19 AND COUNTING

by Karen 


Usually in order not to be a jinx many players play down their accomplishments just to be able to lower expectations.  It is sometimes a way to keep the nerves at bay and also something of an anti-jinx.  Even to those players who are not overly superstitious, the not looking too far ahead has become something that they have become quite adept at.  In the case of Serena Williams however, I don’t think either her or members of her team can not look ahead in terms of Grand Slam counting. 

On Saturday in Melbourne, Serena Williams rewrote her history one more time by clinching the Australian Open title in a straight set affair over Maria Sharapova.  The final score was 6-3, 7-6(5) and while the score will be forever etched in history, the match itself was much more than that. 

Coming into the finals, the stat sheet told a tale of two players playing at roughly the same level.  Serena however was playing the cleaner more forceful tennis.  Her winners to unforced errors off the ground, despite her being ill over the pass two weeks showed that despite struggling through matches she was still able to hit her opponents off the ground.  Maria Sharapova on the other hand while having an easier time of it was struggling in her matches as her stat sheet was covered with more unforced errors than Serena’s.  It was a stat that many needed to keep in mind as the final showdown loomed. 

Many commentators unfairly focus on Serena’s serve, and Sharapova herself seemed to be of the view that if it were not for Serena’s serve she would have maybe, possibly, perhaps have had a chance in the match.  If that is the case that Serena’s serve kept her in the match and ultimately won her the title, then consider this:  Sharapova had a higher first serve percentage than Serena.  Sharapova also won more points on her second serve than Serena and finally Sharapova was averaging higher serve speeds than Serena.   Here is a link to the final match stats for both women.  As can be seen that apart from the speed of the first serve, Sharapova’s serve stats outpaced Serena’s.  In any event, I think the time has come where credit is given to Serena’s all around game rather than her power and her serve.  

Where does Sharapova go from here?  Since her father has taken a backseat to being her coach, Sharapova has had at least 3 or 4 coaching changes.  None have been able to figure out or tell her how to beat Serena.  I am sure she has watched videos of how her fellow pros have been able to beat Serena, but I think for now we can all agree that this non-rivalry rivalry has become about the residence that Serena has taken up in Sharapova’s head.  The law of averages states that at some point Sharapova will get her next win, but from where I am sitting I don’t see that happening. 

As for Serena, what words are there left to say about this incredible champion.  In her champion’s speech she spoke about being a little girl going on a tennis court with a racquet, a ball and a hope.  It has been many years since those days and Serena at times still comes across as that little girl with a racquet, a ball and a hope.  She has given hope to many young players out there who don’t have the means to get into this sport or any sport, but one would hope that they have taken inspiration from this girl from the rough streets of Compton to realise their dreams and know that it does not take cash to achieve your dreams but hard work and hope. 

LADIES AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINAL PREVIEW

by Karen


I absolutely adore women’s tennis.  The passion that drives these women makes me stay up all hours of the day and night just to watch them compete.   

Tonight or tomorrow or whenever it is, World No. 1, Serena Williams, 18 times a Grand Slam champion, will meet World No. 2 and 5 time Grand Slam champion, Maria Sharapova for the right to be called Australian Open ladies champ.  

I don’t know whether this is the match that many were hoping for when the draw came out.  I know that I was a bit sceptical of Serena’s form coming in as she did not seem to be playing up to par.  However, ever since the quarter-finals, it is as if a light bulb has gone off and her game has really started to come together.  Sharapova has had to do the same thing, except that her transition started after her second round match when she had to save match points to avoid a second round defeat at the hands of Alexandra Panova, ranked 150 in the world.  

On paper and looking at the matches one would say that Sharapova has had an easier time of it but stats don’t lie, and even though Serena has struggled mightily in her matches, the stats say that she is not only playing better tennis, but she is also playing cleaner tennis. 

What is the X-factor that will tell us who will win this match?  I think it will go down as to who wants it more.  Serena is on a mission.  Her mission is to tie and possibly unseat Steffi Graf.  Her coach, who seems to be motivating her beyond belief, has his eyes set on Serena doing the calendar year Grand Slam.  He believes she can do it, and I can’t imagine that Serena herself does not believe that as well.  Sharapova just wants to keep adding to her Grand Slam count.  If that is all she wants, then there won’t be that fire in the belly to push her as much as it will be pushing Serena. However, the other thing to take into account is this … is Sharapova ready and able to finally stop the 15 match, 10 year losing streak to Serena? If she is, then this should act as an impetus for her to play clean, first strike tennis. If she is not, then the outcome of this match, like many matches will rest on Serena’s shoulders. 

This will be a tight one and for me it is too close to call. 

SEMIFINAL PREVIEW

As is the norm, the Spin team of Master Ace and Karen will preview the semi-finalists.   I have taken the arduous task of previewing the Russians.
First up is 5 time Grand Slam winner, Maria Sharapova. 

How she got here? 
1stround – (Q) Petra Martic – 6-4, 6-1
2ndround – (Q) Alexandra Panova – 6-1, 4-6, 7-5
3rdround – (31) Zarina Diyas- 6-1, 6-1
4thround – (21) Shuai Peng – 6-3, 6-0
Quarters – (7) Eugenie Bouchard – 6-3, 6-2
There are many who will point to Sharapova’s relatively easy path to the semi-finals, but the fact is that the bottom half of the draw was akin to an International event rather than a Grand Slam.  In the second round, Sharapova made her life tougher than it needed to be, as she struggled with her game and had to use all her experience and guile to overcome Panova in the second round.
After that hiccup, Sharapova has not dropped more than 3 games in any match and I doubt if we will see anything different in her match against Makarova.  In terms of her chances to get to the final and win the whole shebang, that will depend on a lot of things, most of which will be cantered around which opponent shows up for the final.
Sharapova has a 5-0 head to head over Makarova and has an incredible head to head over lefties.  The key for Sharapova will be her serve.  In the match against Peng and Bouchard, even though she held serve, it was not without some amount of effort on her part.  Sharapova has won 193 of her points on serve and has won 26 of her return games. 
Ekaterina Makarova

How she got here
1stround – (102) Mestach   – 6-2, 6-2
2ndround – Vinci – 6-2, 6-4
3rdround – (22) Pliskova – 6-4, 6-4
4thround – ( ) Georges – 6-3, 6-2
Quarters – (3) Halep – 6-3, 6-0
Many, including me did not think that Makarova would ever make it to the later stages of a Grand Slam.  Her performance in New York, coming as it did in the latter part of the year when most players who pull double duty (play singles and doubles) are quite weary is a testament to the hard work that she puts in off the court.  To back up that performance of making the semi-finals by reaching the semi-finals of the next Grand Slam is remarkable and should be commended.  An unassuming player with a soft voice, Makarova first came to the attention of many when she won the title in Eastbourne as a qualifier.  At that tournament she took out seeded player after seeded player and played one of the best matches that I have seen in a long time on grass.  She is always known as a giant killer being one of only a handful of players who have taken out the Williams Sisters on the biggest stages in the same tournament without ever getting to No. 1.
Her 0-5 record against Sharapova should be cast by the wayside.  This seems to be a different Makarova. Someone who while she will never love the spotlight on her, plays a very subtle game which uses lots of spin and deft touch to get to the finish line. 
What will be Makarova’s downfall in this match will be her inability to handle the pace of shot that will be coming from the racquet of her countrywoman.  Sharapova has an excellent record against lefties and as such Makarova will have to use that serve to not only pull Sharapova off the court but to also keep her pinned behind the baseline.  She has the shots to do it.  The question remains whether she has the ability to withstand what will be a barrage of shots coming from the opposite side of the court.
Karen’s Predictions
Makarova is yet to drop a set.  Sharapova was saved by the skin of her teeth because another Russian blinked.  Makarova in 3

TWMasterAce 

In our second semifinal, we have an All-American matchup between Serena Williams and Madison Keys.


When the tournament started, Serena Williams had a very loaded quarter with some dangerous players led by Victoria Azarenka, two-time Australian Open champion, and Dominika Cibulkova, 2014 Australian Open finalist. In her three matches after her opener, S Williams got off to slow starts before finding her game. In her match against Vera Zvonareva, she was serving down two set points in the first set before winning in straight sets. In her match against Elina Svitolina, she was very sluggish going down early breaks in the first set. She did make a late run in the first set but Svitolina closed it out.  Despite Svitolina closing out the set, S Williams found her game and lost only two games in the last two sets. 

In her match against Gabrine Muguruza, she was getting out hit on the court like she did at the 2014 French Open where she won a total of four games. However, in this encounter, S Williams found a way to adjust the flow of the match by going with a little more spin, noted by a spectator who S Williams admitted saying it in the post-match interview. After S Williams failed to convert on break points to let Muguruza hold, Muguruza had two break points to take the lead and maybe reassert herself but blew an easy volley. Once the easy volley was missed, S Williams’ serve started to click and was able to close out strongly. In her match against Dominika Cibulkova, she started out very fast and did not give Cibulkova a chance to impose her game.



With the help of Lindsay Davenport as her new coach, Madison Keys has played to her potential. After losing the first set to Casey Dellacqua, she started to lift her game to the next level by losing only two games in the final two sets. In the next round, Keys got a career defining win against Petra Kvitova, who was a lot of people’s choice besides S Williams to win Australian Open after she won Sydney, in straight sets by out playing her in all phases of the game. In her match against Madison Brengle, who has won more WTA main draw matches in 2015 than she did in her entire career highlighted by making the final in Hobart, Keys managed to play a consistent match which plagued her in the past when she got a good win. In her match against Venus Williams, she got off to a good start by going for her shots which paid dividends as she took the first set. In second set, Keys injured her left abductor, which occurred for the first time at 2014 Wimbledon, hitting a backhand and V Williams got off to a double break lead. Keys took a medical timeout to get treatment. Once she returned to the court, she got off to a fast start by getting both breaks back but V Williams managed to stop the tide and force a deciding set. In the deciding set, V Williams managed to lead in the set by a break but Keys managed to find one more wind, went for her shots and won the last three games of the match.

For S Williams to win, she has to avoid starting off slow and serve like she did in her last three sets. If she does this, you can hand her the Australian Open trophy on Saturday night as her Russian opponent will not have a chance in the final.

For Keys to win, she has to shorten the points while dealing with her left abductor injury and hope S Williams has an off night. She is trying to become the eighth player to defeat the Williams Sisters in the same tournament. If she manages to pull off the upset, the hype for Keys will only be increased by the media. 

Updated: 

Ace’s picks to win: Williams and Sharapova
Karen’s picks to win:  Williams and Makarova 






AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 10 RECAP

by Karen 

“If I could turn back time, if I could find a way”  so said one of the greatest recording artistes of all time, Cher.  In much the same way that the name Cher invokes timelessness in music, so does the name Venus brings back reminders of championship days gone by. 



Yesterday’s quarterfinal match between 34 year old, soon to be 35 year old Venus Williams against WTA rising star, Madison Keys was a juxtaposition of the past of women’s tennis, playing side by side with the future.  It is the definition of irony that the player on whose game and persona Madison Keys is built is the person who she calmly took down in the quarters of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. 


I am a fan of both players, but I love Venus.  She is the reason why I fell in love with this sport.  In much the same way that Keys saw Venus wearing a dress and wanted to pick up a racquet, I saw Venus in a hoodie, her eyes downcast, looking forlorn in a crowd of over 15,000 tennis fans, watching from the sidelines as her little sister Serena won her first Grand Slam title.  It was a face that would haunt me for years as all I could think to myself was how lonely must she be feeling and how devastated must she be that she, the leader, the one who went before, the one who had to take all that abuse from tennis fans, fellow players, why could it not be her holding up that trophy and jumping for joy.  Instead, there she was hiding under a hoodie and trying to appear invisible. 


On Rod Laver Arena, Venus was anything but invisible.  For a time she looked like her old self again.  She was firing her huge serve, and moving around the court and bringing up reminders of 2001 when she was at the top of her game and no ball was safe from her racquet.  On this day however, there was a younger, faster and more agile version of herself.  

Many, including me, will say that Venus had her chances in this match.  However, credit has to be given to Keys for hitting out when she had the chance and not only taking her opportuntiies but making them as well.  Keys will next have the opportunity to do what not many players have been able to do, defeat both Williams Sisters at the same event.  If she does it, she will be like Ekaterina Makarova, defeat both Williams Sisters without being No. 1. 


In the other quarterfinal, Serena Williams shows why she has won this title 5 times and why she has 18 of these trophies in her trophy room.  Despite suffering from a cough, Serena put on a masterclass against last year’s finalist, Dominka Cibulkova.  How dominating was this match, my puppy Billy (tennis fan) and my son (non-tennis fan) and my house guest (non-tennis fan), were stopped in their tracks during one particular rally. My son had his mouth open and my puppy was definitely speechless. 

So, the semifinals are set.  It will be Russia v. USA in the final.  This is like the Cold War all over again.  Let us hope that there are no international incidents Down Under. 

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 9 REVIEW & DAY 10 PREVIEW

by Karen 

The bottom half of the women’s draw continues to disappoint.  From the minute the draw was concluded almost 2 weeks ago, fans have been bemoaning the fact that the top half was top heavy, while the bottom half looked more like an international event.  I usually take these grumblings as more to do with people not liking certain players, rather than anything to do with the players themselves.  However, in this case, I can’t help but wonder whether there is some amount of truth to the conspiracy of draw rigging. 


The much anticipated (at least that is what I am told) quarter-final match between Eugenie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova was as boring as it was flat.  Bouchard, who does not have a coach, did not seem to have a strategy either in relation to how to compete against the very best in the world or how to adapt when the game plan is not working. Her game, which has taken her to as high as No. 5 in the world has so many holes that Sharapova could drive a semi through it, and that is exactly what the Russian did.  Broken in her opening service game, Bouchard would never recover from that bad start and all Sharapova had to do was keep her composure and continue to fire her laser like ground strokes to Bouchard.  Bouchard, whose game plan is to take the ball as early as possible and redirect does not seem to appreciate that there are few players on the women’s Tour who are able to do that with Sharapova’s shots.  She learned the hard way how hard it is to make that next step in terms of winning a Grand Slam. 

Sharapova to her credit did not seem fazed or overawed by the occassion.  However, for whatever reason, there does seem to be a bit of bad blood that is wending its way into this non-rivalry.  After the match, Sharapova wrote on the camera lens “Fly high, sing your own song”.  Taken at face value, this might mean nothing to most observers, however, Bouchard has her group of fans (Genie’s Army) who have been making up songs to sing whenever she is playing.  Some will say that this is Sharapova’s way of giving a huge fuck you to Bouchard and her Genie’s Army.  If that is the case, then that is without a doubt the most low rent thing I have ever seen done in tennis since “check her blood pressure”.  

Sharapova for all she has accomplished in tennis, and this is something that we as fans are constantly reminded of, does herself a disservice when she engages in these petty squabbles.  In much the same way that she went after Serena Williams for comments that were allegedly made by Serena about her by stating that Serena has accomplished so much in tennis that she does not need to talk bad about opponents, it would behove Sharapova to follow her own advice.  Bouchard is young and still growing into her game. She is the darling of the WTA world in much the same way that Sharapova used to be. Maybe the fact that Bouchard is now a part of the Serena Williams camp, albeit peripherally,  (Bouchard is now represented by Serena’s long time agent Jill Smoller) makes Bouchard an easy target for Sharapova.  If that is the case, then it needs to stop. 


The other quarterfinal that took place does not even require a review.  Simona Halep did not turn up for her match against Ekaterina Makarova.  Again, as with Bouchard, Halep was broken in her first service game and never seemed to recover. She was listless around the court and her usual movement, a signature part of her game, was non-existent.  Her groundstrokes seemed to still be in the locker room and her mind, which is usually focused point to point completely deserted her.  In the second set Halep basically threw in the towel.  As a big fan of this young player, I was appalled at her performance.  I am hopeful that she will recover by the time her beloved clay season rolls around. 

The top half of the women’s draw plays today and again there are some highly anticipated matches on tap.  First up is 34 year old Venus Williams, going up against 19 year Madison Keys.  This will be a match of youth vs. experience.  Can Keys finally live up to her potential and will the elder Williams have something left in the tank after playing back to back 3 set matches.  Williams will have to no doubt use her vast array of shots to move Keys around and take her chances coming forward.  Keys will be using her explosive power to force Venus to play defence.  Williams in straights. 

The other quarterfinal sees last year’s finalist, Dominika Cibulkova going up against 5 time champion, Serena Williams.  Williams the younger has never lost to Cibulkova and has only lost one set to her in their past 4 meetings.  Williams has struggled throughout this tournament but look for her to put in a dominating performance here to set up an all Williams semifinal clash.  Williams in straight. 

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 9 PREVIEW

by Karen 

I don’t know but the longer the Australian Open rolls along the more I tend to lose track of which day I am writing about.  This morning I had no idea what day we were on or even what day it was in my own time  zone.  Thank goodness I did not have to go to work today.

Today’s Day 9 sees the first of the ladies quarterfinal and this is from the bottom half of the draw.  For all the dull matches leading up to this point, I have to say that the matches on paper are intriguing so it will be good to see how they play out. 

Simona Halep
Ekaterina Makarova

First up is Simona Halep going up against Ekaterina Makarova.  They have played one match against each other which was won by Halep in pretty convincing fashion in New Haven on a court similar to that of the Australian Open.   Halep looked convincing in her match against Wickmayer against whom she had never won a set.  Makarova on the other hand struggled mightily against Julia Georges despite the scoreline.  To compound this, Makarova has her right upper leg heavily strapped, which could affect her movement. Look for Halep to make the semifinals of the Australian Open in convincing fashion. 

Maria Sharapova

Eugenie Bouchard


The next match pits last year’s semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard against 2008 champion, Maria Sharapova.  The head to head is 3-0 in Sharapova’s favour. Their last match at the 2014 French Open was one of the best matches of 2014.  Sharapova had to bring out all of her fighting qualities to win that match.  Almost a year later, Bouchard has improved but I doubt if she has improved enough to take out Sharapova.  This will put Bouchard’s return game up against Sharapova’s. Both women will be looking to be aggressive and in this area of the game, Sharapova with the more lethal and powerful groundstrokes should come out on top.  Bouchard however is on a mission to put her name on a Grand Slam trophy and so this will not be an easy match.  Sharapova in 3. 

VENUS EBONY STARR WILLIAMS

by Karen 


Can we all pause for a minute and reflect on the legend that is Venus Ebony Starr Williams.  A few months shy of her 35th birthday, and battling an auto-immune disease that leaves her fatigued, Venus Williams has started the 2015 tennis season without losing a match. Coming off a title in Auckland, New Zealand, defeating marathon runner, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus has become an inspiration to anyone who thinks that they are old and they don’t have the ability to keep doing the things that they love. 

In  a highly anticipated round of 16 match against No. 6 seed Aga Radwanska, Venus would battle from a break down in the third set to run away with the set 6-1.  Showing her all court prowess, her movement, her volleying skills and most importantly her ability to remain calm under pressure and shake off the point that went before, Venus continues to inspire. 

Her press conference transcript after her win over Radwanska is a must read.  I have extracted some important parts of it:

On Age

Q. When playing a player much younger, how would you compare the advantages between years of experience as to they have a younger body?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think at this level the younger body doesn’t help, per se. Everybody out here is ready to go. If you’re here and you’re playing this deep, it means that you’ve done the work and you’re fit. So whatever age, doesn’t matter what age you are, you got to go to the gym, you got to do the work on the court. That definitely is not a factor, no matter who you play. Of course, experience is definitely a factor. But I was 19 once. I beat players who were more experienced. So at the end of the day if you can hit the ball in the court enough times and get enough points on your side, that will be who wins no matter what the other numbers are.
On Inspiring Others 
Q. Do you feel your performances affect people and are an inspiration?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely. I think all of us touch lives in ways that we never dreamed of growing up as kids. You just want to be No. 1 in the world, you want to win a major. You never think about the people you inspire from your efforts and your attitude. Yes, that’s been my experience in my life and most professional players I think it’s their experience as well.
On Lindsay Davenport as coach and player 
Q. You played against Lindsay more than anybody else in your career, 27 times. Are there moments in your rivalry with her that stand out to you?
VENUS WILLIAMS: I think that what stands out most in the rivalry was how one-sided it was in the beginning. She probably won’t remember this, because when you’re winning you forget the count, but when you’re losing you don’t. I know when we played our first Wimbledon final, she had nine wins and I had three. So it was very, very unbalanced, especially for her wins. I think I was able to compete well in some of our most important matches. So that was nice.
Q. Do you see similarities from what you’re seeing in Madison, between her game and Lindsay’s game?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely. Lindsay used to just hit a clean ball. She was so fun to watch play. I loved watching her play. Of course, didn’t love watching her hit those clean balls against you. That was a part of it as well. I thought she brought a lot to tennis. I think she should actually get more credit. People don’t always mention her name. But she was an amazing player. Yeah, definitely some similarities. Madison hits a clean ball, goes for it. So it looks like it’s a good match.

Next up for Venus is unseeded 19 year old American, Madison Keys. If one believes in destiny and the nature of things, Keys started playing tennis when she saw Venus playing at Wimbledon and admired the dress that Venus was wearing so much that she asked her parents if she could get the dress.  They told her that she could if she became serious about tennis. She eventually did and she has.  


The other round of 16 matches that took place yesterday saw Serena Williams going up against Garbine Muguruza.  This was a highly anticipated match when the draw first came out and it did not disappoint.  Muguruza threw everything she had at Serena but unfortunately for her, Serena can always dial it up another gear and this she did.  While doing this blog post, I am watching the replay on Tennis Channel and it is instructive that both Brett Haber and Martina are of the view that players always seem to play their best against Serena.  Both Haber and Martina have seen Muguruza play and they have both opined that they have never seen her play this well.   Martina’s take on this is that when you are ranked No. 1 everyone raises their game against you.  She said it is unfortunate but that is what happens when you are sitting atop the heap.  Everyone wants to knock you off.   

Serena had to call upon all her Grand Slam experience to eventually take control of this match and she did that.  After the match 

Dominika Cibulkova was fined US$4,000.00 for illegal coaching during her match against Victoria Azarenka, which she won.  Why did I start with that? Because players need to be called out when they receive illegal coaching from the stands as they have brought the game and themselves into disrepute. Cibulkova had no reason to cheat, because that is what illegal coaching during the Grand Slams amount to. She was already outplaying Azarenka.  She was blasting the ball and she was doing what needed to be done to win the match.  Once Azarenka started to change strategy and was making inroads, that was when Cibulkova started to cheat.  I am also incensed that her player box does not get censored more as a result of their very vocal chants during matches.  Next up for Cibulkova will be Serena Williams against whom she is 0 and 4. 



19 year old Madison Keys has made her way her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.  This is an amazing effort but something that has been in the offing for quite some time.  The rise of Keys has seen a lot less publicity than the rise of a former young American, Sloane Stephens, and before her, Melanie Oudin.  While Sloane only showed up at the biggest events to showcase her skills, Keys has used the WTA regular to hone her skills.  She has worked on her game, her fitness and her mental ability.  In her run to the Eastbourne title in 2014, the work that she had been putting in to make her game more compact was there for all to see.  Fast forward to 2015 and her hire of 3 time Grand Slam champion and Hall of Famer, Lindsay Davenport as part of her team, and you can already see the improvements, especially in the way she kept calm under pressure in serving out the match against 2 time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova. 

This and That 

During her on court interview after her match against Muguruza, Serena Williams was asked about how she manages to deal with an opponent who is playing her tough.  Serena mentioned that she has always had to do that as she does not call a coach down on the regular Tour as you can’t do that at the Grand Slams. As a result she has always had to find a way to win matches by relying on her skills and changing up her game.  I do hope that other players who want to be able to win Grand Slams really listened to what Serena had to say. 

I strongly believe that the fact that Azarenka stopped calling her coach down on court led to her meteoric rise in 2012 and to capture back to back Grand Slam titles and take her to No. 1.  It is for this reason why Caroline Wozniacki will always have trouble winning a Grand Slam as will people like Cibulkova and Muguruza.  When you are unable to think yourself out of trouble, you will always have problems when you have no one else to rely on but yourself.  



AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 7 REVIEW AND DAY 8 PREVIEW

by Karen

It feels sometimes that we are playing a Premier tournament on one day and a Grand Slam the next day. That is how lopsided, unequal and disappointing it has been for one side of the draw, compared to the next.

Even before the seed decimation that took place on day one, the bottom half of the draw was particularly weak, however, now that it is coming down to the business end of the tournament the matches on the bottom half have been particularly uninspiring.

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The day started out with No. 7 seed and last year’s semi-finalist, Eugenie Bouchard going up against Romania’s Irina Camelia-Begu.  Apart from a spirited effort by Begu to take the second set, the match was desultory.  It could be that I was tired or maybe I was comparing it to the matches that were played on day 6 from the top half of the draw.

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Next up was No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova going up against Shuai Peng.  Again, apart from a spirited effort by Peng in the first set, this match was a foregone conclusion.  Even worse, Peng, who can’t seem to stay healthy, had both legs heavily strapped. After fighting to break back for 4-3 in the first set, Peng would not win another game.

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Meanwhile over on Margaret Court Arena, Julia Georges dream run came to an end at the hands of Ekaterina Makarova.

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In the night session Simona Halep made light work of Yanina Wickmayer. The quarter-finals are therefore all set on the bottom half with Bouchard going up against Sharapova and Halep against Makarova.

Day 8 sees the top half of the draw playing their round of 16 matches and the matches on tap could not be more exciting.

Rod Laver Arena 

Azarenka v. Cibulkova – Cibulkova has got here on guts alone.  She has fought tooth and nail through every match to make it to the round of 16. Azarenka on the other hand has played inspiring tennis up to this point.  In her previous match against Strycova she struggled somewhat.  Her matches with Cibulkova have always been epic and this one should be no different.  Look for Cibulkova to end Azarenka’s dream run.

Williams (S) v. Muguruza – The meme on this match up is all about what Muguruza did against Serena Willliams at the French Open in 2014.  This is a new tournament and a new year.  In 2014 Serena’s mission was to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.  Now that she has accomplished that feat,she has set her sights on two things.  Tying Steffi Graf and attempting a calendar year Grand Slam.  She was tested in her previous match but came through in flying colours.  Muguruza on the other hand has been struggling throughout this tournament, but has come through with exellent game  play and a mental toughness not seen in a long time. However, this is where Muguruza’s story ends as the younger Williams will be looking to add to her impressive Grand Slam resume.

Williams (V) v. Radwanska – this match is scheduled for 3:00 a.m. EST and I for one will be ensuring that I am up and about when it is happening.  Venus has not fared well at the hands of Radwanska from their last meetings and this one will perhaps be no different.  Venus will need to start well.  She will need to serve and return much like she did in the third set against Giorgi and she will need to not get into long rallies with Radwanska.  Radwanska has been playing very good tennis but this will be her first true tennis since taking Martina as a coach.

Margaret Court Arena

Keys v. Brengle – These are the 2 surprises of this tournament.  Both Madisons are young Americans with 2 differing styles of play. Keys has one of the biggest serves and forehands on the women’s Tour.  Brengle on the other hand is exceptionally quick around the court and redirects pace very well.  Keys usuallly has a hard time with players who defend well and she will have to ensure that she does not become engaged in protracted rallies.  She will also need to reign in her game in much the same way she did against Kvitova.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 6 REVIEW

by Karen 


Sergio Giorgi said that his daughter, Camila would win her match against Venus Williams because she is a much better player than Venus.  There is having confidence in your daughter, and reality.  After all, another father, Richard Williams did say that it is Venus’ world and we are all but visitors to it.  That father had reason to speak authoritatively about his daughter as she had accomplished much by the time he made those statements.  Camila Giorgi on the other hand has made a name for herself for losing matches from winning positions.

For a set and a half yesterday, Giorgi had the better of Venus.  She was being aggressive, serving well and returning even better.  She had Venus on the back foot for the majority of the match. However, when time came for her to serve for the match at 5-4 she did what she has done for most of her young career. She blinked.  Venus, the veteran contributed to the blinking.  She started to play like the 46 time singles champion that she is.  The final score  was 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1.  The tiebreak was of a very high quality and the third set was not as easy as the scoreline suggests.  There was one game that lasted almost 20 minutes with Giorgi struggling to hold.  Prior to the match, Camila Giorgi said she had no idea who Venus Williams was as she only watched Sampras and Agassi.  No matter.  I bet she knows who Venus is now.  

Next up for Venus is Aga Radwanska.  Venus has made the fourth round at a Major for the first time since Wimbledon 2011.  Congratulationns Ms. Williams. 


Madison Keys showed everyone last night what having cojones really is.  Keys took on the 2 time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova in a late night match featuring big hitting and even bigger serving, at least from Keys.  I hate to give credit to coaches who have recently joined a player’s coaching team, but there is no doubt that the confidence that Keys showed last night in closing out the first set against Kvitova and then closing out the match on serve, holding at love, can be due in part to her celebrity coach, Lindsay Davenport. 

Petra Kvitova has had a renewed sense of focus on her career by working on her fitness and her health.  It was disappointing to see her playing tennis that is best left to juniors.  She did not seem to have a clue as to how to counter what Keys was throwing at her. It remains to be seen how she recovers from here on out. Next up for Keys is fellow American Madison Brengle, who took out Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets. 



Serena Williams had a tough time against No. 26 seed Elina Svitolina.  The No. 1 struggled to hold serve in the first set and was broken on 3 occassions, one of which was at love.  However, she was able to start moving her feet, and as is the norm in these situations when Serena finds herself in trouble, she raises the level of her game.  This time was no different.  After dropping the first set 6-4, Serena would go on to lose 2 more games, with the final set ending in a love set.  Next up for the younger Williams is a rematch with Garbine Muguruza, her conqueror at the 2014 French Open.  That will no doubt be a cracker of a match. 

Finally, in case you missed it, Victoria Azarenka was fired up after making her way through the always dangerous Barbora Zahlolova Strycova to make the fourth round of the Australian Open.   Next up for Vika (not Vicky) is last year’s finalist, Dominika Cibulkova


AUSTRALIAN OPEN DAY 7 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Quick post as I am still working on the Day 6 review as it was so awesome and I spent most of the day sleeping and then had to end up doing household chores and take the dog to get him groomed.  

Day 7 sees the bottom half of the draw play for the chance to go to the quarter-finals.  For some it will be their first time being this far in a Major.  The matches on tap today:

Rod Laver 

Bouchard v. Begu – will the slow and steady Begu hold off the aggressive Bouchard. 
Peng v. Sharapova – after surviving a scare, Sharapova looked awesome against Zarina Diyas.  Look for that form to continue
Halep v. Wickmayer – it has been a long time between drinks for Wickmayer.  After going out in her opening round match against Taylor Townsend in Auckland Wickmayer, though struggling has found her way into the round of 16.  Her journey stops here. 

Margaret Court Area

Makarova v. Georges