Monday, January 16, 2006

Oz Open Day 1: The House Falls on Venus

Well, since Australia does sometimes get tagged with the affectionate tag of "Oz," certain roles have to be assigned as "The Daily Backspin: Australian Open Edition" gets underway.

The first one has already been locked up. Thus, playing the part of the player having her tennis house immediately fall directly on her head (drumroll)... Venus Williams.

Venus might not have been crushed into nonexistence by 18-year old Bulgarian Tszvetana Pironkova on the opening day of play in Melbourne (Venus more than lent a helping hand, courtesy of 65 unforced errors), but it certainly puts a damper on the beginning of her season, doesn't it? She hasn't lost in the 1st Round of a slam since the 2001 Roland Garros, to Barbara Schett.

Interestingly, that year, Venus went on to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and to reach the final of six of the next seven slams. Maybe a shock to the system like this is exactly what Venus needed?

Of course, this is 2006, not 2001. The difference between the two played out before our eyes on Vodafone on Monday.



==DAY 1 PLAYER AWARDS==

DOROTHY OF THE DAY: Tszvetana Pironkova
...there's just something about Bulgarians and Venus at slams. Last year in Paris, it was Sesil Karatantcheva, this year in Melbourne it's the #94-ranked Pironkova. Unlike last year, though, Venus has likely heard of this teenager, having beaten her in Istanbul in 2005. She might rather forget her now. Unbelievably, this was the grand slam debut of the lanky Pironkova, a two-time WTA semifinalist last year in Istanbul and Palermo. She didn't look nervous, though, hitting her groundstrokes like she was Elena Dementieva (at least someone was...more on that in a moment) and just waiting for Venus to make a mistake. Which she did, often.
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SHEILAS: Julia Schruff & Ashley Harkleroad
...Schruff already had wins over Elena Likhovtseva and Jelena Dokic (okay, I know, so what? Like I said, this isn't 2001) in '06, and on Monday she added #9-seed Elena Dementieva to her hit list. In straight sets, too. Guess that late '05 win over Kim Clijsters and Hong Kong exhibition victory over Serena still haven't worked any wonders for Punch-Sober. Qualifier Harkleroad opened up her '06 Comeback Tour with a nice 6-4/6-1 straight sets win over Shuai Peng. Could American Splendor have a Melbourne breakthrough in her? Well, her next match is against Maria Sharapova... so you make the call.
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GOBSMACKERS: Zuzana Ondraskova & Mara Santangelo
...Czech Maiden Ondraskova took out last week's Canberra winner, #28-seed Anabel Medina-Garrigues, 6-3/6-4. Italy's Santangelo upset The Frussian Pastry, #24-seed Tatiana Golovin in three close sets, 6-4/4-6/6-4.
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AUNTIE EM: Lindsay Davenport
...top-seeded Davenport was assigned the first match of the tournament on Rod Laver, and she responded with the first victory of the day, an easy win over the improving, but still overmatched, Aussie Casey Dellacqua.
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MUNCHKIN: Ekaterina Bychkova
...at her last slam, the Russian with the best name of the lot, upended defending U.S. Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova. In Melbourne, Bychkova knocked off #29-seed Klara Koukalova, 6-1/5-7/6-2. Koukalova wasn't defending anything, but it's a nice big win nonetheless for the Hordette who might just make the biggest move up the rankings in '06.
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WALKABOUT: Venus Williams
...ding dong, Venus is out. Hmmm, since another Bulgarian proved to be her undoing, I wonder if Sesil is smiling? Then again, she's got a few other things to concern herself with, doesn't she?
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**DAY 1 MATCHES**

1.Pironkova d. #10 V.Williams
...2-6/6-0/9-7. Venus served for the match at 6-5 in the 3rd, but Pironkova dug in her ruby-slippered heels and survived. Venus fought, but ultimately couldn't overcome herself or the nervy Bulgarian. Appropriately, the match ended on Venus' 65th unforced error. I guess not playing a match that matters since September is bound to catch up with a gal at some point.
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2.Razzano d. Dokic
...3-6/7-6/6-1. The Debutante's comeback on the Dorothy Tour didn't last very long. But, in typical Dokic style, there were dramatics. At 6-5 in the 2nd, on one of two match points, Dokic hit a shot that she thought had won her the match. She raised her hands and began to celebrate, only to have the umpire overrule the call and say Dokic's shot was out. Down once again Down Under, Dokic lost an 8-6 tie-break, then barely registered in the 3rd set.
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3.#13 S.Williams d. N.Li
...6-3/6-7/6-2. Serena was a little shaky after serving at 6-3/5-4, but her talent untimately won out. Afterward, she said she wanted to put hook up her iPOD and dance around. Sounds like a good TV commercial.
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4.Schruff d. #9 Dementieva
...7-5/6-2. It's either feast or famine for Dementieva in slams: she's either the LAST seed out (in the final), or the FIRST one (which she was in Melbourne).
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5.Ondraskova d. #28 Medina-Garrigues
...6-3/6-4. Hmmm, maybe losses like this are why AMG remains an undiscovered gem, huh? She's REALLY undiscovered this week.
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HM- #25 Kirilenko d. Linetskaya
...6-1/3-1 ret. Another one bites the dust.
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**DAY 1 ODDS & ENDS**

==DAY 1 - SEEDS WHO MELTED LIKE THE WICKED WITCH==
#9 Elena Dementieva (lost to Schruff)
#10 Venus Williams (lost to Pironkova)
#24 Tatiana Golovin (lost to Santangelo)
#26 Ai Sugiyama (lost to Martinez-Granados)
#28 Anabel Medina-Garrigues (lost to Ondraskova)
#29 Klara Koukalova (lost to Bychkova)

==CLOSEST MATCH==
#18 Elena Likhovtseva d. Lisa Raymond
...7-6/7-6. The vets didn't want to play that tie break-less 3rd set.

==DAY 2 MATCH TO WATCH==
#30 Vera Zvonareva vs. Martina Hingis
...Martina hasn't lost in any round but the final in Melbourne since (yikes!) 1996. Zvonareva was 12 at the time... "years old," not "in the world."



The Daily Backspin continues on Day 2.

All for now.

3 Comments:

Anonymous darth_sloan said...

Not exactly, as Martina did lose in the final from 2000 to 2002. But her record in Oz is extraordinary nonetheless.
Also, did Pironkova really play like the good Elena D. (I mean the awaken one, not yesterday's)?

Tue Jan 17, 06:07:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, obviously that was a misprint on Hingis. It was supposed to say that she hadn't lost in any round but the final since '96. As I started to watch Hingis play Zvonareva, I realized that I'd written that line wrong and just skipped right over it when I read it back.

Truthfully, on some of Pironkova's big groundstroke shots I thought she did look like Dementieva. At least the thought that went through my head at the time was, "If I didn't know who this was at first glance I might think that was Dementieva." Maybe it was just a fluke of a partiular day, though... or that hat. :)

Tue Jan 17, 08:23:00 AM EST  
Blogger Noelle De Guzman said...

Hey Todd, great Oz Open write-ups so far. I'm putting this comment in here because I wanted to say the "Wizard of Oz" stuff is pretty amusing! :D

Sun Jan 22, 05:12:00 AM EST  

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