Tsvetana Pironkova


We were very lucky to sit front row at the US Open yesterday for American hopeful Sloane Stephens (serving above) and Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary.  From everything we saw prior, Sloane Stephens looked to us to be if not the best, then the 2nd best American tennis prospect in the land, and her 6-2 lead after one set seemed to bear that out.  And then the middle set and a half came.  Though the 18 year old Stephens gutted out the victory by winning a break of serve while Jani was serving for the match, and although she trailed 3-2 in the deciding breaker and then reeled off the last 5 points, we’d rather be hard on her than easy.  Let’s be real.  Is Stephens to be lauded for beating a 5’4 girl 2 years older than her who also never won a match at a major (or even competed in one before yesterday) and who is ranked about 225th in the world?

Stephens looked great early on.  She was so quick around the court, stalking the baseline, and it seemed like Jani could not hit an out and out winner.  Stephens was getting to everything.  The first set came and went and Jani looked headed for home.  In the 2nd set, Stephens looked tight, went down a break, and got no traction whatsoever on Jani’s service games.  She lost the set 6-3, and frankly, she looked like she was a junior again.  A lot of credit goes to Jani for the turn around.  Stephens has a laser beam forehand, not a lot of spin, that she gets on top of and that’s clearly her kill shot.  Jani has tactics, and variety, and against a one dimensional player, it was almost enough.

On American hards, Stephens has no business losing to a player like this, despite her limitations, to this point.  Did irk us that she hit only 3 volleys and blew an easy overhead?  Totally.  And by the way, if you are reading the match stats that counted her as 11 for 20 on her approaches, a poor percentage indeed, you might want to take more seriously the percentage than the credited approaches because she was moored to the baseline and we have good reason to question that stat.  Stephens is uncomfortable anywhere inside the tennis court.  Jani’s best play all night was the drop shot, which was a horrible sitting duck most of the time, but since Stephens can only go side to side and hates taking her hand off the racquet, just about every dropper hit to her backhand worked out for Jani, even when the droppers made the service line.

It’s not like Jani is Roger Federer.  She employed a little topspin, a lot of short balls, some approaches and some slice.  Stephens bashed flat forehands and hit looping backhands.  We can’t recall her hitting one slice backhand or taking her hand off the racquet, even for a lunge, once.  And she did not go for any winners on the backhand side.  It’s no way to win a match and at about the 1:40 mark, it looked like it had lost her the match, down a break at 4-5 in the 3rd.  Stephens did have a pretty live first serve, and she is well conditioned, and when doubt crept in for Jani in that 10th game, Stephens picked it up.  She had to or she was going home.  And she had the crowd, though there was a small but hardened Hungarian contingent annoyingly yelling out calls and shushing the rest of us, who we were happy to see, get shushed in the end.

I was preparing some comments to heckle Stephens with, or rather, constructive criticism, to nail her with if she lost.  I was gonna yell, “No variety Stephens!”  That would have been putting it kindly.  She’s only 18 and she has time to get comfortable with her secondary shots and develop more tennis sense and work on her backhand.  But still, I was not that impressed.

We’ve been away.  Now we’re back.  Odds for today’s tennis out at Flushing:

12:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Juan Martin Del Potro:  – 10000

Filippo Volandri:  + 2500

____________________________________

Rui Machado:  + 600

Robin Haase:  – 1200

____________________________________________

Denis Istomin:  – 175

Ryan Sweeting:  + 125

_________________________________________

Shuai Peng:  – 400

Tsvetana Pironkova:  + 250

__ __ __

1:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Alex Bogomolov:  – 1200

Steve Johnson:  + 600

___________________________________

Somdev Devvarman:  + 2500

Andy Murray:  – 10000

_________________________________

Marion Bartoli:  – 225

Christina McHale:  + 165

__ __ __

2:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Ricardo Mello:  + 1000

Gilles Simon:  – 2500

__ __ __

2:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Robby Ginepri:  – 180

Joao Souza:  + 130

______________________________

Nadia Petrova:  – 300

Polona Hercog:  + 200

_____________________________________

Coco Vandeweghe:  + 700

Sam Stosur:  – 1500

__ __ __

3:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Dominika Cibulkova:  – 400

Irina Falconi:  + 250

__________________________________

Venus Williams:  + 110

Sabine Lisicki:  – 150

__ __ __

4:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Jack Sock:  + 185

Marc Gicquel:  – 275

_____________________________________

Yanina Wickmayer:  – 375

Alla Kudryatseva:  + 235

__ __ __

4:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Angelique Kerber:  + 550

Agnieszka Radwanska:  – 1000

_________________________________________

Flavia Pennetta:  – 400

Romina Oprandi:  + 250

__ __ __

5:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Marcos Baghdatis:  + 200

John Isner:  – 300

__ __ __

7:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Andy Roddick:  – 1500

Michael Russell:  + 700

__ __ __

9:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Anastasiya Yakimova:  + 1200

Maria Sharapova:  – 3000

……

A couple of things to mention here.  How often does Venus get a plus next to her name?  Nightmare matchup for Lisicki.  We’d like to see ugly 2-handers, Peng and Bartoli, out of here.  Especially Bartoli, facing young Jersey girl Christina McHale.  Angelique Kerber defeated our little darling, Lauren Davis.  We could see her being a nice bet against Radwanska who seems to be an awfully big favorite.  Who’s betting 1000 to win 100 on a Radwanska girl?  We’d like to think Coco and Jack have a shot today.  Especially Sock, against the very ancient Gicquel.  We are liking Hercoq against the burly Petrova, especially after she steamrolled Mattek-Sands, 1 and 3.  We like Falconi over Cibulkova, thinking she’s played well and that it’s a great matchup for her.

Romina Oprandi in action after predictably taking out Oudin (does she have to get bageled in every loss?).  Isner-Baghdatis might be the best match of the day.  We like Steve Johnson, USC’s NCAA champ, against Bogomolov, who we have never seen as – 1200 against anyone, and maybe never even seen as a favorite. 

Big day for USA potentially.  And Madison Keys could have gotten us off very well by finishing off Lucie Safarova.  Not to be, once again showing it takes more than defense to win at this level.

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

Agnieszka Radwanska:  + 6000

Alisa Kleybanova:  + 12500

Ana Ivanovic:  + 5000

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova:  + 5000

Andrea Petkovic:  + 3000

Aravane Rezai:  + 15000

Caroline Wozniacki:  + 1000

Daniela Hantuchova:  + 2000

Flavia Pennetta:  + 15000

Francesca Schiavone:  + 6000

Jelena Jankovic:  + 3000

Julia Goerges:  + 4000

Kaia Kanepi:  + 10000

Maria Sharapova:  + 400

Marion Bartoli:  + 4000

Na Li:  + 700

Nadia Petrova:  + 12500

Petra Kvitova:  + 800

Sabine Lisicki:  + 4000

Sam Stosur:  + 2500

Serena:  + 350

Shahar Peer:  + 15000

Svetlana Kuznetsova:  + 4000

Tsvetana Pironkova:  + 10000

Venus:  + 1000

Vera Zvonareva:  + 1500

Victoria Azarenka:  + 1200

Yanina Wickmayer:  + 6000

Field (Any Other Player):  + 3000

…….

Azarenka over Zvonareva?  Really?

World # 21, Russian Vera Zvonareva has a tall order tomorrow in her first ever major final, as she is set to take on # 1 seed and defending champion, Serena Williams, who is yet to drop a set in this fortknight at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

While Zvonareva’s road to the final has been impressive and included wins over US Open Champion Kim Clijsters and world # 3 Jelena Jankovic, albeit a very banged up Jankovic (is there any other kind?), the 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist (she lost to eventual final’s loser, Dinara Safina, 7-6, 6-3), will be hardpressed to keep her Cinderella run alive tomorrow against Serena, who is 12-3 in major finals, and who has only lost to two women in those finals: her sister Venus, and Maria Sharapova.

Zvonareva’s perserverance must be lauded.  She got out to bad starts in both the quarter and semi-final rounds, dropping the first set in Tuesday’s quarters to Kim Clijsters before pulling the upset, and in Thursday’s semis, when she lost the first set to Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3, before Pironkova seemed like she started letting nerves creep in during the 2nd set.  But Zvonareva, a great touch player, won 29/35 points at net in a close match that she came out on top in, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, in which only 9 points separated the two players.

Zvonareva’s road to the final:

1st round: 6-4, 6-1 over Nuria Llagostera Vives

2nd round: 6-1, 6-4 over Andrea Hlavackova

3rd round: 6-4, 6-2 over (15) Yanina Wickmayer

4th round: 6-1, 3-0 over (4) Jelena Jankovic

Quarter-finals: 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 over (8) Kim Clijsters

Semi-finals: 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Tsvetana Pironkova

Zvonareva’s road gets much tougher come 9 AM EST, Saturday, NBC.  Serena Williams, currently tied for 6th all time with Billie Jean King with 12 major singles titles, can move up that list by securing her fourth Wimbledon singles title, can also tie King’s 4 Wimbledon crowns in the open era, can pass Chris Evert with whom she is tied at 3 Wimbledon titles, and a victory would put her in a tie for 4th in the open era for most Wimbledon titles behind Martina Navratilova (9), Steffi Graf (7), Venus Williams (5), and King (4).  Billie Jean King has won 6 singles titles at Wimbledon, 2 coming prior to the open era.

Serena will look to take the crown behind her incredible serve, called by many, including yours truly, the best serve in the game, and perhaps the best shot ever in the women’s game.  Williams has 80 aces to lead the tournament, and in 2nd is Venus with only 30 aces (through 5 matches).

Unlike Paris, I don’t see a Cinderella story playing out against a top 5 player, all time, and by far, the best player in the game tomorrow.  Zvonareva could play almost perfect tennis and still lose.  Maybe that’s just me being patriotic on 4th of July weekend.

Serena leads in the head to head 5 to 1, and her only loss to Zvonareva came in Cincinnati in 2006 on hard courts.

GO U-S-A!!!!

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

Venus Williams survived a tight match in the round of 16, besting a game Jarmila Groth, who most certainly came to play, not content having made the round of 16, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in 1 hour and 37 minutes.  Williams and Groth both played excellent tennis, keeping their errors down and serving well throughout the match that saw only 8 points in the end separate the 5 time champion and 2nd seed and the 90th ranked Australian, who burst on to the scene last month by making the round of 16 at Roland Garros.  Groth has proved to us that she is a top 20 player right now, and we hope good things for her this summer.

Here are the match stats:

Groth (AUS) Williams (USA)
         
  1st Serve % 40 of 65 = 62 % 42 of 75 = 56 %
 
  Aces 5 9
 
  Double Faults 2 3
 
  Unforced Errors 16 15
 
  Winning % on 1st Serve 28 of 40 = 70 % 33 of 42 = 79 %
 
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 13 of 25 = 52 % 17 of 33 = 52 %
 
  Winners 25 26
 
  Receiving Points Won 25 of 72 = 35 % 24 of 63 = 38 %
 
  Break Point Conversions 2 of 3 = 67 % 3 of 3 = 100 %
 
  Net Approaches 6 of 10 = 60 % 8 of 11 = 73 %
 
  Total Points Won 66 74
 
   Fastest Serve Speed 116 MPH 123 MPH
 
   Average 1st Serve Speed 107 MPH 110 MPH
 
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 90 MPH 92 MPH

Serena had a much tougher match than expected against former champion Maria Sharapova this morning, giving a break back in the first set and then surviving a first set tie breaker 11-9.  Serena defeated Sharapova 7-6 (9), 6-4 in 1 hour and 36 minutes.  The match represents tremendous news for Sharapova, who only faced two break points in the match, losing both.  With her shoulder giving her so much trouble in the last 2 years, impeding her service motion, it was great for tennis to see Maria play Serena so closely at a time when Serena is playing close to her best tennis.  Sharapova had 3 set points in the first set tie breaker.  Unfortunately for Maria, all her serve problems are not solved.  She double faulted at a critical stage in the tie breaker that factored in the defeat.

Here are their match stats:

Williams (USA) Sharapova (RUS)
         
  1st Serve % 50 of 74 = 68 % 42 of 67 = 63 %
 
  Aces 19 3
 
  Double Faults 5 7
 
  Unforced Errors 17 18
 
  Winning % on 1st Serve 42 of 50 = 84 % 31 of 42 = 74 %
 
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 10 of 24 = 42 % 13 of 25 = 52 %
 
  Winners 31 14
 
  Receiving Points Won 23 of 60 = 38 % 22 of 69 = 32 %
 
  Break Point Conversions 2 of 2 = 100 % 1 of 1 = 100 %
 
  Net Approaches 5 of 9 = 56 % 5 of 10 = 50 %
 
  Total Points Won 75 66
 
   Fastest Serve Speed 125 MPH 116 MPH
 
   Average 1st Serve Speed 113 MPH 109 MPH
 
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 96 MPH 96 MPH

Serena will face 9th seed Na Li in the quarter-final round, who dispatched Agnieska Radwanska this morning, 6-3, 6-2.  Venus will face Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, who upset former finalist Marion Bartoli this morning, 6-4, 6-4.  The Williams sisters are also into the doubles quarter-finals, as they are attempting to win their fifth straight major doubles title, to defend their Wimbledon doubles crown from 2009, and for their 4th career Wimbledon doubles title and their 13th major doubles title in their career.

Unfortunately, the American men did not have the same success as the Williams sisters.  Andy Roddick lost to Taiwanese Yen-Hsun Lu in 5 sets, as Lu becomes the first Asian man to make the quarter-finals of a major in 15 years.  Roddick played tentative tennis all day, and Lu, a phenomenal mover, maintained tremendous foot work in to the fifth hour of the match, especially impressive, since Lu rarely plays a 5 setter. 

Roddick fell 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 9-7 in 4 hours and 36 minutes, in what is surely a grand disappointment, after his epic loss to Federer in last year’s final.  View the stats below:

 
 
 
   Lu (TPE) Roddick (USA)
         
  1st Serve % 124 of 206 = 60 % 129 of 189 = 68 %
 
  Aces 22 38
 
  Double Faults 4 8
 
  Unforced Errors 34 33
 
  Winning % on 1st Serve 101 of 124 = 81 % 108 of 129 = 84 %
 
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 45 of 82 = 55 % 31 of 60 = 52 %
 
  Winners 83 85
 
  Receiving Points Won 50 of 181 = 28 % 60 of 202 = 30 %
 
  Break Point Conversions 1 of 2 = 50 % 1 of 8 = 13 %
 
  Net Approaches 35 of 47 = 74 % 28 of 43 = 65 %
 
  Total Points Won 196 199
 
   Fastest Serve Speed 128 MPH 137 MPH
 
   Average 1st Serve Speed 118 MPH 123 MPH
 
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 95 MPH 107 MPH

http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/scores/stats/day15/1404ms.html

American Sam Querrey fell in straight sets to the pride of Britain, 4th seed andy Murray, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours and 6 minutes.  Murray is yet to drop a set in these championships.  He will meet Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, who punished him on his way to an Australian Open final in 2008. 

The Bryan brothers moved on to third round in doubles with a win over Stupski/Fleming, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (5).  The Bryans are looking for their second Wimbledon doubles crown and their 9th career major doubles title.

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