Sunday, September 04, 2005

US Open Day 7: Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing, Baby

In the Motown classic, Marvin Gaye melodically sang the praises of "the real thing." If he were alive today and at the National Tennis Center on Sunday, he might have been singing about Maria Sharapova.

Sania Mirza... the "Indian Princess," "The Indian Supernova"... at times hit harder than Sharapova in their Round of 16 match-up. She seemed downright calm, and faced down an early 1st set break by breaking the Russian's serve in the next game. Then, after falling down a break yet again, went up 40-0 on Sharapova's serve. But Sharapova survived that game, seized control of the match and ended one of this year's U.S. Open novellas by putting an unceremonious end to the barrier-breaking Indian's run in less than an hour. Fifty-nine mintues, to be exact.

6-2/6-1. Goodbye Sania. Who's next?

Mirza has talent to burn (even if she is missing a second serve), and personality to spare. But she's not yet on Sharapova's level. There is still only one Supernova. The one and only.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing.


PLAYER OF THE DAY: Maria Sharapova per usual when she sniffs a huge opportunity, the Supernova is driving hard. Just like the quality of her opponents, she's getting better and better with each round.
RISER: Nadia Petrova
...after a close win over Nicole Vaidisova today, the Scarlett Empress gets the "honor" of being the next to try her hand at derailing the Supernova Express. Possibly the most versatile of all the Russians, Petrova will be trying to reach her first U.S. Open semi after previous QF runs at both the Open (2004) & Wimbledon (2005) and two Roland Garros SF (2003 & 2005). But she's still looking for her first WTA singles title. Doesn't really sound like she's "the real thing," does it? She might be one win away from qualifying for consideration, though.
SURPRISE: Svetlana Kuznetsova & Alicia Molik
...the singles games of these two, for all kinds of different reasons, aren't up to snuff at the moment. But they're not letting their 1st Round losses get them down. Instead, they're teaming up in doubles. Today in the 3rd Round, the "all-upset" duo defeated Silvia Farina Elia & Roberta Vinci to set up a possilbe QF meeting with Groenefeld/Navratilova.
VETERANS: Cara Black & Rennae Stubbs
...the #1 doubles seeds knocked out the Fujiwara/N.Li team, giving Black some measure of relief after being dumped out of the Mixed draw as the #1-seed along with her brother Wayne. Wayne, by the way, won his doubles match with partner Kevin Ullyett, too. Cheers all around the Black family compound.
FRESH FACE: Alisa Kleybanova
...the 16-year old Russian, ranked #530, won an ITF event as preparation for her participation in the U.S. Open Girls singles. On Sunday, she opened up play with a 1st Round upset of #5-seed Alexandra Dulgheru, 4-6/7-6/6-4.
DOWN: Serena Williams
...after opening the slam season by winning the Australian, Serena's missed Roland Garros, lost at Wimbledon in the 3rd Round, and then was defeated in the Round of 16 on Sunday by Venus. There's nothing more unnerving than watching a great champion playing at less-than-optimal health and, after being "unbeatable" not so long ago, look at times as if she's physically unable to even put up a true fight.


1.#10 Venus Williams def. #8 Serena Williams
...7-6(5)/6-2. Even though the 1st set was close, it wasn't great tennis. As is often the case, even when they're both healthy, the 2nd set eventually degenerated into the type of listless contest that we'll ultimately forget about the next time the sisters meet. Thing is, all of their matches have this same general feel... we just choose to believe that this time -- no matter when it is -- will be the time that Venus & Serena play a "classic." Hmmm... maybe next time (there I go again).
2.4th - #1 Maria Sharapova def. Sania Mirza
...6-2/6-1. But now everyone knows her name... let me count the billions. 1, 2, 3, 4...
3.4th - #9 Nadia Petrova def. #26 Nicole Vaidisova
...7-6(4)/7-5. Vaidisova still can't take that next big step against a Top 10 player. A few weeks ago, she lost a similarly-close match like this to Henin-Hardenne in Toronto.
4.4th - #4 Kim Clijsters def. Maria Vento-Kabchi
...6-1/6-0. I said this one would take less than :45. It took :42. Wonder if the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd felt like they got their money's worth? That is, if any of them even saw this match. If anyone went to a concession stand to get a drink, they returned to find Roger Federer already on court for Match #2. "Honey, did Kim get hurt or something?" "No, dear... the USTA just decided to say 'screw it' to the Day 7 nigth session."
5.Doubles 3rd - #7 Groenefeld/Navratilova def. Rolle/N.Uberoi
...6-1/6-0. The beat goes on.
HM- Girls 1st - #7 Alexa Glatch def. Olivia Lukaszewicz
,..6-3/6-1. The little 15-year old engine that could... did again.


#9 Nadia Petrova def. #26 Nicole Vaidisova 7-6(4)/7-5. A nice tight win by Petrova, even it was against a 16-year old. She'll need all she used here -- and more -- against the 18-year old she'll meet next, though. She's got the talent to win it... but does she have the nerve?

**VENUS vs. SERENA - BY-THE-NUMBERS** head-to-head
5-1...Venus, 1998-01
6-0...Serena, 2002-03
2-0...Venus, 2005
5-4...Serena, vs. Venus at Slams
2-1...Venus, vs. Serena at U.S. Open
3-0...Venus, vs. Serena in Slam 2r-SF
5-1...Serena, vs. Venus in Slam Finals
13-1..record of winner of 1st set
10....straight sets wins in 14 matches

**MONDAY 4th Round PICKS**
#7 JHH def. #12 Pierce lapses, Justine!
#3 Mauresmo def. #19 Likhovtseva
...Amelie's about to hit her grand slam wall
#11 Schnyder def. #6 Dementieva
...only Clijsters had more hardcourt wins than Patty this summer
#2 Davenport def. #15 Dechy
...likely, only JHH can prevent Davenport from making the final

...ah, a night session that includes Henin-Hardenne vs. Pierce (and Gasquet vs. Ginepri). Now we're talking. Way to get your head out of your you-know-what, USTA!

All for now.


Anonymous Vijay Madugula said...

Tod Spiker, Hi from an Indian Fan of Sania Mirza, now that you know her name.

Rising the fastest for any Player from 246 to 42 in 10 months and maybe a little higher this week is a meteoric rise for any player and we all know that.

Even as she was battling blisters, stomach muscle pain and a higher power( Sharapova), it looked like Sania was determined to make a match of the 4 round. Luck, that elusive commodity, deserted her when she needed it most.

Meeting Maria (strange that all her opponents were M's) was predicted and we all expected Sania to make it a tough three set humdinger, just like it was in Aus Open 3 round with Serena, but Sania could not raise her game to fight a ferocious Maria, and her sharp and deep angled shots sailed miles from the line, when they should have been her winners.

I for one felt that Sania's inability to serve more than one ace sealed her fate and her first service seemed like a Katrina victim.

To sum up, I am just one of the billion Indians who eagerly watched the match at the unearthly hour of 1.40 a.m. We are sure that Sania will be back next year and I hope she will AGAIN rewrite history(first Indian woman and player to reach QF and beyond)and why not?

The Indian Princess Sania calmly said in December 2004(after Aus Open loss)that her target was top 50 by end 2005. Look where she is now and where where she will be in 2006 September.

One Billion Indians have spoken...

Mon Sep 05, 05:13:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hey Vijay! Thanks for reading the blog. It's nice to hear from an Indian tennis fan... or is it a Sania fan (or are they always one in the same?). Judging from her post-match comments, it's easy to see that Mirza is going to take this U.S. Open experience and use it to grow even more. She's quickly become a Backspin favorite in 2005. :)

Just so you know, I've been aware of Mirza for a while now. Have you checked out her first "starring role" in Backspin from February?

Unfortunately, on American TV, unless the player is from the U.S. they have a hard time getting as much attention as they should. (Just the other day, I heard it said that Kuznetsova -- the U.S. Open champ last year, for Pete Sampras' sake -- was someone that "no one had ever heard of.") Sania, though, was featured quite a bit last week on television and in newspapers. Back in February, even top American tennis commentators didn't know Mirza's name... but now they're pretty much all singing her praises.

Pretty good progress for just nine months.

Mon Sep 05, 11:58:00 AM EDT  

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