Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 2: Mercy Mercy, Maria

Maria Sharapova began her quest for a third-time charm of a grand slam title on Night 2 of the US Open. After she nearly bageled Roberta Vinci, it can be said that the crown is still resting fairly easily on the head of the defending champion.



Decked out in her Big Apple red dress, and with enough sparkles on her on-court carry bags to make the sky above the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center jealous, the Supernova was truly the Queen of the Night. And why not? That's all she's ever been, after all. While Venus Williams has won more US Open night matches (18) than any other woman, she HAS lost twice. Sharapova's record is still spotless.

*NOTABLE UNDEFEATED US OPEN NIGHT MATCH RECORDS*
20-0...Pete Sampras
16-0...Martina Navratilova
14-0...Chris Evert
9-0....MARIA SHARAPOVA
8-0....Jim Courier
7-0....Roger Federer
7-0....Pam Shriver
6-0....Tracy Austin

The only thing that prevented a "perfect" Round 1 of Sharapova's title defense attempt was the single game that the Italian won at 6-0/5-0, preventing a scoreline that would have been unfortunate for the world's #51st-ranked woman, who won her first career tour singles title earlier this year. Relieved to have finally gotten on the board just before the buzzer, Vinci actually reacted with more outward joy than Sharapova displayed throughout her single-minded, show-no-mercy destruction of her opponent.

Surely, Yuri will remind her of the no-bagel over the next two days. She wasn't "perfect" on Tuesday night, and even threw in back-to-back double-faults on match point to give father Sharapov something to chew on... which would have otherwise been difficult after a 6-0/6-1 match that lasted all of fifty minutes.

Hey, it works for the Supernova, so who's to argue? Especially since her goal for this Open still calls for seven total match wins.

One down, six to go.


Love-Love... the "Upset Queens" have yet to gain enough steam to have any hard-charging favorites for the honor at the year's final slam, but the Ukrainians (led by Julia Vakulenko & Kateryna Bondarenko) and Russians (Vera Dushevina & Ekaterina Makarova) at least have multiple nominated players that give their contingents a leg up after one round of play.
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15-Love...

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Women's Singles 1st Rd. - Julia Vakulenko/UKR def. #9 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK - 6-4/3-6/6-1.
...finally, the Professional Slam Qualifier (who didn't have to qualify this time around) gets back to her Upsetting the Stars ways. For Wonder Girl, the road after winning title #2 continues to be a disappointment (she even lost her Top 10 ranking to Marion Bartoli earlier this week).

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's Singles 1st Rd. - #13 Nicole Vaidisova/CZE def. Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS - 6-1/6-2.
...mono may have put the Dynamova down for the count for a while, but you'd never know it by this result against the Hordette who nearly took out Venus in the 1st Round at Wimbledon.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Women's Singles 1st Rd. - Casey Dellacqua/AUS def. Yaroslava Shvedova/RUS - 6-3/6-2.
...and as a reward for her accomplishment, the Sheila next gets the Supernova. Hey, maybe she'll get to play under the lights, though.

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30-Love... the race to be last qualifier standing continues, as French Pastry Pauline Parmentier became the fifth women's qualifier (along with one wild card, Ahsha Rolle) to win her 1st Round match when she dispatched Tatjana Malek on Day 2.

So far, eight men's qualifiers/wild cards have advanced, with the rest scheduled to play their 1st Round matches on Day 3.

*MEN'S QUALIFIERS*
Paul Capdeville / CHI
Rik de Voest / RSA
Andrei Pavel / ROU
Philipp Petzschner / GER
Dudi Sela / ISR

*WILD CARDS*
John Isner / USA
Wayne Odesnik / USA
Donald Young / USA


Of note, of course, is that Canada's Frank Dancevic faces #25-seed Marat Safin on Day 3. Dancevic, despite a great US Open Series that saw him reach the final in Indianapolis and the QF in Montreal, had to win his way into the draw in qualifying. He did it, and has the chance to make the biggest splash of any of the qualifiers in either the men's OR women's draw.
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Love-40... while the likes of Venus, Maria and Serena went the stylish route for their US Open outfits, leave it to Bethanie Mattek to try to score points with the garish. The "Amazon" look?



Apparently the outfit worked well enough to distract Madison Brengle, as Mattek won the all-American 1st Round match.
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MATCH, "Gimelstob is always fun, but he's gone now so there shouldn't be any more excuses for not seeing some compelling tennis under the lights, too"...



...stars are nice, but the US Open schedule-makers really need to find a way to field some more competitive matches on the game's biggest stage of the season -- nighttime tennis at Flushing Meadows.

Now, Night 2's Roddick-Gimelstob match gets something of a pass in this situation, for the soon-to-be-retired American "Clown Prince of Tennis" Gimelstob has always been a hoot to watch. Even in tonight's match, he put up a good fight in the opening set and made for fun viewing in the final two. I mean, does it get any better than Gimelstob playfully arguing with the chair umpire to be given a first serve after he'd paused and waited to serve while a group of military personel left their seats in the upper deck of Arthur Ashe Stadium to the applause of the crowd? And what a perfectly Gimelstobian way for him to exit the Open stage -- by managing to find a way to interview his conquering opponent on the court after the match? Seriously, American tennis coverage will be far more fun next year with him around (on whatever network or networks on which he appears).

But, still, he went down in straight sets to Roddick, just as Vinci did to Sharapova earlier. Last night, both Venus and Serena won in straights, as well. On Night 3, Serena will face Maria Elena Camerin and Roger Federer gets Paul Capdeville. Can you say, "six consecutive straights sets matches?"

Of course, the nightly schedule is partially at the mercy of the draw and that highly-seeded stars are usually going to overmatch early round opponents, and you can't expect an Agassi/Baghdatis classic every night. But, really... is there anyone that doesn't think that Night 3's matches won't be blink-and-you'll-miss-them affairs? The focus on stars in the night sessions on Ashe is both expected as well as necessary... but slightly better judgment could be used in order to not waste the great spotlight the Open provides.

Thankfully, there's great potential for some intriguing match-ups in the next two rounds. Blake/Santoro, Nadal/Tipsarevic, Djokovic/Stepanek, Hingis/Azarenka, Federer/Isner and Nadal/Tursunov would be fine additions to the nightttime schedule. Later on in the tournament, we could even see Sharapova/Vaidisova, Ivanovic/V.Williams, Djokovic/Hewitt, Henin/S.Williams and even Federer/Roddick.

Cross your fingers.




TOP QUALIFIER: Alina Jidkova / RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): (vacant)
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): (vacant)
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
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FIRST SEED OUT: (vacant)
UPSET QUEENS: (vacant)
REVELATION LADIES: (vacant)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: (vacant)
IT GIRL: (vacant)
MISS OPPORTUNITY: (vacant)
COMEBACK PLAYER: (vacant)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: (vacant)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: (vacant)




All for Day 2.

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