Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 3: The Slings and Arrows of Nadia's Outrageous Fortune

It's sad to say, but Roland Garros has become Nadia Petrova's House of Horrors.

Clay has tradionally been the Backspin favorite's best surface, as her two semifinal results in Paris in 2003 and 2005 attest, and her dominate pre-RG clay court results a year ago proved only so well. A year ago in Berlin, even the Queen of Clay, Justine Henin, fell under Petrova's spell in what was likely the "Match of the Year."

Ever since then, though, she's suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that have seen her fall from #3 in the world last May (and a stint as the top-ranked Hordette) to injured, out of the Top 10, and for the second straight year facing a stretch drive to her season that will be key in determining whether 2007 will be considered a successful campaign for a soon-to-be 25-year old whose chances to ever grab an elusive spot in a grand slam final (let alone an actual title) dwindle just a little bit with the passing of every major.

A pre-Paris hip injury a year ago relegated her Roland Garros participation to a cameo, and this year a back injury limited her effectiveness coming into the year's second slam once again. On Day 3, she fell to qualifying vet Kveta Peschke 5-7/7-5/0-6 in the 1st Round.

After a long, lonely summer in '06, Petrova managed to turn her game and confidence (not necessarily in that order) around in time to put together a strong finish and cap a career-best season with a #6 year-end ranking. She's going to have to do it again, with the immediate task to get healthy enough to be a factor at Wimbledon (where she reached the QF in' 05), the event she missed entirely because of that poorly-timed hip injury a year ago. If her season's recent trajectory continues for much longer, Petrova will soon be in danger of becoming an afterthought for '07 and will have to focus on being "Comeback Player of the Year" in 2008. Hopefully, it won't come to that. It's only May, after all.

Nadia, Nadia, Nadia. Backspin weeps for you... well, at least a little, considering your prospects in Paris didn't look all that good just a few days ago anyway.

I've often compared Petrova's plight to that of Jana Novotna's long, rocky march to her one career-defining moment at Wimbledon in 1998. THAT moment was such a thunderous one for the Czech because of all the trials and tribulations she had to endure at slams before she finally climbed the proverbial mountain at age 29. Petrova still has a few more years to make the string of disappointments worthwhile in retrospect... but, let's face it, it ain't going to be easy.

But Backspin will keep a candle lit four times every year until Petrova officially snuffs out her career flame. Thus, the vigil continues.


Love-Love...hmmm, I'm sure that email from Pierre should be arriving any moment now. Of course, with the Czarina returning to action on Day 4, maybe he's sitting in the lotus position somewhere, chanting for good things. Just kidding, of course... well, sort of. (wink)
15-Love..."luckily" for Petrova, while she WAS the only women's seed to fall, as #11 she was hardly the highest seed to be sent packing. Men's #3 Andy Roddick (not really a surprise) was ousted from the RG 1st Round yet again (he's only advanced past the 2nd Round once), this time by Igor Andreev, who was the last person to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay before Roger Federer ended his 81-match streak in Hamburg. Oz runner-up and #5-seed Fernando Gonzalez (for whom there was at least a LITTLE hope his recently improved play would kick in at another slam) fell to Hingis fiance Radek Stepanek, who was obviously Martina Curse-free since the Swiss Soon-to-be-Mrs. isn't in the women's draw.
15-15...as usual, Anna Smashnova lost in the 1st Round of a slam, to Nuria Llagostera-Vives. It's the 27th time in 47 career slams in which she's done so, maintaining her dubious niche in tennis lore as the only player in WTA history with ten or more tour singles titles but zero appearances in slam quarterfinals.
15-30...Maria Kirilenko did not morph into Novotna on Day 3, winning the necessary one game she needed to finished off Maria Elena Camerin 6-0 in the 2nd set.
15-40...it's been a good tournament so far for the Williams sisters and Safin family, but not for the other siblings in the draw. Both Rochus boys, Olivier and Christophe, exited Roland Garros today. Agnieszka Radwanska did, as well. Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko take their chances tomorrow.
30-40...the first men's seed to fall? #30 Julien Benneteau of France, to Carlos Berlocq.

Akgul Amanmuradova (def. Vania King)
Timea Bacsinszky (def. Jie Zheng)
Kveta Peschke (def. #11 Nadia Petrova)
Andrea Petkovic (def. Jarmila Gajdosova)
Olga Savchuk (def. Yaroslava Shvedova)
Juan Pablo Brzezicki (def. Robert Kendrick)
Konstantinos Economidi (def. Chris Guccione)
Ivan Navarro-Pastor (def. Boris Pashanski)
Laurent Recouderc (def. Sam Querrey)
Bohdan Ulihrach (def. #24 Dominik Hrbaty)
Mariano Zabaleta (def. #26 Agustin Calleri)

Ad...on Day 4, the Supernova makes her first appearance. A year ago, she nearly lost to Mashona Washington in the 1st Round. This year, she has an even tougher opponent in French vet Emilie Loit. Sharapova hasn't lost in the 1st Round in her last fifteen grand slams (going back to her first two majors in 2003). Could that streak be about to end? If so, then at least she can finally get to her "real" season in England and North America.
MATCH, "it wasn't a good day for Backspin's Dream Team"...on the same day Petrova was bounced rather unceremoniously from Paris, so was Girl Friday Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Again. This time by French wild card Mathilde Johansson. Is it time yet to flip on the air raid sirens yet? I think it is. Well past time, actually.

All for Day 3.


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