Monday, January 31, 2005

Wk.4 - Melbourne's Soul Survivor

S: Serena Williams d. Lindsay Davenport
D: Kuznetsova/Molik d. Davenport/Morariu
M: Stosur/Draper d. Huber/Ullyett
GS: Victoria Azarenka d. Agnes Szavay
GD: Azarenka/Erakovic d. Frankova/Szavay

The lady has soul. Serena Williams didn't always outplay her seven opponents at the Australian Open, but she managed to do so when it mattered the most.

Nadia Petrova had a real shot at an upset in the 4th Round, but Williams pushed through a level of play that she lamented once the match was over. In the semis, Maria Sharapova served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd set and held two match points. Williams erased them. In the 3rd, Sharapova was off form seemingly every other (grunt-less, interestingly) game but still gained an advantage and served again at 5-4 and held a third match point. Serena wasn't going to let her celebrate after the third straight match against her, though.

Then, in the final, Lindsay Davenport got off to a quick start as Williams injured her rib and had to make an early call for a trainer. But Serena wasn't to be denied the two things she came to Australia to win... her seventh slam title, and a small part of her old reputation back. Unlike at the conclusion of her similarly single-minded trip to Los Angeles last November, things worked out for her this time.

Williams hasn't returned to her "Serena Slam" form of old, but she's at least closer than she's been in quite a while. A little extra (heart &) soul has a tendency to do that, I guess. A few more months like this and Williams could head into SW19 with her fearsome former aura fully restored. If Serena's body can just stay together, 2005's race for #1 is about to become downright staggering.

==PLAYER AWARDS (4th Rd-Final)==

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Serena Williams
...she was mostly outplayed by Sharapova in the SF, but her big point prowess pulled off the rare feat of putting the 17-year old in her place. Come on, who isn't already panting for Serena vs. the Supernova, Part V?
RISER: Alicia Molik
...the Aussie Steamer continues to steam her way up the rankings, having powered past Venus Williams in the 4th Round and nearly upsetting Davenport in the QF (9-7 in the 3rd!) to finally restore a Down Under presence in the WTA Top 10. Oh, and she won the Australian Doubles title with Svetlana Kuznetsova, too.
SURPRISE: Nathalie Dechy
...the #19-seeded French Pastry earned her Miss Opportunity tag by blowing past Anastasia Myskina and Patty Schnyder to advance to her first slam SF. But will she remember that, or the big lead she blew in that SF against Davenport?
VETERAN: Lindsay Davenport
...the 28-year old held onto her #1 ranking despite losing in the final to Serena. She was RU in the Doubles with Corina Morariu, too.
FRESH FACE: Victoria Azarenka
...the 15-year old #1 seed from Belarus pulled the Girls sweep by winning both the Aussie singles (over Agnes Szavay) and doubles (with New Zealand's Marina Erakovic) titles.
DOWN: Venus Williams & Amelie Mauresmo
...Serena's return to the slam victory stand will serve to either inspire Venus, or remind her once again that her sister's career is simply going to far outshine her's. And what can you say for Mauresmo? Her Gambit failed as she didn't play a tuneup in order to be healthy for Melbourne, but STILL managed to be dogged by an injury before finally going out rather meekly to Serena in the QF.


1.SF - S.Williams d. Sharapova
...2-6/7-5/8-6. Could it have been the heat that took the grunts out of Sharapova's swings so often in the 3rd set? The Supernova was never fully in command of her game in Melbourne, and it finally caught up with her when she met a player with enough heart and soul to make her pay for it.
2.Final - S.Williams d. Davenport
...2-6/6-3/6-0. Davenport's failure to convert six break points at 2-2 in the 2nd set proved to be the straw that broke the #1's back. Serena won her service game, then 9 of the remaining 10 games in the match.
3.4th Rd - Schnyder d. Dementieva
...6-7/7-6/6-2. Dementieva led this match 7-6/4-0, then Punch-Drunk made her first cameo appearance of the 2005 season.
4.SF - Davenport d. Dechy
...2-6/7-6/6-4. Dechy's dream slam could have/should have been even better, as she held 4-1 and 5-4 leads in the 2nd set TB.
5.4th Rd - Molik d. V.Williams
...7-5/7-6. Never doubt how important an Olympic Bronze medal can be. Ever since she won her's, Molik's been climbing the WTA ladder with the skill of a firefighter.
6.QF - Davenport d. Molik
...6-4/4-6/9-7. One more rung up, and Alicia might start winning these.
7.QF - S.Williams d. Mauresmo
...6-2/6-2. The best laid plans of mice...and Amelie.
8.4th Rd - Dechy d. Myskina
...6-4/6-2. Errors-galore, again. The Czarina's game is sometimes as schizophrenic as her moods.
9.QF - Sharapova d. Kuznetsova
...4-6/6-2/6-2. The Supernova was the last Russian standing after she stamped down the Contessova.
10.Doubles F - Kuznetsova/Molik d. Davenport/Morariu
...well, I was right about Kuznetsova winning a title in Melbourne. It's just that it was in doubles, not singles. Oh, well. Maybe that's enough to reverse the (you know what).
HM-Mixed F - Stosur/Draper d. Huber/Ullyett
...Sammy just couldn't leave home without reminding everyone that she wishes the WTA would move the ENTIRE tour Down Under for 2006.


Wondering who the next potential worldwide poster girl will be? Have no fear, Nicole Vaidisova is here. Remember, be careful now, she's still only 15.


1.Serena Williams
2.Alicia Molik
3.Samantha Stosur
4.Lindsay Davenport
5.Jie Zheng

RISER: Alicia Molik
SURPRISE: Samantha Stosur
VETERAN: Lindsay Davenport
FRESH FACE: Ana Ivanovic
DOWN: Vera Zvonareva

Samantha Stosur's extended run in her own back yard. In Australia, she made singles finals in Gold Coast and Sydney, won a doubles title in Sydney, then took her first slam crown in the Australian Open mixed.

Aust.SF - S.Williams d. Sharapova
...2-6/7-5/8-6. Sharapova served at 5-4 in both the 2nd and 3rd, and held three match points.

Aust.1r - Douchevina d. Craybas
...the American veteran led 6-3/5-1 and blew two match points against the Russian teen, who followed up with a big upset of Vera Zvonareva.

Serena Williams in Melbourne. She stayed one step ahead of Russians & teenagers (even when they were one in the same), match points & injuries, and then a top-ranked vet to take the first step in regaining her WTA throne (slam #7, as the #7-seed, pushed her ranking up to #2 in the world).

Alicia Molik gained her first Top 10 ranking after winning Sydney and nearly reaching the Oz SF.

Sydney 1r - Peng d. Myskina 6-1/6-3

Svetlana Kuznetsova (positively)
Barbara Schett (so long, farewell)
Jennifer Capriati (shoulder surgery)
Jelena Dokic (tabloid rumor queen)
Jie Zheng (2nd Chinese champ)

Canberra F - Ana Ivanovic(Q) d. Melinda Czink(LL)
...the Serbian teen had already beaten Czink in qualifying earlier in the week.

Claude Eerdekens, Belgian sports minister. Sometimes, it's better to keep your mouth shut. Even Karatantcheva's learned that lesson, and she's only 15. Claude is a bit older.



04 Miami 4r - Williams 6-4/6-3
04 Wimbledon F - Sharapova 6-1/6-4
04 WTA Chsp F - Sharapova 4-6/6-2/6-4
05 Australian SF - Williams 2-6/7-5/8-6


==WEEK 5 PREDICTIONS==, come join me on my quest for the perfect prediction season. 0-for-64 is still within reach (I'm 1/8 of the way there). Meanwhile, Cantin gets his one and only pick of the season right in Melbourne (can you hear me rolling my eyes?).

04 F: Davenport d. Maleeva
05 TOP: Davenport/Sharapova ============================
FINAL: Sharapova d. Kuznetsova

...Davenport is the #1 seed as she tries to win this event for the third straight year, so she could end up in the final. I'll stick with the Contessova until she flunks another drug test, though. But, in the final, I'm going with Sharapova. She was never fully in tune in Melbourne, losing sets to the likes of Lindsay Lee-Waters to set the stage for a rare trumping on big points in the SF. Here's to thinking she'll rebound with another Supernovian performance and claim her first Tier I title.

03 F: Nagnova d. Kurhajcova
04: not held
05 TOP: Zvonareva/Bartoli ============================
FINAL: Groenefeld d. Zvonareva

...the stage is set here for Vera the Almost to get herself straight, but she might not be ready quite yet. So, don't be surprised if it's Domachowska or someone else in the final besides the Russian.

All for now.


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