Sunday, May 22, 2016

Roland Garros ladies doubles draw: Santina

Santina vs. History: Co-No.1s Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza lead the field in the Roland Garros women's doubles draw, which was released on Sunday. The reigning Wimbledon, US Open, and Australian Open champions arrive in Paris hoping to become the first team to clinch a Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam since the Williams Sisters at this very tournament in 2010. Riding a 41-match winning streak through the Qatar Total Open, Hingis and Mirza suffered a minor slump at Indian Wells and Miami, and broke their three-month title drought at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Defeating Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in a match tie-break, the pair captured their first trophy on red clay, after finishing second to French Connection Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Mutua Madrid Open.

Santina wouldn't have to play the French stars - or the recently reunited Williamses - until the final, with No.3 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan, No.6 seeds and Australian Open finalists Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, and No.7 seeds Makarova and Vesnina falling into their half of the draw. Opening against Daria Kasatkina - one half of the team that ended their winning streak in Doha - and Alexandra Panova, Hingis and Mirza will likely be relieved by their draw, one that gives them time to play into form in time for a projected Melbourne rematch against Hlavackova and Hradecka in the last eight.

The Swiss Miss already won a Calendar Year Grand Slam in doubles, back in 1998 with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Jana Novotna; if she and Mirza can maintain the kind of consistency that took them through the clay court season, the team to beat will be heavy favorites to cement their legendary status in Paris.

Not an easy draw, but not the toughest. I highly doubt the Williams sisters are gonna make it to the finals, but the rest of the field could be tricky.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Roland Garros Contenders: "Santina"

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza love a good winning streak.

They christened their partnership last spring with 14 straight victories through Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston. They ended the season undefeated from the US Open through the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, bringing that streak into 2016 before the run ended at the Qatar Total Open - with an impressive haul that included nine titles and two Grand Slam trophies.

Co-No.1s since January, they head into the French Open in search of a "Santina Slam" with two active streaks in their arsenal: one at major tournaments (18 straight since Wimbledon), and the four matches in a row to win their most recent title - and first on red clay - at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

For all of their winning, red clay was the final frontier for a team who arrived in Rome after finishing second in both Stuttgart and Madrid - losing to the then-streaking French Connection of Caroline Garciaand Kristina Mladenovic each time.

Recovering from a second set hiccup on Sunday, Santina dispatched Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who they beat to kick off their Grand Slam streak at last year's Wimbledon final, 6-1, 6-7(5), 10-3.

The French Open bears extra significance for two women who've experienced bitter disappointment on the terre battue. Mirza was one half of another team to beat back in 2011, when she and Vesnina reached the final at Roland Garros. Her bid to win her first major women's doubles title came to an unexpected halt at the hands of an unseeded Czech duo, Silent H's Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

Hingis' struggles to peak in Paris are well-documented, and the French Open is the only major tournament where she lacks a box set of singles, doubles, and mixed titles.

None of that may matter a fortnight from now, as Santina seem to have weathered a spring hardcourt slump to rebound on a surface where they've traditionally enjoyed the least success. Earning wins over nearly all of the teams likely to pair up next week, Hingis and Mirza's French nemeses will have the added pressure of playing at home, while defending champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova lost the only match they've played on red clay since winning the Miami Open.

Victory would cement their already legendary partnership with a Non-Calendar Year "Santina Slam." The last team to win four majors in a row was Venus and Serena Williams, whose campaign also started at Wimbledon and ended at the French Open in 2010.

Victory would also mean that the streak goes on. Along with Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova, Hingis is one of only three women to complete the Calendar Year Grand Slam in women's doubles - albeit with two different partners - in 1998, winning the Australian Open with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and the final three legs with Jana Novotna. Who would believe that, 18 years later, the Swiss Miss could be in contention for a Golden Slam?

Well before such lofty goals appeared possible, Mirza was quick to pump the breaks and add perspective.

"It's a Grand Slam for a reason, and the reason is that it's so tough to win even one in your lifetime,"Mirza told WTA Insider back in January after she and Hingis had captured the Brisbane International. "If it happened, it would be amazing, but it's not something we're focusing on, to be honest.

"We're just trying to take it one match at a time. Every match is tough; we're just going to go there, focus on one match at a time, and hopefully get into the Slam.

"If we win it, great. If we don't, we move on."

Friday, May 20, 2016

Roger Federer withdrawals from Roland Garros, hopes to be fit for grass season in June

World No.3 Roger Federer has withdrawn from Roland-Garros 2016, the first time the 17-time Grand Slam champion will be missing from the main draw in Paris since making his major debut here in 1999.

The 34-year-old, who completed his career Grand Slam with victory at Roland-Garros in 2009, has been dealing with a series of injuries in 2016, including recovery from knee surgery following the Australian Open and a back injury in recent weeks.

Federer took to Philippe-Chatrier Court for a short practice session on Wednesday in the hope that he had made a return to full fitness in time for his 68th Grand Slam.

But the Swiss took to Facebook on Thursday to announce his decision to retire, ending his record run of consecutive Grand Slam appearances at 65.

"I regret to announce that I have made the decision not to play in this year’s French Open," Federer wrote.

"I have been making steady progress with my overall fitness, but I am still not 100% and feel I might be taking an unnecessary risk by playing in this event before I am really ready.

"This decision was not easy to make, but I took it to ensure I could play the remainder of the season and help to extend the rest of my career.

"I remain as motivated and excited as ever and my plan is to achieve the highest level of fitness before returning to the ATP World Tour for the upcoming grass court season.

"I am sorry for my fans in Paris but I very much look forward to returning to Roland-Garros in 2017."

Roland-Garros 2016 begins on Sunday 22 May. The draw ceremony will take place on Friday 20 May at 11.15am.

Well this was inevitable, sad that his Grand Slam appearance streak had to end in such a way. 

But I would rather he be 100 % for Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open in Sept. than having these continuous starts and stops throughout the rest of the season.  

It will be strange not having him in the draw at all at a Grand Slam for the first time in so many years. 

At least Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza are still going to play in hopes of capturing their "Santinaa Slam". 

So that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roger Federer Flashback: winning his maiden French Open title 2009

Ah, the memories. Still brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. His one and only French Open.  ♥♥♥

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Roger Federer out on the practice courts of Roland Garros

After several days of waiting as the rumours swirled around the health of his back, Roger Federer turned up on Wednesday for a practice session on No.1 Court at Roland Garros.

A mid-day appearance by his coach Ivan Ljubicic in the players’ lounge at Philippe Chatrier Court had people talking. And a few hours later, Federer confirmed the whispers himself: he was at Roland-Garros.

In the afternoon, the “Maestro” hit balls back and forth for about 20 minutes on No.1 Court with “Ljubi” and under the watchful eye of his entire team.

The aim of the session was for Federer to ease himself into this year's campaign in Paris and - perhaps most importantly - to test out his back. After an injury forced him to withdraw from the Madrid Masters, he needs to know whether his back will allow him to be competitive here.

However, as can happen in Paris, the rain began to fall and practice was cut short, perhaps leaving the question unresolved.

At 34 years old, the Swiss will take no chances when it comes to his physical condition. He decided to call it a day when the court became too slippery.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza capture 1st clay title at Italian Open!

ROME, Italy - Co-No.1s Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza find themselves in pole position to complete the Santina Slam at the French Open with a 6-1, 6-7(5), 10-3 win over Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina to capture the Internazionali BNL d'Italia title - their first title since February and their first ever on red clay.

Hingis and Mirza were in their third straight final since the start of the clay court swing, falling both times to the streaking Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in both the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and Mutua Madrid Open. Across the net on Sunday were familiar foes in Makarova and Vesnina, who were playing just their second tournament together since last summer, having briefly split as the former healed a leg injury.

Winners of the last three major titles - and the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global - Santina exploited that ostensible rust early on, roaring through the opening set and carving out a 5-3 lead in the second.

But the Russians had nearly won their most recent encounter at last year's Wimbledon final, and wouldn't accept defeat so easily, quickly leveling the set and later the match in a tie-break.

Hingis and Mirza shook off the hiccup to beat back their opponents and a gloomy forecast to capture their 14th title as a pair, and their fifth of 2016.

Heading into the French Open on a four-match winning streak, Santina next look to complete a box set of Grand Slam titles - a Santina Slam - that began at Wimbledon over Makarova and Vesnina, and took them through victories at the US Open and Australian Open in January.

Just the confidence booster they need before the French Open next Sunday. Go for the Santina Slam ladies!. :).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza reach 3rd consecutive clay final with win at Italian Open in Rome

Saturday turned out to be a day of mixed fortunes for the Indian players in action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome as Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis reached the women’s doubles final with a 6-3, 6-4 win while Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea lost their men’s doubles semi-final.

This is the third consecutive claycourt final for Hingis and Mirza this season. They earlier lost in the Stuttgart and the Madrid summit clashes to the French combine of Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia, whose winning run ended in the quarter-finals of Rome this week.

This is also the second straight final at the Italian capital for the Indo-Swiss duo after ending up as the runner-up last year.

Hingis-Mirza survived a break-fest

It wasn’t an easy outing by any means for the top seeds against the unseeded Romanian pair of Irina-Camelia Begu and Monica Niculescu. Hingis and Mirza combined for a total of six doubles faults and were broken five times.

But they were sharp on their returns which helped them immensely. They broke their opponents seven times for the win in 1 hour 18 minutes.

In Sunday’s final, they will meet familiar rivals Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, whom they famously defeated at the 2015 Wimbledon final in a stunning comeback.