2015/01/27

Stosur Earns First Win Over Azarenka and Fourth Career Title

Stosur sliding in the pool

By Curt Janka

(August 4, 2013) CARLSBAD, California – Samantha Stosur wasn’t even scheduled to play this week, but made the best of her wild card entry, defeating the top seed, Victoria Azarenka in the final 6-2, 6-3. The match was perhaps less competitive than the score indicates as Azarenka never seemed to find the right length to her shots.

Without finding a feel for her shots, Azarenka never adjusted her game plan. In fact, her game plan may have got in the way of her settling into a rhythm. From the very beginning, it was clear Azarenka wanted to avoid the Stosur forehand at all costs. She continued to over hit at the Stosur’s backhand even when an easier shot was available in the other direction. Azarenka seemed to recognize this after the match saying, “I just have to be a little bit more aware of what I‘m doing on the court, what I can do on that particular day.  I kept doing the same kind of thing, so that wasn’t very smart for me to do.”

Azarenka did not put all the blame on her game, however, adding,“ have to give her credit. She played a great match today for sure. There is no doubt about that.”

The statistics for Stosur certainly concur. While Azarenka was one of 12 on break points, Stosur was an impressive four of five. Azarenka is known as a great returner, but it was Stosur that got a remarkable 80% of returns in play. Returning so well kept Azarenka’s serve in jeopardy throughout the match. Of the eight times Stosur came to net, she won seven of those points. She also hit 13 more winners than her opponent.

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One other statistic stood out even before the match started, their head-to-head record. Azarenka was previously 8-0 against Stosur. It’s not easy to overcome that kind of history, but Stosur pointed out it’s not a first for her. “I guess I went through something similar when I played Maria Sharapova a bunch of times,” said Stosur.  “I think it took ten times for me to be able to beat her.  I knew it was possible one day against Vika, but the last two matches that we played have been very, very close.  I felt like I was almost in winning positions with those two as well. So I think going into today there was no reason to believe that I wasn’t going to be able to turn that result around and win today.”

That mentality came through in Stosur’s positive body language from the start of the match to the end when she closed out the win on her first opportunity. This is her fourth career title and a much needed confidence builder heading into the final slam of the season.

“Yeah, it’s great,” Stosur said with a relieved smile. “Obviously this is the lead-up to the US Open and that’s where everyone wants to peak.  I think this is a huge boost for me.  I haven’t had great results all year, so to be able to bounce back especially from last week’s first-round loss is really exciting.”

In addition to lifting the trophy, and taking the now traditional victor’s trip down the pool slide at the La Costa resort, Stosur is now also tied for the lead in the US Open Series points race.  If her confidence, and points race standings hold, she’ll be eligible for bonus prize money and likely a deep run in New York.

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Azarenka Breezes Past Radwanska, Hingis And Hantuchova Lose

V Azarenka

By Curt Janka

(August 2, 2013) CARLSBAD, California – Urzula Radwanska provided little resistance to top seed Victoria Azarenka. While all three of the previous quarterfinals of the day went to three sets, Azarenka easily dismissed Radwanska 6-1, 6-2. The few games Radwanska managed to win seemed to only come when Azarenka’s concentration dipped.

Having won the first set comfortably, Azarenka opened the second set with two wild double faults and two egregious errors to gift a break to her opponent. The sudden burst of applause from the crowd might have been enough to refocus Azarenka’s attention. She quickly won the next 5 games. Azarenka again seemed to mentally drift as she donated another loose service break before closing the match out on Radwanska’s serve at love.

Azarenka will face Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals. The other semi pits wild card Virginie Razzano against Samantha Stosur.

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis, having un-retired this week to play doubles, also looked like she’d cruise to a comfortable win with her partner Daniela Hantuchova. Leading by a set and a break, the veteran pair looked relaxed and giggled on changeovers. That’s when their opponents, Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears dug in their heels. The determined American duo used strong serves and solid volleys to ultimately take the match 4-6, 7-5, 10-3.

Hingis impressed with some bigger-than-expected groundstrokes, but her serve was often a target for abuse. Early in the second set, it seemed the off pace of Hingis’ serve had her opponents off rhythm. “It’s so slow,” yelled Kops-Jones at one point, frustrated by hitting a number of returns out. The younger team was able to settle back into their return game, however, and extend the match.

In the deciding tiebreaker, the Americans were the more intense team and quickly notched an insurmountable lead. Hingis saved one match point on her serve before losing the next, and final, point on another blazing return.

At the conclusion of the doubles match, which had been moved to the smaller Stadium 2, Hingis and Hantuchova gathered their things and started to walk out the rear exit. They didn’t get far. Quite a crowd of vocal fans had gathered at the front exit beckoning the pair to come that way.  The veterans obliged the happy fans by crossing back to the swarm, signing autographs and posing for pictures. It was a classy gesture that will surely leave the lucky fans with a great memory of the evening.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OPEN
Carlsbad, CA, USA
July 29-August 4, 2013
$795,707/Premier
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Friday, August 2, 2013
Singles – Quarterfinals
(1) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. Urszula Radwanska (POL) 61 62
(5/WC) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (2) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 75 26 63
(WC) Virginie Razzano (FRA) d. (3) Petra Kvitova (CZE) 67(6) 75 76(8) (saved 2mp)
(7) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) d. (4) Roberta Vinci (ITA) 61 67(1) 62

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Black/Erakovic (ZIM/NZL) d. (2) Huber/Llagostera Vives (USA/ESP) 64 36 1210 (Match TB)
(3) Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. (WC) Hantuchova/Hingis (SVK/SUI) 46 75 103 (Match TB)

Order Of Play – Saturday, August 3, 2013
Stadium (from 14.00hrs)
1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Ana Ivanovic
2. Kops-Jones/Spears vs. Black/Erakovic
3. Virginie Razzano vs. Samantha Stosur (NB 19.00hrs)
4. Chan/Husarova vs. Jankovic/Srebotnik

 

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Sock Misses Beating Karlovic by Inches

 

Jack Sock

Jack Sock

By Curt Janka

(March 8, 2013) INDIAN WELLS, California – Up a set and 8-7 in the second-set tiebreaker, Jack Sock hit a backhand passing shot that very nearly won the match. “I missed a pretty routine backhand up the line by a couple of inches,” he said after the 6-3, 6-7, 2-6 loss to Ivo Karlovic. Watching Sock play, it’s easy to conclude he’s also “this” close to being a top player. He has big weapons, variety and athleticism. It just seems to come down to a few big points.  This match was his to win.

In fairness, Karlovic is the higher ranked player and a savvy veteran. It showed most of all in the tiebreaker where Karlovic maintained his cool composure. And he should, the guy has made a career out of winning tiebreakers in close matches.

A let down after the disappointment of dropping the tiebreaker was inevitable, but Sock nearly fought it off. In the opening game of the third set, Sock saved three break points before conceding the game on the fourth.  If that wasn’t deflating enough, Karlovic elevated his service games.

“He started serving better,” Sock credited his opponent. “He started putting a lot more returns in play, making me play more on serve and I missed a couple balls that you can’t against a guy who serves like that.”

The momentum had shifted and before Sock could right his feet, he was down 0-4 in the deciding set. To his credit, he hung on enough to win his last two service games, but could not get to a break point. Karlovic closed out the match in stoic, unflappable form.

So what went wrong for Sock? A couple inches to the right, and he would have advanced to the next round. He certainly had no problems passing Karlovic prior to earning the match point. Sock executed a solid game plan from the very start of the match, blocking back serves low to his opponent’s feet and working over the Karlovic backhand in every extended rally.

Tennis is a cruel sport. You won’t beat a good player by simply executing the plan most of the time. You also have to do it on the big points. Yes, Sock had a chance to win the tiebreaker in the second set, but he had chances to break Karlovic earlier in the set, too. Notably, when Karlovic was serving at 4-4, 30-30 in the second set, Sock shanked a very hittable second serve. Those are the big points that make a difference in these tight sets. He was blocking and chipping back serves in a good rhythm and then for a split second on this big point, that focus disappeared.

As hard of a loss as this was for Sock, there a list of positives he can take from it and carry forward into the season. For starters, he is healthy and playing again. He wasn’t at this time last year. So he has few points to defend and plenty to gain.  For the majority of this match, Sock outplayed his opponent from the ground. His movement looked good, his tactics were sound.

“I was hitting the ball pretty well,” Sock assessed his play. “I was moving well, hitting the ball well.”

Sock’s game continues to develop and he appears grounded enough to know he needs to work on maintaining focus for a complete match. He has the burden of great potential, but loves being out there competing. That passion will surely help him capitalize on his talent. In the meantime, he’s close. Really, really close to cracking the code and rising up the ranks.

Curt Janka is covering the BNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his tournament updates @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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“Meet the Press” WTA Style at All-Access Hour at the Mercury Insurance Open

Top Seeds Meet the Media

By Curt Janka

CARLSBAD, California – The top seeds for the 2011 Mercury Insurance Open sat down, answered questions and laughed with the media at the Lacosta Resort  just north of San Diego. The high seeds enjoy a later start at the event so the players were all very relaxed and candid with their answers. In addition to what their goals are for the summer, Tennis Panorama News asked each player if they were planning on entering mixed doubles at the 2012 Olympics.

 

Agnieska Radwanska
The 2010 finalist is back with hopes to go one step further than she did last year. When asked how important the tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open are in preparing for the slam, she said, “I want to win every match. It’s not just to warm up for the Open. There are a lot of points to win between now and then.”

Radwanska says she’s really looking forward to the Olympics and would love to play singles, doubles and mixed if possible, but hasn’t lined up a mixed partner yet. Of course, she’d love to play doubles with her sister, Ursula “if their rankings allow for it at the time.”

She had fun playing golf here last year but noted that because part of the course was under construction, she might not get the chance to swing a club this year.

Ana Ivanovic
Seeded fifth this week, Ivanovic is waiting to play the winner of the match between Jelena Dokic and Ayumi Morita. Morita beat Ivanovic in straight sets last week in Stanford. Asked whether she’d prefer to play Dokic or get another crack at Morita, Ivanovic said emphatically, “Definitely Morita, to get some revenge. That was a hard loss last week.” However, losing early in Stanford did give Ivanovic the opportunity to come down to San Diego early and start training which she thinks will help her at this event. “The conditions down here are very different. It’s hotter and very humid.”

She doesn’t have specific goals in mind for the summer, just to keep trying to execute the things she is working on in practice. “If I do that, the results will come.”

Ivanovic revealed she has also been trying to eliminate gluten from her diet, like compatriot Novak Djokovic. “I try to eat rice before matches and avoid pasta and bread.”

She is excited to be playing with Nenad Zimonjic in mixed doubles at the next Olympics. She’d love to play all three tennis events at the Olympics, but doesn’t know yet whether she’ll play women’s doubles. She will, however, be playing doubles with her friend, Andrea Petkovic, next week.

 

Vera Zvonareva
The top seed says she feels “at home” here in San Diego. She’s played this tournament many times and has some great memories. Asked about the marathon match she played here against Anastasia Myskina in 2004, she said “it seems like yesterday.”

Zvonareva said that because she feels so comfortable here and because of the way the site is set up, she feels like she gets to watch more matches here than at other events. She couldn’t say who she’d like to see play this week, but she’d just “see how the week goes.”

While the Olympics is something Zvonareva is looking forward to, she couldn’t say who she would play mixed doubles with or if she’d even get to play mixed. “That’s up to the captain to decide.” She said she’ll do her best to prepare for singles and hopes to be selected to play doubles or mixed doubles when the time comes.

 

Andrea Petkovic
The second seed is enjoying a great year. Asked what she thinks about Serena Williams coming back from injury to win last week in Stanford, she said “There are two kinds of confidence. Serena was born with it. In my case, I had to work to get the confidence.”

She hasn’t come to San Diego with any new dances. She said she “has to wait for inspiration to hit her. It hasn’t hit yet but it usually does just in time.”

Fellow German, Julia Goerges is a potential quarterfinal opponent and friend. Petkovic says that, along with Sabina Lisicki, the three have a “healthy competitiveness” between them. When one does well, it inspires one of the others to do well. She says it’s always a little awkward to play friends in tournaments, but that is part of being a professional.

Asked who she would like to play mixed doubles with at the Olympics, she smiled and said, “I don’t know yet. I’d have to see all the photos and decide which one is cuter.”

Martina Hingis
Playing in a nearby ProAm event, Martina Hingis stopped by. She was quickly hounded by questions about the reports that she would play mixed doubles with Roger Federer at the Olympics. “No decisions have been made yet” she said. “It’s more up to Roger, but there are a lot of ifs.” She wouldn’t rule it out, but insisted that it most likely wouldn’t happen.

She said while she was encouraged by how well she played against Serena Williams recently in World Team Tennis, but was not making any comeback plans for singles. “Doubles is more on my mind,” she said only when pressed.

Hingis is currently touring the U.S. and Canada promoting clothing by Tonic. She said she approached them after wearing the clothes for yoga and fitness. She has been meeting with the designer at Tonic to provide input on a Martina Hingis branded line of tennis clothes by the company to launch in the Spring of 2012.

Asked if she could give any advice to Caroline Wozniacki, Hingis said “she has to be more in charge” adding that the women’s tour is so deep now that you need a weapon to win the quarters, semis and a final at a Slam.

Curt Janka is covering the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @GVTennisNews. Follow his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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Gulbis Avoids a Late Night, Into First Final of 2011

By Curt Janka

LOS ANGELES, California – Ernests Gulbis came from behind in the second set tie breaker to avoid playing a third set against Alex Bogomolov Jr. Winning the semifinal 6-2, 7-6(4) earned Gulbis his first final of the year.

 

Bogomolov played more aggressively than he had in his previous match, running around backhands to hit inside out forehands. But that left him vulnerable to up-the-line backhands from Gulbis which the Latvian pounded repeatedly.

 

Gulbis came to the match prepared for long rallies with Bogomolov and patiently waited for the right shots to attack. The second set was more competitive than the first, with neither player conceding a break.

 

Gulbis banged an ace on his first match point to win in straights and get home in time for Saturday Night Live.

 

When Gulbis plays Mardy Fish in the final on Sunday it will be the first time the two have played.

RESULTS – SATURDAY, JULY 30, 2011

Singles – Semifinals
[1] Mardy Fish (USA) d Ryan Harrison (USA) 60 46 76(3)
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA) 62 76(4)

Doubles – Semifinals
[3] Mark Knowles (BAH) / Xavier Malisse (BEL) d Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) / Frank Moser (GER) 46 64 10-7
Somdev Devvarman (IND) / Treat Conrad Huey (PHI) d [4] Jonathan Erlich (ISR) / Andy Ram (ISR) 76(6) 67(8) 10-4

 

ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011

STRAUS STADIUM start Noon

[3] Mark Knowles (BAH) / Xavier Malisse (BEL) vs Somdev Devvarman (IND) / Trent Conrad Huey (PHI) tape delayed on Tennis Channel at 7:00 p.m.
Not Before 2:00 PM
[1] Mardy Fish (USA) vs Ernests Gulbis (LAT) live on ESPN2

 

2011 Farmers Classic Draws

Singles Draw

Doubles Draw

Qualifying Draw

 

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Fish Withstands Test From Harrison

By Curt Janka

LOS ANGELES, California –  In an all-American semifinal, Mardy Fish outlasted a determined Ryan Harrison 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(3).  What started out as a heavily one-sided affair in Fish’s favor turned into an edge-of-your-seat thriller at the Farmers Classic on Saturday.

 

Fish began the match beating Harrison with depth more so than pace. With balls landing consistently on or near the baseline, Harrison struggled to find opportunities to lean into his shots. Fish also repeatedly threw in off-speed, high kicking serves to his younger opponent’s backhand with great effect.

 

Harrison held to open the second set and slowly started to win some of the long rallies. The two continued to hold until, with Harrison up at 5-4, Fish played a few tight points to give Harrison two break points. On the second, Fish bunted a backhand into the net leveling the match at one set all.

In the third set, both players started with solid holds and then it was Harrison who played a few loose points to give Fish the early break. Harrison responded by breaking his second racquet of the match and was issued a code violation.

 

With his temper back under control, Harrison started to construct points more carefully. At the same time, Fish seemed unable to continue hitting with the great depth he exhibited in the first two sets. Harrison was able to capitalize and step into more shots and earn the break back.  At the end of the third set, Fish was hitting bigger serves and holding comfortably, but Harrison was winning more of the long rallies.

Harrison opened the third set tiebreaker with a double fault and Fish sprinted to a 5-0 lead. Harrison was able to earn one of the mini breaks back but ultimately it was the relaxed composure of Fish that got him to match point, which he clinched with an ace up the middle.

 

After the match both players commented on the slow, high-bounce play of the courts here and the previous tournament in comparison to the speedy courts they’ll play on at the U.S. Open. When asked why today’s match was so much closer their meeting last week in Atlanta, Fish credited Harrison for making fewer errors here in Los Angeles. Harrison believed the difference was his increased aggression. In either case, both players walk away from this match positively.

 

Fish will play in his second consecutive final on Sunday, putting him squarely in the lead of the Olympus U.S. Open Series Bonus Challenge standings.

 

Curt Janka is covering the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @GVTennisNews. Follow his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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Bogomolov Absorbs Bellucci’s Power

Alex Bogomolov Jr.

By Curt Janka

LOS ANGELES, California –  American veteran Alex Bogomolov Jr. came back to upset Brazilian powerhouse Thomaz Bellucci 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the Farmers Classic tournament. In a topsy-turvy affair, Bellucci came out scorching winners passed an overwhelmed Bogomolov. By the beginning of the second set, Bogomolov began mixing up his pace but labored to chase down his opponent’s shots. At the end of the second set Bogomolov was out of dry shirts, but settled into grinding out the long points.

 

A medical timeout for Bogomolov seemed to breathe belief into the American. Gradually the scurrying defense of Bogomolov drew errors from Belluci. In the third set Bellucci seemed to second-guess his strokes as Bogomolov ran away with the match. Literally. With tremendous foot speed, Bogomolov managed to track and diffuse bomb after bomb until Bellucci conceded an error.

 

The win earns Bogomolov his first ATP World Tour semifinal after losing his previous 5 quarterfinal appearances. He will play the winner of the match between Juan Martin Del Potro and Ernests Gulbis on Saturday.

Curt Janka is covering the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @GVTennisNews. Follow his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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