Thursday, June 04, 2009

RG.12- Fighting the Good Fight



She ain't heavy, she's just "Marat's sister." But by Saturday night, Marat might be better known as "Dinara's brother."

A year ago, Ana Ivanovic was crowned Roland Garros champion and the new #1 player in the world. Then she succumbed to the pressure, and has at times appeared to be in free fall ever since. In contrast, ever since Dinara Safina has risen to the #1 spot on the WTA computer, and has been and continues to be picked at by Serena Williams on her merits for holding the position over the American, she's responded to it all by simply putting her head down and fighting the good fight.

Her 6-3/6-3 semifinal win over Dominika Cibulkova on Day 12 sends her to her second straight Roland Garros final (and third slam final overall) and her fourth consecutive tour final (she's won her last two), as she's now on a WTA season-best sixteen-match winning streak.

So far, Safina's filling the position atop the game quite admirably. And now she only has one more scene to play out to silence any lingering doubts. But before that, she had to avoid a letdown and advance past the Slovak today.

Final scoreline aside, it wasn't a simple day for Safina on Court Chatrier. She was broken in the first game of the match, and fell behind 2-0 as the Slovak was making the Russian run and chase balls far more than she'd have preferred.

After battling back to get to 2-2, Safina had to save two break points. After Cibulkova held two game points on her own serve, Safina broke to grab a 4-2 advantage in spite of her opponent's deep receiving setup behind the baseline making it difficult to use her serve as a true weapon.

Safina won the 1st set while displaying unspectacular form, but it was good enough since Cibulkova failed to take full advantage of the small cracks that showed in Safina's game against the hard-to-totally contain sprite.

In the 2nd, Safina had to save two break points in the second game, then broke Cibulkova for a 3-2 lead. From there, even without the Slovak's play really falling off, Safina pretty much had complete control of the match. Any time Cibulkova threatened to make things interesting, Safina would thwart her advances. After saving three more break points, Safina went up 4-2 and "cruised" to another victory.

Even as she was defeating Cibulkova today, Safina found moments in which she was forced to admonish herself for poor shots and/or decisions at crucial times in the 2nd set. Unlike with Victoria Azarenka earlier this tournament, though, the sight is not an off-putting one. Maybe, considering her family tree, it's just to be expected from Safina. Plus, after working so hard to put down her darker demons on the court, a Shakespearean tragedy isn't threatening to break out whenever Safina's harsh words burst forward at herself. Instead, it's now seen as a case of a champion expecting the best of herself, not squawking whenever something goes wrong. It's a fine line, but Safina has so far managed to walk it quite well.

Carry on, Dinara. Carry on.



=DAY 12 NOTES=
...a day after edging past Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova was almost set up for a disaster against Samantha Stosur. She weathered the storm of the Aussie's seeming lack of nerves (quite a feat considering her bouts with them on the singles court not that long ago... and something that might bode well for her in London), as well as a few shaky moments of her own, and will get a third opportunity on Saturday to face Safina this clay court season.

The pair traded five consecutive breaks early in the 1st before things settled down. After getting that same foot she injured against Williams re-taped (she had blisters) at 5-4, Kuznetova survived potentially momentum-shifting break chances by Stosur to serve out the set.

In the 2nd, two double-faults by the Russian led to the Aussie grabbing a break to knot the score at 4-4. Up 5-3 in the tie-break that was ultimately needed to decide the set, Kuznetsova lost the next four points and was forced to face -- yet again -- the prospect that she might fall flat on her face on the big stage, this time against the world #32 who'd never won five straight main draw matches on tour in her career until this very tournament.

But, in a repeat of yesterday, Kuznetsova held steady down the stretch. She grabbed a break to take a 4-2 lead, then served out the match after behing handed the opportunity at 5-3 to put away a fourth career slam final appearance. It was a match that wasn't as routine as one might have hoped, considering the physical nature of her match with Williams (and that might have an impact on her chances in the final, too), but Kuznetsova at least has now proved that the Contessova who emerged this spring on the European clay was no mirage. She IS the real deal again. Finally.

...hmmm, my pick for the final in this tournament was Safina over Wozniacki. I guess I should have listened to myself when I did that sort-of-preview a few weeks earlier.

...in the Girls singles semifinals, it'll be a Pastry, and American and two Hordettes battling it out for the title. France's #9-seed Kristina Mladenovic will face the U.S.'s #15-seeded Sloane Stephens (def. Bianca Botto), and one of two Russians -- Ksenia Pervak (the #3-seed, but the '09 Oz junior champ) or unseeded Daria Gavrilova (def. Silvia Njiric) -- will fill the other spot in the final.

...and finally, the first champions of this Roland Garros were crowned in Mixed Doubles as Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan defeated Vania King and Marcelo Melo. Bryan won the title last year with Victoria Azarenka. It's Huber's fifth career slam title.

The RG version of "Decade's Best, 2000-09" arrives tomorrow.





*2009 WTA FINALS*
6...DINARA SAFINA (2-3)
4...Caroline Wozniacki (1-3)
3...Victoria Azarenka (3-0)
3...Elena Dementieva (2-1)
3...SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (1-1)

*2009 WINNING STREAKS*
16...DINARA SAFINA, MAY-CURRENT
15...Elena Dementieva, January
14...Venus Williams, February-April

*GRAND SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE*
13...Serena Williams (10-3)
13...Venus Williams (7-6)
5...Kim Clijsters (1-4)
4...Maria Sharapova (3-1)
4...SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (1-2)
3...Amelie Mauresmo (2-1)
3...Ana Ivanovic (1-2)
3...DINARA SAFINA (0-2)
--
ALSO: 7- Davenport (3-4)

*ALL-RUSSIAN SLAM FINALS*
2004 Roland Garros - Myskina d. Dementieva
2004 U.S. Open - Kuznetsova d. Dementieva
2009 ROLAND GARROS - SAFINA vs. KUZNETSOVA

*2009 ALL-RUSSIAN WTA FINALS*
Auckland - Dementieva d. Vesnina
Sydney - Dementieva d. Safina
Stuttgart - Kuznetsova d. Safina
Rome - Safina d. Kuznetsova
ROLAND GARROS - SAFINA vs. KUZNETSOVA

*SLAM FINALS- RUSSIAN WOMEN*
4...Maria Sharapova (3-1)
4...SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA (1-2)
3...DINARA SAFINA (0-2)
2...Elena Dementieva (0-2)
2...Olgo Morozova (0-2)
1...Anastasia Myskina (1-0)

*2009 WTA FINALS - BY NATION*
18...RUSSIA (8 winners) #
5...France (3)
4...United States (3)
4...Spain (3)
4...Denmark (1)



*WOMEN'S FINAL*
#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. #7 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS

*MEN'S SF*
#23 Robin Soderling/SWE vs. #12 Fernando Gonzalez/CHI
#5 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

*WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#3 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP) vs. #12 Azarenka/Vesnina (BLR/RUS)

*MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#3 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)

*MIXED DOUBLES FINAL*
#1 Huber/B.Bryan (USA/USA) def.
King/Melo (USA/BRA) 5-7/7-6 [10-7]

*GIRLS SINGLES SF*
#9 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA vs. #15 Sloane Stephens/USA
#3 Ksenia Pervak/RUS vs. Daria Gavrilova/RUS

*BOYS SINGLES SF*
Daniel Berta/SWE vs. Henri Laaksonen/FIN
#11 Gianni Mina/FRA vs. #14 Dominik Schulz/GER

*GIRLS DOUBLES SF*
Kirilova/Trevisan (RUS/ITA) vs.
#3 Babos/Watson (HUN/GBR)
#6 Buchina/Pervak (RUS/RUS) vs. #2 E.Bogdan/Lertcheewakarn (ROU/THA)

*BOYS DOUBLES SF*
Brydolf/Urbanek (SWE/CZE) vs. #4 Clezar/Huang (BRA/TPE)
Draganja/Marcan (CRO/CRO) vs. #6 Schulz/Souto (GER/VEN)




TOP QUALIFIER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Dinara Safina/RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Corinna Dentoni/ITA d. Sesil Karatantcheva/KAZ 4-6/6-3/6-2
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS d. Mathilde Johansson/FRA 1-6/6-2/10-8 (saved 7 MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): SF - Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Serena Williams 7-6/5-7/7-5
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xxx
=============================
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.- Shvedova/KAZ)
UPSET QUEENS: The ex-Russian Kazakhs
REVELATION LADIES: The Aussies
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR & Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (both to 3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
MADEMOISELLE OPPORTUNITY: Samantha Stosur/AUS
COMEBACK PLAYER: Maria Sharapova/RUS
CRASH & BURN: Elena Dementieva/RUS - dominated by Dokic in 2nd, but advances with retirement, then taken out by Stosur in 3rd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR - was down 7-5/4-1 vs. Suarez-Navarro in 3rd Rd., won and reached first slam QF
LAST PASTRIES STANDING: Aravane Rezai & Virginie Razzano (both to 4th Rd.)
DOUBLES STAR xxx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xxx




All for Day 12. More tomorrow.

3 Comments:

Blogger Kutta said...

Go Kuzzy! Knowing her history in Slam finals (as well as Dinara's), this match could either be really good or really bad. What with Kuzzy's ankle injury and consecutive 3-setters, I'm leaning toward the latter but still pulling for Kuzzy anyway. Davai!

Fri Jun 05, 12:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Kutta, as far as I know, Kuzzy doesn't have a full-out ankle injury. I think that's just protective covering after the turn. The problem she had yesterday was with a blister, but she said that re-covering it worked fine.

Of course, additional play could aggravate the ankle, but let's hope not. And let's hope that Dinara recovers from her illness.

Fri Jun 05, 10:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Oh, I forgot about the blister. I should have mentioned that. Thanks for bringing that up, Diane.

By the way, "great" coverage by NBC today of the men's semifinals, huh? More on that later today.

Fri Jun 05, 11:08:00 AM EDT  

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