Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Day 8: The Silent Majority

Beware the quiet ones.

While Maria Sharapova has made the headlines at this U.S. Open, Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport have stirred the hometown emotions, and even Jelena Jankovic has grabbed the spotlight with wins over some major power players, this tournament might end up being decided by two players who haven't really sought the spotlight nor been handed it through the first eight days.

Not that they need to say much... they've already collected all three of this year's previous slam titles. Obviously, talk is cheap.

Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne both posted wins on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals. Mauresmo outlasted a fitter (but not yet fit enough to fight until the bitter end in back-to-back matches) Serena Williams, while Henin-Hardenne positively blasted Shahar Peer into space while allowing her just one game in their match.

Of course, there's a reason why neither's name has been on the tip of everyone's tongue in New York. They don't court attention. And, anyway, Justine pretty much CAN'T say anything without being attacked for it from some corner, while Amelie has learned it's best to just go about her business at times likes this. It's worked pretty well so far for her in 2006.

A week ago, it seemed like a far-fetched bet to think that these two might meet in a third slam final this season, but as the draw has begun to clear out a bit the legitimate obstacles to such a trilogy are thinning considerably. Sharapova stands in Mauresmo's way in the top half, while Davenport is probably the sternest test left for Henin-Hardenne.

History tells us that those potential match-ups could go either way... but Amelie & Justine have seen fit to let their actions speak louder than any words so far this year (even in Melbourne... no matter how twisted the interpretation by others may have been).

If they don't deviate from that plan, it'd be difficult to argue against them having a pretty good shot at playing "Part III: The Battle to the Finish" on Saturday.

LOVE-LOVE... as the second week begins, the draw is breaking just right to reveal a few more award winners. With her upset of Svetlana Kuznetsova coming on the heels of her win over Nicole Vaidisova, Jelena Jankovic has grabbed hold of this slam's "It Girl" role. Meanwhile, "Miss Opportunity" Tatiana Golovin has more than taken advantage of her chances in New York to reach her first career slam QF. Finally back on track after her Miami ankle injury in early April, The Frussian Pastry will now be able to attempt to pick up her momentum where she left it off. In her next match, she'll face Maria Sharapova, her opponent in that fateful Miami SF that saw her crumpled in the corner of the court.

Australian Open: Martina Hingis (QF)
Roland Garros: #8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RU)
Wimbledon: (Q) Severine Bremond (QF)
U.S. Open: #27 Tatiana Golovin

*2006 "It GIRL" WINNERS*
Australian Open: Samantha Stosur (4th)
Roland Garros: #16 Nicole Vaidisova (SF)
Wimbledon: #27 Na Li (QF)
U.S. Open: #19 Jelena Jankovic

30-LOVE... with the QF set, I kept a slight edge over Pierre in the Battle Royale, clocking four correct picks to his three (thank you for being healthy enough to last this long, Lindsay).

3...Russia (Sharapova, Dementieva, Safina)
2...France (Mauresmo, Golovin)
1...Belgium (Henin-Hardenne)
1...Serbia (Jankovic)
1...USA (Davenport)

30-15... Serena wasn't ready at this slam, but barring another injury or a wavering in her desire, is it too early to pencil her in as a potential winner in Melbourne about five months from now?

#1 Mauresmo d. #12 Safina
#3 Sharapova d. #27 Golovin
#19 Jankovic d. #4 Dementieva
#2 Henin-Hardenne d. #10 Davenport

[top half]
#1 Federer d. Gicquel
#5 Blake d. #12 Berdych
Safin d. #14 Haas
#17 Murray d. #7 Davydenko

40-30... Andy Roddick still has to get past Lleyton Hewitt, who narrowly avoided blowing a two-set lead on Night 8 against a cramping Richard Gasquet (anyone for seeing Gasquet and Baghdatis' cramp-inspired hobbling set to some dance music?). But it's now time to cross the fingers and hope for that Roddick-Nadal semifinal for the right to (probably... well, okay, "certainly") face Roger Federer in the final. Roddick easily dispatched Agassi-killer Benjamin Becker on Monday, running his record with Jimmy Connors looking over his shoulder to 15-1. Ah... but can he beat Pong?
GAME, "Andre's not the only one ducking out the back door after this tournament is over"
... a few of the top doubles teams were upset in the 2nd Round on Day 8, as #4 Hantuchova/Sugiyama lost to Dechy/Zvonareva and #5 Groenefeld/Shaughnessy were knocked off by Ivanovic/Kirilenko. Which, of course, begs the question, are they subconsciously "stepping aside" to allow Martina Navratilova a clearer path to the final? And would Mary Carillo call them on it if they were? And would Roger Federer STILL be angry at her? Stay tuned.

All for Day 8.


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