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2009 WTA Tour - LA WOMEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS Held at the Home Depot Center, Carson, Ca. - 4

Tournament Coverage


By Kelly Richards

CARSON, CA – At first it looked like a huge mismatch. It turned into the battle of the superpowers.

At 5’ 4”, China’s Jie Zheng barely brushed the shoulders of Russia’s Dinara Safina who tops 5’11”.

At the Los Angeles Women’s Tennis Championships in Carson Thursday night, 14th seed Zheng proved size doesn’t matter. She upset Safina, last year’s champion and current world number one in a tough, tense three-setter 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

This is the fifth time the two have played, the first time Zheng has won. Zheng explained, “I knew playing her before she had a huge serve, a good back hand, but she doesn’t move well.”

“I tried to play more aggressive.”

Point after point, game after game, set after set both players traded powerful groundstrokes deep in the court, waiting patiently until the other made a mistake. It seemed as if Zheng had to move twice as fast and twice as far to win the first break. She had to hit the ball deeper and wider.

“She’s a good player,” Safina said. “It’s tough to play her.”

By the end of the first set, Safina’s frustration was palpable. She looked baffled at her coach sitting on the sidelines. And then angry.

Jie Zheng - CHN

Photos By Adam Davis

Jie Zheng - CHN

The rallies were long and captivating. Zheng worked extra hard to keep the ball away from the long reach of Safina. It begs the question, where does the petite player hide all that power?

In the second set, the first three games were all breaks. The fourth game seemed to go on forever with some of the longest points of the match. Safina had four chances to win the game. Zheng had two. There were five deuces before the tenacious Chinese slammer shut the door to lead 3-1.

Safina was down but not out. She fought back to take the second set 6-4.

Both looked tired heading into the third set but both could taste victory and neither would yield an inch. It turned into a slugfest. Zheng zigged and zagged, anticipating Safina’s every move. She would hit the ball just wide enough, just deep enough and just low enough to give Safina trouble. Each waited until the other would hit a little too high and a little too soft to take advantage and go for a winner.

Even though she was up in the third set, 4-2, Safina couldn’t capitalize on her lead. “I turned the match around,” she said. “And I didn’t use my opportunities.”

Ranked 23, Zheng moves to the quarterfinals and will meet another dream buster, Australia’s Samantha Stosur who knocked out former number one Ana Ivanovic.

Stoser Moves Easily Into Quarterfinals

Only five seeds continue to flourish at the Los Angeles Women’s Tennis Championships and one isn’t the 2007 winner Ana Ivanovic. The sixth seeded Serbian lost in straight sets to 13th seed Samantha Stosur of Australia. 6-3, 6-2

This is the second time in as many weeks she has defeated former number one players. First, Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at Stanford. And now, Ivanovic. Stosur has beaten six top 15 players this year alone, doubling her 11-year career total.

Stosur has always been a force in doubles but this is the first year she’s making a name for herself on the singles side of the tour. She credits her relentless training as the reason for her success. “This year I’m playing better and more consistently,” she says. “Wins like this keep up my confidence.”

The match started to go south for Ivanovic in the middle of the first set. The two were on serve until 4-3. In the 8th game, the former number one was down love-40. She fought off two break points but couldn’t fight off a third.

In the second set, Stosur wasted no time taking the first game off Ivanovic. She held the second game with a monster ace clocked at 120 MPH.

Ivanovic’s serve is usually one of her most powerful weapons, but today she seemed to be having issues with her toss. A clue, said Stosur, the former champ was starting to get nervous and a cue for her to jump on the next serve.

Ivanovic and Stosur have gone head to head three times in the past, the last time at Wimbledon where Ana won. Now they are even with two matches each.

After the disappointing loss, the former number one said she’s shaking things up to get back on top. Ivanovic recently changed coaches. She said she wants to take a little more time off the court to make her “hungry” on the court. “I’m trying to take it easy. I was over trained. I’m trying to relax more.”

Sam Stosur (AUS)
Maria Sharapova (RUS)

Teen Wickmayer takes Second Seed Zvonereva To The Limit

Oh me! Oh my!

The number two seed was nearly supplanted Thursday afternoon at the Los Angeles Women’s Tennis Championship in Carson, California.

Russia’s Vera Zvonareva barely survived a close three set challenge from Belgium’s Yakima Wickmayer, ranked 57. 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Thank goodness, Zvonareva won her first service in the third set. After that it was break, break, break, break, break. The hot Southern California sun starting taking it’s toll.

Wickmayer is considered to be Belgium’s next great tennis hope now that Justine Henin has retired. Every time she hit the ball she yelled what sounded like “Oh me”, perhaps that’s Belgian for a grunt.

As Seeds Drop Sharapova Reaches Quarterfinals

Ukrainian Alona Bonderenka didn’t have any real weapons to hurt Maria Sharapova. Her defensive skills pushed the match to three sets but it was determined more by Sharapova’s play. Sharapova double faulted 15 times and fired 10 aces. Her return game kept the match in her favor as she won 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. Sharapova summed it up, “I started serving harder and better.”

About her fitness compared to other players, “physically, it gives me a lot of confidence,” referring to beating third seed Azarenka yesterday and Bondarenka today. When asked about her come-back after injury, she said, “I go out there and the feeling is this is where I belong.”

Sharapova, currently ranked 61 on the WTA Sony Erickson Tour will play unseeded teen Urszula Radwanska of Poland, ranked 71, Friday night in the quarterfinals.

Singles – Third Round
(2) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) d. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 76(5) 46 64
(10) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) d. (5) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 63 63
(13) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (6) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 63 62
(8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) 63 62
Urszula Radwanska (POL) d. (12) Li Na (CHN) w/o (right knee injury)
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) d. (17) Sabine Lisicki (GER) 63 10 ret. (right shoulder injury)
Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. Alona Bondarenko (UKR) 46 60 63
J Zheng (CHN) d [1]Dinara Safina (RUS) 75 46 64

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Kirilenko/A.Radwanska (RUS/POL) d. (1) Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS) 63 76(3)
(4) Hsieh/Peng (TPE/CHN) vs. A.Bondarenko/Vesnina (UKR/RUS) w/o (Vesnina: low back injury)
King/Niculescu (USA/ROU) d. Garbin/Schiavone (ITA/ITA) w/o (Schiavone: right hamstring strain)

About the Tournament

The LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, in its 39th year, is one of the most historic events in women’s tennis and is being held for the sixth consecutive year at The Home Depot Center. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Premier event offers prize money of $700,000 to the 56-player singles and 16-team doubles draws. The distinguished tournament champions list includes Dinara Safina, Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, all of whom have also been ranked No. 1 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour during their careers.

The LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife is part of the prestigious Olympus US Open Series, which links nine summer hard-court tournaments to the famed U.S. Open. This year’s tournament marks the sixth year players competing in the U.S. Open Series tournaments will be vying for bonus prize money at the U.S. Open. Players competing in the “summer season” of tennis at the participating Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments will receive Olympus U.S. Open Series points, which will ultimately earn the series winner the opportunity to double her U.S. Open prize purse.


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