Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oz Open Day 4: Mary Melts in Melbourne

To borrow a quote from a certain green-skinned lady in a pointy hat, "I'm melting! I'm melting! What a world, what a world!"

I doubt if such thoughts were going through #5-seed Mary Pierce's head as she went down in straight sets to the Czech Republic's Iveta Benesova in the Melbourne heat on Day 4, but they would have been appropriate.

On second thought, maybe skipping the Dorothy Tour tuneups and opening the season at the Australian Open isn't necessarily the best course of action for a veteran who probably needs a running start to put together a two-week slam run. In other words, now Pierce is going to have to cross her fingers and hope her health holds up well enough to try this all over again in Paris and Flushing Meadows.

But, hey, at least it was a Maiden who threw the bucket of water on Pierce's chances. So it wasn't a total loss, as far as Backspin is concerned.

DOROTHY OF THE DAY: Iveta Benesova
...the 22-year old has achieved her best-ever slam result by advancing to the Final 32. Ranked #42, she should get a nice bump when this is over (but not as nice as the one she'd have gotten by getting quality points for a slam win over a Top 5 player, of course). Her immediate reward? A meeting with Martina Hingis, who's play is looking very crisp at the moment. Benesova will likely need all the optimism found in her favorite movie -- "Forrest Gump" -- to reach the Round of 16.
SHEILA: Samantha Stosur
...Slingin' Sammy lives! Her "upset" over #21-seed Ana Ivanovic (which I'll mention that I called in my Aussie Open preview, just to try to forget the fact that I had Pierce in the final) allows the Last Sheila Standing to match her career-best slam (a 3rd Round at the '03 AO) and assures an unseeded quarterfinalist in what was the Pierce/Ivanovic section of the draw. For Stosur to be the one to survive to the delight of the Aussie crowd (and maybe face an ailing Clijsters), she'll probably have to beat Hingis on Rod Laver in a featured night match. Hopefully, we'll get to see that match. Dokic and Molik? Phew! Stosur has a chance to become a star in her own right at this year's AO.
GOBSMACKER: Aiko Nakamura
...the 22-year old from Japan has been laboring in obscurity over the past year, but her results have been steadily improving, so her nice result here isn't really a huge surprise (I picked this one, too, but had her losing in the 3rd Round... forget about the Pierce pick yet?). Of course, her 6-1/6-1 whitewashing of #31 Gisela Dulko was a bit more lopsided than one would have expected. Nakamura's ranked #59. By the end of the year, she might be the top-ranked Rising Sunner on tour.
AUNTIE EM: Maria Sanchez-Lorenzo
...the 28-year old Spanish vet knocked out #22-seeded Girl Friday Groenefeld, 4-6/6-4/6-1, one round after having upended Lucie Safarova. At Roland Garros last year, she upset defending champ Anastasia Myskina.
MUNCHKINS: Michaella Krajicek & Sofia Arvidsson
...the Lollipop Guild had quite an active day on Wednesday. Krajicek won her seventh straight match by upsetting #32-seed Sania Mirza, continuing her steady stream of great results in the season's opening weeks. Meanwhile, Sweden's Arvidsson, 21, easily handled #19-seed Dinara Safina 6-4/6-0.
WALKABOUT: Mary Pierce
...Pierce's fine '05 season didn't hit stride until Roland Garros, so there's still time for her in' 06. But while time can be a friend to a 31-year old tennis player, it can also be an enemy to one who's always capable of being saddled with injuries.

1.Benesova d. #5 Pierce
...6-3/7-5. Looks like match play was important, huh?
2.Stosur d. #21 Ivanovic
...6-3/7-5. Hingis vs. Stosur would be verrrry fun. Potentially. Like I've said before, Stosur should have played a real event in Week 1. She's playing so well, she might have gotten her first title.
3.Krajicek d. #32 Mirza
...6-3/7-5. Another match with the same scoreline? If 6-3/7-5 pops up again, we might have to start applying "Lost"-like importance to such "coincidences." Better luck next time, Indian Princess... you can't help that you didn't have a Wimbledon-winning big brother providing you with tips on how to win like Michaella had for this match.
4.#16 Vaidisova d. Chakvetadze
...6-2/6-1. Ouch, Anna. After a great end to '05 and a Sydney SF, Vaidisova has come into Melbourne with some expections on her back. So far, she hasn't blinked. Last time she had a frustrating loss (U.S. Open 4th vs. Petrova) like the one to Schiavone in Sydney, she ran off 18 straight victories. Well, she has two so far.
5.Nakamura d. #31 Dulko
...6-1/6-1. Dulko is just 2-4 so far in 2006.
HM- Hingis d. Laine
...6-1/6-1. Hingis is developing a bit of an aura again in Melbourne, but she hasn't really been tested yet. If Stosur can't do it, and Clijsters' hip (she's toughing it out despite a lot of pain -- and calling injury timeouts -- but will that continue when the competition gets tougher?) doesn't hold up, the Swiss Miss could be facing the Mauresmo/Vaidisova survivor in the (yikes!) semifinals. Suddenly, seven straight finals isn't quite fool's gold anymore.


**1st Round UPSET/UPSETTING 2nd Round, Pt.2**
Zi Yan (def. #11 Dechy, lost to Bammer)
...of the eight 1st Round seed conquerors, only Hingis & Santangelo won 2nd round matches

Olga Savchuk... after both Meng Yuan lost to Clijsters on Wednesday.

**"UPSET QUEENS" UPDATE** of now, it looks like the early round "Upset Queens" will be either the Spaniards or Italians. Spain's Sanchez-Lorenzo (def. Safarova/Groenefeld), Ruano-Pascual (Likhovtseva) and Martinez-Granados (Sugiyama) have one more round to overcome the quiet rise of the Italians, with Santangelo (Golovin/Srebotnik), Camerin (Bychkova) and Vinci (Bartoli).

...raise your hand if you thought there would be more Italians in the 3rd Round than Americans, Czechs and Frenchies, and only one fewer than the total number of surviving Hordettes. The final five: Francesca Schiavone, Maria Elena Camerin, Flavia Pennetta, Mara Santangelo and Roberta Vinci.

2...Czech Republic

**DAY 4 QUESTION**, there were Serbian press reports that Damir Dokic is planning to kidnap Jelena, kill an Australian who helped her return Down Under and bomb the Land of Oz in revenge. Said Jelena, "I have spent my life recovering from events such as this. I have not spoken to my father for a number of years and we do not agree on anything." Damir later denied making the comments. The question? When will everyone else realize what anyone who follows Dokic's career already largely knows -- that the Serbian "media" is about as reliable as the British tabloids?

...oh, it's so boring and obvious to pick Serena-Hantuchova here. It'll be Serena's first legit "test" in Melbourne, and the last "tune-up" before the probable rematch with Sharapova. But, somehow, I wonder if this match won't really be a big disappointment, with Serena advancing easily. For the record, I'll go with this one:

But, just to be more interesting, I'll also keep an eye on the all-teen battle between Elena Vesnina & Olga Savchuk because one will have a big career breakthough with a Round of 16 result, and a likely match-up with Nadia Petrova...and one never knows which Empress will show up.

All for now. More tomorrow (including the first Oz "Ms. Opportunity" contender update).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little error : Benesova is #42 (you wrote #72...)!

Thu Jan 19, 07:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Is it a bad thing when your write something down, and then can't read your own chickenscratch? Pretty bad when a "4" looks like "7," huh?

Thu Jan 19, 08:37:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Todd. Love your blog! My predictions started melting down with the Venus defeat and haven't stopped blistering since! I'm looking forward to some epic battles when Sharapova takes on Hantuchova and then (maybe) Petrova. I'd love to see the Empress pull it off this time! And Lindsay toughed out the sun yesterday. I hope it was the weather and not her game that made her move like a dog! I have no opinion on Sveta/Lindsay, but I think that they both have as good a chance as they can get against the slimmer fitter Justine, what with her serve melting down as much as it has. Here's me dreaming big for the finals: Sharapova vs Vaidisova.

Fri Jan 20, 03:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I won't mention that possibility for fear of... well, you know... the "c" word. No, not THAT one. The one that rhymes with "purse." :)

Fri Jan 20, 04:35:00 PM EST  

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