Posts Tagged ‘Marion Bartoli’

PostHeaderIcon Sabine Over Marion In An Unlikely Women’s Final

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

It’s Sabine Lisicki versus Marion Bartoli for the Ladies Wimbledon title after one of the nuttiest, most upset-ridden tournament in years.

Two weeks ago, the landscape looked very different. Serena was on a roll, Maria was a solid second bet behind Serena, Vika looked ready to make a Slam move, and Aga continued to look for an opening.

Alas, they’re all gone. Sabine knocked out Serena and Aga in the quarterfinals and semifinals, a screaming Larcher de Brito knocked out the equally-screaming (and sliding) Maria, and the grass courts took out Vika with a TKO.

That’s a ton of lost star power. And to be honest, there are many who might forego watching Championship Saturday without the presence of either Serena or Maria. But as underwhelmed as many might be for this match, these two ladies won the matches they needed to win, and more than deserve to be in the final.

That said, who’s going to hold aloft the Venus Rosewater dish tomorrow morning? My gut tells me Sabine. She’s playing like a woman on a mission as though this is her destiny. Others have pointed to Marion’s resurgence, and this golden opportunity for a “do-over” final to win the title that was denied by Venus Williams.

Let’s take a look at their previous match history along with their paths to the final for some clues.

Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15] v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23]

H2H: Sabine leads 3-1

Marion won their first encounter on grass (first round Wimbledon 2008). Since then it’s been one-way traffic for Sabine in their next three matches: two on clay in Charleston (’09 and ’11), and their last on grass in the 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Both have struggled for consistent results since. In 2012, Sabine did no better than the quarterfinals of any tournament she played. Her struggles coincided with Angelique Kerber’s rise to the top 10. In fact, she even lost to Angelique at Wimbledon in the quarters after her semifinal showing the year before. 2013 has been significantly better for Sabine, with finals in Pattaya and Memphis mixed in with other lesser results. Not quite her best level, but a definite step up.

Marion has had her struggles as well, notably with her consistency, fitness and her coaching situation. After a strong start to her 2012 season, she suffered several first/second round losses. There were injuries, illnesses, and the much-publicized struggles of having her father as her coach. This Wimbledon final is the standout moment of a tough 2013 season without her coach/father by her side.

So in terms of relative trajectory based on the year, Sabine has the clear edge. But I think the stronger indicator of how this match will play out can be gleaned from their respective paths through the draw.

Marion’s draw was, as one friend put it, “fluff”. Sloane Stephens (17) and Kirsten Flipkens (20) were the highest ranked opponents she faced, and she obliterated Flipkens in the semifinals 6-1 6-2. Yes, Marion had to earn her victories, but the cost was fairly minimal.

By contrast, Sabine faced (and conquered) newly-crowned Eastbourne champ Elena Vesnina, Samantha Stosur (14), Agnieszka Radwanska (4), and world No. 1 Serena Williams. She had to come back from a 0-3 third-set deficit not once, but twice against both Serena and Aga. To say that Sabine’s been tested (and passed with flying colors) would be an understatement.

Sabine is about as ready for this final as a player could be. She’s gotten the better of Marion in their past matches, and she’s beaten the best in the world on the court where she plays her best tennis. She’s had a few too many unforced errors for my liking, but is fit, happy, and overall playing great tennis.

I expect Marion will fight hard, because she’s a great fighter, though it won’t be enough to overcome Sabine. In the end, having her toughest test of the fortnight come in the finals will be too much to overcome: especially against a player with Sabine’s momentum. She might take a set from Sabine, but there will be no Wimbledon title.

Sabine in three sets for the Wimbledon title

PostHeaderIcon Wimbledon Women’s Semifinal Picks: No Clear Favorites

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Apart from Aga Radwanska, no one could ever have envisioned this particular final foursome at the start of the Wimbledon fortnight. But on semifinal eve of one of the craziest Wimbledons in memory, this is what we got!

Sabine has worked her way through the draw as if it’s her destiny to win the title. Aga’s fight and defense have come to life in a way that was missing during the clay season. Kirsten has knocked out a former champion. And Marion has played well to put herself in a position to win the title that wasn’t meant to be in 2007.

All of them are deserving semifinalists, but there’s no one clear favorite for the title. First things first though… who’s moving on to the finals? Let’s take a look at the semifinal match-ups to find out.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] (Match of the day!)

H2H: Tied at 1-all

Honestly, there isn’t much in their head-to-head that can predict the outcome of this match. Both matches were played on hard courts, and the last was played in early 2012. They are both different players now, and very different players on grass.  Sabine beat Aga at the Bank of the West in ’11 in three tough error-filled sets. Aga beat Sabine in two easy sets in Dubai in ’12. I think the BOTW encounter will be more likely.

Look for Sabine to be the aggressor.  She’ll make a ton of mistakes, but will also end up being rewarded for her aggression. Aga has upped her aggression level, and showed it to good effect against Li Na in the quarterfinals. But I believe that Sabine, playing like a woman possessed, is seemingly destined to make it to the finals. Also, Aga has played some long matches and her legs are beginning to show the fatigue. If she can’t surprise Sabine with a win in straight sets, she’s not going to win in three.

Sabine in three.

Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) [20]

H2H: No record

These two haven’t played one another, so there’s not a lot to go on for predicting how this match might play out. The one differentiator I see is the fact that Marion has been “there” before, which should count for something. She knows what to expect from this big moment on the big stage, and should be able to better focus on her tennis than a player who’s never previously made it past the fourth round of a Slam.

Marion in two.

Wimbledon Final: Sabine Lisicki v Marion Bartoli

PostHeaderIcon Wimbledon Quarterfinal Picks Now That Serena Is OUT

Steve Wake/AELTC

Steve Wake/AELTC

I don’t know about anyone else, but I still haven’t recovered from Serena’s shocking loss to Sabine Lisicki in Monday’s fourth round action. The presumptive favorite (the stencil for the wall of champions was probably already prepared) has joined Sharapova and Azarenka on the sidelines.

But with only a day break between the fourth round and the quarters, I must now move on to evaluate the women that are left in the draw; all of whom have a great chance of winning a first (or second) Wimbledon title. Here are my picks for the quarters.

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Na Li (CHN) [6]

H2H: Na leads 6-4

This quarterfinal features two players who could each go on to win the title. They’ve played 3 times on grass, and Aga has won 2 of those.  Na won their last meeting, but that was back in 2010. So it’s relevance to this quarterfinal is pretty suspect.

In a battle of smarts, guile, and variety versus power and shot-making, this match hinges on Li Na’s ability to execute her shots cleanly with few errors. If she does, this could be pretty one-sided. If Li Na hits short and has too many unforced errors, Aga will be able to frustrate her by working the ball around the court and diffusing her power game.

Unfortunately, Aga has struggled in her last two matches while Li Na has played better with each round. That’s why I’m going with Li Na over last year’s finalist, Aga.

(Note – I’m feeling like this could be Li Na’s year to win the whole thing. We’ll find out soon enough if I’m correct.)

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [8] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) [20]

H2H: Kirsten leads 2-1

Surprisingly, Kirsten leads their head-to-head and won their last match in Miami by a score of 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. But this is Wimbledon, and Petra – however inconsistent she may be – is a former champion. And when she makes clean contact with the ball, she’s untouchable. Added to that the fact that Kirsten hasn’t played any seeded players so far, and I like Petra’s chances to come through. But in a tournament filled with upsets, nothing is certain for any higher-ranked player.

Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] v Kaia Kanepi (EST)

H2H: No record

Sabine the Giant Killer is on a roll this Wimbledon, and her stunning win over Serena  Williams will lead the highlight reel. She’s playing well, playing bravely, loves the grass, and loves the atmosphere. Kaia has played some pretty nervy tennis in this tournament, and came close to finding herself in a third set against Laura Robson today. I like Kaia a lot, but brave is not how I’d describe her play; and that’s what’s going to win these later round. So look for Sabine to continue on to the semifinals.

Sloane Stephens (USA) [17] v Marion Bartoli (FRA) [15]

H2H: Marion leads 1-0

This is gonna be a funky match. Marion’s played well to get to this stage in the tournament, but could always fall victim to the inconsistency that plagues her game. On the other side, Sloane has gotten through her matches but it’s been pretty patchy. I never once felt certain that she would win either of her last two matches until she won match point. In the end, a win is a win. And each of those wins might help her against the more experienced Marion.

In her post-match press conference, Serena picked Sloane to go all the way. Whether she was serious or not, we’ll never know. But I’m picking Marion for the win because of her experience at Wimbledon.  Still, I hope that Sloane can make things interesting with another three-setter.

PostHeaderIcon Wimbledon Deja Vu: Can Anyone Stop Serena?

AELTC

AELTC

The knee-jerk answer is “No”. The actual answer is “Yes, and her name is Serena”. Such is the nature of a champion who can rarely be beaten if she plays her best and remains engaged. So although Serena is the prohibitive favorite, I won’t hand her the Venus Rosewater dish just yet (however tempted I may be). Let’s let her earn it first.

The real drama at this year’s Wimbledon is over who will be Serena’s opponent in the final. Most expect Maria, but I’m not so sure about that. Let’s break down the women’s draw for our likely quarterfinalists, semifinalist, and losing finalist to Serena.

TOP HALF

Top Quarter – [1] Serena Williams! That is all.

To be fair, there are other women vying for the title in this quarter. They won’t get past Serena, but hopefully they can make things interesting for us.  The first is unseeded Zheng Jie. She hits a hard flat ball and is unbothered by Serena’s pace. This potential R2 match might be Serena’s toughest test of the tournament at a time when she’s most vulnerable to upset.

After Zheng, Serena’s likely R16 opponent will be either Sabine Lisicki, a past Wimbledon semifinalist, or Elena Vesnina, the new Eastbourne champ. Either might put up some resistance to the Serena juggernaut, but it’s unlikely. Expect to see Serena in the quarterfinals and beyond.

On the other side of this quarter, it will be a battle between [10] Maria Kirilenko and [8] Angelique Kerber. Kerber was one of last year’s semifinalists, but has struggled with consistent results in 2013. Maria has been a model of consistency, and is comfortable on grass. So I’ll give this R16 battle to Maria. And we all know what’s going to happen after that in the quarters…

Bottom Quarter – [4] Aga Radwanska will earn the Serena rematch

Last year’s final could happen in this year’s semifinals if Aga Radwanska plays her cards right for another crack at Serena on grass. That means getting through a probable R16 match with Nadia Petrova before taking on Simona Halep from the bottom section of this quarter.

I’m going with Simona over Li Na because she’s playing great tennis these days. She lost only one set en route to the Topshelf Open title in S-Hertogenbosch, and solid players like Vinci, Suarez Navarro, and Flipkens along the way. Li Na has made it to the quarters of Wimbledon in the past, but not since 2010. Clay and hard courts are her strong suit: grass is not. Nod to Simona.

Aga leads the H2H with Simona 3-1. And on this bigger stage I expect the bigger stage player to rise to the top. Therefore, it’s Aga over Simona, followed by Serena over Aga.

BOTTOM HALF

Top Quarter – [3] Maria Sharapova over [5] Sara Errani…again

Honestly, there’s not much about this quarter that’s compelling or interesting in terms of drama (that is, other than Sloane Stephens versus Jamie Hampton).

Jamie could liven things up in this quarter if she continues her fine play from Eastbourne. And Marion Bartoli, a past finalist, could also add some much-needed drama into the mix if she can rekindle some of the magic from her past successes on grass. But other than those two, this quarter will likely come down to the expected quarterfinal between Maria and Sara.

With a 4-0 H2H over Sara, Maria has beaten the Italian on clay and hard courts (most recently in the quarters of the Sony Open). I guess it’s time to add grass to the list.

Bottom Quarter – Is this [2] Victoria Azarenka’s moment?

With most of the talk centering on Serena and Maria, I’m thinking that this might possibly be Vika’s moment to shine at Wimbledon. Look for Vika in the semifinals after defeating past champion [8] Petra Kvitova.

Before the match with Petra, Vika will likely have a R16 match with the always interesting and dramatic, [16] Jelena Jankovic. (Jelena’s dramatics should more than make up for the lack of it in the above quarter.) Jelena has pulled her game back together after a pretty dreadful 2012. But aside from her down the line backhand, she doesn’t have the firepower to match shots with Vika on a fast surface.

Petra’s R16 opponent will most likely be [12] Ana Ivanovic, and Ana’s issue in this match is similar to Jelena’s against Vika. Apart from her forehand, Ana also doesn’t have the firepower to beat Petra; that is, unless Petra goes on one of her infamous Clijsters-esque walkabouts. It’s not likely, but you never know with Petra.

QUARTERFINALS

Williams v Kirilenko, Radwanska v Halep, Errani v Sharapova, Kvitova v Azarenka

SEMIFINALS

Williams v Radwanska

Sharapova v Azarenka

FINAL

Serena Williams defeats Victoria Azarenka for her sixth Wimbledon title.

PostHeaderIcon French Open “Shock or Not?”: Weekend Edition

© FFT

© FFT

Finally! No rain and great playing conditions at the French Open this weekend.  There were also a couple of unexpected results, which means that it’s time for a weekend edition of “Shock or Not?” as we head into the final R16 matches.

Rafael Nadal defeats Fabio Fognini – Shock or Not? Not

Rafa’s win over Fabio wasn’t a shock.  But his ability to win when he’s playing absolutely sub-par tennis is beyond shocking.

Novak Djokovic defeats Grigor Dimitrov – Shock or Not? Not

Novak’s win over Grigor wasn’t a shock, but the beatdown he gave was certainly payback for Madrid.  The only shock from this match was that Grigor didn’t cramp.  Then again, he wasn’t on court long enough to cramp.

Kei Nishikori defeats Benoit Paire – Shock or Not? Shock

Paire has been playing good tennis this spring, and was poised for a breakthrough.  Kei is a great player, but still doesn’t have the most extensive clay CV. So yes it was a shock. And Paire’s complete mental meltdown after the “point penalty for coaching” episode was, sadly, so very French…

Francesca Schiavone defeats Marion Bartoli – Shock or Not? Shock

It was a shock that Francesca beat Marion, and a double shock that she beat her so badly. Three games? Oh Marion.

Jelena Jankovic defeats Samantha Stosur – Shock or Not? Not

At first glance it was a shock… until I saw their head-to-head record. Jelena leads 6-2 and hasn’t lost to Sam since 2010. Yep, it’s one more bad matchup for Sam to go with so many of her other bad matchups.

Jamie Hampton defeats Petra Kvitova – Shock or Not? Shock

Even with Petra’s inconsistent play, getting beat by a player outside of the top 50 is more than shocking.  Someone needs to get this train back on the track…and quickly before she heads to SW19.

Roger Federer defeats Gilles Simon – Shock or Not? Not

Roger’s defeat of Gilles Simon, in and of itself, is not a shock. BUT… his fall during the match was a big shock: like when a graceful gazelle trips over its’ hooves and unceremoniously falls down, injuring itself in the process. Another shock from that match was watching Gilles Simon hitting a hard ball (as opposed to his normal slower pace). Gilles’ inability to close the deal against Roger? Sadly, that wasn’t a shock, and (again) it’s so very French.

David Ferrer defeats Kevin Anderson – Shock or Not? Not

David’s win over Kevin wasn’t a shock given David’s rock solid play as the tour’s perennial No. 5. Kevin’s inability to win more than 5 games in 3 sets? A complete shock, including extra shock points for double faults on break points. Then again, that’s the kind of pressure that someone like Ferrer can place on a good opponent.

Tommy Robredo defeats Nicolas Almagro – Shock or Not? Shock

Tommy had never beaten Nico, and also hadn’t played a five-set match since 2009. So yes, it was a shock.  But it was also a beautiful win, and extremely touching to see just how much it meant to him as the tears fell.

Enrique Molina giving Benoit Paire a point penalty for a coaching violation – Shock or Not? Shock

The prevalence of coaching on both tours is rampant, so to single out a player like Benoit, and not one of the top guys, is a little ridiculous.  And to call it at a crucial stage in the match was also a “tough” call, to say the least. I’m not saying that umpires shouldn’t call violations as they see them, but a consistent application of the rules to all players would have made this event much less notable.

PostHeaderIcon My New French Open Feature: “Shock or Not?”

© FFT

© FFT

Welcome to a new feature that I’m trying out during this year’s French Open. It’s called “Shock or Not?” Sometimes an upset isn’t really that much of an upset.  Other times, an expected win can be anything but! Here are a few match results (and one style question) that fit nicely into this format. Let me know what you think.

Gael Monfils defeats Tomas Berdych – Shock or Not? YES

Tomas came into the French Open with decent results from the spring clay court swing, including semifinal appearances in Madrid and Rome, and a defeat of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Rome. More importantly, his head seemed to be in a better place without the crippling big point tightness. All of that went out of the window against the French showman Monfils. All in all, not only was it a SHOCK loss, it was also a really BAD one too.

Gael Monfils defeats Ernests Gulbis – Shock or Not? YES

This shock is a little more qualified than my earlier shock at Gael’s defeat of Berdych.  Whereas Berdych has performed consistently at this level, Gulbis’ run of form could easily go sideways at any time and then back to brilliant in the next tournament. What shocks me more is that Gael’s body recovered pretty well after the Berdych match. Let’s see if he’s so fortunate in his third-round encounter.

Benoit Paire defeats Marcos Baghdatis – Shock or Not? YES

Not necessarily the win, but I expected the match to go five tough dramatic sets…and it did not. But then again, this is not the same Marcos from a few years ago.

Urszula Radwanska defeats Venus Williams – Shock or Not? NO

Urszula is a tough opponent, so I knew this would be a tough one for the physically-challenged Venus. Though Urszula was never going to go deep at Roland Garros, she was more than capable of taking a few scalps along the way.  And with the combination of a bad back, decreased energy/training, and a slow clay surface, this was a bad draw for Venus.

Dinah Pfizenmaier defeats Urszula Radwanska – Shock or Not? YES

Just when you think Urszula’s reached her breakthrough moment, she falls at the next hurdle. There may have been a letdown after the tough match against Venus, but there’s still no excuse for an easy 3 and 3 loss in the next round to No. 127 (unless she just wasn’t up to playing big sister, Aga, if she’d won).

Marion Bartoli defeats Olga Govortsova – Shock or Not? NO

Though it should be a shock that Marion would be so thoroughly tested by a woman ranked 50 spots below her, their head-to-head was 2-1 for Marion with two of those matches going the distance. Their last meeting at the 2011 French Open was a similar 3-set affair.  Olga had her chance to turn this match-up round, but failed.  Maybe next time, Olga.

Jamie Hampton defeats Lucie Safarova – Shock or Not? YES

Lucie is a strong player, clay or otherwise. Jamie, however, is riding high on momentum and confidence after a finals showing in Brussels. To that I say, “Ride on girlfriend!”

Melanie Oudin defeats Tamira Paszek – Shock or Not? YES

No slight to Melanie, but anytime she makes it to the second round of a slam these days is GREAT!

Caroline Wozniacki defeats Laura Robson – Shock or Not? YES

After poor play this spring, I was shocked to see that Caroline tuned Laura so easily in straight sets. I’m not sure if this says more about Caroline’s resurgence than it does about the tremendous amount of work that Laura needs to do. (UPDATE: Caro is out in the second round to Jovanovski.)

Serena wins so easily wearing full eye makeup – Shock or Not? YES

I realize of course that it’s not really full eye makeup with the lack of shadow and fake eyelashes, but come on?! Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I’m shocked that she’s never had a combination of sweat/eye makeup derail her on court. Then again, when the scorelines are as one-sided as she’s produced, there hasn’t been a lot of sweat.

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