Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 10: Banana Splits

Well, Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters won't see their QF matches from Day 10 anywhere near their career highlight package... but they did what they had to do to set up their long-awaited semifinal clash in Melbourne.



For all the surprise and inexperience in residence in the bottom half of the draw's final four, the top half's included four players who've combined for eight slam crowns... yet they all played like newcomers to the big stage on this day.

Sharapova's 7-6(5)/7-5 win over fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze was "highlighted" by a parade of blown opportunties by both players. In the 1st set, the two 19-year olds traded off throwing in double-faults on break point. In the resulting tie-break, eleven of the twelve points were won by the player RECEIVING serve... and it wasn't because they were rocketing back blistering returns, either. The 2nd set was little improvement, as Sharapova crossed the finish line first, but didn't exactly feel compelled to believe she's fully prepared for her SF meeting with Clijsters after such a lackluster performance.

But at least she's not Chakvetadze, who has to be kicking herself today after leaving a golden opportunity for a slam SF on the court. Where Shahar Peer tried (but ultimately failed) to take away HER QF match from Serena Williams, Chakvetadze never followed the same path against Sharapova. When she had the shots, she didn't take them. When she needed to be aggressive, she was passive. When her mind needed to focus, it seemed to go into "pause mode." She'll likely get another QF shot in a slam, but she might never get a better shot to push Sharapova off her pedestal than this one.

Clijsters, after looking great in earlier rounds, was no great shakes against Martina Hingis, either. She won 3-6/6-4/6-3 with a late surge in the 3rd that erased the hardly-stellar Hingis' 2-0 lead. But her 62 unforced errors were more akin to the "old" Kim than "my gal" Kim. As she said herself, only that she "fought and tried" can be taken as a positive from this performance.

But when the court seems to be littered with banana peels, and your game seems to manage to slip on all of them... yet you STILL win, you just take a deep breath and move on.

Both Maria and Kim will have forgotten about Day 10 by Day 11... if they know what's good for them.




Love-Love

...
Junior notes: #in the 3rd Round, 11 Urszula Radwanska, 16, upset #5 Tamira Paszek (who qualified for the main draw and won a match last week) in the only three-set ter of the eight Girls matches. In a somewhat surprising occurrence, the Girls' final eight includes as many Americans as Russians (which includes defending Girls '06 champ Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova).

**GIRLS' QUARTERFINALS**
#1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS) vs. #12 Nikola Hofmanova(CZE)
#6 Alize Cornet(FRA) vs. Chelsey Gullickson(USA)
#11 Urszula Radwanska(POL) vs. #3 Ksenia Milevskaya(BLR)
#8 Evgeniya Rodina(RUS) vs. #16 Madison Brengle(USA)


Meanwhile, three Aussies are in the Boys' final eight, with Brydan Klein's 6-2/6-7/6-1 upset of #1-seed Martin Klizan highlighting Day 10 action.

**BOYS' QUARTERFINALS**
Brydan Klein(AUS) vs. #5 Greg Jones(AUS)
#3 Roman Jebavy(CZE) vs. #10 Ricardas Berankis(LTU)
#8 Thomas Fabbiano(ITA) vs. John-Patrick Smith(AUS)
#12 Yan Bai(CHN) vs. #2 Jonathan Eysseric(FRA)


**AUSTRALIAN OPEN JUNIORS - by nation**
[Girls/Boys combined]
3...Australia (0/3)
2...Russia (2/0)
2...USA (0/2)
2...Czech Republic (1/1)
2...France (1/1)
1...Belarus (1/0)
1...China (0/1)
1...Italy (0/1)
1...Lithuania (0/1)
1...Poland (1/0)


=============================
Love-15...

**AUSTRALIAN OPEN GIRLS FINALS**
2000 Jelena Jankovic d. Sofia Arvidsson
2001 Aniko Kapros d. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
2002 Barbora Strycova d. Maria Sharapova
2003 Barbora Strycova d. Victoriya Kutuzova
2004 Shahar Peer d. Nicole Vaidisova
2005 Victoria Azarenka d. Agnes Szavay
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Caroline Wozniacki


=============================
Love-30... the top four seeds have all advanced to the Men's Doubles SF, along with three of the top four Women's seeds (they're joined by the unseeded Taiwanese team of Yung-Jan Chan and Chia-Jung Chuang, who handed Ashley Harkleroad another Oz indignity with a 6-0/6-0 QF win over the American and Galina Voskoboeva). On Day 10, top-seeded Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur were bounced by #3-seeded Cara Black & Liezel Huber.

**MEN'S DOUBLES SF**
#1 Bryan/Bryan vs. #3 Knowles/Nestor
#4 Hanley/Ullyett vs. #2 Bjorkman/Mirnyi
**WOMEN'S DOUBLES SF**
#3 Black/Huber def. #1 Raymond/Stosur
#2 Yan/Zheng vs. Y-J.Chan/C-J.Chuang
**MIXED DOUBLES QF**
#1 B.Bryan/Raymond vs. Mirnyi/Azarenka
#4 Bjorkman/Schiavone vs. Knowle/T.Sun
Nestor/Likhovtseva vs. #3 Paes/Stosur
#7 Ullyett/Huber vs. Healey/Stewart

=============================
15-30...

**MID-ROUND AWARDS**
[3rd Rd. to QF]

TOP PLAYER: Serena Williams (RU: Nicole Vaidisova))
RISER: Shahar Peer (RU: Anna Chakvetadze)
SURPRISE: Lucie Safarova (RU: Yung-Jan Chan & Chia-Jung Chuang)
VETERAN: Cara Black & Liezel Huber (RU: Martina Hingis))
FRESH FACE: Nicole Vaidisova (RU: Urszula Radwanska)
DOWN: Amelie Mauresmo (RU: Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur)

TOP MATCH: QF - S.Williams def. Peer... 3-6/6-2/8-6. The match that marked the official return of one champion, and possibly the arrival of a future one.


=============================
15-40... the men's singles SF were set, and either #12 Tommy Haas or #10 Fernando Gonzalez will be making a breakthrough with their first slam final against the winner of Federer/Roddick.
=============================
30-40...

**SEMIFINAL PICKS**
[WOMEN]
#1 Sharapova d. #4 Clijsters in 2 sets... not that the QF gave any indication one way or the other how this'll go. Clijsters has a 4-2 career record vs. Sharapova, but Sharapova was 2-0 against "my gal" Kim last season (both on hard court, both tight straight set victories).
S.Williams def. #10 Vaidisova in 3 sets... Vaidisova's serve gives her a chance, but Serena's been getting better with every round.
[MEN]
#1 Federer def. #6 Roddick in 3 sets... sure, he's improved and beat the Prince of All He Surveys in Kooyang, but Federer is 12-1 vs. the American when it counts.
#10 Gonzalez def. #12 Haas in 5 sets... Gonzo has been routinely mowing through players in this tournament, including Nadal on Day 10 right after Rafa's five-set win over Andy Murray. Haas, though, has shown little awe of the Swiss Mister and had more success against Federer in the past than the Chilean. Hmmm, wonder if that's a coincidence?
=============================
MATCH, "Tag, Shahar. You're it!"... Peer was branded as the Oz "It Girl" with Chakvetadze's off performance against Sharapova in the QF. The 2007 Australian Open designations:

IT GIRL: Shahar Peer
MISS OPPORTUNITY: Serena Williams or Nicole Vaidisova
UPSET QUEENS: Czechs
REVELATION LADIES: Belarussians
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Anabel Medina-Garrigues
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: (5 advanced to 2nd Round)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Serena Williams


=============================




All for Day 10.

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