Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oz Open Day 7: Amelie or Nicole...for which one will it be apples?

Amelie Mauresmo and Nicole Vaidisova. Both have similar goals, but their windows for achieving them are frighteningly different.

Mauresmo's a 26-year old Frenchwoman with a great talent for playing bonza spin-and-touch tennis, but also has a penchant for coming up ugly on the sport's biggest stages (that is, except when she manages to win a big title, which serves to shine an even harsher light on her grand slam failures). Vaidisova's a bonza 16-year old Czech with a Bollettieri style game of simple power strokes, but also has a sometimes-ugly temper that could bring her down (that is, except on the days when it inspires her to greater accomplishments).

When they face off in Melbourne for the right to reach the quarterfinals, one's immediate fortunes will suddenly be apples. The other will get a pat on the back and an "on-ya mate," then head off on her merry way. Two months ago, Vaidisova's 18-match winning streak (fueled by her angry reaction to missing out on her last slam QF opportunity in Flushing Meadows?) was stopped cole by Mauresmo in Philadelphia, 7-5/7-5. Both will give it a burl this time, too... but will Mauresmo be as effective with as much at stake?

Mauresmo, who broke through with an Oz Open RU result in 1999, is watching her slam opportunties slip away like sand through an hourglass. With the next wave of Vaidisova-like would-be stars now approaching their potential, her chances to win her elusive first slam get progressively smaller with every new teen that hits the scene. Mauresmo's already lost to teen Ana Ivanovic at last year's Roland Garros (and again this year), and every slam defeat makes it less and less likely that she'll ever fulfill her "full potential." Vaidisova, on the other hand, is simply poised at the starting line of what might be a superior career. She's already only the sixth player in WTA history to claim five tour titles before turning 17, and she'll leave Melbourne none the worse for wear even if she loses to Mauresmo on Monday. She'll have many more opportunites for her breakout slam performance.

But why wait? Like Maria Sharapova, Vaidisova appears to have the same ahead-of-schedule career tract committed to memory with midnight diary entry sincerity. A win in this match, and the Maiden will catapult herself into the worldwide tennis headlines that might get exponentially more spectacular as the week goes on.

Mauresmo has been in this position before, and she has the "slam glass ceiling" result pencilled onto her itinerary four times a season. It's just a matter of which round she pulls out the ink pen to finalize her schedule. Why wait? The Round of 16 in Melbourne is just as good as the quarters or semis, right?

Either way, Vaidisova will emerge unscathed. Mauresmo's slam clock will continue to click away.

DOROTHY OF THE DAY: Justine Henin-Hardenne
...JHH won the 1st set of her 4th Round match with Virginia Ruano-Pascual at love. Guess she was ready, huh? The suddenly-all-smiles Belgian has now won eleven straight in Melbourne (and is 16-1 there since 2003), and next faces Lindsay Davenport, who's nursing an ankle injury.
SHEILA: Nadia Petrova
...everyone won on Sunday who was supposed to (of the matches that were played, that is, since the heat closed all the arena roofs and decimated play on the outside courts), including Petrova. But, come on, she deserves a nod just for her new WTA bio photo. Quite an improvement over her old one.
GOBSMACKER: Daniela Hantuchova
...Wonder Girl didn't beat Sharapova, but the 6-4/6-4 score at least shows that she didn't deem her tournament over and "mission accomplished" just because she upset Serena Williams. That's a good sign.
AUNTIE EM: Lindsay Davenport
...Davenport's win over Svetlana Kuznetsova gives her nine QF-or-better results in Oz, but the ankle injury sustained during the match by the Last Seppo Standing raises some big red flags for her QF match-up with JHH.
MUNCHKIN: Ana Ivanovic
...with very few players to choose from here, I'll go with AnaIvo for her and Mixed partner Novak "The Man with Two Last Names" Djokovic's 6-7/6-2/7-6 win over Igor Andreev & Maria Kirilenko.
WALKABOUT: Virginia Ruano-Pascual
...a 6-0/6-3 loss to JHH. Now Ginny can focus on the doubles.

1.#4 Sharapova d. #17 Hantuchova
...6-4/6-4. No Serena? No problem for the Supernova. Also: are these two all long arms and legs, or what?
2.#1 Davenport d. #14 Kuznetsova
...6-2/6-4. While teens like Michaella Krajicek fall to the heat, the veteran Davenport shows that time (and better training techniques) can eliminate that liability with enough hard work.
3.#8 Henin-Hardenne d. Ruano-Pascual
...6-0/6-3. Why is this woman smiling? Oh, I see.
4.#6 Petrova d. Vesnina
...6-3/6-1. The Empress' moment of truth has arrived. Bring on Sharapova.
5.Doub.3r - #1 Raymond/Stosur d. #16 T.Li/T.Sun
...6-3/6-4. No matter what happens on Laver against Hingis, Sammy still has a "backup" plan for a homegrown championship.


[best Oz results]
#1 Lindsay Davenport - 2000 Champion; 2005 RU; 1998-99,'01 SF
#8 Justine Henin-Hardenne - 2004 Champion; 2003 SF; 2002,'06 QF*
#4 Maria Sharapova - 2005 SF; 2006 QF*
#6 Nadia Petrova - 2006 QF*; 2005 4th; 2000,'03 3rd

...which is worse? The rain of Wimbledon, or the heat of Melbourne?

...well, I've already touched on Mauresmo-Vaidisova. And I won't get close to Clijsters-Schiavone because of Clijsters' she-says-she's-hurting-but-she-still-wins-with-ease hip ailment. Hingis-Stosur is tempting, but I'm worried for Slingin' Sammy's chances after her you-break-me-I-break-you match against Bammer, so I'll go with:

PATTY SCHNYDER vs. ANASTASIA MYSKINA could be the loudest (well, unless Vaidisova's in a really bad way), craziest, most dangerous (for those with virgin ears, and bad courtside reflexes) match of the day. May the player the most in touch with on-court sanity win. Which side of the bed either Sneaky or the Czarina wake up on will likely determine which one that is.

#2 Clijsters d. #15 Schiavone (I'll buy the true severity of the injury when/if Kim loses because of it)
Hingis d. Stosur (with my head, not my heart)
#16 Vaidisova d. #3 Mauresmo (at this point, maybe with my heart rather than my head)
#7 Schnyder d. #12 Myskina (just a wild guess, really)

All for now. More tomorrow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lolz, Mauresmo steamed Vaidisova 1 and 1.

Sun Jan 22, 09:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger thesupernova said...

My heart is broken in a thousand pieces right now......I can't believe Nicole went down like that. Hopefully Sharapova will win and mend my broken heart.

Mon Jan 23, 10:51:00 AM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home