Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Daily Backspin, RG 10: Vaidisova...ready to boil?

Nicole Vaidisova's June 6, 2006 march on Paris isn't on the level of the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy, but the prospects of something big happening at Roland Garros are getting mighty serious now.

Watershed moments in the Vaidisova's career are hard to miss, from when she first appeared in "3-V" to when it was apparent that she was on the verge of something special. Roland Garros 2006 has become the latest moment to savor, and one day "remember when."

After witnessing the 17-year old Czech's latest dynamic win, a three-set triumph over Venus Williams that sends her streaking (moving at high speed, of course, but not nude... although, if a bump in TV ratings was the goal...) into her first career grand slam semifinal, we're now standing at the line on the court where it should be admitted that Vaidisova winning this tournament, much as was the case with Sharapova at Wimbledon in '04, would be the best thing for the women's game.

A Vaidisova victory lap around Lenglen on Saturday afternoon would provide a nice shot in the arm for a tour that's suffered through injuries, absences and indifference (hello, Serena), as well as talk of retirement (Clijsters still says '07 will be her final season) and the overblown Melbourne "civilization-crushing" final. And that's not even mentioning the ever-thickening Federer-Nadal rivalry seemingly about to write another chapter in a story that the women's game hasn't seen anything similar to since... well... Navratilova-Evert, really, thanks to Gabriela Sabatini's inability to keep pace with Steffi Graf, and that German lathe operator who changed the course of women's tennis and Monica Seles' career. Martina Hingis' comeback has been great, but it can only hide a few of those ills, especially while she's still losing in the quarterfinals of slams rather than winning them.

The impact of a Dynamova title would have far more wide-reaching repercussions than an additional slam crown claimed by either of the other remaining Belgians or Russian in the draw. Sedate parents. A capable interviewee (though it's not polite to be caught looking at yourself in the monitor, Nicole, as you did during your ESPN chat today...several times -- if your hair was covering your face, someone would have told you). An image that'll divert some eyeballs of casual fans. I mean, where's the drawback? (Even Yahoo Sports might post more positive headlines on the Tennis page... which today stated "Venus & Hingis Fall" rather than "Vaidisova & Clijsters Win." Figures.).

Another dynamic star may have already been born at Roland Garros this week, but it's the hardware that brings the real credibility. No less than the likes of Evert ('74), Graf ('87) and Seles ('90) were celebrated before winning a slam title, but it was grabbing their career's first in the city of lights that officially put their names on the tennis marquee. A watched pot never boils, but a burgeoning tennis talent often does so at the grandest of places.

Vaidisova could be the next to boil over... but her famed temper would have nothing to do with it.


Today's Big Matches:

1.QF - Vaidisova d. V.Williams
...6-7/6-1/6-3. Lose a 4-1 1st set lead, then a 5-2 advantage in the tie-break? No matter. Vaidisova's got nerves of steel in Paris. She's now 33-5 in career three-set matches
2.QF - Kuznetsova d. Safina
...7-6/6-0. In the 1st set here, Safina found out what it's like to blow a 5-1 lead. Needless to say, she didn't handle the experience very well.
3.QF - JHH d. Groenefeld
...7-5/6-1. Queen Justine has yet to lose a set, so far.
4.QF - Clijsters d. Hingis
...7-6/6-1. Vaidisova was the only player who rebounded at all from losing a tight opening set today. Hingis crumbled, Groenefeld capitulated and Safina disappeared.
5.Jr. 3rd Rd - Cornet d. Wozniacki
...3-6/7-5/8-6. Uh-oh. 8-6 in the 3rd set again for a young Pastry? Well, at least this time (unlike with Virginie Pichet's two-step with Kirsten Flipkens in the qualies & 1st Round) Cornet won't have to face, and lose to, Wozniacki again in her very next match.


...hmmm. In the 1st Round, Mashona Washington blew a 5-2 3rd set lead to Maria Sharapova, who blew a 5-1 3rd set lead in the Round of 16 to Dinara Safina, who blew a 5-1 1st set lead to Svetlana Kuznetsova today.

Is the Contessova next in line to fall in this pigeon-powered chain of events?



=="Mademoiselle Opportunity"==
Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Last Russian Standing

=="It" Girl==
Nicole Vaidisova, naturally



35-11.....2006 RECORD
413-45....CAREER vs. OUTSIDE TOP 10
32-3......2006 vs. OUTSIDE TOP 10
93-67.....CAREER vs. TOP 10
3-8.......2006 vs. TOP 10



1.Nicole Vaidisova
2.Kim Clijsters

RISER: Dinara Safina
SURPRISE: Anna-Lena Groenefeld
VETERANS: Martina Hingis & Venus Williams
FRESH FACES: Nicole Vaidisova & Shahar Peer
DOWN: Amelie Mauresmo

1. 4th - Safina d. Sharapova...7-5/2-6/7-5
2. 4th - Vaidisova d. Mauresmo...6-7/6-1/6-2
3. QF - Vaidisova d. V.Williams...6-7/6-1/6-3



Pierre wins RG 12-10 (2006: Pierre 31-29)
Re-Picks: Backspin 6-2, Pierre 5-3

Backspin wins 6-4 (2006: Backspin 36-29)
Re-Picks: Pierre 3-1, Backspin 2-2

Pierre wins 2-1 (2006: Pierre 18-16)
Re-Picks: (coming tomorrow)


DAY 11: Wednesday, June 7

...the last two of the men's quarters take centerstage tomorrow, but there are two doubles matches of some passing interest, as well. Martina Navratilova/Bob Bryan face Maria Kirilenko/Leander Paes in the Mixed QF, while Anna Chakvetadze/Elena Vesnina battle Zi Yan/Jie Zheng in the women's doubles.

All for Day 10.


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