Monday August 1st, 2011

1. Serena the conqueror: I recently came across an article from 2002 that read in part: "If Serena is on her game, can anyone stop her?" Here we are, nearly a decade later, and that still pretty much sums up the state of affairs in women's tennis. Though ranked outside the top 150 at the start of the week, Serena Williams looked like a world-beater once again, blazing through the field in Stanford, Calif. Her run at the Bank of the West Classic included a double bagel win, routs of Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki and a revenge win in the final against Marion Bartoli, the player who knocked her out of Wimbledon last month. Let's be blunt: If Williams can come close to sustaining this level of play, she wins the U.S. Open.

2. Gulbis snaps streak: When it comes to players with sinuous results, Serena cannot touch Ernests Gulbis. The talented Latvian can go months without winning a match. He can also beat Roger Federer, as he did last year in Madrid. Coming in to the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles on a five-match losing streak, Gulbis looked considerably better than his No. 84 ranking. He won the title, his first of the year, beating Juan Martin del Potro in a straight-set quarterfinal rout and battling past top-seeded Mardy Fish in the final. That's the good news. The bad? His ranking (he's up to 55th) is still insufficient to get him into the main draws in Montreal and Cincinnati.

3. Dolgopolov back on track: Though the U.S. Open Series is in full swing on the American hardcourts, last week there were other events held on other surfaces on other continents. (Why, it's almost like regional tours.) The most significant result: In Croatia, Alex Dolgopolov won the title, beating Marin Cilic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final. After a deep run in Australia, Dolgopolov looked poised to become a top 10 player. Since then, he has struggled a bit, including -- an irony of ironies -- a loss to Gulbis in Monte Carlo. One presumes, though, that his game is back on track. If you're looking for a U.S. Open dark horse, you could do worse.

• There was another U.S. event held last week, the inaugural Citi Open in College Park, Md. Nadia Petrova won the title by defeating Shahar Peer, her first tournament victory in three years. Sania Mirza and Yaroslava Shvedova took the doubles.

• Having lost his last six sets -- on fast surfaces, against players outside the top five -- Andy Roddick served up more bad news when he pulled out of this week's Washington, D.C.-based Legg Mason event with an abdominal injury.

• Spare a thought for Robert Kendrick, an American veteran suspended for a doping infraction last week. The violation? He supposedly consumed an anti-jetlag medication containing trace amounts of a banned substance. Strict liability standard -- if it's in your body, you're on the hook. Still, it's hard to reconcile carelessness with intentional performance enhancement. We can discuss this at greater length later. (Obviously there's a tension between a rigid, rigorous protocol and one that can appear merciless.) For now, wish Kendrick luck in his appeal. No way should he serve the same one-year sentence as the cheaters.

• Before the Cincinnati event gets underway, let's take a second to thank Paul and Bruce Flory, the latter being recently replaced as Western and Southern Masters tournament director, for their contributions to the sport.

• Read this Q&A and I defy you not to come away with an enhanced regard for WTA CEO Stacey Allaster.

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