Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lisicki breaks Venus' record for fastest serve

Sabine Lisicki unloads a record 131-mph (210.8-kph) serve in her
loss to fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic today in the Bank of the West
Classic at Stanford. Photo courtesy of Bank of the West Classic.
   STANFORD, Calif. — Venus Williams lost her record for the world's fastest serve by a woman but won her match.
   Sabine Lisicki unleashed a 131-mph (210.8-kph) rocket in a 7-6 (2), 6-1 loss to fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic today in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
   Lisicki was aided by hot (84 degrees/28.9 Celsius), dry weather but not elevation (Stanford is 30 feet/9.1 meters above sea level). 
   "Well ... at least I broke the world record for fastest serve," tweeted Lisicki, the runner-up to Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon last year.
   Williams, who held the previous mark of 129 mph (207.6 kph), overpowered qualifier Paula Kania of Poland 6-3, 6-2 in the featured night match.
   Meanwhile, rising star Garbine Muguruza ousted defending champion Dominika Cibulkova, seeded sixth, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. It was the Bank of the West debut for the 6-foot (1.82-meter) Muguruza, who's ranked 28th in the world at 20 years old.
   Muguruza plays for Spain, where she lives, but might switch to Venezuela, her native country. Her father is Spanish and her mother Venezuelan.
   Muguruza reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal last month in the French Open, routing top-ranked Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the second round. Cibulkova, 25, of Slovakia advanced to her first Grand Slam final in January in the Australian Open, falling to Li Na.
   Also losing was seventh-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro. The 5-foot-4 (1.62-meter) Spaniard, ranked 16th, fell 6-3, 7-5 to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico despite holding three set points at 5-4 in the second set.
   Qualifier Carol Zhao, a Stanford sophomore, won her first WTA main-draw match when Yanina Wickmayer, a U.S. Open semifinalist in 2009, retired because of a viral illness with Zhao leading 6-2, 1-0. A disoriented Serena Williams recently retired from her second-round doubles match at Wimbledon with older sister Venus for the same reason.
   Lisicki, a 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter) German, crushed her record-breaking serve down in the middle in the ad court at 5-5, 40-30 in the first set. Ivanovic returned the ball solidly but sprayed it wide cross-court.  
   Williams set her serving mark in the 2007 U.S. Open.
Williams said she was glad Lisicki broke her record.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I think it's time it's broken," Williams, 34, said with her characteristic graciousness after her serve topped out at a mere 120 mph (193.1 kph) against Kania. "That's a good thing, I think. I guess I have to start trying to serve harder. Clearly, she serves really hard. That's good encouragement.
   "I'm not really trying to serve hard, though. I used to. When I really want the point, that's when I start to serve a little bit harder, but I (usually) hit a medium serve that goes somewhere above 110 (177.0 kph).
   "I'm trying more for placement these days. It takes a lot of energy to serve, so if you can take off 10 miles an hour (16.1 kph) and place it, this is smarter. I need to serve harder now, I guess."
   Samuel Groth of Australia holds the men's record for the world's fastest serve, 163.7 mph (263.4 kph) in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger. Ivo Karlovic, a 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Croat, owns the mark at the top level of men's tennis with a 156-mph (251.1-kph) blast in the first round of the 2011 Davis Cup against Germany.
   Williams, playing in the Bank of the West Classic for the first time since losing to Bartoli in the 2009 final, will meet fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka on Thursday in the second round. Azarenka, who will turn 25 on Thursday, received a first-round bye.
   Williams and Azarenka are both former top-ranked players, multiple Grand Slam singles champions (seven titles for Williams; two for Azarenka) and past Bank of the West titlists (Williams in 2000 and 2010; Azarenka in 2010).
   Both also have battled health issues. Williams was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, in 2011. Azarenka has missed most of this year with a left foot injury.
   Williams, a lean 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters), has fallen to 25th and hasn't won a major singles title in six years, but she remains a threat. Last month, the five-time Wimbledon singles champion came within two points of beating eventual winner Petra Kvitova in the third round at the All England Club.
   Williams said she'll continue playing "as long as I'm good. I'm running pretty fast. If I get slow and terrible, then I'll stop.
  "I'm not having kids right now, it seems, and I don't have a husband telling me what to do and we don't have to argue every day," Williams continued with a laugh, "so for me it's easy to keep playing tennis."
   Williams made her pro debut 20 years ago at 14 in the Bank of the West Classic, beating American veteran Shaun Stafford in the first round before losing to top-seeded and second-ranked Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain. At the time, the tournament was held across San Francisco Bay in the Oakland Coliseum Arena in the fall.
   "It's great to still be feeling well enough to play on this tour," said Williams, a two-time Bank of the West champion (2000 and 2002) and five-time runner-up (1998, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2009). "It's much more competitive than 20 years ago, and it's great to be looking pretty solid, too.
   "It's been a long journey. I don't know at that age if I would have envisioned that I'd still be playing, but I'm glad I am because you get one shot at it, and then you fade to gray somewhere and someone else is better. So while I'm here, I'm going to go for it."
At Stanford
First-round singles
   Carol Zhao, Canada, def. Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, 6-2, 1-0, retired.
   Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, def. Carlo Suarez Navarro (7), Spain, 6-3, 7-5.
   Garbine Muguruza, Spain, def. Dominika Cibulkova (6), Slovakia, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
   Ana Ivanovic (5), Serbia, def. Sabine Lisicki, Germany, 7-6 (2), 6-1.
   Venus Williams, United States, def. Paula Kania, Poland, 6-3, 6-2.
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, def. Paula Ormaechea, Argentina, 6-3, 6-4.
First-round doubles
   Varvara Lepchenko, United States, and Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, def. Mari Osaka, Japan, and Marina Shamayko, Russia, 6-1, 6-0.
   Carolina Garcia, France, and Shuai Zhang, China, def. Kristie Ahn, United States, and Carol Zhao, Canada, 3-6, 6-1 [12-10].
Doubles quarterfinals
   Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, and Anastasia Rodionova (2), Australia, def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia, and Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-0.
Wednesday's schedule
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, vs. Sachia Vickery, United States.
(Not before 1:30 p.m.)
   Agnieszka Radwanska (2), Poland, vs. Varvara Lepchenko, United States.
   Andrea Petkovic (8), Germany, vs. Naomi Osaka, Japan.
(Not before 7 p.m.)
   Serena Williams (1), United States, vs. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic.
   Hao-Ching Chan, Taiwan, and Andrea Petkovic (4), Germany, vs. Paula Kania, Poland, and Katerina Siniakova, Czech Republic.
Court 6
(Starting at 1:30 p.m.)
   Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, and Arantxa Parra Santonja, Spain, vs. Daria Gavrilova, Russia, and Yi-Fan Xu, China.
   Caroline Garcia, France, and Shuai Zhang, China, vs. Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro (3), Spain.

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