Caroline Wozniacki Wins Her Second Pilot Pen Title

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 29, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut—On Saturday, August 29, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4, to earn her second consecutive Pilot Pen title, and her sixth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.
Caroline Wozniacki
The women’s final match came very close to being a washout, thanks to a steady stream of rain that began on Friday.

The wind, rain, and cold continued through the 12pm start time on Saturday. Tournament organizers even took down the video monitors above Stadium Court, as a precaution. After a 3 1/2 hour rain delay, the clouds dried up just in time for Wozniacki and Vesnina to battle it out for the title on Stadium Court. But unfortunately for TV viewers, not in time for ESPN or CBS to air the match live.

Wozniacki took an early lead in the first set against Vesnina, and broke her serve to make it 4-1. Vesnina held her serve to win the second game in the 2nd set, taking it to 5-2, but Wozniacki held on to take the first set 6-2. Things turned slightly in Vesnina’s favor in the 2nd set, as Wozniacki dropped her serve, bringing it to 3-3. Maybe it was Vesnina’s loud “haayaa!” after hitting the ball that made the difference, or maybe she simply found her rhythm in the second set.

Whatever the case, it seemed as though Vesnina was taking control of the match, but it didn’t last. “I was not that upset that I lost my serve at 3-all,” says Vesnina. “She played really good that game. I was still hoping, you know, that I can turn everything back because I had a feeling that if I would be a little bit more consistent, you know, if I would be a little bit more just not doing a lot of errors, I can win the second set, I can win the match. It’s impossible to win a match if you’re doing so many unforced errors.”
Elena Vesnina and Caroline Wozniacki

Wozniacki hadn’t dropped a set during the entire tournament. When she won the second set and the Pilot Pen title, the audio system was blaring “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. “Now it’s my time,” said Wozniacki. “It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.”

Wozniacki reached her her 7th final this year. When the Pilot Pen began, Wozniacki faced Edina Gallovits in the 1st round. She handed Gallovits a double-bagel, in just 43 minutes — the shortest match of the tournament. Wozniacki also beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Virginie Razzano, and Flavia Pennetta on her way to the final. The last WTA player to win back-to-back Pilot Pen tournaments was Venus Williams, a four-time winner from 1999-2002.

No. 32 ranked Elena Vesnina is a rising Russian tennis star, who made her first appearance at the Pilot Pen this year. She defeated Gisela Dulko, Samantha Stosur, Anna Chakvetadze, and Amelie Mauresmo to reach the final. Her coach, former ATP player Andrei Chesnokov, said that he would shave his head if Vesnina made it to the final – and he kept his promise. Regardless of the outcome, Vesnina said “we were just happy we were able to play outdoors. So it looks like a real final.”

Football Fun at Yale
During the Pilot Pen, Caroline had a chance to watch the incoming students moving into the Yale dorms, and meet the entire Yale Football Team (all 105 of them). “Being the only girl, and 105 guys, that wasn’t bad,” said Caroline. That could happen a little bit more often,” she said with a laugh.

Caroline’s Thoughts on the U.S. Open
With the US Open starting on Monday, the Pilot Pen champion won’t have much time to regroup, but has already started to think about what she could face in the coming weeks. “I expect it to be very competitive. There are a lot of players in good shape right now. Dinara Safina has not won a Grand Slam yet, but she’s been in a lot of finals. She’s always dangerous. She’s No. 1 in the world, and won so many other good tournaments.” Wozniacki also commented on Serena and Venus Williams, and Flavia Pennetta as players who could be tough to beat.

Caroline Wozniacki Takes a Swing At Boxing

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 25, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Connnecticut—On Tuesday evening, 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki defeated Edina Gallovits at the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, handing her a double bagel (6-0, 6-0). And Wozniacki didn’t waste any time. She finished the match in just 43 minutes.
Caroline Wozniacki
“I’ve been working hard,” says Caroline. “The last three tournaments I played, I’ve had some really tough matches, but I just needed the consistency that I’ve had earlier in the year, and I’m so happy that I could keep my level up for the whole match.”

It was just one year ago that the current world No. 8 burst onto the tennis scene, capturing her first ever Sony Ericsson WTA tour title in New Haven. Since then, she has earned five WTA career titles, and could potentially win her 6th by the end of this week.

Despite all the hard work, Caroline has admitted to being bored with her off-court training routine. Just after Wimbledon, a professional boxing friend (Michael Kessler), suggested that she give boxing a try. She took a chance, hired a boxing coach, and started swinging.
That decision has proven to be a good one. Caroline says that boxing has helped her to become a better tennis player. “It’s not only the boxing training,” she says. “You do at least 40 min. on the treadmill before, and you run a lot, and strengthen your stomach, your back, your shoulders, your arms…all the things that you also need in tennis.”

Caroline stresses that she’s “not the hitting kind of person” and laughed when someone asked if she tries to picture a particular player when she boxes. “It’s fun to get some aggression out sometimes,” she says, “but I prefer hitting the balls.”

US Open Series: Who Will Go The Distance?
August 18, 2009

We’re more than half way through the Olympus US Open Series (a.k.a., the summer hard court season). Even though the US Open is still a few weeks away, one thing is clear on the men’s side: Change is in the air.

U.S. Open Contenders

Andy Roddick - It’s official. Andy Roddick is back, and he means business. After heeding the advice of his new coach, Larry Stefanki, Andy shed 15 pounds, and has renewed confidence in his game. The No. 1 American is having one of the best years of his career, battling his way into the Wimbledon final, and in the process, bringing American tennis back into the fold. After recovering from a hip flexor injury, he reached the final at Washington. In the sweltering heat, Roddick fought a very close 3-set final, saving 3 match points against Juan Martin Del Potro. The match ended in dramatic fashion, with a challenge call on championship point, giving Del Potro his 2nd consecutive title in Washington. Less than a week later, Roddick advanced to the semifinal of the Roger’s Cup, but lost to Del Potro. It’s safe to say that Roddick has the look of a champion, and is ready to do some damage at the US Open.
Juan Martin Del Potro -The 6′6″ Argentinean and current world No. 6, has been dominating the summer hard court season. His big serve and powerful double-handed backhand make him a tough opponent to beat. Del Potro showed Andy Roddick twice in one week how to win in a tight match, and in the process, he successfully defended his title at the Legg Mason Classic. Del Potro then went on to the Rogers Cup, beating Rafa and Roddick along the way, only to run out of gas in the final, losing to Andy Murray. Del Potro is the current point leader in the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge, and is poised to break into the ATP’s top 5. The Federer/Nadal rivalry may be taking a back seat to the brewing battle between Del Potro and Roddick.
Andy Murray - Before the Rogers Cup, Andy Murray hadn’t played a match since his semifinal loss to Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. But since pulling off a 3-set win against Del Potro in the Roger’s Cup final, the US Open buzz has begun. Looking ahead to September, Murray will be looking to avenge his 2008 US Open loss to Roger Federer. The newly minted No. 2 also has a chance to become the first British man since Fred Perry (in 1933) to take the US Open title. Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, has beaten Federer 6 times in their past 8 meetings.
Roger Federer - The reigning No. 1 took 5 weeks off after Wimbledon to focus on family, but joined the summer hard court season in Montreal, at the Rogers Cup. He suffered a surprising loss in his quarterfinal match against Tsonga, despite a 5-1 lead in the 3rd set. Even Federer admitted that Tsonga is a “dangerous player.” But with 5 consecutive titles at the US Open (2004-2008), it’s doubtful that any player can take him down in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Novak Djokovic - Like Murray and Federer, Djokovic hadn’t seen any match play since Wimbledon. Upon his return to competition, the current world No. 4 made it to the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup, only to be taken out by Andy Roddick. Moving forward, Djokovic is considering some changes off court. He is in talks with Todd Martin to possibly bring him on as a member of his coaching team.

The Rafa Comeback
Rafael Nadal’s long awaited comeback finally took place in Montreal, making his debut at the Roger’s Cup. A quarterfinal finish was a good test of his health and fitness, but the former No. 1 player is understandably taking a cautious approach. Looking back on this year, no one has experienced more change than Rafa. Within the span of just a few months, the 4-time French Open champion lost in the 4th Now at No. 3 (a ranking he hasn’t held since July 2005), Rafa isn’t setting any expectations for himself, or his knees. He knows that recovery is a process, which takes time. It may be too soon to tell if his knees will be ready to survive the hard-court pounding at the US Open. round in Paris, his knees began to fail him, he withdrew from Wimbledon, he was sidelined with tendonitis for 2 months, and lost his No.1 ranking.

The American Comeback
Not too long ago, there was a significant void in men’s tennis, caused by a lack of young American talent on the tour. With Andy Roddick now taking the lead, a new crop of American tennis players are following suit. Sam Querrey and John Isner, along with veterans Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri, have the talent and commitment to put American tennis back on the map. It won’t be long before the American men start winning Grand Slams again.

Sam Querrey - The 6′6″ California native has top-10 potential written all over him, holding the No. 26 ranking spot. He reached the final of Newport and Indianapolis, and won the LA Tennis Open, in front of his hometown crowd. Querrey will have more than a few more aces up his sleeve as he heads into the US Open.
John Isner - Despite being sidelined for 2 months with mono, the 6′9″ rising star is back and stronger than he’s been in 2 years. He’s achieved his highest ranking -No. 55, and has proven that he can give the top 10 players a run for their money. Since the start of the summer hard court season, Isner reached the semifinals in Indianapolis, followed by a quarterfinal run in LA, and reached the semifinals at the Legg Mason Classic, where he lost a tight match to fellow American Andy Roddick. After the semifinal loss, he received a special exemption into the Roger’s Cup main draw. Isner has also been granted a wildcard for the Pilot Pen in New Haven.
Mardy Fish - The No. 2 American has lost the knee tape, gained a wedding ring, and has slowly crept back into the top 25. Despite an abdominal strain that has sidelined him during most of the US Open Series, the opportunity for him to rest and regroup could make him a dangerous opponent.
Robby Ginepri - One of the most unpredictable players on the tour, Ginepri managed to win the title in Indianapolis, beating Sam Querrey and John Isner along the way. With hard courts being his favorite surface, he will have some additional chances to prove himself during the US Open Series.

Darkhorse Picks for the US Open

Sam Querrey
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The WTA Tour Ranking System Explained

On the Baseline Tennis News
August 11, 2009

There have been many heated debates lately about the WTA’s No. 1 ranking. Specifically, how can Dinara Safina be ranked No. 1 and Serena Williams No. 2, after Serena won 2 Grand Slams this year, and Dinara has yet to win any? On the other hand, how can Serena lose in the 1st round of 3 consecutive tournaments, not win any tournaments outside of this year’s Grand Slams, and still hold her No. 2 ranking position? These questions simply feed into the most heated debate of them all: Who is the best female tennis player in the world?

According to the WTA’s ranking system, the answer is all in the numbers.

How It Works

The WTA Tour ranking system is a rolling, 52-week, cumulative system. Ranking points are accrued based on results from the highest round a player reaches in a WTA or ITF tournament, or tournaments which have prize money of $10k or more. The WTA Tour caps a player’s best 16 singles tournament results and best 11 doubles tournament results for one season. The term “rolling” simply means that there are some ranking points that carry over from the previous season. For example, Serena Williams’ ranking points from the 2008 US Open have carried over to 2009. Once she completes the 2009 US Open, her 2008 ranking points will be replaced by the new ones.

WTA Ranking Point Distribution for Singles and Doubles

Grand Slams – 2,000 points
Premier Mandatory – 1,000 points
Premier 5 – 800 points
Premier 700 – 470 points
International – 280 points

The Top-10 Has a Ranking System All Its Own

When a new top-10 player participates in Premier 5 tournaments (Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati, Toronto, and Tokyo), those tournaments take on a whole new meaning. Once a top-10 player has 2 Premier 5 tournaments on her record, any other Premier 5 tournament results from the same season can replace her first 2 Premier 5 tournament results, as long as the results are better. Only a player’s 2 best Premier 5 tournament results are included in her ranking. When it comes to Dinara Safina’s record, she must count her ranking points for her 1st round loss in Dubai, unless her results from the upcoming Cincinnati or Toronto tournaments prove better than Dubai.

When Zero Counts

Any player who qualifies (by ranking) for acceptance into the Main Draw of Grand Slams, Premier Mandatory events or the Sony Ericsson Championships, has the benefit of Automatic Main Draw entry into those events. The down side? Any player who is automatically entered and then withdraws or fails to play, receives 0 ranking points for that tournament, which counts on her ranking as one of her best 16 tournament results. In addition, any top-10 player (or marquee player) who fails to play in a Premier $700 Commitment Tournament receives 0 ranking points for the tournament. For example, Serena Williams currently has 2 mandatory zero-point tournaments that count toward her 16 best tournament results. This rule does not apply to players who do not qualify for Automatic Main Draw entry.

Defending Points and Bonus Points

The idea of “defending points” works this way: If a player reaches the semifinal in the same tournament two years in a row, then she would be “defending her points.” A case in which this would not apply would be the 2008 Olympics.
Bonus points simply do not exist in the WTA ranking system. Bonus prize money, on the other hand, does exist. The Olympus US Open Series awards bonus points (not ranking points) based on player performance at each of the US Open Series tournaments. This puts the top male and female players in a position to win an extra $1 million in prize money at the US Open.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Dinara Safina No. 1
2009 tournaments played to date: 13
2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – Final –Ranking Points: 320
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
Dubai (Premier 5) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – QF – Ranking Points: 250
Miami (Premier Mandatory)- 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 80
Stuttgart (Premier 700) – Final – Ranking Points: 320
Rome (Premier 5) – Winner – Ranking Points: 800
Madrid (Premier Mandatory): Winner – Ranking Points: 1,000
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
‘s-Hertogenbosch (International) – SF – Ranking Points: (Not Counting)
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – SF – Ranking Points: 900
Portoroz (International) – Winner – Ranking Points: 280
Los Angeles (Premier 700) – 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 60 (Not Counting)

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing (Silver) Ranking Points: 490
US Open (Grand Slam) SF Ranking Points: 900
Tokyo (Premier 5) Winner – Ranking Points: 860
Stuttgart (Premier 700) QF - Ranking Points (Not Counting)
Moscow (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 390
Tour Championships –Round Robin- Ranking Points: 210 

Total Ranking Points: 9,601 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 4,600
Points from Tour Events: 5,001
Serena Williams No. 2
2009 tournaments played to date: 11

2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – SF – Ranking Points: 200
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Paris (indoors) – (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 200
Dubai (Premier 5) – SF – Ranking Points: 350
Miami (Premier Mandatory) – Final - Ranking Points: 700
Marbella (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Rome (Premier 5) – 2nd Round (1st Round bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Madrid (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 5
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – QF – Ranking Points: 500
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stanford (Premier 700) – QF– Ranking Points: 120

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing - QF – Ranking Points: 180
US Open (Grand Slam) Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stuttgart 2r (l. in 2r after 1r bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Tour Championships –Round Robin – Ranking Points: 370
Tournaments Not Played in 2009:
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – Ranking Points: 0
Charleston (Premier 700) – Ranking Points: 0

Total Ranking Points: 8,628 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 6,500
Points from Tour Events: 2,128
These questions are sure to fan the flames of the No. 1 ranking debate: Does the WTA’s ranking system have a winning formula? Is it appropriate to judge a top-ranked WTA player based exclusively on her success in Grand Slam tournaments?