Lyon, Detroit interested in struggling Quebec WTA event

It wasn’t that long ago that the Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City was a gem of a tournament.

The small provincial capital has a long tradition of treating every event held there – regardless of size – as a big-league endeavour.

It offered everything a player could want. And that included impressive crowds, especially in the context of an International-level event.

And many players stopped in on their way to the top. Past champions include Jennifer Capriati (in 1999) and 16-year-old Maria Sharapova (in 2003).

But those days are gone. The crowds have dwindled every year over the last five years.

And while Tennis Canada vice-president Eugène Lapierre said the tournament would be back in 2019, he can’t guarantee its future beyond that.

In fact, Lapierre confirmed that Tennis Canada, which bought back the event in the third change of ownership over the last four years, regularly receives offers to buy the event’s license and relocate it.

Valuable asset

Quebec
Baby, nanny and coach in tow, Lindsay Davenport hit Quebec City in 2007 during her return after having her first child. She won the title, defeating No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber in the first round, and No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The offers have come from Asia and from the Middle East.

And, new this year, from Lyon, France and … Detroit, Michigan.

“I can’t deny that we’ve had international requests for our product. It’s worth money. We’ll look at that, but the most important thing remains the development of our sport,” Lapierre told the media in Quebec City last week.  

There are been a few pit stops from top-name players over the years, including Venus Williams, who went … curling in 2014. And that tends to raise expectations.

“I was in the lobby of the hotel and a man asked me, “Oh, we won’t have Serena this year? And right there, I told myself, ‘Oh boy, if that’s what the people in Quebec expect, we’ll never make it,” Lapierre said.

From November to September

Quebec
Venus Williams, charmed in Montreal in the summer of 2014, returned for the Quebec event in September and reached the final, losing to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

The tournament has already changed its dates, to try to attract better fields.

Previously, it was held the first week of November (back when the WTA Tour season was longer). The slot was attractive in terms of potentially attracting last-minute top-20 players looking for a few extra points to try to qualifying for the year-end finals. But on the down side, it took place long after the players left North America after the US Open.

The competing tournaments in that slot were in Europe. And since the Tour finals were held in Europe from the time the event left New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2000 until the move to Singapore in 2014, Quebec was at a disadvantage.

So they tried something else. The event was moved to the week after the US Open, in the hopes of attracting players before they went on to Europe or the fall Asian swing.

Sporadic appearances by Bouchard

Quebec
Bouchard has returned to Quebec only once since reaching the semifinals in 2013. It didn’t end well.

That didn’t work, either.

The fall Asian swing begins the same week, with a competing International-level event in Hiroshima, Japan.

In addition, the rare presence of potentially its biggest drawing card, home favorite Genie Bouchard, hasn’t helped matters.

After reaching the semifinals in 2013, the Montrealer has returned only once – in 2016, for an appearance fee that stretched the tournament’s budget and ended up not paying dividends.

Bouchard lost in meltdown fashion to Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia in the second round in 2016, even hearing boos from her home crowd.

This year, Bouchard opted for Hiroshima, where she lost to Nao Hibino in the first round.

A summer outdoor event?

The tournament has looked into the possibility of holding it outdoors, during the North American summer swing. If Lapierre had his druthers, it would be in February in the leadup to Indian Wells and Miami although the venue, at Laval University, is more booked up during that period of the year.

Times change. And sometimes a tournament has its day. There are plenty of women’s events in North America that have not survived over the last few decades, including San Diego, Los Angeles and Memphis.

But it would be a shame if the Coupe Banque Nationale became another casualty, and ended up in the Far East.

2018 us open – Day 6 preview

NEW YORK – There was plenty of drama of the marathon variety on Friday, as 2017 finalists Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson prevailed over much younger rivals.

The men’s drama on Saturday, as the third rounds conclude, could be of a very different kind.

No. 2 seed Roger Federer takes on a player who has been a dangerous opponent for him in the past, in No. 30 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Kyrgios, who might well have found himself out in the second round, but for a just-in-time attitude adjustment, will face Federer for the first time in a best-of-five set format.

The three previous matches between the two – one on hard, one on grass, and one on clay – have all gone the distance. They have played nine sets; there have been tiebreaks in eight of them. And Federer has won the last two.

Day 6
“That’s 75 degrees in good old Fahrenheit. Perfect tennis weather – for a change)

“I definitely know that I won’t be the favorite, the crowd favorite here. So I go into that match with zero expectation. I do believe I can beat him. I have done it before. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kyrgios said after pulling out his second-round win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Kyrgios often refers to Federer at the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). So we know where he stands in that mock debate.

Asked what three weapons Federer has that are the most dangerous, he answered thus:

“I think his slice return, his chip return, is the best the game has ever seen. There has never been a better chip return ever. I think if you took that shot away, he wouldn’t be as good because he neutralizes big serves as well. He turns it into pretty much instant offense,” Kyrgios said.

“His serve and first shot unbelievable, very unpredictable. And he’s unbelievably efficient. Never gets tired, doesn’t seem like it. His movements are so efficient. He’s just, yeah, those would be the three things. He’s efficient, serve and first ball, and chip return.”

Another mercurial opponent for the Fed

As for Federer, he’ll be playing a talented but highly unpredictable opponent for the second straight match, after defeating France’s Benoit Paire in straight sets in the second round.

He didn’t drop a set against lefty Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round, either. But you’d have to consider this a pretty good draw through the first few days for him.

Federer hasn’t won the US Open in 10 years, which is right around the time people were starting to “retire” him.

A decade on, Federer looking for another Open win (pics)

Other men’s matches to watch

No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic is hardly under radar. But he has hardly had a bump-free road to his third round match against No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet Saturday night.

Djokovic dropped a set to both Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the first round, and Tennys Sandgren in the second round. He has had his share of tetchy moments with crowd control and his own play – even in practice.

At one point during his hit with Stan Wawrinka last week, Djokovic got so angry at two missed smashes in a row, he reared back and catapulted a ball into the mostly deserted stands inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as hard as he possibly could. Seriously – full swing.

Except… the stands weren’t empty.

One man was sitting there, right on the trajectory of the ball. Had the ball not ricocheted off a seat a few rows in front of the man, it might well have been a direct hit. As it was, the fellow was a bit shook, and less than impressed.

(Wawrinka was just as cranky with the heat that day. But when he smacked a ball, he did it against the backstop on the court, When it bounced back, he was the only one in harm’s way).

But let’s not forget, the heat has been a real bear until the temperatures finally dropped Friday. Tempers have been pretty frayed.

Ostapenko vs. Sharapova – hard-hitting battle

Jelena Ostapenko is a fairly limited player still, who does a couple of things notably well. But you always figure she will get beaten by an opponent who is willing to step right in and feast on that vulnerable second serve.

It’s amazing how few of the women do, though. Most are so uncomfortable with the part of the court they need to be in to do that, they’d rather sit back and wait for the ball to come to them. That, of course, allows Ostapenko to escape punishment on that shot. And her second shot after the return is ridiculously good.

But if there’s a player who’s aggressive enough on the return to do it, it’s Maria Sharapova. She’s built a career on it.

The two have met only once, in the quarterfinals of Rome earlier this year. And it was a battle royale.

“It was a really long, physical match. It was our first ever meeting. So it was a chance to see and feel each other’s game. I was really impressed by her game,” Sharapova said. “She’s young and fearless, comes out swinging. She’s a Grand Slam champion, so that speaks for itself. And she’s got that experience in Grand Slams already. I think she likes the matchup of playing against me. Both quite aggressive players. But I do, as well.”

Ostapenko had all sorts of issues with American Taylor Townsend before closing out her second-round victory. Sharapova had some concerning red flags of her own in a win over Sorana Cirstea of Romania that ended in the early hours of Friday morning. She won it in straight sets. But it was not pretty, and the serve was a major struggle. The Russian was uncharacteristically agitated on the court, for reasons that also included the tough, humid conditions.

Kvitova v. Sabalenka – ditto

Aryna Sabalenka, the 20-year-old from Belarus, is the on-form player coming into the US Open after a great hard-court summer.

Will it stop in the third round on Saturday, against No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova?

The two met in the second round of Miami back in March. Kvitova pulled that one out in three sets.

But Sabalenka is an exponentially better, more confident player less than six months down the road.

 

Sharapova hits up with the Beast

WIMBLEDON – Maria Sharapova crossed one off her bucket list in Rome when she got to have a hit with Rafael Nadal.

Maybe she caught the bug. 

Because on Sunday at Aorangi Park, she hit it up with the Beast.

Max Mirnyi of Belarus, the 40-year-old veteran doubles player who is based out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, had a practice session with Sharapova.

Sharapova grew up at that academy. And she has spent more time there of late, as she has reunited with coach Thomas Högstedt, who also calls it home.

The look on her face when she pulled off a sneaky little drop shot that caught Mirnyi completely flatfooted was priceless.

As an extra, Sharapova certainly seems to have a ton of affection for Mirnyi’s dad and coach, Nikolai – an even beastier beast then his son. Big man.

Here’s what it looked like.

Sharapova and Dimitrov (Parts 1 & 2)

WIMBLEDON – The practice court bookers at Wimbledon have a cheeky sense of humor.

Or perhaps they’re few years behind on the news?

Two days running, the schedulers put Maria Sharapova and former love Grigor Dimitrov on the same court, in back-to-back time slots.

Which meant, of course, that they were fated to run into each other on the changeover.

And, of course, they did.

When practice courts switch over to the next group, there’s no real set way things happen.

The only constant are the automatic multiple handshakes and high-fives between the players practicing together and their teams at the end of a session.

Sometimes, if the players coming off the court and those coming on know each other really well, there are handshakes and kisses and everyone on each team says hey to the others and it’s all very congenial.

On other occasions, it’s just very businesslike. One group of players and coaches pack up and the other hastens to get on court and start hitting, to not waste a minute of their allotted time.

Sometimes – and this is more true of the women and the men – there’s a slight nod, or the players just kind of ignore each other completely. They’re not being rude; they’re just wrapped up in their own deals. No one seems to take offense.

High-five from Grigor

On Saturday, Sharapova and Carina Witthoeft were booked on Court 4, to be followed by Dimitrov and Thiem.

In this case, you could see that Dimitrov wanted to go over and say hello. But he was sort of hesitating until he just plucked up all his might and just went for it – damn the torpedoes, straight ahead.

He held out his hand for a high-five and … he got it!

The former pair chatted amiably for a bit, and then went on with their business.

Same time, different court

On Sunday, Sharapova was on Court 16, inside Aorangi Park.

And again, Dimitrov followed her again on the schedule

This time, the non-random run-in was already yesterday’s news. 

Sharapova and Dimitrov dated for about two years, ending their relationship in early 2015. They seemed awfully happy for awhile, didn’t they?

But these intra-tennis relationships so often don’t work out. Despite the men and women playing the same sport, they aren’t in the same place at the same time all that often.

Dimitrov, seeded No. 6 in the men’s draw, faces a tough opponent in unseeded Stan Wawrinka in his first-round match on Monday.

Sharapova, seeded No. 24, faces qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia on Tuesday.

Maria Sharapova and her twinsie

WIMBLEDON – So many times at tournaments, you look over at a faraway practice court swear you just saw Maria Sharapova.

There’s the omnipresent visor. And the Nike outfit. And the blonde ponytail. Maybe even, a little, the grunt.

Even the Head tennis racket is similar.

As you get closer you realize the body type is different, and it is not, in fact Maria Sharapova. But even then, looking at the face from certain angles, you doubt.

Sharapova’s tennis twinsie is Carina Witthoeft of Germany, a 23-year-old currently ranked No. 81.

Witthoeft’s rise has been slow but steady. She finished in the top 100 in 2015 and 2016, and wrapped up 2017 with her first career WTA Tour title in Luxembourg, and her first appearance in the top 50.

And there they were, the twinsies, practicing together on Court 4 at Wimbledon Saturday.

Here’s what it looked like.

You don’t see Sharapova actually playing practice sets with other players all that often. So it was neat to see – especially with her twinsie.

Wimbledon ’18: Women’s singles draw analysis

WIMBLEDON – How to even begin to project a possible champion on the women’s side, when four of the top eight seeds have yet to even reach a Wimbledon quarterfinal in their careers?

That’s why predictions are a fool’s game, although it can be fun to be wrong as long as you can laugh at yourself, and weren’t foolish enough to wager on the outcome.

The only two former Wimbledon champions among the two eight are reigning queen Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, who won it twice. They are also the only two to even reach the final.

One player (No. 1 Simona Halep) made a semifinal. Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Garcia have never gone past the fourth round. Sloane Stephens has made one quarterfinal, and big-serving Karolina Pliskova has lost in the second round five straight years.

Meanwhile, there are three former champions (Venus, Serena and Maria Sharapova) and three former finalists (Angelique Kerber, Genie Bouchard, Vera Zvonareva) outside that group.

Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur all have Grand Slam titles on their resumés.

So what to make of it? 

Let’s dive in.

Potential third-round matchups

With Serena Williams, Sharapova and others seeded in the 20s, the big-time clashes will start early.

*[1] Simona Halep vs. [30] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
*[15] Elise Mertens  vs. [22] Johanna Konta
*[12] Jelena Ostapenko vs. [24] Maria Sharapova 
[8] Petra Kvitova vs. [26] Daria Gavrilova

*[3] Garbiñe Muguruza vs. [26] Anett Kontaveit
*[14] Daria Kasatkina vs. [17] Ashleigh Barty
[11] Angelique Kerber vs. [18] Naomi Osaka
[6] Caroline Garcia vs. [27] Carla Suárez Navarro

*[7] Karolina Pliskova vs. [29] Mihaela Buzarnescu
*[9] Venus Williams vs. [20] Kiki Bertens
*[13] Julia Goerges vs. [23] Barbora Strycova
[4] Sloane Stephens vs. [31] Shuai Zhang

*[5] Elina Svitolina vs. [25] Serena Williams
*[10] Madison Keys vs. [19] Magdalena Rybarikova
[16] Coco Vandeweghe vs. [21] Anastasia Sevastova
*[2] Caroline Wozniacki vs. [32] Agnieszka Radwanska

In 11 of those 16 matchups, the lower seed has at least a decent chance to pull off the upset (those with asterisks).

That, of course, assumes all of them go according to form and make their seeding through the first two rounds.

Potential quarterfinals

[1] Simona Halep vs. [8] Petra Kvitova (or Sharapova)
[3] Garbiñe Muguruza (or Barty) vs. [6] Caroline Garcia (or Kerber)
[4] Sloane Stephens vs. [7] Karolina Pliskova (or Azarenka, or Venus)
[2] Caroline Wozniacki (or Radwanska, or Vandeweghe) vs. [5] Elina Svitolina (or Serena, or Keys)

See? There’s just no way

First-round matchups to watch

[12] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. [Q] Vera Zvonareva (RUS)

These two are only a little more than three years apart, and both are former Wimbledon finalists. But surprisingly enough, they have never met.

Zvonareva had been off the Tour for awhile, as she married and had a baby. And that coincided with the period where Kerber rose to the top of the game. But still, it wasn’t as though Kerber was playing low-level ITFs when Zvonareva was around.

This will be the 2010 finalist’s first Wimbledon in four years.

[Q] Genie Bouchard (CAN) vs. [WC] Gabriella Taylor (GBR)

After toughing out three victories as she took part in qualifying for the first time, Bouchard ended up with a very kind draw for her first-round match.

Taylor, a 20-year-old ranked No. 182, won her first two matches on grass this season in Surbiton. She defeated countrywoman Heather Watson and Hungary’s Fanny Stollar back to back. Since then, she has lost three consecutive first-rounders.

Taylor defeated Bouchard’s countrywoman, Katherine Sebov, in the first round of the Wimbledon juniors in 2014. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She played the junior Wimbledon event three times, and the women’s qualifying event four times. But this will be Taylor’s first Grand Slam main draw – of any kind.

[18] Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs. Monica Niculescu (ROU)

Niculescu, 30, has one fourth-round effort at Wimbledon on her resumé. That was 2015, and it’s one only two occasions where she has made the second week of a Grand Slam (the other was the US Open in 2011).

Her iconoclastic, funky game of slices and net rushes could frustrate the hard-hitting Osaka on grass. Or the Japanese player could just swipe it away. Either way, it will be fascinating to watch.

analysis

Niculescu’s problem is that she has very little play since Miami, and only one grass-court match, this week at an ITF event in Southsea.

Osaka’s problem may be an abdominal injury. She played Nottingham and Birmingham, but retired in her second-round match there against Dalila Jakupovic.

[6] Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs. Belinda Bencic (SUI)

Bencic is still only 21. But doesn’t it seems as though she’s already lived four tennis lifetimes?

The former No. 7 clawed her way back to a decent ranking when she returned from injury in September of 2017. In fact, she won 15 straight matches (with the loss of only one set) at the 125K and ITF level to close out the season.

And then she went to Hopman Cup and defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Osaka and Coco Vandeweghe (and all four of her mixed doubles matches with her scrub partner Roger Federer).

But since then, she’s not won two matches in a row. And she retired early in the second set of her last match, against a 25-year-old ranked No. 281.

We spotted Bencic out at the qualifying supporting her friend Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, so she’s still the same fabulous person she ever was.

Garcia has never done particularly well at Wimbledon, even though she’s such a great athlete you’d think she could do well on any surface. So it’s an opportunity for both.

[10] Madison Keys (USA) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS)

These two are good pals, both having spent time training down in Boca Raton, Fla. They teamed up for doubles at the Australian Open a couple of years ago. And Keys has even played mixed doubles at Wimbledon with Tomljanovic’s boyfriend, Nick Kyrgios.

analysis

It’s what Mary Carillo would call “Big Babe Tennis”, with both hitting hard, and both actually being able to serve.

Tomljanovic is slowly getting her big serve back after shoulder surgery. But that’s a tough first-rounder for both.

The Serena factor

After all that discussion and debate, Serena Williams ended up seeded No. 25.

That means that in her first Wimbledon in two years, she cannot meet any of the top eight seeds until the third round.

But as previously discussed, there are plenty of trap doors in the draw before then – some of them more dangerous than many of the top eight.

In this case, the first round is an “ease your way in” one against Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus. But the rest of Serena’s section isn’t half bad, with the very vulnerable Elina Svitolina her potential third-round opponent.

After that, she could be looking at Keys in the fourth round. But that’s if she gets there. Williams developed a pectoral muscle injury at the French Open, doing double-duty in singles and doubles despite not having played in two months.

Venus and Serena are not playing doubles at Wimbledon.

In lieu of the Serena-Maria showdown, a little “she said, she said”

PARIS – The fourth-round showdown between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams was a spicy thing to look forward to.

Only it never happened, because Williams had to withdraw due to a pectoral injury.

But in the buildup, the 36-year-old had some things to say about the references to her in Sharapova’s autobiography, Unstoppable, released last September.

Williams has not been at tournaments often since then. And in Indian Wells, when she returned, there were far more interesting, non-Sharapova subjects to talk about.

She was a new mother. She was about to be a wife. And she was returning after more than a year away from the game.

“100 per cent hearsay”

Principally, it was Sharapova’s contention that Williams’ extra motivation during their encounters – and thus the lopsided nature of the head-to-head between them – stemmed from the Russian spotting Williams crying in the locker room after her loss in their 2004 Wimbledon final.

showdown

“I think the book was 100 per cent hearsay, at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing,” Williams said after her third-round victory.

“You know, I have cried in the locker room many times after a loss, and that’s what I have seen a lot of people do. I think it’s normal. … I think it would be more shocking if I wasn’t in tears,” she added. “And I am emotional and I do have emotions and I wear them on my sleeve. You know, I’m human. So for me I think it’s totally normal. I think what happens there should definitely maybe stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not-so-positive way in a book. But regardless, that’s that.”

No negative feelings

showdown

“I don’t have any negative feelings towards her, which again, was a little disappointing to see in that hearsay book. So I have always, you know, and especially having a daughter, like, I feel like negativity is taught. One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up,” Williams said.

“You know, a lot of people always assume that I feel a different way and it’s not true. You know, if anything, I feel like we should encourage each other, and the success of one female should be the inspiration to another, and I have said that a thousand “

showdown

She also pointed out that when Sharapova’s doping suspension happened, she didn’t kick her when she was down, as so many of their fellow players did.

Williams didn’t quite come out and say it, but it sounds as though she actually did read it.

“I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her. And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest. You know, I was, like, Oh, okay. I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn’t necessarily true,” she said.

“So I was, like, this is really interesting, but, you know, I don’t know. I think maybe — I don’t know. I think maybe she — I didn’t know she looked up to me that much or was so involved in my career.”

Sharapova ousted by Muguruza

showdown

It wasn’t the best time to ask Sharapova for a rebuttal, after she had just been outclassed by 2016 French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza in their quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon.

Muguruza rolled, 6-2, 6-1 in just 70 minutes, and is in the semifinals.

But the Russian was game.

Sharapova took a slight little dig at Williams for waiting so long until she withdrew before their fourth-round match.

“I think she made everyone wait a little bit,” she said.

But as for Williams’ contention that the bits about her in the memoir were hearsay, and that she was surprised she played such a big role, Sharapova didn’t agree.

“Well, I think it would be strange for me not to include someone that I have competed against for so many years. I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don’t necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against. And I think we played many matches. Some of those matches were very defining for me,” Sharapova said.

It would be very strange, I think, if I didn’t write anything about her. I think everyone would ask me questions, as well. So I’m not entirely sure how to go about that answer. When you’re writing an autobiography, I don’t think  there is any reason to write anything that’s not true.”

It would only be right and just for the two two meet this year at Wimbledon, right?

showdown

Serena Williams withdraws before Sharapova clash

PARIS – You could see it coming, the way Serena Williams was serving Sunday afternoon in her third-round doubles match with sister Venus.

She was just lobbing the ball in.

Some of the first serves barely broke 130 kilometres an hour.

And when she had the chance to crush a patented Serena smash, create a little intimidation, she passed on it.

So, an hour before she was to face rival Maria Sharapova in arguably the most highly anticipated match of the tournament Monday – men and women combined – Williams withdrew.

“I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec, my pec muscle, and has unfortunately been getting worse to the point where right now I can’t actually serve. It’s kind of hard to play when I can’t physically serve,” Williams said, in a quickly-arranged press conference.

“The first time I felt it was against (Julia) Goerges in my last match. That’s when I started to feel it. I was, like, it was really painful and I didn’t know what it was.”

withdraws
The Williams pushed hard to get a third set in the doubles. But with Williams unable to serve, it was an uphill battle. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Williams tried various tape jobs and supports for the doubles match, which the Williams sisters lost, 6-0 in the third set, to No. 3 seeds Maria José Martínez Sánchez and Andreja Klepac.

withdraws
The velocity, even on Williams’ first serve, was appalling in the third set – that there was an issue was evident. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The issues on her serve began to show mostly in the third set, in large part due to the fact that it being doubles, she only had to serve once every four games. And they were obvious, as we chronicled in this piece last night.

But she wanted to try. It wasn’t only because the sisters feel confident they can win a doubles title every time they enter. It also was an opportunity to test things out to see if there was a way she could manage the injury, in anticipation of the singles Monday.

“Beyond disappointed”

“I gave up so much, from time with my daughter to time with my family. I put everything on the court, you know. All for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation, but I always, for now in my life, I just always try to think positive and just think of the bigger picture and hopefully the next events and the rest of the year,” Williams said.

withdraws“Yeah, it’s very difficult, because I love playing Maria. You know, it’s just a match I always get up for. You know, it’s just her game matches so well against mine,” she added. “I have made every sacrifice that I could. So it’s extremely disappointing. But also, I made a promise to myself and to my coach and to my team that if I’m not at least 60 per cent or 50 per cent, then I probably shouldn’t play. The fact that I physically can’t serve at all is a good indication that maybe I should just go back to the drawing board and stay positive and try to get better, and not get it to a point where it could be a lot worse.”

The 36-year-old said she had never had this type of injury before. 

She plans to undergo an MRI and seek out specialists in Paris over the next few days, to determine the extent of the injury and see where she goes from here.

“I don’t really know how to manage it yet. Sadly, when you do have an injury that you have had before, you can kind of manage it. I have pretty much had every injury in the book. But this is a little different, and, yeah, I’m clueless as to what to do,” she said. “I’m just going to do what the doctor thinks I should do and get all the evaluations on it.”

Sharapova also disappointed

“I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw. I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon,” Sharapova said in a statement.

withdraws
Williams’s reactions when her low-speed serves came back more quickly then they were dispatched looked pretty much like this, during the doubles. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The Russian now is into the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open – the last Slam she played before her doping suspension and the tournament at which she tested positive for meldonium, which resulted in 15 months away from the game.

She’ll play the winner of the match between No. 3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza and unseeded Lesia Tsurenko.

The head-to-head between the two now stands at an asterisked 3-19. Sharapova’s only two complete victories came all the way back in 2004.

But given the unique circumstances at this French Open, it certainly felt as though the Russian had a better opportunity than she had enjoyed in a long while to eke out another victory.

With Williams playing her first major in nearly 18 months, only her third tournament since giving birth to daughter Olympia, the playing field had been evened a little. And Sharapova had clearly been rounding into form between her effort in Rome, and her matches so far in Paris.

Looking ahead to the grass

In retrospect, perhaps the doubles could have waited until Wimbledon.

But Williams thought getting some needed match play in would be worth the risk of pushing herself too hard physically.

Other than the pectoral issue, she said she had been feeling better and better physically.

withdraws“Every match has been getting better for me. Physically I’m doing great. You know, again, it hasn’t been easy. I sacrificed so much to be at this event. I can only take solace in the fact I’m going to continue to get better. And I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back. I just feel like it’s only going to do better,” Williams said.

“And I’m coming up on hopefully surfaces that are my absolute favorite to play on and that I do best on. Hopefully I can continue to heal and be able to play those events.”

Sharapova trains hard on Lenglen (video)

PARIS – The days before a Grand Slam are not necessarily intense practice days.

It’s more a time go to into maintenance mode, and play some practice sets with friendly opponents.

But Maria Sharapova isn’t operating that way.

Sharapov put in weeks of hard yards between her first-round loss at Indian Wells and her return in Stuttgart six weeks later. And she is continuing on that track.

And in that, the rehiring of former coach Thomas Hogstedt is probably a good fit. He lives for that kind of stuff. And his energy never flags.

Sharapova was on Court Suzanne Lenglen Wednesday morning, sweating up a storm and putting in max effort.

A quarterfinal effort in Madrid, followed by a run to the semifinals in Rome that included four three-setters and a booming victory over reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko were the early rewards for the hard yards. 

And now, she’s looking to make some noise at a major.

Here are a few pics.

Best Sharapova Slam

Sharapova won the French Open in 2014. She lost to Serena Williams in the 2013 final. And she won it in 2012. It has been, unexpectedly, her most consistent Slam.

In the last four rounds in 2014, the Russian defeated future Roland Garros champ Garbiñe Muguruza, then 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur, then Genie Bouchard, and then Simona Halep in the final. They were all three-setters.

She lost to eventual finalist Lucie Safarova in 2015 . And that was the last time she played it.

At this time of the year in 2016, Sharapova was serving her suspension for a positive meldonium test. A year ago, she was back less than a month from the suspension. Sharapova needed a wild card from the French Tennis Federation. But she didn’t get it.

Rounding back into form

Until those warmup events in Madrid and Rome, it didn’t look as though Sharapova would be seeded in Paris. More pertinently, it didn’t appear she would even be a dark horse contender, after some pretty pedestrian results in 2017.

But here she is. Sharapova currently sits at No. 29 in the world, after an 11-spot jump with her Rome results.

If she gets to the third round, she would face a top-eight seed. 

The way she’s been playing, you’d have to think those top eight will have an eye on Thursday evening’s draw.

Here’s some video of her working out with Hogstedt and hitting partner Alex Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov offered plenty of advice of his own.

It looks like a major team effort on Team Sharapova these days.

Sharapova hits the desert daylight (video)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Two practices within about 15 hours is all Maria Sharapova will get, before she starts her Indian Wells campaign Wednesday evening.

The 30-year-old Russian, unseeded, has not played the BNP Paribas Open in three years – since 2015, for reasons already well-documented.

But at least she got some time in under the lights during her first practice Monday night.

Tuesday morning, not on the official schedule, she returned to Court 9 to get more hitting in.

But she has not played against other female players, as most players will do to simulate match play before a big tournament. (Sharapova rare does this, though). She played a (very few) points against her hitting partner, Alex Kuznetsov.

Here’s what she looked like on Tuesday.

Low on match play

The two-time Indian Wells champion has played just one match since the Australian Open more than six weeks ago.

Her opponent, Naomi Osaka, is 10 years younger and ranked just four spots below Sharapova’s current No. 41.

They are the fifth match on the Stadium court, as the main draw play gets under way on Wednesday. There is not, though, an official night session. But this one will likely end up under the lights for the duration unless some of the earlier matches are really, really short.

An American is involved in each of the other four matchs on the main stadium. The only exception is Sharapova (a longtime U.S. resident) vs Osaka (also a nearly lifelong U.S. resident), the Russian against the Japanese.