Pilot Pen Tennis (4)
Coverage of the 2010 Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament, August 22 - August 29, 2010
One of the more popular pastimes among tennis fans is playing “what if.” What if Monica Seles hadn’t been stabbed? What if Bjorn Borg didn’t retire at age 26? What if Serena Williams had decided to go through a McDonald’s drive-through instead if visiting the “broken glass” restaurant and hurting her foot a few weeks ago?
In looking forward to the 2010 Pilot Pen Women’s Final, several “what if” angles come to mind. What if the weather in Montreal last week was sunny and dry, and Caroline Wozniacki hadn’t been forced to play her semifinal and final Rogers Cup matches on Monday of this week? What if Ana Ivanovic hadn’t rolled her ankle in Cincinnati two weeks ago, opening up a spot in the Pilot Pen draw for another wildcard, Nadia Petrova? What if Varvara Lepchenko had held her nerve when leading Petrova ,6-1, 5-2 in the First Round of the Pilot Pen? (Spare a thought for Lepchenko, who ended her week by losing her second round U.S. Open qualifying match.) Such is the merry-go-round of professional tennis, which is why “what if” can be such an entertaining activity.
There are no definite answers to the “what if” game, and results will ultimately be all that matters. Seles ends her career with nine Grand Slam titles, Borg ends his with 11, and Serena remains at 13 until her foot heals. And, as Wozniacki and Petrova took the court for the Women’s Singles Final, all of the circumstances framed earlier in the week were brushed away, and new scenarios were created.
Nadia Petrova def. Maria Kirilenko 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
In four previous appearances at the Pilot Pen, Nadia Petrova won a grand total of one match. It appeared she was going to continue her losing ways in her opening round match this year as she fell behind Qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, 1-6, 2-5. But Petrova escaped near catastrophe in that match, and hasn't looked back. She dropped only five games against former doubles partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round, and dominated No. 2 seed Samantha Stosur in their quarterfinal match yesterday, losing just three games.
The veteran Russian, 28, faced her younger compatriot Maria Kirilenko Friday afternoon in the first women's Semifinal. Unfortunately for Petrova, she reverted to past form in the opening set. She served under 50%, including three double faults, and won less than half of her service points. Kirilenko played a solid first set, maintaining her form from the earlier rounds. Hitting accurate groundstrokes, Kirilenko pinned Petrova deep in the court and let her opponent make the errors. On the strength of two service breaks, Kirilenko closed out the first set, 6-2.
Unluckily, the match turned on an injury to Kirilenko. After Petrova broke Kirilenko's serve to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, Kirilenko called the trainer to the court. Kirilenko had been stretching her back between points, and it was beginning to affect her movement. Petrova later acknowledged that the injury time out by Kirilenko allowed her to regain her focus. Sensing that Kirilenko was hurting, Petrova focused on making her run. In the sixth game, Nadia fought off the only break point she faced, and evened the match at one set-all by winning eleven of the final fourteen points of the set.
Maria Kirilenko def. Dinara Safina, 6-3, 6-3
This Quarterfinal was a rematch of the players' 2010 Australian Open fourth round match in January. At that time, Dinara Safina was ranked No. 2 in the world but struggling with a back injury, which forced her to retire while leading 5-4 in the opening set. Since that time, it has been a season wrought with struggles for Safina. She was off the tour for three months before returning in April, but has won only five matches between then and the start of the Pilot Pen, and was forced to skip Wimbledon after aggravating the injury . As a result, the 24-year-old's ranking has dropped from No. 2 to No. 70.
In the meantime, Maria Kirilenko has experienced a career resurgence from a dismal 2009 season. Once a regular resident among the world's Top 30, Kirilenko had dropped outside of the top sixty in 2009. But with upsets over Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, and Svetlana Kuznetsova at both Rome and the French Open, Kirilenko has rebuilt her ranking to No. 25.
In their match at New Haven, the two Russians played evenly through the first part of the opening set, when Safina requested to confer with her coach, Gaston Etlis, during the changeover at 3-4. The coaching didn't help, as Safina fell behind in her next service game. Facing break point, she hit a net cord forehand that dribbled back over her side of the net, giving Kirilenko a 5-3 edge. Kirilenko took full advantage, and held serve to take the first set, 6-3.
The 2010 Pilot Pen has picked up just where the 2009 event left off: with rain interrupting matches. While qualifying matches were moved indoors and first round play was delayed, the players here continued their preparations heading into the 2010 US Open. Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur took time out of their schedules to meet with the press. The two players, who faced each other in the French Open final in June, are both having the best year of their singles careers. They talked about their successes, challenges, and plans for the rest of the year.
Schiavone, the 30-year-old Italian who surprised the tennis world by winning the French Open title, has climbed to seventh in the WTA rankings. When asked how her life has changed since winning the French title, she playfully responded, "This is the first time someone has asked me this question." But, kidding aside, Schiavone was happy to share her experiences. While she acknowledged that her life and circumstances have changed quite a bit, she feels the same inside. She's careful not to spend too much time thinking back on Roland Garros. She cited Roger Federer as someone who is always forward-thinking, an approach she feels she needs to take to continue her own tennis achievements. While she declined to share any specific goals, Schiavone stated simply that she's always looking to improve.
Speaking about the French Open trophy, Schiavone said she keeps it at home. Then, grabbing a 12-ounce bottle of water off the table, she said with a laugh, "it's like this," and indicated the size of the trophy as equivalent to that of the water bottle. The Federation Cup trophy, which Schiavone won last November as part of the Italian team, is a much larger trophy that she gave to her parents to share in her accomplishment. But the French Open trophy? "It's mine! Just mine," she says.