Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 1: Jelena Does a 360 Spin

Some twenty years ago in the Indianapolis 500, Danny Sullivan's race car's tires caught a slick patch and did a 360-degree spin in the middle of the track. Remarkably, he regained control of his vehicle... and went on to win the race.

That's sort of what happened with Jelena Jankovic on Day 1.

Everyone knew going in that, in between her fittings for a straight jacket in the colors of the Aussie flag, Jankovic was facing a potential problem in her 1st Round opponent, 17-year old Austrian Tamira Paszek, one of the true bright lights amongst the new crop of youngsters, and possessing an arsenal of spectacular down the line shots and seemingly no mental filter when it comes to going for winners.

She'll win a slam one day, which might be more than can be said of her Serbian opponent, whose reckless disregard for her body over the last year (and specifically, the last few weeks) signals that she might already be running on fumes in '08... and it's only mid-January.

Jankovic managed to live to play another day, but it surely wasn't easy. In a marathon, 116-minute 3rd set of a 3:09 match, she and Paszek took turns playing a classic "I don't want it, you can have it" game of tag with the match's final result.

In the final set alone, there were FIFTEEN breaks of serve and both players utilized injury timeouts. Jankovic found herself two breaks down on two occasions. Paszek led 4-1, and held points for 5-1, as well as 5-2. The teenager served for the match on five different occasions, at 5-4, 6-5, 7-6, 8-7 and 9-8. She held a match point at 5-4 (Jankovic erased it with a winner, then gained an advantage with a shot that dribbled onto the Austrian's court off the net cord), then two more at 6-5, when she clipped the net on a down the line shot and just missed on a short ball backhand into the corner.

In the end, the teenager wasn't up to closing out the match as she began to tire and never learned the lesson that sometimes playing the percentages is better than going for the kill shot, no matter how spectacularly adept she might be at it... especially on match points.

Jankovic won 2-6/6-2/12-10.

Paszek will be back. But after her Houdini-esque escape (or should I say Sullivanesque survival?), Jankovic is already an early nominee for this Oz's "Zombie"... and unless she discovers some sudden recuperative powers, she might not be long for this slam.

Love-Love... the first two women's seeds fell on Day 1, and neither was really a surprise considering both players came into the tournament nursing injuries.

#32 Julia Vakulenko, who pulled out of events the first two weeks of the season, managed to make it through her match with Elena Vesnina, but came up on the short end of a 6-4/1-6/6-4 score. It was the third time in the last five slams that Vesnina has authored the ejection of the first women's seed to exit the tournament.

A: Vesnina def. #25 Medina-Garrigues
R: Krajicek def. #31 Bremond
W: Vesnina def. #30 Poutchkova
U: Cornet def. #29 Stosur
A: Vesnina def. #32 Vakulenko

Meanwhile, #23 Vera Zvonareva's injured ankle, which precipitated her walkover in the Hobart final last week, only allowed her to last eleven games against Ai Sugiyama. She retired down 6-3/1-1. I'm sure I wasn't the only one checking the draw as the tournament approached to see if her name (as well as Vakulenko's) would "magically" disappear before their first scheduled matches. There was likely a potential Lucky Loser out there hoping against hope, as well. It didn't work for them... or Vera and Julia.

#9 Andy Murray, #16 Carlos Moya & #18 Juan Ignacio Chela were dumped from the men's 1st Round.
Love-15... it was nice to see Bud Collins on ESPN's tournament coverage. Of course, it'd have been nice to see a little MORE of him, though. Ah, the Grand Slam Network loves to add the show pony-style names to the team, but utilizing their talents to the fullest extent is still a hit-or-miss proposition.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Women's 1st Rd. - Lindsay Davenport/USA def. Sara Errani/ITA - 6-2/3-6/7-5.
....well, it wasn't as easy a contest against the scramblin' Italian as she was expecting, especially with the foot cramp that plagued her during the final two sets and the windy conditions on Margaret Court Arena (Errani led 4-2 in the 3rd). But the tour's latest mom kept her date with the Supernova in the 2nd Round.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's 1st Rd. - #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Jelena Kostanic-Tosic/CRO - 6-4/6-3. did Sharapova, who didn't face a break point on her serve. So far, so good. Of course, we were saying this before she lost to A-Rad at last year's U.S. Open, too.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Women's 1st Rd. - #18 Amelie Mauresmo/Fra def. Tathiana Poutchek/BLR - 6-7/6-0/6-0.

...Poutchek has had a tragic few months (losing her mother in a car accident in which she, too, was injured), so one hopes she'll take this odd-looking defeat with a dose of perspective. Mauresmo, meanwhile, remains an engima.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #4: Women's 1st Rd. - #1 Justine Henin/BEL def. Aiko Nakamura - 6-2/6-2.
...28 turns into 29.

Yuan Meng, CHN (def. Q-Ivanova)
Su-Wei Hsieh, TPE (def. Zakopalova)
Sandra Kloesel, GER (def. Q-Schruff)
Sam Warburg, USA (def. Brzezicki)

MATCH, "Say It Ain't So, Rog... apparently, there's a chance that Rafa Nadal could actually overtake Roger Federer for #1 on the ATP computer with the correct combination of results in Melbourne. Nadal making or winning the final. along with Federer going out at various times during the first week, would push the Spaniard into the top spot.

Of course, Nadal on hard courts is an iffy possibility. But Federer IS just getting off a bout with an illness, and hasn't played a match so far in 2008.

How ironic would it be if the season in which Federer could step forward to tie and surpass Pete Sampras for grand slam immortality that he could take a temporary step backward in the present-day heirarchy?

TOP QUALIFIER: Julia Schruff / GER
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): (vacant)
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): (vacant)
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
FIRST SEED OUT: (vacant)
UPSET QUEENS: (vacant)
IT GIRL: (vacant)
[SPECIAL OZ AWARD]: (vacant)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)

All for Day 1. More tomorrow.


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