Wednesday, September 07, 2005

US Open Day 9: Ms. Mojo Rising

Thanks to Andy Roddick's swan dive off the upper deck of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Day 2, the snide talk about everyone's "mojo" has been the en vogue insult/compliment for this year's U.S. Open. Even Maria Sharapova was getting into the act on Tuesday night, talking after her quarterfinal win over Nadia Petrova about "finding her mojo" once she returned from taking a bathroom break after dropping the second set.

But the Supernova wasn't the only one who picked up her mojo in the "lost and found" bin under the lights at Flushing Meadows. She was joined in the rescue operation by... (drumroll, please)... Nice Kim Clijsters.

Now, what will ultimately be made of Clijsters' come-from-behind win (she trailed 4-6/2-4 and looked ready to join Roddick in taking a header from the upper rim of the stadium) will be determined by what happens next -- against Sharapova, and then yet another opponent-to-be-determined, should she reach the final -- but, for at least tonight, Nice Kim picked up her grand slam guts from the shiny new blue court and was able to walk away with her head held high. She played the big points better, pulled herself back from the brink, and remains alive to play another day.

Of course, this win does nothing to remove the rather large albatross that's been resting on her shoulder for a few years now. Kim's fine-feathered friend is nicknamed "Grand Slam-less," and he's still alive and flapping. Defeating Venus wasn't the "win of her career," an idea some TV commentators wanted to push immediately after the match. A former #1 doesn't notch her "biggest ever" victory in the quarterfinals. If there's anything we've learned over the years it's that a little grand slam success doesn't signal that a bigger win is just around the corner for Clijsters. She still has a great deal to prove.

And who better to do it against than Sharapova? If Clijsters knocks off the Supernova in the SF, it'd be difficult to pick against her in the Open final. But, since she's still "the same old Kim" until further notice, I'd still find a way to do it anyway.

But at least Tuesday night showed there might be a real live champion's heart beating in there somewhere. If Clijsters can find it again on Thursday and keeps her mojo rising, then she'll only be one more step away from wiping the slate clean and becoming the player her talent says she should be.


PLAYER OF THE DAY: Kim Clijsters, all she has to do is beat the #1 seed, then probably defeat the #1-ranked player in the world in the final. Piece of cake... right?
RISER: Katarina Srebotnik
...after surviving match points in the Mixed Doubles 3rd Round vs. Navratilova/Paes, the 24-year old Slovenian (and Nenad Zimonjic, of course) defeated Dinara Safina & Andy Ram to advance to the final.
SURPRISE: Elizabeth Plotkin
...if you're American player (unless you're named Harkleroad or Roddick, that is), you've probably had a pretty good tournament. The 17-year old with a whopping $100 in earnings in 2005 was the latest, as in Tuesday's Girls 2nd Round play she upset #2-seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the Wimbledon junior champion.
VETERAN: Corina Morariu
...the 27-year old (yes, you guessed it) American teamed with Mike Bryan to defeat #2 Mixed Doubles seeds Rennae Stubbs & Mike's brother Bob to advance to the SF. Thus, Morariu's really had a better U.S. Open than beau Justin Gimelstob.
FRESH FACE: Alexa Glatch
...might the 15-year old be the next (and maybe only) American hope for great success on the women's tour? The early reports are good (a faster-than-lightning tour SF in Forest Hills doesn't hurt, either). Today, the #7 Girls seed won her 2nd Round match over Canada's Valerie Tetreault 6-2/6-1. She also won a Girls Doubles match with partner Vania King, who's also had a pretty good few weeks in Flushing.
DOWN: Venus Williams
...the Summer of Venus is (prematurely?) over. Possibly it could be traced to the one-event-in-seven-weeks schedule that Williams used as "preparation" for the Open, a less-than-strenuous "grind" that left her winded and playing like a ghostly apparition of her Wimbledon self in the 3rd set against Clijsters (which she lost 6-1 while offering up little in the form of opposition). Oops, there I go giving Williams an excuse for her latest loss... I'm sure Ferris could have thought up one all by her lonesome.


1.QF - #4 Kim Clijsters def. #10 Venus Williams
...4-6/7-5/6-1. Clijsters converted 8 of 12 break point chances. But if she "plays dead," as she did in the 2nd set, again against Sharapova it's hard to believe the Supernova won't close the door shut with a slam... something that Venus simply couldn't muster the will to do.
2.QF - #1 Maria Sharapova def. #9 Nadia Petrova
...7-5/4-6/6-4. If Petrova could ever harness her ability (and head) long enough to truly take advantage of it, we could soon see her hoisting a slam trophy Kuznetsova-style (in other words, by seemingly "coming out of nowhere" one fine fortnight). She's not there yet, but she never gave up (breaking Sharapova as the Supernova served for the match at 5-3 in the 3rd) and was simply bested by a better player in this 2:30 match. Sharapova's now advanced to the SF at the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. Open this season. But she wants a title.
3.Girls 2r - Nina Henkel def. Alisa Kleybanova
...6-3/6-4. One Russian goes down, at the hands of a German.
HM- Girls 2r - Jamie Hampton def. #4 Caroline Wozniacki
...6-2/2-6/6-4. Meanwhile, another 15-year old American rises over a Dane.


...during their Quarterfinal match, one fan shouted out a marriage proposal to Sharapova. A point later, making sure Petrova didn't feel left out, another fan asked "the other Russian" to marry him, too. As far as can be determined, neither proposal was put forth by "Andy's Mojo" (speaking of, why can't that guy in those ever-present ads take a leap off the upper deck?).

24...Henin-Hardenne (April-June)
17...Clijsters (March-April)
15...CLIJSTERS (August-current)#
12...Sharapova (February-March)
10...Sharapova (June)
10...Pennetta (February)
10...Ivanovic (January)
10...V.Williams (June-July)
10...PIERCE (July-current)#
#-active streaks

=Australian Open=
Serena Williams (W)
Lindsay Davenport (RU)
Maria Sharapova
Nathalie Dechy
=Roland Garros=
Justine Henin-Hardenne (W)
Mary Pierce (RU)
Nadia Petrova
Elena Likhovtseva
Venus Williams (W)
Lindsay Davenport (RU)
Maria Sharapova
Amelie Mauresmo
=U.S. Open=
Maria Sharapova
Kim Clijsters
(Davenport or Dementieva)
(Mauresmo or Pierce)

...on Wednesday, Day 10 starts off with Martina Navratilova and Anna-Lena Groenefeld meeting Svetlana Kuznetsova & Alicia Molik in the Doubles QF, then ends with the potentially scintillating Agassi-Blake match. In between, the final two women's semifinalists will be determined. I'll go with:

#2 Davenport d. #6 Dementieva
#12 Pierce d. #3 Mauresmo

All for now.


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