By Jack Cunniff
(August 18, 2013) NEW HAVEN – A quick look at the leading contenders for the 2013 New Haven Open title, by Jack Cunniiff. Follow Jack on twitter (@jrcunniff) for tennis facts and trivia.
The New Haven Open at Yale had been owned by Caroline Wozniacki, as she swept to four straight titles in 2008-2011. But a bad knee, and a tough opponent in Maria Kirilenko ended Wozniacki’s stretch of 20 straight matches won at New Haven in the 2012 semifinals. Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, swept in last year to take the title in a straight set win over Kirilenko.
For the 2013 edition, both players have returned, and are looking to add to their New Haven success. Wozniacki has had a difficult year by her standards, reaching only one final, in Indian Wells, where she lost to Maria Sharapova. In April she suffered a five match losing streak on clay. But finally, in Cincinnati, the Dane seemed to get her groove back, defeating Kvitova in the third round, before losing a close battle to world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals.
Kvitova has also struggled recently, as she hasn’t passed the quarterfinals in an event since April. She did score a victory over the 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in Toronto, so there are signs of life. Compared to Kvitova’s U.S. Open Series success last summer, her recent play is a letdown.
Sara Errani, the 5’4″ Italian who reached the French Open finals last year, has surprised many by maintaining her Top Ten form in 2013. She comes into New Haven as the top seed for the event, on the strength of her No. 6 ranking. Semifinal results at the French Open, Madrid, and Rome, and a finals appearance in Palermo make her one of the more successful players in recent months, but all those results came on European clay. The New Haven hard courts may prove a different challenge.
Sloane Stephens, the number two ranked American woman made a name for herself in 2013 by defeating Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Last week, Stephens had her second biggest career win, eliminating Maria Sharapova from Cincinnati. Seeded sixth in New Haven, Stephens is looking for success on U.S. soil, which has eluded her all season; her record in U.S. events stands at 3-6.
The No. 2 seed in the New Haven draw is Angelique Kerber. The German has had great success on U.S. hard courts in the past (2011 U.S. Open semifinalist, 2012 Cincinnati runner-up), but has a modest 4-3 record on hard courts this summer. Wozniacki recommended that Kerber make her first appearance in New Haven; perhaps she provided a few tips on how to succeed on these courts.
Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki was the first player to advance in New Haven, defeating Kristina Mladenovic in Sunday’s only first round match. Lisicki, seeded eighth, has been short on match play after Wimbledon. A wrist injury kept her out after Wimbledon, and she played only one hard court match, an opening round loss to Jelena Jankovic in Cincinnati. If she can maintain her opening round New Haven form, Lisicki will be difficult to beat.
Other players vying for the New Haven title are Roberta Vinci, the world’s No. 1 doubles player along with Errani; Dominika Cibulkova, winner of the Stanford title over Agnieszka Radwanska; and Sorana Cirstea, the runner-up to Serena Williams in Toronto two weeks ago.
Around The Grounds
Much has been made recently of the diminishing number of teenaged players in Women’s tennis, but the final round of New Haven Qualifying featured two matches with both competitors in their teens. Monica Puig, of Puerto Rico played fellow 19-year-old Caroline Garcia of France, while Ukrainian Elina Svitolina and Slovakian Anna Schmiedlova, both 18, faced off. Puig and Schmiedlova both won today, and Svitolina advanced as a lucky loser with the withdrawal of Magdalena Rybarikova with a lower back injury…
American Alison Riske continued her strong form of the summer with a straight set win over Yanina Wickmayer, putting Riske into the main draw, but the match had some drama. With Riske serving 2-1 in the second set, a groudstroke exchange featured a Riske shot called long on the baseline which was overruled by the chair umpire. The umpire awarded the point to Riske, assessing that that Wickmayer couldn’t reach the ball, but Wickmayer disagreed. The Belgian refused to continue play until the referee was called to the court. She pleaded her case, but to no avail, and was out of sorts for the remainder of the match….
Stephanie Voegele advanced through qualifying when her opponent Yaroslava Shvedova retired with a forearm injury. Shvedova was playing her first event since Wimbledon as she struggles with the injury…