Serena Williams Steamrolls the Competition

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Serena Williams has been playing some of the best tennis of her career over the last three months. Williams won Wimbledon in July and a few weeks later won the gold medal in Women’s Singles at the 2012 London Olympics. She also added Women’s Double’s gold with her older sister Venus. Next up for Serena was the US Open.

Through the first four rounds of the 2012 US Open, Williams has defeated Coco Vandeweghe, 6-1, 6-1, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-2, 6-4, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4, 6-0, and Andrea Hlavackova, 6-0, 6-0. Serena has won an incredible 20 straight games, and is the favorite going into the round of eight.

When asked what her play through the first four rounds means, Serena responded “it says I’m focused.” Serena, always critical of her game, said “I feel like today I am getting more comfortable with the court and comfortable with the conditions…I like to play better during the second week.” Fitting, because the best players are the only ones playing in the second week and Serena is not only one of the best of this era, but of all time.

Not everything has gone perfect for Serena, as she and older sister Venus were defeated Monday night in Doubles by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Venus also lost in the second round to Angelique Kerber in front of a boisterous crowd that included actress Vivica Fox. With the singles and doubles losses, Venus Williams is now done for the 2012 US Open, but don’t be surprised if she hangs around to see her younger sister play.

Serena, who is 30-years old, and Sloane Stephens, 19, who has been compared to Serena on the court, have forged a friendship recently that is somewhat of a mentor/mentee relationship. But you would be surprised at who plays what role. “I think she’s more my mentor than anything,” Williams said in an interview after her win over Vandeweghe in the first round. Serena had some more compliments of Stephens on and off the court. “I think she’s an amazing player. She’s playing so smooth. She looks like she gives no effort when she plays.”

Serena continued to talk about Sloane’s on-court performance, adding “I hope I can teach her some things, and hopefully she’s able to do it. I think that we can kind of feed off each other. She can teach me some things, maybe how to be calm on the court.”

Off the court, Serena had even more praise. “I think she’s a great person. She’s always encouraging me not to be single,” Serena said with a smile. Williams was later asked if she thinks Sloane has the potential to be the next superstar on and off the tennis court. “I think she has a great smile, a beautiful face. I think she has such a wonderful personality and attitude. So yeah, I think it’s totally possible.”

Earlier in the day, after her first-round, upset win over Francesca Schiavone, Stephens was asked some questions about Serena as well. “We’re really good friends. We just have a really good relationship. I felt like I knew her in a past life or something, I don’t know. It’s so strange” Sloane said.

One thing that makes Serena Williams so great is her confidence. When asked if she believes in her heart if she is the best player in the game, she responded “Of course I believe that. I think there are a number of players on this tour, a few players who believe that. I don’t think we would be playing if we didn’t believe that.”

Perhaps some of Serena’s confidence has rubbed off on Sloane. When asked if Sloane Stephens will be to be the next superstar in tennis, she simply, and confidently, replied “She is.” With a winning smile, a great personality and confidence to match, many are hoping that Sloane Stephens is the next superstar in the tennis world, and with a mentor like Serena Williams, she is well on her way.

Serena Williams will face Ana Ivanovic Wednesday (rain permitting) for a chance to go to the semifinals of the US Open Wednesday. Ivanovic defeated Stephens in the third round for the second year in a row, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, and Stephens will definitely be cheering her mentor on.

Seoul (Thurs): Date Krumm Dispatches Pavlyuchenkova

HANSOL KOREA OPEN
Seoul-KOR
September 20-26, 2010
$220,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Thursday, September 23, 2010
Singles – Second Round
(1) Nadia Petrova (RUS) d. Vania King (USA) 63 64
Kimiko Date Krumm (JPN) d. (2) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 62 61
(WC) Dinara Safina (RUS) d. (3) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 62 63
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. (4) María José Martínez Sánchez (ESP) 64 75
(5) Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) d. Ksenia Pervak (RUS) 67(13) 61 62
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) d. (6) Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 64 61
(8) Agnes Szavay (HUN) d. Elena Baltacha (GBR) 63 75
Klara Zakopalova (CZE) d. Vera Dushevina (RUS) 64 76(5)

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Date Krumm/Morita (JPN/JPN) d. (1) King/Shvedova (USA/KAZ) 75 16 119 (Match TB)
(4) Grandin/Uhlirova (RSA/CZE) d. Chang/Lee (KOR/KOR) 76(6) 62

Doubles – First Round
Jans/Peers (POL/AUS) d. (2) Llagostera Vives/Martínez Sánchez (ESP/ESP) 63 61
Brianti/Gallovits (ITA/ROU) d. Groth/Zakopalova (AUS/CZE) 64 64
(WC) Kim/Lee (KOR/KOR) d. Sun/Zhang (CHN/CHN) 64 67(4) 108 (Match TB)

Order of Play – Friday, September 24, 2010
Centre Court (from 12.00hrs)
1. Nadia Petrova vs. Kirsten Flipkens
2. Agnes Szavay vs. Kimiko Date Krumm (NB 13.30hrs)
3. Dinara Safina vs. Klara Zakopalova
4. Date Krumm/Morita vs. Grandin/Uhlirova
5. Kim/Lee vs. Jans/Peers (NB 18.30hrs)

Court 2 (from 13.00hrs)
1. Alisa Kleybanova vs. Ekaterina Makarova
2. Brianti/Gallovits vs. Goerges/Hercog (NB 15.00hrs)

WTA Results – 9/10/10

US OPEN

New York, NY-USA

August 30-September 12, 2010

$22,668,000/Grand Slam

Hard/Outdoors

Friday, September 10, 2010

Singles – Semifinals

(7) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) d. (1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 64 63

(2) Kim Clijsters (BEL) d. (3) Venus Williams (USA) 46 76(2) 64

Doubles – Semifinals

(2) Huber/Petrova (USA/RUs) d. (7) Chan/Zheng (TPE/CHN) 63 62

No Oudin Run In 2010

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Melanie Oudin turned her back to the court, faced the blue back wall and stared at her Wilson racquet as if searching the strings for solutions to the problems posed by Alona Bondarenko. Oudin mastered the art of the comeback during her rousing run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals, but the resignation on her face in the final game today revealed a woman well aware Cinderella stories only come once in a career.

This time, the ferocious forehand was weighted with worry, the “courage” emblazoned on her shoes contrasted with the concern on her face and the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium waited for a moment that never came.

The 29th-seeded Bondarenko ran off 10 consecutive points to send Oudin out of the US Open second round, 6-2, 7-5.

Oudin conceded she felt a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.

“I think the nerves got the best of me today a little bit, especially in the first set,” Oudin said.  “Second set I started playing a lot better, making the points a little bit longer. But, yeah, the first set definitely like the crowd was like really, really loud.  It was just like a lot. The second I got out there, I guess it kind of overwhelmed me a little bit, so.”

On match point, Oudin pushed a running backhand down the line wide, looked down with vacant eyes then walked to the net to shake hands as the crowd, which was nearly mute during the final two games, offered appreciative applause.

The 18-year-old Oudin, who made “believe” her personal mantra in etching the word on her adidas in playing with resolve and resilience at the ’09 Open, snapped a four-match losing streak in her first-round win over 143rd-ranked qualifier Olga Savchuk. But she has not beaten a top-30 ranked opponent since scoring three consecutive comeback wins over Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova at the Open last year and could not hold off the 33rd-ranked Bondarenko today.

A nervous Oudin could not find her first serve at 5-all in the second set. She slapped her forehand into the net, netted a backhand down the line and missed another forehand before lofting a running lob long to drop serve at love.

Oudin won just eight of 25 points played on her second serve. Unable to break Bondarenko down in baseline rallies, Oudin began to play closer to the lines.

“I mean, it’s tough coming back, especially after like the US Open I had last year, coming back and expecting to do that well again,” Oudin said. “And, yes, the expectations for me I think from like the fans were extremely high.  You could tell by the crowd.  Even the second I walked out there, people like expected me to win again like last year.”

Tennis is all about adjustments and opponents have learned that Oudin thrives off pace, particularly to her forehand. She has worked with coach Brian de Villiers to move forward in the court on her terms, but at 5-feet-6 Oudin does not have a lot of sting on her serve and her reach can be exposed when opponents draw her into net with short slices.

Oudin is at her best when she’s running around her backhand and hammering her favored forehand, but Bondarenko refused to let Oudin find her comfort zone in the final stages of the match.

The match showed Oudin’s game is still very much a work in progress and she views every match as another credit course on the learning curve that is the pro circuit.

Five minutes after her post-match press conference concluded, a relieved Oudin was on the receiving end of a hug from her younger brother as they walked down the hallway inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I guess I’m a little tiny bit relieved now,” Ouudin said. “I can kind of start over, I guess like start over from all the expectations from like last year.  And now I can just go out and hopefully do really well the rest of the year and keep working hard.”

Her US Open dream may be over for this year, but Oudin is still part of the tournament, playing mixed doubles with Ryan Harrison.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Clijsters Confident As The Open Approaches

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – New York Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey had a gem of a game Friday night, throwing eight scoreless innings, but none of the pitches he threw were a good looking as the first one of the game.

You see, US Open defending champion Kim Clijsters toed the rubber to throw out the first pitch. With the Open starting Monday, what better way to celebrate the one of the biggest sporting events in the United States than to tie it in to the National Pastime.

Yet, you can forgive Clijsters for throwing it high and outside, as she is new to the game.

“It was fun,” she said, adding that her husband Brian Lynch is a big baseball fan. “I’m not saying I’ll sit there for hours and watch the whole game, but obviously once in a while I’ll watch the highlights on the website or whatever. I watch some highlights.”

Fun, sure, but that ended Friday. Now she has a title to defend.

“My attitude isn’t any different compared to last year,” Clijsters said. “Obviously last year had probably a few more unanswered questions but this year I know what I have to do if I want to try and do as well as I did last year.”

She won her 38th Tour singles title earlier this month in Cincinnati and now will be looking for her third US Open title, also taking the 2005 championship. A win will in Flushing Meadows will give her a fourth championship in 2010 with titles in Brisbane in January, and Miami in March.

Yet, she lost to Nadia Petrova during the third round of the Australian Open, and was forced to withdraw from Roland Garros with a foot injury. She had a Grand Slam comeback at Wimbledon reaching the Quarterfinals, yet lost in three sets to Vera Zvonareva.

But Flushing is home for the Belgian. It’s not only the site of her two Grand Slam wins; her husband is from New Jersey, where the couple maintains a home with their two year-old daughter Jada Ellie.

And as she returned to Flushing Meadows, the memories of 2009 came right back to her.

“You relive the details a little more, the things you forgot faster than the title and the celebration,” Clijsters said. “It’s the little things when you come back you pick up a little more. They make it nice.”

And this year, the second seed is considered one of the favorites by many, especially since Serena Williams is out with a foot injury.

“Obviously there are a lot of other players who have as big a chance as anybody to win this year,” Clijsters said. “It’s a very interesting US Open this year.”

Indeed. Williams’ sister Venus is ranked No. 3 with Pilot Pen winner, and last year’s runner-up Caroline Wozniacki holding the top spot.

“She is a great player,” Clijsters said of Wozniacki. “You don’t get there by luck. She definitely deserves to be up there.”

So it’s going to be a tough fight. But if Clijsters is able to defend her title, she will definitely cap off a banner year and who knows, maybe the Mets will bring her back, this time to take some batting practice.

Wozniacki Wins The Pilot Pen

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 2010 STADIUM start [1] C Wozniacki (DEN) d [8] [WC] N Petrova (RUS) 63 36 63 – WTA SINGLES FINAL

Not Before 2:30 PM
R Lindstedt (SWE) / H Tecau (ROU) d R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)
64 75 – ATP DOUBLES FINAL

Starting at 7:00 PM
[9] S Stakhovsky (UKR) d [15] D Istomin (UZB) 36 63 64 – ATP SINGLES FINAL [1] K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d B Mattek-Sands (USA) / M Shaughnessy (USA) 75 60 – WTA DOUBLES FINAL

Pilot Pen Results – Aug 27th

RESULTS – AUGUST 27, 2010
Men’s
Singles – Semifinals
[9] S Stakhovsky (UKR) d [12] T de Bakker (NED) 63 64 [15] D Istomin (UZB) d [10] V Troicki (SRB) 76(10) 36 62

Men’s
Doubles – Semifinals
R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK) d [2] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) 64 64 R Lindstedt (SWE) / H Tecau (ROU) d J Knowle (AUT) / A Ram (ISR) 64 63

Women’s
Singles – Semifinals
[1] C Wozniacki (DEN) d [4] [WC] E Dementieva (RUS) 16 63 76(5) [8] [WC] N Petrova (RUS) d M Kirilenko (RUS) 26 62 62

Women’s
Doubles – Semifinals
[1] K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / Z Yan (CHN) 76(4) 57 10-6 B Mattek-Sands (USA) / M Shaughnessy (USA) d S Hsieh (TPE) / S Peng (CHN) 75 61

ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 2010 STADIUM start [1] C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [8] [WC] N Petrova (RUS) – WTA SINGLES FINAL

Not Before 2:30 PM
R Lindstedt (SWE) / H Tecau (ROU) vs R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)
– ATP DOUBLES FINAL

Starting at 7:00 PM
[9] S Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [15] D Istomin (UZB) – ATP SINGLES FINAL [1] K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs B Mattek-Sands (USA) / M Shaughnessy (USA) – WTA DOUBLES FINAL

Czink Wins Bell Challenge

The Bell Challenge has a new champion as Melinda Czink took the tournament for the first time on Sunday, as she beat Lucie Safarova, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Although Safarova took the first set, the Hungarian hung tough and then broke the Russian in the fourth game of the second set to tie the match. She then traded breaks with her opponent in the third and tightest set to take the championship.

“It feels great. I haven’t really processed it yet but I will,” Czink said. “I went match by match this week. This was the toughest match this week. I had to take some risks on her serve today – sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. We really pushed each other, and I’m happy I could come out the winner.”

“We both played a good match. I think it just came down to a few balls and she did it better,” Safarova said. “The whole week I was trying to be very aggressive and move forward, but she did the same today and I had trouble dealing with it. I didn’t feel I did anything wrong today. It could have gone either way.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better!”

This was Czink’s first final of the Tour and she beat the higher seeds in Quebec this week to win, including Nadia Petrova and Aleksandra Wozniak in the proceeding two rounds.

Petrova Out, Wozniak to the Semis

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec – They are now down to the final four up in Canada.

The big story is top seed Nadia Petrova retiring before the second set due to an illness, meaning fifth seed Melinda Czink advances after a 7-6 (4) first set.

Czink will be taking on Aleksandra Wozniak. The Quebec native beat Alla Kudryavtseva in a 6-1, 6-1 route. Czink has beaten Wozniak in all three of their previous meetings. Their only WTA meeting came earlier this year on grass in Birmingham, with the Hungarian edging the Canadian in about as tight a three-setter as you can get, 67(7) 75 75.

In the other semifinal, Lucie Safarova and Julia Goerges both advanced. Safarova beat wildcard and last year’s finalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-3, 6-4, while Goerges had a 6-2, 6-4 win over Lilia Osterloh.

The two women have never faced off before, but will now meet in the semis Safarova is aiming for her seventh WTA final (she is 4-2 in the first six). Goerges has never been to a singles final on the tour; this is her third career semifinal, going 0-2 so far.

The semifinals will take place later today with the finals going on Sunday.

America’s Sweetheart Goes to the Quarters

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Melanie Oudin has done such a good job knocking off Russians this US Open, Ronald Reagan could have used her during the Cold War.

And once again, there was Oudin coming from behind to win. First, there Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and then Elena Dementieva left the open early, After that, Maria Sharapova double faulting her way to defeat. This time it was Nadia Petrova and she knocked off the No. 13 seed, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all,” said the 17 year-old from Georgia.  “So they’re going to have to [give it their all] if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

Much like the last three Russian titans she defeated, Oudin had to come back in this match. It was almost as if she raises it up a level as her back is against the wall. After dropping the first set, 1-6, she fought back with the match on the line.

And in the second set, she was down a break, 4-3 when she brought the set back to serve, forcing her Russian opponent back on her heels.

“I don’t actually mean to lose the first set,” she laughed.  “I sometimes just start off slowly, I guess. Maybe I’m a little nervous and all this stuff.

“But today my timing just wasn’t there in the first. My mindset going into the second was different. I totally forgot about the first. I was like, ‘All right. This is a new set.’ I’m going to start differently and forget about the first one and just start off like it’s a new match, and I started playing better.”

Playing better and more intense. It’s almost like she lulls her opponent into a false sense of security. Much like her idol, Justine Henin, Oudin becomes a powerhouse when the chips are down, maybe because she just refuses to lose.

“I think it does help me because I’ve been in that situation many times of losing the first set and being able to come back and win,” she said.  “Because I do well with forgetting about the first one and starting over like it’s a totally new match, so I forgot about the first set, and I’m just going to start off and my mind is going to be just on what’s happening right then.”

After she brought the second set back to serve, Petrova couldn’t do much against Oudin. Able to force a tie break, the young American won the extra session and brought the match to the third, where she quickly broke, her Russian opponent with a 5-deuce battle, finally won with an overhead lob, which just hugged the baseline.

“I had a lot of break chances in that game and she didn’t have any, so I knew that I needed to come up with she came up to net, and it was, like, ‘Yeah, I’ll throw up a lob,’ and it ended up going in,” Oudin said.

“Yeah, I think I was on the defensive at that point.”

After that point, Oudin was on the offense. Although Petrova was able to get it back on serve, Oudin continued to assault the Russian with the approval of the Arthur Ashe crowd.

Petrova only could manage three wins in the third set. Although she blames herself, for some of the match, there’s no doubting the Georgian fireplug.

“She’s a very good mover,” said Petrova about her opponent. “You really have to come up with a great shot. Seems like, you know, you feel like you’re coming up with a good shot, and she just runs the ball down and she’s very good in defense. You have to really come up with a good shot against her.”

So as Svetlana Kuznetsova looks to advance tonight Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 6 seed may have the Russian killer in the back of her mind, because the winner of that match will face Oudin in the Quarterfinals.

“I don’t really care who I get,” Oudin said. “I’m happy to be in the quarterfinals. I know it’s going to be a tough match no matter who I play.”