Azarenka Heads Tokyo; Tennis-X Preview, Review Dish
by Staff | September 23rd, 2012, 10:13 pm


Toray Pan Pacific Open
Tokyo, Japan; Surface: hard

Seeds: Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Sara Errani, Li Na, Sam Stosur, Marion Bartoli, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Dominika Cibulkova, Roberta Vinci, Kaia Kanepi, Lucie Safarova, Nadia Petrova
Floaters: Jelena Jankovic, Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges, Shuai Peng, Francesca Schiavone, Sabine Lisicki

Notes: Openers of interest include (3) Radwanska after a bye possibly vs. Jankovic, (17) Petrova vs. Peng, (2) Sharapova after a bye possibly vs. Lisicki; wildcards went to Kimiko Date-Krumm, Caroline Garcia, and Ayumi Morita; Maria Kirilenko was seeded but pulled with a back injury; returning champs in the field are Radwanska (2011), Wozniacki (2010), Sharapova (2009,’05), and Date-Krumm (1995).

Thailand Open
Bangkok, Thailand; Surface: hard

Seeds: Janko Tipsarevic, Richard Gasquet, Milos “The Missile” Raonic, Gilles Simon, Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, Viktor Troicki, Jarkko Nieminen, Bernard Tomic

Floaters: Gael “Force” Monfils, Segiy Stakhovsky, Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic

Notes: (1) Tipsarevic starts after a bye against either Robin Haase or a qualifier; (6) Troicki vs. Monfils likely second round; (3) Raonic after a bye could start against Dr. Ivo; wildcards went to Swiss Marco “Chud” Chiudinelli, and Thailand’s Peerakiat Siriluethaiwattana and Danai Udomchoke; the Top 3 seeds and Tomic are making their debuts at the event; Simon (2009) is the lone returning champ in the field as 2011 champ Andy Murray sits out this week.

Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Surface: indoor hard

Seeds: David Ferrer, Juan Monaco, Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez, Pablo Andujar, Julien Benneteau, Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer

Floaters: Martin Klizan, Nikolay Davydenko, Vasek “Popsicle” Pospisil

Notes: Last week’s first-time title winner Klizan and Davydenko face each other first round, with the winner likely to face (6) Andujar; (8) Tuna Melzer starts against the Canadian comer Pospisil; American Brian Baker is a direct acceptance, and opens against qualifying countryman Michael Yani; Davydenko (2009) is the lone retuning champ in the field; Tipsarevic (playing in Bangkok this week) won the event last year.


Tsonga Beats Seppi, Repeats as ATP Metz Champ

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost only six points on his serve all day, punishing Italian Andreas Seppi 6-1, 6-2 to repeat as champion at the ATP stop in Metz, the Moselle Open.

“I had a complete match with no gaps, as opposed to yesterday,” said Tsonga, who won in under an hour, WTA style. “Of course, it’s a lot easier when I can make a difference in two or three shots. If I had to define this week, I would simply say it was a perfect one.”

It was the ninth career title for Tsonga and second of the year after Doha in January. The 28-year-old Seppi dropped to 2-3 in career finals.

Klizan K.O.s Fognini for 1st Career Title at ATP St. Pete

Slovak and world No. 45-ranked Martin Klizan captured the title Sunday at the St. Petersburg Open in Russia, easing past Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-3.

“It’s always very difficult to play a tournament after Davis Cup,” said Klizan, the first Slovak to win an ATP title since Dominik “The Dominator” Hrbaty in 2004. “I’ve played many matches and it was a tough Davis Cup for us, so it was a very, very tough week this one. I was really dead yesterday after the [semifinal] match.”

It was the first career ATP final for Klizan, who until a few months ago had never won consecutive ATP matches, while the veteran Fognini fell to 0-2 in career finals. “It’s horrible to play a final like this,” said Fognini of his play on Sunday. “I’ve played two finals this year. Simon in Bucharest was a really great final; we played one hour and 50 minutes and I lost. On the court today he played his best tennis ever and I did not play my best tennis for sure.”

Wozniacki Ends 13-month Title Drought at WTA Stop in Korea

Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki did what she does best last week at the KDB Korea Open — vacuuming-up little titles when there are few other top players in sight. The Dane rolled over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 6-0, with both players rebounding from three-set semifinals the previous day.

“Yesterday was a very difficult match, but the final is the final, and you just do anything you can to win,” Wozniacki said. “Today I did well at turning defense to offense and offense to defense. That’s actually a strength of mine.”

Wozniacki entered the event at No. 11 after holding the world No. 1 ranking entering this year’s Australian Open. She improved to 19-11 in career finals, capturing her first title since August of 2011. Kanepi fell to 3-4 in career finals, and was making her first tour appearance after pulling out of her last 10 scheduled events due to an Achilles injury.

Hsieh Ends Robson Run for WTA Title in Guangzhou, China

Britain’s Laura Robson ran out of gas in the GRC Bank Guangzhou International Women’s Open final, losing to Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, but not before becoming the first Brit to reach a WTA final in 22 years. The result kept the streak alive where a Brit woman hasn’t won a WTA title in 24 years.

“After I won the second set and led 3-0 in the third, she started playing well again and made the rallies longer, while I totally ran out of energy,” the 18-year-old Robson said. “I kept fighting but just wasn’t able to hit my shots as well as I had earlier in the match. But the more matches you play the more experience you get, and to play in a really tough final like this one in Guangzhou is a big experience for me.”

The match was ripe with momentum changes as Hsieh led 6-3, 5-3, before the Brit made her comeback. “I’m very happy to play so well in singles this season,” said Hsieh, who improved to 1-1 in career finals. “But even though I’ve done well in singles, I’m going to keep playing doubles too, even more actually — my sister, who is 19 years old, is young and needs my help, so I’m bringing her to WTA tournaments with me. She’s improving fast.”

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36 Comments for Azarenka Heads Tokyo; Tennis-X Preview, Review Dish

The Great Davy Says:

Say hello to my little nephew, Philip Davydenko! AKA The Next Great Davy!!!

grendel Says:

I see Heather Watson beat Lisicki – an excellent result. You have to assume Heather is inspired/irritated/galvanized/threatened/appalled/determined by the recent rise of her contemporary (well, year younger) Robson. The makings of the first decent rivalry we’ve had in British womens’ tennis since the days of Truman/Haydon/Mortimer.

Who, you ask? Ah, now there lies a tale….

grendel Says:

So, Wozniacki finally, after umpteen deuces, holds for 2-1 in 3rd set against Bojana Jovanovski. Instructive game to watch. Woz’s 2nd serve is pretty aweful, and Jov was standing in over yard I think of the base line. And then she’d attempt to give the serve a mighty wallop. Up would go the racket and it would come crashing down , just like she was trying to chop someone’s head off. And to pursue the analogy, you felt someone would have a pretty sore neck – not a clean blow, you see.

Part of the trouble, of course, is that there is no pace on the Woz 2nd serve, she might as well just lob the ball in underarm – so Jov has to generate all her own pace. She manifestly doesn’t have the timing to do that. So we had this weird scene, enacted again and again, of Woz gently lobbing the ball into the court, Jov thrashing down on it usually without great effect, Woz getting it back, Jov thrashing away again, Woz again retrieving as only she can – so what is happening? Plain and simple, Woz is hoping for a Jov error. And sometimes she gets it (point to Woz) sometimes she doesn’t (point to Jov).

There seemed no particular reason why this game shouldn’t go on for ever. We had a sort of stalemate. Woz the ultimate wall, Jov the clumsy smasher. Eventually, however, Wozniacki tried a new and original trick. She sent her 2nd serve smartly to the line, and Jov couldn’t deal with it.

Colin Says:

Grendel – Oh, you mean Christine Truman, Ann Haydon and Angela Mortimer. I once owned an Adrian Haydon (Ann’s father)table tennis bat. If you remember, she was a top table tennis player before her lawn tennis achievements (like Fred Perry), but she was unfortunate that the Chinese arrived about then.

I always liked Ann Haydon as a commentator – a bit school-marmish, and scathing when someone played a silly shot. Truman’s daughter plays, doesn’t she, though not at much of a level.

grendel Says:

Colin – I think Anne Haydon was world champion at table tennis wasn’t she? Billy Jean King admired Haydon Jones as she became known and thought she didn’t get the credit she deserved on her home turf.
“School-marmish” – yes, that absolutely captures her!

grendel Says:

Does Watson stand a chance against Sharapova?

RZ Says:

Grendel, at last year’s US Open Watson took Shriekapova to 3 sets. I hope she’s inspired by Laura’s recent play and will win her next match. I’d love to see Heather and Laura see-saw their way ahead of each other up the rankings.

steve-o Says:

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time Tsonga has ever defended a title. Congrats to him.

However, I object to describing that match as “WTA-style”: I don’t believe anyone has won a WTA match in the last six or seven years dropping only six points on serve, except for Serena, and she’s the exception that proves the rule.

RZ Says:

Steve-o, from my reading, I think “WTA style” referred to the time of the match (under an hour) rather than the style of how Tsonga won.

In the last 3 weeks, Wozniacki won that quickly, but Hseih went 3 sets with Robson and at the US Open Serena and Azarenka had a long 3-setter too, so I don’t think that WTA remark really applies unless discussing early round matches.

Alok Says:

Seppi was no match for Tsonga in that match. tsonga’s too much of a strong server and returner, smashing FH, for Seppi to handle. His mere power put Seppi at a huge disadvantage I would have liked to see a much more exciting match though.

Congrats to Tsonga for his title defense.

Alok Says:

I think this title will help Wozniacki’s confidence and put her back on track. She won in a very convincing fashion.

grendel Says:

Annoyingly missed first 2 sets if Watson/Sharapova -apparently 1st set (Watson, 7-6) took hour and a half. By the time of the 3rd, Watson looked done, legs gone. But Sharapova sort of imploded, gesticulating with herself, directing dire looks at the heavens as if she was going to have a word or two with them in due course – make no mistake about THAT – and generally not looking at all a happy bunny. Translation into tennis correct language (in on court interview):”I was not playing my best tennis today, but I won..”.

This let Watson back in, and she did seem to get a 2nd wind – so the 3rd set was competitive more or less to the end. Watson is an excellent counter puncher, but we’ve seen from Wozniacki that’s not enough against the best. There was evidence that Watson has the ability to steer a rally her way. No doubt Watson’s coach will be working on that with her.

Interesting to see the coach come on court (towards the end) and apart from imploring Heather to commit to the serve, he was basically urging her on, trying to impart energy. The comparison with boxing was startling. And after the handshake, another boxing analogy came to mind, for as Watson and Sharapova walked off together, it really was a flyweight and a heavyweight. And in the end, that was what did it.

I think, even though I only saw the 3rd set – and I guess Heather must have been playing pretty well in the 1st – enough was on display to suggest Watson will climb steadily up the rankings, not too far behind Robson. She belongs in the near top league.

Kimmi Says:

is petra kvitova the only top player to lose in the first round? she needs to pull her act together. lots of points to defend at the year end championships, doesn’t look like she can do as well as last year.

RZ Says:

Grendel, here’s the winners to unforced errors ration from that match:
Shriekapova 44/67
Watson 8/42

I guess a cleaner match from Watson would have sealed her victory. Too bad.

grendel Says:

Yes, I remember the stats being something like that. I’m a touch sceptical about all the Watson ues. When someone hits the ball as consistently hard as does Sharapova, there’s surely going to be a lot of forced errors. Also, Sharapova has that intangible champion’s quality – whenever she is really threatened, she manages somehow to pull herself together just enough to make it count.

I am sure Heather Watson will beat Sharapova one day – but she’s going to have to tighten up that serve, especially the 2nd – barely more than pushes, some of them. Whereas the Sharapova 2nd serve – when she could get it in – was, as Joe Durie said, more or less another first. Kind of fascinating, the Sharapova serve these days – both a weapon and a liability. You almost feel that the balance of the match hangs on which is to the fore.

grendel Says:

Woz just scrapes through against Li Na. She had 6 winners (1 in the 2nd set) to 40 by her opponent. When she hit a 2nd winner in a couple of games towards the end of the final, Reed said:”winners are raining down on Li Na”, which I thought was pretty good for a spontaneous comment.

A player like Li Na kind of plays into Wozniacki’s hands. She’ll hit an absurd winner off a tricky ball, and Woz just shrugs her shoulders. Then Li will get a nice short ball or perhaps a fairly easy drive volley, and she’ll play it conservatively. She’ll hit it hard, mind, but she’ll make sure it’s in. Whilst this will do the job against most players, it merely lets Woz off the hook. Effectively, the rally begins again, but with Woz in charge.

The match was close, and Li Na really should have won. But Wozniacki is a very gritty fighter – much tougher than the histrionic and self-regarding Sharapova, in my view. Sam Smith revealed that back in Denmark, Woz trains sometimes in a boxing camp. One of the boxers remarked that Woz has the mentality of a world class boxer. That is, if she’s floored, she gets up, shakes her head, and heads straight back into battle.

You wonder, though, what can motivate a player like Wozniacki. She’s been #1 for an extensive period, and that’s not going to happen again – the standard of play at the top has improved too much. Nor will Woz ever win a slam. Being a great defensive player, even the best on tour, won’t do it. Deep down, she must know all this. So what keeps her going? I think the boxing analogy helps here. She just enjoys a good scrap.

grendel Says:

Quite good examination of Robson’s rise, plus comparison with Watson. Basically, Reed wonders at the sudden appearance of steel in Robson’s mind. It is this, rather than for instance, the improved movement, which he feels is responsible for her emergence as a real tip for the top.

Not knowing anything about Robson, I am as much at a loss as Reed. Even so, there are certain pointers. Laura – the little I saw of her – always struck me as a very relaxed person, not at all one of those teeny boppers who live and dream tennis, will work 12 hours a day if possible and who, if you ask them anything at all about anything other than tennis and pop music and who’s “fit”, will stare at you with blank faces.

Because Laura was so relaxed, she wasn’t damaged by the hype which had surrounded her since winning Junior Wimbledon, and apparently she had very little idea as to how good she really was. The absolute reverse of a player like Tomic, swanning around as if he were a superstar. So one has to assume Laura wasn’t consumed with ambition. But she went on practising in the normal way – as one does – so just because she was such a natural she was bound eventually to get some good results.

My guess would be that as she played and beat or troubled very good players, she discovered on the court that she belonged in this company. So she started to believe in herself almost in an objective sense. No conceit involved, just an understanding that she could, with application, beat such and such a player – so therefore it was worth putting herself out. Steel which had been noticeably absent injected itself into her play. It’s as if there were reserves of character in her which only came to the surface when the circumstances demanded them.

it’s a lot tougher as there are physical attributes you simply can’t change.

grendel Says:

That last line in the above post I forgot to delete – it’s actually Reed on Watson’s diminutive stature being an inherent block on a rise right to the top. Well, what about little Errani, who somehow prospers without a serve?

grendel Says:

At the post-match interview, Radwanska was asked:”At match point, do you think about anything, or do you think about not trying to think about anything, or nothing indeed?”

Radwanska answered with the care and precision which is such a feature of her tennis.

Everyone was smiling.

Kimmi Says:

Stosur beats Sharapova. Before this match, she only won once in eleven meetings against her. I think she almost figuring out how to play these big hitters, it took her a while but she has cracked the code imo. That match she ALMOST won against azarenka at this year USO was the catalyst. i believe she will soon beat azarenka too.

congratulations to radwanska, i wish i had seen her win against wozniacki.

grendel Says:

Kimmi, very interesting thoughts on Stosur. I think you’re right about the “almost” win against Azarenka. Her form then, b.t.w., again casts a favourable light on Robson. Laura had lost form a bit, but she looked like she was coming back at the end.

Didn’t see the Sharapova/Stosur match – but Sharapova has been struggling. She was fortunate to wriggle out of the Watson match and I gather she wasn’t too impressive against Safarova. Even so, it’s an important turnaround for Stosur.

The Rad/Woz match was a great deal closer than the score suggests. Have a look at their stats – very similar. Rad remarked afterwards there was only a couple of points in it, and that was true.

In the end, Radwanska had just too much variety for Wozniacki. The 2 retrieve equally well, perhaps Woz marginally better, but Radwanska a)is good and creative at the net whilst Woz is mediocre and b)although Radwanska perhaps hits softer than Woz, she has the ability to suddenly whip out a killer punch. Woz can’t do that. Oddly, towards the middle of 2nd set, Woz seemed to realise she was going to lose if she diidn’t change something. So she actually tried attacking, didn’t seem too bad either. I wonder if she might develop that side of her game. She’ll have to if she’s going to get anywhere this time round.

People think of Radwanska as being a counterpuncher, but she’s much more than that, isn’t she. A really stylish thinker on the court.
Good match in the end.

I find Kerber a curiously irritating player, she’s certainly relentless isn’t she. She may have the advantage against Radwanska. After all, with Azarenka’s withdrawal she is fresh, whilst Radwanska looks a bit jaded. Even so, I hope she pulls through. The Stosur/Petrova match – hard to call. Petrova will be delighted Sharapova is out. Petrova often would have the beating of Sharapova, but has always been intimidated by her.

Margot Says:

Kimmi, one of the commentators said, re Stosur that when her forehand disappears, her confidence does too.
She seems fragile to me.
Am a huge fan of Radwanska, such an intelligent player, such gr8 anticipation and brilliant speed round the court. Love the way she bends those knees- Nole like almost :)

Margot Says:

grendel, PS re Kerber, I feel inside her is a very talented player, struggling to get out. She also gets the sulks big time on court.
Saw an awful match, possibly one of the worst I’ve seen, where she and another moonballed each other virtually all the time. Eek!

The Great Davy Says:

It’s time for King Davy to return to Kuala Lumpur! Fear Your Great Davy!

Margot Says:

Is King Davy now playing the WTA then?…*innocent.*

grendel Says:

Thanks again to misinterpreting the times, I missed most of the semis. In the case of the 1st, that didn’t matter. You might say the same of the 2nd, after all Radwanska won 6-1, 6-1. You’d be wrong, though.

I came in at 4-0, and then watched the best 3 games of womens’ tennis I’ve seen this year – apart from snatches of the US Open final. Radwanska was majestic in her command of all the tennis skills (even throwing in some pretty good 1st serves) but the strange thing was, she was almost – but not all the same – matched by Kerber. Who absolutely confirmed Margot’s high opinion of her. Did she discover her form late in the match? Surely, she couldn’t have played so well all through for such meagre result?

Radwanska was glowing in the post match interview, not surpisingly. How agreeable it must feel for a gifted person to know that she has done justice to her gifts. She must win a grand slam, or there is something amiss with the system….

Margot Says:

Brilliant from Radwanska. Hooray :) Well, she did take a set off Serena, and it was her first slam final so she moves forward. Think she’s very like Andy, her progression, I mean.
Yes, Kerber, truly an enigma. I’ve seen her play wonderfully and awfully, as in moonballing match, which she still won.
New coach, perhaps?

Kimmi Says:

wow! i cant believe this score. kerber is a very good player but 6-1 6-1 is very surprising. apparently radwanska hits 20 winners and only 4 errors according to wta website, she must be on the roll.

until she learns how to beat azarenka, it will be tough for her to win a major.

i will watch the replay tonight on tennistv, a must see match.

i watched half of the first match, it was so boring. stosur couldn’t keep the ball on court. petrova was playing well but stosur was just not there.

grendel Says:

Kimmi:”until she learns how to beat azarenka, it will be tough for her to win a major”. As ever, you nail it. Put very very crudely, it seems to me like this: Radwanska is more skilful than Azarenka (more skilful than any player since Henin?), but Azarenka, herself extremely skilful, has much more power at her disposal. She is also probably a bit tougher mentally.

I don’t think Radwanska can get any stronger physically. So the only way she can make up the leeway is mentally. Is that right?

Margot Says:

grendel, now that in itself is also interesting because Henin, although small, could generate amazing power, especially off the backhand of course. She must’ve taken the ball immensely early.
Now can Radwanska do similar, or would that be impossible, do you think? Can’t you also use your opponents power to return with interest?
Also, whose that tiny Russian I think, who also whacks the ball astonishingly hard? Just off to check :)

Margot Says:

Cibulkova, Serbian not Russian, my mistake.

grendel Says:

Yes, doesn’t Cibulkova give it a whack – she can be fun to watch.
I think Henin was a bit of a one-off – she also had a powerful serve, 112mph sometimes. She doublefaulted quite a lot but not through some sort of shaparovian panic but as a matter of calculated risk – that she’d gain more than she’d lose. I often wonder why other players don’t do that more often, especially some of the women.

But Henin was something of a tragic case, if that’s not overstating it a bit. She beefed herself up, didn’t she, specifically to deal with the Williams sisters and the other giants who followed in their wake. It kind of worked – but at a price. She had to retire – twice – before her time. I doubt if that is a sensible model to follow.

As for technique, all I would say is that someone who has at her command such incredible touch and precision as does Radwanska is going to think pretty hard before monkeying about with her game. You’d think she could do something about that 2nd serve, though.

I still can’t get over those final 3 games between Radwanska and Kerber. They were so startlingly good that one was filled with exhileration at the end and sorrow that there was no more to come. Although I wanted Radwanska to win, I was rooting for Kerber to win that final game simply so that the match could continue. I never usually do this, I’m generally of the I-hope-he-buries-his-opponent school. On this occasion, however, aesthetics triumphed over competition – although of course, this was a luxury one could afford, since it was screamingly obvious Radwanska would win.

One of the questions the interviewer asked her – I think it came from the audience – was what went through her mind when she decided to execute a drop shot on her opponent’s serve. She smiled and said that it had been a long game, and this was one way of cutting it short. Maybe, but it told you nothing, really. In point of fact, it was a shot of great imagination which she must have decided upon after split second thinking. And that thinking would surely have been all about (once the thought arises): is it feasible, is the speed and position right, and what kind of drop would be best? It was a shot of pure beauty.

Margot Says:

grendel, gr8 post. So good to be talking in a positive way about the women’s game.
Wonder if Radwanska would have to compromise though, I mean lose something in order to gain something else. Depends how many finals she loses, I suppose.
But yes, should think her 2nd serve would be somewhere she could improve massively.
When I watched her play Serena, she was able to win 1st serve points, not with power, but with superb placement, good to see because Serena’s return game is pretty fine.

grendel Says:

Margot – I watched the highlights of that semi last night (and I was mistaken – I’d only originally seen the first 2, not 3, very long games). Anyway, saw more this time and, further to what you had been saying: Chris Bradnam and Sam Smith were discussing the fact that about a year ago, Radwanska had engaged to play more aggressively, with a view to climbing the rankings, getting further in the slams. And she did (play more aggressively)- but not, they said, by hitting harder, but by taking the ball earlier.

In the light of these comments, I had a good look, and it did seem that Radwanska generally hit the ball earlier than Kerber – although Kerber has a bit of a wind up anyway for her harder hit shots. Can’t pretend I’m too good at spotting these things, but I suppose there is a limit to such a manoeuvre, and maybe Radwanska has reached it in this matter of taking the ball early.

The Great Davy Says:

Um a Yes just to be explain myself, I got signal from Boris at end of first set, he tell me to throw match or my nephew gets leg break, so. Yeah. Next week you can bet… I meant… you can know I be won hundred persense better and will be win.

Margot Says:

Yes, I too “wonder if there is a limit to such a manoeuvre.” Hope not for her sake.
I remember seeing Jankovic when she as playing gr8 tennis and being entranced, her timing was superb and she was taking the ball at precisely that point b4 it starts to fall, every time.

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