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Small Babe, Big Results 10/24/2010 - 11:25 PM

Vz1by Bobby Chintapalli, Contributing Writer

‘Big babe tennis’ is about strong women who know how to smack a tennis ball harder than the rest. The Top 100 is loaded with them—Maria Sharapova, of course, but also Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Dinara Safina and, more recently, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alisa Kleybanova. Yet it’s a Russian not on this list who has the best ranking of them all right now. Today, Vera Zvonareva took the No. 2 spot from a big babe you may have heard of, Serena Williams. Small babes can play, too.

It’s a career-high ranking for Zvonareva and a bit of a surprise for many of us, partly because we’ve been busy obsessing over another not-so-big babe’s rise to the top spot. So how did Zvonareva do it? I mean, she’s short and everything. (All right, she’s not short, but at just under 5’8” she’s shorter than 12 of the 17 Top 100 Russians.) She was ranked outside the Top 20 only a few months ago. Sure, she won an Olympic bronze medal and three Grand Slam doubles titles in past years, and reached two Grand Slam finals in a row this year. But No. 2 in the world…really?

You’re not immediately sure what Zvonareva did, but you know she did something right. It’s fitting, because that’s how she can make her opponents feel when she plays well. Ask Melanie Oudin. After her quarterfinal loss to Zvonareva in Charleston, Oudin seemed as discombobulated as the word sounds. “I did not hit a clean ball…and she really made me hit like that because she started changing everything up on me,” she said, more breathlessly than usual. “I started shanking. I would hit the tip of my racquet and all kinds of stuff.”

Zvonareva’s got skills beyond the ability to vary spin and pace and make Melanie Oudin shank a lot. Like the know-how to hit a backhand down the line or crosscourt without setting up all that differently. “It’s very hard to read the shot,” said Kim Clijsters after her fourth-round loss to Zvonareva at Wimbledon. “Especially when she goes down the line, it’s like a last-second.”

Now the results are paying off for her, literally. Zvonareva, who turned pro a decade ago, earned nearly 30 percent of her career prize money this year alone. That might have a little something to do with her win percentage: For her career it’s around 68 percent; for the year it’s around 73 percent. By comparison, this year’s win percentage for Francesca Schiavone, who herself had a year worth celebrating with a naked run down the Champs-Élysées, is 66 percent.

There have been bumps along the way, of course. Last February, Zvonareva reached a career-high No. 5, but an ankle injury tripped her up, causing her to miss the French Open and struggle for at least half the year. At the start of the year it wasn’t clear if she’d get that momentum back. She says she’s fully recovered now, and perhaps the memories of that injury and others before it have made her more excited to be out there practicing, which has made it easier for her to do all this winning.

There have also been some coaching changes. The much-Googled, oft-ogled Sergey Demekhin is her third coach in the past year. Things seem to be going well though. She said he’s gotten familiar enough with her game to give actionable advice and comfortable enough with her to know how to give it.

And, yes, there’s been some on-court wackiness. We’ve seen tears, like the ones partner Elena Vesnina spent a whole set of the Wimbledon doubles final wiping away. We’ve seen racquet-smashing and, for good measure, wicker-kicking. Yet the drama’s become a smaller part of the bigger Zvonareva picture. Commentators who begin and end with “emotional meltdowns” do her an injustice…and not enough homework. This year she’s shown that she’s more than the sum of the racquets she’s smashed and the tears she’s shed.

Off court, that’s easy to see. Zvonareva is composed, articulate and downright nerdy. (She’s working on a second degree, in International Economic Relations no less.) I’ve found those qualities also make her an excellent interviewee. She’s surprisingly open, attentive and voluble. (Sometimes she’ll go on longer than you expect, and just when you start wondering if she’s answering the right question, she’ll wrap it up with a reference to the question.) That’s been true even when she’s lost and acted up in the process, as she did in that one-sided Charleston final against an unbeatable Sam Stosur.

Zvonareva came to her post-match interview within 10 minutes of that match ending. A dozen or so of us sat in the small room, saying nothing at first, mindful perhaps of the score (and the wicker). Less comfortable with silence than I should be (according to my sisters anyway), I finally blurted out a question. As usual, Zvonareva spoke calmly and at length. Was this really the same woman we saw on court just 10 minutes ago? She certainly wasn’t Svetlana Kuznetsova glumly mumbling after her Cincinnati loss, or Yanina Wickmayer uttering monosyllabic responses after hers. I may not have agreed with some of Zvonareva’s answers, but I appreciated that she gave them her full attention.

The thing is, the way Zvonareva carries herself off court and the way she can sometimes melt down on court both owe more than a little to the same quality—her perfectionism. Zvonareva wants to do everything as well as she can, regardless of the results. A perfectionist “squeezed like a lemon” can stay on YouTube forever—or maybe become the No. 2 tennis player in the world.


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Posted by C Note 10/24/2010 at 11:49 PM

Go on with your bad self, Bobby.

Best of luck to Bepa in Doha. I'll be rooting.

Posted by Aube,whoever said knee high boots were comfortable,pfffffffffffff! 10/25/2010 at 12:14 AM

The only thing I don't quite get with Zvanoreva is smart sutdents are really tough and not really emotional,and smart she has been depicted to us at least for those who follow her masters chasing...

That being said I wish her all the goodies

and huh am I really first to this thread?that would really be weird!!!

Posted by @GVTennisNews 10/25/2010 at 12:26 AM

Well done Bobby!

Posted by pov 10/25/2010 at 01:17 AM

So wait, let me see if I have this right: a woman being 5'9" is a "big babe" (Williams) while a woman 5'8" is a small babe?

That's inane! Ridiculous! Nonsensical!


If you were talking about a player 5'6" or under that attempt a catchy-comparison might have some merit.

With all that, yes Zvonareva - big results. Like Kuznetsova, she's not a "big babe" nor a "small babe" - just a "good tennis player." Or maybe that's "tennis player babe."

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Yay The Youz has cracked the top 10) 10/25/2010 at 02:15 AM

Great article Bobbi and like CNote I will be hoping she can pull off the YEC and hopefully we won't see another epic meltdown. I also like what she wears on court. I am not sure about all her broken strings though, I would find that frustrating.

Posted by SRao 10/25/2010 at 02:27 AM

Bobby,

That was very nice.A different take from all the other male-posters.
From where I come-5'8" is just not-a-small-babe,dear!But I get your point.
She is small,but I'm glad small can take on the big-babes.
Justine Henin...!!!!

Posted by sigmund 10/25/2010 at 03:16 AM

I think Vera is one of the most fascinating personalities on the women's tour right now. She seems like a very earnest and sincere person off-court, with no pretensions, clearly very intelligent and articulate, with a lovely, versatile game. I love watching her because she has such natural, soft hands when she strikes the ball, which is quite refreshing to see in an era of super-athletic hard-hitters. And I like the fact that she leaves her emotions on the court but is rarely rude, i.e., she doesn't take it out on other people (like, ahem, serena & roddick do).

Posted by barry 10/25/2010 at 04:30 AM

Bobby, another solid story on one of the more interesting characters in the tennis circuit. Keep up the great work. Would love to hear more about Bepa/Vera's interest in international economics (is she Keynesian? a supply-sider?) especially with her upbringing in the ever-changing Russian market landscape. BTW - I think a few beer drops spilled upon me from the Vesnina practice session in cincinnati, too. Glad to know I was within a few feet of such a talented tennis journalist.

To pov: although Serena might only be an inch taller than Vera, Serena is built more like her old boyfriend LaVar Arrington (sp?), former Penn State & Redskins linebacker, than she is a tennis player. Vera is skinny by comparison! All the same, perhaps you're right in that small babe should be reserved for the Cibulkovas or the Zhengs of the world.

Posted by anono 10/25/2010 at 04:48 AM

"...So wait, let me see if I have this right: a woman being 5'9" is a "big babe" (Williams) while a woman 5'8" is a small babe? ..."

You gotta be kidding me. Their height difference maybe a mere inch (although a lot of sources report Serena to be 5'10"), if they stand next to each other, they'll look like a heavyweight wrestler and a scrawny teenager.

Heck, Serena is a big babe compared with Venus!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 04:54 AM

Bobbby Great insight in Vera.Great post as usual.She is my sentimental favourite for Doha by the way.She has had a great year.Considering at one time she though she may not be the same after her ankle surgery.

I hope you will give your thoughts in the Doha end of year championships.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 05:57 AM

Great post on Vera, for a long time she has been in the shadow of other s like Sharapova and Demmy. Now she has emerged as the best of them. I think Vera's most impressive matches haven't come from a player like Oudin who she should easily beat, but from the top players she has beat. Her win over Kim at Wimbledon was huge and a real break through for her. She also beat Kim again this year and Sharapova. Barry would disagree that Serena is built like a football player, that is insulting. Kim is also big boned with a broad build and I have never heard the same things said about her. Kuzzy is also big boned but never get the rude comparisons that people reserve for Serena. I'm going to miss Serena, Vee and Juju at the YEC. Great post Bobby.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 05:57 AM

Great post on Vera, for a long time she has been in the shadow of other s like Sharapova and Demmy. Now she has emerged as the best of them. I think Vera's most impressive matches haven't come from a player like Oudin who she should easily beat, but from the top players she has beat. Her win over Kim at Wimbledon was huge and a real break through for her. She also beat Kim again this year and Sharapova. Barry would disagree that Serena is built like a football player, that is insulting. Kim is also big boned with a broad build and I have never heard the same things said about her. Kuzzy is also big boned but never get the rude comparisons that people reserve for Serena. I'm going to miss Serena, Vee and Juju at the YEC. Great post Bobby.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 06:04 AM

I think Vera has a very good chance at the YEC, she has beat Caro and Kim this year. Plus the player she still struggels against, Vee, Ree, and Justine aren't there, so yeah I can see her getting through Kim, she has done it twice this year. Good luck to her, but I'll be supporting Caro. Kom sa, Caro take the YEC.

Posted by fedfan 10/25/2010 at 06:50 AM

Thanks for this interesting post on Znonareva. You make her sound much more appealing than one would assume from commentators' remarks about her during tournaments. They always reference her supposed mental 'fragility.' I am always fascinated by the seemingly unending stream of attractive and intelligent athletes from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. Most of your readers are probably not old enough to remember, but as an old geezer, I can remember when the American press had us believing that ladies from the old eastern bloc countries either looked like Mrs. Brezhnev or East German swimmers.

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/25/2010 at 07:50 AM

Speaking of the YEC, Caro's draw is perfect, it's all the players I asked for JJ, Elena and Slamming Sammy. All three are struggling, so Caro should come through. JJ just got beat by a player nobody has ever heard of and Elena has been struggling to find her old form. JJ, Elena and Stosur's year hasn't been very good and if not for the absence of Vee, Ree and Justine, they mightn't be there. Kom sa, Caro, world's no 1, winner of 12 WTA title, former USO finalist, winner of the pretigeous Roger's cup, youngest player in the top 5, winner of more titles than any other player in 2010, the ONLY Scandinavian girl to become world's no l. Du er den bedste, Caro!

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 07:59 AM

Titles (Finalist appearance if best result)

Ace WTA rankings (Overall Record; Top 10 record for Doha participant)

(1)Caroline Wozniacki (59-15; 5-2): Beijing, Montreal,Tokyo, New Haven, Ponte Vedra Beach and Copenhagen
(2)Serena Williams (25-4; 1-3): Australian Open and Wimbledon
(3)Kim Clijsters (36-6; 6-0) : United States Open, Miami, Cincinnati and Brisbane
(4)Vera Zvonareva (46-17; 7-8): Pattaya City
(5)Venus Williams (38-7; 4-2): Dubai and Acapulco
(6)Francesca Schiavone (39-20; 4-7): French Open and Barcelona
(7)Samantha Stosur(45-17; 3-4): Charleston
(8)Elena Dementieva (40-16; 5-4): Sydney and Paris
(9)Victoria Azarenka (41-18; 6-4): Stanford and Moscow
(10)Justine Henin (32-8): Stuttgart and s-Hertogenbosch
(11)Jelena Jankovic (38-20; 4-2): Indian Wells
(12)Na Li (36-19; 5-4): Birmingham
(13)Maria Sharapova (33-11): Memphis and Strasbourg
(14)Aravane Rezai (36-24): Madrid and Bastad
(15)Shahar Peer(47-21; 5-9): (Hobart)

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 08:00 AM

Samantha Elin,
Caroline has Francesca, Elena and Samantha is in the Maroon Group while Vera has to deal with Kim, Victoria and Jelena in the White Group.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:03 AM

Bobby,
Well done discussing Vera. Only thing I can maybe add is she still has a chance of ending 2010 as the number 1 player in the world.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:06 AM

WTA Year End Number 1 battle:

Calculations are UNOFFICIAL

Caroline has 7270 race pts to Vera 6096(When Doha ends, Caroline will have 125 pts coming off and Vera 1 as this is their 16th best ranking being replaced by Doha). Race pts = ranking pts when Doha starts on 10/26

Caroline will end 2010 as YE #1 unless one of the following occur:
(a)Vera wins title going undefeated and Caroline win one match(or less).(Vera 7595 - Caroline 7515)
(b)Vera wins title losing only one RR match and Caroline plays three round robin matches and go winless. (Vera 7435 - Caroline 7355)
(c)Vera makes final going undefeated and Caroline does not play (Both ladies tied 7145 with Vera getting the top spot due to her having more points in all Tier 1 events(Slams, Premier Mandatories, Premier 5 and Sony Ericsson Championships) as Vera will have 6486 pts to Caroline 6165)
(d)Vera wins title losing two RR matches and Caroline plays just one RR match and loses. (Vera 7275 - Caro 7215)

*********************************
Scenario (b) will be eliminated once Caroline wins a RR match

Scenario (c) will be eliminated once Caroline plays her first RR match

Scenario (d) will be eliminated once Caroline plays two RR matches

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 10/25/2010 at 09:06 AM

"I would like to see JJ, Elena and Stosur on Caro side."

SamE: pretty close!:)....does Caro have any wins over JJ?, probably good for her to be in other group. Good luck to your girl.

Posted by Bobby C. 10/25/2010 at 09:20 AM

Thanks for the comments, Guys. Let me clarify here, and you can let me know what you think.

The way I see it "big babe tennis" is about big-hitting. Though usually associated with the really tall players, I consider the emphasis to be more on the big-hitting. So while Serena Williams, may not be as tall as, say, Maria Sharapova, she certainly can hit as "big". In that sense Vera Zvonareva isn't a "big babe" -- she doesn't hit as "big" as those players do. That doesn't mean she's not a great player.

Yet I don't consider the term "big babe tennis" to have a negative connotation. To me, a player who is a big-hitter may also bring much more to the table (i.e., variety). Consider Serena and her serve especially: She can serve it faster than 120 mph, but that's not the only thing that makes it so effective, so beautiful.

Thoughts? Just let me know. And have a good day!

Posted by Colette 10/25/2010 at 09:21 AM

Question ... is on-court coaching allowed in Doha?

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 10/25/2010 at 09:24 AM

Nice to see something on Vera here; I've loved watching her seemingly get past her weird, weepy phase and continue with strong play. I will not have easy access to WiFi this week, so will only be on sporadically to check scores and maybe post quickie comments.

Wow, sigmund was here?

I do love when "old" TW people come out of the woodwork. :))

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:27 AM

Colette,
Unfortunately, yes for on-court coaching.

Mr. and Mrs. D,
Caroline is 0-4 against Jelena. Speaking of group, did you know that Francesca did well in getting placed away from Kim and Vera as she is like 0-21 against them.

Posted by Ruth 10/25/2010 at 09:30 AM

Good piece on Vera, Bobby. She is definitely one of the WTA's more interesting and enigmatic characters.

A couple weeks ago, when we were discussing the current status of the women's ranking, I said that Vera would be waiting to "do her thing" in Doha. I wasn't kidding, y'all. I'd love to see her do very well there because I think that she has finally been able to bring some consistency to her performances and results along with a more stable (for want of a better word) attitude on court in pressure circumstances.

I'm carefully avoiding saying that I hope Vera wins in Doha simply because something in me wants to see the #1 player, Caroline, win this end-of-season event. It would just seem right, no? :)

BTW I worry about more than the eyesight of a person who sees or thinks "linebacker" (was that Arrington's position?) when he looks at Serena's body. All of the men in my family and circle of friends would find that laughable, to put it as mildly as I can. :)

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:31 AM

Tuesday Order of Play for Doha starting at 10 AM

First match - Vera Zvonareva vs Jelena Jankovic
Second match - Caroline Wozniacki vs Elena Dementieva
Third match - Francesca Schiavone vs Samantha Stosur

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:32 AM

Ruth,
Yes, Arrington played linebacker in the NFL.

Posted by Geemom 10/25/2010 at 09:40 AM

Vera is my new fav female player. She obviously plays well but I really love her off court manner. She is intelligent and thoughtful and well, she seems like a grown up, as opposed to the girls or jerks. She has class.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 09:55 AM

Nicely done by USA Today:

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tennis/2010-10-25-weekly-net-post-two_N.htm

By the way, that article mentioned the one done by Bobby when they discuss Vera(Way to get mentioned, Bobby as the writer did read your article)

Posted by Larry in the Silicon 10/25/2010 at 09:56 AM

Good piece. She plays tennis; she knows the game. Vera makes the game interesting, tries for angles and all that. She uses guile against all the brute strength in the women's game today.

BTW, Serena is really about 5'8"; she is just hugely muscled.

Posted by Tumaini 10/25/2010 at 10:04 AM

Love it, Bobby. Great work!

She's such a smart player on-court and so underrated in that department. She knows when to be aggressive and when to be consistent, when to play down the line and when to play with angles/use the full court, when to hug the baseline and when to move forward etc. Love watching her play.

I'm also rooting for her in Beijing. Hoping that if she makes the final, she goes out and WINS it. I'm sure she must be estatic with this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's also a little disappointed with no big (tournament) win to show for the incredible year she has had.

Posted by Bobby B, 10/25/2010 at 10:05 AM

Bobby,

Great article on Vera. She is truly an amazing person and athlete. I agree with your assessment of her being a perfectionist. She is also incredibly hard working and always expects the most from herself. I wish her continued success.

She has earned it.

Posted by Tumaini 10/25/2010 at 10:06 AM

Yeah, that should say Doha. Oops

Posted by wil 10/25/2010 at 10:07 AM

People, please learn to read before you react. Pete defined "big babe" as those that hit the smack out of the ball. It's in the very first line. Height doesn't necessarily have got anything to do with it. Pete's point is that Vera's skill is not in power hitting, but the ability to change pace and disguise the ball.
Sometimes I wonder why I even bother reading the comments.

Posted by Or 10/25/2010 at 10:13 AM

Shahar, her boyfriend (the coach of the Israeli women Fed cup team, BTW) and her parents in Doha.

http://www.ynet.co.il/PicServer2/24012010/2826164/4_gd.jpg

She blogged about her experience. Said it was special, sport winning over politics. Complimented Doha quite a bit. Said she was treated with warmth and affection, etc.

Posted by Arun 10/25/2010 at 10:26 AM

Great post on Vera. It's refreshing to read something this good about a player who has been under-appreciated (euphemism). I'd like her to have a great tournament in Doha.

Thanks for this post, Bobby.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 10:26 AM

"Big Babe Tennis" I can't stand that phrase and I wish Mary Carrillo had never coined it. You would think that being a woman she would be opposed to something like that.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 10:26 AM

Bali participants:

Na Li(36-19) - Birmingham
Aravane Rezai (35-24) - Madrid and Bastad
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (40-21) - Monterrey and Istanbul
Yanina Wickmayer (38-20) - Auckland
Ana Ivanovic (30-20) - Linz
Alisa Kleybanova (31-23) - Kuala Lumpur and Seoul
Daniela Hantuchova (34-23) - Finalist at Monterrey; Granted wildcard
Kimiko Date Krumm (25-18) - Finalist at Osaka; Granted wildcard

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 10:28 AM

Wil,
This article was written by Bobby but you are spot on with the definition of Big Babe Tennis.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 10:32 AM

Master Ace: Thanks for the Bali participants. Do you know who are the alternates for Doha?

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 10:34 AM

Doha qualifiers and alternates

(Overall Record thru 10/24; Top 10 record for Doha participant)- Tournaments won

(1)Caroline Wozniacki (59-15; 5-2): Beijing, Montreal,Tokyo, New Haven, Ponte Vedra Beach and Copenhagen
(2)Vera Zvonareva (46-17; 7-8): Pattaya City
(3)Kim Clijsters (36-6; 6-0) : United States Open, Miami, Cincinnati and Brisbane
(4)Francesca Schiavone (39-20; 4-7): French Open and Barcelona
(5)Samantha Stosur(45-17; 3-4): Charleston
(6)Jelena Jankovic (38-20; 4-2): Indian Wells
(7)Elena Dementieva (40-16; 5-4): Sydney and Paris
(8)Victoria Azarenka (41-18; 6-4): Stanford and Moscow

Alternates
(1)Na Li (36-19; 5-4): Birmingham
(2)Shahar Peer(47-21; 5-9): (Finalist at Hobart)

Qualified but out due to foot and knee injuries respectively
(1)Serena Williams (25-4; 1-3): Australian Open and Wimbledon
(2)Venus Williams (38-7; 4-2): Dubai and Acapulco

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 10:37 AM

Master Ace: Thanks. So Shahar Peer has declined a place in Bali or is that she didn't qualify for the event?

Posted by Babe 10/25/2010 at 11:01 AM

""Big Babe Tennis" I can't stand that phrase and I wish Mary Carrillo had never coined it. You would think that being a woman she would be opposed to something like that."

ICAM--it is insulting & condescending, in a sport that already looks down on those who don't quite fit the perceived bill. But I think it was coined specifically for that purpose.Mary Carillo meant it as a denigration but what she failed to see is that w/o "big-babe" tennis the sport would not be what it is today. It is precisely that style of tennis that brought many of the fans that didn't think much of tennis, especially women's tennis, before.

Posted by temes 10/25/2010 at 11:10 AM

I've noticed a lot of people seem to think Serena is some gigantic woman, she's actually quite small in terms of height.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 11:11 AM

Babe: I agree with you. I believe when she first started using it she was being demeaning to the new set of female players that were very tall and hit the ball hard. Every-time she says it I get annoyed.

Posted by Syd 10/25/2010 at 11:12 AM

Geeze, I was going to say "Great Article, Pete" (or some such), but then I saw the byline...

But yeah, thanks Bobby. Way cool. SO refreshing to read about someone something other than the usual suspects: Insert usual suspects name

Posted by Syd 10/25/2010 at 11:14 AM

okay, incoherent post @ 11:12 am

Meant to say, nice to read about Vera. that's all.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 11:17 AM

Wilson75,
To qualify directly, you have to win an International tournament during the year. To qualify as a wildcard, you have to play at least one International event. Therefore, Shahar fell short on winning Hobart and as you know, the wildcard is up to the tournament.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 11:20 AM

MA: Thanks for the explanation.

Posted by Babe 10/25/2010 at 11:23 AM

MA: I thought you couldn't go to Bali if you go to Doha. Isn't it a tournie meant to accomodate those who couldn't quite make it to Doha?

Posted by CL 10/25/2010 at 11:28 AM

As to "Big Babe" tennis...I disagree that Mary C meant it in a degrading or demeaning way. My memory...though heaven knows, it is a memory filled withe many 'mind the gaps'...is that, to the contrary, Mary meant it as a compliment to the increased athleticism in the women's game at the time she first started using it. It may have come to mean something different than that, i.e., mindless ball bashers, but back in the day when Mary C coined the phrase, which was also back in the day when Mary C was much more sensible and focused than she is now, it was meant as a compliment. And when you stop and think about it, why shouldn't it be?

Posted by Babe 10/25/2010 at 11:28 AM

Yes, Wilson. And it is also meant to imply brain-less ball-bashing--as opposed to players like Hingis who, they claim, think through every point. In my opinion, PURE RUBBISH. There are quite a few big-hitters who think through their matches; playing point by point to keep their opponent guessing. Not many matches can be worn today by just hitting; sure, there are quite a few big hitters who just hit hard & harder; but that does not mean that only soft-ballers play with their brain or even that all soft-ballers play that way. It is an unfair generalization.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 11:34 AM

Babe: Very true.

CL: Mary Carrillo came up in an era when the women were petite and hit the ball with a soft touch and guile. I think it was very alien to her to see women hitting the ball so hard and I don't think she respected those players in the beginning hence the "big babe tennis" phrase. She still tries to use it but it makes no sense to say it as most of the women in tennis today are tall and hard-hitters.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 11:40 AM

Babe,
Since Na is an alternate at Doha, she is still eligible to play at Bali per WTA rulebook.

Posted by TAFKAP 10/25/2010 at 11:53 AM

Interesting thoughts.

""But No. 2 in the world…really?""

Four simple reasons. Serena is hurt. Venus is old. Kim doesn't play as much. Justine is hurt.

Nevertheless, she's a good player. Top 5-10 caliber for sure. But, it's more special circumstances that make her #2.


Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 11:57 AM

Sokol,
Remember the debate about the number 1 slot being occupied by some players without a Slam? Now, I think some people will slam Vera for making it to number 2.

"@PatrickMcEnroe QUESTION: How did Vera Zvonareva navigate her way to the No. 2 ranking? Let's discuss on my Facebook page http://Facebook.com/PatMcEnroe"

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/25/2010 at 12:06 PM

As I recall, Carillo started using the "Big Babe Tennis" phrase to refer to the games of Davenport, Pierce, and a few others.

I don't believe Carillo was trying to denigrate the "Big Babe" style of play, just distinguish that style from the Hingis/Conchita Martinez/Sabatini/Sanchez Vicario style of play. (Obviously, on her groundstrokes, the pre-stabbing Seles played "Big Babe" tennis, no matter her size. Graf had the huge FH, but her predominant use of the slice BH removes her from Carillo's "Big Babe" designation.)

I have my doubts as to whether "Big Babe" tennis is more "popular" with the general public than women's tennis of the 1990s and early part of this century played by Hingis, Capriati (also big off the ground), but I don't have the pertinent data at hand.

Posted by CL 10/25/2010 at 12:11 PM

wilson - well my memory is a bit different, but so, it goes. No biggee. I just think Mary was appreciative of the increase in power as well as athleticism that came into the game. I would have to go and check if she used it to refer to them, but in a way, both Martina N and Steffi...even Gaby...were Big Babe tennis players. And I don't thing Mary ever disparaged them in any way. Whenever it was when she first started using the phrase I remember a laugh and amazement in here voice at how hard these Big Babe women were hitting the ball.

Mary C used to be one of my favorite tennis commentators. Unfortunately in the last 5 years or so, she seems to have slipped a gear or so in some of what she spouts. Plus, she now makes a lot of just plain factual errors as well. It is too bad, because she is actually one smart woman. I don't mean to make this all about Mary C. - it should be about Vera and the other women...but to MY memory, anyway, saying that Mary coined the phrase AS a put down, is a bit of revisionist history.

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 12:25 PM

CL: Mary C has turned from a creditable knowledgeable and informative tennis analyst into a gossip maven who doesn't say much when working with JMac.

Posted by Texastennis 10/25/2010 at 12:34 PM

TAFKAP - agree. Vera is a nice player and I like to watch her but her presence at #2 (like Caro's at #1) primarily reflects the current weaknesses in the women's field. All credit to them for taking their opportunities.

CL - agree Seles and Graf hit the ball as hard as anybody now. And Graf more athletic than anyone except possibly Serena. I always took the big babe phrase to mean literally the rise of very tall, very strong girls (Davenport on) although not always very athletic who banged the ball very hard with not much variety. I didn't take it as a pejorative although I agree it may have come to have some pejorative meaning.

Babe " There are quite a few big-hitters who think through their matches; playing point by point to keep their opponent guessing. Not many matches can be worn today by just hitting." Not lots of matches today are lost by just hitting! I don't see "quite a few big hitters who think" in the matches I watch lamentably I must say.

A thing I like very much about Caro and Vera (well Vera sometimes this summer!) is that they do think about what they are doing and work the points - that's why they are where they are currently....

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 10/25/2010 at 12:36 PM

CL - My memory is the same as yours re: Mary C's use of the phrase "big babe tennis." I can remember her calling matches and sounding awestruck and almost chuckling in disbelief at how hard some of the players were hitting the ball. Nothing derogatory about the term originally.

*misses the old Mary Carillo commentary*

Posted by Thomas 10/25/2010 at 12:37 PM

"People, please learn to read before you react. Pete defined "big babe" as those that hit the smack out of the ball."

Pretty funny considering Pete didn't write the article. Bobby did ;-)

Nice article btw.

Posted by Tennis Fan 10/25/2010 at 12:38 PM

Woznacki needs two wins to be YE #1. Zvonareva can get to #1 by Wozniacki getting injured and pulling out or winning only one or no matches. Then Zvonareva must win with no losses. If Zvonareva loses one match in the round robin she can only be #1 by Woznacki not winning any.

Likely than Woz ends year at #1 with the group she is in as Clisters and Zvonareva in the other group.

clisters and Zvonareva will be fighting for #2 in their group. That group should be inteesting.

Posted by Babe 10/25/2010 at 12:59 PM

Yes, Ma; my assumption was that as an alternate Li would not be considered "qualified" for Doha so that leaves her eligible to play Bali--this would be true even if she ends up playing because someone pulled out. So, am I right then in assuming that those who qualify for Doha are therefore ineligible to play Bali?

Posted by CL 10/25/2010 at 01:00 PM

sblily - me too. :-( I remember when I actually looked forward to a match if Mary was working. Not anymore. And really, there is no one who has replaced her in terms of humor, (BG is clumsy oaf in the humor dept), when Mary was at her best. She brought a kind of giddy appreciation to some of the levels of the game. She was like the 'holy cow, this is really FUN!' kind of sister who livened up the party AND often had something insightful to say. Don't know where that person went. Like the rest of us, just got older, I guess, but also less wise and less tolerant and less prepared and more slap dash along the way. too bad.

OK, really done about Mary C. now. Don't want to be a thread hi-jacker. :-)

Posted by Babe 10/25/2010 at 01:03 PM

BTW, I don't remember Carillo using the term "big babe" in a complimentary fashion. Though, admittedly, I may not be the most objective in this particular debate as I completely now LOATHE the woman. But back then, she spoke of "big babe" in, what I considered, an insulting way.

Of course, with Carillo she has the unequalled talent to denigrate & compliment with the same stroke.

Posted by Sujani 10/25/2010 at 01:33 PM

Love the article, Bobs! As usual, another great piece. :-)

Posted by Just another lurker 10/25/2010 at 01:38 PM

The post is about Vera which she very well deserves. Whether 'big babe tennis' was meant to complement or denigrate women's tennis is an issue which has nothing to do with Vera's accomplishments. Lets not insult the players, Vera in this case in trying to prove that some one else was insulting.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 01:49 PM

"So, am I right then in assuming that those who qualify for Doha are therefore ineligible to play Bali? "

Babe,
Correct!

Posted by GC20 10/25/2010 at 01:50 PM

There's no way Vera is 5'8" despite what the WTA says. She's closer to 5'5" which makes her success even more impressive.

Serena is a giant compared to Mad Vera.

http://bit.ly/cyqKdL

Posted by sokol 10/25/2010 at 02:10 PM

thank you, Bobby, for a post on Vera. Nicely done!

Posted by sokol 10/25/2010 at 02:24 PM

"Remember the debate about the number 1 slot being occupied by some players without a Slam? Now, I think some people will slam Vera for making it to number 2."

:-((((((
MA, I'm done paying attention to those negative posts. I was hurt as a fan with Dinara discussion and it taught me to ignore all those bad articles and comments (on this board as well) and enjoy the success of the player I like. Vera worked hard and deserves the ranking.

Posted by sokol 10/25/2010 at 02:26 PM

"Serena is a giant compared to Mad Vera."

I'd have to agree there is a difference in statue between those two

Posted by sokol 10/25/2010 at 02:27 PM

"she’s shorter than 12 of the 17 Top 100 Russians"

interesting, so many tall Russians :-)

Posted by wilson75 10/25/2010 at 02:29 PM

I don't understand why there is consternation because Vera is No. 2. Serena is injured and so her ranking has dropped. Vera has had a really worked hard this year and deserves to be No. 2. Some people in the media are trying to stir up drama when there is none.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 02:45 PM

Well I hope in Doha Vera can keep her emotions in check and dosent hide under her towel lol!

Posted by sokol 10/25/2010 at 02:47 PM

"dosent hide under her towel"

that's too much to ask, AM :-), but I agree with the first part

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 02:55 PM

sokol One can only hope lol!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 02:57 PM

I thought the Big Babe comment was about Babe Ruth the great base ball player?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 03:13 PM

I agree that Vera has earnt her ranking.She made the final at Wimby this year both in singles and doubles a great achievement even though she came up short in both.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 03:22 PM

Tuesday Order of Play:

WTA - Doha at 10 AM
First match - Vera Zvonareva(46-17; 7-8) vs Jelena Jankovic(38-20; 4-2)
Second match - Caroline Wozniacki(59-15; 5-2) vs Elena Dementieva(40-16; 5-4)
Third match - Francesca Schiavone(39-20; 4-7) vs Samantha Stosur(45-17; 3-4)

ATP

St. Petersburg at 5 AM - Istomin, Zeballos vs Hanescu and Mathieu scheduled
Montpellier at 6 AM - Dent, Zverev vs Haase and Darcis scheduled
Vienna at 7 AM - Garcia-Lopez vs Berrer, DeBakker, Malisse vs Giraldo and Chela scheduled
Montpellier at 8 AM - Lacko vs Mannarino
Vienna at 9 AM - Blake vs Kubot
Montpellier at 10 AM - Isner vs Paire
Vienna at 10:30 AM - Haider-Maurer vs Muster
St. Petersburg at 11 AM - Kunitsyn vs Tipsarevic followed by Tursunov vs Przysiezny
Montpellier at 1 PM - O Rochus vs Llodra followed by Nalbandian vs Granollers


Posted by Codge 10/25/2010 at 03:32 PM

Bobby, great profile on Vera.

I agree with the folks up thread about so-called big babe tennis. Was always in reference to the hitting, not stature. :) And those gals began to hit huge in the late 90s.

I'll refrain from commenting on Carillo ;)

Vera's sorta in my Petrova/Demmy category. I had high hopes at the beginning, then the disappointments piled up and I got out of the relationship.

I was pleasantly surprised by her play this season. I hope she can capitalise, and pull down a slam in 2011. Some players don't fare well in the spot light, but Vera seems to have a new maturity about her.

Is it the towel or the coach? :D

If the towel over the head works, bless. Soderling seems to be fond also.

AM- I owe you a response from a few weeks back on DC. Your new hairdo is tres fab!!!!
I thought you looked very Wintour-ish, esp with the trench. :D
See you Friday!

Posted by naughty T...urbane gentleman 10/25/2010 at 03:49 PM

Nice one Bobby. thanks.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/25/2010 at 04:00 PM

For Time Warner Cable customers who want to access ESPN and ESPN3 via the internet, the day has come--at least in my neck of the woods:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/time-warner-cable-customers-can-now-watch-espn-and-espn3com-on-their-computer-2010-10-22?reflink=MW_news_stmp

After registering with Time Warner and ESPN, I was able to access ESPN and ESPN3.

Believe that the next tennis event that will be on ESPN3 will be the Basel indoors.

Posted by Master Ace 10/25/2010 at 04:13 PM

Manuelsantanafan,
Do you think ESPN3 will do Basel and Valencia since they are 500 events?

Posted by Legoboy 10/25/2010 at 04:23 PM

Master Ace...I love the way you think!

None of the chatter...just the facts, and your predictions are so well thought.

Thanks!

Posted by Or 10/25/2010 at 04:37 PM

Okay, so it looks like I'm going to the WTF after all.

Cheap hotels in London, anyone?

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/25/2010 at 04:41 PM

MA:

I took a quick look at the ESPN3 site and its various menus.

Basel was mentioned, but I didn't see how many hours of coverage will be provided.

Didn't see Valencia, but my search wasn't thorough.

I'm sure there is a fairly complete schedule for upcoming events somewhere on an ESPN site. Haven't had the time to confirm that notion.

Posted by vetmama 10/25/2010 at 04:56 PM

Congratulations, Or!
I'm so jealous.:)

You'll be able to meet up with a bunch of TWibers there too, which is really great.

Unfortunately, though, no such thing as a cheap hotel in London. You may, however, be able to share a room with someone else who is going if you ask around...

Posted by Or 10/25/2010 at 05:03 PM

I have friends who are coming from Israel, but they are staying with friends.

Who else from the Twibe is going? I've missed all the discussions.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 05:09 PM

Totally disagree with the home page that Kim is a huge favorite. Who do they think she is Serena? I don't think so, Vera has beat her twice this year, and Caro is so much more improved that yes, she can take Kim too. Caro has proven that she can take on anyone and come out ahead. Kom sa, Caro.

Posted by grace 10/25/2010 at 05:27 PM

Pretend all you want but Vera hits the ball just as hard as the rest of the Big Babes; she is in fact a Big Babe!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 05:33 PM

or I am jealous glad that everything worked out for you

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 05:36 PM

Hmmmm I think if Mother Kim does win she will be awarded

The Nobel prize for The Mother Of The Year!

Perish the thought from the media lol!

Like yes I know she is a mother and is Wow that she won the USO twice now

Though I would like her to get some results say on clay and grass

Just saying.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President.Yes Indeed I am A One Woman Show 10/25/2010 at 05:37 PM

oops sorry Kim twice in a row now

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 05:40 PM

Vera made it to two GS final, so she has definetly earned her ranking. Every one knows Serena is the best player in the game. In the last three years, she has won two slams each, that is hard to beat. Roger used to do that, now only Nadal and Serena do it. Know anybody with three slam.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro, reigning World's no 1.1. 10/25/2010 at 05:40 PM

Vera made it to two GS final, so she has definetly earned her ranking. Every one knows Serena is the best player in the game. In the last three years, she has won two slams each, that is hard to beat. Roger used to do that, now only Nadal and Serena do it. Know anybody with three slam.

Posted by grace 10/25/2010 at 05:40 PM

Vera looks to be as strong as an Ox! Its rediculous how tennis pundits always try to make white women seem frail compared to the Williams sisters.

Posted by adicecream 10/25/2010 at 05:41 PM

or, wonderful news for you. Enjoy London!

Posted by Diane(Atlanta) 10/25/2010 at 05:58 PM

Thanks Bobby

And go Vera

Still here in Aruba; don't know how much more my liver can take but I'm testing it's limits!

I would be happy if Vera would win the whole thing, no offense to Caro fans.

Excited to hear the news about Sharapova's engagement, and I haven't had the time to read what anyone thinks how this will affect her tennis.....as I said , just a drive by post as I am just off the beach and need to get ready for dinner.


Oh, and thank you Roger for the win on Sunday!!!!

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