Sunday, January 30, 2011

Li may have won the hearts of Aussie tennis fans, but "Aussie Kim" comes out top in Final.

Kim Clijsters claimed the richest purse in women's tennis history after denying Chinese trailblazer Li Na in a riveting Australian Open final on Saturday night.

Clijsters pocketed a monster cheque for $2.2 million after out-willing Asia's first-ever grand slam singles finalist for a stirring 3-6 6-3 6-3 comeback win at Melbourne Park.

The 27-year-old Belgian also became the first mother to reign in Australia since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1977 and first woman to snare back-to-back grand slam crowns since Serena Williams completed the same US Open-Australian Open double in 2008-09.

The two-hour, five-minute victory - in what was only the second grand slam final to go the distance in the past four-and-a-half years - handed third-seeded Clijsters her fourth career major in total and 41st title overall.

Li had toppled Clijsters in the Sydney International final in straight sets two weeks ago and, riding an 11-match winning streak, looked poised to spring another major upset after powering to a set and 3-2 lead.

Clijsters, though, refused to yield and eventually weighed Li down with her relentless and at-times remarkable retrieving from the back of the court.
Playing possibly her last Australian Open, Clijsters had not dropped a set all tournament in reaching the title match for a second time.

But the 2004 runner-up had no answer to Li's awesome firepower in the first set-and-a-half.

Contesting her eighth grand slam final, Clijsters made a confident enough start, winning the first eight points of the match for a 2-0 lead.

Stunningly, though, Li won six of the next seven games to snatch the first set in 38 minutes.

Mixing scorching groundstrokes with crazy angles, Li continued to crunch cold winner after cold winner as she threatened to become - at 28 years and 11 months - the fifth-oldest women's grand slam champion of the 43-year open era.

But as she closed in on a famous, landmark triumph, Li began to falter - just as her vastly experienced opponent raised her game.

From 3-2 down, the tennis supermum peeled off six straight games to seize the second set and surge ahead 2-0 in the third.

Li broke back for 2-1 but her revival was brief, the triple US Open champion winning the next two games to take a stranglehold on the match.

China's ninth seed held serve for 3-5, but Clijsters also kept her nerve to coolly close out the contest to love when Li fired a forehand long on the Belgian's first championship point.
Her breakthrough triumph in Australia for Lleyton Hewitt's one-time fiancee - affectionately known Down Under as "Aussie Kim" - reduced Clijsters to tears.

"I finally feel like you guys can call me 'Aussie Kim' because I won the title," the popular winner said in her victory speech.

"To the fans, thank you so much, not just here in Melbourne.

"I've been coming to Australia for many years and you guys have been amazing.

"Even when things weren't going so well, you guys have been supportive ... it helped me keep fighting and get the title today."

Li was gracious in defeat, congratulating Clijsters on her successful campaign before expressing special thanks to her husband - former Chinese Davis Cup player Jiang Shan, who took over as coach late last year when she split with Swede Thomas Hogstedt.

"I've made many jokes about my husband," Li said.

"But it doesn't matter if you are fat or skinny, handsome or ugly, I will always follow you, always love you.

"Also for myself, doesn't matter today if I win or lose because I tried my best at tennis already."
In defeat, Li took home a consolation prize of $1.1 million - more than enough for retail therapy for the self-confessed shop-aholic.

And time for some more final photo's!

Kim Clijsters serves during the 2011 Australian Open Final

Some Chinese tennis fans, rooting for Li Na

Gracious, and funny in defeat, Li Na

The loving Kim Clijsters poses with Ball Boys and Girls

Kim Clijsters reacts after wining her first Australian Open title

Kim Clijsters understandably emotional in her first Grand Slam victory outside Flushing Medows

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Li Na makes history, will play Clijsters for Grand Slam glory.

Kim Clijsters is into her second final at the Australian Open and trying to win her fourth grand slam title – but her first outside New York.

She took care of world No.2 Vera Zvonareva on Rod Laver Arena today 6-3 6-3 after China’s Li Na came from a set down and a match point against her to beat world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in a thriller 3-6 7-5 6-3.

The pair will now meet in Saturday night’s women’s singles final.

It wasn’t all that long ago – in fact two weeks – that Li and Clijsters met in a WTA final. It was the Sydney International and Clijsters will remember all too well about having a 5-0 lead in the first set but eventually losing the match 7-6 6-3.

“I was able to rise to the occasion today,” Clijsters said of her triumph over Zvonareva, whom she beat in September last year too win her third US Open.

“I’ve played some big matches and haven’t won them all, but it definitely teaches you something, the losses.”

Li will be playing in her maiden grand slam final – the first Chinese player to do so. Clijsters has actually been in seven grand slam finals, having lost the first four before her triumph in the 2005 US Open.

But it’s been a while between drinks in Melbourne. Clijsters lost the 2004 final to Belgian compatriot Justine Henin, who coincidently announced her second retirement from the game overnight due to her elbow tendon injury.

More recently Clijsters lost the 2007 semi-final to Maria Sharapova in Melbourne before retiring herself to get married and start a family. She returned to Melbourne last year and was humiliated in the third round 6-0 6-1 by Nadia Petrova.

But she said her philosophy has always been to keep fighting.

“I tried really hard on every point as I had tough matches against Vera last year and lost to her a couple of times,” Clijsters said on-court today.

“I try to make my opponents go for that one extra shot every time. You have to try to be the last one standing.”

The victory didn't come as easy, but little has in the life of Na Li, who became the first player from China to reach the final of a Grand Slam when she knocked No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki out of the Australian Open with a spectacular victory.

Li, who had reached the semifinal last year, saved a match point down 4-5 in the second set with a screaming forehand winner and then never looked back, putting on a ferocious display from inside the baseline and never backing off the ball. She sealed the contest when a shaken Wozniacki erred on a forehand.

"This is good experience for my whole life, because many player, they play long time, but they never come to the final for a Grand Slam," said the Li, who lost to Serena Williams in last year's semifinal. "Today I get it."

The 20-year-old Dane was rock solid for the first set and half, serving brilliantly, pushing herself to make her forehand a weapon and relentlessly retrieving Li's blasts.
She broke Li to open the match and while Li broke back to 2-2 behind heavy groundstrokes, the quick Wozniacki sprinted to and fro and put up a wall behind the baseline, forcing Li into one error after another. She broke Li at 4-3 and eventually won the set, where she only committed two unforced errors.

A confident Wozniacki broke Li to 2-1 by ripping a return winner, but was unable to break Li again in a long and tough seventh game, and then began to lose control of the contest.
Li began to hit the corners, charge the net and yank Wozniacki from side to side. Li forced her into a forehand error to break back to 4-4, but then was inexplicably broken to 5-4 when she hit a forehand approach shot way wide. Wozniacki held her sole match point at 5-4, but played the point too passively and Li responded by ripping a forehand winner down the line, She won three straight games and took the set when the Dane double faulted.

Wozniacki kept running, but could never dictate in the third set and the match was on Li's racket. She did manage to break Li to 2-1, but then her wheels came off as she was broken back to 2-2, was broken again to 4-2 on a backhand error and while Li dropped her serve to 4-3, she out muscled Wozniacki in the next two games. The 28-year-old ripped a forehand cross court winner to gain a match point and then watched Wozniacki miss a forehand of her own to end the contest.

Justine Henin again retires from tennis.

Justine Henin has announced her retirement from professional tennis due to an elbow injury. A seven-time Grand Slam champion, Henin retired from the sport for the first time in May 2008, the first player in WTA history to do so while ranked No.1. The Belgian made a successful comeback at the start of 2010, reaching back-to-back finals at Brisbane and the Australian Open and capturing titles at Stuttgart and 's-Hertogenbosch in the spring. During a fourth round loss to Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon she suffered a right elbow injury and did not play for the remainder of the 2010 season.

Henin played one tournament in 2011, the Australian Open, and reached the third round before falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

On her official website, Henin said the following: "I have unfortunately not good news. I spent the last days undergoing various medical tests and they have confirmed that my elbow has been damaged by my adventure in Australia... After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, it is now clear and I accept that my career here finally ends. Even though it's hard, very hard, while I came back with a tremendous fighting spirit.

"I turn, and this time, an incredible page of my life... What a wonderful trip I have experienced during all these years. Today I'm calmer and I can create a positive and rewarding look back on this experience in my life... Finally and most importantly, thanks everyone. Thanks for standing by my side during all these years. I will never forget your support and your loyalty."

Henin won 43 WTA titles - including seven Grand Slam titles - and has been ranked No.1 for a total of 117 weeks (seventh all-time). She has amassed more than $20 million in career prize money. But more importantly than any statistic, the 5'5" Henin was renowned for her spectacular one-handed backhand, incredible athleticism and unrivalled mental fortitude and work ethic.

After retiring from tennis in 2008, Henin turned her focus to charitable work, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and traveling to Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in that role throughout 2009. She created the "Justine For Kids" association, the purpose of which is to help develop and fund projects to aid sick children and their families. Henin founded the "Sixth Sense Academy" in 2007 with coach Carlos Rodriguez which has five locations - three in Belgium, one in Florida and the most recent one in China.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ode to Agnieszka.

It wasn't a good week for poor Agie with the racquet it some regard. In other ways, an amazing week.

As blogger CNote from Forty Deuce said "The Irony Is She Doesn't Even Hit Hard"

Clijsters, Zvonerava set for Semi Final battle.

Kim Clijsters moved into an Australian Open semifinal showdown with No. 2-ranked Vera Zvonareva, beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 7-6 (4) on Wednesday as air force planes flew in formation overhead as part of celebrations for the national day.

Cannons went off earlier when Zvonareva started the Australia Day proceedings at Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2 6-4 win over Petra Kvitova.

Three-time U.S. Open champion Clijsters is seeking her first major outside of America and to return to the final at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2004, when she lost the championship match to fellow Belgian Justine Henin.

Zvonareva has never won a Grand Slam title, losing the last two finals to Clijsters in New York and to Serena Williams at Wimbledon.

Clijsters struggled more than Zvonerava, even had Radwanska serve for the second set at 5-4, and seemingly had an injury with left thigh heavily tapped.

Zvonerava has won three of the last four meetings with Clijsters with the winner this time either play world number one Caroline Wozniacki or inform Li Na for their first Australian Open crown.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Radwanska and Zvonareva advance to Quarter Finals.

Maybe Agnieszka Radwanska should come into the Australian Open with no match practice every year. In yet another remarkable comeback for the 12th seed, the Pole fought off two match points and put down Shuai Peng 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to gain her second quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
That the wily 21-year-old has been able to win four straight matches in her first tournament back since undergoing foot surgery in October is incredible, especially given that when she came to Melbourne to practice just prior to the event, she wasn't even sure until the day before the draw ceremony that she'd be able to play.

But Radwanska is more driven that she appears outwardly and it showed against the ambitious Peng, as after letting go of a 3-1 lead in the third set, she stormed back from a 5-3 deficit and took the last four games.

Peng served for the match at 5-4, but Radwanska fought off a match point with a precise forehand volley winner and then on Peng's second match point, she charged the net again and nailed an overhead, forcing her foe into a backhand error.

While Radwanska isn't tall and is fairly slight, she has can bear down and close and did so in the final game, ripping a backhand crosscourt winner to gain her first match point. Peng, who was playing in her first Grand Slam round of 16, nailed a forehand winner to fend it off, but the Pole gained another and forced the Chinese into a backhand winner for the victory.

After she underwent foot surgery, former world No.8 Radwanska was told by the doctor that it was likely that she wouldn't be able to return until the Miami tournament in late March. But she badly wanted to play the Australian Open and when her doctor gave her a 1 percent chance to play she responded, "If you give me a 1 percent to play in January, I'm going to play."

"The worst thing for a player is to miss a Grand Slam and I didn't not want to watch the Australian Open from home on TV," she said. "I wouldn't be able to stand that."

When Vera Zvonareva and Iveta Benesova met in the second round of Australian Open 2010, the gap between them looked huge. The Russian who would go on to finish the year at No.2 in the world just outpowered her opponent, allowing her a mere 3 games.

A year later, the 27-year-old Czech lefty played her first career Grand Slam round of 16. Ranked No.60 in the world, she was the lowest-ranked player left in the women's draw. And, after struggling to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the previous round, Benesova was ready to confirm her Grand Slam breakthrough, and make her way into the quarter-finals.

But before she knew it, on a lively Hisense Arena, she was down 2-0 against a Zvonareva who merely kept the the ball in play and waited for the mistake. Making her way into the match quietly but surely, Benesova began distributing her smooth groundstrokes with more accuracy, and retrieving everything. Visibly frustrated, Zvonareva began to look impatient, too eager to force her game on her opponent. Quickly she lost the next four games as Benesova found some beautiful angles. "I though I was a little bit slow and a little bit passive at that time" Zvonareva said later.

Little did anyone expect the Russian to breeze through the rest of the match dropping just one game. Yet, this is what happened. Serving much better as the match went on, Zvonareva became more alert, imposing on her opponent the pace and depth which led her to world No.2. Benesova just couldn't sustain the rhythm, and often she found herself two metres from the ball. Zvonareva captured the set 6-4 after 40 minutes on a beautiful winning inside out forehand.

Beaming with confidence, she broke in the fourth and sixth games of the second set. But although hardly threatened on serve, she had to save two break points serving at 5-1, before concluding the match with yet another forehand winner on her second match point, after an hour and 16 minutes of play.

Kvitova continues form.

Czech rising star Petra Kvitova has announced herself as a real threat to the top seeds by toppling Italian Flavia Pennetta in three sets, 3-6 6-3 6-3.

The Hisense Arena crowd were treated to a tense match today that could very well have swung in either direction. But it was Kvitova, who was building on the form that saw her take out Aussie favourite Sam Stosur two days ago that fought the hardest.

The first set was all about Pennetta, with the left-handed Kvitova struggling to match the Italian's power. 22nd seed Pennetta was attacking from the baseline early and she used her fierce backhand to produce several big winners. Kvitova's power came from her backhand too, but she couldn't match it with her accuracy.

Kvitova said she didn't dwell too much on the first set loss as she tried to concentrate on the task at hand. "Well, I was very nervous in the first set. I thought that it will be fighting, and it was, so I just wanted to try for just focus on each point. But all match was very close and very tough."

With the Italian leading the charge, it appeared early on that it would be a brief match. But Kvitova had other ideas and took the reins in the second. The tall Czech owned the net on several points with Pennetta unable to get past her. Her serve became more of a weapon too and she forced a third set.

The chase was on in the third with both women hungry for a quarterfinals berth. Kvitova ran her opponent to each corner of the court, but Pennetta maintained her form. Power and timing were her strengths but the world No.28 Czech had the answers. It may have taken her a while to find her groove, but once she did Kvitova was unbeatable. She took the third set 6-3.

The shy Czech said she focused on each point individually instead of the overall match. "When I served, each game was very close. It was deuce or something. But I made the big points also. I improve also my serve and just think about the point and I think around."

Kvitova believes that there is one very important part of her game that helps her. "The left-handed has something good for the serve or something. So, yeah, it's good for us."

At just 20-years-old, Kvitova has had an awesome start to 2011. She beat Andrea Petkovic to win the Brisbane International two weeks ago and now moves into the quarters of Australian Open 2011. She faces second seed Vera Zvonareva in what promises to be a colossal battle to move into the semifinals.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Petko dances all the way to the Quarter Finals.

The hits just keep coming in the women's draw at the Australian Open with a little history thrown in as well.

Tonight on Rod Laver Arena, three-time grand slam champion and the winner in Melbourne in 2008, Maria Sharapova, was bundled out by 30th seed Andrea Petkovic, 6-2 6-3.

It is the German's first time into a grand slam quarter-final and she celebrated with her now trademark shuffle on court, known as the 'Petko Dance'.

It all started with her new coach, Petar Popovic, back in New York last September when her early tournament form at the US Open wasn't so good.

"I play much better since I do the dance. So for everybody if something is not going well, just do a little dance," the 23-year-old Petkovic told the crowd.

Sharapova's exit before the quarter-finals follows fellow stars Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Justine Henin and Sam Stosur, who failed to make the final eight having been there before.

"You know it was such a tough match. Just two or three points and Maria comes back. I'm just happy I closed it out in the end," Petkovic said. "It's my primary goal to compete with the great champions and maybe become one myself one day."

Petko also offered some advice for aspiring young tennis player, "Never listen to your parents! And you end up on Rod Laver Arena" after explain her father tried to convince her to give tennis up and focus on an academic career, and aren't we all glad she stayed with tennis!

And now with Maria Sharapova out the we will have a Champion at Melbourne Park who as never lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Schiavone edges Kuznetsova in record marathon.

Italy's Francesca Schiavone has won the longest grand slam women's singles match ever played - a four hour, 44 minute epic against Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Sixth seed Schiavone beat 23rd seed Kuznetsova 6-4 1-6 16-14 on Hisense Arena in a fourth-round clash - the third set lasting exactly three hours.

It bettered the previous women's grand slam record set at last year's Australian Open when Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Regina Kulikova in four hours and 19 minutes in a first round match.

But it was well short of the longest recorded women's tennis match between Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner in a tournament in Virginia in the United States in 1984.

Nelson won that in six hours and 31 minutes, including the longest point in women's professional tennis.

Kuznetsova had six match points midway through the marathon third set but current French Open champion Schiavone kept saving them to set up a high quality climax.

Schiavone broke Kuznetsova in the 29th game of the set, then claimed victory on her serve on her third match point.

Kuznetsova saved two match points with a baseline winner and a sharp return but could not save the third as Schiavone wrapped up the three-hour final set with a forehand volley.

Schiavone now faces world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the quarter-finals.

Caroline survives Latvian and kangaroo attack.

Caroline Wozniacki is no stranger to criticism. The 'Great Dane', who currently plays poster girl for the Adidas Stella McCartney range, has had her top ranking questioned from time to time, and has even had her somewhat passive mindset in tennis matches strongly refuted.

However, if the top seed was looking to validate her newly established status as the darling of the women's game, she needed a match like her fourth round win today against Latvian Anastasija Sevastova. Down 3-1 against a feisty 20-year-old opponent with a deceptively powerful running forehand, Wozniacki dug deep into her reservoir of variety and rallied to regain the break. She didn't relinquish another game in the opening set.

While Wozniacki may not possess a walloping serve or an entirely destructive backhand, her wit throughout the most taxing of rallies must never be discounted. Anastasja Sevastova can attest to that herself.

After dropping the opening set 6-3, the Latvian youngster clearly felt the effects of playing the top seed under the Melbourne sun. Hitting her backhand with less conviction in the second set, Sevastova quickly went down a break in the opening game. Despite being broken back for 1-1, Wozniacki went ahead 4-2, fending off some cunning drop shots from the Latvian.

With her chances looking increasingly grim, Sevastova abided by the old tennis cliché: just go for your shots and swing freely. She sure did, and it allowed her to level the second set at 4-4. Caroline then got the fatal brake to eventually win 6-3 6-4.

A large media pack was in attendance for Wozniacki's first press conference since her bizarre, but roundly applauded, performance in front of the microphone on Friday.

And the world No.1 didn't disappoint as she broached the topic of how she received a gash on her right leg.

"The other day I went to the park and I saw this kangaroo lying there,'' Wozniacki said.

"So I wanted to go over and help it out. As I went over to it, it just started to be aggressive and it actually cut me ... That's why I'm playing with this tape on my shin.

"I went to the doctor, they cleaned it and everything. They wanted to do a few stitches, I just told them to glue it together. I'm playing with the Steri Strips, it's looking fine, so everyone is happy.''

Shame that whole story was a concoction, as she clarified later on Twitter.

"Round 2 with the media:) hope you enjoyed my kangaroo story, hope you know i was just kidding:) see you on tuesday for round 3!,'' the Dane tweeted.

Too late for many members of the press who had already filed their story to all corners of the globe.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Serena Williams vs Kim Clijsters: Who is the better player?

When an interviewer asked Kim Clijsters about how open the draw was because of the vacuum Serena Williams has left in the tournament, she responded with a bit of venom, saying that she "did not pay attention to the other parts of the draw."

Let me tell Kim, and her supporters, that the absence of Serena Williams made the act of winning her US Open last year, and potentially the Australian Open this year, so much easier.

She was stretched to three sets by Samantha Stosur, who failed to capitalise on her mental lapses, and win the match. She was again pushed to three by an under prepared Venus Williams, who could have won the match, had it not been for her errant serve.

Let's make it clear, that had it been Serena Williams who faced Kim Clijsters at the US Open, her competitive spirit would be clamouring for Clijsters' blood. Serena is a better player than Venus and Stosur, we cannot doubt what she would have done to Kim had she faced her at the Open.

And again in 2011, Serena is the Australian Open defending champion. She has won the tournament five times. Her absence might as well have been the biggest Christmas present Clijsters has ever received.

Stroke by stroke, Serena Williams beats her in spades.

1. Serve

The most important stroke in tennis. The only stroke that only the player can control. Between Clijsters and Serena, there's absolutely no competition here. Serena's serve is the best of all time. Clijsters' serve is not even in the top 20. Clijsters' serve is a liability. Serena's serve is her best weapon, and her most reliable stroke. Clijsters' serve and toss fail her many times, like in the Sydney Final, where she served three doubles in a row. Serena's serve is her get out of jail free card.

Better Serve: Serena Williams

Serena's Serving Score: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Kim's serving score: B

2. Forehand

This was much tighter than the serve. Both players have great forehands. But I have to go with Serena's. Her forehand is the more explosive, the more powerful, more accurate and has more oomph. When that forehand is on, she will rip winners left and right, with amazing power, control and precision. While Clijsters' forehand is good, it's just generically good. Lots of the players on tour have amazing forehands, and while Clijsters has a good one, it's not the best forehand, when it's on, it's very good. But it's extremely erratic, and hits a lot of unforced errors.

Better Forehand: Serena Williams

Serena's Forehand Score: A+
Kim's Forehand Score: A-

3. Backhand

While still not as uncompetitive as the serve, the divide between their backhands is bigger than the forehand. Serena can place her backhand anywhere on the court. From extreme angled cross court to right up the line. Very natural timing on her backhand as well. Kim Clijsters has a good backhand, not really in the top five of the tour today. Not even in the top 10 really. Vika and Masha have much, much, much better backhands than Clijsters.

Serena's backhand score: A+
Kim's backhand score: B

4. Overall Groundstrokes Score

Both of these women have consistent, deep, well placed groundies, but Serena comes up on top.

Serena's score: A to A+
Kim's Score: B+ to A-

5. Movement

Something that Kim has over Serena in spades. Kim's a much better mover than Serena, more natural and a great defender. Serena's not bad, she's just not the best in the game.

Serena's Movement Score: B+ to A-
Kim's movement score: A, on her best days, A+.

6. Volleys

Both have been world No. 1 doubles players, but Serena has the edge in slams in doubles and mixed doubles. This is really tight, but I'm giving Serena the slight edge because she approaches the net much more and plays doubles much more. Both players have good transitional play, but again, Serena moves to the net to volley much more than Clijsters. Clijsters usually approaches the net only to return short balls or end with the overhead. Both players are almost inseparable, but Serena shows more willingness to volley in singles.

Serena's Score: A-
Kim's Score: A-

7. Returns

Serena wins here.

Clijsters has consistent returns, and gets the ball back into play. Serena injects enough venom in her return to kill an elephant. can hammer back a 200 kilometre per hour serve for a winner. Clijsters'? She'll get the ball back. Serena just attacks the ball so early, leaving her opponents no room to manoeuvre.

Serena's Score: A to A+
Kim's Score: B-

8. Mental Toughness

Did you really expect anything else other than this woman? Someone like Clijsters still can't claim to be mentally strong, even in her second career. Pre-retirement, she was second only to Amelie Mauresmo and Daniela Hantuchova. In her second-career, she's better, but she still choked in the Sydney Final against Li Na. Serena Williams is the Queen of Comebacks. Whether it was her spirited wins over Shahar Peer and Nadi Petrova in 2007, or her saving of three match points against Clijsters in 2003, or saving one against Elena in 2009, or the way she saved another three match points against Maria in 2005 or coming back 15-30 down on her own serve down a set and love 4-0 against an Azarenka on fire. Take your pick, but I doubt any woman could come back from the brink of defeat the way she did then. The closest would be Maria Sharapova, but Kim Clijsters doesn't have the tenacity and fight these girls do.

Serena's Score: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Kim's Score: B-

9. Overall

There's a reason that Serena Williams has won a "Serena Slam." There's a reason she's in the GOAT talks. There's a reason she has 13 Grand Slams. There's a reason she's the best in her generation. And there's a reason why Kim has only won three US Opens, two of which had substandard competition.

Serena Williams is a far better player.

Serena's Player Score: A to A+
Kim's Player Score: B to B+

Czech mate for Stosur.

The world No.6 was out-foxed and out-played by young Czech and 25th seed Petra Kvitova 7-6(5) 6-3 in the third round tonight.

Her opponent’s talent was shown in the fact the 20-year-old hit 41 winners to Stosur’s 12.

The evening on Rod Laver Arena didn’t go well from the start with Stosur having to save four break points on her opening serve before holding.

But not converting two on Kvitova’s serve while leading 4-3 in the first set, hurt Stosur. A break there would have allowed her to serve for the set. Instead she became locked in a tiebreak and came out on the wrong side.

In the second set Stosur again had three break points on the Czech’s serve in the fifth game and failed to convert and then dropped her own serve in the sixth.

They are the chances she will rue when she sits down to dissect the match, that would have propelled Stosur into the fourth round at her home slam for the third time.

Instead it is Kvitova – who won the Brisbane International two weeks ago – who will meet Italian Flavia Pennetta on Monday for a sport in the quarter-finals.

So much was riding on Stosur’s shoulders for the clash tonight. She had been in devastating form in her first two rounds.

But her coach Dave Taylor had warned about the danger the left-handed European would pose since her serve and groundstrokes were the equal of the Australian’s power.

Poor execution by Stosur let Kvitova’s light shine a little brighter. The Australian scored no aces - the Czech five - Stosur won fewer points at the net and converted far less break points.

From the eight Australian women that entered the main draw of 128, none are now left.

Clijsters takes down birthday girl!

Great players find a way to win, even when they're not having their best day on the court. And that's just what third seed Kim Clijsters did today.

The Belgian scrapped and grinded her way to an unconvincing 7-6(3) 6-3 win over world No.83 Alize Cornet at Rod Laver Arena.

"You never play a whole tournament playing your best tennis. And you have to also, you know, work for it. I think that's what I had to do today," said Clijsters after the match.

Birthday girl Cornet would have been hoping for a gift from the likeable Clijsters, but it was the Frenchwoman who dropped serve, gifting Clijsters the opening game of the match, a start Cornet was not happy with.

"I think I could have played way better and she could have played way better, as well," she said. "I cannot say I'm so disappointed, but I have some regrets because I think I could have done better in the first set, and I think I didn't believe enough in myself, so that's just a shame."

Early on, Clijsters looked as if she was going to sweep Cornet aside and race into the fourth round in double time. But after opening up a 3-1 lead, Clijsters's crown slipped a little as she started to miss, regularly.

The break back came in the sixth game as a pumped up Cornet levelled the set. Not to be outdone, Clijsters broke straight back to reclaim her advantage.

Clijsters's usually reliable serve wasn't up to scratch today - six double faults for the match too many from a player many believe will pick up her first Australian Open title in a week's time.

Serving for the set at 5-4, some loose play from the Belgian kept Cornet's hopes of an upset alive. A forehand volley into the net from Clijsters giving Cornet a sniff, and not long after the Frenchwoman had the break back.

Inevitably the set ended in a tiebreak, with Clijsters coming out on top - too many errors from Cornet's racquet as the more experienced Clijsters kept her cool under pressure.

Clijsters had to wait for the fourth game to get the break after Cornet hit a forehand long.

From there it was too hard for Cornet to come back, the 21-year-old tired as Clijsters did enough to chalk up the win. The Frenchwoman also spent a surprising amount of time on the ground; anyone wondering what to buy the Frenchwoman for her birthday would be well advised to get her some new shoes.

Clijsters will only take a few positives from this match - the main one being she found a way to win despite not being at the top of her game. 41 unforced errors from Clijsters, compared with 25 from Cornet, was too many.

"I felt that I was building my points pretty well when I was in charge, but a couple times missed easier volleys, [I] felt that I could have maybe hit a drive volley and finished off the points a little bit sooner," said Clijsters.

The Belgian breathed a sigh of relief after the win but said she'll be having a serious practice session on Sunday morning to iron out the wrinkles that were evident in her game today in preparation for her fourth-round date with unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who upset 13th-seeded countrywoman Nadia Petrova.

"Tomorrow out on the practice court I'm going to try to hit a lot of balls, try to get that feel for it again, move better. Just little things that keep that rhythm or get the rhythm to where I want it to be."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Venus Williams forced to retire from Grand Slam match for the first time.

Venus Williams, the No.4 seed, was forced to retire from her first-ever Grand Slam singles match, calling time on her third round encounter against Andrea Petkovic after just six minutes.

Williams, who injured her pelvic muscle during her gruelling three-set match against Sandra Zahlavova, began serving in the second night match on Rod Laver Arena, but was soon broken by a determined-looking Petkovic, winning just one point. And, having stretched and failed for a Petkovic passing shot, the multi-Grand Slam champion hobbled to her chair after the seventh point. Head in her hands, and consulting the trainer, she made the decision to retire from a Grand Slam singles match for the first time since 1994.

German Petkovic advances to meet Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.

As Williams walked onto Rod Laver Arena, she was already limping, and didn't make much hope for the quality three setter most would have hoped for. In the six minutes of play we were able to see Venus was obviously struggling with the injury not even attempting to run down balls. As the trainer told her the news, and the crowed saw the inevitable unfold, Williams look clearly and understandably distraught.

Here is what venus had to say after the match:

Q. What happened?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Um, I just obviously couldn't play. I mean, just couldn't move. Just too painful.

Q. We saw how debilitating it was two days ago when it happened. How has the last 24, 48 hours gone for you? Take us through that.

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, the last 48 hours I did as much pain management and recovery that I could. I just hit some balls at 6:00 just kind of standing still. Just kind of warming up standing still and trying to give my best for the match.

You know, a lot times when you play, too, you get this adrenaline that blocks pain. But I just didn't get enough of that today.

Q. How disappointing is this for you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I mean it's super disappointing because this is just not how I envisioned my Australian Open being. I've never had to retire from a Grand Slam especially after working so hard to pull out the match the other day. Just hoping for some magic that I could recover.

But I have peace of mind that I really gave more than my best to be out there.

Q. Did you get any medical advice that it wasn't a good idea to play?

VENUS WILLIAMS: What do you mean? When?

Q. In between the other day and this match.

VENUS WILLIAMS: No, my parents/coaches probably didn't think I should play. What do you think, mom? (Off microphone.)

Q. Just to follow up on what your mom said, I've seen you over the years and seemed like coming into the tournament you weren't in prime condition and moving that well. Did you ever consider taking another month and rehabbing after what you went through in the fall? Do you think you pushed it too much just trying to play here?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Um, I just wanted to give 100%. I mean when I think of myself and my career I don't make any excuses ever to myself or anyone.

For me, it was just important to give 100%. I think I learn from experiences like this. If I'm not ready to play or if I'm still hurting maybe it's better to stop. That's just learning from life. I've learned now more or less what my limits are. Just learn from that the next time.

Q. Is this an injury that's likely to stay with you for a long time and set you back from future tournaments as well?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I don't know yet. When I come back to play next time, I'll be a 100%. So I won't be back until whenever that is. Hopefully, who knows, maybe it'll be for Fed Cup.

Q. Will you get some scans before you fly home so you know how badly injured you are?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I'm not sure, because I just got off the court. I don't know really yet what I'm going to do.

So obviously it's an option.

Q. Does it hurt a lot when you're just walking around the hotel or up and downstairs or anything like that?

VENUS WILLIAMS: My last match it just hurt walking around between points. I was able to calm down from yesterday to today to where I could pretty much walk without pain. After aggravating it today I'm not as comfortable now.

Q. Were you kind of hoping for a miracle, that you could get out there and the adrenaline will get going and you would be able to move? Because it wasn't just about tonight. Did you really think it would heal enough where you could play at a decent level?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, of course that's in the back of my mind. It's tough to come into a match not knowing if what level you can give. Normally you go into a match and you're already focused anyway, and it's hard to focus on so many other things outside of just the game.

So that was hard. Then to think about if I could last five more matches like that and what the future was. So it was really just one match at a time. Hey, can I make it one more match? Obviously I just couldn't.

Q. Serena tends to be a little more emotional outwardly than you have been. How sad are you? Does it hurt you badly or is it just something where you can say, I'm a tough woman and I can shake it off and tomorrow is another day?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I think it hurts more when you lose and it's your fault, like you made bad decisions and didn't get the ball in play. This time I feel like I tried really hard to be in this tournament. At this point I have peace of mind that I gave everything I had at all points.

So more than anything, I can't be disappointed in that aspect.

Q. You played great at the US Open and played some great tournaments last year. A lot of gaps because of injuries.


Q. At what point is tennis just not worth it to you?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I'm still pretty good, even when I'm injured. I mean, at the Open I came pretty close to winning that tournament just on a hope and a prayer and little to no preparation.

Here, you know I was grinding. So I'm just going to focus obviously on getting healthy and coming back. Because I love tennis and I've got a lot of great tennis in me. I love my job, so no end in sight.

This was also Venus' first retirement since 2004 (Los Angeles) after playing 294 consecutive matches.

Popcorn Tennis.

The upset

[23] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d [11] Justine Henin (BEL) 6-4 7-6(8). Few saw this coming. Kuzzie surprised the 2010 finalist with a mixture of power and precision. Henin scrambled and had her chances late in the second set, but the Russian wasn't ready to go home just yet.

Did that just happen?

After hearing that there were some sections of the media who thought her press conferences were boring, Great Dane Caroline Wozniacki decided to take matters into her own hands. Rather than taking questions from the media, Caro pre-empted and answered all questions herself. "You know, I find it quite, you know, funny because I always get the same questions. So I'm just going to start. I know what you're going to ask me already. So I'm just going to start with the answer," the world No.1 said. Following she fielded questions about global warming, cricket, what she likes in men ("Honesty. Understanding what I'm doing. Maybe a sportsperson himself.") and when she's planning on getting married and having kids ("First I have to find a guy.") Nice work, Caro.

Wish you were there

[14] Maria Sharapova (RUS) d Julia Goerges (GER) 4-6 6-4 6-4. The Australian Open 2008 champ looked like she may be on her way back before she turned the tide against German Goerges. Shazza lives to fight another day.

Need to know

Sam Stosur and Petra Kvitova have met once before at French Open 2008 - Kvitova won in straight sets. Back then though, Stosur was ranked No.149, she's now the world No.6.

View from the outer

Australian Open 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Wimbledon marathon man John Isner and 15th seed Marin Cilic can all be found at Margaret Court Arena on Saturday. While young gun Richard Berankis takes on men's seventh seed David Ferrer on Show Court 2 followed by women's 13th seed Nadia Petrova and Ekaterina Makarova in an all-Russian affair.

Be there

Rod Laver Arena night session. It's an Aussie double header at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night. First up it's fifth seed Sam Stosur versus Brisbane International winner Petra Kvitova, followed by world No.1 Rafael Nadal and teenager Bernard Tomic. Sparks flew the last time Tomic played a night session at RLA - will Rafa send Bernard to bed early or will the teenager stay up late and cause some havoc?

It'll be a long drive home for …

Viktor Troicki. After pushing compatriot Novak Djokovic to five sets in the first round of the US Open last year, Troicki will be unhappy with the outcome of today's match. After losing the first set 6-2, Troicki called time citing a stomach strain.

What did you say?

Reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone copped some random questions today.

Q: Can you tell us a few words about Kim Clijsters? (Schiavone and Clijsters are in opposite halves of the draw.)

Francesca: Yeah, but why Kim?

Q: Just in general, what can you tell us about her comeback?

Francesca: You know who is Kim. I think I don't have to tell you who is.

Q: Did things change in Italy after winning the French Open? Did you receive more invitations for TV shows, for example?

Francesca: You didn't read the newspaper?

Q: Yeah, I did.

Francesca: I think they ask me 100 time [already].

A little known fact about

Caroline Wozniacki. The world No.1 likes to bake and played the piano until the age of 13. Just don't ask her about whether or not she deserves being No.1 without having won a Grand Slam tournament

Via: Australian Open 

Sveta downs Henin.

Justine Henin was eliminated in the third round of the Australian Open, losing 6-4 7-6(8) to Svetlana Kuznetsova just a year after reaching the final in her comeback to Grand Slam tennis.

t was Henin's first loss in a major to Kuznetsova, the former French and U.S. Open champion, and her worst run at a Grand Slam event since Wimbledon in 2005.

Henin was only weeks into a comeback from a career break from the tour when she lost the final last year to Serena Williams, the third time in four appearances that she'd reached the championship match at Melbourne. Her comeback season was derailed when she injured her right elbow at Wimbledon and didn't play again in 2010.

Earlier, Caroline Wozniacki beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 6-3 to reach the fourth round and avenge last week's loss in a tuneup tournament. French Open champion Francesca Schiavone also moved on, beating Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-0 7-6(2).

Wozniacki, playing her first Grand Slam as the world No. 1, advanced to the fourth round for the seventh consecutive major but has yet to win one of tennis' marquee events. The 20-year-old Danish player can hold onto the No. 1 ranking by reaching the semifinals in Australia.

Wozniacki said last week's loss to Cibulkova in Sydney helped her prepare for the rematch and she was confident she could continue the success she had last year, when she won a tour-leading six titles from eight finals.

"It's a new year. I'm in the fourth round here. It's good," she said.

Also advancing were No. 8 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Chanelle Scheepers 6-3 6-3, and ninth seed Li Na, who defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2 6-1.

And with Henin gone, I couldn't be happier!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Take that todd!

All I can say if someone said this to me...I wouldn't be laughing.

Zvonerava forced to step up against rising star

Vera Zvonareva must be the most unassuming No.2 seed women's tennis has ever seen at a major. The Russian Muscovite, who has been frequently overshadowed by the glamorous Maria Sharapova and athletic (now retired) Elena Dementieva, has never really been big into publicity.

But what Zvonareva does well, even better than her countrywomen of late, is put her head down and find ways to get out of tough situations in the early rounds of the Grand Slams. A case in point was her second round meeting today on Hisense Arena with Serbian young gun Bojana Jovanovski.

Not surprisingly, Jovanovski was the name on everyone's lips before the match began. And it didn't take long to see why. Bossing the ball around the court with Monica Seles-like conviction, the 19-year-old frequently out-hit the second seed with relative ease. She went up 4-2 in no time and after two double faults from Zvonareva, she had a chance for 5-2.

She took it with a majestic backhand down the line, and soon after, the set followed 6-2. Impressively, Jovanovski habitually hit the ball not only on the rise, but with her point of contact well in front of her powerful torso. Remaining steady throughout the baseline exchanges, the youngster seldom appeared out of position when pounding backhands left, right and centre past the awe-struck Zvonareva.

However, after losing the first set, Zvonareva gave the entire Hisense Arena crowd a master class in counter-punching. Never one to shy away from scurrying left and right along the baseline, the Russian played intelligently to open the second set with a hold, frequently wrong footing her opponent.

She remained on the defence throughout the set, even when she broke to lead 4-2; but somehow, she seemed to relish the challenge. After holding on to seal the set 6-3, it was clear that the second seed had broken through the stronghold.

It was moments such as those which propelled Zvonareva to both the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year. No longer the player who crumbled to tears mid-match in the fourth round of US Open 2004, Zvonareva showed her developed maturity by calmly breaking in the opening game of the third set.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for the Russian, who lost only one additional game to take the set 6-1.

"It is definitely getting better, and that's what I wanted, this kind of match," Zvonareva said about today's encounter. "Maybe you're not playing perfect throughout the whole match, maybe a little bit inconsistent yet, but you still getting through this kind of match. And I really think that it will really help me to improve for the next one. I'm very positive about it."

"I'm maybe not as sharp yet as I want to be, but definitely this kind of match will help me to be better the next one."

Vera will meet Safarova in the third round who battled to win 6-3 6-7(2) 7-5 against fellow Czech Klara Zakopalova.

Caroline Wozniacki trades tennis racquet for cricket bat.

World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki traded her tennis racquet for a cricket bat earlier today when she was introduced to the national Australian game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by Victorian Bushrangers Peter Siddle and Aaron Finch.

The Danish beauty knew very little about cricket- she had never played or watched the sport until today and was particularly amazed by the size of the MCG.

Finch showed Wozniacki how to bat and the likeable blonde often had trouble connecting with the ball, laughing at her many failed attempts. When she eventually worked out how to bat, she nearly cleaned up the cameraman and couldn't hide the huge grin off her face. Siddle then showed the in-form Dane how to bowl.

After learning the basics of cricket, Siddle and Finch had a brief chat with Wozniacki asking her about her upcoming matches, and she too asked them about the Bushrangers' latest form.

Wozniacki was all smiles, loving the experience and was invited to the Bushrangers' next Twenty20 match on Saturday night. The top seed will be in action on Rod Laver Arena tomorrow morning taking on No.29 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.

Serena and Common believed to be engaged!

The engagement rumor mill is busy churning 'em out this year. Last week, the gossip was that Regina King and Malcolm-Jamal Warner had decided to wed (which she later disputed). This week, it’s Common and Serena’s turn.

Serena Williams’ best friend Selita Ebanks appeared on “The Wendy Williams Show” Monday , and when the day-time host asked about the rumor, Selita didn’t actually deny it.

Selita just said, “I’m the best friend, and I wouldn’t be the best friend if I told you, so I don’t know.”

An answer like that in court could land you behind bars, but we’re still not sure Common and Serena are guilty of pending matrimony. Several media outlets are reporting that Serena has denied the rumor.

Serena and Common have been dating for about three years now, and all Selita would share is her opinion that Common would be a smart man to lock Serena down. If nothing else, it seems their relationship is back on track. That's a step in the right direction when you consider that they broke up briefly last summer.

According to sources, Common presented Serena with a ring over the holidays.

Have a look for your self!

Venus survives huge scare, in "worst tennis dress ever"

Venus Williams has been in that position before - injured, down on her luck and a set. But as she has shown time and time at again at the majors, she never quits, so after suffering a muscle injury near her groin at the end of the first set of her 6-7(6) 6-0 6-4 victory over the little known Czech Sandra Zahlavova, she went back to the locker room wrapped herself up and came back on court a revived warrior.

"I wasn't very happy, to say the least," said the fourth seed. "I mean, with an injury like that, you just don't know what to expect. So I was just really trying to get tough."
That Venus was able to come back on court wasn't exactly a miracle, but it was somewhat surprising as when she went up to hit a high backhand swing volley, she screamed as she stained the muscle. She said that her yell was no run of the mill tennis grunt.

"I didn't even run for the next ball, so you can take your guess," she said. "It was a bit of shock and just kind of involuntary. I think this is probably the most acute injury that I've ever had. But I just wanted to stay on the court and try to survive and see if I could feel better another day."

After the first set, the American refused to be pushed around the court anymore, forgot about the pain, began to cut loose and showed the Czech just what having a stellar Grand Slam resume means.
She calmed down on her serve, stepped inside the court, cut off the angles and blow-torched winners to the corners. Even though her movement was clearly hindered, she was still willing to try and chase down every ball in her sight.

Distracted by Williams's injury time out, Zahlavova's level dropped precipitously in the second set but she picked it back in the third and forced Venus to earn the victory. She stood strong in most rallies and gamely tried to yank Venus around the court, but in the end, Williams tightened the screws and demanded that her foe come up with high-level shots point to point, and she couldn't.

"I think this being a major definitely has a lot to do with me staying on the court," said Venus, who has never retired from a match in 250 Grand Slam matches. "I really haven't retired from a match in any tournament in quite a long time. I think that's a testament to how I feel when I step on the court. I'm there to stay. Definitely this being a major I definitely gave it my best. It wasn't easy out there at all. Had it not been a major, would have definitely been harder to continue."

The seven-time Grand Slam champion doesn't know how she'll feel when she walks out on court in Friday, but she promises she won't give in easy.

"I think what keeps me going is knowing that when I'm healthy I play really, really well," said Venus, who reached the final here in 2003. "And knowing that I have so much good tennis in my body keeps me motivated.

As for her outfit, it is a disgrace! I knew this was coming, I would have forced her to ware the first dress! I don't know why she would ever ware such a thing! It's really a shame, in her first year or two of designing her own "EleVen" line, the outfits were quite nice, but now, its horrible! To make things worse this dress is supposedly inspired by Alice in Wonderland...Hmm still trying to get my head around that one!

Henin and Wozniacki want title not ranking.

Between them they possess seven Grand Slam titles and the world No.1 ranking.

But both Justine Henin and Caroline Wozniacki know all that counts for little as each battles for the Australian Open crown over the next week and a half.

In the second round at Melbourne Park, each put up compelling arguments as to why they will have their name engraved on the 2011 trophy.

The big name pair breezed into the third round of the women's draw with convincing wins, and are eyeing their next opponents.

Wozniacki - the world no.1 despite never having won a grand slam title - is just 20.

The Dane showed how much talent she possesses in casting aside American Vania King 6-1 6-0. The dismantling took just 58 minutes.

Henin, the winner of seven grand slam titles including the 2004 Australian Open title, had a similar urge for a quick kill on day three.

The Belgian, now 28, may have faced slightly sterner opposition in the form of Brit Elena Baltacha, but the 6-1 6-3 win was emphatic enough.

Henin and Wozniacki, two of the tournament's top fancies, may be in contrasting phases of their careers but both have a thirst for the title.

Not that either woman was giving too much away after their wins.

Wozniacki, still young in tennis terms, is trying to kick-start her career with a maiden slam to silence the knockers.

Beating up on opponents like King won't be good enough forever. She needs five more victories at Melbourne Park.

"I'm just taking one match at a time and we're going to see what's going to happen," Wozniacki said.

"You know every time I step onto court I just want to play better.

"I believe that I'm a really good player (and) I can beat anyone on a good day."

Henin, the tournament's second favourite with bookmakers behind fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, isn't fazed by her world ranking of 13, or Open seeding (11).

She knows success at major tournaments is more important.

"I never think about rankings, actually," Henin said afterwards.

"I know what I did in the past, and of course I would like to improve and get better. But my focus right now is to take care of myself (and) be in the best condition."

Like the No.1 seed, Henin said she too wasn't yet thinking about adding to her trophy cabinet.

"Anything can happen and there are so many factors that we don't control all the time, so it's very, very early to talk about that," she said.

"It's not only about the Australian Open, it's not only about 2011, it's about a few years that I want to build this second career.

"I worked very hard last year and I hope this year I'll get the confidence step by step."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clijsters double-bagles Dinara.

Third seed Kim Clijsters embarrassed former world number one Dinara Safina 6-0 6-0 in just 44 minutes to get her Australian Open campaign off to a flying start on Tuesday.

The US Open champion was in complete control throughout the lopsided first round encounter, barely raising a sweat as she swept the distraught Safina from the Rod Laver Arena.

Safina, Marat Safin's sister, was a runner-up at the Australian Open just two years ago but looked a shadow of her former self as Clijsters dominated every aspect of the game.

Earlier fifth seed Samantha Stosur led the Australian charged with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of young American Lauren David.

Alicia Molik also advanced through to the second round with a hard-fought come-from-behind win over Italian Roberta Vinci.

The first set in Clijsters' rout of Safina was over in a lightning 20 minutes and the second went by in just 24 as the Belgian underlined why she is firm favourite for the 2011 title.

Injury-hit Safina, who has now lost in the first round of her last two grand slams, is in danger of dropping out of the top 100 for the first time since 2002 as a result of the loss.

However Clijsters will be relieved to make amends for her own Australian Open humiliation when she was thrashed by Nadia Petrova 6-0 6-1 in the third round in 2010.

It was the fourth time Clijsters has whitewashed an opponent at the Australian Open, after "double bagels" in 2003, 2004 and 2007, but the first time against such illustrious opposition.

"I knew I had to be really focused and play the best I can," Clijsters said.

"I know Dinara didn't play at her best, but I just focused on my side of the net and didn't worry about what she was doing."

eanwhile Ana Ivanovic made a shock early exit from the Australian Open, beaten in the first round by Russian Ekaterina Makarova in three sets, 3-6 6-4 10-8.

The Serbian starlet looked on track for an easy win when she cruised through the first set, but from there on the Russian controlled the match as Ivanovic's mental frailties resurfaced.

Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and a beaten finalist at Melbourne Park in the same year, showed her fighting qualities by saving five match points in a marathon third set.

However, she never gained the upper hand and the 22-year-old Makarova finally closed it out with a forehand winner to break serve in the 18th game of a 91-minute decider.

It was a disappointing result for Ivanovic, who finished 2010 in strong fashion, winning two of her last three tournaments on the back of an improved fitness level and looked set to climb back up the rankings this year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Venus near perfect in first of match 2011.

Playing for the first time since the US Open, seven-time Grand Slam champion and former No.1 Venus Williams showed little sign of rust, smacking 33 winners to beat feisty Italian Sara Errani, 6-3 6-2.

Williams, the No.4 seed at one of the two Grand Slams she has never won (she is also missing the French Open), was at her aggressive best against Errani, balancing those 33 winners with just 18 errors, and winning 15 of 20 points at the net. Her serve was also on: eight aces to just one double fault. She fired one of her aces in the first point of the match and ended with one too.

"I was able to keep my errors low. I'm not sure what the stats were, but I played aggressively and won the important points most of the time," Williams said. "Sara's intensity was really high. Even when I had 40-0, she was trying to bring it back every time. I had never played her before. I have watched Serena play her before, so I knew what to expect. She has a really nice game."

For the second straight major, Williams is here without her sister, Serena Williams, who hasn't played since Wimbledon due to a foot injury. "It's a lot quieter. I realize how great it is to have someone on the tour that happens to be your sister, what a great support that is. I'm counting my blessings now."

What was Williams doing to keep busy during her time off? "I've been in school. I've been doing a lot of business development. I've become the business development for my company. I've held lots and lots and lots of meetings. It's a totally different side of life. I've never really done that before. But between that I've stayed really busy, and of course I was preparing to come back on tour."

The 23-year-old Errani fell to 0-18 lifetime against Top 10 players.

Next up for Williams is a first-time meeting with the Czech Republic's Sandra Zahlavova, who beat countrywoman Renata Voracova, 6-3 6-1.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Women's draw anaylsis.

With the first Grand Slam only one sleep away, and Melbourne Park ready to roll out the "Blue Carpet" for the fashionable ladies! I see it the perfect time to dissect and analyze the Women's Darw.

First Quarter.

Headlined by top seed Caroline Wozniacki, the section also features Justine Henin, Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Wozniacki will have a tough potential third round battle with Dominika Cibulková, who was her victor in Sydney just last week. The winner to set up another potentially juicy 4th round clash with Marion Bartoli or Yanina Wickmayer maybe even power house Jarmilla Groth. As hungry as Caroline will be to win her maiden Grand Slam, and show critics she is worthy of being world number, I for see and early loss for the young Dane, leaving her position of number one, to be filled by either Vera Zvonerava or Kim CLijsters.

In the second section, there are also some epic match ups worthy of Grand Slam Semi Final or Final matches. Justine Henin and Svetlana Kuznetsova look poised for a third round battle and the player who emerges victorious could play French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone in the round of 16. Making this possibly one of the best quarters in the whole draw!

Predicted Quarter Final - Yanina Wickmayer vs Svetlana Kuznetsova

Second Quarter

Fourth seeded Venus Williams, will be the biggest name in this section, and with out a doubt the most talented, but she does face a stern test in upcoming matches, how ever despite age, injury and lack of match player she continues to remain a genuine contended for the slams. She will have an uphill battle in the 3rd round if she is to play Andrea Petkovic, and despited being seeded to play Maria Sharapova in the fourth round she most likely play Estonian Kaia Kaneppi, who played in career best form in that second part of 2010.

In  the bottom section of this quarter 9th seed Li Na will most probably fly into the fourth round where she will have a stern test against 8th seed Victoria Azarenka, which will be a very tight match, which either player could easily win. It will be a tough match, with out come likely to be determined by one or two shots.

If Azarenka can play her game, and not loose her cool she should be prevail, but like I said its a 50-50 match.

Predicted Quarter Final - Venus Williams vs Victoria Azarenka

Third Quarter

The obvious name in this quarter is title favorite Kim Clijsters, who will make light work of a returning Dinara Safina, and all her other opponents on road to the fourth round, where she will play a returning now again injured Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova or even carfty swiss Patty Schnyder. The other section of this quarter will be decided between Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwańska and Russian Alisa Kleybanova. Not a very interesting quarter, which makes it, how ever very easy to predict. I hope.

Predicted Quarter Final - Alisa Kleybanova vs Kim Clijsters

Fourth Quarter

Local hope and 5th seeded Samantha Stosur will fly the Australian Flag and a whole nations hopes in the quarter, but wont have it all her way, despite a seemingly easy first two rounds, she will be challenged by Wimbledon Semi Finalist Petra Kvitova. With the winner to play either 10th seed Shahar Peer or 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta.

In the bottom section 2nd seeded will have some tough matches, Sybille Bammer in the 1st round then Bojana Jovanovski in the second and tricky left hander Lucie Safarova in the 3rd, and also a possible 4th round clash with either Maria Kirilenko or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, basically guaranteeing a russian in the Quarter Finals.

Predicted Quarter Final - Shahar Peer vs Vera Zvonerava

QF's Predictions
Yanina Wickmayer vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
Venus Williams vs Victoria Azarenka
Alisa Kleybanova vs Kim Clijsters
Shahar Peer vs Vera Zvonerava

SF's Predictions
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Victoria Azarenka
Kim Clijsters vs Vera Zvonerava

Victoria Azarenka

Vera Zvonerava

Friday, January 14, 2011

Li stuns Clijsters for Sydney crown.

World No.8 Li Na of China has won her fourth career WTA singles title with a dramatic 7-6(3) 6-3 win over No.3 Kim Clijsters at the Medibank International Sydney on Friday night.

Scoring just her second victory in six meetings against the three-time US Open champion, Li recovered from a torrid start to win the US$103,000 first prize.

Clijsters burst out of the blocks, reeling off the first five games in just 19 minutes as Li struggled to cleanly connect with numerous groundstrokes.

But once she held for 1-5 Li gradually worked her way into the match, hitting deeper and with more venom while errors crept into the Belgian’s game.

Having won five consecutive games of her own the momentum was well and truly with Li. And while Clijsters confidently held to love for 6-5 and led 3-1 in the subsequent tie-break, Li again surged, snatching the next six points to take a one-set lead after 48 minutes.

The world No.11 Li continued where she left off in the second set, breaking for 2-0. While she dropped serve straight away – Clijsters playing a deft drop shot on break point – Li returned the favour immediately, breaking Clijsters’s increasingly fragile serve and moving to 5-2.

Clijsters bravely held for 5-3 but Li served it out, securing her first WTA Premier-level title after one hour, 30 minutes.

The win makes Li the only the second Asian woman to win the title here after Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm collected the 1994 championship. She’s also the first Chinese woman to win a WTA Premier title.World No.8 Li Na of China has won her fourth career WTA singles title with a dramatic 7-6(3) 6-3 win over No.3 Kim Clijsters at the Medibank International Sydney on Friday night.

Scoring just her second victory in six meetings against the three-time US Open champion, Li recovered from a torrid start to win the US$103,000 first prize.

Clijsters burst out of the blocks, reeling off the first five games in just 19 minutes as Li struggled to cleanly connect with numerous groundstrokes.

But once she held for 1-5 Li gradually worked her way into the match, hitting deeper and with more venom while errors crept into the Belgian’s game.

Having won five consecutive games of her own the momentum was well and truly with Li. And while Clijsters confidently held to love for 6-5 and led 3-1 in the subsequent tie-break, Li again surged, snatching the next six points to take a one-set lead after 48 minutes.

The world No.11 Li continued where she left off in the second set, breaking for 2-0. While she dropped serve straight away – Clijsters playing a deft drop shot on break point – Li returned the favour immediately, breaking Clijsters’s increasingly fragile serve and moving to 5-2.

Clijsters bravely held for 5-3 but Li served it out, securing her first WTA Premier-level title after one hour, 30 minutes.

The win makes Li the only the second Asian woman to win the title here after Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm collected the 1994 championship. She’s also the first Chinese woman to win a WTA Premier title.