Archive for the ‘Vika’ Category

16 Feb 2013

Victoria Azarenka Doha 1

Victoria Azarenka d. Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-3

Victoria Azarenka hits the ball hard. Agnieszka Radwanska does not.

On the most recent Changeover podcast, I picked Azarenka to win Doha. This wasn’t based off of her current form. It wasn’t even based on the fact that she was the top seed. It was based entirely off of the chance of her draw. A quick glance revealed that there were no players in her entire half that would likely give her any trouble. Barring injury, it would be a major surprise if she didn’t make the final. She’s made the final, and hasn’t had an opponent take more than 3 games off of her in a set.

The fact that Agnieszka Radwanska, the fourth seed, and a player who can roll over lesser players with ease was dismissed by Azarenka speaks volumes to how good Vika is; and where the WTA is currently at.

Power remains the biggest weapon a player in the WTA can have. A combination of movement and consistency is a deadly combo. Mental toughness? Bloody hell. It’s the reason players like Sorana Cirstea and Ana Ivanovic can be so frustrating – the power is there, the consistency is not. It’s also the reason I’ve backed players like Sloane Stephens and Laura Robson. Once the ranking becomes respectable, these type of players can simply hit through smaller players to roll on through early rounds.

Aga sure didn’t play well, but she never looked like giving a damn, either. Azarenka is simply killing her prey before they get on court and then ripping the meat off over the following 80 minutes. That’s not to say that Serena and Maria won’t have something to say about it, but it’s difficult not to back Azarenka, particularly with the great draws she is bound to get.

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.
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8. Victoria Azarenka

Posted by Brodie under: SW19, Vika

20 Jun 2011

Weapons: Strong serve and flat backhand, good movement on the baseline out to both wings.
Weaknesses: Health a real question, sometimes has trouble facing the pressure versus top players

I likely would have ranked Vika higher, due to her power and ability to hit through opponents with incredibly flat balls on either wing. However, recurring health problems have really put the wrench in her season and put serious doubt over her ability to go deep over a fortnight. If she looks sharp and healthy early on, watch out.

The Thin Line Between

Posted by Brodie under: Rome, Vika

14 May 2011

“What are little girls made of? They’re made of sugar. And spice. And sweat. And grit. And fucking swearing, bitches.”

And therein lies the question. When do all those lovely catch words, sweat, grit, determination, desire, competitor, passion… when do they all become ugly?

Last night in Rome, it got ugly. Vika was, um, unimpressed with Maria, and had a catchy phrase to call her. And after she was forced to retire with an elbow injury, down in the second set, she flailed her arms around in a near universal, ahem “I find you highly irritable” gesture.

In a rather classy way, Vika said on Twitter (@Vika7) that she essentially only ever chirps herself on court and not another player. Maria declined to comment any further. Few. Vika was mad at herself, case closed. Except…

Who calls themselves a “f—ing b—h” after winning a set? And my first year university psychology class I took way back when tells me that when you’re pissed at yourself, you usually do something physical. Like, I don’t know, smash a racquet? Pull a Youzhny and bleed your forehead open? Not swing your arms helplessly. A nice attempt at a save, but not a realistic one.

So, as tennis fans, what do we do with this? This is nearly universal to tennis. When a pitcher throws at a hitter, they swear and look for payback. Hockey players will go after the other one, maybe fight. The list goes on. In tennis, not only can you not storm the mound, there is no one else on the field except the two of you. It’s all tension, baby.

For me, responding to this is difficult. I’ve never been a huge Vika fan, but I’ve never thought her as the scum of the earth, and really respect her game and think she’s great for the game. I also think I’m a highly competitive person and am definitely into finding ways of pumping myself up in intense, competitive situations.

However, no one wants a sore winner, and no one wants a sore loser either. Yet Vika falls into a strange spot here, being injured before the incident, and during the incident that led to her retirement. There is no “code of retirement ethics for an opponent” in other sports. In tennis, it’s unwritten. How many people have chirped on Justine for retiring in a slam final? Or for players retiring down a set and 0-4 or 0-5? “What the hell, just stand there and finish it out.”

In other words, I’m not going to sit here and tell that what Vika did was totally acceptable, or completely slimey. Simply, we should stop and think about what happened, and the players that have muttered similar words either undetected by cameras, or on non-show courts. I don’t know. Maybe it was unsportsmanlike, maybe it was in the heat of battle, or maybe it falls on the thin line between.

Get Well Soon

Posted by Ana under: USO, Vika

3 Sep 2010

Vika

I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like what happened to Vika.
Ana was playing at the same time, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the other matches. All of the sudden people on twitter started talking about her, so I went to check it out.

When I saw her on the floor, I freaked out. Even more when they showed it again. It was awful. In the middle of a rally, Vika just stopped and collapsed on court. It really scared the shit out of me. They had to move her in a wheelchair and she couldn’t even hold her head.

At first, everyone thought it could have been due to heat exhaustion. She’s known for not being able to deal well with extreme conditions, but it was later diagnosed as a concussion.

Here’s her statement: “I was warming up in the gym prior to my match against Gisela Dulko, when I fell while running a sprint. I fell forward and hit my arm and head. I was checked by the medical team before I went on court, and they were courtside for monitoring. I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell. I was taken to the hospital for some medical tests and have been diagnosed with a mild concussion.”

It sucks because Vika had a legit shot this year and was playing well.
Get well soon, girl.

Oh, and I’m sorry for the lack of posting, but I have exams so it’s difficult to keep up with everything.

17 Aug 2010

Practice makes perfect. It also makes tennis tournaments.

I find practice gets mentioned far more in the men’s game, probably because of the extremes of some of the top players. Rafa goes balls to the wall on all his practices as if they were a slam match, Fed relies on schedules, patterns, consistency, and Novak likes to yuck it up with the guys. That being said, watching a player, any player, in their practice, is something that makes a tournament, sets the atmosphere when you’re there, and is really such a bonus feature to the whole experience.

Practices are also different. Today I saw Marion serving at cones down the tee, Dinara practicing cross court backhands, Agi practicing volleys, there’s all sorts of stuff. Sometimes, player will play legit points against each other and really go at it, and that’s when things can get fun…

On Monday, I watched Flavs and Vika go at it, and it definitely wasn’t pretty. While Flavia seemed the angry one at first, getting absolutely killed, spraying balls everywhere, and eventually smashing balls against the back stop in frustration, it wasn’t long before Vika had her own set of problems.

Vika’s errors got ridiculously out of control, and she ended up firing a ball backwards off the court and into the Banque Nationale court. I mean, into to, not against. It very easily could have knocked someone in the back of the head, or entered play there. At the switch of ends, she steamed at her coach “when I ask you for the ball, give it to me right away.”

Once Flavs was on our side, she was yelling “aahhhh puta!” and having a hell of a time with just about everything.

The end result? Both of them lost a combined 6 games in their respective matches. Get that shit out on the practice courts, people. Especially against another good player. It’ll help you keep things together for your next match.

Guns A Blazin’

Posted by Brodie under: Masha, Stanford, Vika

1 Aug 2010

That my friends, is what we call a statement.

Blasting through Morita, Mel, Wicky, Sam and Masha while only dropping one set on the way (to Wicky Bartoli), Vika picks up her fourth title, and first of 2010.

While the first set was a serious tug-of-war and battle for momentum, it was pretty clear that Vika was winning the longer rallies and staying unfazed by Maria’s big hitting or huge winners. I wasn’t quite sure if she was going to be able to close it out, but she did deserve it, and took it 6-4.

Masha pretty well disappeared in the second set, and Vika didn’t drop off for one second. It was over in a flash (though that might have been because I slept through a couple of the games…) 6-1.

Super cute trophy presentation, where Maria said that she was sure they would play “many more times, and I will get my revenge”. Vika, all choked up from her win, thanked Maria and said she was sure they would play many more matches, in which Maria let out a cheeky laugh. Not only super cute, but super classy. I think most people would be down for more clashes between the two, there was some damn good tennis in that first set.

Really fantastic tournaments for both ladies to kick off the 2010 hard court and US Open Series, and I think it’s safe to say that both are big favourites to pick up lots of points pre-USO, and possibly make a run at the big time. Both are in good shape (where did those Vika guns come from?) and fully capable. Show me what ya got.

The Case For Vika

Posted by Brodie under: Stanford, Superhero, Vika

31 Jul 2010

Solid win today for Vika, who took out Sam in straights today. The stats show pretty obviously that Vika brought her A game, and Sam did not, and it was enough to make the difference. Both these players are too good for another to not show up, and have things be close. Vika served at 74%, Sam at 55% with only 2 aces. Vika was only broken once in her 6-2, 6-3 victory.

The real impressive thing for the birthday girl (who turned 21 today) was her match yesterday versus Bartoli. Down a break in the first set, she remained positive, fist pumping, tapping herself, and urging herself on. Unfortunately for her, she dropped the set and got broken early in the second. Things totally unraveled, with her yelling at herself and whacking balls against the backstop. I figured it was over, usual Vika was out being herself again. But slowly things shifted, Vika pushed on, upped her game, Bartoli’s game dropped a bit, and before you knew it, Vika had the match in three. While it wasn’t a total mental display, the end of the first set, and the eventual win showed real signs of Vika staying calm, positive, and reassuring of herself. Those are the wins that are important for big time players, because more often then not, you find your A game the next day and before you know it, you’re in the final.

I can’t say I’m a huge Vika fan. Hate her for the “wooo” sound (once drove my sister out of an adjacent room because the sound alone was driving her mad) or the temper, but the fact of the matter is that Vika has one of the hardest hitting games out there, and isn’t afraid to take it to opponents. Not to mention some good defensive skills and above average volleying. The temper and consistency are what has been hurting her, but with an improvement in the headcasiness (I can only assume that’s a word) and a proper control on aggression, she should be a serious contender for a ton of hard court points this season. Which along with other big hitters like Sam, Masha, and Elena, you’ve got to like as a fan of the WTA.

Victoria’s Secret

Posted by Brodie under: Agi, Dubai, Vika

19 Feb 2010

Well that’s just Vika. After a collapse (in my mind, what SHOULD be a confidence shattering one) to Serena in Melbourne, looking exhausted and injured for Fed Cup, girl has put together a hell of a run to the final. And she’s looked confident doing it. Oh, and she’s beating players that she’s supposed to beat. Hell, it’s early in the season, but I’m impressed, and the on court antics seem to be down (though that might just be because I haven’t seen them, she’s winning, or both.)

Regardless, Vika is confident, striking the ball with authority, and despite A-Rad’s best attempts to push her around the court and try to dictate play, Vika was pouncing on short balls, coming to the net (and looking totally comfortable doing it) and knocks up another straight set win. She’ll face defending champ Venus in the final at 7pm local time (10am EST.)

27 Jan 2010

Well that was painful.

In one of the most epic collapses in slam history, Vika was up a whopping set and 2 breaks at 4-0… and then Serena got angry. And it was not pretty. There was just about everything but blood on the court as Serena started hammering the ball, playing with purpose, and actually moving (*gaspshockgasp*). Vika was able to stop the bleeding to get things to a tiebreak, and was even up a mini-break, but Serena just overpowered her and steam rolled all the way through the set and the win.

It was messy, to say the least. It was strange, seeing Vika have Serena’s number after she hadn’t even been broken all tournament. At the same time, Serena looked oddly flat and sort of content to die away with a whimper. And let’s be honest, were this a non-slam tournament (especially outside of the US) Serena probably would have gladly eaten a bagel in the second. But something clicked, for sure, and it was bombs away. Methinks she may be out for blood. Specifically Justine’s.

The other semi actually happened before but is barely worth mentioning. 3 sets of tired tennis that I’m pretty sure exhausted its viewers faster than its players. Nails finally took it in the third set that had next to no service holds… the rest is history. Specifically history not worth re-mentioning. The good that DOES come out of it, however, is that Nails is the first ever Chinese player to crack the WTA top 10, which is pretty damn epic, so congrats to her on that!

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap