Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day 5: Passing Grades & Stinky Shoes

Just in time for the start of school in America, several players harboring grand slam title dreams faced big tests on Friday.

Serena Williams made her way past a game Vera Zvonareva 6-4/7-6, while Jelena Jankovic escaped the upset bid by 17-year old qualifier Alize Cornet in three sets, 4-6/6-2/6-3. But no one went through what JJ's fellow Fantastovic Novak Djokovic did.

Facing the almost Mr. Martina Hingis, Radek Stepanek, in the 2nd Round with the weight of heavy expectations on his back, Djokovic's day almost turned into a disaster.

After losing the 1st set tie-break, Djokovic had to scramble to avoid going down two sets. He won a 2nd set tie-break, but after the two swapped 7-5 sets the 5th set beckoned... and Djokovic's US Open chances teetered on the edge of oblivion as he fought off cramps against a former Top 10 player finally returning to form after injuries -- or was it the "Martina Curse?" -- kiboshed the Czech's 2006 season.

This is when the true champion that Djokovic wishes to be is supposed to emerge. And that's just what happened. With his back against the wall in the third tie-break of the match, the Serb stepped into the spotlight. It only took nine points for Djokovic to earn the seven that he needed to advance to the final 32 by a 6-7/7-6/5-7/7-5/7-6 score.

It's matches like this one that build the foundation of a superior career, and implant the image of victory not only in the player's mind but also in that of every fan who witnessed the moment of Djokovic's ultimate triumph over Stepanek. A star is being born this summer, and it's only a matter of how quickly and brightly he'll truly shine.

In the end, rather than a disaster, Djokovic may have turned Day 5 into his own personal launching pad at this US Open... even if it took 4:44 and, as he noted, shoes that were really stinky after it was over to do it.

Hey, no one said it was going to be all wine and roses.

Love-Love... 17-year old Pastry Alize Cornet may be gone, but her imprint on this tournament is difficult to dispute. The youngest qualifier, Cornet knocked out the first women's seed (#29 Samantha Stosur in the 1st Round) and shares the "Last Qualifier Standing" award with Ekaterina Makarova after both's runs ended in the 3rd Round on Day 5 (as did wild card'd Ahsha Rolle).

AO: [2nd] A.Kremer, A.Kudryavtseva, T.Paszek, J.Vakulenko, R.Voracova

RG: [3rd] D.Cibulkova, A.Kudryavtseva, R.Olaru

WI: [2nd] O.Govortsova, N.Ozegovic, T.Perebiynis, H.Sromova, A.Szavay

US: [3rd] A.Cornet, E.Makarova (WC-A.Rolle)

Love-15... The final two men's qualifiers -- Andrei Pavel and Dudi Sela -- lost in the 2nd Round on Friday. American wild cards John Isner and Donald Young still remain in the 3rd Round. Isner faces Roger Federer in what should be, at the very least, an intriguing match as the King tries to figure out how to handle the coming-off-the-mountain serve that has vexed so many others, while Young meets Feliciano Lopez.

7...Spain (Almagro, Ferrer, Lopez, Nadal, Robredo, Verdasco)
5...Argentina (Calleri, Chela, Del Potro, Monaco, Moya, Nalbandian)
5...United States (Blake, Ginepri, Isner, Roddick, Young)
2...France (Grosjean, Tsonga)
2...Germany (Haas, Kohlschreiber)
2...Switzerland (Federer, Wawrinka)
1...Austria (Koubek)
1...Croatia (Ljubicic)
1...Czech Republic (Berdych)
1...Great Britain (Murray)
1...Korea (Lee)
1...Latvia (Gulbis)
1...Russia (Davydenko)
1...Serbia (Djokovic)
1...Sweden (T.Johansson)


SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Women's Doubles 2nd Rd. - Maria Elena Camerin/Gisela Dulko ITA/ARG def. #1 Cara Black/Liezel Huber ZIM/USA 1-6/7-6/6-2.
...and to think that Huber was so looking forward to getting her American citizenship so that she could play at the US Open as a "home" player. Oh, well.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's Singles 3rd Rd. - #10 Marion Bartoli/FRA def. #20 Lucie Safarova/CZE - 4-6/6-2/6-3.
...without Pierce Brosnan's help, La Trufflette edges closer to another slam match with La Petit Taureau. Of course, there's that little problem of having to defeat Serena to make it happen.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Men's Singles 2nd Round - #8 Tommy Robredo/ESP def. Mardy Fish/USA - 6-4/3-6/6-4/6-7/6-4.
...did someone say something about passing tests? Well, after having saved two match points in the 4th set, Fish led this one 4-1 in the 5th and then, by his own admission, "froze." From missing Wimbledon because he was kicking field goals to this, it's been a dubious summer for the Fish.

MATCH, "Not quite like Andre, but still"... Tim Henman's four-set 7-6/2-6/7-5/6-4 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday was the Englishman's final ATP tour match. He'll retire after playing Davis Cup for Great Britain at Wimbledon. Henman never accomplished the grand slam goals wished for oh-so-vociferously by all those fans who gathered on Henman Hill during every Wimbledon, but sometimes historical accomplishments aren't necessary for a player to be remembered. A gentleman to the end, Henman can hold his head up high as he exits stage left.

Tag, Andy... you're it.

TOP QUALIFIER: Alina Jidkova / RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Maria Sharapova / RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): (vacant)
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
FIRST SEED OUT: #29 Samantha Stosur / AUS
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: A.Cornet/FRA & E.Makarova/RUS (+WC A.Rolle/USA) to 3rd Rd.
IT GIRL: (vacant)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: (vacant)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)

All for Day 5.


Blogger Eric said...

i think sharapova and vaidisova are just afraid of facing each other. it's like what the deuce?

anyway, thanks for all the great posts Todd :)

Sun Sep 02, 01:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, you could've gotten pretty good odds that NEITHER of them would reach the Round of 16. :)

Sun Sep 02, 01:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

sharapova was spot on when she said in her presser that she didn't have the belief in herself today...i was really surprised...she's usually gritty like serena and justine...but today she seemed really subdued...

and perhaps ARad's game gives her fits because she didn't grow up with Hingis like the williams sisters did...???? so she's not used to it????

i'm no sharapova fan but i hate to see such high caliber players lose to people who they aren't supposed to lose to...especially ones who use tactics like pressing on the serve... -__-...wasn't too impressed with that

anyway, sharapova needs a plan B and fast

Sun Sep 02, 02:06:00 AM EDT  

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