Fed Cup Semifinals Preview

The Czech Republic are the defending Fed Cup champions, winning the 2011 title with a 3-2 score against Russia.

Russia vs. Serbia: Sports Palace “Megasport” – Moscow, Russia

Russia - Elena Vesnina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Serbia- Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Bojana Jovanovski, Aleksandra Krunic

With the absence of World #2 Maria Sharapova, and World #10 Vera Zvonareva sidelined with an injury, Russia’s hopes for the tie lie with World #21 Maria Kirilenko. Kirilenko has had a quietly successful year in singles, highlighted by a runner-up finish in Pattaya City (l. to Hantuchova) and a quarterfinal showing in Indian Wells (l. to Sharapova). Somewhat shockingly, however, Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev has elected to leave her out of the opening day in singles. Instead, he will turn to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Both, particularly Pavlyuchenkova, have not shown stellar form this year, and Tarpischev is taking a huge gamble on the opening day. Kuznetsova, a team stalwart, has played in 15 career Fed Cup ties and this is her second tie this year, having helped her team defeat Spain in the opening round. Russia also possess strong prowess in doubles, as Kirilenko is currently ranked #7 in the discipline. Elena Vesnina, currently ranked #11, has been ranked in the top 10 in doubles, and Kuznetsova has won two career Grand Slams in doubles, including at the Australian Open earlier this year partnering Zvonareva.

Serbia will have both their marquee players headlining their squad, as former World #1’s Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic will be playing their first tie this season. However, both are surrounded by question marks coming into Moscow. Ivanovic, who has experienced a resurgence in form this season, reached the fourth round at the Australian Open (l. to Kvitova). However, despite these successes, she has reportedly split with coach Nigel Sears. Jankovic, on the other hand, is far from her best form; despite reaching the semifinals in Copenhagen last week (l. to Kerber), she has lost in her opening round three times this season, including in Indian Wells and Miami. The burden will not solely be on the veteran’s shoulders, as youngsters Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra Krunic have already proven themselves capable of competing at the highest level in the team competition. The two rallied the team from 2-1 down against Belgium in the opening round earlier this year; Jovanovski won her 2nd singles match and then teamed with Krunic to clinch the deciding doubles tie. 

Russia leads Serbia 3-0 in the career head to head, and the last meeting was a 3-2 victory for the Russians in the 2010 World Group first round. 

Czech Republic vs. Italy: CEZ Arena – Ostrava, Cezch Republic

Czech Republic – Lucie Hradecka, Lucie Safarova, Petra Kvitova, Andrea Hlavackova

Italy - Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will be leading the Czech squad at home against a veteran Italian team. Because of injury and illness, the World #3 has only played three matches since the Czechs defeated Germany in their opening match in the World Group in February. She has, however, won 27 consecutive matches on indoor hard courts, explaining the choice of surface and venue for the hosts. Safarova, a stalwart in the top 30 for the past few seasons, is coming off a run to the finals in Charleston (l. to Serena Williams) and has been in decent form to start the season. Kvitova and Safarova will be expected to play singles for the host nation, while defending French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka are on tap for the doubles rubber.

Italy, the Fed Cup champions in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, are in a state of flux entering the semifinals. Both Schiavone and Vinci have been struggling to find form this season, while Sara Errani has established herself as one of the breakout players of the 2012 season. Errani, a two-time title winner already on the WTA this season, also made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open (l. to Kvitova). Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti will have to rely heavily on Errani in this tie, as she has been tapped to play singles behind Francesca Schiavone. She and Roberta Vinci have also been selected for doubles; they have partnered for three WTA doubles titles this season, and were runners-up at the Australian Open.

The head-to-head is 4-3 in favor of the Czechs, however, Italy has won three in a row. The last meeting between these two teams came in 2012, where Italy swept aside the Czechs, 5-0 in the semifinals. “It will be good revenge,” Kvitova remarked about the tie. “Last time when played against them we lost 5-0, so it wasn’t really a good result and we have bad memories from this.”

JCap & Guga – New Kids in Newport

Jennifer Capriati will the the final member of the Class of 2012 that will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this year. Both Capriati and Gustavo Kuerten have been selected for induction in the Recent Player category; Kuerten’s nomination was announced in March.

Capriati, 36, captured 14 career titles, including three Grand Slams. She won the Australian Open in 2001 and 2002, as well as Roland Garros in 2001. A gold medalist (d. Graf) at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, she held the #1 ranking for 18 weeks, and finished her career with an impressive 430-176 career record. 

Capriati made her WTA Tour debut in 1990 at the tender age of 13, and reached the final in the first event she played in Boca Raton (l. to Sabatini). She made the semifinals of Roland Garros that year after her 14th birthday, and also won her first career title in Puerto Rico (d. Garrison). 

After winning 6 titles from 1990-1993, Capriati took an extended break from the game following a first round loss at the 1993 US Open. During this time, her personal struggles with shoplifting and drugs were well-chronicled. 

Capriati returned to the WTA in 1996 but did not win another title until Strasbourg in 1999 (d. Likhovtseva). She came into the 2001 Australian Open seeded 12th, and stormed her way through the draw, defeating #1 Martina Hingis 64 63 for her first Grand Slam title. Following her title, she returned to the top 10 after an eight year absence. Seeded fourth at that year’s Roland Garros, she again defeated Hingis, this time in the semifinals. Capriati defeated Kim Clijsters in what is widely regarded as a classic final, 16 64 1210. 

The top seed and defending champion at the 2002 Australian Open, Capriati battled her way into the final for the second straight year, and again found Hingis on the other side of the net. However, this final was a contrast from the previous year, as Capriati saved four match points and stormed back from 64 40 down to take the title, 46 76(7) 62.

Injuries took their toll late in Capriati’s career, and although she never officially retired from competition, she has not competed on the WTA since 2004.

“I am thrilled to learn that I have been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Capriati said in a statement. “This is a dream come true and an extraordinary tribute. I love this game and am incredibly honored by the Hall of Fame’s vote. Tennis has been my passion and dedication for my entire life, and to be acknowledged for this passion and dedication is truly icing on the cake.”

Kuerten, 35, nicknamed “Guga” by the public, was a three time champion at Roland Garros (1997, 2000, 2001). In total, Kuerten captured 20 career titles, and held the #1 ranking for 43 weeks. 

Kuerten rose to prominence during his run to the 1997 Roland Garros title (d. Bruguera), and became the 3rd lowest ranked man to win a Grand Slam title (66th). In 1999, he became the first Brazilian to qualify for what is now known as the ATP World Tour Finals, reserved for the best eight players in the world. He won the event in 2000, defeating Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras in back-to-back matches.

In late 2004, age and injuries began to catch up with Kuerten, and he played sparingly on the ATP Tour from 2005-2008. At Roland Garros in 2008, Kuerten received a wild card into the the tournament to bid farewell to his devoted fans and the tournament he loved. Although he lost in straight sets to Paul-Henri Mathieu, he was honored in a ceremony after the match by tournament organizers and fans. Kuerten retired from the ATP Tour in May 2008, having compiled a 358-195 career record. 

“I have to confess, in my first years playing tennis, I didn’t even know that the Hall of Fame existed,” Kuerten said. “It was something I really didn’t expect to happen. Now I know how important it is to be there.”

 

l to r: Capriati and Kuerten both triumphed in singles at Roland Garros in 2001.

Spanish legend Manuel Orantes, administrator Mike Davies and wheelchair player Randy Snow (posthumously) will also be inducted.

The Class of 2012 Induction Ceremony will be held on July 14, 2012 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Oh What’s Your Name Girl? My Name is Rebecca – Oh Wait it’s Caroline

“It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday! Everybody’s looking forward to the weekend! Partying, partying yeah! Partying, part-

Oh, it’s not Friday? ….It’s Tuesday. Will the real Rebecca Black please stand up?

Introducing “Oxygen” – the first recorded single by former WTA #1, and current world #6, Caroline Wozniacki. The heavily auto tuned single, recorded by Wozniacki for charity, was long speculated about but little information regarding it was released. Proceeds from the single will benefit Polish and Danish Paralympic teams.

http://www.wat.tv/embedframe/138187chuPP3r8359621

The receipts are in, and the reviews are not kind. Translated from Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet:

“Wozniacki Single Gets Bageled” – Her (Wozniacki’s) debut single is a double fault…To no surprise, the song is neither avantgarde jazz nor death metal but rather dumb blonde pop. Completely hopeless and bereft of musicality…makes the star sound like Minnie Mouse after falling into a bucket of Bacardi Breezers.

In truth, the song isn’t THAT bad…except it is. It’s for a good cause, but let your ears be the judge. Wozniacki, ever the linguist, rivals the cereal-eating, hard partying tale of Ms. Black with poetic heartfelt lyrics including:

“You’re in the air so I can keep on breathing, breathingYou know exactly how to keep my world spinning, spinningWon’t let you go, boy don’t you know you are the air I breathe, the air I need.”

Rebecca Black, meet Caroline Wozniacki. You two might have more in common than you think. The video for the song is to be recorded in the upcoming weeks. For Wozniacki’s sake, let’s just hope she finds a car with enough seats.