Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Oz Open Day 2: Martina...Grinning Like a Shot Fox

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Taking a page from her superior Australian Open history book (39-3 from 1997-02), Martina Hingis ruled the court in Melbourne once again on Monday, frustrating the easily-distracted #30-seed Vera Zvonareva just like it was the late 1990's all over again. 6-1/6-2... lickety-split. That was that.

Thanks for showing up, Vera. Your check will be waiting for you in the lockerroom... how do you spell your last name again?

In the end, Zvonareva was likely the perfect opening round opponent for the Swiss Miss in this return to Melbourne after three years away in the land of retirement: just good enough to test Hingis' mental mettle and instill some added confidence with a win, but not really good or powerful enough to truly put the "new" Hingis to a real test against the types of players she had trouble defeating from 2000-02. That exam could come by the weekend, though, as the reinvigorated Mary Pierce could be waiting in the 3rd Round for a rematch of the 1997 Oz final, which Hingis won 6-2/6-2.

Venus proved on Monday that 2006 is not 2001. It's not likely 1997, either.

DOROTHY OF THE DAY: Martina Hingis
...Martina was a walloper against Zvonareva, testing the Russian's emotions and teasing her guile just as she often famously toyed with opponents in her heyday. A seventh straight Australian final is beyond the black stump, but -- bloody oath! -- the comeback has already proven to be worth it, hasn't it?
...the Cookies have been leading the field in near-miss big upsets over seeds in Melbourne (Na Li vs. Serena, Tiantian Sun vs. Mauresmo), but last year's surprise Guangzhou champion Yan finally pulled off a decent-sized one against #11 Nathalie Dechy, winning 6-7/6-2/6-3.
GOBSMACKER: Tiantian Sun
...Sun got an (injury-assisted) win over Serena Williams in Beijing last year, and she almost got an (Amelie-assisted) win over world #3 Mauresmo on Tuesday. The Cookie took the 1st set, but Mauresmo finally found her head and closed out the match 4-6/6-2/6-2. Of course, the chances that the Frenchwoman will be able to keep herself from irreversibly misplacing that noggin again over the next two weeks are pretty slim.
AUNTIE EM: Mary Pierce
...finally, Prideful Mary makes her first 2006 appearance. It went pretty well, too, as she destroyed Nicole Pratt 6-1/6-1.
MUNCHKIN: Anna-Lena Groenefeld
...ahh, Girl Friday finally got the "curse-buster" win she'd been looking for. Not that it was easy for her to avoid starting her season 0-5, as she teetered on the edge against Laura Pous Tio before finally winning 2-6/6-4/7-5. Will this be her overdue '06 wake-up call?
WALKABOUT: Vera Zvonareva
...seems Vera is always mad as a cut snake these days, doesn't it? She was up a gum tree against Hingis, venting frustration from every pour and barely putting up a fight in the process. (Don't ya just love the Aussie slang?)

1.Hingis d. #30 Zvonareva
...6-1/6-2. Was Auckland just a mirage for Zvonareva?
2.#3 Mauresmo d. T.Sun
...4-6/6-2/6-2. Opinion: Mauresmo's YEC title effectively ends any hopes she has of ever winning a slam because she -- and many others -- believed after L.A. that she could win one, which puts even more pressure on her to do it, which isn't exactly conducive to her doing anything good on a tennis court. FACT: She'll still have a great year and routinely climb out of the type of on-court pit she found herself in on Tuesday.
3.#2 Clijsters d. Cho
...6-3/6-0. She played and won easily, but we may not have heard the last of Killer Kim's hip injury.
4.#32 Mirza d. Azarenka
...7-6/6-2. Princess Sania finally gets her first victory of 2006 over Fellow Rising Teen #1. Next up is a very intriguing 2nd Round match with Fellow Rising Teen #2, Michaella Krajicek.
5.Chakvetadze d. Zheng
...5-7/6-2/6-4. Another near miss by a Cookie. I guess Zi Yan (and maybe Meng Yuan, who defeated Melinda Czink) will now get some extra attention from the Chinese federation.
HM- Sanchez-Lorenzo d. Safarova
...6-4/6-3. A disappointing trip to Melbourne for Maiden #1b. Or maybe it's back to Maiden #2, now?


#11 Nathalie Dechy (lost to Yan)
#30 Vera Zvonareva (lost to Hingis)

**FIVE COOKIES CRUMBLED in the 1st...**
Na Li (lost to #13 S.Williams)
Ting Li (lost to Vesnina)
Shuai Peng (lost to Harkleroad)
Tiantian Sun (lost to #3 Mauresmo)
Jie Zheng (lost to Chakvetadze)

Zi Yan (def. #11 Dechy)
Meng Yuan (def. Czink)

Castano d. Dushevina
...5-7/6-3/6-1. Vera D. just hasn't been able to figure out a way to keep up with the rest of the Hordettes. Not yet, anyway.

#7 Schnyder d. Daniilidou

Sucha d. Smashnova
...3-6/6-3/6-4. If Smashnova's going out in the 1st Round, it MUST be a slam. Yep, it is. In her 42 career slam appearances, Smashnova has lost in the 1st Round 24 times (and has 10 losses in the 2nd Round).

Just because Sesil is...umm, "away"... it doesn't mean that a Bulgarian teenager's delightfully twisted English is also M.I.A. from Melbourne. Venus conqueror Tszvetana Pironkova said that when she entered the lockerroom after her big win, she was congratulated by the other players. "They said, 'Well job, good done,'" Pironkova reported yesterday. How can you not love that? Hmmm, must be the puberty's fault.


Sharapova vs. Harkleroad
...there always seems to be one of these "glamour girl" matchups per slam. This is this AO's, I suppose.

All for now. More tomorrow.


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