Daniela Hantuchova - AEGON Classic - Day Six

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Birmingham finalists:  Contesting her second final of the season, Hantuchova extended her impetus from a second-week surge at Roland Garros to her favorite surface.  Ideally suited for grass are her pinpoint angles, risky shot-making, and deftness in the forecourt, while the surface also masks her awkward movement.  Not normally known for her competitive will, the Slovak showed not only expected bravado but unexpected tenacity in turning the tide of her semifinal with Ivanovic.  Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Lisicki also shone with victories over former champion Rybarikova and 2011 breakthrough sensation Peng.  Several injuries and two years removed from her Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance, the German still can unleash the short-point style of massive serves and returns that works most effectively on grass.  Despite the disappointments that have filled a once-promising career, Lisicki has maintained more optimism than have many less blighted peers.  The All England Club will not regret awarding her a wildcard, although those near her in the draw might.

Queens Club finalists:  Perhaps favored to win the title from the outset, 2009 champion Murray still deserved credit for so emphatically crushing three-time Wimbledon finalist Roddick.  Their 59-minute semifinal showcased the Scot at his best, especially his talent for shot selection and point construction.  Mastering the challenge of translating momentum from clay to grass, Murray may enter Wimbledon as the most plausible threat to Nadal and Federer.  Less a contender than a dark horse, Tsonga erased his Paris disappointment by upsetting the world #1 while hammering 25 aces upon the London lawn.  Although he lately has underperformed at majors and will not have a comfortable draw, the acrobatic Frenchman could repeat his Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance with his mixture of pounding serves and delicate touch.  Sporadic focus remains his primary flaw, though, and it emerged again in a semifinal win that became more exciting than necessary.

Ivanovic:  Surpassing the expectations of most, including herself, the Serb expressed delight at playing four straight matches at the same tournament for just the second time this year.  After collecting just two matches during the clay season, Ivanovic found her footing on the grass and exceeded that total in a single event.  Despite squandering a one-set lead once more, she served magnificently on crucial points and hit through her backhand with greater conviction until her last few games of the tournament.  While nobody would confuse Lucic or Marino with a contender, wins matter more than opponents now for the Serb.  Sharapova-less for only the second time since 2004, the Edgbaston Priory must have breathed a sigh of relief when the Russian’s glamorous replacement stayed for the weekend.

James Ward:  Ranked outside the top 200, this unknown Brit stunned Wawrinka and defending champion Querrey (see below) before recording a more competitive performance against Tsonga than Roddick against Murray.  A wildcard recipient like Ivanovic, Ward will vanish into the mists of tennis history soon enough, but he deserves a moment in the spotlight for generating good news for British tennis at one of the gloomier moments in its history.  It appears that the English don’t always need to import a Scotsman to win their battles for them.

Deuce:

Wozniacki:  Another week, another trivial tournament, another trivial title.  While every trophy counts to some degree, few events have seemed more like foregone conclusions than Copenhagen, which retained its indoor hard surface while wedged into an uncomfortable pigeonhole between the clay and grass seasons.  One recognizes the pressures on Wozniacki to play her home nation’s tournament, perhaps dependent on her for its existence, and her commitment to these small events suggests a genuine affection for the sport not always observed in #1s.  Nevertheless, one suspects that even most Danes would prefer her to win at a major rather than on home soil, and Copenhagen offers a uniquely ill-conceived venue to prepare for Wimbledon.

Nadal:  Falling to Tsonga and on the turf, the ten-time major champion rarely settled into a comfortable rhythm during his three matches.  A quarterfinal exit at Queens Club preceded his second Wimbledon title last year, though, so this result seems inconsequential as an omen.  After an unusually stressful fortnight at Roland Garros, it should come as no surprise that Nadal could not rekindle his intensity just days later.

Roddick:  Winless since Indian Wells, he desperately needed to collect a few solid matches this week to restore some of his confidence before Wimbledon, where he should stay in contention throughout his career.   In a stiffer draw than a standard 250 event, Roddick notched those wins in impressive fashion when he conquered Spaniards Lopez and Verdasco.  Then Murray notched an even more impressive win against Roddick, who suddenly looked one-dimensional and outdated against a top-five opponent.

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Querrey:  While nobody imagined that the slumping American would defend his title, a loss to the aforementioned Ward marked a particularly deflating end to his attempt.  That early exit likely will cost him a Wimbledon seed and thus may stir him from his complacency.

Berdych:  In a second straight odd loss, the world #7 and defending Wimbledon finalist could not solve the uncomplicated challenge of Petzschner.  As notable as the loss itself was the manner of the loss, for Berdych reversed the momentum after the first set to cruise through the second set in what should have proved a decisive momentum shift.  Few leading contenders would have allowed a match against a journeyman to escape them at that stage, as the Czech did.

Kanepi:  Soon to defend marquee quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, the Estonian continued a generally fruitless 2011 campaign with an early Birmingham loss as the top seed.  Having reached the quarterfinals in just one of ten tournaments this year, she has not performed at the level of most rising stars ranked near her, such as Pavlyuchenkova, Goerges, Wickmayer, and Peng.

Adidas:  Nike’s putative rival signed sponsorship contracts with two women on whom almost anything looks good, then chose to garb them in essentially the same outfit like members of a doubles team.  Compare the picture below with the picture at the top.

Ana Ivanovic Ana Ivanovic of Serbia celebrates a point during her semi-final match agsint Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia during day six of the AEGON Classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club on June 11, 2011 in Birmingham, England.

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