Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oz Open Day 3: Serena & Maria & Laver! Oh My!

It's never too early to start looking ahead, especially after a Day 3 with few headline-grabbing moments. So...

Serena & Maria & Laver! Oh my!
Serena & Maria & Laver! Oh my!
Serena & Maria & Laver! Oh my!

Unless either Daniela Hantuchova or Jelena Kostanic spoil the party on Thursday, we're about to be treated to a wonderful Round of 16 match this weekend. Serena vs. The Supernova, Part V. A rematch of the 2005 Oz semifinal that saw Sharapova fail to convert on three match points, and Williams ride that hard won victory to her seventh grand slam title two days later.

Both Williams and Sharapova entered Melbourne with all sorts of questions swirling around their Australian Open chances, from injuries (Serena's ankle/knee, Maria's chest muscle) to off-court distractions to a curious inability to pull off the truly big-match victory since everyone last convened to close out last year's Dorothy Tour.

On Wednesday, Serena wasn't spectacular against Camille Pin, but she marched through without seeing her title defense flash before her eyes. Sharapova, meanwhile, had to overcome a short lapse late in the 2nd set against Ashley Harkleroad, but it turned out to be only a blip on the radar. Two rounds in, both their courses are true.

In a few days of 3rd & 4th Round matches that could provide a handful of unusually intriguing meetings -- including Pierce/Hingis, Davenport/Kuznetsova and Mauresmo/Vaidisova -- the potential Serena vs. Supernova rematch would be the "crack a fat" matchup of them all... maybe even of the entire tournament. Of course, not to be looking ahead or anything. But still, let the (theoretical) countdown begin.

Look out Rod Laver Arena... here they (probably) come.

DOROTHYS OF THE DAY: Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova great as an early match-up between the two would be, it also would mean that only one would still be around for the big-doings of the second week. Oh, well. Such is life.
SHEILA: Mara Santangelo

...the 24-year old from Italy made the semifinals in Hobart, and has used the momentum to become the only remaining survivor from the batch of Day One upsets. Of the six conquerors of seeded players on Monday, only Santangelo (who upset Tatiana Golovin in the 1st Round) followed her victory up with another on Wednesday, this time over unseeded Katarina Srebotnik.
GOBSMACKER: Olga Savchuk
...the 18-year old from Ukraine, ranked #188, is one of only two remaining women's qualifiers in the draw (the other, Meng Yuan, plays Kim Clijsters on Wednesday). Savchuk took out #23-seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3/6-4 in Round 2.
AUNTIE EM: Virginia Ruano-Pascual
...Elena Likhovtseva got past one 32-year old (Lisa Raymond) in the 1st Round, but she couldn't get past another in the 2nd Round as veteran VRP upset the #18-seeded Russian by a 6-4/6-4 score.
MUNCHKIN: Elena Vesnina
...the 19-year old Hordette is currently ranked #100, and she looks to be ready to add her name to the long list of Russian teenagers on the rise. She knocked off Dementieva vanquisher Julia Schruff in the 2nd Round, 6-0/7-5, to set up a 3rd Round match with qualifier Olga Savchuk for the honor of the winner advancing to her first slam Round of 16.
WALKABOUT: Tszvetana Pironkova much for that. It's always interesting to see how a young player who pulls off a big upset in a slam follows it up, and Pironkova just wasn't able to do it against American veteran Laura Granville, a player whom the Bulgarian teen admitted on Tuesday to knowing absolutely nothing about. She won't be able to say that next time.

1.Granville d. Pironkova
...7-5/6-2. The win over Venus won't be the last big victory that Pironkova has in 2006.
2.#1 Davenport d. Sprem
...7-6/6-3. It wasn't a breeze, though. Sprem led 3-1 in the tie-break before Davenport finally took control.
3.#4 Sharapova d. Harkleroad
...6-1/7-5. The former "American Anna" at least showed some moxie late in the 2nd set against the former "Next Anna."
4.#8 Henin-Hardenne d. Sromova
...7-6/6-1. It might have been interesting had Sromova not turned her ankle at a time when JHH wasn't exactly burning up the court with her "brilliance." If this is the Queen's one semi-close call in the early going, then so be it.
5.Camerin d. Bychkova
...4-6/7-6/6-2. With sometimes-giant killing Bychkova gone, only Camerin and Savchuk/Vesnina stand between Nadia Petrova and a Quarterfinal matchup with the potentially-spent winner of the Serena/Sharapova clash. The Last Russian Standing might come from this little corner of the draw.
HM- #14 Kuznetsova d. Parra-Santonja
...6-2/6-7/6-2. Kuznetsova has Davenport in her short-range sights now.


Julia Schruff (def. #9 Dementieva, loses to Vesnina)
Tszvetana Pironkova (def. #10 V.Williams, loses to Granville)
Conchita Martinez-Granados (def. #26 Sugiyama, loses to Razzano)
Zuzana Ondraskova (def. #28 Medina-Garrigues, loses to Kostanic)
Ekaterina Bychkova (def. #29 Koukalova, loses to Camerin)

What's with Sharapova's blue tennis dress? Was it modeled after a teddy? (And would Andy Roddick be able to answer that question? Hmmmm.)

2004 Miami 4th - Williams 6-4/6-3
2004 Wimbledon Final - Sharapova 6-1/6-4
2004 WTA Chsp. Final - Sharapova 4-6/6-2/6-4
2005 Australian SF - Williams 2-6/7-5/8-6

...hmmm, quite a few good ones on tap for Wednesday. Vaidisova vs. Chakvetadze in a Maiden/Hordette teenaged clash. Mirza vs. Krajicek, too. Just as good. But I'll go with the one that could be really fun:

Ana Ivanovic v. Samantha Stosur
...AnaIvo is 0-2 this year vs. Kuznetsova, 5-0 against everyone else (including a win over Mauresmo last week). Slingin' Sammy is 4-1, with only a bad luck of the draw match against Vaidisova in Sydney tarnishing her record. Stosur is at her best at this time of the year, and will certainly have the Aussie crowd on her side as the last remaining Sheila in the draw.

All for now. More tomorrow.


Blogger thesupernova said...

Woohoo Slammin' Sammy Stosur! I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a Supernova win over Serena. But then a Petrova win over Sharapova. Unless Petrova's pesky head gets in the way. But hopefully it will be another slugfest like the USO.

Thu Jan 19, 08:49:00 AM EST  

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