Archive for August, 2011

30 Aug 2011

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
Wozniacki, Zvonareva, Sharapova, Azarenka, Li, Kvitova, Schiavone, Bartoli

Top Half, First Quarter

Initial Thoughts: The top quarter is always the top seeds to lose, and in this case, it is very much open for Wozniacki. Jarka, Kuz, and Dani all lurk in her eighth, with a smattering of other lower ranked, beatable players.

The second eighth is a different story. It is similarly underwhelming in overall quality, and on paper, it would be Nails/Petko in the round of 16. While the Chinese does have a habit of peaking for the majors, she’s had such a rough lead up, it’s really tough to know if that will be the case again. Even if she does get that far, I’m not sure I like her chances.

Look Out For… It’s happening today, so this is a tad late, but youngster Simona Halep has some solid game (especially when she can keep her head straight, which is rare) and takes on Nails Tuesday. That might get messy. Jie Zheng has also made a solid return to the tour, taking a set off Serena in Toronto and looking more than up to the task. A second round match-up with Petko could be a tricky one.

Predicted Quarterfinalists: Petkovic vs. Wozniacki

Top Half, Second Quarter

Initial Thoughts: This quarter is all about the possible third round match between Serena and Vika, one that looks very likely to happen. Azarenka has given Serena problems in the past, despite coming up rather short in Toronto. For me, her inability to adapt or mix it up in Toronto was a huge sticking point; it’s difficult to impossible to out hit Serena from the back of the court when she’s on. Regardless, that should be an intense, night time blockbuster match.

The flip side of the quarter, featuring Schiavone, Jankovic, MJMS, and Pavs is anyone’s guess.

Look Out For… Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. A tricky player in an open draw. We’ve seen players like this sneak their way through draws, either in Toronto or Cincy or in slams of the past couple years, and she might just be this tournament’s “huh?” quarterfinalist.

Predicted Quarterfinalists: VWilliams vs. Schiavone

Bottom Half, Top Quarter

Initial Thoughts: Having completed most of the matches in this quarter, I am cheating a bit, but the only real upset was Kvitova which, in all honesty, was not insanely surprising.

All eyes are on Sharapova in this quarter, who has looked rather shakey all hard court season, and did so in her first match, rather unsurprisingly. Luckily for her, the draw is kind. Filled with mostly players she can simply hit off the court, she should be fine making it to the quarters. With her draw and form of late, Radwanska should be an almost automatic pick to ninja her way to the quarters.

Look Out For… Shuai Peng is the very type of player that can cause Sharapova problems. She absorbs pace well, can mix it up and play great defense. There still has to be some doubts about her health, however.
Lucie Safarova is another one to keep an eye on, quietly having a solid summer and could cause Radwanska problems if they meet.

Predicted Quarterfinalists: Radwanska vs. Sharapova

Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter

Initial Thoughts:
This quarter must be the strongest overall, without a doubt, and the one likely to cause the most upset and produce some of the best tennis. Unproven youngsters, up-and-comers, steely veterans, you name it, this quarter has it.

Lisicki/VWilliams, Stosur/Petrova, Robson/Zvonareva, you name it. Huge matches early on, and it only gets juicier as the seeds collide.

Look Out For… Youngsters McHale (who gets Bartoli) Falconi (vs. Cibulkova) and Robson (vs. AMG) are all in this quarter and all have opponents they could beat. As well as being a feast for “big babe” style lovers, this could also provide a few surprises as well.

Predicted Quarterfinalists: Lisicki vs. Stosur

Predicted Semifinals: SWilliams vs. Petkovic, Sharapova vs. Stosur
Final: SWilliams vs. Sharapova
Champion: Serena Williams

The Big Hurt

Posted by Brodie under: Cincinnati, Muzz, Nole

22 Aug 2011

Over the years, the schedule for the ATP has been revised to try and save the health of the top players and prevent injuries, including finishing off the year earlier this year to create a longer off-season.

The schedule did not anticipate a single player going eight months without losing, however.

It’s been difficult to look for the relevancy of other players this year when week after week only one man remains on the top of the podium in the biggest events. In what feels like a struggle of man vs. tour as the defeated look to find a way to overcome the unbeatable, both have collapsed under the weight of themselves.

Djokovic looked tired at the end of last week, make no doubts about it. But when you’re striking the ball so well and so cleanly, and moving nearly as well, it doesn’t much matter. Boat loads of confidence in your ability doesn’t hurt either. For me, this week was all about the collapse. Playing day after day in Montreal and then traveling to Cincinnati to try and do it all over again was simply not going to happen.

First it looked like Monfils would do it. Down a set, Djokovic was having trouble on the return and his footwork look like he had a pair of iron shoes on in comparison to the energy he’s given off in previous tournaments. Instead, Monfils once again imploded under the pressure, frustration, and passivity of his own goofball patterns of play. Next? Berdych, the big serving Czech who saw a resurgence in Montreal last week. Up 5-3 in the first set, he mentally and physically checked out as his shoulder betrayed him and he was forced to retire after losing the first 7-5 due to a bum shoulder.

Then came the final, where Djokovic, propped up only due to the failures of his previous opponents, was forced to take on a relatively fresh Murray.

Murray’s path to the final looks nearly comically similar. A recently returned Nalbandian (who I believe has now had more hip surgeries than all four of my grandparents combined), American journeyman Alex Bogomolov who defeated a worn down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who was injured trying to defeat, you guessed it, Djokovic the week before. Beyond that, a not so healthy Gilles Simon, an equally mentally and physically exhausted Mardy Fish who was ground to a dust by Djokovic in the Montreal final, and who defeated a brain damaged Rafael Nadal (mostly thanks to Djokovic) in the Cincinnati quarterfinals.

The moral of this story? Djokovic’s presence is being felt in more places than just those who he defeats round after round. Injuries aren’t helping anyone either, and while you can’t say that Djokovic’s dominance has pushed other guys to their physical limit, it sure feels that way.

If Djokovic dominance, injuries, crazy weather and other surprises continue a week from now, it is going to be one crazy ride in Flushing Meadows.

22 Aug 2011

 

  • Of all the players that impressed me the most over the week, Heather Watson was most definitely at the top. She’s only 19, but her footwork and consistent set-up and motion on her groundstrokes is excellent. She likely has some work to do on the speed of her movement and creating her own pace, all natural things for a 19 year old, but the girl has real potential, and I think could be a regular feature of the top 20 for years to come.
  • After coming back from forearm surgery, Aleks Wozniak has changed her grip and her stroke, and it may be for the better. She had an amazing run in Vancouver and demolished Shahar before bowing out to eventual finalist Stosur. Some of the goofy errors, particularly off the once super loopy backhand, seem to be fading and she looks more patient out there. Glad to have her back.
  • Eugenie Bouchard is probably going to be a superstar in a couple years. People have started to compare her to Anna Kournikova, and I’m not so sure they’re really talking about her game. Oh, she speaks great English and French, to boot. She’s a top junior, but she’s got some work to do. Regardless, one to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.
  • How goofy is it that players need to wait to announce their withdrawl from a tournament? There was zero doubt in my mind that Aga Radwanska was not going to be playing Cincy, what with a seriously screwed up shoulder and all. Instead she was forced to lie, saying she would go down to the tournament and see how it would hold up. There has to be a better way.
  • If the past week showed anything, it was that the big, baseliner bashers rarely have a plan B, and if you can get them out of their comfort zone, you can find a way to win. Vinci and Voskoboeva in particular, sliced, drop shotted, and pushed their larger, more powerful opponents out wide and into the net and found ways to win.
  • In other words, there was a lot of talk about “parity”, or the flip side, inconsistency, in the women’s game this week in press (mostly because it was national press who only cover women’s tennis a week a year). I think us tennis nerds can realize that it might not be either. These players have a certain way of playing the game that works or them, and who can blame them. But there are certain styles and approaches that can really upset that style of play (along with the confidence and rhythm of them) and can cause upsets at almost any part of the tournament.
  • The amount of work I pumped into this tournament was bordering on insane for the first several days, but I loved every second of it, and I really appreciate the support. Most reporters have deadlines and other things going on, but as someone able to head out to outer courts, I busted my butt to try and be the best “professional” fan I could, giving accounts of the weather, grandstand, atmosphere on centre, and making it back for pressers. And if you ask me, people willing to do this are fantastic for tournaments (I wasn’t the only one out there). I think it’s one thing to have the official site tweeting pics of Kiri on the practice court, but it’s another thing to have knowledgeable tennis people who have a beat on the pulse of what makes fans tick, and are there grinding it out across the grounds.
  • Judging the absolute ridiculousness of the upsets, injuries and weather of the past two weeks, I think we’re in for the most neck damaging, eye popping grand slam in the year. It’s only a week away, people. More on that later today.
16 Aug 2011

I don’t read Wertheim’s answers until after (unless they’re really short), love his stuff, blah blah blah. Read his answers here.

Sheesh, Jon Brodie. Your love affair with Roger Federer is getting downright embarrassing. Have you ever written one mailbag column that didn’t include, at minimum, a reference to him and how wonderful you think he is? I challenge you: Go back through your archives and see if you can find one column without a loving reference to Federer. Enough already. He’s old news.
– Sharon, Vancouver

You sure we’re reading the same blog, Sharon? Either way, having the GOAT still playing tournaments, still being in the top 4 for the foreseeable future, and still being relevant… it’s a little hard not to mention him, no?

Whether or not he’s old news remains to be seen. I think most people think he’s got a slam in him, but I respectfully disagree. I think it’s pretty clear that his game, particularly his backhand and serve, and maybe that killer instinct and ability to hit insane, unearthly shots, is disappearing. In other words, he’s become beatable. Not by a lot, but a select few that are pumping up their game (think Tsonga’s absolute ball bashing brutality at Wimbledon) to the point where Fed just doesn’t have an answer. He’s never been one for Plan Bs anyway (not that you should blame him).

Why are Federer’s ground strokes so shallow? How could he and his coach not see this and try to fix it? Trying to keep the ball deep is good tennis strategy, isn’t it?
– Venki, San Jose, Calif.

Shallow? Like… not deep? Maybe because the guy is 30 years old now? Just a thought.

I think it’s definitely a concern, again, especially on the backhand. The dude still has excellent hands, excellent feel, great movement, there’s no doubt. But he’s getting lost in rallies to some of these big hitters who are just crushing it and going for their chances.

Put it this way, Fed has never been one for slow surfaces. So as his shots slow down… well, you get the idea.

Melanie Oudin loses in the first round of Toronto qualies. Is she done?
– Pam, Amherst, N.Y.

I think it’s safe to say that Mel’s run at the US Open was the best and worst thing to ever happen to her. Really, it never should have happened, but one after another Russians froze at the sight of some scrappy American kid they had never played returning every damn ball and getting the crowd behind her.

Now turning 20 in September, Oudin’s game really hasn’t gone far and she just doesn’t seem to have any answers out there. She really doesn’t have a terrible game for such a small player, but the expectations were always way too high. Let’s hope that after a couple of years without any huge success, she’s feeling free to go out there and do her thing and get some results. Really, she’s a fun player to watch when she’s on, and has a great heart and great fight.

I have asked before if we can finally pull the plug on Donald Young’s career. After his performance at Legg Mason (where he reached the semifinals), I am not taking him off light support, but I do feel a pulse. What do you think — the start of a trend or an aberration?
– Phil O’Donoghue, Florence, Mass.

I think it’s safe to say that Donald Young has most definitely come alive, even if that Washington draw did collapse a bit. The most important part is that this has gained him a solid points foot hold which he can ride into main draws of smaller events to further push up his ranking.

As for his game, I’m still unsure. He moves incredibly well, has some flash and can pull off some great shots, but he also seems to lack any real punch to penetrate the court and push guys around, at least from what I’ve seen. And trust me, I know it’s easier said than done, I’m a pretty small guy too, but come on man. Hit the damn ball!

Regardless, worth keeping an eye on over the next year as he becomes a regular pop up in smaller tournies.

Jon Brodie,  regarding Martina Navratilova’s prediction that Federer would own multiple French Open titles if he had a two-handed backhand, she’s assuming you can neatly plug in a different stroke and not affect the whole package. Without the one-hander, Roger is a different player. Different tactics, point patterns, movement and most likely a diminished slice. One could argue that he might own fewer French Opens, not more.
– Curtis Sayers, Newton, Mass.

Hmm. An interesting idea, if a totally absurd one. I’ll take the bait.

I think we could say possibly. Maybe it gives him a bit more zip or ability to step into the ball as it pops up on clay, or the ability to do more on defense. Who knows.

At the same time, the one handed backhand is what makes Federer. It’s what makes him so quick on his toes, his ability to adapt in a rally, and his ridiculous shots off the backhand wing. And it’s definitely what helped him win so many Wimbledons and US Opens.

Would Rafa have won more US Opens if he hit flatter and with less air under the ball? Maybe. But that’s what makes Rafa who he is. It’s also what helped him win French Opens.

Utlimately, it changes the whole outlook of Fed’s game, how he would set up point, move, etc., and it’s impossible to know. What if Rafa was a righty? You get my point.

Does anyone (perhaps Greg Sharko?) have a tally of the Williams sisters withdrawals since turning pro?
– John Gordon, Toronto

Peaked at Jon’s answer because it was so short. Turns out it’s rather hilarious too: “I’d ask Sharko but I worry about a bandwidth issue.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at Serena in her final press conference after winning Toronto, mentioning that eight months ago “I really wanted to win Toronto. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason I really wanted to win Toronto.” And it’s not even that I don’t believe her. But the Sisters have a bit of a reputation for bailing on Canada pretty hardcore, so the mass Serena fan support was a bit strange, if the reason why. In fact, the stat of them both pulling out of tournaments together is probably staggeringly high as well.


I have little patience for “anti-doping” — a hypocritical and tyrannical regime that is based more on moral indignation than science, and which wants me to believe that ingesting drugs is bad, but drinking Gatorade or buying the fanciest racket one can find is good because … drugs are bad! The entire anti-doping house is built on a foundation of silliness, lies and false notions of “purity.” Nonetheless, I have to say that I don’t understand why you think it matters that Robert Kendrick didn’t “intend” to enhance his performance. Anti-doping is a slippery slope. He did intend to mitigate the effects of jet lag, which in itself could be viewed as a performance-enhancing act — in fact, if this pill actually did help him recover from jet lag, this almost certainly was more beneficial to him than the stimulant effect. I don’t think this pill has any effect on athletic performance or anything else. Most illegal performance enhancers are ineffective if not outright countereffective. But that’s not the point. The anti-doping overlords believe it’s effective, and taking it “on accident” (but totally on purpose) doesn’t change anything. And Kendrick’s one-year ban for taking something that might actually provide some kind of material benefit seems downright generous in light of Martina Hingis’ two-year ban for a substance that could not possibly have improved her play!

– Joshua, Portland

Holy shit, there’s a lot going on here. I think most will agree with you that the uber-crackdown mentality of anti-doping, particularly in tennis (no thanks to our good Canadian friend Dick Pound, by the way) is a bit insane, particularly the scheduling. Making players predict where they’re going to be months down the road and at what particular times is absurd, if not abusive.

I’ll agree with you on intent though, for sure. The hard rules are meant as a deterrent, and it is most definitely a slippery slope. If you think it might boost performance, then don’t take it. That’s the whole point.

As for the Hingis (and Gasquet) thing, I agree and disagree. No, cocaine, that I know of, is most likely not going to improve your play. (unless you’re uber-paranoid and know there’s a sniper on the roof? I don’t know.) At the same time, something tells me you probably don’t want someone coking out in the locker room of other professional athletes, especially someone who has won grand slams and at the end of the day is an ambassador for your sport with the fans, media, etc.

You know what Kendrick’s problem is? His name is not Andre Agassi. Had it been, the powers that be would’ve accepted any excuse he may have offered. But I assume poor Kendrick is just another journeyman without a huge entourage paid to tell him what to do. It’s awful for him, because even if they overturn the suspension, it may be too late for him.
– Miriam Garcia, Rosario, Argentina

Two big things. Anti-droping isn’t the same as back in the day (I might be wrong on this one, but I’ll once again half sarcastically thank Dick Pound on this one). That is, they don’t take crap, and they don’t take excuses. Like I said before, it’s tough in aims to be preventative. Watch what you’re putting in your body.

The second thing is, as far as I know, there’s a lot more performance enhancers that are easier to get, and it’s a much better known fact that it was a real problem with sports in the 90′s than originally thought (I’m looking at you, baseball). Different cases require a different eye.

Kendrick’s ban is awful. Yes, it is strict liability, but if you want to look at it legally, he has proved it was an honest and reasonable mistake. If he were charged with a crime, he would be acquitted. I don’t see the point of sending this kind of message. Is it really going to deter athletes?
– L.T., Sydney, Australia

Jon, you’re burnin’ me out man. Look above. I think it is, and should, cause they’re clearly not screwing around.

I am very glad to see that Roger Federer has spoken his mind about the changes to the Canadian Open. Holding the men’s and women’s tournaments simultaneously in Montreal and Toronto has to be one of the worst ideas ever. I have not heard any criticism from the media, so it is good that at least one credible person is willing to say that the emperor wears no clothes.
– Gilbert Benoit, Ottawa, Ontario

Yup! I’m going to do more on this later, because there’s a lot of people discussing it on Twitter, and I can’t be assed to do it over that (it’s the whole reason I made this blog in the first place to be honest). Talking to other folks in media and watching Sportsnet (doing the coverage for the first time, as well) struggle to find the people to cover it, let alone people who actually know anything about tennis or have ever covered it before, was a bit painful. If there’s anyone who benefited, it was the folks at home in Canada and are too far away to make it to a tournament. The coverage was pretty seemless, and with so much tennis going on, it really did feel like grand slam chaos, so there was plenty of watch. But that’s it, and even that is debatable. More later.

Michael Chang is miffed at Agassi’s book, yet he didn’t even read it. I just think he looks really silly commenting about the book and then admitting that he only read excerpts. Excerpts can be taken out of context and you really need to read the whole book before you comment.
– Bob Romero, Monee, Ill.

Two things. One, absolutely. If you don’t judge a book by it’s cover, you probably shouldn’t judge it by it’s back cover either.

Secondly, a lot of people got ticked that Agassi said he didn’t like Chang thanking God after a win, and Agassi didn’t quite agree that God would choose sides. However, if you read the book, it’s an account of how he felt. Was it wrong? Sure, but it’s how he felt at the time, and if you didn’t know, he was a bit of a hot headed kid at times.

We’ve been to the U.S. Open three years running now (first-week day sessions). We drive up from Pennsylvania and have been pleasantly surprised by no issues with parking or traffic. In terms of sunscreen, be sure to warn your sunglassed listeners about raccoon eyes! Sitting in the same position under the sun for a three-hour match with sunglasses on will make you the butt of many jokes the next day!
– Bob Smith, Philadelphia

Definitely! I read Jon’s bit because this isn’t really an opinion question, and he has some great points. Take public transit if you can, to any tournament. Pack light, take what you need, bring a hat, some water (there’s usually spots to fill up water bottles, or just use the sink) sunscreen, a printed out order of play (and draw if you’re a nerd like me), and whatever else you might need. Just makes for a much easier, stress free day.

I’m going to my first live tournament, in Cincinnati for the semis. What are the “must-dos” and “don’t-dos” at a tournament? And how can I increase my chances of meeting and taking a picture with one of the players?
– Joe, Chicago

Again, good comments by Jon, and I’ll throw in a few myself.

Be aware of the people around you. There were a couple of people in the press reserved seats who wouldn’t stop talking, loudly, and during points. The stinkeyes being thrown their way could have killed an army. (At one point, someone asked of Azarenka’s serve “I don’t even know, is it good?”). So just be aware that there are different types of fans at different matches. Oh, and no matter how much you talk, don’t talk during points! Baaaaad!

If you’re in the market of trying to get some autographs and see players, the earlier the better. Everyone is there (literally, if it’s Cincinnati) and practicing, roaming around. Hell, I saw Petra Kvitova walk to a practice court with her coach and hitting partner, and I don’t think anyone outside of myself and another woman recognized her.

Which, once again, practice courts are the way to go. No idea how they’re set up in Cincy, but find them.

Also fun? Doubles! It’s often a small crowd, a lot of the times the players are a lot more candid and laid back on court (I’m looking at you, Ivanorazzi) and doubles is just super fun live in it’s own right. We don’t get to see it often on TV, so I’d say seeing some doubles is almost a must.

Lastly, these are human beings. No really. Nothing bothers me more when people get pissy about someone refusing autographs, ignoring fans, etc. Sure, not all players are as generous as others, but these are pro-athletes, they have scheudles, warm-ups, cool-downs, and other commitments. In other words, they’ve got places to be and shit to do. Cut them some slack and be generous, because they’re taking time out of their day to give you some love, no matter how much you paid.

Regarding your answer to the question about Federer not watching finals he isn’t in, you used Kobe Bryant as an example. In an interview with ESPN this week, he said he indeed watched the Heat-Mavs. I guess it is different for different guys?
– Russell, Houston

Different strokes. It’s also a team sport, you’re only one of five guys. You and those other four guys lost to the other five (and bench) guys. Tennis is just one on one. Shmeh.

I’m doing a video project for my dad’s 50th birthday. Do you know of any famous (or just plain funny) jokes related to tennis?
– Peter, Connecticut

For fun, Jon’s answer: On-court coaching? The “Bet-at-home.com Open”? Maybe too obscure. I would avoid anything having to do with the word “love.” That’s pretty played out. What about this line from the late, great Mitch Hedberg? “I think Pringles’ initial intention was to make tennis balls. But on the day that the rubber was supposed to show up, a big truck load of potatoes arrived. But Pringles was a laid-back company. They said, “F–k it. Cut ‘em up.”

Have to say, there’s a lot of bad puns out there. I happen to think my blog name is kind of clever, but it’s still pretty cheesy. And yes, the love jokes suck.

I have to say, tennis tends to be home to a lot of unintentionally crude and hilarious jokes. Just look at the vocabulary. I’ll let you do the work. Brad Gilbert repeating hitting “deep and hard” about a thousand times in two minutes at Wimbledon absolutely killed me.

16 Aug 2011

Combined – Cincinnati (Masters 1000 & Premier 5)

Official Site: Here
Draws: Men & Women
Top Men Seeds:
Nole, Rafa, Fed, Muzz, Ferrer, Monf, Fish, T-Berd
Top Women Seeds: Caro, Vera, Vika, Masha, Nails, Kvitova, Schiavone, Bartoli

Another week, another jam packed ATP draw as the top men pack it up and move to Cincinnati. Once again, all eyes are on He Who Cannot Lose, Mr. Djokovic, as he continues to improve on an already insanely great season.

The first half would set up some familiar match-ups, Djokovic/Monfils and Federer/Berdych in the quarterfinals. Federer will have to take out Delpo in the second round, however. Berdych has Pico and Nico. Djokovic is looking good to go once again, as he should be able to out last a quarter also featuring Isner, Stan, Feli and Ernie. Yup, safe to pencil him in for the final once again.

The bottom half has some immediately interesting match-ups. If everything holds up, quarters are Ferrer/Murray and Nadal/Fish. Murray has Nalbandian and then possibly Tsonga or Cilic just to possibly Ferrer, which is not a kind draw. Things are similar for Fish, who could have Davydenko and Gasquet just for the right to take on Nadal in the quarterfinals. That being said, Fish is playing the greatest tennis of his life, is extremely motivated, and has had success in Cincinnati before. Keep an eye on him.

Things look pretty similar for the WTA side of things. Big names and earlier match-ups. The top half would line up Wozniacki/Kvitova and Azarenka/Schiavone for the quarters, but there’s a lot in the way of that happening. In particular, doubles partners Ivanovic and Petkovic who may take on Wozniacki and Kvitova respectfully. Both of the latter players looked rusty and out of sorts in Toronto, and might be in for more than they bargained for early on in Cincinnati.

The bottom half is absolutely loaded, including the much talked about Williams/Stosur second round re-match of the Toronto final. Nails and Masha lurk around in that quarter. Your guess is as good as mine.
For the final quarter, we have Bartoli/PavsFlavs and Bepa/JJ if everything holds up. Dani is also hanging around, and is likely going to play Pavs Flavs in a tasty second round match-up.

All in all, things aren’t too ridiculously different compared to Toronto and Montreal. Very solid fields that are pretty evenly spread out but are far from straight forward. I’m looking forward to another great week of tennis.

Photo: Cincy Images

16 Aug 2011

For those who don’t know, I had the amazing opportunity to cover the Toronto edition of the Rogers Cup for tennispanorama.com and take over their Twitter account @GVTennisNews This is my way of saying thank you to both the tournament and the site, and signing off in a way. The site really is a fantastic source of all tennis news. If tennis could have its own section in the newspaper, it would likely look something like Tennis Panorama. Thanks everyone for following along for what was a fantastic week. Regular blog proceedings will be starting up once again!

TORONTO, Canada – It has only been four tournaments, but Serena Williams is back to her winning ways.

In a week full of surprises, delays, and drama, Williams was the last woman standing as she defeatedSamantha Stosur 6-4, 6-2 to claim her second championship in as many tournaments. The victory was her 39th career WTA title.

“Eight months ago if there was only one tournament I want to win, it was Toronto. For whatever reason, I really wanted to win this event,” said Williams. “Going through so much and being able to win is even more amazing.”

The match started out an incredibly high level, with both players serving incredibly well. First serves were hitting lines and surpassing 108 mph on a consistent basis as both players avoided break points for the first eight games.

The fifth service game for Stosur was a different matter, however, as she began to feel the pressure, and the errors crept in. She saved the first break point of the match with an excellent slice that handcuffed Williams as she came to the net. Williams managed to get another break point, and would take matters into her own hands with an incredible down the line back hand winner. “I definitely think that’s when the match started changing,” said Williams. “but for the most part I was really fighting until that point, and obviously after that point I kept fighting. It was definitely a big point.” For Stosur, it was a disappointing lapse in concentration. “Especially being up in the game and really holding quite comfortably up until that point, it’s disappointing to lose that,” said Stosur. “Once an opponent gets a certain lead, sometimes it really boosts them and makes it a bit more difficult.”Williams then held easily to take the first set, 6-4.

The pressure continued to bother Stosur. A passive game filled with errors meant that Williams would go up an early break in the second, and it was relatively smooth sailing for Williams. After a loud strike of thunder, she didn’t speed up the match by playing faster, but by serving better. Stosur insisted he didn’t let it bother her. “If you are losing, you kind of hope it does come to stop and get a bit of a break. But I think really you’ve got to just try and ignore it and play each points as normal.”

In Williams her first three service games of the set, she lost only two points. In the final game, she clocked a first serve coming in at 124 mph. “I kept thinking, hit a ace, hit a ace, hit a ace, because I knew at that point I didn’t want to hit too many shots because I felt like I was getting a little tight,” said Williams on the last game of the match. With rain threatening at 5-2, she saved the only break point she would face all day to close out the match and win the championship.

For Williams, it was another display of dominance why many consider her one of the best to have ever played the women’s game. Williams has often talked about finding “another level” this week, particularly after losing the first set to both Jie Zheng and Lucie Safarova, and she did so again today, taking opportunities with conviction and staying out of trouble on serve. She hit nine aces and lost only three points on her first serve, 11 on serve in total.

Though Stosur could not take what would have to be considered the best championship of her career, she remained positive after struggling with bouts of inconsistency this season. “I’m full of confidence, really happy with the way my game is at the moment.”

With the draw for Cincinnati already released, Stosur and Williams could meet again in the second round if the draw holds up. “I never really want to change my game too dramatically against any kind of opponent,” said Stosur. “It’s maybe trying to execute a bit better and must always go out there and try and play as best you can.” Williams praised Stosur’s game and looked forward to the possible match-up. “We’re both playing really intense and really well, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Serena Williams has to be considered the favorite heading into the final major of the year, the US Open which gets under way in two weeks. She now leads the Olympus US Open Series. “I feel like there is a lot of improvements I want to make, you know, being able to close out big points and winning on big points and capitalizing on that,” Williams said about her game. “Still returning a little better, but overall it’s solid.”

Next up for Williams is Cincinnati, and then the US Open. “Right now physically I feel solid. I feel really good. I’m due to play on Tuesday in Cincinnati, so I’ll be there.” Williams insisted that she doesn’t feel like a favorite heading into the final grand slam of the year. “I never go in as a favorite. I feel like I’m still the underdog. I’m just taking it one day at a time and one match at a time and just going with it.”

It is expected that Williams’ ranking on Monday will place her in the top 32 high enough to be seeded at the US Open.

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap