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Welcome to Inside the Baseline, your place for all things WTA tennis. Check in for the latest information on your WTA stars, including tournament previews, results and season outlooks. All website content will be subject to the author's views and opinions, but debate and discussion are more than welcome on each post's comment boards. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Clean Slate

The tennis season is back, and with its return comes a new breath of life for Inside The Baseline.

At the start of every new year, we stop to look forward and reevaluate in a way that no other time of life provides. A new year is a new beginning. A chance to set goals. A clean slate.

In the tennis world, January means one thing: The Australian Open. Whizzing through Brisbane, Auckland, Shenzhen and more, the athletes know that the true test of the year's beginning lies in Melbourne. Everyone starts fresh, dreaming of the perfect season start: a grand slam title.

All but one will fall short of this goal, and that is where the magic of the New Year truly shines through: what we make of 2013 is not defined by the first four weeks. A loss in the first round does not mean you won't hoist a major trophy of your own. The start is only the beginning, so get your wheels in motion now and set your sights on what it is you want to accomplish in the coming months.

Win, lose, or spectate, Melbourne will provide the kickstart we all need to launch ourselves deep into 2013. We need only to look back at last year's tournament to realize the power such a tremendous event can have on our outlooks.

This video is more than a great highlights real: it's a reminder of what drives us. Lisicki's electric victory smile. Clijsters' chilling fist pumps. Ivanovic's cries of elation. Their passion reignites my own, and reminds me of what inspired me to begin this journey as a tennis writer in the first place. For others, this video will mean something else, but for any true tennis fan it will make us look inward (or at the very least, you'll  be excited for the tournament to begin).

Here we are are the beginning: the first grandslam of the year. A clean slate. What will these stars do with 2013? What will you?

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor

Friday, May 11, 2012

ITB Returns

Starting with the Madrid championship, Inside the Baseline will be returning to serve up all the analyses, previews, opinions and off-the-court shenanigans that tennis fans crave.

Until then, enjoy this gem: A leaked Serena Williams rap.

-Kedzie Teller, ITB Senior Editor

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stuttgart Preview

Porsche Tennis Grand Prix
After this weekend´s Fed Cup play-offs, we could not have asked for a better tournament to continue with the exciting showcase of matches we witnessed. The qualifying matches have finished and the main draw is finally complete. It just takes a quick look to realize how strong the field is. So far, Stuttgart has one of the toughest draws this year, featuring the top 8 players in the world.

Going down memory-lane, some of the past champions include Julia Goerges, Justine Henin, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Jankovic. Last year they had the pleasure of having home girl Julia Goerges take the title. She defeated Caroline Wozniacki (no. 1 at the time) with an overpowering 7-6(3) 6-3 performance.

This year the tournament features 5 Germans, 3 of them are inside the top 20: Andrea Petkovic (12), Sabine Lisicki (13) and Angelique Kerber (14) and almost making it, Julia Goerges (21). Some may say they have a starting advantage because they played their Fed Cup tie against Australia in the very same Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Arena.

Over all, the level of tennis that we will see in the first rounds is really incredible. Some of the match-ups inlclude: defending champion Julia Goerges vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (possibly Sam Stosur in the 2nd round), Caroline Wozniacki vs. Jelena Jankovic and a possible Andrea Petkovic vs. Victoria Azarenka in the 2nd round.

This is definitely an excellent preview for the upcoming Roland Garros, which take place the 27th of May. So, will Goerges be able to defend her title? Will Caroline be able to clinch her first tournament of the year? Will Andrea Petkovic and Sabine Lisicki have a good performance in their comebacks? And how will the world's best, Azarenka, begin her clay season? These are few of the questions that come up when thinking of Stuttgart. What we do know is that we are on for quite a show.

The WTA is commonly known to be unpredictable and by looking at this years draw, Stuttgart will definitely be no exception. 

-Romina Castagnino, Contributing Writer

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Message to our Readers

To our ITB faithfuls:

As editor of Inside the Baseline, I would like to apologize for our absence since the exciting Australian Open championships. I'm working through my final semester as a Boston University undergrad, and it feels like time is slipping between my fingers.

I am a journalism major at BU, hoping to find my way into the world of tennis media. You're all quite aware of my passion—or dare I say addiction...— to the WTA and I promise that as the excitement and terror of graduation comes and goes, I will find my way back to ITB, and perhaps, a professional tennis organization.

But with all the ups and downs of an ending college career, I'm still as updated as ever in the tennis world! Indian Wells and Miami have provided some epic entertainment, and with Charleston underway, I can't wait to dig into the clay season. Will Azarenka remain dominant? Will Kvitova get her wheels in motion? And what does part-time super star Serena have up her sleeve as the new generation begins to surpass her?

All in time, tennis fans. We still have a long way to go in 2012.

And finally, as a thanks for your readership and to top off this formal apology, I leave you with the ear-shattering and comedic musical efforts of Caroline Wozniacki. (I mean come on. One comment says "She makes Rebecca Black sound like Whitney Houston). Shout out to Jon Scott of's Daily Spin for supplying me with this one.

*Note, the video has been disabled due to copyright. But believe me, it will be posted here as soon as it's re-leaked.
Edit: Re-discovered here: Vidéo Caroline Wozniacki

-Kedzie Teller, Senior Editor

Friday, February 3, 2012

Testing 'The Brave One'

When Victoria Azarenka celebrated her victories down under, she did it with her tongue out and her index finger raised high, urging the crowd to believe she was, indeed, the best. And while the bold pose might have seemed premature, she backed it up with stunning tennis, clinching her maiden slam title and her place as world number one.

AP Photo
It seems all the pieces of the puzzle have finally come together in Azarenka's game. We've known she can hit the ball hard for years, but something about Aussie Vika looked different... she looked controlled. She placed her shots with startling precision, came to net with predator-like aggression and, on occassion, used biting slice to knock her opponents out of their rhythm. The variety Azarenka put on display as she moved toward her first slam championship was not only impressive, but refreshing, and the lid she has suddenly put on her boiling emotions keeps everything in check. Should she keep her services errors at a minimum, she has the tools to become a dominant competitor.

Azarenka did the unthinkable in Melbourne when she battled back from a second set nightmare against Kim Clijsters, and no tennis fan will soon forget the supreme beat-down Azarenka dealt Maria Sharapova in the tournament final (6-3 6-0 for those of you living under a rock, or watching football). But there's a new challenge for Victoria fast-approaching that might take away some of the "Ozarenka" flare: and her name is Serena Williams

Photo by Julian Finney, Getty Images
This weekend the United States will host Belarus in a FedCup tie featuring Grand Slam worthy match-ups. The USA is loaded with both Serena and Venus Williams as well as sharpshooter Christina McHale and doubles specialist Liezel Huber. How will the new world no.1 handle her first big test?

Worcester's DCU Center might not be as glorious as the lawns of the All-England Club, but there's a clear and tangible sense of importance about the matches at stake. Serena botched her final at the US Open last year, and she gifted away a victory to AO quarter-finalist Ekatarina Makarova, but there's little doubt that she will bring a terrifying game to the court when she faces Azarenka. We know Serena demands perfection from herself and we know she believes she is the world's best, so what is a better way to send a message to the WTA tour than by dismantling the new no.1 ranked player?

Still, Azarenka is called 'The Brave One,' and having played the Williams sisters before she should not be intimidated. The chances that she will fall meekly to Serena Willliams are slim to none. All you have to do is watch the highlights of their third round slam-fest from the 2011 US Open to see just how willing to fight Azarenka is, and how deadly she can be on a comeback. Yes, Serena wound up victorious, but losing that match might have taught Azarenka more than any victory ever could.


This will be the first match for Azarenka since winning the Australian Open, and while other recent first-time winners suffered serious problems after joining the slam club (I'm looking at you, Li and Stosur) I doubt that Azarenka will suffer the same fate.

-Kedzie Teller, Senior Editor

ITBTennis will be attending the USA/Belarus tie, video and camera in hand.Check back soon for an up-close look.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australian Open: Aussie's Own Changing of the Guard

When Kim Clijsters cracked an untouchable forehand winner to set up match point against Caroline Wozniacki, there was a moment of impassioned beauty. Her eyes snapped shut as she clenched her first beside her face, chest heaving with excitement, nerves and exhaustion. She appeared near tears, understanding the terrible importance of the point she was about to play, but when she stepped back to the baseline, she appeared calm—her veteran grace shining through. Moments later a desperation lob from Wozniacki fluttered skyward, and with one clean swing, Clijsters batted the match-ending volley into the court, solidifying her place in the semifinals and ensuring Wozniacki's drop from the top spot.

And now it's official. The WTA will have a new no. 1 player after the Australian Open, ending the Dane's 67 week "domination" of the women's tour. Three standout players are vying for the spot, and all are worthy, but who will it be?

Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, and Petra Kvitova each have a chance, and the dogfight will begin with today's semifinals. Sharapova must win the title while Azarenka need only stay one step ahead of Kvitova (meaning she must win if she faces Petra in the final). Should the Czech advance to the championship without Azarenka, but lose, she will still earn enough points to claim the rank.

Azarenka will take on Clijsters in her semifinal match, looking to advance to her first major championship. The Belarusian hits the ball flat and hard from both sides, but she'll need to do more than thump the ball up the court to keep Clijsters off balance. Azarenka is best when she's at full flight, taking on physical rallies with her much-improved fitness. She's consistent, strong-willed and isn't afraid to get scrappy, and what makes her more of threat against Clijsters than Wozniacki is that she can strike winners at will.

Having won three slams (including the 2008 Australian Open) Sharapova has the most impressive resume of the three no. 1 contenders. She needs to deliver her best tennis, however, as she takes on Petra Kvitova—a Wimbledon final rematch that will undoubtedly showcase some of the biggest hitting on tour. Sharapova seems to have contained her service woes, and will need to continue that trend against a free-swinging opponent who enjoys obliterating slow second serves. Kvitova will need to maintain focus and prevent any dips in quality (something we have seen too often in earlier rounds) or else Sharapova will have an easy time finding her range.

Regardless of the outcomes, however, the WTA will have a new leader in the rankings, something many critics of the sport  having been begging for for months. In an interview, Wozniacki said she is confident she will reclaim the top spot, but something tells me it won't be so easy. Her fellow young-guns are starting to relish their time on the big stages and thrive in high-pressure moments. Defending powerful blows, Wozniacki's greatest talent, won't hold up much longer if these talented opponents stop choking and start winning.

The question is no longer when will Wozniacki consolidate her no. 1 ranking, it's will she ever get it back?

-Kedzie Teller, Senior Editor

Monday, January 23, 2012

Australian Open: Quarterfinals Fully Loaded

Quarter 1: Wozniacki v. Clijsters

Aussie Kim is at it again Down Under, overcoming a rolled ankle and four match points in her sweet-16 marathon against Li Na. The four-time grand slam champion and former no. 1 will hit the court against the world's current no. 1 in hopes of defending her title in Melbourne, but winning will be no easy feat. Still looking for her first slam title, Wozniacki will be just as determined, if not more so than the Belgian veteran.

Photo by Cameron Spencer, Getty Images
While Clijsters' tiebreak heroics against Li Na will surely be one of the tournament's biggest stories, Wozniacki's strong performances can't be overlooked. She hasn't dropped a set in her first four matches and she even earned a bagel against Jelena Jankovic— an opponent who once dominated the pair's head-to-head 4-0 (now leveled 4-4).

In her semifinal match last year, Wozniacki held match point but watched her Aussie dreams crumble as Li pummeled a short Wozniacki forehand down the line. This year, the Dane has been pushing shots deeper and trying to add the aggression her game has lacked but so desperately needs. Still, her forte is defense, and she will need to be on-point against Clijsters. The Belgian might not always hit the ball as hard as the Sharapovas of the WTA, but she can light up the court with brilliant movement and deadly precision. Should Wozniacki choose to play too passively, Clijsters will surely fire winners at will.

The big question: what's the status of Clijsters' ankle?

Prediction: Clijsters in 3.

Quarter 2: Azarenka v. Radwanska

Victoria Azarenka has all but coasted into the quarterfinals this year, steamrolling an unlucky string up opponents along the way. The Belarusian has dropped a total of 12 games in four matches (losing more than 2 games in a set only once, against a hot-handed Barthel) and looks deadly from both wings. She has had a number of grand slam runs crushed in the quarters, meeting against Serena Williams on multiple occasions, but she snapped the curse at last year's Wimbledon and has a good shot of going forward in Melbourne.

Her opponent, Agnieszka Radwanska, is sure to put up a fight, but lacks any sort of firepower of her own. The Pole will look to use rock-solid defense to ricochet Azarenka's blasts back into the court, waiting for errors or the occasional short ball. Unfortunately for Radwanska, Azarenka seems to have reeled in her aggression, keeping unforced errors to a minimum and building momentum with controlled offense. Agnieszka will have to work the angles to bully Azarenka around the court and, when possible, lay-in to the backhand that has given Radwanska such great success.

The last time these two met was in this year's Sydney tournament, where Azarenka prevailed despite dropping a set 6-1. In Melbourne, Radwanska has seesawed between lackluster (round 1 v. Mattek-Sands) and brilliant (round 4 v. Goerges), but she'll need to be perfect to beat Azarenka. Otherwise, she's going to get blown off the court.

Prediction: Azarenka in 2.

Quarter 3: Makarova v. Sharapova

Of the remaining eight players, the most shocking competitor is Ekatarina Makarova. Arguably, one could say Sara Errani's appearance is equally as surprising, but Makarova has been the tournament's giant-slayer, downing Kaia Kanepi, Vera Zvonareva and Serena Williams in consecutive rounds and all in straight sets. Comically, the Russian's most difficult match was against Tanasugarn, where she dropped the second set but still earned two bagels for the win.

If she wants to continue her dream run, Makarova will have to conjure up some more magic as she takes on her most famous countrywoman: Maria Sharapova. Sharapova has looked terrifyingly sharp on her Melbourne quest, drilling her opponents with laser-like shots accompanied by shrill screams and intimidating Come on!s In her fourth round match against Sabine Lisicki, Sharapova's game faced its first true test of the tournament, but the Russian rose to the occasion, upping her play to a level unseen since reaching the Wimbledon final last year. Finally, Sharapova's serves were hitting the box and even second serves rained down with unfamiliar power. Combined with her brutal groundstrokes, Sharapova was just a tad too good for Lisicki and looks to be a tad too good for anyone left in the tournament who isn't named Kvitova.

Still, Sharapova isn't consistent. The service woes, head-scratching errors and over-eager offense are always lurking somewhere in the back of Sharapova's game—she just needs to keep them there. Should Makarova find her range and Maria tighten up, we could have quite a match, but Sharapova is known for her fight. She just can't spend time fighting herself.

Prediction: Sharapova in 2.

Quarter 4: Errani v. Kvitova

What can you say about Sara Errani? One thing is for sure: she's playing better tennis than we knew she was capable of. Sitting down to watch her match against Zheng Jie, I expected a rather easy win for the craft Chinese woman, but felt my jaw hit the floor as Errani let loose an array of blistering winners. The Italian used masterful topspin to trap Zheng behind the baseline and showcased her double skills with superb volleying.

Although her performance was stellar, Errani will need to do even more as she steps on court against world no. 2 and player-to-beat, Petra Kvitova. The Czech has had a number of moments this tournament when she looked frazzled and lost, including two second set breakdowns against Suarrez Navarro and Ivanovic, but on each occasion she regrouped and slapped ferocious winners in order to secure victory. Maybe it's her maturity, or maybe it's her bark-like cheers, but something about Kvitova's game never lets her stray too far off course.

Against anyone seeded, you might almost anticipate Kvitova to have some spotty play in her upcoming match, but Errani's style should give Kvitova good batting practice for later-round challenges. The best tool at Errani's disposal against the Czech will be her net-play, but if Kvitova's groundstrokes are as flat and furious as usual, then it could be over rather quickly. It all depends on whether or not Petra feels like having yet another mental walkabout.

Prediction: Kvitova in 2.