Friday, September 02, 2005

US Open Day 5: 1,000,000,000 Indian Fans Can't Be Wrong

Back in her home country, the Indian Princess needs to be flanked by bodyguards to avoid being swamped. In New York, though, Sania Mirza could walk through Central Park and be mistaken for your average, multi-pierced 18-year old with a penchant for wearing t-shirts that announce her daily mood (or just serve to get people talking). No, she's not your average Muslim teeanger... and it's not just because she's now ventured deeper into a grand slam draw than any Indian-born woman before her, either.

We'll see if Mirza enjoys the same Big Apple anonymity after she's met up with Maria Sharapova on Sunday afternoon. If she thinks she caused a stir by winning in Hyderabad, imagine what would occur if she sent the Supernova back to the hotel to pack up her Canons.

If she shakes up the world in her next match, Mirza won't need to wear blue suede shoes (or a Presley-esque leather or gold lame suit, for that matter) to get people of all different sorts of nationalities to shout her name. There are over one billion people in India, and that many potential Mirza fans can't be wrong... especially not with their legions suddenly so close to growing expotentially overnight if "the unthinkable" happens this weekend.

Could you imagine it? Sania might be able to. But will that be enough?


PLAYER OF THE DAY: Venus Williams
...after Serena had finished off Francesca Schiavone to hold up her end of the deal, it was up to Venus on Friday night to secure the much-anticipiated Round of 16 date with her sister. She hardly allowed any suspense, leaving Daniela Hantuchova in her wake and setting up only the second match-up of the sisters before the quarterfinals of a WTA event.
RISER: Nadia Petrova
...the Empress, an easy 3rd Round winner over Laura Granville, would be the beneficiary of a Mirza shocker against Sharapova. Hey, #9-seed Petrova's the highest-ranked player left in the draw who's yet to win a WTA singles title -- she has to look for a little help anywhere she can find it.
SURPRISE: Maria Vento-Kabchi
...the 31-year old Venezuelan outlasted Shahar Peer in three sets, setting up an it's-been-good-knowing-ya Round of 16 meeting with Kim Clijsters. Oh, well. At least she'll be able to leave New York knowing she matched her best-ever grand slam result, a 4th Round run at Wimbledon in 1997.
VETERAN: Martina Navratilova
...the Elder's grand slam quest in back on. On Thursday, she opened her pursuit of the Mixed Doubles crown with a win with partner Leander Paes. On Friday, Martina and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Toronto champions their last time out, got an opening round win in the doubles. Navratilova turns 49 next month. Hopefully, ALG got her a present... and, in turn, Martina gave her some pointers on how to upset Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday.
FRESH FACE: Sania Mirza
...occasionally, Mirza smacks a ball down the line so hard that you'd swear that it must have made a disparaging remark about her nose ring. On Friday, more than once, Marion Bartoli threatened to make a move to derail the Sharapova/Mirza matchup that Backspin was so looking forward to. Thankfully, Sania never let Bartoli's idea get beyond the planning stage. No Indian woman has ever been to the U.S. Open 4th Round before... but you get the feeling that Mirza would love to try to see if she can bite off more than she can chew against the Sharapova and take a shot at lasting even longer in this tournament.
DOWN: Daniela Hantuchova
...Wonder Girl has fought her way back to a major final in Los Angeles, then back to the Top 20. But she's still looking for the formula to handle the likes of Venus Williams under the lights at Arthur Ashe as easily as she did Martina Hingis at Indian Wells back in 2002. She hasn't found it yet.


1.Sania Mirza def. Marion Bartoli
...7-6/6-4. Think Mirza would be hailed all the same if she were to lose to Sharapova by this identical scoreline? Probably. But still...
2.#8 Serena Williams def. #25 Francesca Schiavone
...6-3/6-4. New York isn't Rome. And this Serena wasn't quite the same Serena that the Italian defeated back in May, either. This Serena is (at least a little bit) healthier. Bring on Venus.
3.#10 Venus Williams def. #20 Daniela Hantuchova
...6-3/6-3. Wonder Girl is now 0-8 lifetime vs. Venus. Venus is currently 6-7 lifetime vs. Serena.
HM--#26 Vaidisova def. Ivana Lisjak
...6-1/7-6. Darth Vaidisova now looks at Petrova as (probably) her final roadblock before a meeting with the Supernova in the QF.


Maria Vento-Kabchi def. Shahar Peer
...7-6/4-6/6-3. It was the only top half 3rd Round match that went three sets on Friday.

...Ashley Harkleroad retired from her 1st Round match earlier in the week, raising all sorts of red flags. But she returned to play doubles with Lindsay Lee-Waters on Friday. That "the good." The "bad?" The pair faced Groenefeld/Navratilova, and lost 6-2/6-2. At least a long recovery period doesn't look it'll be in order yet again.

Ana Ivanovic - 17 yrs/2 mo/1 wk (Canberra)
MARIA SHARAPOVA - 17 yrs/9 mo/3 wk (Tokyo)
MARIA SHARAPOVA -17 yrs/10 mo/2 wk (Doha)
MARIA SHARAPVOA - 18 yrs/1 mo/3 wk (Birm.)
SANIA MIRZA - 18 yrs/3 mo (Hyderabad)

...just thought I'd get a head start on Sunday.

On Saturday, a pair of all-Russian match-ups (Myskina/Likhovtseva & Dementieva/Chakvetadze) -- no matter who wins -- assure that 25% of the Sweet Sixteen will be members of the Horde. But the match of the day might be Groenefeld vs. Mauresmo. It could be a revelatory moment, for this is Girl Friday's chance to shine.

That's it for the "Daily Backspin." All for now.


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