Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 10: Of Itches and Ovas

After several uniquely balanced grand slam semifinal groups of four over the years, we have a brand-new combination -- the "Itches" and the "Ova's"

Maria SharapOVA. Jelena JankovIC. Daniela HantuchOVA. Ana IvanovIC.

Surely it won't be the last time that the flood of top players with surnames ending in "ova" or "ic" results in a grand slam with such a combination, but this IS the first time. So it's worth celebrating... or at least calling attention to.

1972 US Open - 2 Americans, 2 Aussies
1973/1975 Wimbledon - 2 Americans, 2 Aussies
1981 US Open - 4 Americans
1982/1983 Australian Open - 4 Americans
1982 Roland Garros - 2 "Ova's" & 2 Americans (actually, 3 Americans)
1986 Roland Garros - 2 Czechs, 2 Americans (also 3 "Ova's" & an Evert)
2003 Aust/Wimb - 2 Belgians, 2 Williamses
2003 US Open - 2 Belgians, 2 Americans
2004 US Open - 2 Russians, 2 Americans (post-Cold War special)
2006 Roland Garros - 2 Belgians, 2 "Ova's"
2008 Australian Open - 2 "Ova's," 2 "Itches"

Also of note, the Oz final four are completely different from the semifinalists last September in New York (Henin, Kuznetsova, V.Williams, Chakvetadze) and only Sharapova is a repeat visitor from last year's Australian Open (she's actually reached at least the SF in Melbourne four straight years).

*SLAM SF - 2005-08*
[of 13 slams]
8...Justine Henin (7-1)
5...Kim Clijsters (1-4)
4...Amelie Mauresmo (2-2)
3...Venus Williams (2-1)
3...ANA IVANOVIC (1-1)*
2...Serena Williams (2-0)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-0)
2...Lindsay Davenport (2-0)
2...Mary Pierce (2-0)
2...Nicole Vaidisova (0-2)
1...Marion Bartoli (1-0)
1...Anna Chakvetadze (0-1)
1...Nathalie Dechy (0-1)
1...Elena Dementieva (0-1)
1...Elena Likhovtseva (0-1)
1...Nadia Petrova (0-1)

The way things have gone so far in Melbourne, it's difficult not to look at the last three women's matches of this tournament as being something of a coronation Down Under for Sharapova. No one has played better, and only Ivanovic amongst the other three have ever reached a slam final (while Sharapova has reached three, winning two).

But, then again, the "new" Ana Ivanovic did handle the pressure of facing Venus Williams in the QF... though it was a Williams in familiarly questionable physical condition, as her end-of-match stats (just four groundstroke winners in a 7-6/6-4 match) both provide ammunition for and give rise to speculation about her level of play. Still, AnaIvo's back-to-back aces while down 15-40 while serving for the match at 5-4 surely hint that she could be ready to become the first of the Fantastovic Serbs to win a slam title.

Hantuchova, too, showed a mettle against Agnieszka Radwanska that has rarely been noticed in Wonder Girl. Her 6-2/6-2 win highlighted her inability (refusal?) to give in to any of A-Rad's potential mind games and let her talent win out. Interesting.

As for Jankovic, who faces the tough task of taking out the Supernova to reach her first slam final? Well, considering how this Oz has played out for her, and with the relative inexperience on the other side of a potential match up in the final, this might be the Serb's best chance to win a slam title... ever, from here until the end of her career. No Williams sisters to blow her off the court. No "White Whale" Henin to block her path.

Just a Russian playing like an assassin with a lethal racket.

It'll be a tough task, but who thought she'd still be standing on Day 11 after all the crazed drama she's had swirling around her for months?

There's still a chance that this first "Itches & Ovas" semifinal day will make some additional history... no matter how unlikely it may appear.

TOP PLAYER: Maria Sharapova / RUS
...the upcoming scenerio APPEARS clear, but is it really?
RISERS: Ana Ivanovic / SRB & Daniela Hantuchova / SVK
SURPRISES: Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko / UKR-UKR & Casey Dellacqua / AUS

VETERANS: Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Virginia Ruano-Pasual / ESP-ESP
FRESH FACES: Agnieszka Radwanska / POL & Caroline Wozniacki / DEN
DOWN: Serena Williams / USA & Cara Black/Liezel Huber / RSA-USA
COMEBACKS: Marta Domachowska / POL & Yan Zi/Zheng Jie / CHN-CHN

QF - Sharapova def. Henin
Even if it doesn't appear to be as such on the scoreboard.
3rd Rd. - Dellacqua def. Mauresmo
A new Aussie heroine is born.
4th Rd. - A.Radwanska def. Petrova
Oh, Nadia
QF - Bondarenko/Bondarenko def. Black/Huber
They're sisters. Just a couple of sisters.
QF - Jankovic def. S.Williams
A little fight would have been nice.
QF - Ivanovic def. V.Williams
The collective groan was likey audible as soon as everyone saw Venus' heavily-strapped thigh. And, to think, many people thought a Williams-Williams final was possible just 24 hours earlier. Sadly, the dual out-of-nowhere exits are hardly surprising anymore. It's usually feast or famine whenever the sisters are involved.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Men's QF - #1 Roger Federer/SUI def. #12 James Blake/USA - 7-5/7-6/6-4.
...such a tight match has to be seen as a moral "victory" for Blake, who usually goes fairly quietly when Federer is on the other side of the net. Of course, such a close match here also makes one wonder if Djokovic might actually be able to topple the King from the throne in the semis..

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's Doubles SF - #12 Victoria Azarenka/Shahar Peer (BLR/ISR) def. #7 Yan Zi/Zheng Jie (CHN/CHN) - 0-6/7-5/7-6
...hmmm, I wonder if the Serbs will suffer the same "day after beating the Williams sisters" result as the Cookies did here?

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Girls 3rd Rd. - #14 Arantxa Rus/NED def. #4 Madison Brengle/USA - 4-6/6-2/9-7.
...Brenglefly, well, FLIES away.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #4: Men's Doubles QF - #6 Mahesh Bhupathi/Martin Knowles (IND/BAH) def. #1 Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA/USA) - 6-3/5-7/7-6. it turns out, the only American remaining in ANY of the draws is junior Ryan Harrison in the Boys Singles QF

2...AUS (Moore/Tomic)
2...CHN (Zhou/Wu)
1...CRO (Tinjic)
1...DEN (Barbat)
1...GBR (Evans)
1...IND (Bhambri)
1...MEX (Ramirez)
1...NED (Rus)
1...POL (Janowicz)
1...ROU (Halep)
1...RUS (Pavlyuchenkova)
1...SRB (Jovanovski)
1...TPE (Yang)
1...USA (Harrison)

A: Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
R: Anastasia Myskina, RUS & Elena Dementieva, RUS
W: Maria Sharapova, RUS
U: Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
A: Nathalie Dechy, FRA
R: Mary Pierce, FRA
W: Venus Williams, USA
U: Elena Dementieva, RUS
A: Martina Hingis, SUI
R: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
W: Severine Bremond, FRA
U: Tatiana Golovin, FRA
A: Serena Williams, USA
R: Maria Sharapova, RUS
W: Marion Bartoli, FRA
U: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
A: Daniela Hantuchova, SVK

#1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS vs. #10 Simona Halep/ROU
Jasmina Tinjic/CRO vs. Jessica Moore/AUS
#5 Bojana Jovanovski/SRB vs. #14 Arantxa Rus/NED
#11 Zhou Yi-Miao/CHN vs. Karen Barbat/DEN

#1 Cesar Ramirez/MEX vs. #5 Bernard Tomic/AUS
#3 Daniel Evans/GBR vs. #8 Yuki Bhambri/IND
Wu Di/CHN vs. #4 Ryan Harrison/USA
#10 Yang Tsung-Hua/TPE vs. #2 Jerzy Janowicz/POL

#1 Pavlyuchenkova/Lykina (RUS/RUS) vs. Curtis/Hubacek (GBR/AUS)
Bogdan/Doi (ROU/JPN) vs. #8 Sirotkina/Zhou (RUS/CHN)

McKenzie/Maraga (AUS/AUS) vs. Hsieh/Yang (TPE/TPE)
Wu/Zhang (CHN/CHN) vs. #2 Pospisil/Ramirez (CAN/MEX)

#6 Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (IND/BAH) vs. #8 Jonathan Erlich/Andy Ram (ISR/ISR)
Jeff Coetzee/Wesley Moodie (RSA/RSA) vs. #7 Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra (FRA/FRA)
Alona Bondarenko/Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR/UKR) vs. #10 Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP)
#12 Victoria Azarenka/Shahar Peer (BLR/ISR) def. #7 Yan Zi/Zheng Jie (CHN/CHN)
#1 Cara Black/Paul Hanley (ZIM/AUS) vs. #5 Sun Tiantian/Nenad Zimonjic (CHN/SRB)
#6 Chuang Chia-Jung/Jonathan Erlich (TPE/ISR) vs. #3 Yan Zi/Martin Knowles (CHN/BAH)
#8 Nathalie Dechy/Andy Ram (FRA/ISR) def. Chan Yung-Jan/Eric Butorac (TPE/USA)
Sania Mirza/Mahesh Bhupathi (IND/IND) def. #7 Kveta Peschke/Martin Damm (CZE/CZE)

[Women's SF]
#5 Sharapova def. #3 Jankovic in 2 sets
#4 Ivanovic def. #9 Hantuchova in 3 sets

[Men's SF]
#1 Federer def. #3 Djokovic in 4 sets
#2 Nadal def. Tsonga in 4 sets

TOP QUALIFIER: Julia Schruff / GER
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Maria Sharapova / RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Maria Sharapova / RUS
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st - Jankovic def. Paszek 2-6/6-2/12-10
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): QF - Sharapova def. Henin 6-4/6-0
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): (vacant)
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Julia Vakulenko / UKR (1st Rd.-Vesnina)
UPSET QUEENS: The Russians
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Marta Domachowska / POL & Hsieh Su-Wei / TPE (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: Casey Dellacqua / AUS
MISS OPPORTUNITY: Daniela Hantuchova / SVK
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Jelena Jankovic / SRB (1st Rd.- down 3 MP to Paszek)
CRASH & BURN: #2 Svetlana Kuznetsova / RUS (3rd Rd.- A.Radwanska)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


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