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Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Hampton’

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 Dominika/Sorana & Jamie/Aga: My Picks For the Stanford Final

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The Bank of the Wet semifinals are set, and it promises to be a good day of tennis in spite of the withdrawals and upsets. Match picks are always tricky, but I’ll toss my hat into the ring anyway for these two. Let’s take a closer look at these match-ups to see why I’m looking at a Sorana-Jamie final.

Dominika Cibulkova [4] v Sorana Cirstea

H2H: Dominika leads 2-1

There’s a bit of déjà vu in this match owing to the fact that their last meeting was at last year’s Bank of the West in the quarterfinals. That match, won by Cirstea 6-7(7) 6-2 6-0, was a 3-set battle that lasted almost 2.5 hours.

Dominika started the match strong then hit the proverbial wall after winning the first set tiebreaker. It’s surprising that a player with such tremendous fight was bageled in the third set (after winning the first). But in many ways it speaks volumes about Sorana, and her ability to stay focused on the win after the loss of a tight set.

In a match between two great fighters with strong, the winner will most likely be decided by the ability to hold serve, or break your opponent’s serve.  This bodes well for Sorana, who served at 52%, had 15 aces (against 3 double faults), won 77% of her first serve points, and 66% of her second serve points.

By contrast, the barely 5′ 3″ Dominika (yes, her height makes a difference) served at 39%, had 1 ace (against 5 double faults), won only 65% of her first serves, and 44% of her second serves. Neither served “well”, but the smaller Dominika struggled considerably more to make an impact with her serve, and was still broken 6 times in spite of her best efforts.

Not much has changed in either of their games to stop a similar outcome in their semifinal. Dominika will again fight hard, but will likely lose another 3-setter. Hopefully, this time without a third set bagel!

Sorana in three sets.

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Agnieszka Radwanska [1] v Jamie Hampton

H2H: Aga leads 4-1

These two have met twice in 2013, and split wins with Aga winning on a hard court in Auckland 7-6(4) 7-6(3), and Jamie winning on the grass of Eastbourne 7-6(2) 6-2. Even if you discount Jamie’s victory on grass, this semifinal offers her an excellent chance to reach her first Stanford final. But execution will be the key to her victory.

The stats from Auckland show that Jamie didn’t serve quite as well as Aga, yet still managed to have a chance in the tiebreakers. So if she can bump up her first serve percentage, and also bump up her percentage of points won on first serve, that could make a huge difference in holding serve versus the 3 breaks of serve she faced in that match.

Jamie will also need to keep her unforced error count low. Her unforced error count against Nicole Gibbs defense was off the charts, and that definitely won’t cut it against a relatively error-free player like Aga.

Pace of shot won’t be a factor in this match, because Aga is one of the best at using an opponent’s pace to her own advantage. More important than pace, however, will be Jamie’s ability to stay patient in rallies. That will allow her to stay in points long enough to hit as many shots as needed to wear down Aga and win the point.

Aga was on court a long time in her quarterfinal with Varvara Lepchenko, but that shouldn’t matter. She’s used to playing long matches on successive days. The bigger issue for Aga is whether she can rediscover a sense of comfort on the stadium court that was absent against Varvara. If she struggles for her range against a confident Jamie, as she did against Varvara, she’ll get punished.

So who’s going to come out on top? Well, anything can happen in a tournament that’s been as wacky as this one. But I’ll take my chances with the increasingly confident power game of Hampton over the slightly unsettled game of Radwanska.

Jamie for the win (two or three)

PostHeaderIcon Seeds Cibulkova, Hampton Overcome Inspired Opponents at the Bank of the West Classic

Hampton-wins

Dominika Cibulkova [3] defeats Stephanie Voegele 7-5 7-6(5)

Worries about fitness and the lingering effects of an Achilles injury fell by the wayside for Dominika Cibulkova after she overcame Stephanie Voegele of Switzerland 7-5 7-6(5) in the first match of the day on stadium court.

She showed no signs of slowness or hesitation, but did sport a layer of physio tape on her lower leg. “The tape is for prevention. My Achilles will always be tough to deal with because I have this problem with the bone. That’s why my physio has to take good care of it so that I can keep playing.”

BOTWD Cibulkova vs Voegele

Though her leg was fine, the rust in her game was another matter. She struggled to close out the first set after leading 5-2, only doing so after breaking the Voegele serve in the eleventh game to take it at 7-5.

With the first set under her belt, Dominika looked poised to close out the second in more direct fashion. Voegele had other ideas, once again working her way back into the match after Dominika had lead 5-2.

Fittingly, the second set ended in a tiebreaker that Dominika won with fearless hitting from her forehand at 5-all, before serving it out on her first match point.

When asked afterward if she’d expected such a tough match from her Swiss opponent, Dominika was very complimentary of her Voegele’s abilities.

“I expected a really tough match because she’s playing really well at this time. I played her long time ago but remember how she’s playing close to the lines.”

“I just made it tough for myself. In the end I made it, but it could be easier for me.”

Jamie Hampton [4] defeats Nicole Gibbs 7-5 6-7(5) 6-3

Nicole Gibbs

Fourth-seed Jamie Hampton had her hands full overcoming her own “rust”, as well as the inspired play of Nicole Gibbs; who was making her professional debut at this tournament after a stellar career at Stanford.

Rust on Hampton’s part was understandable, since this was Hampton’s first match of the tournament after receiving a first round bye as one of the top 4 seeds. “I’ve been here for a week now and I haven’t played. And I’ve never done anything like that before.”

The lack of sharpness in Hampton’s game was less of an issue, however, than the dogged determination shown by Gibbs.

Hampton might hit a harder ball than Gibbs, but Gibbs showed no sign of intimidation as she moved her opponent from side-to-side to keep the ball out of Hampton’s wheel house, and to expose any footwork weaknesses.

The first set was tightly-contested until a loose game by Gibbs at 5-all gave Hampton the crucial break, and allowed her to serve it out at 7-5.

The second set, won by Gibbs in a tiebreak, was an equally tight affair; made more so because of Hampton’s mounting unforced error total as she mixed winners and unforced errors interchangeably throughout.

After the match, Hampton was asked specifically about her serving difficulties on the day when she offered this assessment of her overall play: “To be honest, I just felt like I was struggling in general today.”

In spite of the efforts of her Stanford football team cheering section, Gibbs game began to unravel. The third set saw Hampton draw upon her experience as pro to serve bigger and hit bigger on shots that finally started to find their mark. There was little Gibbs could do than just say “too good”.

Gibbs managed a brief comeback (after falling behind 0-4) to get back on serve at 3-4. But she couldn’t sustain the momentum, and gave up one final break for 3-5. Hampton quickly closed out the match for the win.

Gibbs was remarkably upbeat after the match, and happy with the fight she showed on court. “The biggest takeaway is that I can play at this level, and that’s really exciting for me!”

Madison Keys

Other Match Notes

Daniela Hantuchova lost two straight tiebreakers to hand Urszula Radwanska a 7-6(3) 7-6(3) victory, and her second straight appearance in the Bank of the West quarterfinals. This loss is sure to stick with Hantuchova for because of the seven straight points she lost in the second set tiebreaker after leading 3-0.

Vera Dushevina beat American Madison Keys in the evening match on stadium court. Keys was unable to get any aspect of her ground game on track during the match, and was also done in by Dushevina’s strong service returns.

Keys is widely touted as one of the top prospects for future US slam success. And while it’s true that she has an immense amount of talent, she also still has a long way to go in terms of developing a more complete game to compliment her strong serve and ground strokes.

PostHeaderIcon Roger’s First, Caro’s Snark & More: A Pre-Wimby Edition of “Shock or Not?”

Florien Eisele/AELTC

Florien Eisele/AELTC

There’s only a two week gap between the end of the French Open and the start of “The Championships”, so the transition from clay to grass is a tricky one for even the best.  (BTW, this transition period could aptly be named the Aegon transition.) And true to form, there have been quite a few upsets as the top players try to adjust to the low bounces and tricky footing that characterize grass court tennis.

Additionally, the tennis news mill has been going non-stop with good and non-so-good coverage of the top men and women. So before play starts at Wimbledon on Monday, let’s knock out a few quick Shock or Not’s in preparation for the Wimbledon fortnight.

Lleyton Hewitt defeats Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey, and Juan Martin Del Potro – Shock or Not? Shock

Actually, I’m kinda shocked and kinda not.  The aging Lleyton can still pull out the old magic on occasion (best 2 of 3 sets, to be precise), but WILL struggle when Wimbledon begins next week. Best 3 out of 5 never bodes well for him. Just think back to his performance at Kooyong before the Australian Open.

Andy Murray defeats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Shock or Not? Not

Not a shock, but this says more about Jo than about Andy. The Frenchman was genuinely on the cusp of a breakthrough before the French Open. Now it seems as though the air is leaking out of the balloon. Hopefully Roger Rasheed can do something to patch him up for a proper fight at Wimbledon.

Roger Federer defeats Tommy Haas & Mikhail Youzhny­ – Shock or Not? Not

It wasn’t a shock, but man oh man was it ever tough for the old guy. Roger had to battle back from a set down in both the semis and final in order to win his first title of 2013. In many ways this bodes well for Wimbledon with respect to his fighting spirit. But the reality of his physical decline can’t be ignored.

Milos Raonic is defeated by Gael Monfils – Shock or Not? Shock

Milos Raonic is defeated by Ivan Dodig – Shock or Not? Shock

I see an unfortunate pattern emerging with Milos. He’s been proclaimed as “the next big Slam threat” by many over the past few years, but I never bought it because he’s hampered by his movement. It’s more noticeable on clay and grass, but can also be exploited on a hard court. Here’s hoping he figures this out so that he can succeed on tour without the now-defunct SAP Open!

Rafael Nadal is seeded #5 at Wimbledon – Shock or Not? Shock

Rafa’s seeding has been the most-discussed issue of Aegon transition season (along with Serena’s Rolling Stones comments). I thought it was a bad decision when first announced, and even more so now that the draw has confirmed the unfortunate consequences. I won’t discuss that here other than to say that I hope the quality of the final isn’t compromised like the French Open final.

Roger Federer’s Gerry Weber title is his first of 2013 – Shock or Not? Shock

Definite shock! According to my buddy Josh, this was the second longest title drought of Roger’s illustrious career.  But it’s understandable when you look at what Rafa has accomplished this year. Roger has been left with the scraps along with Novak and Andy.

Andy Murray wins Queens Club after French Open w/d – Shock or Not? Not

Not a shock that he won, but a definite surprise that he was able to labor through some tough matches without a lot of tough match prep time. Beating Tsonga in the semis and Cilic in the final shows that maybe, just maybe, there’s still fire in his belly after a horrible clay season.

Caroline Wozniacki’s On-Court Behavior is becoming troublesome – Shock or Not? Shock

Caro used to be called Miss Sunshine for her smile and sunny disposition. These days, however, there’s hardly a match where she doesn’t question the competence of the chair umpire and the linespersons. We can all understand her frustration at her spiraling (down) level of play, but come on?! This behavior has gone from bush-league to “got to stop”. Please stop, Caro!

Jamie Hampton powers into final at Eastbourne – Shock or Not? Not

Girlfriend has been playing some tremendous tennis the past month with a semifinal showing in Brussels on clay and a final tomorrow in Eastbourne. She’s done all of this after it was revealed that she suffers from two herniated discs in her back. Victoria Azarenka, who struggled to get by Hampton in 3 sets at the Australian Open, had this to say: “She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place and I was like, `Can I have a back problem?'”

Serena Williams encounters backlash over comments in Rolling Stone interview – Shock or Not? Not

Serena’s detractors will never be happy with Serena, regardless of what she does on or off the court. I’m not excusing her comments in any way, but there seems to be an expectation that Serena is going to somehow magically transform into a noble champion; and that’s just not gonna happen.

Radek Stepanek and Nicole Vaidisova are divorcing – Shock or Not? Not

Radek Stepanek is rumored to be dating Petra Kvitova – Shock or Not? Not

I’m not shocked at the divorce, and also not shocked that he might be dating yet another top tennis player. He’s never come off as one of the more pleasant guys on tour, and has always had the MO of dating other tennis players (usually to their detriment). Let’s see what Martina Hingis what thinks about it…

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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