been playing some brutal tennis winning every match in straight sets thus far. She will be up against a player who seems incredibly relaxed and at home at Wimbledon. Pironkova was quite calm after beating Venus Williams for the second straight year yesterday. In addition to her win over the five-time champion, she was also the victor over last year’s finalist and number two seed, Vera Zvonareva. Clearly the Bulgarian is in form with her losing no more than five games in every match she has contested. Kvitova’s play has however been as devastating. This ought to a very competitive match decided by whose rich vein of form continues.

 The winner: Petra Kvitova in three.

Hopefully the matches that I have indicated as three-setters will live up to their billing, and will we see some great tennis at Wimbledon on the second Tuesday. Be sure to come back later to tease me about the prediction blunders I made.

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The Top 10: Wimbledon (Part 1)

28 Jun

The first week of Wimbledon has come and gone, as have 120 tennis players from both the men’s and women’s draws. With the completion of the “best day of tennis”, the fourth round matches which are traditionally all played on the second Monday of the tournament, Wimbledon is officially more than half way with the remaining eight players each having won four matches, and with the eventual champion only requiring three more match wins. It seems fairly apt to evaluate all the highs and lows and drama which only Wimbledon and the British can bring to tennis. While the commentary at Wimbledon has been the source of innumerable complaints, it does not quite make the top 10 despite the best or is it worst efforts of particularly Boris Becker, Andrew Castle and Dick Enberg – who with his by now infamous Freudian slip during the championships – are bearing the brunt of criticism from tennis fans.

Everything you can do…

 The revival of the so-called hot dog shot is another which has been quite prominent but is not quite worthy of making the list. Andy Murray seems to have been practising the shot and intentionally making use of it during matches. While it has the ability to make a player’s talent seem exceptional, I quote Andy Murray when I say missing this shot, has the ability to make a full-grown man seem like a bit of a “plonker”. Intentionally playing the hot dog shot is however somewhat of a questionable deed which, while amusing to the crowd, perhaps primarily serves to embarrass an opponent. Not a very honourable play at all. In addition to Murray who according to reports has played the shot twice in the last week, Roger Federer has also contributed to the fame and popularity of the shot this week – hitting it against his 4th round opponent Mikhail Youzhny.

All grown up

The final mention prior to the start of the top 10 is the doubles pairing of Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis in the Ladies Invitational event. They played together at the French Open too. It is quite interesting to view the evolution of their rivalry. While theirs was never famed for being particularly abrasive, they were two of the top players in the world during periods in which the rivalry and unfriendliness in women’s tennis likely peaked. Incidents such as Hingis and Anna Kournikova throwing vases and trophies at each other were well chronicled in publications of the late 90’s and early in the millennium. I remember reading Jon L. Wertheim’s Venus Envy and thinking that the tennis world is completely bizarrely. It is quite strange to associate that tumultuous era in women’s tennis with the Hingis-smile of recent years, and Davenport (whose commentary I by the way like) who always seems quite stiff and beyond reproach. The idea that these two women are playing doubles is not only somewhat frightening (Hingis’ touch and Davenport’s everything else – I’d take tickets for the outside court on which they’re playing…) but quite a contrast to the relationships which were rumoured to be the norm among the players of their now bygone era. The friendship and camaraderie – real or not – among the younger women’s players is quite a welcome respite too.

#Deliciano, #Wimbledon and #TeamWhoever

 On to the official list, at number ten is the presence of Twitter in tennis. Several of the top players use the social media as a platform to directly communicate to fans of the sport. In addition, several former players with unique perspectives on professional tennis, and some of the top coaches in the world, regularly share their thoughts with anyone interested to enough to read. To more dedicated tennis fans, Twitter has become a go-to for solid information and conversation about tennis. Finally Twitter was the forum in which Judy Murray publically called Feliciano Lopez Deliciano. Like him or not – saying Deliciano is a lot of fun.

 The opportunity which Twitter gives to players with great personalities to connect with fans is a great thing too. Andrea Petkovic’s meteoric rise in the rankings has been closely followed by a rise in her online presence. Petko makes use of video, photos and regular Twitter updates to engage the audience in a manner which will yet become invaluable to the sport.

The Royal Box

 Ranking at number nine is the celebrity haunt which Wimbledon has become. While Manic Monday has seen a number of prolific spectators including Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and his wife, Kate Middleton, the Duchess, in addition to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the entire tournament is a bit of a show ground for A-and D-listers alike. Essentially every era of tennis is represented en masse at Wimbledon by the presence of virtually every major winner of the last 30 years at the Championships. No doubt the photos of the glamorous and famous visiting Wimbledon in the daily newspapers serve the tournament’s image of exclusivity well.

Holding court

 Following the renovations to Centre Court, which includes a retractable roof, barely a drop of rain fell during Wimbledon 2010. 2011 has been quite a different tournament in that regard with the roof getting plenty of use in the first week. The result: Uninterrupted tennis broadcasts. A definite thumbs-up for the alterations to the main show court at Wimbledon and thus ranking at number eight on the list of the Wimbledon Top 10.

Epic

Only four out of the 56 matches played in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round of play in the men’s draw, went to five sets. The Championships’ men’s draw has thus far have been quite devoid of any major drama, or really even particularly competitive matches. I suddenly find myself far more eager to watch women’s tennis. The women’s draw has had several match-ups which rank as being not only competitive but also entertaining. This gem of a statistic ranks at number seven and unfortunately proves that men’s tennis is not consistently brilliant and exciting. Fortunately we can look forward to the semis and the finals which should markedly improve from the not-much-happening men’s tennis of the last few rounds.

Rage vs. Laughter

 At number six is the amusement which ill-tempered players have provided in the first week at Wimbledon. Possibly the incident capable of inducing the most laughter was the insistence of Marion Bartoli that her parents leave the court following her loss of the first set against the Italian player, Flavia Pennetta. She went so far as to gesture to the security officials that she would like them removed. According to what I hear, they left the court without an escort and she apologized shortly after the match. Another player to unintentionally entertain through anger is the young German, Julia Goerges; she had an altercation with an umpire, and proceeded to not only lament the umpire’s involvement in overruling a linesman on set point, but also finished her rant off by scolding the official for the incorrect pronouncing of her surname. The umpire called her “Gorgeous” whenever she called the score, as opposed to Gur-ges.

 The final rage turned funny, is the incident involving Alex Bogomolov Jr., a US player. In anger he slammed his racket into the ground with such force that it bounced right back up and over the fence which encloses the court, with the racquet irretrievably disappearing.

Part 2 will be online soon, in the meanwhile – who is your pick to win Wimbledon?

Analysis Of Women’s Draw At Roland Garros 2.0

27 May

This seems to be the grand slam of upsets, particularly on the women’s side the so-called title contenders been losing early at an alarming rate. As most tennis fans will know, today took this trend to new heights; top seed, Caroline Wozniacki and defending finalist, Sam Stosur are out of the Paris tournament after losing to non top 10 players, Daniela Hantuchova and Gisela Dulko respectively. These losses and the several other seeds that have already lost has led to this genuinely being the most open grand slam I have ever followed. Since the draw has opened up in a manner which I (and most others I’m sure) failed to predict, I figured a re-analysis of the women’s draw is in order.

Quarter Final 1: Sam Stosur vs Caro Wozniacki

This quarter will go according to the seedings. While Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most likely player to prevent this quarter final from happening, I reckon the odds are in favour of Wozniacki reaching the semi’s by virtue of beating Stosur in the quarter’s.

Clearly my earlier prediction for the first quarter will not be realized. Switching on the TV to find Caroline Wozniacki a set down initially surprised me quite a bit; once I thought about it for 30 seconds I realized that the signs that Wozniacki was cracking under the extreme pressure she is under had already begun to show the previous round, by her resorting to minor gamesmanship to throw her opponent off. In addition Daniela Hantuchova is consistently a tough competitor and has plenty of experience whereas Wozniacki is trying to prove to everyone that she is capable of a grand slam win. As soon as the match started she was behind score wise; she came across as unsure, and utterly incapable of turning the match around. Knowing that she would have to face a barrage of question about the validity of her number 1 ranking the minute she came off court, couldn’t have helped either.

Stosur lost today due to a slightly lacklustre performance, contrasted by an exceptionally high energy display by her opponent, Gisela Dulko. Dulko held up a banner after the match dedicating her win to her twin nephews/nieces; (genders?) clearly she was out here to win today. Stosur just wasn’t. While I didn’t make mention of her in my previous article, I expected Julia Georges to do better than she has, particularly considering her form in the clay swing in the lead up to the French. Svetlana Kuznetsova is now a good bet to reach the semi-final, she ought to beat both Daniela Hantuchova and Marion Bartoli, who I think will progress over Gisela Dulko in the fourth round.

Quarter Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

In this quarter, an interesting 3rd round encounter between Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova looms. A few years ago, Petrova was my favourite to win the French Open. While she doesn’t have the form or consistency, her clay court pedigree is still notable. I don’t think either of them will make the quarter final though. Pavlyuchenkova is capable of beating both, and overdue on a good run at a major. I don’t think anyone in Jankovic’s 1/8 will bother her too much.

In this bracket of the draw my quarter final prediction still has a hope of surviving. Both Pavlyuchenkova and Jankovic have made quiet but convincing progress through the draw, in order to make it to the quarters they will have to go through a very capable clay court players in Francesca Schiavone and Vera Zvonareva. I stick with my assessment that Pavlyuchenkova (copy-and-paste) is overdue on a good run at a major, and expect her to overcome number three seed  Zvonareva. Schiavone versus Jankovic is bound to be a slugfest of note between two players brilliantly suited to clay. Do note that I was completely off about Petrova putting in a successful run – she bowed out in the first round to Anastasia Rodionova.

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Ana Ivanovic

Kwitova has quite a difficult section of the draw to get through. The little Chinese Zheng Jie in the 2nd, Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd and either Na Li or Sorana Cirstea in the 4th, it won’t be easy. I think she has the self belief to do it however. In the other section, the smart money would be on Victoria Azarenka getting through. Maybe I am just too much of an Ana Ivanovic fan, or maybe I’m right when I say Ivanovic will beat Azarenka, via her superior experience and Azarenka’s inconsistency, but my money is on Ivanovic making it through this part of the draw.

This 3rd round matches on this side of the draw (Quarter Final 3 and 4) have not yet been played, and considering the upsets of today’s 3rd round matches I think I am taking quite a risk by attempting to predict how it will play out but nevertheless… A major error in judgement was made by me, assuming that Ivanovic would come even close to reliving her French Open glory of the past. I still think Kwitova will make it through to the quarters, but I think Azarenka, who has been in spectacular form will progress to the semis from this part of the bracket. I am particularly curious about this section of the draw, I think it might just contain the eventual winner.

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Kim Clijsters

Simply no one in this quarter can challenge these two veterans for skill or experience.

So apparently they can be challenged, Sharapova despite her upset scare in the previous round ought to progress to the quarter finals. With Clijsters out Sharapova’s opponent is likely to be the creator of the Petkorazzi dance, Andrea Petkovic. Before the quarter final I look forward to the likely clash between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova in the 4th round. In the same round it seems likely that Petkovic will come up against the well liked Maria Kirilenko. Both these matches ought to be won by the players I indicated, but not before their lower ranked opponents provide them with a substantial and likely good to watch challenge.

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic

So to recap my new-and-improved quarter final predictions are – Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic.

Semi Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic

Predicting this half has been incredibly difficult. I think the players are on a very even keel, and although this makes it difficult to predict, it does mean that the matches will be tightly competed which is likely to lead to a few excellent matches. As already mentioned I think Kuznetsova should proceed to the semi over the less experienced Bartoli. She has won her matches in the tournament thus far quite convincingly, in she were to continue in that vein, she has the opportunity to progress easily through the much weakened draw. Jankovic too has been in good form and can capitalise on being in an easy section. On their form during the clay court season, I would have to pick Jankovic as the finalist from this half of the draw.

Semi Final 2: Victoria Azarenka vs Maria Sharapova

Azarenka has been the only top ranked player to be in even semi decent form thus far at Roland Garros. In the previous round, she annihilated her French opponent, Pauline Parmentier. As such, she ought to come through an encounter with yet another young gun, Petra Kwitova. In the semi final she she should come up against by now tour veteran, Sharapova. With her experience and absolute steely mentality she should make the semi finals. It would take one heck of a performance by Azarenka to beat Sharapova in the semi final,  this has all the potential to be the best match of the women’s draw in 2011. Women’s tennis desperately needs Azarenka to win the tournament, to prevent the WTA rankings from losing the last bit of credibility which remains after Wozniacki’s loss today. However the experience and motivation of Sharapova will in all likelihood be the winner.

Final: Jelena Jankovic vs Maria Sharapova

Sharapova’s superior shot making ability and yet again her experience and self belief ought to give her the edge over Jankovic. Watch for the “cow on ice” to complete her career grand slam at the end of the fortnight.

Again, please comment with your own picks, and share on twitter, facebook or stumbleupon if you like the blog entry. Vote for your winner in the poll below. Note that I’ve only included the top 5 ranked players remaining in the draw.

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