Elena Dementieva

Last week in Toronto, Venus Williams put in her best week of singles work since before the Sjogren’s disease, falling to Li Na in the semis, the eventual champion.  Great to see Venus playing good tennis, with depth and precision off both wings, and her trademark cat like quickness moving inside the court.  Venus told a reconfigured ESPN panel of tennis announcers (about time they shook things up, but Jimmy Arias?  Really?) that she first started to feel like herself in London for the Olympics, even though she went out in the 2nd round of singles, in straight tie-break sets to the very hot (you have a dirty mind if you are not thinking tennis!) Angelique Kerber.  Venus told the panel that despite that loss, she felt like she had her groove back, and “thank God because it’s the Olympics and the Olympics are so so huge.”  And then, ho hum, another Olympic doubles gold for Venus and Serena, making for 3 Olympic golds, all totaled, now in her vast trophy case.

The Olympics as huge is not always a concept we particularly embraced.  Like when Elena Dementieva tried to pass off her major-less career as something more because of gold in Beijing, saying that it made her a celebrity in Russia, and blah blah blah.  I mean, that still is not too impressive to us, as we don’t think too many players were all that upset to lose out on that gold.  But that was Beijing.  It is a shame about Dementieva, who anyone with any heart at all had to feel bad about by the end of the day, and her failed plight for a major.  She really was a very notable big time player, making many major semi-finals, losing the French Open final in 2004 and the US Open final that same year, and twice losing in the doubles final at The Open, to boot.  But how bad can you really feel for a player who can barely break 85 MPH on a first serve?

The Olympics at Wimbledon is another story entirely.  Especially, when played so close to um, Wimbledon at Wimbledon.  What we have seen in tennis this year was an incredible phenomenon with what was essentially an extended grass court season for the top players, who did not need to scurry back to clay or hardcourts in between SW-19 and SW-19.  A lot has been made about the cheesy purple cloak around the grounds of The All England Club, and we’d make the point that definitely, Wimbledon did more for the Olympics than the Olympics did for Wimbledon.

We’d also have to note that conditions are different at SW-19 a month after the major and that those conditions played a role at the Olympics.  Like slippage, for one, and brightness, for another.  We’ve never seen Wimbledon so bright and sunny.  Or so slippery.  We’d say that a guy like Tomas Berdych, a former finalist, going out early, constantly losing his footing, in that match with Steve Darcis, who we think had never beaten a top ten player before, was certainly affected very greatly by conditions.  As dozens are routinely at Roland Garros every year.  You have to deal with conditions.  Period.  Darcis was the more mobile player, he had his footing, and you could really see, in that match, that the ease of motion we associate with the one handed shot played heavily into Darcis’ favor.  Since the lawns were very chewed from the major and hadn’t had time to replenish naturally, the groundskeepers had to lay new sod down and that sod didn’t always hold best, especially on the outer courts.

When Serena laid waste to Maria Sharapova in the gold medal match, all the more impressive because Serena, between claiming her 5th Wimbledon crown and her 1st singles gold medal, went out to Stanford and grabbed another title at the Bank of the West, doing all that extra travel, and pulling the surface switch twice, from grass to hards back to grass.  Serena was rightly hailed for her double gold, and the American media, usually at odds with Lady S, came a crawling back to her camp.  Indeed, they had found amid their bias a minute’s break from bashing Serena as a poor sportswoman, except for her dancing that is, to make these arguments that she had never played better, was a woman among girls, and all the other nice stuff they only get around to saying when we are in heated competition for medals with the entire world.

The same standard by which the US media has feted Serena has been used to denigrate Andy Murray for his most impressive showing at the London games.  It’s simply not fair.  Murray is 0-4 in major finals and almost all are quick to point out that if he was going to beat Roger Federer in a Wimbledon final, then he picked the wrong one to do it in.  Nothing could be more obvious.  But to label him a modern day Nicolas Massu?

The Olympics are a huge accomplishment, especially at Wimbledon, and a tremendous feather in Murray’s cap.  For one, Murray proved he can beat Federer in a best of 5 set match.  Prior to the Olympic gold medal match, across three matches, Murray had managed to take just one set off Federer in best of 5 set play.  And two of those matches were blowouts.  Murray also proved that he could beat Federer on grass in best of 5 set play, joining a very select club.  A mature Federer has only lost to Nadal, Berdych, Tsonga, and now Murray in that type of setting.

Murray blew out Roger in the gold medal match, handing the great man his most lopsided straight 3 set loss since the Roland Garros final in 2008, when Nadal steamrolled Federer, with whom Mono still lingered.  We don’t know if Federer has ever been blown out like that on grass.  Murray deserves many kudos for this showing.  Federer had also announced his intention to compete in the London games, and obviously win the gold medal, during Wimbledon in 2007 and 2009.  We loved Federer coming in to the event, feeling that Federer is even more dangerous when he has the confidence to announce his intentions.  Especially when those intentions are stated so far in advance.  We’d also note that on the eve of Wimbledon this year, Federer considered himself the favorite, and then had his best semi-final and final showing at a major since his last win, which was Melbourne in 2010.

The press has cited Federer’s fatigue going into the final because of the semi-final marathon with Del Potro, which went to 19-17 in the 3rd set.  It was a factor, for sure.  But this talk of Murray owing his gold to Delpo is just silly.  First off, Federer did not take care of business.  He threw in a nervous service game and got down love forty at 10-9 when trying to serve it out.  Does the final play out differently if Roger gets done with his work 17 games earlier than he did?  It’s a moot point because it is on Roger.  Murray saw fit to dispatch Djokovic quickly in that spot, and he was the fresher for it and it was well deserved.

We’d also like to point out that for some of the players, guys like Roger, Murray, Djokovic, and Del Potro, who stayed on grass the entire extended season, from mid June through the Olympics, we really got to see how it played out between the very best players on the very best of surfaces.  For that, we are so grateful for the London Olympics having the foresight to play tennis at The All England Club.  As we always tell you, the Wimbledon champion for that year is the champion of all tennis, today, tomorrow, and obviously, historically.  It is why they call Wimbledon “The Championships.”  Grass accentuates all that is truly great in the game: the graceful, the bold, the mighty, and the true talent, skill, and artistry that can only be mastered with hands and footwork, and not marathon grunt work.  Wimbledon, the opposite of Roland Garros, favors grace over grunt.

So many times over the course of the event we heard our man Justin Gimelstob exclaim that we were watching “the perfect execution of power tennis.”  Like with Tsonga-Raonic, Federer-Isner, and Federer-Delpo.  For Murray to play aggressively enough to win an event staged at Wimbledon, beating the guys who he did, means not only did he up his usually meek game considerably, but that also, he played perfect counter attack tennis on a very fast grass track.  Did anyone notice the forehand redirect he hit, in the 2nd set, business end, versus Djokovic, which was essentially a half volley he hit for a winner from the middle of the baseline?  And only dropping 7 games to Roger Federer?

Sorry, but that’s major.  So give the kid his due.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

World #1, if far from best, Caroline Wozniacki (below).

It isn’t often that mystical clay court seasons just line up by the grace of gods, and the stars align to make the typical one-hander who likes to see entertaining, shot making tennis genius and the validation of such genius.  Well, there was 09 of course, when Roger completed the career slam.  We mean, the way Nadal got upset by Soderling, out of nowhere, meaning that the attacking player, the magnificent artist, the man himself, Roger Federer, was going to get the RG crown and the career slam.  And by the way.  We don’t throw the word slam around.  We are tennis purists.  There are career slams, and there are calendar slams.  You win them all in your career or you win them all in calendar order.  Since nobody ever wins them in calendar order to the point that it is rarely a discussion, you have a few slam conversations going on, but not many.

Might Clijsters get it?  Those looking at the woeful women’s tour and Clijsters fans had to think, with her flakiness, and the God awful women’s top 20 right now, that she can’t be counted on to play for too many more majors, but she could have been counted on heavily at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year.  Ah well.  There are the injuries that we are hearing will limit her.  We see a good chance for Clijsters to win these tournaments if she is healthy, and here’s why:  Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Justine Henin are all not playing, Kuznetsova is playing as bad as she has ever, career, Sharapova is not all the way back, and there are questions as to her ability to ever return to the top of the game, and then…we mean, we could go all day.  That’s why another clay court season for the shot mking purist was last season, on the women’s side, with Francesca Schiavone winning her first major title.  I love Schiavone–the top one-handed female until Justine Henin hopefully returns, and she has great flair, but in a healthy field, we doubt highly that we are all suffering a Schiavone-Stosur finale.  These are girls that the Williams sisters, Henin, and several others trounce on a regular basis.  In fact, Venus Williams has never lost to Schiavone in 8 meetings.   Stosur?  Must we really?  A representative top ten of the most talented women in the world, regardless of who is shuttered off in a Belgian bowling alley and who, unfortunately, cut her foot and went through so many sins with recovering from that.

We are not trying to denigrate Francesca.  In fact, we’d love her to repeat.  Considering the shoddy field again.  We have got to look at a woeful top 20 right now.  Former champ Ana Ivanovic, whose game we actually don’t quite terribly mind, is outside the top 20, which says a lot about her plight, and you’ve got one of the least talented and diverse top 20’s there has ever been.  Kaia Kanepi?  Shahar Peer?  Petkovic?  Bartoli?  Radwanska?  Pavlyuchenkova?  Please don’t get us started about Jelena Jankovic, who feel is the most incomplete player in the women’s game.  Besides being an advertisement for how not to play, she hits most of her shots off of her back foot, can not take an overhead out of the air, can not make a volley, and has no serve.  This women’s game is an insult, and perhaps then we shouldn’t take as such an insult the fact that America got dusted in Fed Cup two weeks ago, but we still do.  Pitiful.

If Clijsters doesn’t play, then we’d count 5 players when healthy and right, and maybe a sixth–Ana Ivanovic as being bigger favorites going into Roland Garros than the current field.  BTW, we count Dementieva in that group.  A lot is on injuries, obviously, but we can’t tell you we are happy a Dementieva or a Henin stepped away from the game in their prime.  You watch a Justine Henin match?  Listen, she may have cheated against Serena, but her matches were beautiful things.  Her backhand is text book.  She is a beautiful shot maker and she lit the game up for almost 2 years.  It was pretty to watch.  So we aren’t too happy, and we won’t be next Thursday when the draws come out for Roland Garros.  That Stosur was such a big favorite last year, and looks so strong again?  We apologize, but we don’t feel this caliber of player deserves to win a major.  Winning a major is special.  Will we see it from Wozniacki?  When she pulls it off with those putrid vollies, and her go is death game.  And you know what?  We like her next week.  What does that say?  Because we despise her style of play.  But this is France, and the most vile style usually wins out.

Except when Roger won it.  And the time Mac had Lendl 2 sets and a break.  Kuerten?  Here’s the thing.  He didn’t have near the shot making ability on other surfaces, so we didn’t go crazy when he won here.  We rooted for Courier and against Agassi, and f0r Federer a boatload of times, and when we were young we watched a lot of guys who we didn’t have business winning majors win this thing.  But that’s the French Open, for the women especially, and it looks like we may get a very shaky champ again, which speaks volumes about the women’s game.  If Clijsters can go hard, she is going to have a great shot to pull off the career slam, because she’s the only one around with the focus and the talent.  And so you know, we hate her counter punching style, but will concede she goes for more winners now and is easier to watch.  You see, the French Open, on special occasion, has not been the home of the shittiest tennis champion of them all.  The years when a Navratilova or a Williams or a Graf didn’t win.  The years when it was the Moyas, Andres Gomez’s, Chang’s, and Costa’s.

Would those guys, any of them, win a real major on a court that required brilliance and not doggedness?  We think not.  So here’s to our Roland Garros wishes that if a shitty woman has to be champion, let it be Schiavone, because little girls around the world may model their game after hers, and so that she can build a little legacy for a one-hander, even though she hasn’t ever beaten Venus Williams.  Because that’s a lot better than one of these hacks like Wozniacki, Jankovic, and Radwanska.  Either of those three would horrible for the game.   Zvonareva?  You know we love her, and we like the way she’s went deep at majors lately, building a resume, but we’d say she has a much better chance on Wimbledon’s lawns than on the disgusting mud at Roland Garros.

Tomorrow on the women’s side in Rome:

Wozniacki:  – 200 (bet 200 to win 100)

Sharapova:  +160 (bet 100 units to win 160, plus the initial wager) 


Li Na:  + 170 (bet 100 units to win 170)

Stosur:  – 220 (bet 220 units to win 100, plus initial wager)

Here’s what we think.  Even though we hate Wozniacki, she has the game for clay, if not really any true talent tennis or weapons, and Sharapova doesn’t.  It might help Maria that Azarenka retired today, allowing her to conserve energy, but we’d have to to go with Wozniacki, who is the better mover and the better clay mover.  Mark our words.  You rarely see a match won on clay on a given day by the player who doesn’t use his feet best.  In that vain, we’d have to take the exercise and conditioning freak, Stosur, who is now building quite a little resume for herself on clay, and she’s another poorly talented but favored woman of Roland Garros nontheless.  And the loss last year?  There are Australians we know who lost their shit over it.

We’re not ready to pronounce Sharapova completely dead yet, but without the lights out serve, she really isn’t gonna hurt too many people, and RG has never been her thing.  So we are thinking Wozniacki/Stosur on Sunday, and when we see the odds, we”ll give you our thoughts.  But we aren’t buying at these rates.  The biggest favorite is Stosur at – 220?  If you are going to do something, you shoud be buying dogs.

Then there’s the men where there figures to be a compelling day of tennis, even for clay.  Lines have been shifting the last few hours, as Nadal and Djokovic are becoming bigger favorites.  As of now:

Nadal:  – 1200  (wager 1200 to win 100 plus your initial wager)

Gasquet:  +700 (wager 100 to win 700)


Djokovic:  – 700

Murray:  + 450

Without getting too into the RG breakdown, we’d like to give you our quick thoughts.  Much better values in the dogs once again, especially on the men’s side.  Personally, we have seen a lot of lines, and Andy Murray is probably a plus 450 2 or 3 times only in about the last 3 years.  This guy is a very good player, and the difference in odds is steep considering the match will probably be won over a couple points.  And Nadal/Gasquet?  That’s a match where you have a guy who has never beaten the other guy, and the other guy is on his favorite surface where he rarely loses.  Gasquet just does not match up with Nadal very well, never did.  Doesn’t serve well enough.  That about covers it.  Very talented player, but nearly enough weapons.  But the little extra rest a loss for either favorite might do could go a long way in what could be very close matches, ones the odds don’t seem to respect.  We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a long day of tennis tomorrow.  And we again hope for a classic day of clay court tennis.

Djokovic goes for his 36th straight…vying to also set up a meet with Nadal, who he could conceivably beat two weeks in a row.

Catch it on TTC.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

Three time major singles champion Maria Sharapova (above).

2010 United States Open Ladies’ Champion’s Odds (August 30th — September 12th)


Ana Ivanovic: + 2500 (wager 100 units to win 2500 units, plus initial wager)

Aravane Rezai: + 5000

(Y) Caroline Wozniacki: + 650


Dinara Safina: + 5000

(Y) Elena Dementieva: + 2000

(Y) Jelena Jankovic: + 2500

(XYZ) Kim Clijsters: + 300

(X) Maria Sharapova: + 350

Melanie Oudin: + 10000

Na Li: + 5000

Nadia Petrova: + 6000

Petra Kvitova: + 6000

Samantha Stosur: + 2500

(X) Svetlana Kuznetsova: + 1200

(XYZ) Venus Williams: + 800

Vera Zvonareva: + 2000

Victoria Azarenka: + 650

Yanina Wickmayer: + 5000

Field (Any Other Player): + 400

X — denotes past champion

Y — denotes past runner-up

Z — denotes multiple champion

Enjoy The Open!

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Victorious Victoria Azarenka hugs coach Sam Sumyk (above).

World # 18, Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who lost her only 2 finals this year, found the third time to be a charm this afternoon, as she defeated world # 15 Maria Sharapova, flashing the fine hardcourt form that won her 3 titles in 2009, when she burst onto the scene and into the top 10.

Azarenka came in as the slight underdog today, as Sharapova has played great all week, dispatching the always tough Elena Dementieva Friday night in 3 sets, and then taking three sets to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska last night, coming from behind after being blitzed by Radwanska in the first set.  Sharapova, who won a Wimbledon and French Open warmup event, and who lost narrowly to the eventual champion, Serena Williams, at Wimbledon, has had a lot of buzz lately surrounding her game because her errors–including her double faults–are way down, and her big first and second serve appear to be back.






It was great to see Sharapova serving with her old, elongated service motion.  She won many easy points this week on her serve, and notably got much mustard on her second serve in Friday’s match versus countrywoman Dementieva, playing in her first tournament since injuring her calf at Roland Garros.  Several times in that close match Sharapova boomed deep, hard second serves that helped her get out of trouble.  A great sign, especially against Dementieva, whose return game is the hallmark of her tennis.  Sharapova served well all week until today, when she faced 11 break points and gave up 5 breaks.


Perhaps the long matches this weekend, and the quick turnaround between a tough 3 setter last night and today’s noontime start in California, was too much for Maria.  That, and Azarenka,of course, who just seemed to have more jump in her legs and way more pop off the ground in today’s final.  Azarenka outhit a seemingly healthy Sharapova today.  Quite an accomplishment for the 2010 Bank of the West Champion, who whipped American Melanie Oudin earlier in the week, and who handled top seeded Sam Stosur easily in straights yesterday afternoon.  Azarenka also defeated last year’s champion, Marion Bartoli during her run this week. 

Azarenka has had a difficult year compared to last, when she won Brisbane, Memphis, and Key Biscayne–her biggest victory to date.  In addition to not winning any titles before today, Azarenka had a miserable clay court season, capped by her upset loss to Gisela Dulko at Roland Garros.


Azarenka seemed to find her form on the grass, losing in the Eastbourne final to Ekaterina Makerova, before a very disappointing 3rd round Wimbledon loss to Petra Kvitova, in which Azarenka seemed to quit in the second set, losing 7-5, 6-0.

But the hardcourts suit Azarenka best, as she displayed today, winning 20 more points than Sharapova in blowout fashion, on her way to a 6-4, 6-1 win in 1 hour and 27 minutes.  Azarenka, who turned 21 yesterday, picked up a check for her win worth nearly $220,000.

Great week for “Vica”, as Sharapova referred to the champ in very familar terms during the trophy presentation ceremony.  Today’s title make 4 in Azarenka’s career, all on hards.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

It took only 3 days for the Oudin Clan to get bounced from SW-19 this year, after a very lengthy stay on the grounds last year, that began with the qualifying round, as Oudin qualified for the tournament by winning three consecutive matches, and then won three matches in the main draw, defeating Sybille Bammer, a good grass court player, Yaroslava Shvedova (below), of many recent successes, most notably propably her Roland Garros quarter-final last month, and in upset fashion, highly seeded Jelena Jankovic (handshake above).

Oudin followed it up with some improbable wins at the US Open, lucking into a very injured Sharapova, but taking out Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and the rising Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in fine fashion.  All in all it was four good wins, the best for any young Americans since Serena Williams came on the scene, even if Sharapova did throw in 21 double faults and basically gifted that match to Oudin.

But Oudin is no Serena Williams.  Let’s take her size, for a better comparison.  She’s 5’4.  Only Justine Henin of late in the women’s game, and also Francesca Schiavone, have been able to win majors at that size since Martina Hingis did it, a little before the Williams sisters came along and blew Hingis off the scene.  Oudin can not serve like Henin or Schiavone, and frankly, Schiavone’s French Open win was a bit of a miracle, as it has never happened that a 30 year old player outside the top 10 rides in and wins a major.  Henin, the model small player, has weapons at every turn.  Her serve is a weapon.  Her forehand and backhand especially, will make you pay.  And she knows how to come forward and finish at the net.  She’s probably the most beautiful shot maker to watch in the women’s game that there has been in some time.  Oudin has no weapons.  And she’s not about to develop any.

Oudin lost to rising Australian Jarmila Groth (above), world # 90, because Groth’s first serve is a weapon, and Groth has other parts of her game, including a big forehand, that she can rely on.  Groth made 30 of 36 first serves for 82 %, whereas Oudin’s first serve percentage was about fifty percent, wholly unacceptable.  Groth converted on 4 of 7 break opportunites, and saved one of two against, and came away with the easy victory, 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour and 16 minutes.  Oudin, the only American of real note besides the Williams sisters, who has risen to 33rd in the world, may not have a much higher ceiling than that, because she is a defense first player, and she needs to set up a point with many rally strokes before she can go for a winner.  That type of player is always going to lose to a talented, steady player.

I am going to totally indict 2 of Oudin’s biggest wins.  First, Jankovic at Wimbledon.  Jankovic was very banged up, they kept having to put her leg back together with trainers, and she can be a very, very poor server.  That’s the kind of player Oudin has a chance against.  One who is not too dangerous.  Against Sharapova at the Open, Oudin was able to scramble around to enough of Sharapova’s shots and force enough errors, as well as accepting the gift of 21 doubles.  Even against Dementieva, you have a player whose serve can be shaky, meaning you are going to get chances to break, which you will need, because you will surrender break chances, and still have a chance to come out on top.

Jarmila Groth is a not a player who is going to give you many looks at a break.  I see this as a flaw in Oudin’s game that is almost impossible to make go away.  And as an American tennis fan, I think the recent emergence of Alison Riske, who is Oudin’s age, and who recently came out of nowhere in Oudin fashion, but who can serve, giving her game a different dimension, has a higher potential ceiling than Oudin, who is not going to hold serve throwing in first balls at 95 MPH and second balls around 80 MPH.

As with any American, I root for Oudin, despite her shortcomings.  And she’s a good story.  She’s got the twin sister plotline and the believe shoes.  Against Groth, she managed only 9 winners in 76 minutes.

As a tennis fan, I can’t believe in a player who hits a winner every 9.5 minutes.  I believe you have to make shots to win at tennis.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

First time major finalist, Francesca Schiavone (above).

Soon to be 30 year old Italian Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian man or woman in decades to reach a major final, when her opponent this morning, 5th seeded Elena Dementieva, retired trailing 7-6 after one set due to ankle and knee injuries.

It looks like her opponent in the finals could be Sam Stosur, who is ahead of Jelena Jankovic 6-1 after one set in the other women’s semi-final.  The final will played on Saturday morning.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Elena Dementieva (above).

Elena Dementieva struggled with her fellow Russian opponent and a nagging calf problem to reach her 9th major semi-final and her 2nd semi-final at Roland Garros, defeating Nadia Petrova 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in 2 hours and 6 minutes earlier this morning.

In impressive fashion, Dementieva swept the last ten games of the match, to set up a semi-final date with Italian Francesca Schiavone.  Dementieva is expected to be a huge favorite in that match, and should she win, she will reach her second final at Roland Garros. 

Dementieva lost in the final in 2004 to 4 time Roland Garros champion Justine Henin.  Dementieva, who began her career in 1995, is still seeking her first major title.  Many consider her semi-final loss at Wimbledon last year to Serena Williams to be the best women’s match of 2009.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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