Maria Through The First With Good Open Chance

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s pretty easy for Maria Sharapova to blame her sluggish start today on the weather.

Sure today’s conditions were perfect, but this past weekend kept her indoors.

“I think the last couple days have been tough on players,” said Sharapova after she downed the unseeded Heather Watson 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. “Obviously none of us practiced yesterday.  The day before was raining.  Everybody was trying to get 30 minutes on an indoor court, which is always a little bit tough.

“So I think it was just going out there and trying to find that consistency.”

So the 2006 US Open Champion spent yesterday in her hotel room, playing with her dog, going to the gym and taking in what was open in New York City.

Yet, her dog may have been trying to tell her something during the storm yesterday.

“My dog kept like going back to his little bag,” she said.  “It kind of freaked me out because that’s a sign he wanted to go home.  Maybe the hurricane was going to be bad.  We were lucky, yeah, that it was just a little rain.”

New York was lucky yesterday and the No. 3 seed was lucky today when she survived the match with British Watson, even though she committed 58 unforced errors (39 in the first set) and eight double faults.

“I don’t think I did enough to make her feel like she had any pressure in the first set,” Sharapova said.  “You know, I’d hit one, two good balls, then hit an error.  Whether it was a centimeter or two out, it doesn’t matter, it’s still an error.”

Even with the slow start, Sharapova was too much for Watson. Using her power game, she was able to squeak by in the second set and then dominate the third to advance in this version of the US Open. She is the new Maria, someone who is older, wiser and out to prove she isn’t washed up at the tender age of 24.

Instead, after years of injuries and inconsistencies, Sharapova is ready to dominate again. A year of resurgence saw her win in Rome and then Cincinnati, while losing the finals in Miami and of course Wimbledon. It was good enough to rank her No. 3 in Flushing, and one of the odds on favorites for the tournament.

“Well, I just feel like this year I’ve improved,” she said. “Last year I felt like I would play a couple good matches and then I’d play a bad match.  I didn’t have that sense of consistency, and that’s something I felt like something that has changed this year.”

Even at her still young age, Sharapova is the grizzled veteran on the circuit. And much like any other sport, she has made adjustments. Where she was a pure power player before, the Russian by the way of Florida is now a more complete player, with a defensive game to go with her attack.

During her journey back, which she called it “the process” she had many pitfalls, but her hard work is now looking like it is paying off.

“Well, it’s just great to still be a tennis player,” she said.  “I’ve said this many times.  I’m very fortunate to do what I do, obviously, to do it at a high level and to win tournaments and to win big matches obviously.

“It gives you tremendous amount of confidence and delight that the work you’ve put in, you know, is paying off.  It’s the time that you spend away from the courts, the time that people don’t see what you put into the sport of trying to get back there.  Just to play a match, and then do it over and over again, not many people experience that feeling, see it.

“So to be able to prove to yourself that you’ve put in that work and there you are at that stage again, giving yourself these opportunities to win Grand Slams again, it’s a good feeling.”

And now with the first round hiccup out of the way, Maria Sharapova seems poised for her Open run.

Of course let’s hope there are no more hurricanes.

Power vs. Speed Highlight Sharapova and Wozniacki

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – One is a three-time Grand Slam Champion. She is a statuesque model on the court, who uses her power game to her advantage. A daughter of immigrants, who keeps her ancestry close to her hear, someone who is proud to be a foreigner in a foreign county. If she wasn’t a tennis player, she would be modeling in Milan or Paris.

The other was the runner-up in last year’s US Open and the No. 1 seeded player in the tournament. Her smile outshines her beauty on the court and uses her speed to break down her opponents. She is also a daughter of immigrants, but has embraced her new country as her own. If she wasn’t a tennis player, she would be a morning show personality or a weather girl.

The differences between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki are clear cut. Yes, they may be the two most beautiful women in the tournament and when they face-off in the fourth round on Monday, it may be the true championship of this tournament, as both women may be on their hottest streaks of their careers.

“At the moment I’m feeling happy,” said Wozniacki who is now 18-1 since Wimbledon, after she disposed of Yung-Jan Chan, 6-1 6-0.  “I’m happy to be out there.  I’m happy to play, I’m happy to be fit, and that’s the most important thing.  I’ve really been practicing hard, and it’s giving me the results I want.”

Not to be outdone, Sharapova has won 12 out of 14 matches since the British championship. She is playing her best tennis since her shoulder injury in 2008 and maybe since she won the US Open back in 2006. Today she dispelled the Cinderella story of Beatrice Capra, 6-0 6-0 , almost a year to the day of getting knocked out by last year’s upstart Melanie Oudin.

“This was a new day,” said Sharapova. “And what happened last year, you know, I didn’t really want to go into the match thinking about it. Obviously I had lost the match and made way too many unforced errors.  On a day like today, I just wanted to make sure I was consistent and did the right thing, and, you know, maybe didn’t go for the lines as much and just played smart tennis.”

So now both Sharapova and Wozniacki will have a titan matchup. They have only met twice (both back in 2008) with the 23 year-old Russian holding a 2-0 edge. And this fourth rounder will be a showcase of Russian’s power versus the Dane’s speed with Wozniacki catching up to as many balls on the baseline trying to force the aggressive Sharapova to make errors.

“She can run all day and get a lot of balls back and make you hit tons of balls,” Sharapova said.  “She changes the pace really well, and gets her opponents off-balance.  She does many things well, you know.  That’s why she’s at the top of the game.”

Although Serena Williams is the No. 1 woman in the world, Wozniacki can claim that title with a win on Monday, especially after Jelena Jankovic out of the tournament. The 20 year-old will have her toughest fight of the summer against her Russian opponent, because of her mental toughness and ability to break down opponents.

“I think we’re different players,” Wozniacki said. “I feel like I’m maybe moving a bit better.  I don’t know.  I’m placing the balls better a little bit, but she’s maybe hitting the balls harder.

“I don’t know.  You know, she has won Grand Slams; I haven’t.  Yeah, I don’t know.  It’s tough.  I think it’s up to you guys [the media] to find out what you think.”

Prediction: Wozniacki In Three Sets

Defending Champion Serena Williams Captures 4th Wimbledon Title and 13th Grand Slam

[CHICAGO] – Serena Williams made her presence known as she defended her Wimbledon title to Vera Zvonareva of Russia during the final match on Saturday.

The match was all about Serena’s well known power game as she defeated Zvonareva in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. “It feels incredible to defend my title here at Wimbledon,” Serena said after her victory. “Vera is such a great competitor but I knew that if I stuck to my game, I had a good chance of winning.”

With her [K] Blade Team racket, the 13 time Grand Slam champion held strong throughout the entire tournament and did not drop a set over two weeks at the All England Club. Serena knows that her powerful serve gives her an advantage on any opponent and hit 9 aces Saturday, taking her tournament total to a Wimbledon record- 89.

This title gives Serena her 4th Wimbledon in the span of eight years and her 13th Grand Slam overall. She is back at world No.1 and certain to stay at the top, where she has reigned for 110 weeks altogether. Serena currently stands as world No.1 at both singles and doubles, only the sixth woman in history to do so.

With this 13th title, Serena surpasses Billie Jean King’s 12 Grand Slam title record, and Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are Williams’ next goal, with 18 majors each. “Honestly, I’m just doing what I can and working hard,” Williams said. “These great champions give me the motivation to reach my goals.”

Wilson Racquet Sports is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment and owned by Amer Sports. Wilson designs, manufactures and distributes sporting goods throughout the world and focuses on making technologically advanced products which help players of all levels perform better. Wilson’s core sport categories include: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer, Youth Sports, Uniforms/Apparel, Golf, Footwear and Racquet Sports (Tennis, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton and Platform Tennis). For more information, visit www.wilson.com.

Serena Continues Legacy in Oz

[CHICAGO] – Each and every time Serena Williams reaches the semi-finals of the Australian Open, she goes on to win the title. This first Grand Slam of 2010 was no exception. Williams dominated this all Wilson final, putting an end to the amazing return of former #1, Justine Henin.

With her [K] Blade Team racket, the 12 time Grand Slam champion held strong throughout the entire tournament despite being injured. The final match was all about Serena’s well known power game as she defeated Henin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Fans knew they were watching a great champion doing what she does best. Serena pushed through her injury and played like a true champion, running down every ball and leaving it all on the court.

“It feels incredible to defend my title here in Melbourne,” Serena said after winning against Henin. “Justine is a great competitor but I knew this was my time to shine and gave it everything I had.”

This was Williams’ fifth Australian Open title and she is the first woman in the Open Era to win five Australian Open titles. She is also the first to win back-to-back Australian Opens since Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

Before winning her singles championship, Serena defended the doubles title with her sister Venus and their [K] Blade Team rackets. The sisters rolled over the world’s top-ranked women’s doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber in two sets 6-4, 6-3. It’s their fourth Australian Open title together; part of their collection of an astonishing eleven Grand Slam women’s doubles championships.

“It is just great to continue this success with Serena,” said Venus after winning her doubles title. “We know each other’s game so well– we’re the perfect match.”

Wilson Racquet Sports is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment and owned by Amer Sports. Wilson designs, manufactures and distributes sporting goods throughout the world and focuses on making technologically advanced products which help players of all levels perform better. Wilson’s core sport categories include: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer, Youth Sports, Uniforms/Apparel, Golf, Footwear and Racquet Sports (Tennis, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton and Platform Tennis). For more information, visit www.wilson.com.