Archive for the ‘li na’ Category

wta yec: armchair commentary, day four

October 29, 2011

By Matt Trollope

UPDATE: Kvitova is already into the semis with a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win over Stosur. Who said the ladies’ season ender had to be a bust? (AP)

Stat of the day: A lot was made of the H2H records involving Sam Stosur entering the tournament — 0-9 against Maria Sharapova, 0-4 against Victoria Azarenka, yet 5-0 against against Li Na. Playing the Chinese player in Istanbul, Stosur improved that to 6-0, with a demoralizing 6-1 6-0 win handing Li her heaviest professional loss in five-and-a-half years. Stosur has only ever dropped one set against Li in her career, and thanks to the victory, now takes her place in the semifinals in Istanbul.

Typical WTA moment: Women’s tennis is never short of drama, with cat-fights, tears, and the grunting issue among its many facets. Controversial figures have also been a mainstay — how many times have we seen crowds in the past turn on Venus and Serena, Sharapova, Henin and Hingis? Today it was Vika’s turn. The Belorussian has never made a habit of trying to please people — her shrieking being a prime example — and today was no different. Already having qualified for the semifinals, she appeared to tank in the final set of her last round-robin match against alternate Marion Bartoli, gave the Frenchwoman a poor handshake, and was booed off the court at the Sinan Erdem Arena.

Startling admission: All Agnieszka Radwanska had to do was win a set in her match against Petra Kvitova to qualify for the semifinals, and leading 5-1 in the opening set, it appeared she was on track. But Kvitova improved her level, took the set in a tiebreak, and ran out a 7-6(4) 6-3 winner. “Even when I was 5-1 up in the first set, to be honest, I didn’t feel I was close to win[ning] the set,” Aga said following the match. That’s (a lack of) confidence right there. The result allowed Vera Zvonareva to progress to the semis, and despite Vera owning a mediocre 1-2 win-loss record this week, her overall game-winning percentage proved better than the Pole’s.

Thought for today/tomorrow: Can anybody stop the Kvitova juggernaut? The Czech is the only player to go undefeated in Istanbul — she hasn’t dropped a set — and enters her semifinal against Stosur with a 2-0 winning record over the Australian. A final against Azarenka seems to be looming.

Flashback: We know some of you have been nostalgic for classic women’s tennis this week, so why not a little taste of it from the Chase Championships in 1996. Steffi Graf beat Martina Hingis in one of the few five-set encounters in women’s tennis history, 6-3 4-6 6-0 4-6 6-0. Cheers, ladies!

Matt Trollope began covering tennis in 2008, a natural extension of his childhood obsession for the game that included hitting for countless hours against his bedroom wall and self-producing and editing a fictitious tennis magazine. Based in Melbourne, he has covered four Australian Opens and one Wimbledon championship, and his tennis writing has featured in Australian Tennis Magazine, the Australian Open Official Program, and Alpha Magazine.

statology: runnings the #s on the wta sec field

October 24, 2011
By Christopher Phillips


Maria is rearin’ to go.
(Getty Image)

Who said the numbers don’t matter?
TSF’s resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, has run the numbers on the upcoming WTA Season Ending Championships to try to shed some light on just what, exactly, may come of the tennis being played in Istanbul. Will Caroline crumble on the pressure? Is Maria meant to be an afterthought for the rest of her carry? Chris carries the 3’s and breaks down the head-to-heads to help us understand.1. Lay off, will ya? Despite all the crap on Caroline Wozniacki not doing well at the Slams, she has the second most points of all the players accumulated at Slams with 3240 point accumulated. That puts her behind Li Na with 3505 — pretty much all from Australia & Roland Garros). Wozniacki maybe hasn’t won one, but she’s definitely the most consistent at them.  The next closest is Petra Kvitova (2785), and then Maria Sharapova(2740).

2. Dark horses in a field of eight? Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka are clearly the players to beat this fall. Aggie is 11-1, winning Tokyo and Beijing and perhaps serendipitously losing in her opener against Lucie Safarova in Moscow. Vika is 9-2, winning last week in Luxembourg.

3. H2Hs m-a-t-t-e-r. Kvitova has the best record against the rest of the field (8-4) followed by Sharapova (7-5). The worst? Azarenka (4-8).

4. Play it, girl. Vera Zvonareva has the most matches against the field with 14 meaning … she’s generally the most consistent out of everyone? It’s hard to say exactly what it means, but Vera’s consistency has helped pay off in the past. Perhaps she can conjure up a big title in Istanbul.

5. A new No. 1? Wozniacki is 1025 points ahead of Sharapova, 1425 ahead of Kvitova and 1805 ahead of Azarenka.  1500 points go to the tournament winner if they don’t lose a round robin match. That means that Sharapova and Kvitova are the only players with a chance of finishing 2011 No. 1.  All Wozniacki has to do is play two round robin matches and Kvitova is out of the running for the top spot. If Sharapova wins the title and Wozniacki fails to make it to the semifinals, Maria is your new No. 1.

6. Li Nahasn’t beat a top 10 player since the French Open. And all five of her wins over the field came from the Australian and Roland Garros.

7. Playing indoors could give Sam Stosur and her booming serve an edge. And she won’t need to worry about Maria Kirilenko.

8. Apart from Auckland and Stanford, Sharapova has only played the Slams and Premier tournaments. She is the only player in the field to win at least one match at every tournament she entered – everyone else had one first-round loss (or second-round loss if receiving a bye).

Chris’ picks: Red Group
1. Kvitova 3-0 2. Wozniacki 1-2 (def. Zvonareva) 3. Radwanska 1-2 (def. Wozniacki) 4. Zvonareva 1-2 (def. Radwanska)
With a three-way tie for second, I’d give the final spot to Wozniacki.
White Group
1. Sharapova 2-1 (lost to Azarenka) 2. Azarenka 2-1 (lost to Stosur) 3. Stosur 2-1 (lost to Sharapova) 4. Li Na 0-3
With a three-way tie for first, I’d give the SF spots to Sharapova and Azarenka.
Semifinals: Kvitova def. Azarenka and Sharapova def. Wozniacki
Finals: Kvitova def. Sharapova
***Wildcard?! Sharapova’s ankle. Chris says: If she doesn’t finish RR then that gives Azarenka and Stosur a good chance to get in there. 

After the jump: Chris breaks down the ladies number by number to give you a clear head on what might/could/should happen. Hey, it’s the WTA!
(more…)

what do the ladies do in new york?

September 8, 2011

When in New York… The WTA asked some of its top ladies about their “musts” while in New York City. And it basically came down to shopping (Fifth Avenue!), eating, or in Vika‘s case, being weird.

The rundown: Caro loves the Meatpacking District; Maria recommends the Halumi sandwich at Aroma (in Soho); Bartoli ends up in Shoe Heaven at Sak’s; and Schiavone enjoys a burger, fries, and a jukebox — from a location that will remain nameless.

(video courtesy of WTA)

bracketology: it’s all about serena (plus more predictions)

August 28, 2011

By Christopher Phillips

Venus and Serena: potential final showdown? Or just posing for the red carpets? At the Hamptons magazine cover party last week. (Getty)

More: See Christopher’s breakdown of the men’s side of things here.

Caroline Wozniacki — Quarterfinals | Maybe the world’s no. 1 will play better now that her relationship with Rory McIlroy (someone who has actually won a US Open) is out and she’s back to her winning ways in New Haven. Her draws not the easiest of the top eight. She opens against no. 127 Nuria Llagostera Vives, then would likely play no. 43 Elena Vesnina in the 2nd round. 29th seed Jarmila Gajdosova could be trouble in the third round, but her summer’s been as underwhelming as the Dane’s. Wozniacki’s first challenge is in the 4th against Daniela Hantuchova, the 21st seed. Can the Slovak knock Wozniacki out of a slam for the second time this year?

Vera Zvonareva –- 4th round | The Russian opens against a qualifier and meets either hard-serving Lucie Hradecka or Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round. 30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues is the first seed Zvonareva will face and shouldn’t pose any difficulties. With all the attention on the slamless Wozniacki, the Williamses, and Maria Sharapova, maybe this is Vera’s year to sneak back into the finals. We can’t completely imagine it, though.

Sharapova –- Finals | The serve seems to be less of a question for Maria coming into this year’s US Open than it has been in recent memory. Maybe because her return game has improved? She beaten four of the top 15 players in the world to win her last tournament in Cincinnati and, given her draw, it’s difficult to see her meeting any real challenges until 5th seed Petra Kvitova or 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka –- 3rd round | Were it not for one woman –- 28th seed (?!???!?) Serena Williams –- Azarenka would be a bonafide lock to the semifinals. Unfortunately, Serena stands in her way. Don’t be surprised if some of Azarenka’s nerves about her upcoming match with Serena start showing during her second round battle against Rebecca Marino or Gisela Dulko.

Petra Kvitova –- Quarterfinals | If anyone can get in Sharapova’s way to the finals, it’ll be Wimbledon champ Kvitova. The Czech got the better of the Russian in England –- can she make it two for two this year? She could have a tricky first round against Alexandra Dulgheru and 27the seed Lucie Safarova could prove problems (if not an upset) in the third round.

Li Na –- 4th round | Li is capable of winning this thing or flaming out to Simona Halep in the first round. How about middle of the road? We see her losing to the ever-improving 10th seed, Andrea Petkovic, who has become the belle of the media’s ball this year and will do so even more with a run here.

Francesca Schiavone –- Quarterfinals | She’s got a relatively easy draw until a potential match-up with Cincinnati finalist Jelena Jankovic, the 11th seed, in the 4th round. Winner of that match loses to Serena in the quarters.

Marion Bartoli –- Quarterfinals | Bartoli’s strong statements in Toronto and Cincinnati? They didn’t happen. Marion made the semifinals in Brisbane and Doha earlier this year, finals at Indian Wells and Strasbourg, semis at the French, wins Eastbourne and takes out Serena at Wimbledon in route to the quarterfinals then follows it up with a trip to the Stanford finals. Hopefully early losses in Canada and Cincy — as well as a lackluster performance in New Haven — leaves Marion even more hungry for a run at Flushing.

Serena Williams –- Winner | Somehow she manages to look almost more relaxed and hungrier at the same time than ever before. Her play this summer only reinforces the fact that the rest of the field is just playing for second place. But can she stay injury-free?

Dark Horses | Potential winners? Probably not. But these gals could pull a few upsets and find themselves in week two at Flushing.

Petkovic | Sadly she’s made more news this summer for running off the court mid-match, but she’s got two wins over Kvitova since the Czech’s Wimbledon title, plus hard court wins over Wozniacki, Sharapova, Bartoli, Jankovic and Venus from earlier this season.

Can JJ find her 2008 form at Flushing this year? (Getty)

Jankovic | If anyone has enough gumption and attitude to upset Serena, it’s Jelena. A potential quarterfinal match-up between the two looms.

Hantuchova | With wins this year over Wozniacki, Zvonareva, Azarenka, Li, Bartoli and Venus, she’s capable of beating any given player on any day. Oh, Dani!

22nd seed Sabine Lisicki | The Dallas champ and Xperia Hot Shots winner is on her way back to the top after injury –- nowhere to go but up! But Venus looms in the second round…

TSF Vault: US Open | Bracketology

First Round Matches to Watch

13th seed Shuai Peng vs. Varvara Lepchenko | The Chinese no. 2 pulled out of this week’s tournament in Dallas and withdrew from Toronto and Cincinnati mid-tournament. If she’s not fully healthy, the American Lepchenko could end up with the biggest win of her career.

15th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Sara Errani | The world no. 38 Italian narrowly missed out being seeded and lost a three setter to the 2004 Open champ earlier this season.

26th seed Flavia Pennetta vs. Aravane Rezai | The former top 10 Italian has been slumping the past couple years. Has Rezai shaken off her Aussie Open family drama?

Gajdosova vs. Iveta Benesova The big-serving Aussie has lost in the first round at six of her last seven tournaments.

Jill Craybas vs. Madison Keys | Battle of the Americans –- the old guard versus the new guard.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Polona Hercog | It’s the no. 2 American’s first match back since Wimbledon. If she looks good here, you’ve got to believe she can upset 24th seed Nadia Petrova in the second round and give 10th seed Samantha Stosur a run for her money in the 3rd round.

See the full women’s draw here | Qualies

Predictions | 4th round
Wozniacki d Hantuchova
Petkovic d Li
Serena d Peer
Schiavone d Jankovic
Kvitova d A. Radwanska
Sharapova d Peng
Bartoli d Stosur
Lisicki d Zvonareva

QFs:
Petkovic d Wozniacki
Serena d Schiavone
Sharapova d Kvitova
Lisicki d Bartoli

SFs:
Serena d Petkovic
Sharapova d Lisicki

Finals:
Serena d Sharapova – 2 (relatively easy) sets

li sa (lisicki, sabine) on her win over li na

June 24, 2011

Can’t quit smiling: That would be Sabine Lisicki, who saved a match point en route to her 3-6 6-4 8-6 upset over French Open winner and Australian Open runner-up, Li Na. Lisicki, a 21-year-old German wild card, smashed 17 aces in the match.

Draw: Next up for Sabine? Misaki Doi | Countrywoman Petkovic falls

(WTA video)

 

 

 

bracketology: the women at wimbledon

June 19, 2011

By Christopher Phililps

For Wimbledon, our resident bracketologist, Chris Phillips, takes a look at both the men’s and women’s draws and breaks down who he thinks are going to be the winners — and losers — in the London this year. -NM

Look who’s back! Both Williamses are seeded for the Championships — and on opposite sides of the draw. (Photo by Stuart Tree via Flickr)

Caroline Wozniacki
Prediction: R3

Caroline’s only made it as far as the fourth round here twice in the past, including last year. Unfortunately, we don’t think this time she’ll be as lucky as her likely third round opponent will be hard-serving Jarmila Gajdosova. A loss to the upstart Gajdosova will only cast more doubt on her no. 1 ranking.

Vera Zvonareva
Prediction: QF

Last year’s finalist should feel good coming into the Championships winning a tough three-setter over Serena Williams in Eastbourne. Her consistency alone could ensure her another run to the final, but we think she’ll only make it as far as the QFs. Even in this questionable era of women’s tennis, Vera just doesn’t have what it takes to win a Major.

Na Li
Prediction: R2

Historically — well, the past couple years at least — it seems the women’s French Open champion hasn’t fared too well (Ivanovic, Kuznetsova and Schiavone are a combined 4-3) at Wimbledon. Given Li’s post-Australian Open slump, I fear history is set to repeat itself.

Victoria Azarenka
Prediction: R3

She’s only been a QF here once and went out to Marion Bartoli in Eastbourne — with an injury. Vika’s just too mercurial for us ever to put too much hope in her. She’s beginning to beg the question: is it ever going to happen? So far, it doesn’t look like it. Vika’s results just don’t live up to the hype (or the grunt).

Maria Sharapova
Prediction: Winner

It’s been a long, hard road for Maria back to the top and this will be the title that signifies to the world that she’s finally back. The one achilles’ heel will be her serve — it must stay on. But Maria loves the grass, and seven years after she won her first Slam we think it’s due time for a little bit of dejå ju in the final. Over Serena in the semis? Why  not.

Francesca Schiavone
Prediction: R16

If she can get past her first match with the recently-hot Jelena Dokic — which could be awfully difficult on grass — she’s got a pretty soft draw until she’ll run into Andrea Petkovic or Shahar Peer in the fourth round.

Serena Williams
Prediction: SF

How she’ll do is anyone’s guess. (Not even Serena knows!)  She could take the whole thing, but with probably the most unfavorable draw of the top eight seeds, she’s going to have a hard time getting there. If Serena gets past Aravane Rezai in her opener, she may have to deal with tricky Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the second round, with sometimes giant-killer Maria Kirilenko possibly waiting in the third round and former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in the fourth. | More: Ladies’ draw

Petra Kvitova
Prediction: Finalist

One of last year’s surprise semifinalists and this year’s Eastbourne finalist should do well on the grass courts this year again. Kvitova shouldn’t have too much trouble until running into Venus Williams or Zvonareva in the QFs, but she has a good relationship with the All England Club and will go a step further this year, solidifying her spot as a contender for future Slams.

Marion Bartoli
Prediction: R16

Even though Bartoli won Eastbourne, we’re still a little concerned about a (groin?) injury she seemed to obtain. Assuming she’ll be fit enough to play, Marion has a soft draw until she’d meet Serena in the fourth round.  The winner of that match — likely to be a slug-fest — should make it to the SF. Serena’s superior movement should get her past the French Open semifinalist, even if she isn’t at her baseline best.

Samantha Stosur
Prediction: R16

Another player who’s grass court play hasn’t seemed to have lived up to her potential. Another big server who’s yet to make it past the third round.  That’ll be her first battle here where her likely opponent will be the Chinese player Shuai Peng. But like Sharapova, if Stosur can get along with her serve and make it work for her, she could be dangerous.

Read Chris’ “Best of the Rest” (that includes Venus!) and see the most anticipated first-round match-ups after the cut. (more…)

nike preview: li na’s wimbledon kit

June 19, 2011

The recently crowned French Open champ Li Na will attempt vie for the Wimbledon Venus Rosewater dish as the tournament’s third seed (behind Vera who?). She’ll wear the Nike] Smash PES Capsleeve Polo and Nike Smash Classic Pleated Skirt.

More: A few detail shots of the polo and skirt after the cut…

short balls: just short of sw19

June 15, 2011

Ruffled around the edges. Serena is 1-1 heading into Wimbledon, 2011. She got bright colors (and losing?) out of her system before descending upon London. | More Serena: The younger Williams has promised fans some karaoke sessions while at her first Major in a year. Yep, she’s got a portable karaoke machine. And yes, she’s trying to corral Andy Murray into doing it with her.

Tennis, meet fashion. | Obviously we (and you!) know that tennis fashion is a year-round sort of gig, but the biggest events are Wimbledon and the US Open — at least from a fashion POV. So for tomorrow night’s players’ party at Richard Branson’s digs, the Telegraph in London is laying out which ladies are wearing which designers. Caroline Wozniacki is unsurprisingly rocking Stella McCartney while Serena will be sporting some Burberry. Vivienne Westwood? That honor goes to one Jelena Jankovic. Work it, ladies!

Bring it, Yao! | Li Na is certainly set up for life. Imagine if this chick wins another Slam?! China might demand that it be able to host its own Major. Experts are saying that with her win at the French, Li will surpass Yao Ming, the NBA star, in marketing prowess. We’re a little blown over by that claim, but the Nike-sponsored hard-hitter already has several offers up and running with IMG,  her reps. Li, who currently has contracts with Nike, Rolex and — get this! — Haagen-Dazs ice cream could start to clean up. An industry expert in China puts it this way: “She will bring you the ‘light bulb moment’ as an international professional athlete. She is good at her sports, and her personality combines western civilization and oriental wisdom. She is frank, sincere with a steady and relaxed style,” explained Qiang Wei, a sports marketing director.

Clijsters withdraws from Wimbledon | No, seriously. She’s out. And WTT? They’ve already gone looking for a summer replacement.

Heather Watson is 2011’s Laura Robson … just sayin’.

Wimbledon greats. Ten of them, to be exact. The best ten matches from SW 19’s history. They’re stacked up — oddly? — by BestCollegesOnline.net. This is a great selection! And the video clips are surreal to watch one after the other.

More surreality: Andy Murray hits two (two!) tweeners in win over JWS

Tennis in Times Square. If you wanted more visuals from our post about the US Open tickets sales event in Times Square, TSF contributor and Tennis.com intern Benjamin Snyder put together a pretty snappy gallery. And how about his one-on-one with Judah Friedlander in the captions? We dig.

Pimms with lemonade? On the Tennis Channel website, columnist James LaRosa has conjured up the most hilarious (and ridiculous) Wimbledon drinking game we’ve even encountered. And we love it.

Short(er) balls: Because we know Erwin (and Troy!) care, just a note to say that Mary Kate and Ashley turned 25 on Monday. OMG! | Jon Wertheim? He picks Serena to win Wimbledon. | Sure, Roger Federer is a cute dad, but we don’t think he falls into the “hot” realms of David Beckham. | ATP Executive Chairman Adam Helfant will step down at the end of 2011. | The new home of British heiress Petra Ecclestone? Don’t worry, it has a tennis court. (And cost over $100 million.) | We’ll be at the HSBC exo on Monday with Monica Seles and Jim Courier. We’ll bring the sunscreen (for Jim!) and you guys bring the Grunt-o-Meter.

(Serena image via Getty; Watson vid via WTA)

trophy watch: and the na’s have it

June 6, 2011


The King and Queen of Clay: Between Rafael Nadal and Li Na, the Na’s had it over the weekend in Paris. It was a tremendous finish to a grand clay-court major, Na coming out on top of what some called a depleted field but one that saw four semifinalist who could have all easily claimed their last two matches in straight sets and everyone would have said, Yeah, we guess that makes sense. It did make sense for Na, who fought off a poor-serving Maria Sharapova in the semifinals and then just barely rose above the defending champ, Francesca Schiavone, to win in China’s first singles Major.

As for Rafa, he fought off all the usuals: Andy Murray and Roger Federer at the end. He also fought off a testy first week, a doubting press (and a doubting self) and the streak of Novak Djokovic (thanks to Rog). Nadal now has ten Slams to his name, creeping into the double digits along with Federer. Whichever the two of them end up with more is yet to be seen (for years), but Nadal equaled Bjorn Borg‘s record of six Roland Garros trophies. Kudos, kid.


(Nadal image from Getty; Na from PacificCoastNews.com)

flashback: some things never change

June 4, 2011


Forever young. Above, a 20-year-old Francesca Schiavone playing in the 2001 French Open quarterfinals against Martina Hingis. Did you know Franny lost in the opening round in 2009 to … Samantha Stosur? She went on to beat the same lady last year here in the final. She’s 35-10 in her career at Roland Garros. Below, Li Na smacks a ball at the 2005 US Open as a 23-year-old against Lindsay Davenport. Na had never played the French prior to 2006. She’s also never lost to a player outside of the top 20 here. Last year she was scooted out of the tourney by one Francesca Schiavone in the third round. Career-wise she’s 15-4 in Paris.

More: Previewing the ladies’ final


(Images via Getty)

roland garros bracketology: the ladies

May 19, 2011

By Christopher Phillips

[Ed note: Chris Phillips, part of TSF West, files his thoughts on who's hot, who's not and who might just make a run at this year's Roland Garros. -NEM]

Franny was feeling it last year. But can she re-capture her Parisian glory?

Caroline Wozniacki | I know Caro’s spring hasn’t been the best, but she’s 15-3 on the dirt, winning in Charleston in April. Yes, she lost to upstart German Julia Goerges twice and went out to Maria Sharapova in Rome, but with her earliest loss being the round of 16 in Madrid, I still think she has to be the favorite going in — just not as big of one as she was a few weeks ago. Result: Runner-up (to Kvitova in three-set loss)

Maria Sharapova | I’ve always been a bigger fan of Maria on clay than she has been herself.  She won Rome beating four of its top ten seeds (Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur and Shahar Peer) without too much difficulty and went out the week before that to former FO semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova in Madrid in the round of 16. A semifinalist back in 2007 and three-time quarterfinalist, Maria pushed Justine Henin to three sets last year before bowing out.  She’s got nothing to lose. Result: Semifinal

Francesca Schiavone | I think I was the only one who wasn’t surprised — okay, completely surprised — by her victory last year. Even though her results on clay this year have been sub-par, I think Franny will have more confidence and desire going into Roland Garros than she did last year. But will it all come together? Result: Quarterfinal

Vera Zvonareva | She’s only played two clay court tournaments all season losing to Stosur and Petra Kvitova but Vera is as unpredictable as her emotions — you can’t count her out. Result: Semifinal

Victoria Azarenka | She’s 12-3 on clay this year but was forced to retire against Sharapova in her last match. Azarenka’s best victory on the dirt this season has been over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. And here’s something that might surprise you: Of the five times she’s played the French, she’s lost in the first round three out of five tries — including last year to Gisela Dulko. Result: Quarterfinal

Petra Kvitova | The Madrid champion (and Prague challenger finalist … what?!) has wins over Zvonareva, Li Na and Azarenka on the dirt. But can she make a deep run here? Result: Champion

Kim Clijsters | She’s decided to play Roland Garros, her first clay court tournament of the season after injuring her foot in April. A two-time finalist and semifinalist last year, she’ll be a contender but I don’t know if she’ll be a threat. It all depends which Kimmie shows up, and the two months of not playing could help or hurt — depending on how you look at it. Result: Fourth round

Sam Stosur | Since Roland Garros last year, where Stosur reached the final, she was yet to make it to the finals of another tournament until this past week in Rome. Granted, her loss to Sharapova wasn’t pretty, Stosur has beaten Zvonareva, Schiavone and Li Na in the past few weeks on red clay. She was a semifinalist in 2009 and came into the French last year on a hot streak but can she repeat her success? As we’ve learned with Sam, it’s up to her head more than anything else if that forehand can swing freely — and controlled. Result: Fourth round

Jelena Jankovic | Jankovic has underperformed as well this year but she’s reached the semis in Paris three times before. If she equals that mark again, I don’t think many would consider it a surprise. More trouble: Janky upset in Brusells Result: Fourth round

Li Na | Li started 2011 on a hot streak Down Under, but has fizzled since. The last two weeks she’s shown signs of life again with semifinal appearances in both Madrid and Rome. Granted Li had no real significantly mentionable wins in those two tournaments, maybe that’ll be the kick she needs to get back on track for the year in Paris where she’s never lost before the third round. Result: Fourth round

Who are the dark horses in the women’s field? Find out after the cut.

(more…)

another pic of bethanie’s under armour

May 6, 2011

Good to see an American presence deeper into a clay tournament, but it had to end at some point: Li Na beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of this week’s Mutua Madrid Open. (Video: See how Li has been training on the dirt)

Going forward: Li’s semifinal opponent will be either Kvitova or Cibulkova, both of who had huge scalps this week: Zvonareva for the former and Kuznetsova for the latter. (Draw: Mutua Madrid Open Women’s Draw)

UA: Bethanie — with her best lothario make-up — already showed off the purple version of this stripey Under Armour tank, and here it is in the black/white colorway.

(Image by Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)

sunday survey: where’s rock bottom?

March 27, 2011

The bigger the giant, the harder the fall. So who here is the bigger giant? Sure, we’ve been following Andy Murray much more closely over the last few years and he’s been in multiple Major finals, but what about Li Na? She’s arguably one of China’s biggest athletes. And should we remind you that Britain’s population is about one twentieth of China’s?

Here’s the bigger question: Who will fall longer and harder? As we told you yesterday, neither player has won a match since their semifinal victories at the Aussie, but can either top ten player pick up the pieces and start anew? (Fact: the two were a combined 16-8 on clay last season.)

(Getty Images/Illustration by TSF)

oh for nine

March 26, 2011

Gut check: Things can’t be feeling very good for Australian Open finalists Li Na and Andy Murray. The two runners-up are a combined 0-9 since making their respective runs to the Melbourne title matches (including their losses there). Murray hasn’t won a set since beating David Ferrer in the SFs Down Under, losing to no. 143 Donald Young in straights at Indian Wells two weeks ago and following that up with a startlingly embarrassing loss to Alex Bogolomov Jr. 6-1, 7-5 yesterday in Miami.

Things have been a little brighter for Li – but not much. Following a hard-fought three-set loss to Kim Clijsters in Melbourne, she’s traded sets with countrywoman Peng Shuai and another Belgian, Yanina Wickmayer, only to fall in three. In Miami this week, little-known Johanna Larsson (who had never even played a top 25 player) beat Na 7-6 in the third set after the Chinese no. 1 had multiple match points.

“I just didn’t have that spark,” Murray explained after his loss yesterday. Yeah, we noticed.

(photo by Getty Images)

the battle of the husbands

January 29, 2011

By Benjamin Snyder of TenaciouslyTennis.com.

The final of this year’s Australian Open women’s event signifies more than a battle pitting Belgium’s three-time US Open champ Kim Clijsters against Chinese tennis’ greatest hope, Li Na. It’s also the story of two husbands: retired basketball player Brian Lynch and Jiang Shan, a former tennis player-turned-coach.

For Kim, husband Brian left a lucrative basketball career on the European circuit to give his wife a second chance at tennis success. She’s done pretty well for herself, too. With two majors in 18 months – and the potential for a third – she’s the most successful mom in tennis history since Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s win at Wimbledon in the 1980s. | TSF Vault: Kim Clijsters

She’s even survived the limelight-shifting comeback of Belgian rival-turned-friend-turned-rival Justine Henin. Yeah, JuJu came back and then retired for the second time just as Kim claimed a spot in the Melbourne final. Oops.

Through it all, however, Brian’s been there to back her up. He goes to every match, bites his nails hoping for Kim’s success, and helps out with their daughter, Jada. And all so that his wife can do her thing: win.

As for Li, husband Jiang not only serves as her coach, but also is the guy who apparently deserves the credit for improving her mental game. He also inspired her to play again after she quit a few years ago. Even more importantly, he’s the brunt of some jokes she’s cracked on her way to the AO final.

Apparently, he snores pretty loud. After keeping her up the night before the semifinal match versus world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Li didn’t think twice about calling him out on it. No bed for Jiang, she told the world. Instead, he’d be sleeping in the bathroom, she said. We’ll have to keep an eye on him in the player box as Li takes to the court against Kim. Maybe Mirka could lend him some sunglasses?

To make matters worse, Li had trouble remembering the date of their anniversary. In the same interview, the Chinese no. 1 got flustered when told her win came on their fifth anniversary. Is it the 27th or the 29th? In the moment, such a fact escaped the tennis-hot Li.

So, sorry, Jarmila Groth, these husbands simply ooze positive support, unlike Sam. They also seem keen on keeping the controversy and yelling to a minimum. Well, at least publicly and during match play.

In the end, the question isn’t just: Who will win? Which husband’s support reigns supreme also stands to be determined in this historic match between mother Kim Clijsters and Chinese trendsetter Li Na.

(photos via getty)

ao sf predictions with christopher phillips (ladies)

January 26, 2011

Caroline Wozniacki is still no. 1 – and more importantly – still alive, at the AO. (Getty/ Clive Brunskill)

Christopher Phillips, a regular TSF contributor, weighs in on the semifinal match-ups over the next two days in Melbourne. Phillips lives, works and plays in Los Angeles, answering to a number of different bosses. Tragically, last year, he was speechless for weeks after learning of the retirement of Elena Dementieva and is currently on a search to find her replacement in his heart. | More: And for the gentlemen

Well… the semifinals have arrived (almost) as I predicted.  An on-fire Li Na takes on faux-kangaroo lover Caroline Wozniacki while Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva meet at a Slam for the third time in a row (they’re 1-1 so far).  But where does it go from here?

Li has won all of her matches in straight sets, with the most difficult coming in first round versus Sofia Arvidsson.  Li has broken her opponents no less than four times each match while maintaining her own first serve percentage at an average of 72.4%.

Wozniacki, on the other hand, hasn’t won her matches as decisively as her opponent, and I do have to admit I thought Francesca Schiavone still had a chance deep into the third set to win the match.  While Caro gutted through to the win, the way she let an injured, fatigued Schiavone dictate the match from the first point I think will be her downfall when she faces a stronger, healthier and confident Li.

Li leads the head-to-head 2-1 with both of her wins coming last year on Australian soil in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, so I pick her to make her home country proud by being the first Chinese woman to reach a major final.

On the other half of the draw it’s Clijsters pitted against a resurgent Zvonareva.  This one could go either way really.  Zvonareva’s only dropped one set in five matches – to Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in the second round.  Clijsters, meanwhile, hasn’t dropped one yet, but was pushed to one tiebreak in each of her last three matches and looked shaky at times.

Apart from Vera falling apart during the USO final, the Russian beat Kim three times last year – including at Wimbledon.  Since Clijsters holds an advantage of second-serve points won (60% to Zvonareva’s 46%), I’m going with Clijsters in three sets in the battle of two baseliners.

li na stealthily makes her way through the draw

October 6, 2010

I guess all that pressure to win the hometown tournament is making Li Na go for some miiltary-grade suport. At this week’s China Open in Beijing, is she wearing a camouflage-print sports bra under that blue Nike tank?

Looking forward: After dispatching of Alisa Kleybanova 6-1, 6-4 (no slouch — Kleybs won Seoul last month), Li will next face Angelique Kerber, and likely Nadia Petrova in the quarters. Nads is 6-0 lifetime against Li, but the last time they played was in 2008. Draw: See the China Open draws here.

Nike: Not much to write home about for the Nike women’s post-US Open goods. The most notable detail comes in the contrast collar on this top. Buy: Accuracy Top, in black, mega blue, and white/red plum, TW. Browse: The rest of the Nike women’s offerings.

(image via Getty Images)

a storm from the east

January 26, 2010

Li Na is the second Chinese player through to the semis of the ladies draw at the 2010 Australian Open. She took out Venus Williams in a tight, three-set match that went 7-5 in the third. Li will play the winner of the Serena Williams/Azarenka quarterfinal.

We kinda see… a lot: We love the boob-enhancing design of the Nike Peek-A-Boo top (Serena’s wearing the dress version). Buy: Peek-A-Boo Tennis Tank in White, Sapphire (blue), Sunbeam (orange), and VIolet Pop (lavender), $60; the Love Game Skirt, $60; nike.com.

(images via Getty Images)

what should’ve been: the k-swiss switch

September 30, 2009

TSF let out a squeal when we saw this dress hanging in the K-Swiss showroom, and smiled when we learned that it would have a fall drop. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear at the 2009 U.S. Open as we’d expected, though its bright color and sexy silhouette would’ve been worthy of the tennis catwalk that is Flushing Meadows.

Instead, the dress debuted after the slam: at this week’s Toray Pan Pacific Open, K-Swiss mascot Kateryna Bondarenko fell to Li Na 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 after she upset Elena Dementieva in the second round. Take a look at the draw (pdf) to see how the rest of the ladies have fared.

Buy: K-Swiss Women’s Fall Dress, clover pink/black and white/ebony grey, $74.99. (Note: we had incorrectly reported the price of this dress as $59.99; the retail price is $74.99.)

More: A few other views of the dress in action after the cut…

tattoo watch: olga govortsova

May 29, 2009

Tattoo watch: A ho-hum tattoo from Belarus’ Olga Govortsova, who lost to Li Na in the third round of the 2009 French Open.

We were suprised to see Li as the only Chinese woman left in the draw, expecting that Zheng Jie would go deeper.

Meanwhile, Victoria Azarenka, another Belarusian, is going into a third set against Carla Suarez Navarro. They have a set a piece (7-5 for both) and will continue their suspended match tomorrow.

See a picture of Olga’s cute K-Swiss skort after the cut…


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