Mary Joe Fernandez


Sloane Stephens (above), popping a serve off against Mathilda Johansson on Friday in an easy breezy victory.

While we understood Serena as the prohibitive pre-tournament favorite, we have said many times that clay is a different animal that always treats her differently.  We said that her M.O. at RG was that something always seems to go wrong.  Were we surprised at the loss to Razzano?  Absolutely.  Were we on it?  No.  Betting against Serena is a bad business, as we’ve said, and only further reinforced by her destruction of Azarenka in Madrid, and that little gambit we took with Vica.

Hopefully someone took our underdog philosophy and made some bank on Razzano.  Still, not an easy bit of business, down a set and 5-1 in the breaker before the tide turned.  How often does Serena choke one away?  Or lose R1 at a major?  Until Tuesday, the answers to both were never.  But then again, neither the partisan French crowd–in truth a pit of vipers–nor Chair Eva Asderaki, with whom Lady S has past history, were going to do her any favors.  On Asderaki: 1) That’s a tough over-rule.  I don’t like to criticize calls, as it’s bad form, and at RG, the Chairs do player a larger role than elsewhere because the stupid clay leaves stupid marks…and yet, there is simply no line call conflicts on any other surface and at the other majors, where they have gone to modern technology.  John McEnroe has said often enough that he feels he would have been far more successful with the current Hawkeye system because he expended so much energy fighting officials and that had such a negative impact on his game.  Anyone who remembers John John understands the point all too well.  Are the French cheap, stupid, or just stubborn?

Ding ding ding.  Anyway on to 2) Point penalties for “hinderance” on player audibles are never called, yet has now been called by 1 Chair in 2 different majors against Serena in the last calendar year.  Does Asderaki make that call against Azarenka and Sharapova, the tour’s loudest players?  No.  But then again, they haven’t called Asderaki a “hater” and a “terrible person.”  But then again, again, Asderaki’s 1st hinderance call in the US OPEN FINAL against Stosur was not prompted by unfortunate remarks.

The Chair has played way too big of a role in Serena’s most recent USO & RG losses.  The same Chair.  While we may stop short of calling Asderaki a racist on this page, we would have to agree with Serena’s assessment.  Also, we aren’t one of those types who scoffs at the notion of racism in tennis.  We also feel that Asderaki is obviously prejudiced against Serena, if not actually prejudice (although…)  In a virtually even match on points (Razzano won on total points by 5, 117-112), those 3 points essentially gifted to Razzano would have swung the total in favor of Serena by one.  Three points is practically a game, or half a breaker.  Frankly, the Chair should not play a determining role in ANY match, EVER.  If the Chair’s fairness is questioned, then it ruins the integrity of the game.

On to little Lauren Davis, who announced herself this week with a huge victory over very impressive German Mona Barthel.  We thought Barthel was set to turn heads here.  But Davis, on a foreign surface, abused Barthel.  Despite her loss to the American bulldog, Christina McHale in the next round, we are very pleased with her results, obviously coming into RG prepared for both the surface and the stage.  If Barthel hasn’t yet registered as a name, it’s only because ascent has been so meteoric.  That is a tremendous win.  Perhaps MJF is doing a better job with our young ones than we usually credit her for, having been awarded the Fed Cup post out of what we feel is blatant cronyism.  As for McHale, she may not be ready to take out Li Na, but we watched it closely, and also listened to RadioRG tell it in stretches.  We all thought that McHale scared Li very much with that strong, clean first set, and you can really see McHale winning a match like that next time around.  McHale seems to get as much torque on her forehand as any woman we’ve seen this week.  In short, Joy-zee was in da house.

John Isner, 2 years after setting the major match length record at SW-19 after his 70-68 5th set win over Mahut, now has the French Open record, this time losing to Paul Henri Matthieu 18-16 in the 5th.  This match has us considering if John McEnroe isn’t right about something else as well.  We were inclined to disagree with Johnny Mac, who has pushed for deciding 5th set breakers at all the majors.  We had felt that the extended 5th set format at the AO, RG, SW-19, and DC has a certain mystique and that the players who take part in those matches enhance the history of the game and their own names by playing in these most memorable matches.

But the epic Isner-Mahut affair did effectively scuttle the rest of both players’ 2010 seasons.  Mac talked about how the players have discussed job actions in order to pursue better prize money for lesser players and better protections.  He’s correct that the 5th set breaker would protect players health and ultimately their careers.  And the very personable Dimitry Tursunov underscored the travails of the lesser player in a phenomenal interview he gave to Matt Cronin and Matt Brown of RadioRG.  Tursunov discussed his gig as a pro tennis blogger and how fickle fans always threaten to unfollow him, and more serious stuff, like how expensive the tour is for lesser players like him, who God forbid, want to travel with a coach, a physio and even a girlfriend.  Tursunov candidly explained that in a city like Paris he can barely afford to do anything.  We loved Tursunov in this spot.  While Justin Gimelstob (who hit with Brian Baker prior to Baker’s win over Xavier Malisse and gave great insight as to the Baker story, an American who played in the RG Junior Final in 2003 and was injured the next year and then spent almost 8 years off the tour) is obviously our favorite TTC personality by a mile, we are considering throwing our support behind Tursunov as well, who would be a fine score for TTC.

After an easy R1, Isner spoke with Bill Macatee of TTC, and discussed how he really likes playing on the clay, because of the time it affords him and because the ball bounces up high, right into his strike zone.  We weren’t paying close enough attention, and missed on another upset.  Paul Henri Matthieu is perhaps the flattest hitting Frenchman there is, and goes very flat on both sides.  Even flatter, we feel, than Gilles Simon.  Isner got a bad matchup in that regard, and is not as good when he has to get down low to play balls.  But the central issue with Isner remains his inability to generate opportunities in the return game.  We talked a lot about how Kevin Anderson was such a bad matchup for him back in Delray, because Anderson holds serve easily.  How many times have we seen Isner play these matches where he can’t muster a break?  We know that Jim Courier has been coordinating his efforts with guys like Isner and Harrison, and their coaches.  Isner’s coach, Craig Boynton, has done a great job getting this giant to play defense as he does, but the laterals are always going to be the question with a guy this big.  And now, in 3 recent majors (2012 AO, 2012 FO, 2010 SW-19), he has had to go to an extended fifth set, and all 3 times he faced unimpressive servers (Nalbandian, Mahut, Matthieu), or relatively unimpressive servers.

Isner has heart and smarts and weapons, but he has to do better in spots like these.  Matthieu in the 2nd round, on a collision course with Andy Murray, weak on clay in the quarters, then possibly Nadal, who he pushed to a 5th set here last year, Nadal’s only 5th set ever at RG.  That’s a bitter defeat.  But Wimbledon should also offer a wealth of opportunities for a guy who serves out of a tree top.

Then there’s Sloane Stephens.  Wow.  This is why we have been begging for her inclusion on the Fed Cup team.  She’s our best bet.  She’s not tiny like McHale, but she can defend like McHale, and her weapons are real.  Frankly, she has dominated this week, blowing out BMS and Johansson, and also straight setting Makarova, who was a big favorite.  We are going with her tomorrow against another SS, Sam Stosur.  We’ve gotten hot, pegging Varvara Lepchenko for good things throughout the week so far (another American), and today we had Granollers, Kanepi, and Rus.

Tomorrow it’s Sloane at +475.  As we see it, Stephens has the pace to target Stosur’s backhand and actually get the ball there.  If Stosur is allowed to run around every forehand, she wins.  She probably does enough to win here tomorrow, but she has been very wonky since winning the Open, and Sloane has the power and speed to show her up a little.  We do not see this line as being a realistic indicator of the scoreline.  We do not see the rock solid Stosur we saw two years ago here.

We’ll be happy to watch it all play out, provided NBC and ESPN and TTC can get the coverage straight, and we don’t have to watch a Spanish feed of the match off the internet (as we did today for Raonic-Monaco).  And hopefully Asderaki is chairing on another court, or better yet, no court at all.

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

 

Near has been, Caroline Wozniacki (above).

When the latest WTA rankings became public today, we found ourselves scanning the page a little bit, for it isn’t every week that the previous week’s #1 drops all the way down to four in one week’s time.  Then again, Wozniacki isn’t like most other #1’s.  Like the kind who earn their way there by scoring both major and minor tournament victories, and not just via the latter.  We all knew that things were going to be different for the Dutch miss when she woke up this morning than it had been in quite a while, and frankly, Azarenka, Kvitova, and Sharapova, the new top three, have earned their new spots by playing great tennis and by also dominating Wozniacki.  So finally, the rankings system is working again in the women’s game.  As the great John McEnroe explains in his book, You Cannot Be Serious, that when a player falls from #1, each slipped notch represents a great divide, and that #1 is say, so much better than #2, and #2 is so much better than #3 and on down.  Now you might be thinking, not so, when applied to the current men’s game, and not even so when looking at the top two women’s spots, even this week.  For there is obviously, at least based on Melbourne, not a great deal separating #1 and #2 and #1 and #4, having watched Djokovic-Murray and then Djokovic-Nadal.

But these men are different.  We haven’t had an unworthy men’s #1, a non major champion #1 man in ages.  And for our money, Kvitova is the real #1 on the women’s side, and she has the edge over Azarenka, whether she has the ranking or not.  As for Wozniacki, there is no question that she has been undeserving (and under serving), or that she was worthy of this startling demotion.  As a #1, she made zero major finals last year, and lost a staggering 17 times, for a 63-17 record.  Clear cut compiling, by virtue of amount played, ala Jelena Jankovic, the other most blatantly undeserving (and under serving) #1 in recent memory.  Wozniacki lost once every four and a half matches, which wouldn’t even see her reach the semis, on average, at masters level events.  And what about who she lost to?

We haven’t racked the annals of the record book yet, but we’ll ask when a world #1 of any sort lost two matches in one year to players ranked 70th or lower?  Last year, Wozniacki lost to Sofia Arvidsson (#73) and Christina McHale (#76), and only the latter has been on an upward trajectory.  Too many losses, too poor a quality of loss, and very bad losses at majors, such as to Hantuchova (#29) in the round of 32 in Paris and to Cibulkova (#24) in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, after winning the first set 6-1.  Since almost all American tennis coverage comes filtered through ESPN, heavily invested in promoting athletic personalities for reasons such as promotion, like all the players they put in their Sportscenter commercials, a group to which Wozniacki belongs, it isn’t surprising that lead female voice, Mary Joe Fernandez, was pubbing for Wozniacki hard all of last year, constantly on the stump about how well the rankings system works, and how deserving Wozniacki was.  MJF has to be so careful though, what with all her and ESPN’s conflicts of interests and all.  So when she says things like ‘winning at Indian Wells is just like winning a major’…um…take that with an ocean of salt.

While we do stand by our title, and feel Wozniacki, like Jankovic, is for all intents and purposes done at the top, she is far from done as in cooked.  Yet.  The first thing that Wozniacki needs to do, like so many in her position or a similar one, is ditch dad.  In Jankovic’s case it was mom.  Wozniacki has her ex-soccer star father coaching her, and as you can see, nowhere in that byline is the word “tennis.”

Plenty of girls have success as slap hitting pushers.  Just look at Kim Clijsters.  But Clijsters comes up with shots when pushed while Wozniacki comes up with…losses.  She needs a drastic remodel on the forehand side, and she needs to find a way to hang on to her serve in pressure situations against mediocre and top talent.  That’s a big job and it will start in practice.  As we suggested for Jankovic, we suggest for Wozniacki.  She must cut weeks from her playing schedule and add weeks to her practice schedule.  We don’t think the homely Jankovic was in demand as a model, so it wasn’t like she needed to worry about that, but Wozniacki does.  But Wozniacki is no Kournikova.  She is not so hot that people will want to take her picture when the tennis part is done.

What she does have in common with Jankovic is plain old greed.  When Wozniacki should be practicing or resting, she is playing.  When she needs to be practicing for Wimbledon, where she sucks, she is playing indoors, clearly picking up the paycheck.  When she needs to be resting the week before the US Open, she is playing New Haven, the only top player in the world who doesn’t skip it.  When she should be preparing for red clay, she is playing on green clay, which does not make you in any way appreciably better on red clay.  For the paycheck.

So Wozniacki must also exercise some common sense as well.  We understand the demands of sponsors and all this other nonsense, but those demands will lessen quickly if she is out of the top twenty next year, which can also happen.  Not that we care to see her improve.  Just being honest.  And while we’re at the honesty thing, we feel no real imperative to suggest a coach, as we might do for a player we like.  You know we were thrilled to see today’s huge, if not stunning reversal in rankings.  This kid does not play the right way.  Kudos WTA.

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2012 Australian Mixed Doubles Champion, and her war paint, Bethanie Mattek Sands (above).

After a great Australian Championships, where across the board the very best seem to have won things that would rightfully be theirs, America does not go away poorly represented.  Americans won majors in Mixed Doubles and the Juniors with some very worthy play, and very nearly saw the Bryans set the record for most career majors together, further cementing them as an all-time best doubles team.  The win would have given Bob and Mike their twelfth major together, 2 more than the all-time team of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming.  Unfortunately for the Bryan brother’s, who came up with a clutch tie-breaker and fought off a match point in the Semi’s, they did not make the shots and hit far too many second serves in a match that saw Radek Stepanek and Lenader Paes, who we met at the US Open and who was very cool, the career doubles slam.

The Paes team dominated on points and on serve, holding the Bryans to 0-2 on their only break chances.  But the Bryans didn’t play badly, and made only 3 errors in the match.  But they didn’t play well enough Saturday, and that is going to happen sometimes in doubles, because the game is moving so quick that you are not going to see a lot of chances to break, and poor serving better right itself quickly or else you are going to get blown out.  Make no mistake, the Bryans are an elite doubles team.  They have had sustained success, and have been essentially the best team for 6-7 years.  They are no doubt going to go on and get their twelfth major soon enough, and then beyond.

Paes and Stepanek were the better team on Saturday, by a little, but by enough, and by and by, had the better tournament on the whole as well.  Worthy Champions indeed.  And many would say Paes is getting all the credit due to the career slam, but Stepanek was a huge part of this team, coming up with at times brilliant tennis.  Here is a very smart player with a great deal of flair.  This may be a very good team going forward.

The Bryans get this criticism sometimes that they dropped 2 Wimbledon and French Open finals, and that they maybe should have seized those titles, but it would be crazy to doubt the Bryans well earned status as an elite team.  Everyone loses a few finals.  Sure we are disappointed whenever they lose, but in total, they have won 11 majors and been to five other major finals.  Very rarely does a team give us so much great doubles.  That is why real fans of the game have to be satisfied by all the tremendous doubles that we have been treated to by the Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters.  Truly phenomenal. The Bryans have also been the absolute lynch pin in Davis Cup, making the US squad a virtual contender every year, and playing and winning on the winning American team in 2007, also secures them as an all-time team, that may well be, at the end of the day, equal or better to McEnroe/Fleming, who played phenomenal tennis on their way to dominating the early eighties.

Taylor Townsend, the Girl’s Champion, the 14th seeded exciting American lefty, played very collected tennis when she needed to, and dominated at net, which she got to 23 times more than the 4th seeded Putintseva.  Aside from a period where she seemed to zone out, early in the second set, Townsend thoroughly outplayed the the very ill tempered Putintseva, who would not speak to reporters after the match.  Townsend is very athletic, and she plays the right way, which is refreshing.  Hopefully she is now considered a top prospect by the powers that be, i.e. Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez, because she soon needs to be on a very professional training regimen, with a top coach.  Might be fun, considering her style, that she get Tim Gullickson, who would encourage her to use the approach, which she does so well.  As for Putintseva, she has to grow up a bit.  She seemed to develop some kind of beef with Townsend, and the behavior was completely unbecoming on this stage.  The kid simply can not behave that way at a major final.  Good for Townsend, who we want to see more of.  She showed great poise, guts, and touch, and the USTA should now fast track her.

Then there’s Bethanie Mattek Sands, who we’ve, let’s say, assessed rather bluntly at times, but who we have also given her due, seeing her play some very brave tennis over the years, and making the utmost out of the talent she has by playing the angles, playing creative, and playing at net, the most exciting ways to play.  Sands became a major champion Friday, as she and the excellent Roumanian player, Tecau prevailed, with her doing more than her fair share, denying the very solid team of Paes and Vesnina in straight sets.  Sands played sick tennis, making several big crosses, on Paes’s serve, which many men failed to do throughout the fortnight.  This is very nice due for Sands, who has truly maximized her tennis, and who does her best to play an interesting, exciting match every time out, and who always maximizes her talent.  As we said earlier in the week, if you could put her brain into one of the younger, taller up and coming American females, then we might as a nation be taking the right to steps to get some resemblance of respectibility  as singles nation.  We are especially referring to Coco Vandeweghe and Melanie Oudin (though she isn’t very tall), though we must note that we also give due to Oudin for winning the mixed at the US Open.  She’s another one we’ve killed, but frankly, she plays tiny tennis.  She doesn’t try to win, and so, unless she is getting gifted 20 doubles by Sharapova or error upon error by Petrova, she’s not going to win.

Good job by this group to see that the nation had some noteworthy success at this major.  We enjoyed it.

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Stacey Gardner (left, above) and Ester Satorova.

Originally we were going to light up The Tennis Channel for it’s diminished coverage of our beloved Hopman Cup, which is a celebration of tennis, a multi-national competition sometimes decided by our dearly beloved mixed doubles–how novel–and the greatest of New Year’s pick me ups.  It is true that TTC only televised three sessions of the Hopman Cup, but in it’s quest to cover American tennis primarily, and with the blah team of Mardy Fish and Bethanie Mattek-Sands representing America, could we really blame them?  In this day and age, if you can’t find just about any tennis online live, you have no business criticizing the The Tennis Channel anyway.  But criticizing Fish and Sands?  That’s a cottage industry.

Well, if you hearken back to last year when John Isner–a winner–and Sands partnered up to win Hopman Cup XXIII, you couldn’t have been too displeased with Sands, who perhaps had no business tussling with Justine Henin, but who did pull her weight admirably in perhaps sharing with Isner in her greatest tennis glory.  And was it not a sight to see Justine Henin returning serve to John Isner?  Let’s face it, Sands is a middling player at best, a blight on our Fed Cup team, a high socked, neon dyed chubby little picture of bad fashion with the girliest popgun forehand in the women’s top 55, but she is not a disgrace to American tennis.  The girl gets doubles, understands well her limitations, and therefore uses the net, approaches as much as possible with nice touch at net, and again, she came through as much as one could expect her to last year to get USA her sixth Hopman Cup.

It’s not her fault that her meager game gets trotted out so regularly to horrible results by Mary Joe Fernandez.  That would be the USTA’s fault.  So when the Czech sounded the American death knell the other morning, and Sands got obliterated by Kvitova, as she should, and when Fish got abused by Berdych, as expected, we put no blame on Ms. Sands.  After all, the Americans were up a break in the second set of the mixed, and it was no fault of Sands that Mardy Fish blew about ten volleys in 4 games and netted four crosses in the exact same damned spot in the net.  As our mate Fred Stolle aptly pointed out, if Fish were tired from being beaten so badly by Tomas Berdych, that was not an excuse for dead legged tennis in the mixed, crossing like a kamikaze to blow volleys that the 12 year olds over at the NYJTL make regularly in the school yard.  Fred Stolle, who we only get down under and occasionally during mixed package major season, the first seven days of the majors, when we are very lucky.  Fred, why couldn’t you have stayed with ESPN back in the day and that hack Cliff Drysdale have gone?

Fish Fish Fish.  The worst thing anyone could possibly do is to put their faith in Mardy Fish in the big spot.  Now you might say, well, didn’t Fish win the bespeckled tennis ball with a driven Serena a scant few years back?  Yes.  But Serena is so great that she can make Mardy Fish a winner for a week, something we’ve yet to see anyone else do.  She carried Fish, she banged unreturnable serves to the men and women, and her presence on just about any doubles team has generally always produced medals and champion trophies.  It was lucky for Mardy that Serena likes bling so much, was healthy, and so motivated to get another blinged out tennis ball from old Lucy H.  For when Fish had the opportunity to take home the gold, he lost in five sets to…Nicolas Massu.  And he’ll never live that down.

And the excuses abound.  And that’s just tiresome.  Like hearing about Mardy Fish’s ankle all summer.  Let’s face it.  Nadal is more heavily taped up on a day to day basis by a lot, and he only wins majors.  While Fish is rationalizing to the cameras on Hopman Cup that at least Bethanie got in some matches.  Again, Sands is not the dominant player here.  When she won, it was Isner, and when Fish won, it was all Serena.  But can’t Fish state a grand intention for once, even if it’s only at Hopman Cup, where he is a past champion paired with the defending champion?  Instead it’s always like, ‘well maybe I can make the quarters.’

So we aren’t upset that America lost, considering the roster, and that so many other rosters were much much stronger.  Had a special eye on Bulgaria with our lad Grigor Dimitrov, the best up and coming one hander in the game, and Tsvetana Pironkova, Wimbledon’s mistress–quite a team.  BTW, Dimitrov did not look like a prodigy but rather, a prodigy realized, when he spanked Mardy Fish 6-2, 6-1.  Loved France with super talented one hander Richard Gasquet and two-hander Marion Bartoli, an utter hack but taken with Gasquet, a very diverse tandem.  And the Czech obviously were going to be heavy favorites because they were loaded, with Kvitova a given to win and Berdych sitting very pretty.  If the Americans could have actually stretched it out TTC would have shown us more tennis, but they still had the good grace to televise the final which we happened to catch last night at 4 AM, and despite the lack of drama due to the sweep and the no mixed match which would’ve been a hot contest, we got to see the dominant left hand of Kvitova, the dominant serve of Berdych, and the flair of Gasquet, one the game’s best shot makers.  Gasquet took the backhand early and made many beautiful backhands up the line, made incredible forehand return winners, making for a very interesting match which Berdych took 7-6 (7-0), 6-4.  Berdych is in fine form.  His return game was clicking, popping several huge forehands for winners in his own right, and even on the tacky blue plexicushion, we felt the indoor conditions made the court play extremely fast.  It was bang bang tennis, and both guys should get credit for going for shots, coming forward, and pursuing the attack.

A nice bit of warm spirit after the contest was when Bartoli came down to console Gasquet after the match, and when Kvitova came to congratulate and celebrate with Berdych.  This is a great competition and always has been, in the name of the great Harry Hopman who coached from Laver and Rosewall to McEnroe and Gerulaitis, and who stressed the serve, the overhead, and getting to net and sticking your racquet out.  Unfortunately from a sentimental aspect, the event has had its last run at Burswood, but is sounds like the Hopman Cup is moving to an even better venue in Perth’s new arena.

It’s no real comfort to America, but Fish goes home with Stacey Gardner, so obviously these losses aren’t sweated too heavily.  And Berdych to Ester Satorova.  Damn.  We should’ve had a battle of the tennis babes featuring those two.  But there’s still time.

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Has Serena’s week of work out here at Stanford been more a sign of her sterling dominance or has it been yet another testament to the weak state of the women’s game?  While we were happy with last night’s result–a complete dismantling of world #5 Maria Sharapova–we thought it displayed more of the latter.  Aside from the 2 matches she has lost in majors, Masha has been the most dominant woman on the tour since May, and ran into the hotter hand and bigger hitter in a Roland Garros semi and a Wimbledon final, losing to eventual champions in both.

We think Maria ran into another eventual champion here yesterday.  If anyone was about to consider last night’s match a fluke, or to consider giving credence to Maria’s weak ass excuses–she couldn’t get into the match, she was tight, etc.– then what’s left to say tonight, after we have just seen Serena destroy the game’s other hottest player, Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, taking 10 of the first 11 games out of the gate and wrapping up the first set in 24 minutes?

Lisicki has shot up the rankings to world #26 by winning Birmingham and making her 1st major semi-final at Wimbledon, but this is a girl who was around #160 in the spring when America faced off against and got their asses handed to them by Germany in Fed Cup, who was playing challengers all spring and who had to go through the qualifying rounds at Roland Garros.  These are further indictments on the women’s game, how a hot and able lady can get on a roll and go from the brink of obscurity to being squarely in the mix in the blink of an eye.  Good news for Serena, who is currently world #159 by the hand of the computer, but could anyone argue that she is not really the best player in the world right now?

Serena takes it 6-1, 6-2 in 59 minutes.  She won 69% of the points on serve and 54% of the points in her return game, allowing Lisicki to win only 4 of 17 points on second serve and only 34 of 91 total points.  Serena was not broken in the match, and has lost only 12 games in 3 easy straight sets wins here in which Patrick McEnroe has described her play as “nothing short of phenomenal.”

Tomorrow Serena gets another look at Marion Bartoli who defeated her at Wimbledon in her first action at a major since her return.  Serena is 2-1 lifetime versus Bartoli, and we’d be loathe to think Bartoli had a chance in that round of 16 if not for how little Serena had played in a year.  Though we hate the Plexicushion surface and how California as a state has favored a ticky tack surface that doesn’t favor the American style, we see pretty fast conditions here, and even faster ones tomorrow in the sun.  We don’t like how that bodes for Bartoli and her cumbersome two handed strokes on both sides and her awful, truncated service motion, which is completely devoid of fluidity.

We’ll pop the odds up for you tomorrow, but look for Serena in another walk.  By the way, Serena will move into the top 100 with tonight’s victory, and since she has no points to defend until next year at Birmingham, we’d expect that she will rise dramatically in the coming weeks, even with pedestrian showings in Toronto and Cincinnati, where she will probably do very well.

Of course Serena really shouldn’t have to worry about seedings going into The Open, but then again, the blasted USTA, unlike Wimbledon, does go by the WTA rankings.  We’re sure Mary Joe Fernandez will be watching with baited breath, as no one can be happier than our Fed Cup Captain, who has yet to wow us in any respect, and who will no doubt beg, borrow, and steal to get Serena for the next round of Fed Cup.

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Last night during Erakovic/Cibulkova on TTC, Lindsay Davenport, excited about the main event to come on ESPN between Serena Williams (victorious above) and Sharapova, talked it up a little bit over some video of Sharapova ferociously shadow hitting backhand after forehand in rapid fire succession.  Davenport explained that Serena had already been put through some rigorous steps by her people to prep for the match, and now Sharapova was doing the same thing.  When the coverage began on ESPN, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Brad Gilbert echoed the same sentiment.  They said that both players were treating the match more like a “Grand Slam final”, that they uncharacteristically spent an inordinate amount of time in what they called hard warmups compared to their normal routines, and that the atmosphere out at Stanford was completely electric.

Then the match started.  So much for the questions about Serena and where she was in her comeback.  So much for any hype surrounding the match.  So much for Sharapova who had seemed to reclaim her form of old.  Because Serena stormed out of the gate, winning a stunning first 5 games on Sharapova’s serve, and locking up the first set in what seemed like 5 minutes, en route to a 6-1, 6-3 easy breezy victory over the world #5, that might have been even more lopsided than the score line.

Serving to the world #169 (we know that’s outrageous and obviously on the mend), Sharapova’s achiles heel once again became apparent.  Against Hantuchova Thursday, Sharapova threw in 11 double faults, and added another 7 last night.  In a completely embarrassing display, Sharapova won only 12 points on her 1st serve in the entire match.  And what had become a rivalry several years ago when an unexpected blonde 17 year old dusted Serena in the Wimbledon final, is now decidedly far from it. 

Serena is now 7-2 lifetime versus Sharapova and has not lost in the series in almost 7 years.  The ticky tack blue Plexicushion surface which both players have won majors on, played like lightning.  Even on a coolish night.  Finally.  Serena, looking for her 1st final since last year’s Wimbledon, will take on Sabine Lisicki under similar conditions tonight.

Here are the odds for today’s matches:

Serena:  – 320

Lisicki:  + 240

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Cibulkova:  + 140

Bartoli:  – 180

______________________

Fish:  – 600

Harrison:  + 400

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Bogomolov:  + 170

Gulbis:  – 220

…..

From what we saw last night, we love Serena and Gulbis today.

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

Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic (above).

When play commences on the lawns next week, tennis fans will be treated to some very good matchups.  With the Wimbledon draws announced today, we figured we’d let you know what to look out for in the first couple of rounds.  Ladies first:

 

Ladies Singles–1st Round

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(15) Jelena Jankovic vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Akgul Amanmuradova vs. (23) Venus Williams

Alison Riske (USA) vs. (2) Vera Zvonareva

(6) Francesca Schiavone vs. Jelena Dokic

Christina McHale (USA) vs. Ekaterina Makarova

(18) Ana Ivanovic vs. Melanie Oudin (USA)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Eleni Danilidou

Aravane Rezai vs. Serena Williams

Laura Robson vs. Angelique Kerber

(5) Maria Sharapova vs. Anna Chakvetadze

 

Mens Singles 1st Round

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Ryan Sweeting (USA) vs. Pablo Andujar

Fabio Fognini vs. Milos Raonic

Donald Young (USA) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA)

Radek Stepanek vs. Fernando Verdasco

Tobias Kamke vs. Blaz Kavcic

Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Daniel Cox (GBR)

Ivan Ljubicic vs. Marin Cilic

Ivo Karlovic vs. Janko Tipsarevic

Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. vs. Fernando Gonzalez

John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut

David Nalbandian vs. Julian Reister

Robin Soderling vs. Philipp Petzschner

Kei Nishikori vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Marcos Baghdatis vs. James Blake

…..

The women’s draw features Mary Joe Fernandez’s rag tag crew of hack Fed Cuppers, in Oudin, McHale, and Vandeweghe.  Oudin should get dusted by Ivanovic, who, should she lose, should probably hang it up already.  Coco’s got a glimmer of hope against Danilidou.  McHale should get shredded by Makarova.  FYI, Vania King, who has played well, is in the main draw, as is Alison Riske, who has a very tall order in Vera Z.  Who knows?  Grass is Riske’s best surface, and maybe the Pensylvania product gets lucky.  Zvonareva looked dead during her QF at Eastbourne versus Stosur, after winning 8 of the first 12 games and virtually having the match in the bag.  Zvonareva has played a lot of tennis this year.  Could that bode well for the American who should be installed on our FC squad, especially considering America’s woeful state of affairs and relegation from the World Group?  Journeywoman American by way of Russia Varvara Lepchenko did upset 18th seed Flavia Pennetta at Roland Garros, so we’ll give her a bit of a chance here against 19th seed, Yanina Wickmayer.  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, one of the few women with the stones to consistently attack, has a great shot to upset Jelena Jankovic.  The Spaniard is 2-1 lifetime versus the gutless, annoying Serb.  Also, it would be nice to see young Brit Laura Robson win her first round match with Kerber.  Kerber will be favored.

Not to run on about the men, but we do feel it’s high time that Ryan Sweeting, with his ranking up to 66th, notch his first ever match win on grass.  We’re very interested to see our boy, young beast Milos Raonic on the grass.  The possibility of a 3rd round match between Raonic and Nadal would make for appointment television.  As would a possible Del Potro/Nadal round of 16 affair.  Nice to see DP in the top 25 again (24).  Tommy Haas looks for his first win of the year, and we welcome him back, as well as David Nalbandian, who won 2 rounds at Halle.  We also welcome back Chilean ball crusher Fernando Gonzalez who might be a big problem for Dolgopolov, who seems to adjust poorly to specialty surfaces.  We love Stepanek, a nice net player, as an upset special in round 1.  We’d love to see James Blake do something in the spot versus Baghdatis, but Blake is even more disappointing than usual at Wimbledon.  Things look good for former boys champ Donald Young, in a very winnable 1st round match versus another American Alex Bogolomov.  We always love watching talented 1-hander Segiy Stakhovsky, who gets diminutive British hack Daniel Cox in round 1.  We hope Soderling has a good run here but it wouldn’t shock us if Philipp Petzschner, a very good grass courter and last year’s doubles champ gave him a good go.  Our favorite techno tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic has his hands full with ace machine Ivo Karlovic.  We might put a few dinari on Dr. Ivo.  It would be a good time for Marin Cilic to wake up, though we don’t have much confidence in that.

And in maybe the most celebrated first round rematch ever, we look for Giant John Isner, whose ranking has fell to near 50, to get back on track and take care for Mahut before it gets to 70-68 in the 5th.  Isner has weathered the clay season, and can not be faulted for taking Nadal to 5 hard sets at Roland Garros in round 1.  We look for him to have a great summer starting here, and carrying over to the American summer hardcourt season.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/giant-john-isner-wins-longest-match-in-tennis-history-in-1st-round-wimbledon/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/marathon-man-mahut-returns-to-play-doubles-after-world-record-longest-singles-match/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/marathon-record-man-isner-falls-easily-in-2nd-round-wimbledon/

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

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