Making Sense of Women's Tennis

On the Baseline Tennis News
May 28, 2011

Recent results from the French Open have most people wondering: What exactly is going on with women’s tennis? OTB’s Paula Vergara takes a look at some of the top seed upsets at the French Open, the resulting opportunities for less experienced players, and gives a reality check on the Williams sisters.

I admit it. I didn’t hit the snooze button Friday morning thinking that world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki would lose in the third round of the French Open. Did anyone? Especially not to Daniela Hantuchova, who, despite being a dangerous player, hasn’t beaten Wozniacki in three attempts. Nor did I think that the 2010 French Open runner-up, Sam Stosur, would crash out in three sets to Gisela Dulko. Same goes for Thursday, when the No. 2 seed, Kim Clijsters lost to No. 114, Arantxa Rus in the second round. So much for prognostications. If the tennis rankings as well as the seeding process are supposed to help us make sense of the tennis “hierarchy”, then why does it seem so nonsensical?

There’s a First Time for Everything

According to the WTA, the 2011 French Open is first time in the Open Era that neither the No. 1 or No. 2 women’s seeds have made the round of 16 at a Grand Slam. Chances are, it won’t happen again. But, it’s not so easy to believe that this is a one-time thing. Early round victories at Grand Slams are typically foregone conclusions for the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players, but typical doesn’t seem to apply to women’s tennis anymore.

Comparatively Speaking

So here’s everyone’s favorite subject: The Slam-less No. 1. Whenever we see Caroline Wozniacki lose in a Grand Slam, we have to replay the Slam-less No. 1 broken record, over and over again. It is an inevitable comparison to those players who have set the bar higher than where it currently sits. Even the most skilled player holding the No. 1 ranking will always be seen as less skilled compared to those who have won a Grand Slam. Wozniacki has mastered the art of winning on smaller stages, but a Grand Slam win continues to elude her. And the volume on that broken record seems to be getting louder.

When Less is More

I am likely not the only one who thinks that Caroline Wozniacki would have been wise to have skipped the inaugural Brussels Open, where she won her first title on red clay. The downside of winning the Brussels title–she only had two days to recover for the French Open.

She has faced a similar predicament in the past, playing the New Haven Open at Yale (formerly the Pilot Pen), a US Open warm up. She has won this tournament three years in a row, giving her just a few days of rest before the start of the US Open. She lost in the final of the US Open in 2009 against Kim Clijsters–the same year she won her second title in New Haven. Is she simply making bad choices about which tournaments to play? Is she inadvertently sabotaging her chances to win a Grand Slam by racking up too many titles at smaller tournaments? It makes you wonder if she could have won the 2009 US Open had she skipped New Haven. It’s a tough choice, for sure. But despite her seemingly endless supply of energy, something tells me Wozniacki might have to make more sensible choices moving forward. Pacing herself a bit more carefully might be a good start.

Tough Day for Sam

Australia’s No. 1 player and 2010 French Open runner-up, Sam Stosur was expected to at least get through the first week of the French Open, but Gisela Dulko had other plans. Stosur had been suffering from a bad head cold, which likely was a factor in her third round loss. Regardless of the reasons, Sam’s loss at Roland Garros is more disappointing than surprising, given the year she’s had so far. Looking ahead, the grass court season is probably not something that Sam is looking forward to, since her game is not well suited to grass. We may have to wait until the hard court season to see Sam get her game and head back on track.

Kim’s Crash

Kim Clijsters’ second round defeat at the hands of Arantxa Rus had to be the biggest surprise upset of the French Open. Especially after Kim was leading 6–3, 5–2, and had two match points before losing the match 3–6, 7–5, 6–1. Kim really didn’t look like herself out there, and admitted in her post-match press conference that self-doubt had crept in. Her ankle seemed fine, but Clijsters has never really enjoyed playing on clay. And it showed.

Seizing the Opportunity

There’s always opportunity to be had from someone else’s misfortune. And that’s just what Sharapova, Jankovic, Azarenka, Zvonareva, Kuznetsova, and Schiavone are hoping for, as they advance further into the tournament. Marion Bartoli is also keeping hope alive for a French champion. Li Na, who had a rough time after the Australian Open, seems to be back on track.

Amidst the wave of top seed crashes, there has also emerged an opportunity for some of the less experienced, up-and-comers to establish themselves as credible threats. Kvitova, Petkovic, Pavlyuchenkova, and Gajdosova are a few that seem to have a fighting chance at the title.

Don’t Look Back

As tempting as it may seem, there’s no sense in thinking that it's possible to recapture the past, especially if you try to go back to a time when Serena was ranked No. 1. Or a time when Serena and her sister Venus were dominating every single Grand Slam they entered. The reality is, both Venus and Serena have put in 15-16 years on the WTA Tour. Venus will be turning 31 in a few weeks, and Serena will be 30 in September. Having won 20 Grand Slam singles titles between them, the sisters simply have nothing left to prove. That’s not to say tennis wouldn’t greatly benefit from their return. Remember those days when everyone yawned at a predictable all-Williams final at Wimbledon? I wouldn’t mind seeing that predictability return to tennis. There is a chance they might play Wimbledon again this year, but beyond that, I can’t see either of them playing much after the 2011 US Open, other than the 2012 Olympics. Even if they do, it’s not likely that they can return to their peak playing ability. But then again, for the die-hard Venus and Serena fans, it doesn’t seem to matter how well they play. As long as they play.

So what have I learned about women’s tennis over the past few days? It seems that if there’s anything for sure, it’s that there’s no sure thing. That makes sense.

2011 French Open Preview



On the Baseline Tennis News
May 21, 2011

As far as Grand Slams go, the 2011 French Open certainly isn’t the first one in recent years to have a wide-open women’s draw. I guess you can call it the “new normal” for the WTA. In some ways, an open draw can add to the excitement of a Grand Slam, especially in the first week of the tournament. But when the competition heats up, even in a wide open draw, the cream usually rises to the top.

Let the 2011 French Open analysis and predictions begin…

Maiden Grand Slam Contenders
Wozniacki, Stosur, Petkovic, Goerges, Azarenka, Jankovic, Zvonareva, Li Na, and Kvitova.

Former French Open Champions in the Draw
Schiavone, Kuznetsova, and Ivanovic

Wozniacki’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Stosur, Bartoli, Kuznetsova, Peer, Goerges, Hantuchova, and Pironkova.

In the first quarter of the draw, No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki takes on Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round (H2H 1-0). Despite a slight leg injury coming off her final match in Brussels, Wozniacki is in good form, and is seeking her first Grand Slam title. Having endured constant criticism for being a slam-less No. 1 since taking the crown in November, 2010, Wozniacki has shown that she can slide on clay with the best of them. She has reached three clay-court finals this year (Charleston (W), Stuttgart (L), and Brussels (W)), as well as the semis in Rome. Playing in the final in Brussels could sap her energy heading into the French Open, but she doesn’t seem to tire that easily. Wozniacki will likely advance through the early rounds, but could face No. 17 seed Julia Goerges in the quarterfinals (H2H 2-2). Goerges has two solid match wins against Wozniacki under her belt (Stuttgart (F) and Madrid (R16)), but has been out of competition for the past few weeks with a minor lower back injury. Goerges plays her first round against France’s Mathilde Johansson, a first meeting for the two.

No. 8 seed Sam Stosur, a 2010 runner up at Roland Garros, could face Goerges in the round of 16 (H2H 0-2). Stosur, who has been struggling a bit with her game (and surprisingly, on clay), lost to Goerges in the semis in Stuttgart. I wouldn’t count Stosur out of the French Open final, but she’d have to get past Wozniacki in the quarterfinals to prove that she can go the distance.

Bartoli, the French favorite to win, could face Goerges in the third round. She has one win against Goerges, but on grass (Wimbledon 2010). With Bartoli’s recent retirement in the Strasbourg final due to a left thigh injury, her chances at Roland Garros could be in doubt. Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009 French Open champion) would likely face Wozniacki in the round of 16 (H2H 2-4), if she can get past Peer in the third round (H2H 4-4). Kuznetsova and Wozniacki have never met on clay.

Zvonareva’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Schiavone, Jankovic, Pennetta, Petrova, Kleybanova, and Pavlyuchenkova.

In the second quarter of the draw, No. 3 seed Vera Zvonareva has good potential to reach the semifinals, where she could face Wozniacki (H2H 4-4).

No. 5 seed and defending champ, Francesca Schiavone is the second highest seed in this section of the draw. With her 31st birthday just a month away, age is an undeniable factor, but confidence could play a big role in Schiavone’s success. She will likely need to get past Mattek-Sands in the round of 16 (H2H 0-1) and Zvonareva in the quarterfinals (H2H 0-10). Schiavone takes on Melanie Oudin in the first round (H2H 2-1), who is currently ranked at No. 89. Jelena Jankovic, who’s had less-than-stellar results on clay this season, could face Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round (H2H 1-2). Zvonareva faces Lourdes Dominguez Lino in her opening round.

Azarenka’s Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Li Na, Kvitova, Kanepi, Ivanovic, Cibulkova, Dulgheru, and Vinci.

In the bottom half of the draw, (third quarter), No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka takes on Andrea Hlavackova in the first round (H2H 1-0). Azarenka has had her fair share of injuries in recent months, and can be prone to retirements. Recent MRI results on her wrist were negative, and fortunately, was given the ok to play the French Open. When Azarenka is fit to play and mentally focused, she is virtually unstoppable. Azarenka could face No. 9 seed Kvitova in the quarterfinals (H2H 2-2), unless No. 6 seed Li Na defeats Kvitova in the round of 16 (H2H 0-1). Both Azarenka and Li Na will be looking to avenge their loss to Kvitova in Madrid.

2008 French Open champ and No. 20 seed, Ana Ivanovic is a big question mark heading into the French Open, having battled multiple injuries — most recently, her left wrist. If she can play through injury and win the pressure points, Ivanovic could go deep. She faces Johanna Larsson her opening round.

Clijsters’ Quarter
Other seeded players in this section: Sharapova, Radwanska, Petkovic, Wickmayer, Gajdosova , Kirilenko, and Zakopalova.

In the fourth quarter of the draw, No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters faces Anastasiya Yakimova in her opening round. Some say Kim Clijsters isn’t ready to return to tennis after being sidelined with an ankle injury, but she says she’s ready. Clijsters, who has won the 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open, hasn’t played the French Open since 2006, and has never won the title. She made it to the final in 2001 (losing to Capriati) & 2003 (losing to Henin). She also hasn’t played any clay court warm-up tournaments leading into the French Open. Clijsters could face No. 15 seed Andrea Petkovic in the round of 16 (H2H 1-0), followed by a clash with No. 7 seed Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals (H2H 5-3). The two have never met on clay before, which, could give Sharapova the edge, given her recent form, and coming off a clay-court title against Stosur in Rome. Sharapova, who is looking to win her first French Open title, plays Mirjana Lucic in her opening round—a first meeting for the two.


Dark Horse(s)
Jarmila Gajdosova, Andrea Petkovic, Shuai Peng

Final Eight
Wozniacki, Goerges, Zvonareva, Schiavone, Kvitova, Azarenka, Sharapova, Clijsters

Final Four
Clijsters, Kvitova, Wozniacki, Zvonarava

Final Two

Clijsters vs. Wozniacki

Kim Clijsters

The Winner and the WildCard

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are experiencing tremendous growth in their respective tennis careers, which was clearly demonstrated at yesterday's semifinal match at the Rome Masters. Djokovic is on a red-hot winning streak. Murray, who has struggled with his game in recent months, is now showing the world that he's not going to settle for the No. 4 spot.

The Winner

Without a doubt, the biggest story of the Rome Masters has been Novak Djokovic’s winning streak. The same story played out during the Madrid Open, the Sony Ericsson Open, and the BNP Paribas Open. (Picture Groundhog Day, over and over again.) Each time Djokovic adds another match to his incredible winning streak (he’s now approaching about 3,800), he inches closer to the ‘superman’ status that so few players have achieved in their careers.

The problem with Djokovic’s winning streak: It feels like he’s been playing in one continuous tournament for the past few months, with no end in sight. As the streak continues, the spotlight gets brighter, and the stakes get higher (none higher than today's final vs. Rafa). And when Djokovic is playing in a match, there is a collective gasp every time he is down a game. ‘Is this it? Is this the match that will end his chance at a record and turn him back into a mere mortal?’ As if to say the history-making moment is more about Djokovic’s streak being broken than about him breaking a record.

Sure, Djokovic could surpass John McEnroe’s 42-match winning streak, which would be simply amazing. (Guillermo Vilas holds the longest match winning streak record, at 46.)

Yes, he could win the French Open (if he can avoid injury and get past Nadal in a Grand Slam that he essentially owns), which would place Djokovic on a rather short list of tennis legends.

But what if he doesn’t win? Does he go back to being a mere mortal? Djokovic is unbeatable...invincible…and unstoppable…for the moment. He’s the player who can summon up his best, both physically and mentally in every match, even when he’s near exhaustion. We know the streak can’t last forever. Nor should it. But it’s nice to watch ‘superman’ in action, especially when he takes us along for the ride.

The WildCard
In a card game, the “wild card” can function as a substitute for any other card in the deck. (Of course, tennis has it's own meaning for wild cards, which I'll save for another post.) But if tennis were played like a card game, you might find a picture of Andy Murray on the wild card. The big question: Can Murray be a substitute for the King (Rafa) or the Joker (Djokovic)? Murray played the match of his career on Saturday in the Rome semifinal, giving Djokovic a run for his money. Murray came very close to ending Djokovic’s now 38-match winning streak in a nail-biting, third-set tie-breaker that lasted over 3 hours, but it wasn’t in the cards for Murray. 


Even though Andy Murray is currently designated as the No. 4 card in the game, we may be seeing the tennis deck shuffled in the near future, if Darren Cahill and the Adidas Player Development Program have anything to say about it. Saturday’s match in Rome proves that Murray has enough power, speed, and weapons to become a wildcard that can potentially outrank and out play Nadal or Djokovic on any given day.


Update: Novak Djokovic went on to defeat Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Rome Masters, extending his winning streak to 39 (since 2010).

Fetching Tennis Fashions for the Spring/Summer

On the Baseline Tennis News
May 2, 2011

Style sophisticates take note: If you want to make a fashion statement on or off the court, look no further than Fetch Sport. Founded in 2006, this LA-based, wholesale sportswear company does tennis-themed fashion that fits into any women’s lifestyle. They also do what most other tennis fashion outlets don’t: Take chances with fashion. Fetch produces original lines that make a sexy/sporty statement, while maintaining comfort and practicality.

Chris Louis, Designer and Owner of Fetch Sport, has made it his mission to produce a trendy and classic line of women’s sporting apparel that appeals to just about every woman out there who wants to add a bit more femininity to their wardrobe. “I love that a woman can look beautiful on the tennis court and still maintain that tough edge of function in Fetch,” says Chris.

Coming from the modeling industry, with extensive knowledge of high-end fashion, Chris understands that not every woman is 5’10″ and 120 lbs. “I have learned to scale my designs and think about every body type out there.”

Chris also understands the importance of branding. He has taken a leap into the world of tennis sponsorships, signing American up-and-comers Alexandra Mueller and Riza Zalameda for the 2011 year. Fetch is very excited to have them wearing their clothing. But Chris says he isn’t influenced by the current fashions on the WTA Tour. He opts for more “fresh” designs that are “as much off the cuff as possible.”

As far as the products go, Fetch Sport features an array of t-shirts, dresses, track suits, and hoodies in a variety of colors. Some of the t-shirts have the words “C’mon”, “Allez”, or “Vamos” on the front, to get you revved up for your next tennis match, or simply enjoy wearing when you are out and about.

If you’re headed to the French Open this year, Fetch Sport’s light-blue French Grand Slam hoody is a must-have. It’s 92% cotton, 8% spandex, and features “kangaroo” pockets. An image of the French flag is placed on the front and sleeve, and also displays an image of the Eiffel Tower on the back. Fetch also designs other Grand-Slam themed hoodies for Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open.

Fetch Sport sells its products online, in retail shops, and for the past two years, has been invited to sell its clothing on site at the Sony Ericsson Open. Fetch also sells its products internationally, but is looking to expand its global reach. “I love what I do and I love the direction of where Fetch is going,” says Chris. “I hope that Fetch will become a mainstay in this ever-changing industry of fashion.”

For more information on the Fetch Sport collection, visit