Sunday, June 03, 2007

Day 8: Livin' on the Edge and Enjoying the View

Every grand slam seems to experience its "Supernova Moment." Well, on Day 8, Roland Garros '07 finally got one of its own.

Last year, Maria Sharapova nearly suffered a shocking 1st Round upset at Roland Garros against Mashona Washington... then the pigeons intervened. As it turned out, she lost in the Round of 16 to Dinara Safina after blowing a 5-1 3rd set lead. At the U.S. Open, she starred in "Exquisite in the City." In Melbourne, she (barely) survived Extreme Heat Conditions to defeat Camille Pin 9-7 in the 3rd set. Some good moments, some bad... but all of them memorible. On Sunday, Sharapova pulled off an unlikely 9-7 3rd set win once again, with the help of a very generous Patty Schnyder.

Whew! It's a good thing I don't award a "Worst Choke" award at each slam, because I have a sneaky suspicion that Sneaky Patty might be lined up directly in the cross-hairs for Roland Garros 2007's most dubious honor.

Schnyder served for the match three times. She held two match points. Then, just when you thought she couldn't let anything more slip away... she blew a 40-15 lead while serving to stay in the match at 7-8 in the final set. Game. Set. Match. Sharapova. 3-6/6-4/9-7. In a matter of a few minutes, a memorable day for the Swiss woman with the unique background (how many player bios could make liberal use of the words "cult" and "svengali?") turned into one better left forgotten. With Schnyder's 29th birthday coming up in December, she's (conservatively) in the autumn of her career. She might never get another better shot to upend a top player in a slam than she had today.

Oh, well. Maybe she'll write another book about all this someday.

To be totally fair, though, Schnyder really shouldn't be looked at cross-eyed for this development. I mean, after all, Sharapova lives for this stuff, doesn't she? Winning a match like this is why she's the Supernova in the first place.

Of course, it's hard to see Sharapova challenging to win Roland Garros next weekend. She's had her "moment" in Paris, and that she's still capable of it after all the troubles she's stared down since the Australian Open is precisely why the "Sharapova Scenario" is still in play for the end of '07 and through the '08 season.

But that's something for future discussion. As for this tournament, Sharapova survives to grunt another day... but probably not for the entire upcoming week.


3...Russia (Chakvtadze,Kuznetsova,Sharapova)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic,Jankovic)
1...Belgium (Henin)
1...Czech Republic (Vaidisova)
1...USA (S.Williams)

15-love...Roger Federer has won thirty-five consecutive grand slam sets, tying the record held by John McEnroe.

#1 Justine Henin vs. #8 Serena Williams
#4 Jelena Jankovic vs. #6 Nicole Vaidisova
#7 Ana Ivanovic vs. #3 Svetlana Kuznetsova
#9 Anna Chakvetadze vs. #2 Maria Sharapova

#1 L.Raymond/B.Bryan vs. #6 K.Srebotnik/N.Zimonjic
T.Perry/C-J.Chuang vs. #5 Z.Yan/M.Knowles
M.Shaughnessy/M.Bhupathi vs. (T.Sun/J.Knowle or A.Cornet/T.Eysseric)
#8 N.Dechy/A.Ram vs. #2 L.Huber/K.Ullyett


SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Junior Girls 1st Rd. - #2 Alize Cornet(FRA) def. Nadiya Kachenok(UKR) 6-0/6-0

...apparently, Alize has caught her breath since her 1st Round MD loss to Venus.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's Doubles 2nd Rd. - #11 S.Peer(ISR)/D.Safina(RUS) def. J.Jankovic(SRB)/N.Li(CHN) 6-3/6-2

...imagine if you saw four Top 20 men's singles players taking part in the same doubles match.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Women's Doubles 3rd Rd. - #16 M.E.Camerin(ITA)/G.Dulko(ARG) def. #4 R.Stubbs(AUS)/K.Peschke(CZE) 1-6/6-4/6-3 Rennae will have more time to contribute commentary to the Tennis Channel.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #4: Women's 4th Round - #4 Jelena Jankovic(SRB) def. #18 Marion Bartoli(FRA!?!) 6-1/6-1

...Ahab, err, I mean Jelena is looking very good. But Marion (I need a French-themed nickname for her so I always remember that she's a Pastry) isn't Justine, or even Nicole, Jankovic's next opponent.
40-30...the view from the top of women's tennis is looking pretty good in Paris. The eight quarterfinalists were all seeded in the top nine. Only #5 Amelie Mauresmo hasn't lived up to her seeding, and she was coming in with little match play after her appendectomy. Of course, I'm not sure how much that has to do with losing 3-0 leads in two different sets against Lucie Safarova the other day. Buy, hey, she's won two slams... so I can't really say much bad about her anymore. She lived up to the promise, better late than never.
Deuce...two major Backspin slam awards -- "It Girl" and "Miss Opportunity" -- are still to be awarded, and the contenders are now evident.

Anna Chakvetadze
Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Nicole Vaidisova

Anna Chakvetadze
Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Maria Sharapova (on clay, she qualifies... and today's win might have already given it to her if the other three lose in the QF)

Ad...I'll forgive Martina Navratilova's comments on the Tennis Channel that suggested that most tennis fans have never heard of Lucie Safarova, despite the fact that she just reached the QF at the Australian Open in January. She might be right, on some level, but giving the people who were going out of their way to watch mid-tournament action at Roland Garros the benefit of the doubt for their knowledge might have been the better way to go.

But Martina won 18 grand slam singles titles, and that's more than enough for Backspin to give HER the benefit of the doubt. So, I'll also mention the great little turn of phrase she pulled off on Day 8 when she said things were getting down to the "nitty gritty on the gritty nitty." Okay, okay. She actually said "clay" instead of the second "nitty," but I like the substitution better than the original.
MATCH, "Okay, now WHICH ONE is the "Dream" match-up?"...according to Backspin's RG prep and preview column, the possible Henin-Jankovic SF match-up is "The One." But, you know, the Henin-S.Williams QF meeting is certainly nothing to sneeze at, either.

TOP QUALIFIERS: Timea Bacsinszky & Ioana-Raluca Olaru
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Justine Henin
TOP MID-ROUND (3r-QF): (vacant)
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Severine Bremond (1r- M.Krajicek)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Dominika Cibulkova, Alla Kudryavtseva & Ioana-Raluca Olaru (all 3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: (vacant)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)

All for Day 8.


Blogger Eric said...

hey! have you heard about the well-timed raquet change when schnyder was serving for the set 40-15? is that part of being "misunderstood"? (granted, Schnyder gave the rest of the match away)

zheng has more titles...but doesn't get as far in the bigger tournaments which leads me to believe that she's stronger mentally than li (like she won't lose to players she's not supposed to), but can't win against someone who just has more ability

li na, i feel, has never been the same after she was drubbed by sharapova in the 05 Australian Open 3rd round...I read the chinese reports and they said that she was crying and saying stuff like, "i trained so hard, but she was just so much better" if she suddenly realized that there was a whole other level to reach...

i actually rather like henin as well (despite her bad sportsmanship -- her situation reminds me of the williams sisters...where the need/desire/necessity of survival based on her backgrounds says a lot about her game)

do you think vania king has much hope reaching the top of the game? or does she need a little more power to be a force?

Sun Jun 03, 08:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger mjgrace22 said...

I've only seen Vania King play a couple of times or so (Thanks to th great tennis coverage here in our country! Sarcasm all over hehe) and I think she has some talent. Not as much as the other young players though, say Safarova and Chakvetadze.

I think that if Vania wants to become a top player, she needs to do what Justine did and trained really really hard. I mean, with the body type she has, one would assume that she can't produce as much power as the big girls. She should definitely put in more power in her game.

She seems like a nice girl so I hope that she goes far in her career. Honestly, I see her as a future top 20 player but not really as a future top 10er.

Sun Jun 03, 08:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

yeah she needs the henin pecs :)

Sun Jun 03, 08:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, I don't really look at Sharapova as a villain, but as usually the star of the story. :)

But, you know, gamesmanship needn't be the dirty word that so many people seem to think it is. It's part of the game, and being able to handle it is all part of the package that makes a champion. Actually, that's one gripe I do have with Jankovic, that she complained a little too much that Henin was "faking an injury" during last year's US Open SF... as if that had anything to do with her losing the final ten games of the match after being one point away from being up a set and 5-2.

Sun Jun 03, 11:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

I've read an interesting information in Montreal's newspapers (surprisingly, there is a good tennis coverage for Roland Garros, probably because it is in France).

The tennis God (guess who I'm talking about) said that his favourite player among women players is Kuznet. At first, when she learned it, she couldn't believe it, and then when she realised it was not a joke, she felt really flattered because she considers Federer as the best.

I'm wondering if that statement can have some positive effects on Kuznet's game for the rest of the tournament. If it does, it would be a great federerism... After all, Federer and Kuznet shared the US in 2004, they could repeat the feat next week-end! :D

For myself, I predicted a Kuznet loss (even if she's one of my favourite) against Peer because Peer seems to have her number (look Oz). Plus, Kuznet had a difficult draw, with a potential (that didn't happen) duel against Myskina at the second round).

Finally, I wonder if it would be possible to see these two play mixed doubles eventually. Hmm, Wimbledon, that would be so great!! Just dreaming...

Mon Jun 04, 08:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger ok, dispencer said...

AWESOME! Thanks! :)

Mon Jun 04, 04:35:00 PM EDT  

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