Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Venus makes Grandslam milestone.

Playing her first match in more than two months, since her quarterfinal loss at the All-England Club, Venus Williams looked sharp during a 6-4 6-1 first round win over Roberta Vinci under the lights on Monday.

Williams, the No.3 seed and a two-time former champion at the Open, had a tough time closing out the first set - she let a 4-1 lead get to 4-all before tucking it away - but she was brilliant in the second set, 18 winners to just five errors.

"I definitely missed being on the court this summer," said Williams, who missed the summer hardcourt lead-up due to a knee injury. "I did land on my leg, but thankfully after that she did most of the running, so that helped me a lot."

Williams fired a 124mph ace on the first point of the match, not such a bad return to match play: "It was a great way to start off. I love playing the night match. It was fun - even more fun when the points were going my way."

World No.1 Serena Williams had to withdraw from this year's Open with a foot injury. Her big sister was asked about that, too: "It definitely affects the doubles draw, too. It's just not the same, but that's sport. Sometimes you have to deal with injury, but you just come back stronger. I know she will."

With her win over Vinci, Williams became the fifth player in the Open Era to record 200 Grand Slam match wins (Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario also surpassed that milestone).
The highest-ranked American not named Williams, Melanie Oudin, the darling of last year's Open, also advanced, putting on an impressive mix of aggression and counterpunching to beat Olga Savchuk in the morning, 6-3 6-0.

"It was a real honor to start the US Open off on Ashe, first match. It was cool. I didn't expect that," said Oudin, who made a Cinderella run to the quarters here last year. "I thought I had a really solid match. I was really nervous at the start but I got it out in the first set. In the second set I played really well."

Oudin lost two points in the second set and was asked about the near golden set during her post-match press: "I didn't think about it until I was up 4-0, but then I did. I shouldn't have. I think maybe I would have gotten it."

Other seeds advancing included No.10 seed Victoria Azarenka, No.12 seed Elena Dementieva, No.13 seed Marion Bartoli and No.16 seed Shahar Peer. No.24 seed Daniela Hantuchova avenged a first round loss in New Haven a week ago, beating Dinara Safina, 6-3 6-4. Another former No.1, Ana Ivanovic, made a solid start, snapping a four-match losing streak to lefties by beating Ekaterina Makarova comprehensively in straight sets, 6-3 6-2.

Clijsters Wins despite rocky 2nd set

Kim Clijsters made a strong but rocky start to her US Open title defense by overcoming veteran Hungarian Greta Arn 6-0, 7-5 in just over an hour.

Clijsters raced out of the gates, overwhelming Arn with her speed and her deep groundstrokes, storming through the first set in just 18 minutes. The Belgian won 100% of her first-serve points in the set, at one point serving three aces in a single game.

The second set saw a sudden dip in form for Clijsters, who made several unforced forehand errors in handing Arn a 4-0 lead.

"I kind of lost my positioning and my footing on court a little bit," Clijsters said.

The 27-year-old right-hander regained her composure and roared back, winning six of the next seven games to close out the match. On match point, Clijsters forced Arn off-court with a wide return before putting away a backhand down the line.

The first-round victory marks Clijsters' first US Open match following her surprise run to the title last year. Her return to the 2010 US Open was threatened by a thigh injury suffered earlier this month.

"For these last few weeks already preparing for the Open I've been trying to get my game back," Clijsters said. "But just to come out there and defending my title, I think I've never been in that position, and I was just excited to go out there."

Clijsters will meet 19-year-old Australian Sally Peers in the second round. Asked what she knows about Peers, Clijsters humorously replied, "That she's a 19-year-old Australian."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Caro prevails for 3rd New Haven crown

On Saturday night she went the absolute distance to beat Elena Dementieva in the semifinals, and Sunday she continued to show why she could be the next No.1 player in the world. Caroline Wozniacki won her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour-leading fourth title of the season at the Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale, beating Nadia Petrova in the final,
6-3 3-6 6-3.

Wozniacki, the No.1 seed and undefeated two-time defending champion at the Premier-level event, was leading 6-3 2-0 when Petrova's power game started hitting its mark; she took the second set and pulled off another mini-comeback with Wozniacki leading 4-1 in the third set, breaking back and closing to 4-3. But Wozniacki was too tough in the end, playing two strong games to win her fourth title of the year and the 10th of her blossoming career.

Wozniacki maintained her perfect record in New Haven, now at 13-0 (5-0 to win in 2008, 5-0 to win in 2009 and 3-0 to win this year, a first round bye and quarterfinal walkover from Flavia Pennetta cutting her hours this year).

"Today was especially tough because yesterday I finished really late," Wozniacki said. "In the second set Nadia started hitting some nice winners, and she broke my serve straight away. I just needed to keep focused.

"The crowd has been amazing here, cheering me on. Yesterday I was down and they got me through it. It's a great feeling. I love this tournament - it has been great preparation for me the last couple of years. I'd love to come back."

Wozniacki has now won her last two tournaments - Montréal and New Haven - and three of her last four, including Copenhagen. Her only loss of the summer came to Marion Bartoli in the third round of Cincinnati.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Caro improves to 12-0 in New Haven

She came into New Haven having won only one of four matches in the summer hardcourt swing, but at the Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale it has all come together. Nadia Petrova fought back from a first set blowout to beat Maria Kirilenko, 2-6 6-2 6-2, and reach the 20th final of her career.

Petrova, the No.8 seed, lost the first set to her fellow Russian in 39 minutes, dropping her big serve twice; but she would not be broken again the rest of the match, dominating her service games and upping the aggression on her return.

"Even if you have pain, you have to try. I decided to continue," said Kirilenko, who was treated for a low back injury during the match. "I was in pain in the first set, but I won it because she was making a lot of mistakes. She was missing the first ball, the second ball. It was good for me. But then she started to play better. I'm playing well and to get this out of nowhere is always sad."

"When Maria called for the physio, those couple of minutes did very well for me," Petrova said. "I saw she was struggling and believed I could come back and win. I had a good conversation with my coach. I cut down on my mistakes and focused a lot on my serve. I felt I started playing the right game."

Petrova almost didn't play in New Haven, but received a last minute invite. "It's amazing. I got a phone call from Anne Worcester late Friday afternoon. I was still in Montréal, about to leave the hotel and fly to New York. Then suddenly she offered me that last wildcard. It was a great gift. I was very happy. I'm sure my team was also excited to come for an extra tournament before the Open."

At night, No.1 seed and two-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki improved to 12-0 lifetime at New Haven with a 1-6 6-3 76(5) triumph over No.4 seed Elena Dementieva, rallying from 5-3 down in the third set to win.

"The crowd really helped me today. It wasn't easy," Wozniacki said. "This is a great tournament. Obviously I'm playing well here. I'm really happy to be in the finals again, the third time in a row. Hopefully I can win the last match here."

Wozniacki leads Petrova in their head-to-head, 2-1, with Wozniacki retiring from their first encounter in 2008 but winning both of their matches in 2010.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Elena struggles into semis. Kirilenko Beats Safina

A day before she said it was "a great opportunity", and she certainly meant it. In just 53 minutes Nadia Petrova sent the Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale's No.2 seed Samantha Stosur packing in a hurry, 6-2 6-1.

Petrova, seeded No.8, was broken in the first game of the match but was almost perfect on serve from there, losing a total of just three points in her other six service games and breaking the big-serving Stosur five times. Petrova has now beaten Stosur in straight sets in all four of their career meetings.

"It seemed surprising, those are the right words," Petrova said. "I know Sam well. We played the first six months of the year in doubles and I got a lot of time to practice with her, so I know her game well, her strengths and weaknesses.

"Today I was really in charge of the game and didn't give her any chances to come back. I just kept the pressure on and tried to make her come up with a better shot. I'm very happy with my serve and didn't give out many free points."

"We both had our game plans, except she executed hers a lot better than me today," Stosur said. "I got off to a good start. She can ride on confidence really well though, and when she feels she's in front and can control what's going on, she's very hard to stop. She played quite well and I didn't play very well, so me winning only three games is probably a mixture of those two things."

Next up for Petrova is Maria Kirilenko, who ended the run of former No.1 Dinara Safina with a 6-3 6-3 win. Safina had beaten No.3 seed Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova before running into Kirilenko, who has been creeping up the rankings all year and is approaching the Top 20 again.

"It's difficult for Dinara to come back. Before she was more aggressive, but now she's making longer points, and it's not hurting you as much," Kirilenko said. "I played well today, not many mistakes and very consistent. Everything was perfect today, except my serve. I missed too many first serves."

Petrova and Kirilenko are tied in their head-to-head, 3-3. This will be their first meeting on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in almost exactly two years.

In the other semifinal, No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki will play No.4 seed Elena Dementieva. Wozniacki advanced to the semifinals when No.7 seed Flavia Pennetta had to withdraw due to a right foot injury; Dementieva battled for three hours to get past No.6 seed Marion Bartoli, 6-3 3-6 6-2.

"I never like to withdraw but my foot has been bothering me since last week and I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the match; I decided to pull out and not risk any further damage," Pennetta said. "The good news is there's no stress fracture. The toe on my right foot is just very inflamed. With some rest and lots of physiotherapy in the next few days, I hope to be ready for the US Open."

Dementieva leads Wozniacki in their head-to-head, 3-2.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sweet Caroline.

Fresh off her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year in Montréal, Caroline Wozniacki kept the streak alive Wednesday night, beating Dominika Cibulkova in her opener at the Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale.

Wozniacki, the No.1 seed and two-time defending champion at the Premier-level tournament, had a slow start against the former Top 15 player, finding herself down 4-2 in the first set; she would wrestle control of the match from that point though, winning 10 of the next 11 games of the match for a 6-4 6-1 victory.

"I was telling myself, 'I want to play, move your feet, come on, let's go,'" said the No.2-ranked Wozniacki, who received treatment on her back at 3-4 in the first set. "I didn't want to play three sets, I wanted to win in two."

Wozniacki saved her best for last too - serving for the win at 6-4 5-1, she won three of her four points with big aces. Afterwards, Wozniacki had a photo opp with Yale's football team: "They're really nice guys. That they came and supported me today was just fun. We should make this a tradition."

Wozniacki is now 12-1 since Wimbledon, the only loss coming to Marion Bartoli in the third round of Cincinnati. She is also a perfect 11-0 in New Haven, winning back-to-back titles at the combined event in 2008 and 2009.

Next for Wozniacki is No.7 seed Flavia Pennetta. Wozniacki is 4-0 head-to-head against Pennetta, although three of those wins came in three sets.

Safina sets up QF clash with Kirilenko

Russian Elena Dementieva moved into the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen tournament with 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4 win over Kateryna Bondarenko.

Dementieva says she rested for four weeks after tearing a left calf muscle during the French Open and is excited about getting in more matches before next week's U.S. Open.

She will face Marion Bartoli, who defeated Anastasia Rodionova 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday. Flavia Pennetta also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Olga Govortsova of Bellarus.

Other winners in the afternoon were No.7 seed Flavia Pennetta, No.8 seed Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko and Dinara Safina. Pennetta beat Olga Govortsova, 63 62. "I didn't play my best, but I was consistent and didn't make many mistakes," Pennetta said. "I'm happy to be through to the next round."

The last time Kirilenko and Safina Played, Safina was still struggling with her back, and now seemes to be getting her way back to world's eliete, Kirilenko prevailed in that match 5-4 after safina retired. Kirilenko had a very strong win over Timea Bacsinszky smashing the swiss player 6-3 6-1.

My picks for the semis are:
Wozniacki against Bartoli
Kirilenko against Petrova

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stosur saves 4 match points to win in 3rd set tie-break

At night the first second round match took the court, with No.2 seed Samantha Stosur saving four match points to escape Sara Errani, 6-1 3-6 7-6(4). Errani served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, holding her first two match points at 40-15 then another two on ad points right after it got back to deuce; Stosur kept on fighting though and eventually closed the nail-biter out in the breaker.

Kirilenko takes out 2009 New Haven finalist in first round.

Elena Vesnina lost to Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 Tuesday in the first round of the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, a year after making it to the finals.

Despite her runner-up status, Vesnina had to go through qualifying to get into the tournament, arriving from Montreal on Saturday just two hours before her first match. She played and won three matches over the weekend to earn her way into this year's main draw.

Kirilenko said both players had trouble with the strong winds that swirled through the stadium court, and she switched rackets after losing her feel for the ball in the second set.

"I started to make a lot of double faults, and my serve didn't work at all," she said. "In the third set, my serve started to feel better."

On the grandstand court, Marion Bartoli of France needed three sets to get by Alona Bondarenko 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3. Bartoli said the wind, which was gusting at times over 20 mph, didn't allow her to be as aggressive as she would have liked.

"I was aiming in the middle and my ball was ending up 10 centimetres from the baseline or from the right or left line," she said.

Ffifth-seeded Yanina Wickmayer, of Belgium, succumbed to Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 6-1 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.

Seventh-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta reached the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 decision against Russian Alisa Kleybanova.

Wozniacki, this week's top seed, is the two-time reigning New Haven champ and fresh off her title in Montreal on Monday.

The 2010 Pilot Pen champion will collect $98,500.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caro shines after the Rain

She struggled early in the week but once the going got tough, Caroline Wozniacki got going. The No.2-ranked player in the world beat two of Russia's best back-to-back on Monday for her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year, and the ninth of her career, at the Rogers Cup.

Wozniacki, the No.2 seed at the Premier-level stop, had close encounters with Patty Schnyder and Flavia Pennetta in her first two matches of the week, scoring 7-5 7-5 and 4-6 6-3 6-1 wins. From the quarterfinals on she had few problems though - at least not with anything match-related. She avenged a French Open quarterfinal loss to Francesca Schiavone, 6-3 6-2, to start.

On Saturday she won the first two games on Svetlana Kuznetsova when rain stopped play, and that rain would keep going for two days. On Monday the final four took Uniprix Stadium's courts and Wozniacki shone, completing a 6-2 6-3 win over Kuznetsova then easing past No.8 seed Vera Zvonareva, 6-3 6-2.

Wozniacki, who has also won titles this season from Ponte Vedra Beach and Copenhagen, is just the second player to win three Tour titles this year, alongside Kim Clijsters. Fittingly, Wozniacki and Clijsters also finished last year's summer hardcourt season on a high note, meeting in the US Open final; they will also be the Top 2 seeds at the final Grand Slam of the year this year.

Zvonareva beat an injury-hampered Clijsters en route to her 24th career final; she is now 10-14 in those. She beat Victoria Azarenka in the other semifinal.

Monday, August 23, 2010

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

US Open takes the biggest blow as Serena Williams withdraws

For the first time since the inception of computer rankings in 1975, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's No.1 player will miss the US Open, as Serena Williams has withdrawn with a right foot injury.

"It is with much frustration and deep sadness that I am having to pull out of the US Open. Due to the surgery I had on my foot earlier this month, my doctors have advised against my playing so that my foot can heal," Williams said in a statement on Friday afternoon. "I take great pride in playing the Grand Slam tournaments and have not missed one since 2006; not being able to be part of this year's US Open is one of the most devastating moments of my career. Playing in front of the electric crowd of New York at the US Open and competing against the best female athletes in the world is always a highlight, and I look forward to getting back on the court as quickly as possible."

Williams has 13 Grand Slam titles to her name, five Australian Opens (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), one French Open (2002), four Wimbledons (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010) and three US Opens (1999, 2002, 2008).

With the withdrawal of Williams (who would be top seed) puts Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters as 1&2 seeds and in the perfect position for a replay of last years final.

However Serena should retain the World Number 1 rank.

Sveta and Vera first to final 4.

Two of Russia's best snapped up the first two semifinal berths at the Rogers Cup, as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva were in full flight in Quarterfinal Friday's afternoon session.

Kuznetsova, the No.11 seed, was the first into the final four, holding off a late surge from Zheng Jie to win, 6-1 6-3. Zheng closed from 0-3 to 3-4 in the second set but lost her serve at love and Kuznetsova served it out.

"Zheng is getting better and better. I used to beat her very easily and the last few times we've played it was harder," Kuznetsova said after the match. "I was a little bit lost for a while, but now I know what I have to do. Winning matches makes you a totally different player and now I know how to do it again."

Zvonareva, the No.8 seed, was down 6-2 3-2 to Kim Clijsters when she went on a tear against the No.5 seed, winning nine games in a row to win the second set and build a 5-0 lead in the third. Clijsters started a mini-comeback, winning two games in a row, but Zvonareva stuck with her and closed it out, 2-6 6-3 6-2.

The other two quarterfinals will take place in the night session, with No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki facing No.6 seed Francesca Schiavone and No.10 seed Victoria Azarenka taking on No.17 seed Marion Bartoli.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Benesova Beat's JJ

The No.1 seed at the Rogers Cup will not be holding the trophy this year, after Jelena Jankovic lost out to Iveta Benesova in her opening match at the $2-million tournament.

Jankovic, ranked No.3 in the world, has been working her way back from injuries the last few weeks - she hurt her back at Wimbledon and sprained her ankle in Portoroz - and the lack of match play showed, as she squandered a 5-3 first set lead and eventually went down to Benesova, a qualifier into the draw, 7-6(3) 6-3.

"I wasn't on my game, especially on the return. I couldn't stay in the points long and made a lot of errors. I just didn't feel like myself out there," Jankovic said. "I haven't been playing well for the last couple tournaments. I did my best out there."

In the other two night matches, No.8 seed Vera Zvonareva cruised past Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-2 6-1, and No.9 seed Li Na beat Jarmila Groth almost as handily, 6-3 6-2.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clijsters saved by the Clouds

A year ago, Kim Clijsters made an electric return to professional tennis in Cincinnati, winning three matches before losing in the quarterfinals. This week she returned to the $2,000,000 tournament and went all the way to the title, beating fellow former No.1 Maria Sharapova in a nail-biting final, saving three match points to claim the trophy, 2-6 7-6(4) 6-2.

After a slew of upsets in the early rounds, Clijsters, the No.4 seed, was a firm favorite for the title from the quarterfinals on. She didn't lose a set until the final, where her toughest challenger - Maria Sharapova, the No.10 seed but like Clijsters a former No.1 and multiple Grand Slam winner, awaited. Sharapova had also won their last three meetings, and all in straight sets, too.

And the trend resumed. Sharapova powered through the first set and built a 5-3 lead in the second, holding three match points there - but a rain delay may have halted her winning momentum, as Clijsters was right back in the match upon resumption, battling back to push the set to a tie-break then battling back from 0-3 there, taking the match to a third set and cruising to victory.

"I was so close to losing and then this dark cloud came," said Clijsters, who finished the match off with a big running forehand down the line. "I thought I was hitting well from the baseline with her but my serve wasn't working well. During the delay I had to regroup and refocus, and when we came back to the court I played aggressively and turned it around. I'm really happy to win."

Clijsters now leads Sharapova 5-3 in thier head to head record, And Kim will also enter the top 5 for thr first time scince her "second carrer" rising to third on the ranking list.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Clijsters gets easy pass to final.

Although it may not have come the way she wanted, Kim Clijsters made her third Sony Ericsson WTA Tour final of the year, getting by an injured Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals of Cincinnati.

Clijsters was leading by a break, serving 2-1 in the first set, when Ivanovic was forced to retire from the afternoon semifinal match with a left foot injury.

"On that one forehand, when I went to step around it, I felt some pain all of a sudden. It was so much pain in my foot I couldn't step on it anymore," Ivanovic said afterwards. "I tried a bit of tape but I couldn't put any weight on it. There was no point in continuing. I made a doctor's appointment straight away to make sure it's nothing serious so I can give myself time to recover."

"It's a shame a match like this had to end like that for her," Clijsters said. "It was nice to see her do well this week, and then something like that happens. I saw her after the match. Her injury sounds very similar to what I recently had with my left foot. She's going to have tests later and hopefully it's not that bad."

Clijsters will have a shot at becoming the first player this year to win three titles, having won in Brisbane in January and Miami in March. She is 37-17 in career finals, and 3-0 since returning to the Tour at this tournament exactly a year ago.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Venus Williams pulls out of Montreal.

World number four Venus Williams has withdrawn from next week's two million-dollar WTA event in Montreal due to a nagging left knee injury, said the American on Friday.

The US veteran also quit this week's Cincinnati Open.

"The pain that I am experiencing in my knee has unfortunately not gone away," the seven-time Grand Slam champion said in a statement.

Venus would have played in Montreal for the first time.

She has not played a top-level singles match since she was eliminated from the Wimbledon quarterfinals by 82nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria on June 29.

Sharapova beats Bartoli despite minor choke.

The former world no.1 Maria Sharapova easily beat the Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in two straight sets with a 6-1 6-4 scoreline to secure her berth in the semi-final of the Cincinnati Open 2010.

After dominating the proceedings in the first set, Maria Sharapova could not maintain the momentum in the second set and allowed Bartoli to make it a bit of stiff contest – but, the Russian did not falter when she earned her fourth match point and nailed it with precision to make her way in the semi-final of the Cincinnati Open 2010 with a 6-1 6-4 scoreline.

The first set saw the best of Maria Sharapova, as she repeatedly broke the Frenchwoman Bartoli and pocketed it with a 6-1 score.

The second-set did not proceed the way Russian wanted. Bartoli didn't change her game in the second-set, but Sharapova gave away too many freebies in the form of double faults and unforced errors to make it a lot easier for the Frenchwoman to make a comeback.

Sharapova served for the match in the seventh game, despite being two points from victory many times. Bartoli broke serve in that game and made it 5-3. Finally, Sharapova didn't make any mistake when she got her fourth match point and won the contest with a 6-1 6-4 scoreline.

Clijsters make Cincy semi

Defending U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters reached the semifinals at the Cincinnati Open on Friday, beating Italy's Flavia Pennetta 7-6(6) 6-4 in oppressive afternoon heat.
The fourth-seeded Clijsters (the highest remaining seeded player) will face Serbia's Ana Ivanovic.

Five of the top eight seeded players were eliminated on Thursday. Serena and Venus Williams dropped out with injuries before the tournament began.

That left center court to Clijsters, who seems to like the place.

Clijsters returned to tennis in Cincinnati last year, reaching the quarterfinals after a two-year break to start a family and get recharged. The 27-year-old Belgian reached the quarterfinals in Cincinnati and found her touch. A few weeks later, she won the U.S. Open.

This year, she took a break from tournament play after Wimbledon and arrived in town hoping to use Cincinnati as a springboard again.

So far, the hard courts have been agreeable.

Clijsters passed her toughest test of the week, making a few more shots than Pennetta in a match close throughout. She hit an ace to go up 7-6 in the tiebreaker, and Pennetta sailed a forehand wide to settle the sweaty first set.

Clijsters went to her seat and squirted cold water over her hair, trying to get a little relief. On-court temperatures have registered 49 degrees Celsius (120 Fanhrenheit) the past couple of days, with oppressive humidity that made it tough to breathe after long points.

Pennetta broke her in the second set to go up 3-2, which only seemed to make Clijsters more determined. She broke the Italian right back and served out the one-hour, 48-minute match.

The heat had a lot to do with how the day's first match turned out.

Down 5-1 in the opening set, Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova started to think about doing better in the second set. Turned out the first one was far from over.

Taking advantage of a heat-drained opponent, the 19-year-old Russian rallied for a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 win over Yanina Wickmayer, extending one of the best stretches of her career.

"It was really tough conditions today," Pavlyuchenkova said.

Her opponent used so much energy getting ahead 5-1 in the first set that she began feeling the strain. Her legs got a little shaky. Her game fell apart.

"I started off really well in the first set, got really tired after that," Wickmayer said. "And she came back and put up a great fight."

Pavlyuchenkova is coming off a title at Istanbul. Asked if she has the energy to extend her streak of nine straight wins, she said, "I don't know. We'll see tomorrow."

The last remaining qualifier also melted away at the $2 million Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open.

Akgul Amanmuradova pulled off the biggest upset of the week, knocking off top-seeded Jelena Jankovic in two sets on Thursday. It was the biggest career win for the 26-year-old Amanmuradova, who is ranked No. 114 and had never beaten a Top 10 player.

A day later, she never had a chance against Ivanovic, losing 6-1, 6-3 in only 56 minutes.

"I was really tired from the whole week and all the matches," Amanmuradova said. "So obviously my serve speed broke down a little bit, which makes a lot of difference on this level."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Williams' to play fed cup Final.

Both Serena Williams (foot) and Venus Williams (knee) are currently sidelined with injury, but both expect to be fit for the US Open, and both have now committed to represent the U.S. in the Fed Cup final, hosting Italy on Nov. 6-7, 2010, in San Diego, Calif.

Also on the team will be the players that got them to the final in 2010: Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and doubles specialist Liezel Huber. It remains to be seen where Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber will fit in, making some tough choices for U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez, since the Williams sisters excel in singles and are undefeated in Fed Cup doubles as a team.

Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber have led the U.S. squad to their second consecutive final, while the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based Williams sisters are making their first Fed Cup appearance since 2007.

"As captain, you always want to have your best players. I am very excited that Venus and Serena have made themselves available for the Fed Cup Final in San Diego," said Fernandez, who last year in her rookie season as captain led the U.S. to the Fed Cup final for the first time since 2003. "Teaming Venus and Serena with Melanie, who continues to play an integral role in all of our Fed Cup matches, Bethanie, who has come through in decisive matches, and Liezel, who has been crucial in our doubles, we have one of the strongest line-ups in years. I strongly believe that this team can win the Fed Cup title on our home soil."

Serena Williams is 4-0 career in singles and 3-0 in doubles in Fed Cup matches. Venus has a career 14-2 record in singles and 3-2 in doubles, with the two doubles losses coming with Lisa Raymond and Corina Morariu.

Clijsters Cruises

Kim Clijsters raced into the quarterfinals Thursday and after a string of upsets over the last two days will be the only Top 8 seed - and the new favorite - for the Premier-level title in Cincinnati.

Clijsters, the No.4 seed, pummelled American wildcard Christina McHale in just over an hour in the feature night match, 61 61, breaking the teenager's serve five times and saving both break points against her own delivery.

"She has a big forehand, a little different than most of the girls we see out there these days. Good kick serve," Clijsters said of McHale. "Her backhand, especially when she has to move out wide, is a bit of a weakness. She'll probably become a little stronger where she can produce the same power on that backhand side as on her forehand - that's obviously where I scored a lot of points today, when I pulled her out wide on those backhands.

"I like seeing young girls doing well and seeing the big names struggling against them. She's obviously part of the next generation building up."

With the departures of Elena Dementieva and Francesca Schiavone on Wednesday and Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na on Thursday, No.4 seed Clijsters is the only Top 8 seed to reach her projected quarterfinal berth in the draw.

"I obviously see the results, but it's not like they were major upsets," Clijsters said. "There's Bartoli beating Wozniacki and Wickmayer beating Li. They're all really good players. These days, anybody can beat anybody."

Next for Clijsters is No.11 seed Flavia Pennetta, who upset Zvonareva. Clijsters beat Pennetta handily in their only previous meeting.

Bartoli blasts Caro

Caroline Wozniacki, then exactly two hours later Jelena Jankovic. The Top 2 seeds at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open were bundled out of the tournament on Thursday.

Wozniacki, the No.2 seed, had lost to Marion Bartoli in the pair's last meeting and this time it was no different, as the No.16-seeded Frenchwoman's two-fisted groundstrokes caught fire from 3-4 in the first set, and she won nine of the next 10 games to complete a 6-4 6-1 victory over the No.3-ranked Dane.

"With Caroline, you have to find the right balance between being aggressive and keeping the unforced errors low," said Bartoli, who hit 32 winners. "But she's not just a retriever. She retrieves very well, but she can step inside the baseline and dictate if you're hitting the ball right to her. You're not No.3 for nothing."

Bartoli earned her fifth career win over a Top 3 opponent: "The turning point was Wimbledon, when I beat Jelena and Justine," she said. "It helped me believe in myself. Sometimes, you lose before you go on the court because you're afraid to play against them; if you see my record, all my Top 3 wins came after that."

Shortly afterwards, Jankovic, the No.1 seed and defending champion, was ousted by qualifier Akgul Amanmuradova and her booming serve, 7-6(3) 6-4. The two hung tightly to their serve, with only one break in 24 service games - Jankovic lost her serve from having a 40-15 lead at 3-all in the second set.

"My opponent played really well. She served very well," said Jankovic, who withstood 12 aces and no double faults from Amanmuradova. "I thought that was the key to the match, actually. I didn't have much chance when I was returning. Unfortunately I lost today, but it's okay. It's part of the sport."

"I've never beaten anyone in the Top 10. She's No.2 right now and has a lot of titles - she's an incredible player," Amanmuradova said. "My serve is one of my strongest points. Today I served a lot of aces, which helped me save energy. Jelena moves very well and gets to every ball, so if I played rallies on every point, I would have already been tired in the first set."

As if No.1 and No.2 wasn't enough, No.6, No.7 and No.8 also fell. No.6 seed Vera Zvonareva lost six straight games from 4-3 up in the first set and fell to No.11 seed Flavia Pennetta, 6-4 6-3; No.7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska lost to No.10 seed Maria Sharapova, 6-2 6-3, her fifth straight loss to the former No.1; and No.8 seed Li Na fell to No.12 seed Yanina Wickmayer, 2-6 6-2 7-6(4).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mesha takes out Sveta in 3.

No.10 seed Maria Sharapova winning a streaky match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4 1-6 6-2. Kuznetsova was coming off her first title of the year in San Diego; she played a strong second set but after falling behind 3-0 in the decider couldn't catch up.

"It's definitely tough to have a night flight then come and play the day after a final, but it's just bad luck, I cannot change it," Kuznetsova said afterwards. "I just need to get my ranking higher and then I can get a bye. But I also have to give a lot of credit to Maria. She played really well in the third."

"I let her off the hook in the beginning of the second set, and she went with it. Against a player with a lot of experience, you can't do that," Sharapova said. "I had to earn it. The only way I was going to win was by being aggressive."

Leading the first round winners were Top 20 players Flavia Pennetta and Yanina Wickmayer, both moving through in straight sets. Pennetta, the No.11 seed, beat former Top 20 player Zheng Jie, 6-4 6-2, while Wickmayer, the No.12 seed, rolled past qualifier Greta Arn in an early match, 6-2 6-2.

"It was hot and humid out there but I handled it well," said Wickmayer, who reached the second round at this stop for the third straight year. "Today I played one of my best matches of the year. I'm really happy with my form."

Other daytime first round winners were Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Maria Kirilenko, Andrea Petkovic, Gisela Dulko, Elena Vesnina and Sybille Bammer. Vesnina cruised against American Melanie Oudin, 62 63.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ana upsets Azeranka, Dinara cracks Vinci code.

The first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open kicked off on Monday and last year's runner-up Dinara Safina was among those making it through to the next round.

Safina, who was ranked No.1 in the world here a year ago but lost to Jelena Jankovic in straight sets in the title match, made a winning start to her 2010 campaign edging Roberta Vinci, 7-5 6-4.

Safina showed flashes of the fighting spirit that has taken her to three Grand Slam finals, rallying from 3-5 to win the first set and escaping a 15-40 hole serving 3-4 to win the second set to put the crafty Italian away.

"Some points I didn't play well, some I played really well. At this stage of the tournament, the most important thing is to get the win," Safina said. "It was a tough match but I was happy I stayed positive and gave 100%."

In the second round Safina plays No.4 seed Kim Clijsters, who got a first round bye. Clijsters made her comeback to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour here last year, falling to Safina in the quarterfinals. The Russian has won their last two meetings, though Clijsters leads Safina in the head-to-head, 6-2.

At night, Ana Ivanovic rallied from a 6-2 5-2 deficit to beat No.9 seed and recent Stanford champion Victoria Azarenka, 2-6 7-6(6) 6-2. Azarenka was two points from winning the match three times in the second set but former No.1 Ivanovic fought back to beat her for the second time in two tries this season.

"I'm sure I can come up with better tennis, because today was a little bit of a disaster," Azarenka said. "I have to improve. I have another tournament before the Open and I'm definitely going to work hard to bring my A-game there.

Alisa Kleybanova, Yaroslava Shvedova, Sara Errani and qualifiers Vera Dushevina, Ayumi Morita, Monica Niculescu, Akgul Amanmuradova and Nuria Llagostera Vives also won their first round matches.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Maria Sharapova's 2010 US Open dress.

Russian beauty Maria Sharapova, is expected to ware this teal "maid" dress at the US Open this year. Although I'm not 100% sure if this will be the day dress, the night dress or just the only dress!

Im my own opinion the outfit would better suit Serena Williams (stay tuned, I have her day and night dress ready to post!) And also i'm not sure how "the mesh girls" and Maria her self will get a two-piece for after the Open! maybe it will be based on her other dress...if she has one.

The dress reminds me slightly of Venus Williams' 2007 US Open dress.

To put it straight forward, I do not like this dress on Maria Sharapova, I don't see it working on her and I hope if she has another dress, we get to see more of that one!

Sveta snaps drought, despite a Choke.

Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame a bout of mid-match nerves to grind down Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-7(7) 6-3 and clinch the San Diego Open on Sunday.

The Russian Kuznetsova blew four match points in the second set tiebreak to gift Radwanska the set but roared back to life in the third to take her first title in 10 months.

"I just shook," said Kuznetsova, playing in her first final of the year. "The trophy was very important to me. I was very embarrassed and I just got it back together and dictated."

Kuznetsova double faulted on two of her four match points during a second set tiebreak where she squandered leads of 4-0 and 6-3 to allow Radwanska back into the match.

The two-time grand slam champion said she had a fit during a break between the second and third sets that she said helped her to get her nerves calmed down.

"My knees were shaking and I couldn't push on my serve and now I know why people double fault on match points," Kuznetsova said. "It was very hard to close and I choked for first time in my life."

After falling behind 2-1 to start the third set, Kuznetsova grabbed control of the match from just inside the baseline with a series of winners before clinching the title with a backhand down the line.

The victory provides a timely return to form for Kuznetsova ahead of the U.S. Open, and will propel her to 14th when new rankings are released on Monday.

"To play that bad at end of the second set and then to let her come back and see me choke, I had to be twice as strong in the third set and I was," said Kuznetsova.

"It's pretty funny now that I won the match, but if I lost I might be thinking: 'should I finish playing tennis?' I doubt it will happen again."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Caroline's fairytale end to home open.

Playing for the first time since her 20th birthday, Caroline Wozniacki came out with her eighth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title, winning the inaugural e-Boks Sony Ericsson Open in her native Denmark.

World No.3 Wozniacki, the top seed at the International event, drew large crowds and fought off inspired opponents all week, going to three sets three times en route to the final - against Iveta Benesova in the second round, No.5 seed Julia Goerges in the quarters and Anna Chakvetadze in the semis.

None of them could stop her though, and Wozniacki dusted off her eighth Tour title with a 6-2 7-6(5) win over No.7 seed Klara Zakopalova on Sunday morning, rallying from 4-2 down to win the second set and holding off a late surge from the Czech, who cut her lead in the tie-break down from 6-1 to 6-5 before falling.

Radwanska books her place in Final.

Agnieszka Radwanska disposed of a persistante Daniela Hantuchova on her eighth match point to make the final of the San Diego Open with a 6-4 6-2 victory on Saturday.

The 21-year-old Pole will meet two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in Sunday's final, after the powerful Russian stormed to a crushing 6-4 6-0 win over Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

Radwanska, who has been in good touch in the U.S. hardcourt season, darted around the court to wrong-foot her taller opponent and charged into the net at every opportunity. Slovak Hantuchova fought off seven match points in the 20-minute seventh game of the second set, but was bested in the following game by a service winner.

"She was serving so good in that long game I was thinking, 'can you just miss one serve?'" Radwanska, a semi-finalist at last week's Stanford Classic, told reporters. "Thank god I took the last one."

World number 10 Radwanska last played Kuznetsova in the final of the China Open in October which the Russian won 6-2 6-4 to improve her head-to-head record to 6-3 against the Pole. Radwanska is likely to face a similar stiff test in the San Diego final, after Kuznetsova showed glimpses of the form that delivered her the 2009 French Open title in her semi-final.

Caro struggles past semi final.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki struggled into the final of her home Danish Open on Saturday with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 win over Russia's Anna Chakvetadze.

In Sunday's title match, she will take on Czech world number 51 Klara Zakopalova who shocked second-seeded Li Na of China 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

"I'm really happy to be in the final here," said Wozniacki, "It was another tough match today but I feel like I'm in good shape, so I'm fine. I haven't played Klara for a while, and things have changed since then," the 20-year-old added, referring to the pair's sole meeting at the Japan Open nearly three years ago (which Wozniacki won in a third set tie-break).

"But she's having a great tournament, playing aggressively and going for her shots. I'm just going to enjoy myself out there and try my best."

Having been ranked as high as 27 in 2006, Zakopalova is no stranger to Tour finals - she'll be playing her tenth, and gunning for a third title.

Sveta storms in final.

Svetlana Kuznetsova snapped up her first final berth of the year on Saturday, cruising past Flavia Pennetta in the first semifinal of the Mercury Insurance Open at the La Costa Resort & Spa, 6-4 6-0.

Kuznetsova, unseeded but with a 3-0 head-to-head record against the No.5-seeded Pennetta, broke away from 3-all in the first set, winning nine of the next 10 games to improve to 4-0 against the Italian and reach her first final since winning the China Open - also a Premier-level event - in Beijing last fall.

Kuznetsova, who was in the Top 3 at the start of the year but now finds herself just outside the Top 20, will be playing in her 31st career final, going 12-18 in her first 30. Three of those finals came during the summer hardcourt season, including two US Open finals (winning it in 2004, runner-up in 2007).

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Caro scrapes into semi-final.

Caroline Wozniacki booked her place in the semi-finals of the e-Boks Sony Ericsson Open with a three-set victory over Julia Goerges.

After being taken to a decider in her quarter-final encounter with Iveta Benesova yesterday, world number three Wozniacki again thrilled her home crowd as she rallied to defeat German opponent Goerges 3-6 6-0 7-6 (7/3) in two hours and four minutes.

Next up for Wozniacki is a meeting with Russian qualifier Anna Chakvetadze, who defeated Polona Hercog, the sixth seed from Slovenia, 6-4 6-3.

Second seed Li Na of China made short work of booking her place in the semi-finals as she swept aside eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-1 6-2.

Her opponent in the next round will be Klara Zakopalova, the seventh seed from the Czech Republic, who posted a 6-1 7-5 triumph over unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

Here is some of what Chakvetadze had to say in her post-match press confrence:

"It looked easy, but it was not, and to be honest I'm actually not very happy with the way I played today, I made a lot of unforced errors and my movement wasn't as good as I want it to be. Still, it's a good result for me to be in the semis here and I'm excited. I think I'm still far away from my best, but on the upside I'm getting my confidence back and starting to play better. I need to play a Top 10 player to see how close I am. I've lost to Caroline twice and never beaten her; we haven't played for two years and I'm sure she's improved since then. I'll try to play my best and enjoy it."

Knee keeps Venus out of Cincinnati.

Tournament officials say knee pain has forced Venus Williams to withdraw from next week's Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati.

Tournament director Bruce Flory said Friday that officials wish Williams could compete in this year's tournament, but that the field remains the strongest it's ever been.

Williams said in a statement that she returned to her normal practice schedule the last three weeks and began to feel pain in her left knee. She says she regrets not being able to compete in Cincinnati. Williams says her medical advisers recommended that she not play until she is pain free.

The tournament will begin Saturday with qualifying play. The main draw starts Monday.

The WTA Tour stops in Montreal later this month. Williams is slated to play in the Aug. 13-22 Rogers Cup at Uniprix Stadium.

Panetta improves perfect record against Stosur.

A year after beating her in the final in Los Angeles, Flavia Pennetta beat Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals of San Diego, wiping out the last of the Top 3 seeds at the Premier-level tournament.

Pennetta had beaten Stosur in straight sets in both of their previous meetings and that trend continued, as the No.5-seeded Italian improved to 3-0 against the No.2-seeded Stosur with a 6-4 6-3 victory in the first match of the day. Pennetta broke Stosur four times - twice in the first set, twice in the second set.

"I played really consistently. In the first game I had some trouble but it got much better from there," Pennetta said. "It's a good feeling. She's one of the best players this year and it's never easy to beat this kind of player."

"I wasn't hanging in enough. I didn't force her to do anything and she was getting quite comfortable in the rallies," Stosur said. "She stands further back, which gives her more time to figure out the pace and allows her to redirect well."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, Panetta's semi-final oppent, ended the run of qualifier Coco Vandeweghe, 7-5 6-2. The teenaged Vandeweghe had won back-to-back Sony Ericsson WTA Tour matches for the first time in her career en route to the quarters, including a second round stunner over No.3 seed Vera Zvonareva.

Daniela Hantuchova was the third player to snap up a semifinal berth, coming from 62 30 down to beat Alisa Kleybanova, 2-6 6-4 6-3. It was her second comeback of the week: in the first round she beat No.6 seed Marion Bartoli from three match points down. "It came down to fitness again. I felt like I needed to get into longer rallies and make her tired," Hantuchova said afterwards. "I worked hard before coming here. I think it's going to pay off."

At night, Agnieszka Radwanska earned her second trip to the semifinals in as many weeks Friday with a 6-2, 6-0 drubbing of Sasha Peer at the Mercury Insurance Open.

Radwanska reached the semifinals last week at the Bank of the West Classic before losing to Maria Sharapova.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jankovic crashes.

The top seed was beaten 7-5 6-2 in one hour 52 minutes in the evening second round encounter, her first appearance at the tournament following a first-round bye.

There were no such problems for second seed Samantha Stosur though, the Australian powering past American teenager Melanie Oudin 6-4 6-4.

"It was a pretty good match, same score as Eastbourne," Oudin commented. "Sam is a really tough opponent for me because of her serve, especially her kick serve. She plays with a lot of spin and was hitting the lines with it.

"I thought hardcourt would be my best surface to play her, or grass, but she's No.5 in the world and I'm still happy with my performance. I was still in there."

Another former No.1, Dinara Safina, wasn't able to make it to the quarterfinals either, losing to No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in 66 minutes, 6-1 6-3. Safina had won both their previous meetings in straight sets and looked like she was making a late surge, closing Radwanska's 6-1 5-1 lead to 6-1 5-3, and holding two points for 6-1 5-4; but in the end it was to no avail against the Pole.

"The match was closer than the score looked. I'm really happy with this win," Radwanska said afterwards. "This is my first time in San Diego. I heard it is a nice tournament and a great resort - I'm really enjoying it here."

In the first match of the day, No.7 seed Shahar Peer came back from a break down three times in the first set and one more time in the second to beat Kazakh rising star Yaroslava Shvedova in a tight two-setter, 7-5 6-4.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fed Cup set for San Diego, but will there be a Williams sister?

The 2010 Federation Cup final between the United States and Italy will be held at San Diego Sports Arena on Nov. 6 and 7. Italy beat the United States in Italy last year so this is a revenge match and U.S. Coach Mary Joe Fernandez came to the Mercury Insurance Open Tuesday to talk about the rematch.

One of the first questions, as always, was whether she is hopeful either Serena or Venus Williams, the world's first- and third-ranked players, might make themselves available for the finals. They haven't played this year in the first two rounds with the U.S. team that has been anchored by Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber, the world's top-ranked doubles player.

While the Williams sisters (pictured above at Wimbledon) don't necessarily have a burning desire to play in the Federation Cup, they are always enthusiastic about the Olympics, and Olympic rules say that a player must make herself available for Fed Cup play twice during every four-year Olympic cycle and one of those appearances must be in the year before or during the Olympics. Venus and Serena haven't made themselves available for any Fed Cup team since the 2008 Beijing Games.

If either sister played in San Diego they would then need to play once more in 2011 and 2012 to be eligible for the 2012 London Olympics, where the sisters have said they'd like to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles. If neither plays San Diego, they will have to volunteer in each of the next two years.

Fernandez said she expects to speak to the Williams sisters next week. "My pitch is that I'd love to have them play, they're the best in the world, it's a thrill to have a core team be around them." Fernandez said that no matter what, Oudin, Mattek-Sands and Huber would be on the team, though that wouldn't mean they would play. "Melanie looks up to the sisters tremendously," Fernandez said.

Also, Fernandez said, based on the results of Lindsay Davenport's doubles play last week at Stanford, where she and Huber won the title, she would be open to adding Davenport to a team. "That's something I have to consider. But she would have to be willing to be able to play singles if someone got injured."

The Italian team has two top-15 singles players in Flavia Pennetta and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone to anchor their team.

Tickets for the Fed Cup will go on sale Aug. 20. It will be the first Fed Cup final played in the United States in 10 years.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

2011 Hopman Cup to Bost stongest field yet.

Perth's Hopman Cup will boast its best ever field in 2011, with tennis juggernauts Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Justine Henin, Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils already confirmed starters.

And the January 1-8 event's short-term future has been secured with the announcement of a four-year television deal with the Ten Network.

Djokovic won the 2009 Australian Open after competing at the Hopman Cup and believed a return to the Perth event could result in another major title.
"I'm looking forward to going back to the Hopman Cup," Djokovic said.

"For me it was a good preparation for the Australian Open."

Partnering world No.1 Williams is marathon man John Isner, who is best remembered for his 11-hour Wimbledon epic against Nicolas Mahut.

World No.5 Sam Stosur, who partnered Hewitt last year, is yet to decide whether to return, with a decision expected to come before the US Open.

World No.17 Monfils will be partnered by 2009 junior world No.1 Kristina Mladenovic, while world No.14 Henin will be joined by Steven Darcis.

Tournament director Paul McNamee hasn't given up hope on attracting world No.4 Andy Murray, who made the final with Laura Robson earlier this year.

"It's a spectacular line-up," tournament director Paul McNamee said.

"There is potential for some really great match-ups for both the men and the women, not to mention the mixed."

The future of the Hopman Cup was cast into doubt earlier this year after ABC dropped its coverage of the event.

But Network Ten stepped in to fill the breach, with 48 hours to be showcased on One HD and 20 hours, including the final, to be broadcast on the Ten network.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Queen of Teens wins second title.

The teen queen of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour was made to work but managed to come away with her second career title Sunday, outlasting Elena Vesnina in the final of the Istanbul Cup, 5-7 7-5 6-4.

Pavlyuchenkova, the No.3 seed, led 5-2 in the first set with a set point but had a rough patch from there, losing nine straight games. But when it got to 7-5 4-0, she kicked back into gear, taking that second set then rallying from 1-3 in the third to score the three-hour, 10-minute victory. She added a second trophy to her cabinet, which already included a title from Monterrey earlier this year.

"I don't really know what to think right now," Pavlyuchenkova said. "Elena played really well and aggressively and didn't let me play my game. I knew if I won the second set I had a good chance of winning the match. It was so hot, I was still tired from my match yesterday, my legs were dead... but I really wanted to win the title and kept fighting every point. I'm so happy to win my second title."

Pavlyuchenkova had to come back from a set down to win her only other previous meeting with Vesnina, at an ITF Women's Circuit tournament in 2008. That encounter ended more comfortably with a 3-6 6-2 6-1 scoreline.

Vesnina, who celebrated her 24th birthday on finals day, still had reason to celebrate. She came into Istanbul on a seven-match losing streak, having not won a match on the Tour since Charlestin in April; she won four in a row to reach the final here, her third career final after runner-up finishes last year at Auckland (to Elena Dementieva) and New Haven (to Caroline Wozniacki).

"It was tough conditions, but we both fought until the end," Vesnina said. "I started feeling ill at the end of the second set but I pushed myself as hard as I could. I'm proud of myself for sticking in there. It has been a great week and I have to give credit to Anastasia, she played very well and deserved the win."

Azarenka wins 4th title

Victoria Azarenka capped a brilliant birthday weekend in Stanford on Sunday afternoon, beating Maria Sharapova for her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year - and the fourth of her career.

Azarenka, the No.8 seed at the Premier-level tournament, was in deep trouble in the quarterfinals two days ago, facing a 6-3 3-1 deficit against No.4 seed and defending champion Marion Bartoli. But she made it out of that one, 3-6 6-3 6-3, then cruised from there, routing No.1 seed Samantha Stosur in the semifinals, 6-2 6-3, then cruising past No.5 seed Sharapova in the final, 6-4 6-1.

After claiming a 59-minute first set, Azarenka, who turned 21 on Saturday, rolled through the second in just 28 minutes, which included breaking Sharapova three of four times and winning the last 15 points of the match.

"Once she's on a roll, it's really hard to keep up. So I just tried to stay with her from the beginning and stay aggressive," Azarenka said. "In my last two matches against her, I had my chances but did not take them. That was one of the important things, I didn't let her get back into the games in the second set.

"I knew I had to fight every single ball with her."

Azarenka added the Stanford crown to previous titles at Brisbane, Memphis and Miami, all of which came in 2009. Miami was also a Premier-level title.

Sharapova was trying to become the first player to win three titles on the Tour this year, having triumphed at Memphis and Strasbourg. She had also won her last two meetings with Azarenka, though both were tough three-setters.

"I went up 4-3 then played a really sloppy game, then she really stepped it up and took advantage of it," Sharapova said. "She's always tough to play against. She's had a lot of big wins in her career already and she's one of the most consistent, hard-hitting players out there. I'll take the positives out of the week, go to the next tournaments and keep working towards the Open."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Azarenka and Sharapova set for final showdown

Victoria Azarenka gave herself a 21st birthday present to remember on Saturday, July 31, 2010, ousting the Bank of the West Classic's top seed, Samantha Stosur, in straight sets in the semifinals.

Azarenka, the No.8 seed, had never lost a set to Stosur in their three previous meetings, and that trend continued as she pushed the aggressive Australian back behind the baseline throughout the match with her trademark penetrating groundstrokes. After an hour and 24 minutes it was all over and she won, 6-2 6-3.

"I served well, played very well on the return and was solid from the baseline," Azarenka said. "Sam's an amazing player. She has had great results this year and it gives me even more confidence I can beat her when she's in good form. It's also definitely good to get a win on my birthday!"

Azarenka, who fell first round in her only previous appearance in Stanford in 2007, is now through to her 10th career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour final, winning 3 and losing 6 in her first nine. She won all three of her career titles last year (Brisbane, Memphis, Miami) but has gone 0-2 in finals this year (Dubai, Eastbourne).

Fifth-seeded Maria Sharapova won her semifinal match on Saturday night to set up the final at the $700,000 Bank of the West Classic tennis event.

Russia's Sharapova bounced back from a first set loss to rally for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over third-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska on the hardcourts at Taube Family Tennis Stadium.

Sharapova will be going for her 23rd career title and third of the year.

Sharapova remained undefeated in four semifinal matches this season and will be looking for her third title.

The Russian star and the third-seeded Radwanska are both expected to move up in the rankings when they are released Monday. A tournament title would give Sharapova her best ranking since returning from a shoulder injury in May of 2009.

Radwanska, 0-3 in semifinals this year, is projected to nudge into the top 10.
Azarenka can rise to world number 12 with a win.