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Bartoli refuses Fed Cup bench-warmer role
Vento-Kabachi's last gasp over stumbling Petrova; NCAA champ Lui's plays on home court

By Matthew Cronin
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Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA, Inc.

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD – France could certainly use 18-year-old Marion Bartoli on its Fed Cup team that will face Russia in November, but it's highly doubtful that Bartoli will play, because she refused the No. 4 spot on the squad that beat Spain last weekend.

"Amelie Mauresmo doesn't need me to be clapping for her, she does okay by herself," Bartoli said. "When you are the fourth player, you end up being the practice partner for the rest of the girls and play five to six hours a day making sure they are ready. You can get very tired that way. My father [Walter] talked to [French captain] Guy Forget and told him that if I am the No. 3 player, then I will be on the team because maybe I'll have a chance too play. But, if not, it's better for me to work on my ranking and improving my game."

Bartoli did add that she would love to represent her country, but doesn't feel like being a backseat player does her any good. "Maybe being the fourth player was good for Stephanie Cohen-Alero and she liked it, but for me, I want to know I'll have a chance to play a real match."

France's team of Mauresmo, Nathalie Dechy, Emilie Loit and Cohen-Alero were very impressive in trouncing Spain last weekend, but will have a much tougher time against Russia, which has a very deep talented lineup that features Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Elena Bovina.

Bartoli is quite a talker and a very decent player who has top-25 potential. She grew up in the small town of Le Puy en Velat, which had only three outdoor hard courts. The indoor court that she played on had almost no space behind it, which is why she stands a good three feet inside the baseline to return serve. She has incredibly fast hands and in her three-set victory over Laura Granville on Monday, displayed a vicious return of serve that would make her heroine, Monica Seles, very proud.

Like Seles, Bartoli hits with two hands off both wings, because one day her father – who was frustrated with her poor forehand – watched Seles beat Steffi Graf in the '92 Roland Garros final and told his right-handed daughter to put her left hand on her racket. "My dad didn't know much about tennis but he loved how Monica played," she said.

Bartoli has hard solid groundies and is built very low to the ground, which should keep her on tour for a long time to come. But she isn't that quick, her serve is negligible and she too often hits short. She's working on all those areas but will need to step it up quickly here, as she'll face Jennifer Capriati on Wednesday.

Vento-Kabachi's last gasp over stumbling Petrova
Qualifier Maria Vento-Kabachi of Venezuela took out eighth seed Nadia Petrova 6-1, 7-6 (4) in the first round Tuesday. It was a terrific performance from the 29-year-old Venezuelan, but an awful showing for the 21-year-old Petrova, who says that he goal is to go deep at the US Open and reach the season-ending WTA Championships. She and her stiff back will need to be a whole lot better to accomplish those goals.

"The loss isn't really going to hurt me, but it will ring my bell," said Petrova. "It was definitely not my day. I was slow, didn't have my timing and wasn't aggressive enough."

For her part, the No. 130-ranked Vento-Kabachi brought back memories of her one-time top-30 play, as she neatly controlled the points with deftly struck groundies.

"She changed strategies in the second set and was playing high balls to my backhand, but I adjusted right away," Vento-Kabachi said. "I knew I had to close out the match in the second set because with great players like her, if you give them the opportunity in a third set, it can go away quickly. I stayed positive."

It's not easy to stay positive when you own a 13-24 record in qualifying matches in 2003, but Vento-Kabachi went through a hellacious off-season fitness program in Tampa with the legendary Pat Etcheberry (who also works with Justine Henin-Hardenne) and believes that her increased strength will pay off soon. Like he did with Henin-Hardenne, Etcheberry brought Vento-Kabachi to tears a few times, but he also sculpted her body.

"It's a sacrifice but everything's a sacrifice," she said.

Maria is probably two years from retiring and wants to prove to herself that putting so many years into striking yellow balls has been worth it.

"I wasn't in shape physically and mentally so at the end of last year I told myself that if I was going to keep playing, I needed to work hard so even if the results didn't come, I would know I tried my hardest," Vento-Kabachi said. "And I believe the good results will come."

NCAA champ Lui's plays on home court
Playing in her first regular tour event since surprisingly winning the NCAA Singles Championships in May, the slender Amber Lui was impressive in taking out the veteran Tara Snyder 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

A ferocious, emotional competitor on court who whipped her racket against a sideline chair during the third set, Kansas native Snyder is thoughtful and measured off court. Like Vento-Kabachi, she knows her time is running out but is making the most of her career.

"Maintaining your ranking is the truest test," she said. "I got to No. 33 and then you're expected to do well all the time and it's not easy. Everything thinks you're a world-beater when you first come up. But the older you get, the more you realize that tennis is what you do and not who you are, which makes it easier to take the good with the bad." Snyder did add that in order to stay around, you still have to have goals and believe you be a factor at some level.

Whether Lui can be a big-time player is an open question, but Snyder believes that she has top-50 potential.

"She's not physically big so that will eventually limit her, but she's improved so much in the last year," Snyder said. "But the sky's the limit."

The 19-year-old Lui isn't sure whether she'll return to Stanford for her sophomore year, but it's highly doubtful. She said her dream has always been to play the pros and by reaching the finals of the Los Gatos Challenger a couple weeks ago and scoring her first WTA main draw win here, she has to know she can at least play top-100 ball. The San Diego native said she needs some more matches to gauge her level before she makes her final decision.



Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA, Inc.

If you look at the last two NCAA titlists from Stanford who turned pro early, it's pretty easy to gauge where Lui should end up in a few years. Lilia Osterloh cracked the top 40 while Laura Granville jumped into the top 30. Lui isn't as physically strong as either of those two, but she can crack a first serve in the 105-mph range, can hit an authoritative forehand to all angles of the court and is a good thinker. Her backhand isn't that strong and she could return serve with more pop, but those are areas that could improve.

Lui will face top-seed Kim Clijsters Thursday night in front of her home fans and things could get ugly. But she's confident at Stanford and doesn't expect to get blown out.

"It's my home court so I expect I'll get focused pretty quickly," Lui said. "It will be a good indication of where my game is at."
 

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"Amelie Mauresmo doesn't need me to be clapping for her, she does okay by herself," Bartoli said. "When you are the fourth player, you end up being the practice partner for the rest of the girls and play five to six hours a day making sure they are ready. You can get very tired that way. My father [Walter] talked to [French captain] Guy Forget and told him that if I am the No. 3 player, then I will be on the team because maybe I'll have a chance too play. But, if not, it's better for me to work on my ranking and improving my game."


Sounds reasonable to me.
 

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Makes perfect sense. Mari could be playing somewhere, winning a title instead of being relegated to cheerleader status.
 

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It sounds to me like her wick is turned up a bit high. Earn your spot on the team, chicka, and then you will be more than a benchwarmer. What a crappy attitude :rolleyes:
 

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Tratree said:
It sounds to me like her wick is turned up a bit high. Earn your spot on the team, chicka, and then you will be more than a benchwarmer. What a crappy attitude :rolleyes:
Which is what she plans on doing...earning her spot by improving her ranking rather than warming the bench. Wise decision.
 

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that's too bad, coz Stephanie got to play
Maria and won....had she gone, she could
have played too....oh well...:)

entering her fav hardcourt season,
it's interesting to see if she can get up to Emelie
and keeping other French players out of contension,
she already took Laura out on hardcourt,
it should only get better coming US Open.:)
 

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that attitude is more from her dad than her even though she said it, she's been told to.
He controls her way too much and is way too critcal of every little error she makes.
 

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I'm surpised at you, Cari. I'm sure the team members for the French Fed Cup team had to do a little cheerleading from time to time. Bartoli is a very young player who has to earn her spot on the French Fed Cup team like the other players do. She's in no postion to make any demands. And they should offer her a spot on the French fed Cup team anytime soon.
 

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A bit of a tude from her; that's a shame. The team did fine without her and Stephanie sure had no problem accepting and playing/winning!

Allez La France!
 

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some people are such hypocrites.

harloo shakes his head
 

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Liu regularly hits 105 mph? Uh I think that's off...first of all she ain't that powerful...and I've seen her serve in person. That's a big serve for colleges...and her serve is not a weapon in college tennis.
 

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:) some good words there marion :)
 

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Tennisace said:
Liu regularly hits 105 mph? Uh I think that's off...first of all she ain't that powerful...and I've seen her serve in person. That's a big serve for colleges...and her serve is not a weapon in college tennis.
Cronin just wrote that she could hit like ONE serve that's in the 105-range.

He's generally really nice in his articles.
 
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