One of the busiest and most attention-grabbing weeks of the tennis year has just finished. With players returning from the off-season in need of match practice, the first week of 2013 saw all members of the WTA top ten in action. Most chose to kick-start their Australian Open build-up in Brisbane, but Shenzhen and Auckland also attracted some big names.
Here is a brief rundown of what the WTA top ten achieved last week, and where they stand leading up to the first Grand Slam of the year…
The world number one looked in sensational form during her first two matches in Brisbane, defeating the dangerous floater Sabine Lisicki and then thrashing Ksenia Pervak. Unfortunately, a toe infection – apparently the result of a bad pedicure – forced her to pull out of a semi-final against Serena. Azarenka says should be fit and ready to defend her Australian Open title, and the limited match practice shouldn’t be a problem for such a focused player, but if the going gets tough in the early rounds in Melbourne, the injury may become a factor in the latter stages of the tournament.
The French Open champion will be the only top ten player not to have struck a ball competitively before the year’s first Grand Slam, as a collarbone injury forced her out of her only planned warm-up event in Brisbane. The Russian is practising intensively, however, so the ailment appears to have been only a minor setback. Moreover, she didn’t play any lead-up tournaments before last year’s Australian Open, and made it all the way to the final.
The American legend is the hot pick for the 2013 Australian Open title, and her exploits in Brisbane last week only confirmed her status as the front-runner. Serena charged through all four of her matches without dropping a set, and looked focussed and intense throughout – a worrying sign for her competitors. The younger Williams sister remains favourite to not only win a 16th Grand Slam title, but also recapture the number one ranking.
The German opening ceremony outfits designed by Bogner: pink for Barbie and blue for Ken….
The parade outfits consist of zippered jackets – bright pink weatherproof shells for the ladies and the same in baby blue for the men – paired with white chinos and white shirts and accessorized with a lightweight pink or blue plaid scarf.
The German athletes’ competition wear and casual wear will be provided, as it has been in the past, by another German company: adidas.
Best of February 2012:
She is not a one-hit wonder after all: 2011 US Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber beat Lucie Safarova, Monica Niculescu, Maria Sharapova, Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli en route for her first WTA title.
19 yr old Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino won her maiden WTA title in Bogota, playing in just her third WTA main draw and facing a 5-2 third set deficit in her opening match.
David Ferrer keeps flying under the radar and he keeps winning: after Auckland in January, he captured 2 titles in February: Acapulco and Sao Paulo.
Lleyton Hewitt recorded its 38th Davis Cup singles victory, a remarkable 14 more than by any other Australian player.
I love every time I put the gold jacket on and playing for my country whoever it’s against and my preparation is exactly the same
Manuel Orantes has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the master player category. Orantes won the 1975 US Open by beating Jimmy Connors in the final, and he was the runner-up to Bjorn Borg at the 1974 French Open.
Like father, like daughter: Jessica Korda, daughter of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, won her first LPGA tournament this month. The place of her triumph: Australia of course.
A nice tribute to her father’s infamous “scissor kick”.
February tournament winners: Angelique Kerber (Paris), Daniela Hantuchova (Pattaya), Victoria Azarenka (Doha), Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino (Bogota), Sofia Arvidsson (Memphis), Agnieszka Radwanska (Doha), Timea Babos (Monterrey), Sara Errani (Acapulco), Su-Wei Hsieh (Kuala Lumpur), Roger Federer (Rotterdam and Dubai), Nicolas Almagro (Sao Paulo), Milos Raonic (San Jose), Juan Martin Del Potro (Open 13 Marseille), Jurgen Melzer (Memphis), David Ferrer (Buenos Aires and Acapulco), Kevin Anderson (Delray Beach)
Worst of February 2012:
The Arantxa Sanchez Saga: the Sanchez clan seemed to be a much more normal family than the Grafs and Seles’ … until Arantxa’s autobiography release.
Lleyton Hewitt will be sidelined for four months after having surgery on his left foot, but eyes a return in tile for the Olympics. Ranked 170th, the 31 yr old Australian, will have to rely on a wild card from the International Tennis Federation to contest the London Olympics.
Aravane Rezai, for her Fed Cup debacle.
The Swiss Davis Cup team of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka: 0-5 loss against the US team on clay. Enough said.
With her 7-5 6-1 victory over Pavlyuchenkova, Serena moved two wins away from her 14th Grand Slam title.
Big disappointment for Pennetta who could have reached a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time of her career.
No drama this time for Sam Stosur, who dispatches number 2 seed Vera Zvonareva in straight sets 6-3, 6-3. First semifinal at the US Open for the Australian, who’ll be the favorite against Kerber.
And another retirement.
Between rain delays, erratic schedule and retirements, this US Open has become a big joke. Djokovic will meet Federer for a rematch of this year’s Roland Garros semifinal.
Tsonga came back from 2 sets down to clinch a 5 sets victory over Federer at Wimbledon this year, but this time the Swiss Maestro dispatched Tsonga 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to reach his 8th consecutive US Open semifinal.
Lendl did even better back in the days with 9 finals in a row.
41 winners with 9 aces for Flavia Pennetta who qualifies for the quarterfinals after her 6-4 7-6 win over Shuai Peng. In the last 8, she will face the surprising German player, Angelique Kerber, ranked 92.
Another day another marathon match for Sam Stosur. She outlasted 25th seed Maria Kirilenko 6-2 6-7(15) 6-3 in two hours and 37 minutes. Stosur had five match points in an epic second set tiebreaker, the longest in women’s singles Grand Slam history, won by Kirilenko 17-15.
Easy win for Serena over Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-4. She next plays Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
After two days of rain, play finally resumes on Thursday! Nadal defeats Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller in straight sets 7-6 (1), 6-1, 6-2. And Murray sails over Donald Young into quarterfinals.
Another big surprise with Sharapova’s defeat. The 2006 US Open champion was knocked out of the US Open on Friday in a shock third round loss to Flavia Pennetta. Semifinalist at Roland Garros, finalist at Wimbledon, Sharapova seemed ready to win her first Slam since the 2008 Australian Open. But she had once again problems with her serve, committing 12 double faults (and 60 unforced errors!).
And the most exciting match so far, the three set thriller between Nadia Petrova and Sam Stosur. The Australian, runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago, outlasted No. 24 seed Nadia Petrova 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5 in 3 hours and 16 minutes to win the longest US Open women’s match of the tie-break era.
Andy Murray came back from two sets to love, to clinch a 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 victory over Dutchman Robin Haase, who needed regular treatment on a back injury.
Novak Djokovic cruised to fourth round with a straight sets victory over former top 5 Nikolay Davydenko.
On Sunday, Rafael Nadal downed David Nalbandian in straight sets to move into the fourth round. His next opponent: Gilles Muller.
No problem either for Andy Murray who dismantled Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
10 years ago, Venus Williams wrote tennis history by winning the first final contested by two sisters during the open era. On Wednesday, she pulled out of her second-round match due to Sjögren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease.
Seeds keep falling in the women’s draw as Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwanska, Dominika Cibulkova and Yanina Wickmayer were ousted at the second round of the 2011 US Open.
Bartoli and Cibulkova were outgunned by rising american Christina McHale and Irina Falconi. (Check out our US players preview here).
Big surprise in the men’s draw, seed Gael Monfils lost to former number one and semi-retired Juan Carlos Ferrero. At times, Ferrero looked like the Mosquito who reached the final at Flushing Meadows in 2003.
The women’s draw is as unpredictable as ever, but one thing is sure, there will be a fourth champion in as many Grand Slam tournaments this year: Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost to Dulgheru, Roland Garros champion Li Na lost to (2011 Australian Open champion, Kim Clijsters withdrew from the US Open with a stomach muscle injury).
5th seed Kvitova committed 52 unforced errors and was bounced on day one by Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru. Li Na was sent home on day two by Romania’s Simona Halep in straight sets.
Maria Sharapova was almost upset by big British hope Heather Watson who lead by one set and a break.
Victor Troicki was the first seeded man to fall as he lost a five set thriller to Alejandro Falla. 2010 semifinalist Mikhail Youhzny was beaten in straight sets by headcase Ernests Gulbis. It was the first Grand Slam match victory in more than two years for Gulbis, who was once seen as a future star of the circuit.
Who will win?
- Serena Williams (36%, 10 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (32%, 9 Votes)
- Other (14%, 4 Votes)
- Caroline Wozniacki (11%, 3 Votes)
- Vera Zvonareva (7%, 2 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (0%, 0 Votes)
- Na Li (0%, 0 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (0%, 0 Votes)
- Marion Bartoli (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 28
Who will win?
- Rafael Nadal (43%, 6 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (36%, 5 Votes)
- Roger Federer (14%, 2 Votes)
- Other (7%, 1 Votes)
- Robin Soderling (0%, 0 Votes)
- Andy Murray (0%, 0 Votes)
- Gael Monfils (0%, 0 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (0%, 0 Votes)
- Juan Martin Del Potro (0%, 0 Votes)
- David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 14