Monday, January 23, 2006

Oz Open Day 8: The Hydrant Along the Yellow Brick Road

Sometimes you're the dog of the walk, happily following along behind Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion down the Yellow Brick Road. Sometimes you're the hydrant.

On Monday, Nicole Vaidisova was the hydrant.

Did anyone catch the license plate on that bus that ran the poor teenager over? Let me see, it was immaculately painted and its engine ran perfectly, with nary even a noticable humm.

Seriously, Amelie Mauresmo outclassed the Czech Maiden in their 4th Round meeting, barely lifting a finger in her 6-1/6-1 triumph. Rather than press the action, the French veteran was more than content with simply allowing Vaidisova to beat herself. Check out this statistic: Mauresmo had only two (two!) unforced errors in the entire match. Near perfection has rarely looked less strenuous.

Vaidisova never entered this match, save for the spare point or two that reminded everyone why so many expectations follow her around. Her serve never kicked in. She seemed tentative. She managed to try a few different things over the course of the match -- drop shots, net approaches -- but nothing ever came off crisply enough for her sustain any momentum or, more importantly, for Mauresmo to ever fear that she might. Mauresmo's game of wait-and-let-the-newcomer-lose paid off handsomely, as she'll now face Patty Schnyder for the right to face the Kim Clijsters/Martina Hingis survivor in the semifinals.

The only "bright" news in this hiccup of a match for Vaidisova was that she never lost her temper. She also never lit a fire under her own butt. Her "av-a-go-yer-mug" got up and went, so to speak. She wasn't exactly a bludger on Day 8, but she wasn't a a fair dikum Sheila out there, either.

Hmmm... could it be that Vaidisova, ala John McEnroe, needs to kick up a little dust once in a while to lift the fog from her game? Time will tell.

DOROTHY OF THE DAY: Amelie Mauresmo, Mauresmo enters her "danger zone" -- when she looks to be the favorite in the QF, and will have a lot of people picking her to win in the SF, too.
SHEILA: Patty Schnyder
...Sneaky just let Myskina stomp around the court, shoot looks at the judge calling her for a foot fault, etc. A ridiculously smooth day, really.
GOBSMACKER: Kim Clijsters
...she's looking pretty healthy now, huh? Aside from a few loose points, she never really appeared to feel in danger of losing to Schiavone in their Round of 16 meeting. That'll happen when you go into a match with an 8-0 record against your opponent.
AUNTIE EM: Martina Hingis
...the Swiss Miss ended Aussie Sam's singles dreams on Rod Laver, but not before her game showed a few cracks late in the 2nd set and in the tie-break. Clijsters might be able to take advantage of them in ways that the trouble-holding-her-serve Stosur couldn't.
MUNCHKIN: Maria Kirilenko
...junior action is now starting up, but I'll give this to the Supernovette for her and Gisela Dulko's 6-1/6-1 3rd Round doubles win over #6 Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama. #10 Dulko/Kirilenko next play #1 Raymond/Stosur.
WALKABOUT: Anastasia Myskina
...the Czarina didn't hold her serve until she was down 6-2/5-0. Yep, Anastasia was way up a gum tree.

1.#3 Mauresmo d. #16 Vaidisova
...6-1/6-1. Just two unforced errors from your opponent is almost impossible to overcome, but Vaidisova never effectively imposed her power upon Mauresmo (especially on her serve) enough to cause the veteran to see the sense in making a stab at a few riskier manuevers. Vaidisova won't win many big matches playing this way, and that's why she'll learn an important lesson from this defeat.
2.Hingis d. Stosur
...6-1/7-6. Stosur served at 5-2 in the tie-break, and saved three match points before Hingis finally prevailed. Hingis is 4-1 in her career against Clijsters, by the way.
3.#2 Clijsters d. #15 Schiavone
...7-6/6-4. Finally, a competitive match for Kim. But the way Schiavone started spraying shots after taking a 4-1 lead in the 1st set tie-break said something about why the hard-working Italian has never won a title. Hard work only takes a player so far. Just ask Amelie Mauresmo. (Not today, of course... but probably a round or two from now.)
HM- Doubles 3rd - #12 Yan/Zheng d. #7 Dementieva/Pennetta
...6-1/6-2. The Cookies are still trying to put some bite in the AO's "Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific" slogan.


[best Oz results]
#2 Kim Clijsters - 2004 RU; 2002-03 SF
un Martina Hingis - 1997-99 Champion; 2000-02 RU
#3 Amelie Mauresmo - 1999 RU; 2002,'04-'06 QF
#7 Patty Schnyder - 2004 SF; 2005-06 QF

[by nation]
[by ranking - Jan.15]
#1 Lindsay Davenport
#2 Kim Clijsters
#3 Amelie Mauresmo
#4 Maria Sharapova
#6 Justine Henin-Hardenne
#7 Nadia Petrova
#8 Patty Schnyder
#349 Martina Hingis
[by age]
29...Lindsay Davenport
27...Patty Schnyder
26...Amelie Mauresmo
25...Martina Hingis
23...Justine Henin-Hardenne
23...Nadia Petrova
22...Kim Clijsters
18...Maria Sharapova

...let's see, #3-seeds Likhovtseva/Zvonareva meet #5 Groenefeld/Shaughnessy in the Doubles QF. And #12 Yan/Zheng face #4 Ruano-Pascual/Suarez. But it's really about the SINGLES Quarterfinals, right?:

...Davenport's got a bum ankle. JHH looks happy and healthy. Should be elementary, right?

...what will Sharapova do if she actually gets into a competitive match? The same can be said for Petrova, to be honest.

#8 Henin-Hardenne d. #1 Davenport
#4 Sharapova d. #6 Petrova

All for now. More tomorrow.


READER NOTE: You'll need to register a user name to leave comments now. I was going to fix that feature earlier, but never got around to it. Nothing against "anonymous" postings, but it's too difficult to tell how many individual voices are in the mix, not to mention it being potentially confusing. Thought I'd go ahead and do it now before we get too many more weeks into the '06 season. Thanks.


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