Thursday, September 06, 2007

Day 10: Darn the Luck

On "Night of Champions II" at the US Open, the unquestioned stars were the King and Queen of Wimbledon.

With eighteen grand slam singles championships being represented on the court on Night 10, Roger Federer (11) and Venus Williams (6) made like Ashe Stadium was Centre Court of the All-England Club, where the pair claimed their most recent major titles two months ago. Of course, this sort of thing has become a habit throughout their careers. Williams swept through Wimbledon and the US Open in back-to-back "Summer of Venus" runs in 2000-01, while Federer has claimed both the grass and hard court slams the last three seasons. After Wednesday night, it'd be easy to say that they might just be on course to repeat history... or, in Federer's case, continue to create it in remarkable fashion.

In her QF match against Jelena Jankovic, Williams saw the Serb attempt to do to her what Justine Henin did to sister Serena on Tuesday night -- get up early and hold on. Jankovic began both the 1st and 2nd sets by breaking Venus' serve. She managed to fight off Williams to claim the opening set 6-4, but the American's gradual overpowering of her opponent in a 6-1 2nd stanza set the tone for the big moments that would soon decide the match.

Williams' forehand and second serve weren't in top form for most of the match, but they were there when she needed them, as has so often been the case in her previous slam championship runs. It was her play, for both good and bad, that dictated the flow of this match. And while Jankovic, for once using her loose-and-easily-distracted on-court game face to alleviate pressure rather than have it be the catalyst for her undoing as it was in last year's Open SF, didn't implode as she has at other times in big matches, she didn't step forward and take the match, either. Venus did.

Jankovic failed to convert a break point in the second game of the 3rd set, as Williams served an ace to hold in a five-deuce game. She didn't convert one at 4-3, either. As a result, the set rolled into a tie-break without either player losing serve. It was there that Williams' championship experience shined through the visible cracks that appeared in her game on Night 10 and she made quick work of her opponent to move into a SF contest with Justine Henin, who she hasn't lost to since 2001 (or even played since 2003, before the Belgian transformed into "La Petit Taureau" on Ashe).

Still, while Venus/Jankovic was a superior match to the Henin/Serena one of twenty-four hours earlier, it will hardly have the same impact since the matchup had none of the subtext and not-so-subtle underpinnings of animosity of Tuesday's match. Serena's comments AFTER the match about Henin winning because she hit "lucky shots" will linger in the memory longer than Venus' victory tonight, if only because they highlighted something that we already sort of knew: Serena's not the world's most gracious loser (unless her opponent is Venus, of course), so we should probably not pay very much attention to her sullen ramblings after a match that a champion of her stature SHOULD feel like she should have won, even if her opponent clearly outplayed her. After all, not everyone can be as consummate a professional as Mister Federer.

Speaking of which, Andy Roddick should be in a perfect position to commiserate with Jankovic's plight on "Night II." While the Serb was facing a woman with a different level of play which she could access on Night 10, Roddick's entire tennis career is trapped between a rock and a hard place named Federer. By accident of birth, Roddick will never be able to reach his full potential on the grand slam stage because he's alive in an era where to do so would mean tearing down a brick wall named Federer that might as well be The Great Wall of China. Try as he might, Roddick just can't do enough.

It says a lot about Roddick's ability -- well, either that or the hunger for an American star in the post-Sampras/Agassi generation -- that his meetings with Federer still manage to hang onto a cache of excitement despite the fact that a world #1 has rarely dominated another top player so thoroughly through their careers (he held a 13-1 mark against Roddick heading into their QF match on Wednesday). Roddick's only win over Federer came in 2003, before Federer was "Federer"... and it took a tie-break in the 3rd set for him to beat the Swiss star even then.

Meeting #15 was more of the same, as Federer once again showed why his name is increasingly being spoken with a tone of reverential awe.

Through the first two sets tonight, Roddick played pretty much perfect offensive tennis. He never faced a break point on his serve, and even held one on Federer's at 4-3 in the 2nd. But, still, he found himself down two sets after Federer won back-to-back tie-breaks. Then, after facing his first break point after two and a half sets of action, Roddick saw the King of Tennis seize upon the opportunity to break HIM for 4-2. The match was over in mere minutes, 7-6/7-6/6-2. Such is life against The Immortal One unless your name is Rafael, I guess. Federer has now won 26 consecutive US Open matches and is two additional victories away from winning three slams in a single season for the third time in the last four years, as well as a fourth straight SW19/Flushing Meadows two-fer.

At next year's US Open, Federer very well could be (that's code for "will be" in Federerese) looking for career slam title #15 to pass Pete Sampras for the all-time ATP record at age 27. Well, that is, unless he finally wins Roland Garros in '08... which would mean he could be playing for a true single-season Grand Slam. Oh, wait. Next year is an Olympic year, isn't it? Make that a "Golden Slam," on the 20-year anniversary of Steffi Graf accomplishing the same feat in 1988.

Really, what can you say about that kind of stuff other than, maybe, "good God?"

So, what did we learn on "Night of Champions II?" Well, Jelena Jankovic is no Justine Henin. At least at this Open, Venus is no Serena. And no one is Roger Federer... except for the original himself.

Of course, we already knew all about that "Federerism."


1. Justine Henin / BEL
2. Venus Williams / USA
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova / RUS

...may the best women win in the "money rounds" on Friday & Saturday.
1. Anna Chakvetadze / RUS
2. Shahar Peer / ISR
3. Yung-Jan Chan & Chia-Jung Chuang TPE/TPE

...the Doll will still be overlooked, though, even if she reaches her first slam final.
1. Agnieszka Radwanska / POL
2. Bethanie Mattek & Sania Mirza USA/IND
3. Julia Vakulenko / UKR

...A-Rad changed the tournament.
1. Venus Williams / USA
2. Sybille Bammer / AUT
3. Kveta Peschke & Rennae Stubbs CZE/AUS Venus back for good this time?
1. Agnes Szavay / HUN
2. Victoria Azarenka / BLR
3. Tamira Paszek / AUT

...the Teen Brigade made itself known in NYC.
1. Maria Sharapova / RUS
2. Cara Black & Liezel Huber ZIM/USA
3. Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur USA/AUS

...this Scenario wasn't totally unplanned.
Meghann Shaughnessy / USA
...she's in the Mixed Doubles final.

3rd - #30 A.Radwanska d. #2 Sharapova 6-4/1-6/6-2
3rd - Azarenka d. #16 Hingis 3-6/6-1/6-0
Doubles 3rd - #16 Mattek/Mirza d. #2 Raymond/Stosur 2-6/7-5/7-5
QF - #1 Henin d. #8 S.Williams 7-6/6-1

13...Jelena Jankovic (7-5 + L)
10...JUSTINE HENIN (7-2)*
7....Maria Sharapova (3-3 + L)
6....Ana Ivanovic (4-2)


SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: WOMEN'S SINGLES QF - #4 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS d. Agnes Szavay/HUN 6-1/6-4.
...New Haven is not New York City.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: WOMEN'S SINGLES QF - #6 Anna Chakvetadze/RUS d. #18 Shahar Peer/ISR - 6-4/6-1.
...even the Corporal's strong NYC support couldn't help her today. So, two years after the fact, Chakvetadze lives up to that slam SF I predicted. What's that? WHO says I have a long memory?

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: CHAMPIONS 1st Rd. - Conchita Martinez/ESP def. Martina Navratilova/USA - 3-6/7-5 [10-7].
...Martinez will just never let Martina forget that '94 Wimbledon final, will she?

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #4: GIRLS SINGLES 2nd Rd. - Kimberly Couts/USA def. #11 Bojana Jovanovski/SRB - 6-4/4-6/6-1.
...this rising Serbian junior reached the Wimbledon junior QF in July.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #5: GIRLS DOUBLES 2nd Rd. - Misaki Doi/Kurumi Nara JPN/JPN def. #1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/Ksenia Pervak RUS/RUS - 6-4/6-4. the top remaining seeded team is #2 Ksenia Milevskaya and Agnieszka's little sister U-Rad.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #6: GIRLS SINGLES 2nd Rd. - Coco Vandeweghe/USA def. #24 Elena Chernyakova/RUS - 7-6/6-0.
...Coco, the nickname-proof player. Really, you can't do any better than "Coco Vandeweghe," right?


28...Andre Agassi / USA
24...Jimmy Connors / USA
20...Pete Sampras / USA
20...Venus Williams / USA*
16...Martina Navratilova / USA
16...John McEnroe / USA
14...Serena Williams / USA*
14...Chris Evert / USA

20-0...Pete Sampras / USA
16-0...Martina Navratilova / USA
14-0...Chris Evert / USA
10-0...Roger Federer / SUI*
10-0...Maria Sharapova / RUS*
8-0....Jim Courier / USA
7-0....Pam Shriver / USA
6-0....Tracy Austin / USA


#10 Aspelin/Knowle (SWE/AUT) vs. #9 Dlouhy/Vizner (CZE/CZE)
Azarenka/Mirnyi (BLR/BLR) vs. Shaughnessy/Paes (USA/IND)
#6 Peschke/Stubbs (CZE/AUS) vs. #7 Dechy/Safina (FRA/RUS)
#14 Szavay/Uhlirova (HUN/CZE) vs. #5 Chan/Chuang (TPE/TPE)


#1 Henin/BEL vs. #12 V.Williams/USA
#4 Kuznetsova/RUS vs. #6 Chakvetadze/RUS

Henin def. V.Williams in 3 sets
...not a really strong feeling on this one, largely because I'm not sure how strongly Henin feels about her chances after having not actually beaten Venus in six years.
Kuznetsova def. Chakvetadze in 2 sets
...just because she's been here before, and senses the opportunity to get there again.

MATCH, "What exactly can you say about Miss Mattek's 'Bethanie's Secret' outfit from the other day that wouldn't be considered sexual harassment in polite conversation?..."

TOP QUALIFIER: Alina Jidkova / RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Maria Sharapova / RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Justine Henin / BEL
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: Agnieszka Radwanska / POL
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)
SPECIAL: CRASH & BURN- Maria Sharapova / RUS

All for Day 10.


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