Archive for the ‘Serena’ Category

30 Oct 2012

1. No Number 1 Controversy This Time

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, Serena won two majors and the Year End Championships, Azarenka only one major. But there can be little argument that week in and week out, Azarenka was the best player on tour.

Azarenka’s transformation has not been a drastic one. She has always looked a player capable of great things. Restraint, both in her attitude and her disposition in rallies has given her the extra 2% to push on to the next echelon of the game. In the past, it has been easy for us to build a narrative on why Azarenka has not done better. Her poor attitude. Her health. Her ability to come blazing out of the gates in big matches only to have those same flames consume her late into the match.

To start, the poor attitude seems all but gone. There is a fine line between cockiness and extreme confidence, and most would argue that Azarenka, at one point, fell on the wrong side of the coin. Often letting the little things get to her and being poor in losing, it looked like the type of thing that would hold her back. Suddenly those cries of frustrations have turned into healthy, self motivating leg slaps. Hair whips of determination and under the breath grunts “keep going”. It’s been turned inward in a positive way.

Her game has developed in a similar way. Vika at times appeared a ball basher who simply overwhelmed opponents with her weight of shot, with bouts of inconsistency. She has learned great constraint on the forehand, both in her regular, powerful topspin shot as well as in her more defensive, spinning forehand. When the ball isn’t in the greatest position for her, she’s become much better at finding ways to spin the ball cross court to gain time, instead of simply trying to rip it and hope for the best. Combining this with great movement, she can quickly get back into points and get back on top. She knows how to build points and she knows how to finish them off – and it’s a treat to see.

2. Serena is Here To Stay

For a time, it was hard to know if Serena would ever play tennis again. With a new lease on life, Serena is looking as fit and as calm as ever, a truly deadly combination. Wimbledon was a stroll in the park, and the US Open was straight forward outside of a very difficult final. The Year End Championship fell under a similar theme. She plans to train in Paris with her coach over the offseason, a first for her, and likely has her eye on doing another “Serena slam” and winning all four major titles in a row.

I’ve heard it noted several times, and it is hard to disagree. While Serena is “old” in tennis terms at 31, the time that she has missed through out her career, including recently, may help to considerably lengthen her career. Many players expire around 30 because after 15 years of serious grind, they burn out mentally, their bodies fall apart, and their endurance goes. None of these appear to be an issue for Serena, and she is so fit and with such natural power, it is difficult to see her dropping off any time within three to five years. Mind blowing stuff.

3. Another Year of Stability Should Await in 2013

Let’s be honest. At times, the past few years have been difficult for the WTA. We diehards don’t so much mind the top ranking being tossed around, or top 20 players winning major titles. However, sadly, it has been difficult to justify the validity of a tour with a number 1 without a slam and players coming from nowhere to win big titles. With Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena taking home all majors this year, it would be difficult to bet against them splitting all four between them again next year. While players such as Radwanska, Kvitova and Li Na will always have a chance against them, it is hard to see one of the big three not topping them in a final (much like the Williams/Radwanska Wimbledon final). A WTA “big four” sounds appealing to match it up to the ATP side of things, but in truth it is a “big three” who should continue raking in big trophies in 2013.

4. Castle Defenders

While a look at the final eight in Istanbul lends itself to a powerful baseline style, three names pop out: Radwanska, Kerber, and Errani. These players tend to be in tough against the top, hard hitting ladies (they went a combined 1-6 versus the other five, not including Stosur) they have the consistency, fitness, and creativity to consistently outmatch players outside of the top 10. I don’t like the term counterpuncher for any of them: neither of them prey on pace and turn it back on their opponent. Kerber prefers players with pace, but she specifically prefers players that open up the court for her to take advantage of – she doesn’t particularly reverse pace back on an opponent. Radwanska is an incredibly creative, instinctual player, likely with the greatest drop shot I have ever seen, men or women. And at a mere 5’5, Errani can run for days, and uses incredible wrist strength to command a longer handled racquet to cope with pace and push opponents back.

On Twitter I saw several people cry out against the Errani/Radwanska match as terrible matchup, expecting a boring match. While neither are big hitters, they have widely different styles and produced one of the matches of the year. While they may never solve the power puzzles in the way a player like Hingis managed to do, embrace and enjoy these players for all that they offer to the game.

5. The Future of Power

With that being said, it is very clear that the future of the WTA looks very much to favour those with large amounts of power, and there is likely to be more Kvitova winning Wimbledon coming out parties than Schiavone late but great Roland Garros wins. With a big three playing this well, the only way to beat them appears to be beating them at their own game, something Azarenka nearly did at the US Open this year. It’s not just the results, but the quality of results that these three tend to get against players hoping to use creativity, defense or counterpunching – it is very rarely close outside of clay.
Read the rest of this entry »

This Is No Rehearsal

Posted by Brodie under: Serena, Superhero, USO

13 Sep 2011

After a foot injury turned to a life threatening disease, Serena Williams missed her chance to return to the biggest stage of tennis and right the wrong that was her infamous shouting tirade on lineswoman Shino. She missed the chance to defend her Australian Open title, and missed Roland Garros too. Finally, she returned to Wimbledon in a wave of emotion that moved tennis fans everywhere. She was so happy to be there.

Truth be told, no one expected her to win that tournament, and she didn’t. That was fine. It was the calm before the storm, the trumpeting of the return of the “real” number one. The Queen was back, baby.

The stage was set all too perfectly. After casting out the number 1 Caroline Wozniacki like a heretic from the church of tennis nerddom, she was in the final. This wasn’t any final, however. Pushed back to Sunday because of the rain, it would take place on the 10th anniversary of September 11th in New York, happening at the same time as the triumphant return of the NFL’s first Sunday. It was all so American. All too perfect.

Her opponent would be Australian Samantha Stosur who she had dismantled in the Toronto final just weeks earlier, and had dismantled on many occasions before.

It wasn’t such smooth sailing, however. In many fans thirst for blood in the semifinal, they failed to see the chinks in the armour of Serena. She looked impatient at times, and missed easy shots. Her defense backed her up against an opponent seemingly incapable of hitting winners, and she was fine.

Stosur is not Wozniacki, however. She made her pay, keeping her off balance with her trademark kick serve, and punished the short balls down the line on the forehand wing when the opportunities presented themselves. She took the first set.

We as tennis fans didn’t jump to conclusions. It’s why they play the games, but it’s also why they play three sets. Serena would make errors, keep her calm with her trademark stretched left arm, palm-to-the-court “I’m not going to freak out” look. She would spank a couple winners, get fired up, gain her focus and composure, and her opponent would crumble under the weight of it all. It would be one way traffic from there, and the prophecy would be fulfilled.

If football is a game of inches, tennis is a game of milimetres. It’s also a game of milliseconds. After hitting that fateful forehand at the start of the second set, she yelled out a “come on!” before Sam got to the ball and lay a racquet to it. The point was rightly awarded to Stosur. It was one way traffic indeed, but the cars were on the wrong side of the road.

“You’re out of control. You’re totally out of control. You’re a hater, and you’re unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? And I never complain. Wow. What a loser.” Just some of the deep insights that came out during the changeover.

Serena, rather sarcastically if you ask me, reflected after the match that she would have to check the rule book and thought obstruction was more like the “hat rule”, in that if you lose your hat, the point is called a let and you replay it. She was wrong.

Ironically, the tour has come under much scrutiny with the absence of Serena, Maria, Kim, and now permanently Justine in that many lower ranked players are able to make it deep into tournaments and in fact win them as the top seeds crumble and fall away. Sadly, despite Serena doing the same thing, Stosur rose to the occasion and took it, and not just in this match.

Her match versus Petrova was incredible (see my post below). The longest match in US Open history for the women, she dropped the second set, barely. But like what many of the top men do, frankly, they keep faith in that they were the better player on the court, stick to the game plan of staying aggressive and looking for openings, and wait it out on their way to victory, however slim it may be.

It was the same story in the next round as her and Kirilenko ground out one of the longest tiebreaks ever. While it would be lovely to say that winning it was a turning point for Stosur, that was not to be as Kirilenko took it 17-15. That was all fine and dandy for Stosur. She kept working, kept attacking, and smothered the exhausted Kirilenko and the train kept rolling.

When we look back at this tournament, it will be highlighted by the final, the return of Serena, and her inevitable frustration and fall. Really, it should be highlighted by those two fantastic, epic, historical matches that took place late at night on Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand respectfully. While the worlds’ eyes were elsewhere, a champion was forging the ground work for an historic run to the finish line.

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.

1. Serena Williams

Posted by Brodie under: Serena, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Serve, forehand, return, and incredible all around power
Weaknesses: Health, movement, consistency questions

No one really knows what we’ll get with Serena this year. As we saw today, she’s really just thrilled to be back on court, doing what she does best. The shots might not be there yet, but the fight still as. Her power is unrivaled in the history of the women’s game, and combined with her fighting spirit, it’s hard not to think that she could win this tournament even if she had that boot still on. She’s not my pick to win the tournament, but given her history and defending champion status, Serena gets my nod as the number 1 seed.

23 Jul 2010

It’s not often that I stumble upon random pictures that are so intriguing I feel forced to blog them. Today is one of those magical days.

Tennis isn’t an elitist sport, you guys. And who the hell are those ladies, anyway? In other news, I want Kader to dress like that and follow me around and commentate my life for a day. I’d like to wake up with him looming over my bed saying “TIME” over and over until I get out of bed. OK, that might be kinda creepy.

First she was running people over in Paris, now she’s running people over in your local shopping centre. Unfortunately, Serena is not tweeting her location, so no one knows where she might strike next. Be safe out there, people.

Caroline Wozniacki child

I need to finish on a nice note. Ain’t that just the cutest thing ever? Gotta love how she was making that weird ass face when tossing the ball even  as a wee one. Thanks to C Note from Forty Deuce via Women’s Tennis Blog.

The Girl Who Cried Wolf

Posted by Brodie under: Serena

20 Jul 2010

I don’t know about a lot of things that go on in Serena’s head, but here’s what I know about her foot.

Serena wins Wimbledon. Strangely, she manages to injure her foot in the time it takes her to get from London to Belgium to play in a mega bucks exo. Despite the foot, she plays (and loses badly). The injury causes her to miss World Team Tennis. She parties it up anyway, with a bandage on her foot. Everyone rolls their eyes. Her team announces the injury is on the bottom of her foot. Fine. It’s then announced that she’ll not only miss WTT, but the entire hard court season leading up to the US Open, and the injury was sustained by stepping on a piece of glass. The foot will need surgery.

Media, bloggers, and general tennis non-Serena fans roll their eyes. The wolf is back to devour the sheep. And Serena loves non-slam events.

Serena then tweets a pic of her care giving team (with what was thought to be ex-boyfriend Common, for those who care) and post-surgery boot. It’s also announced that she may now miss the US Open.

And so shit got real.

Let’s be honest, Serena could tweet pic of a foot long gash in her arm, and if it only caused her to miss non-slam events, we might not believe her. But Serena doesn’t dick around when it comes to missing slams. Fine, girl. Maybe you are really hurting. But that doesn’t take away the fact that not only did you party and dance on it in high heels, but you played tennis on it in Belgium. Brilliant. Maybe she’s just afraid of all the “ball down throat” comments when returning to the US Open, and would rather not deal with it. Honesty, I have no clue.

Party At Serena’s!

Posted by Brodie under: Serena

17 Jul 2010

Serena is officially out of all events leading up to the US Open, and subsequently the Rogers Cup in Montreal (which I will be attending). Yeah, I’m almost heart broken.

Serena withdrew from five events after the AO with a leg injury (which seemed legit) and is now out of another three (Istanbul, Cincy and Montreal). She’s spent her time recovering by throwing a gigantic “pre-ESPYs” party and attend the Burberry Beauty garden tea (I just threw up in my mouth) party in high heels. She also played that event in Belgium which brought on the mega-bucks, yet skipped out of World Team Tennis and the Istanbul event, which held a press conference to say they were confirming her visit and were paying her $150k to do so. Pssh, silly Istanbul.

Yeah, not so surprising.

How ‘Bout No, Jon?

Posted by Brodie under: Serena

6 Jul 2010

Serena Williams once again finds herself on the cover of Sports Illustrated (she’s kind of excited) with the controversial (from typically low key writer) title “Love Her, Hate Her, She’s the Best Ever” from Jon Wertheim. Listen, I’m not the biggest Roger Federer fan, but I’m fine with giving him the GOAT title; the stats don’t lie. But really, reporters? Now we have to move on to the women?

A lot has been said for Serena’s case because of her injuries. “And if she wasn’t hurt, she would have won more!” Here’s how the stats stack up.

Graf stands atop the Open Era list with 22, Serena has 13. Graf’s record in slams is 282–34 (89%), Serena’s is 199–30 (87). Graf’s years of winning slams spanned over 13 years, Serena has spanned over 12. Steffi has 107 total WTA titles, Serena has 40. Check the overall records: 900–115 to 474–101. Steffi has only 14 more losses and nearly twice the amount of wins. Graf was also number 1 for 344 weeks, longer than any female or male. “She’s the Best Ever”? No disrespect to Serena, but can we stop having this ridiculously stupid argument now?

5 Jul 2010

Apparently someone thought that they could mess with Serena…

The culprit? Fred Evans, nose tackle for the Minnesota Vikings:

Listen bud, I’m not sure if you’ve watched tennis in the last, oh, 40 or 50 years, but it’s not exactly figure skating (sorry Lexi and Christina). Just because they all have to wear nice white outfits doesn’t mean they’re out there to prance daintily for you. In fact, Serena almost shoved tennis balls down a line judge’s throat. I presume that means she might rip your fuckin’ balls off. You probably wouldn’t even lift a finger at some old, dancing, white man of a football ref.

I await your move, WTA Superfans.

4 Jul 2010

Q. Pau Gasol wanted me to say hola to you. Congratulations. Can you compare this to what he did, back‑to‑back Lakers championships and your own as well, two straight here at Wimbledon for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Thanks a lot. Everything is difficult, and very difficult compare, two different sports, no? But I am in contact with him all the time. For sure to have unbelievable sportsman like Pau inside the court, inside the court and outside the court is very, very good for our country.

Q. How does it feel to be so popular with the crowd here at Wimbledon?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, probably is the best crowd of the world, no? More respect. They have a lot of respect for every player, I think.
If I speak about myself, was always amazing with me, the crowd, especially yesterday or two days ago when I played against Andy Murray, a British player. For sure the crowd support him, but the same time was supporting me a lot, no? That’s unbelievable. Just can say thank you very much.

Q. How hungry are you regarding winning the US Open? How important is it for you to win the US Open, as well?
RAFAEL NADAL: Right now I’m very happy to win Wimbledon. Yeah (smiling). We gonna think about US Open in one month. Right now we just relax and enjoy for me this amazing season.
Was very difficult for me to be back at my best. I did, so is very important and emotional moment for me. I want to enjoy that. For sure, keep working to try to be in the US Open finally ready to try to win. But for sure US Open gonna be one of my goals for rest of my career.
But right now is enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party, and Mallorca.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap