Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oz Preview: Supernova Wishes and Fairy Tale Dreams

Well, Melbourne was SUPPOSED to be the first in the Sharapova vs. Henin-Hardenne slam battles in 2007. But, in the one time words of Sugar Ray Leonard, "unfortunately, it'll never happen."

Of course, when boxing champion Leonard said that in the early 1980's he was talking about him fighting Marvelous Marvin Hagler... and a few years later, the two DID meet in the ring. Just like Maria and Justine will on the court for big-time honors in '07.

Just not in Melbourne. But that doesn't mean that a Russian and a Belgian might not be facing off at Rod Laver Arena in a big moment over the next two weeks.

But before talking about that, there's already been some important activity as far as the Australian Open qualifying is concerned:

TOP PLAYER: Julia Vakulenko
...the Ukrainian is something of a grand slam qualifying ace.
RISERS: Klara Zakopalova & Alla Kudryavtseva
...Zakopalova (then Koukalova) upset Seles in Melbourne in '03. Kudryavtseva was the only Russian to qualify for the main draw.
SURPRISE: Ahsha Rolle
...she was the only American, but that's not a HUGE surprise.
VETERAN: Anne Kremer 31, the lady from Luxembourg is the oldest qualifier.
FRESH FACES: Alize Cornet & Tamira Paszek
...meanwhile, these two 16-year olds are the youngest.
DOWN: Kateryna Bondarenko
...Alona's sister was the #1 seed in qualifying, but was upset in the opening round by Cornet.

1Q - Alize Cornet d. Kateryna Bondarenko
To keep up the boxing theme... "and down goes Bondarenko!"
3Q - Julia Vakulenko d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
The next Hordette starlet will have to wait a little while longer.

[by age]
31...Anne Kremer, LUX
24...Jorgelina Cravero, ARG
24...Klara Zakopalova, CZE
23...Stephanie Cohen Aloro, FRA
23...Julia Vakulenko, UKR
23...Renata Voracova, CZE
21...Ahsha Rolle, USA
21...Sandra Zahlavova, CZE
20...Andrea Klepac, SLO
19...Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS
16...Alize Cornet, FRA
16...Tamira Paszek, AUT
[by rank]
#116 Julia Vakulenko
#119 Klara Zakopalova
#134 Alla Kudryavtseva
#137 Ahsha Rolle
#156 Sandra Zahlavova
#157 Jorgelina Cravero
#158 Renata Voracova
#159 Anne Kremer
#160 Stephanie Cohen Aloro
#187 Tamira Paszek
#192 Alize Cornet
#212 Andrea Klepak

...since my and Pierre's picks were so similiar last week, I held onto my lead. We're tied 8-8 in Semifinalists, while I lead 8-4 in Finalists and 3-1 in Champions. (Whew, it took quite a while before I got three wins last season. It only took six events this year. Woo-hoo for 2007!)

...Anna-Lena Groenefeld is so hard up for victories on hard courts she has to feel good about facing qualifier Sandra Zahlavova in the 1st Round. Hmmm, maybe she SHOULDN'T feel so good, though... Clijsters vs. Bardina in the 1st Round? Nah, it couldn't happen, right?... "Vania over the Pacific" -- that's where Miss King will likely be sooner than she'd wish after drawing AnaIvo in the opening round... in the 2nd Round, all eyes could be on Ivanovic vs. Radwanska, and (again) Clijsters vs. Pironkova -- the same Bulgarian who upset Venus in Melbourne last year... the Round of 32 could give us some tasty matchups in the form of Hingis vs. the resurgent Mirza, and Safina vs. Na Li... and as for the "qualifier with the mostest?" -- I'll go with Vakulenko.

**ROUND OF 16**
#1 Sharapova d. #22 Zvonareva
#12 Chakvetadze d. #8 Schnyder
#4 Clijsters d. #15 Hantuchova
#19 Li d. #6 Hingis
#11 Jankovic d. #5 Petrova
#16 Peer d. #3 Kuznetsova
#10 Vaidisova d. #7 Dementieva
#2 Mauresmo d. Safarova

...either Safina or Li could be trouble for Hingis in the 4th Round. Jankovic over Petrova is based solely on momentum, but I wonder if Jelena lost her's when she didn't close out Clijsters in Sydney. Count this as Peer's first big slam upset of '07.

#1 Sharapova d. #12 Chakvetadze
#4 Clijsters d. #19 Li
#16 Peer d. #11 Jankovic
#2 Mauresmo d. #10 Vaidisova

...while I'm not real secure in the pick, I'm itching to pick Peer to go deep in a slam in '07 -- so why not get it out of the way early? I'd like to pick Vaidisova here, but Mauresmo is being overlooked a little TOO much.

#1 Sharapova d. #4 Clijsters
#2 Mauresmo d. #16 Peer

...Sharapova/Clijsters would be a great final, and I would have picked it had the draw cooperated. Again, I'd like to pick Peer, but I'm just not willing to walk that far out on the limb.

#1 Sharapova d. #2 Mauresmo

...if it was Maria vs. Kim, I'd be tempted to do a major backflip and go with the Clijsters fairy tale -- I'm starting to warm to the idea of an "eleventh hour" attempt to rehab her career slam history. But with "my gal" Kim missing, I HAVE to pick Sharapova. Bring on the Scenario!

...Pierre's picks can be found on his tennis blog, where he goes with a final matchup that I think would be a fabulous occurrence (at least in theory).

"The Daily Backspin" starts after Monday's matches, while my ATP picks (shocker -- I'm picking that guy from Switzerland!) can be found on ATP Backspin.

All for now.


Blogger Zidane said...

I have a question, I'm kind of lost now. I don't understand the last set score at the tournament. Some matches finish 5-4 or 5-2, others 7-6, others 8-7, I don't get it. Could you tell me what that is?

Mon Jan 15, 08:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I'm not sure where you're seeing sets that finish at 5-4, 5-2 or 8-7. Are you sure you're seeing FINAL scores?

Of course, you have the usual set to 6 (winning by two), or a tie-break that'd make it 7-6. In slams, the final sets (3rd for the women, 5th for the men) are played out until someone wins by two. There was a 16-14 set today. In doubles, I think they're using the Super Tie-Break in the final set, which I believe is the first to 10 points.

Of course, retirements could end with scores like 5-2 or 8-7, but it doesn't look like any of the players who retired on Monday had sets end like that.

Maybe there's something wrong with the scoreboard you're looking at?

Mon Jan 15, 11:24:00 AM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Yeah, the problem was the scoreboard, it's ok now, thanks, I knew it couldn't be real to get these weird results.

Mon Jan 15, 03:42:00 PM EST  

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