Tag Archives: serena

As I pack for indian wells….

Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open is only a couple of weeks away and as I start packing I am starting to ponder what the event holds.

First of all I am sure the desert weather will be a relief from the bitter cold winter that continues to grip Toronto with another round of snow forecast for this week. However you never know what the desert will hold, extreme hot days and frigid nights make packing a challenge.

The venue for this tournament is first class.  Not only do you get to watch great tennis, but the backdrop of palm trees fading into mountains glistening in the sun is a whole level of awesomeness on its own.

The women’s draw appeared to be wide open, that was until a couple of weeks ago when Serena announced that after an absence of 14 years she would be returning to the California desert. I am not sure if she is a guaranteed trophy holder as there will be several players taking a direct aim at her. Furthermore many of these players have been playing tournaments and staying match tough, whereas Serena has not played any competitive matches since her win at the Australian Open.  Not only could she face tough challenges from some of the new power hitters in the game including Garbine Muguruza and Madison Keys, but an unseeded, quickly returning to form Victoria Azarenka is lurking in the field.

Keep an eye out for the Czechs including Doha winner Lucie Safarova and  Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to do some damage, as well as newcomer Karolina Pliskova.  Dominika Cibulkova could also be a factor if she has sufficiently recovered from her achilles injury. Kvitova would have been a factor but apparently she has just withdrawn from the tournament and no reason has been provided as of yet.

Taylor Townsend of the USA was granted a wild card into the main draw and after watching her at the French Open I will not be surprised to see her post some impressive wins. Hopefully a physically healthy Bettanie Mattek-Sands can have a great run close to home.

Unfortunately I don’t expect much from Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who has not played well yet in 2015. After hiring Sam Sumyk as her new coach she has withdrawn prior to her last two tournaments, and i have heard a few rumblings about an arm injury.

Of course the ultimate final would be another Serena and Maria match up, but I think they will both have to work hard to make it to the final.

On the men’s side of things we could be heading toward another Roger-Novak final as in last week’s Dubai event where Roger came out the winner. A win in Indian Wells by Roger would certainly have everyone talking about him regaining the number one ranking. Nadal played well on the clay courts of South America the past couple of weeks, but i don’t think he is up to the challenge of a Masters 1000 level hard court tournament yet. Kei Nishikori is now the number 4 ranked player in the world and the hard court suits his game so i certainly think he will be around until at least the quarter finals.  Andy Murray hopes to answer a few questions about his play after some early round losses this year have resulted in him now occupying the number 5 ranking.

As far as upsets go I don’t expect any major upsets involving the top five. But the new wave of players including Nick Kyrgios, Thanes Kokkinakis, Borna Coric and maybe even Ryan Harrison could present some problems for Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and perhaps even Thomas Berdych.

The American men will feel the pressure to perform at home especially John Isner or Sam Querry. Might be hard for Querry to focus after all the attention surrounding his millionaire matchmaker appearance.

Predictions are always fun, but how the tournament unfolds is always a surprise. Can’t wait for play to start.

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Thoughts on Australia 2015

After two weeks of disrupted sleep patterns and lots of coffee I am now ready to table my thoughts on what was The Australian Open 2015.

The hardest loss to watch – Ana Ivanovic’s meltdown in the first round. Anyone who has ever played a competitive tennis match knows exactly how she felt during that match. May it never happen to another player ever again.

The weather – this year is a year that the weather had absolutely no effect on the tournament’s results. In previous years the heat of the Australian summer often took its toll on players. We got to witness athletes cramping and hallucinating in the heat, great television drama but so unfair to the players.
The new roof on the revamped Margaret Court Arena made a total of three stadiums capable of play during inclement weather. But the inclement weather only made a brief inconsequential appearance.

Breakout player – Without any question Madison Keys broke out from the pack this tournament. The last two games of her match with Serena showed what Madison is capable of and I hope all the players of the WTA took notice. As Madison gains more confidence in her abilities her ranking is going to skyrocket.

Fashion – I think tweets and blogs relating to the tennis fashions outnumbered the tweets and blogs about actual matches. Although Serena’s neon yellow dress won lots of accolades, the Adidas purple dress worn by Ana Ivanovic was by far my favourite look of the tournament. Maria’s Nike dress was also a hit in my books but Vika’s Nike neon yellow ensemble was a dud.
As for the men, I still can’t figure out why Under Armour spent all that money on a deal with Andy Murray only to dress him in boring all black plain t shirt and shorts. I just can’t see tennis players all over the world running to the stores for that look.
The Uniqlo outfit sported by Novak was conservative and boring both in colour and style.
Nike had players dressed the colour of the tennis ball and Uniqlo had its key player dressed the colour of the court!

Most disappointing- I really thought that one of the young guns was going to make a huge breakthrough at this tournament. Milos Raonic showed us his ground strokes have greatly improved but his volleys betrayed him in the end. Nick Krygios is on the brink and I am excited to see him play at other tour level events. I think Grigor Dimitrov is steadily improving and his time to win a major is not all that far away.

Best story – Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova winning the ladies doubles was the feel good story of the tournament for me. I love Bethanie’s game and she has fought so hard to come back from numerous injuries. I hope she savours this victory and goes on to many more tattoos and crazy outfits included.

Can’t wait for the rest of the Grand Slams!

What is going on in Singapore?

In my last post I expressed my opinion that Genie Bouchard would advance out of the Red round robin group at the WTA Finals and that she probably would lose out in the semifinals to either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova.   I also previously noted that the outcome of many matches could depend on the fitness and the injury status of the players involved.

In her first match Genie struggled against Simona Halep and her second match against Ana Ivanovic was similar in nature. Genie committed numerous unforced errors in both her matches and heavy strapping could be seen on her injured thigh.  Bouchard also has commented that she has had limited training time on the court due to her thigh injury and felt unprepared for this event.  Simona also withdrew from a recent tournament with a hip injury following  a number of poor showings that seemed to indicate a lack of confidence in her game. It seemed in their match that as long as Simona kept the ball in play Genie would make the error.  But i certainly was taken by surprise by the dominant win today by Simona over Serena Williams. Serena appeared fit in her win over Ana Invanovic on Monday showing no signs of the knee injury that caused her withdrawal from an earlier tournament.

As the Red group stands now, Simona is in the lead with 2 victories, Serena and Ana each have one win and one loss and Genie has two losses. So the match between Simona and Ana looks to be the deciding match as far as who will head to the semifinals from this group, while Genie could spoil Serena’s chance to advance.

The White group has also had surprising results. Petra Kvitova has been playing well following up her Wimbledon victory with a championship in Wuhan, China. In contrast Agnieszka Radwanska has struggled this season, winning only one title with a 46-19 record for the year.  But when the two met on Tuesday, it was Radwanska that used her all round game to defeat the powerful Kvitova.  The match between Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova was a classic struggle between the two players with Caroline coming out victorious. Going forward Petra will have to defeat Caroline and Maria to reclaim the title she won in 2011, also the year she won her first Wimbledon title.  Maria will have to defeat Petra and Aga to keep her hope of the title and possibly the number one ranking alive.

Predictions in sport are always fun, but if we knew what was going to happen, we would not have to play the game and thats the great part, the results are always a surprise.

What’s next for Serena?

Serena Williams capped off the 2014 Grand Slam season by winning the US Open for her 18th major title. To quote Serena after the match “It means a lot to me, who could ever imagine I’d be mentioned with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. I was just a kid from Compton with a dream and a racket.” And yet there she was on the court receiving an 18 carat gold bracelet in honour of her achievement from Chris and Martina.

So now what? Well already Serena has begun talking about Grand Slam Title #19, but knowing the competitor that she is, i believe she is taking aim at Steffi Graff’s record of 22 titles and planning her path to #23. If this is this case, i think there are a few things that should be considered.

2014 was hardly a banner year by Serena standards, especially since she usually judges her year by her results at Grand Slam tournaments.  At the Australian Open Serena lost in the fourth round to Ana Ivanovic, although she did confess she was dealing with a back injury. In Paris, at Roland Garros, Serena was stunned in the second round by the up and coming Garbine Muguruza of Spain, and that was quickly followed by  a third round loss to Alize Cornet of France on the grass courts of Wimbledon. I am not even going to delve into the doubles fiasco that was the Williams Sisters exit from Wimbledon.

In contrast, Serena’s results at the less significant tournaments were much more impressive. Serena won the title in Brisbane, prior to the Australian Open, defeating Victoria Azarenka and followed that with a win in Miami at the Sony Open with a victory over Li Na. Prior to Roland Garros Serena won the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

On the hard courts of the US Open Series Tournaments, Serena won the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford and the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati putting her out in front in the race to the US Open.

But, to pass Steffi Graff and win 23 Grand Slam titles, Serena will have to win 5 more Grand Slam tournaments.  Each tournament requires 7 consecutive victories to claim the title which means Serena will have to win 35 more matches at the biggest tournaments.  This means Serena will have to be focussed from the very start of the tournament even in those early round matches where she often has trouble staying in the moment.

Reports in the last week, have indicated that Serena has parted ways with her coach and sometime boyfriend, Patrick Mouratoglou. In my opinion if Serena is to take a run at the all time Grand Slam Title record, now is the time to put a champion in her camp. Serena does not need a coach to help her with her groundstrokes or her volleys and certainly her serve is the best in the women’s game, Serena needs a coach in her box who has the winning mentality. And there were two of the best standing with her at the US Open trophy presentation, Martina and Chris. What a perfect opportunity to glean a winning mentality from either of those two champions while at the same time promoting the ability of women to coach at the highest level of the game.

Although the record is within her reach, the draw of so many outside activities could be an issue. Her show at New York’s Fashion week made headlines, as did her absence at various media events following the championship win. If Serena is not enjoying the work required to win those championships the results will not be there. In fact one of the things that Marin Cilic the US Open Men’s champion said was that his new coach Goran Invanisevic put the fun back in the game. As i watched Serena warm up for her match in Stanford (see photos) i couldn’t help but notice how miserable she seemed. While other players tossed frisbees to warm up and appeared loose and relaxed, Serena appeared disinterested and bored.

My prediction: I expect Serena to keep competing and going after the record as long as injuries do not become an issue and she can keep her eye on the prize.

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