Posts Tagged ‘Coco Vandeweghe’

PostHeaderIcon Sloane, Paul, and Conflicts of Interest: A Wimbledon Day Three “Shock or Not”

Sloane Stephens (Chris Raphael/AELTC)

Sloane Stephens (Chris Raphael/AELTC)

Sloane Stephens, and her coach Paul Annacone, lead the way for my first tournament upset “Shock or Not” of the fortnight. Wondering why I included her coach? Let’s just call it a case of “Conflict of Interest” Shock. Read on for those bits, in addition to thoughts on losses by Stosur, Gulbis, Ferrer, and more.

Maria Kirilenko defeats Sloane Stephens: Shock or Not? Sadly, but predictably, NOT.

Kirilenko, someone who’s coming off of an injury-plagued year, played a very good match. However, that has nothing to do with the ever-growing body of disappointing efforts from Sloane.

I’d hate to say that I’ve kind of given up on Sloane, but I’ve kind of given up on Sloane; at least until she can stop playing the martyr. We (in the media) are not the enemy, and we don’t all want her to fail. We simply want her to stop acting like an entitled American player who enjoys the perks/money of sporting fame but doesn’t put in the effort that’s necessary to continue warranting those perks.

What was once a genuine freshness in the interview room has turned into (way too much) attitude for the on-court display of nonchalance. For what it’s worth, my advice is cut the snark, put your head down, get to work and prove us wrong!

Sloane coach Paul Annacone from her Twitter account.

Sloane coach Paul Annacone from her Twitter account.

Paul Annacone, Sloane Stephens’ coach, once again did NOT recuse himself from on-air analysis after her loss: Shock or Not? Label this a “Conflict of Interest” Shock.

Paul Annacone shouldn’t have said one word about Sloane’s match in the Tennis channel commentary afterward on Wimbledon Primetime. But he did. And what he said was stunning for its’ lack of objectivity in breaking down Sloane’s performance in that match. This may not bother others, but I’m going to have a difficult time taking him seriously after this one.

The conflicts of interest in tennis are numerous and sometimes almost legendary. For example, think back to all of the times Mary Jo Fernandez would commentate on Federer only to join her husband, Fed’s ex-agent, in his Roger’s player box at big matches.

Mary Jo’s actions always bothered me, but this one with Annacone bothered me more. Sloane pays him. So it only stands to reason that he’s not going to give as honest a critique of her efforts as other commentators will who aren’t on her payroll. That is the appearance that was suggested to me from his analysis, or lack thereof; particularly so because he offered little more than an agreement with her own assessment of the match.

Integrity matters, and the appearance that it could be lacking in the commentary booth matters more. I’m not saying that Annacone doesn’t have integrity, but I am saying that his comments on his employer appeared disingenuous because of their relationship.

Samantha Stosur (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Samantha Stosur (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Yanina Wickmayer defeats Samantha Stosur: Shock or Not? Absolutely Not.

Back after 2012 disappointments at Wimbledon and the Olympics, I asked Sam if she was glad to finally be off the grass for the season, she said: “Yeah. I’m not that sad that I’m off of it for another year or so.” Take a look at her record on the green stuff and you’ll quickly understand why this was no shock, no matter what her seed was coming into the tournament. Hopefully she regains some mojo back on the American hard courts.

Sergiy Stakhovsky defeats Ernests Gulbis: Shock or Not? Shock.

Ernests has never done well at Wimbledon, but I’d hoped that  his maturity as a player over this past year would translate to a better performance at this year’s Championships. Perhaps I should have known otherwise after hearing that he made quips about not wanting to be a quote machine, then followed up by promptly talking about vampires in his next press conference.

Andrey Kuznetsov defeats David Ferrer: Shock or Not? Shock, but…

It’s never a good sign when a player’s camp is silent to the extent that Ferrer’s camp was prior to the start of Wimbledon. Stomach issues kept him from playing last week, and that surely had to play into his loss against the upstart Kuznetsov. Lack of play isn’t great preparation for a grinder like Ferrer. It also doesn’t help that Kuznetsov is a former junior champion at Wimbledon.

Lauren Davis defeats Flavia Pennetta: Shock or Not? Not.

This was a great win for Davis, who’s managed a few upset scares over the past couple of years. Apart from Davis, Flavia had her moment in the 2014 sun at Indian Wells. Unfortunately, it’s going to get any brighter than that for her the rest of the season.

Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini reaches the third round: Shock or Not? Yep…Shock.

I expected an early exit for Fabio, but he proved me wrong. However, he did NOT fail to disappoint on the court; amassing $27,500 in fines for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now THAT’S the Fabio we’ve all come to know and love!

Bojana Jovanovski defeats Victoria Azarenka: Shock or Not? Not.

In my preview piece of the women’s draw, I said that Vika was going “to have virtually no impact at this Wimbledon”. That was pretty much the case after a tough first-round win that was immediately followed by and even tougher second-round loss. I knew she wouldn’t go far, but I didn’t expect the screaming Bojana Jovanovski to send her packing.
(Yes, there was value judgement in that comment.)

Tereza Smitkova defeats Coco Vandeweghe: Shock or Not? Disappointing, but No Shock.

With a wonderful serve and power to rival Serena, many of us would love to see Coco consistently perform at the top level of her game. This is especially true after her first WTA title win at the Top Shelf Open. But it all came crashing back to earth in a second round loss. Still a great run for her…

PostHeaderIcon Serena Williams’ Tough Road to Number 6 at SW19: My Wimbledon Women’s Preview

Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

As I wrote in my piece on Serena Williams’ Centre Court snub, few players can so effectively use perceived wrongdoings to their advantage as Serena. She generally plays her best tennis when she feels she’s got something to prove. However, this year’s Wimbledon draw is a pretty tough ‘ask’. Can Patrick help her get through it for a sixth Wimbledon crown? We’ll find out soon enough. Here are my thoughts on this year’s draw, and why I see no clear favorites for the title.

(* – Expected R16 matches)

Top Half, Top Quarter

Serena Williams [1] – Eugenie Bouchard [13] *

Wildcards: Cornet (Williams), Petkovic (Bouchard)

Angelique Kerber [9] – Maria Sharapova [5] *

Wildcards: Flipkens (Kerber), Pavlyuchenkova or Riske or Giorgi (Sharapova)

The expected quarterfinal match with Maria isn’t the tough part for Serena. That comes earlier when she has to get by Alize Cornet, the woman who sent her packing in Dubai. After that comes with a potential R16 match against the winner of French Open semifinalists: Genie Bouchard or Andrea Petkovic. Either will be a tough opponent at a stage in the tournament when a No. 1 seed might least expect it.

The bottom section presents its’ own challenges for Kerber and Sharapova. Kerber, finalist at Eastbourne, could be derailed by Kirsten Flipkens, last year’s semifinalist. And Sharapova has a particularly tricky trio to overcome with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Allison Riske, or Camilla Giorgi.

Each woman is capable of an early upset, and Maria will need to bring her “A” game right away. The same holds true of Serena. She’s got to be “bring it”, no matter what court she’s scheduled to play. Can they both do it? I think so, but there’s no guarantee that we won’t end up seeing a Bouchard-Giorgi quarterfinal either.

(UPDATE: I’ll update this quarter with the caveat that IF Serena successfully makes it to the quarters, she’s got a good chance of going all the way.)

Top Half, Bottom Quarter

Simona Halep [3] – Carla Suarez Navarro [15] *

Wildcards: Vinci (Suarez Navarro)

Ana Ivanovic [11] – Jelena Jankovic [7] *

Wildcards: Lisicki (Ivanovic), Townsend or Keys or Shvedova (Jankovic)

The top section of this quarter is likely to end with the expected R16 match between Halep and Suarez Navarro. Roberta Vinci could pose a slight threat to CSN, but I think the Spaniard has too much game to be derailed.

The bottom section of this quarter has much more potential for drama, especially after Madison Keys’ win in Eastbourne for her first WTA title, and first on grass. Add Taylor Townsend and heavy-hitter Yaroslava Shvedova to the mix and Jelena Jankovic is going to have a tough time making it to R16, let alone the quarters.

After vanquishing Jankovic, Keys could do the same to Ivanovic. From there, I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb in predicting a Halep-Keys quarterfinal.

Bottom Half, Top Quarter

Victoria Azarenka [8] – Dominika Cibulkova [10] *

Wildcards: Vandeweghe or Muguruza (Azarenka), Safarova (Cibulkova)

Sara Errani [14] – Agnieszka Radwanska [4] *

Wildcards: Garcia or Pironkova or Makarova (Errani), Kuznetsova (Radwanska)

It’s good to have Vika back in the mix, but she’s going to have virtually no impact at this Wimbledon. So look for the top section of this quarter to be about as wide open as you can get with Cibulkova, Garbine Muguruza, Lucie Safarova, and TopShelf champion Coco Vandeweghe all vying for the top quarterfinal spot.

On the bottom, look for Tsvetana Pironkova or Ekaterina Makarova to knock Errani out of contention. And depending on which Svetlana shows up in London, Kuznetsova has a chance at knocking out Radwanska given her current level of play. Grass isn’t her best surface, but you never know.

In figuring out the quarterfinalists, the top section is a crapshoot. Vika is a non-starter. Vandeweghe’s win at TopShelf doesn’t take away from her past inconsistencies.  Muguruza’s past Wimbledon results don’t bode well. And Cibulkova and Safarova are 50-50 crapshoots. For lack of any other compelling evidence, I’ll (half-heartedly) go with Cibulkova-Radwanska.

Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter

Petra Kvitova [6] – Flavia Pennetta [12] *

Wildcards: V. Williams (Kvitova), Stephens (Pennetta)

Caroline Wozniacki [16] – Na Li [2] *

Wildcards: Stosur (Wozniacki)

I’d love to see Venus Williams have a good run at Wimbledon, but there are too many dependencies for her to go deep. R16, however is doable if the weather isn’t too hot and she can minimize her court time. From there, maybe a quarterfinal match-up against Sloane Stephens. I’d give Petra more of a chance if she weren’t so inconsistent: a sad statement in reference to a former Wimbledon champion.

The bottom section will likely play out as expected with Caroline Wozniacki facing off against Li Na in the other R16 match. To be honest, I don’t expect a ton of great tennis, or even clean tennis. I do, however, expect them both to get the job done. They’ve never played each other on grass, but Li holds a 4-2 H2H lead. So the nod goes to her for the quarters.

I’m wary of more Sloane disappointment, but will go ahead and give her the nod in the top section for a Stephens-Li quarterfinal.

Quarterfinal Picks

Williams – Sharapova, Halep – Keys, Cibulkova – Radwanska, Stephens – Li

Notable First-Round Matches

A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [26] v Alison Riske (USA)

Klara Koukalova (CZE) [31] v Taylor Townsend (USA)

Madison Keys (USA) v Monica Puig (PUR)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [27]

PostHeaderIcon The Myth of Sam Stosur’s Slide From Greatness

Sam Stosur at the BNP Paribas Open

Sam Stosur at the BNP Paribas Open

After a third-round loss to qualifier Coco Vandeweghe at the Sony Open (7-5, 5-7, 5-7), Sam Stosur continues a ’14 season that started on a positive note in Hobart, but has since returned to a disappointing norm.

stosur-miles

Sam with coach Miles Maclagan

Words are useless these days in describing the torture of watching a Sam Stosur loss. Rarely has an ex-Slam champion and top-ranked player frustrated so many with exasperating results from one week to the next. Need proof? Think back to last year’s puzzling Stanford loss to Olga Govortsova followed by an equally puzzling Carlsbad title win over Vika Azarenka.

The “how’s” and “why’s” of Sam’s performance fluctuations aren’t easy to answer. An obvious go-to is always a player’s coach. David Taylor, the longtime coach that helped her achieve the big win in New York, was let go after the win over Azarenka in Carlsbad. There was no animus in the split, simply a mutual parting of ways. In short, nothing that would explain a drop in her results.

Sam flew solo from the summer season through Sofia, and then realized that she preferred having a coach. So she hired Miles Maclagan, a noteworthy from his past work with Andy Murray. She began working with Maclagan in December, and the results so far in 2014 appear underwhelming.

Looks can be deceiving, however. One can’t really be underwhelmed with Sam’s results when the prevailing evidence, her WTA win-loss record, actually points to a “more of the same” performance level. An examination of her record over the past five years reveals a remarkably consistent, and winning, win-loss percentage.

2009 39 wins – 21 losses (.65)
2010 47 wins – 19 losses (.71)
2011 45 wins – 23 losses (.66)
2012 44 wins – 24 losses (.66)
2013 42 wins – 23 losses (.65)

stosur-practice

There’s a slight uptick from 2009 to 2010 as she made her move up the rankings, and an equivalent downtick as she settled into her new status. Overall though, the numbers are fairly consistent in terms of the mid-40 range for her # of wins, and low-20 range for her # of losses.

In spite of her relative consistency, the perception is that Sam comes up short in big matches, and under-performs on a weekly basis. One could quibble that the plus/minus range on her losses represent potentially career-changing matches, but we can’t speculate in what could have happened if only…

Such discussions are often lively, but players don’t win titles via “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. Sam’s missed opportunities are what they are, and need to be replaced with new ones. Whether Maclagan is the one to help her get there is anyone’s guess. A coach can only do so much if the player isn’t able to effectively execute.

That leads to a larger discussion of what many feel is Sam’s biggest liability. Her lack of winning results, at least in the big matches, seems to be more one of Sam’s temperament affecting her ability to execute under duress than of technical or strategic issues.

Sam is a likable player, but there’s an air of vulnerability that comes across when talking with her. Unfortunately for her, it’s also readily apparent on court to her opponents. When pressed, Sam starts to press in her game, and eventually succumbs to her demons (and defeat). The only time I remember NOT seeing that side of her was in her winning US Open final match against Serena.

For once, there were no nerves; just the flawless execution of a clear strategy to take down the favorite. The frustration comes for us when we’ve seen her do such a great job of it one moment, then crashing out in a late-night flourish as in her match to Vandeweghe.

The truth is that tennis has never been that simplistic. Though we all would have loved to see her continue in that winning vein, she might never see another Slam final. Some players learn from their matches, regardless of success or failure, and some don’t. Her record speaks for itself: Sam will win, but not the matches we want her to win, and not on our timetable.

So rather than bemoan Sam’s great slide from Slam champion to forgotten player in the upper echelons of the WTA, we should celebrate a player who consistently performs at a top level. Maybe it’s a level that’s below our expectations, but that’s our issue and not hers. For better or worse, Sam is right where she’s always been.

PostHeaderIcon Ten Final Thoughts on My Insider Week at the Bank of the West

domi-press
I usually reserve these “Ten Final Thoughts” columns for the big events.  However, after spending a week on the ground at Stanford, eating and breathing the sights/sounds of tennis, I think I can muster up some decent observations from this year’s Bank of the West Classic. Let’s start with “buzz”, or lack thereof…

  1. This year’s tournament attendance suffered from a distinct lack of WTA star power. I love Aga Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova, but it’s not the same as having Serena, Maria, and Vika at an event. Even Marion Bartoli would have made a difference because she won Wimbledon. And let’s face facts: “Slamholders fill seats”.
  2. With a solid weekend of line calling under my belt, I have a much greater appreciation for what goes into being a good line umpire. It’s not easy, and those guys do a great job.  For all of you who think you could do better, ask your buddies if you can call lines for them sometime. You’ll change your tune pretty quickly.
  3. Cibulkova-Stanford-13-PB-MALT4580Dominika played a great match in the final to avenge an earlier double-bagel loss to Aga in Sydney. She put fate into her own hands and bravely went for her shots throughout the 2.5 hour match. Many sailed way past the lines.  But more often than not, they found their mark as untouchable winners. That’s saying a lot against a brilliant defensive player like Aga.  She hopes to carry this high level of consistency through to the US Open.  That makes two of us.
  4. agaEven with her loss in the final, Aga is one of the best and most unique players on tour. She isn’t tall or muscular, but manages to stay in rallies with taller and stronger opponents using excellent anticipation, defense, and a thinking game that you need to see to appreciate. Dominika rarely saw the same shot twice in the final because Aga used every trick in the book to keep her from teeing off on the ball. (Roger Federer often utilizes the same strategy.) It might not work against Serena, but it can against both Maria and Vika. And how about those mind-boggling deep knee bends on her backhand?
  5. Jamie Hampton had a great week at Stanford, but clearly wasn’t up to the task in the semifinals.  The gap between her and those at the top of the game was laid bare against Aga: consistency on her serve toss plus variety of serve, footwork, consistency on her shots to name a few. BUT… the upside is tremendous! She hits like she means it, goes for her shots, and isn’t afraid to come to the net.  The current buzz is with Madison and Sloane, but you can put my vote in the Jamie column. (Note: To be honest, I like them all for different reasons.)
    jamie
  6. I’m not quite sure what to say about Madison Keys. Her loss to Vera Dushevina was unsettling because she looked mentally lost on court. I realize that she’s young and has a ways to go in terms of growing into her game, but the hype machine is already working overtime in pushing her to a status she might not be able to live up to. There are, however, a lot of positives with her game. She’s got a great serve, and her big forehand is a huge weapon when it’s consistent. Her serve effectiveness will improve when she can better move it around the box, and her forehand will become more assured when her footwork improves.  Here’s hoping that the hype machine leaves her alone this summer.
  7. Daniela Hantuchova played doubles and singles at Stanford.  A tour veteran for many years, she’s well-known for her model-esque looks. By that, I mean she’s known to (and popular with) many heterosexual men who could usually care less about women’s tennis. Anyway, I was talking to a friend by the upper walkway stadium entrance When Daniela came in to see someone in the player’s lounge. The security guy, bless his heart, said: “Excuse me miss, so you have a credential?” My jaw hit the ground. What do you think: security faux pas or not? 😉
  8. The early part of the US Open Series is problematic!  Top players are reluctant to put effort into the early events (prior to Rogers Cup) because there’s no payoff… other than (maybe) appearance fees.  Others are reluctant to play the early events because it means a longer financial burden for them in terms of travel and coaching fees through the US Open. Additionally, other players opt out of the initial Series events because of the increasing amount of tournaments played closer to home (and on clay) in Europe and S. America. Without all of these players, most of whom are marquee, the tournaments can’t bring in the crowds. And we saw what happened with the SAP Open, right?
  9. Speaking of Hantuchova, she played doubles with Lisa Raymond. Talk about opposites! On another note, Coco Vandeweghe, last year’s finalist, made it through qualies into the main draw. This is noteworthy because it gave me a chance to see her coach, Jan- Michael Gambill, up close and (not) personal. I swear to God he looks no different now than when he was playing on the ATP tour. I wonder where he keeps his aging portrait?
  10. When I start using Dorian Gray references, it’s time to wrap things up. I had a great time at this year’s event, and would like to give particular thanks to Karen P. at Tennis Panorama; not just for the credential, but her support as well. I’d also like to thank the folks at the USTA who allowed me to do line umpire duties the first weekend, and for trusting that I know the separation of my duties as an official and as a member of the media. To be honest though, I certainly hope that my next visit to the Bank of the West will be as a linesman for the entire week.

Take care all!

PostHeaderIcon Bank of the West Round-Up for Wednesday (7/24)

Aga-slides-to-a-ball

Radwanska Wins the “Battle of Crafty” Against Schiavone at Stanford

In an entertaining match that lived up to its’ billing as a battle between two of the craftiest players on the WTA tour, Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-3 in the featured night match at the Bank of the West Classic.

Francesca came into the match with a slight 4-3 lead in their career head-to-head, but Aga was the one coming into the match with the momentum, having won their last three meetings. After tonight’s straight-set win, make that four!

The conditions on the stadium court were perfect. As the match began, both players took their time in the first few rallies to find the range on their shots while also probing for any signs of weakness in their opponent. Aga struck pay dirt first: with excellent defense, solid net play, and aggressive hitting on her serve and forehand.

It was a different story on the other side of the net for Francesca. Against Mallory Burdette, she’d managed to quickly find the depth on her strokes to keep her Mallory pinned back on the baseline. On this night against Aga, Francesca struggled to keep the ball on the court.

Aga-presser

With unforced errors flying from both wings of Francesca’s racquet, Aga jumped out to a 5-1 lead in a “battle” that was starting to look more like a rout! But with her back up against the wall (and Aga serving for the set at 40-15), Francesca finally found her range and began hitting out with a vengeance. She fought back to break Aga’s serve in that game, and secured a second break to bring the match back on serve at 4-5.

Unfortunately for Francesca, her comeback ended with a double fault on set point. To her credit, she continued to battle hard in the second set, but was unable to maintain the high level of play that had helped her mount a comeback in the first.

The second set offered more of the same, with Aga clearly up to the task on Francesca’s sliced shots. And in a welcome contrast to the first set, Aga successfully served out the second to book her spot in Friday’s quarterfinals.

This match may not have gone the distance, as many had hoped, but it did feature some fine shot-making from both women: including deft drop shots, beautifully-placed lobs, and a reflex backhand crosscourt slice drop shot from Aga that was reminiscent of a similar reflex shot that she hit in Miami.

When asked about the shot afterward, even Aga admitted thinking, “Oh my God, it’s in again!” Now that she’s gotten the first match under her belt and is more familiar with the conditions at Taube, Aga’s going to be very tough to beat for the Stanford title.

Varvara Lepchenko

Day Session Match Results

In the earlier matches on the stadium court, Varvara Lepchenko defeated Tamira Paszek 6-4 6-4; and Sorana Cirstea defeated Coco Vandeweghe 6-3 6-3.

Lepchenko versus Paszek, the first featured match, was a battle of players who’ve both struggled to make their mark in 2013. This was Paszek’s third appearance in a second round match this season, and the lack of confidence in her ground game was apparent.

Varvara’s had her own struggles as well (including coaching issues with the USTA), but still managed to close out this match on her fifth match point. Next up for Varvara is a quarterfinal date with Radwanska.

Coco, last year’s losing finalist to Serena Williams, never got her game going in her match against Sorana Cirstea. With a game that’s based heavily around her big serve and ground strokes, her performance against Sorana was inadequate, with 8 double faults and a 47% first serve percentage. She struggled to hold serve and was broken four times. Coco’s groundstrokes also let her down as she sprayed shots all over the court.

For her part, Sorana played solid tennis for the win. This will be her second trip to the Bank of the West quarterfinals. Her opponent will be Olga Govortsova.

PostHeaderIcon Bank of the West Preview/Picks for Wednesday 7/24/13

Aga Radwanska

Tamira Paszek v Varvara Lepchenko [6]

H2H: Tied at 2-All

The most relevant matches in their head-to-head are the last two matches played on carpet (’11) and outdoor hard (’12). Tamira won the first in a 3-set match that lasted 3 hours. Varvara won the second in a 3-set match that last nearly 3 hours. If the pattern holds true, get set for another long one!

2013’s been a tough year for both players. Varvara’s struggled to maintain the level she achieved in ’12, while Tamira’s struggled to even get past the first round at any tournament through most of ’13. The lack of confidence might show in the quality of shot-making, but their prior history should provide for a fairly competitive match. I’ll stick my neck out on this one for Varvara in three sets.

Sorana Cirstea v [Q] Coco Vandeweghe

H2H: Tied at 1-All

Coco won the first time they played in ’11 in a 3-set match lasting almost 2.5 hours. Their next meeting at this year’s Australian Open was pretty much a whitewash for Sorana in straight sets. Given the status of both in their respective seasons, it’s unclear whether this match will look like either of those previous two.

Sorana’s had a tough year, making it past the R16 at only one hard court tournament. Though she always has potential to be dangerous, her 19-17 record coming into Stanford can’t provide her with an excess of confidence.

Coco’s status as a qualifier pretty much says it all, since she’s spent much of the season qualifying for main draws in WTA events. But even though she’s a qualifier, she’s also one of last year’s finalists: which probably helped immensely in coming through the qualifying rounds. She’s on comfortable ground, and on a roll in terms of match wins.

I’ll give the edge to Coco in this one. If her shots are landing cleanly, it goes two sets. If she’s making a ton of unforced errors, it goes three.

Francesca Schiavone

Agnieszka Radwanska [1] v Francesca Schiavone (Featured Match)

H2H: Francesca leads 4-3

This match, which could easily be titled “I Can Be Craftier than You”, features two of the best thinkers/strategists on the pro tour, and has the potential to be one of the most entertaining of the week.

Aga doesn’t have the power of Serena or Maria, but reads the ball well and defends with the best of them. She has an uncanny ability to use her opponent’s power to her own advantage, which helped her to overcome Maria in the ’12 Sony Open final, and take Serena to three sets in the ’12 Wimbledon final.

I’m not sure that skill will help Aga against Francesca, a player who specializes in spin over power. She can hit with an extreme amount of spin from both her forehand and single-handed backhand wings. And her slice is one of the most formidable on tour. It’s no surprise that Francesca’s biggest title came on clay at the ’10 French Open.

Francesca needs a fair amount of racquet prep for her shots, especially her forehand.  This can get her into trouble on faster hard courts with the big hitters.  Aga’s shots don’t have the same pace, so Francesca’s 4-1 record on hard courts show’s that she’s not nearly as troubled by Aga’s game on this surface.

The problem for Francesca in this match-up is that she’s on the backside of her career, while Aga is on the upside of hers.  Aga’s game has improved, and dramatically so since ’10. Francesca’s game has plateaued and declined since her peak moments in Paris. It’s no coincidence that Aga has won their last three matches: one each on hard court, clay, and grass.

Though it’s been two years since they last played, I don’t see Francesca overcoming this new and improved Aga; and I’m not talking about the blonde hair. Aga has pushed herself to be more aggressive to win points outright instead of waiting for errors. Francesca will throw the kitchen sink at her, but it won’t be enough to stop Aga from winning in two sets.

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