Sunday, May 25, 2008

RG.1- The Curious Case of Nicole Vaidisova

The fall down the ladder, one rung at a time, continued unabated for Nicole Vaidisova on Day One in Roland Garros as she quickly became the first seed to fall.

Vaidisova's 7-6/6-1 loss at the hands of a fellow Czech Maiden, 25-year old qualifier Iveta Benesova, serves to further stake her claim as 2008's most disappointing player. The 19-year old's worst slam result since her grand slam debut at the '04 U.S. Open gives her just an 11-9 mark on the season and six straight losses dating back to February. And while there have been many young players that have failed to live up to early expectations in recent years -- from Daniela Hantuchova to Jelena Dokic to any of a number of the young Russians -- the slip of few have been as curious as Vaidisova's over the past year.

A few seasons ago, Vaidisova looked to be on the verge of something great in the power-first field of WTA contenders. She reached two slam SF in less than a year ('06 RG & '07 Oz), even while battling her own tendency to angrily fly off the handle at a moment's notice when things started to turn against her on the court. Since she ticked all the boxes necessary to make her a "carbon copy" of Maria Sharapova, it seemed as if her ride was going to be smooth once she matured just a little. But it hasn't happened. At this juncture, it's clear she's not a Sharapova clone. Not even remotely close... no matter how many commercials she may appear in at the moment.

After reaching #7 in the world last May, Vaidisova is closing in on slipping out of the Top 20 after a second straight slam step back. She followed up her '07 Oz SF with a 4th Round result in January, and her QF in Paris from a year ago was obliterated by her loss today.

Maybe her recent wrist injury, the type of which has deviled many other young players in recent years, has something to do with her current slide. She missed time a season ago with the same injury. Then there was the bout with mono that kept her out a while, too. It could be that this will turn out to be just a bump in the road for Vaidisova and she'll ultimately turn out to have a career at least approaching what was once dreamed for her a few seasons ago. After all, Jelena Jankovic is four years older than Vaidisova and still capable of reaching new career heights by the end of 2008.

But then there's all that Radek Stepanek stuff from the start of the season. What it's role in the mix is, who knows? But remember what happened the last time Stepanek was linked to a Czech-born female star... the Swiss Miss' career was soon over.

Did the Hingis Curse rub off on Radek, and he's now passed it on to Vaidisova? If so, this could be a very long season for Miss (Mrs.?) Nicole. Sigh.

...Maria Sharapova didn't have to play on the first Sunday, which will surely save the WTA from fielding a few p.o.'ed phone calls from a certain Supernova... Serena Williams got off on the right foot, though, getting her 1st Round match "over with" by dispatching Ashley Harkleroad 6-2/6-1. Hmmm, should Ashley be offended by being a player referred to as something akin to the first day of school? Maybe. But how many slams has she won compared to Serena? The cold, hard reality doesn't spare the feelings of anyone, even if she was a Fed Cup star just a few months ago... Farewell, three-time RG champ Gustavo Kuerten, who played his final match in Paris today, losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu. As fun as the likes of Djokovic and Baghdatis can be, has anyone really replaced the ready smile that Guga brought to the sport when he won his first slam title eleven years ago? ...Qualifier Eduardo Schwank took out #16 seed, '98 champ Carlos Moya, despite battling cramps down the stretch. This would be a shocking development if Moya didn't spend half of his season getting dumped out in the early rounds of events by people he probably shouldn't be losing to. I'm not sure which is harder to remember -- that Marcelo Rios was once ranked #1 in the world, or that Moya was... While no tip-top women's seed was really challenged on Day One, men's #3 Novak Djokovic had to work a little harder than most expected in a four-setter against Denis Gremelmayr. Fellow Serb, #32-seed Janko Tipsarevic didn't fare so well, though. He became the second men's seed to fall when he was knocked out late in the day by Nicolas Lapentti... One potential "1st Seed Out" candidate that I absent-mindedly neglected to mention before play began, #24 Virginie Razzano, was indeed upset by Klara Zakopalova. Thus, both the women's seeds kicked out on Day One were the victims of Czech Maidens... The Sara Errani/Gisela Dulko match was suspended with Errani leading 3-1 in the 3rd set... While three women's qualifiers (Benesova, Selima Sfar and Anastasiya Yakimova) and three men's qualifiers (Schwank, Maximo Gonzalez and Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen) won Day One matches, a "lucky loser" was a winner, too, when Sebastian Decoud defeated Olivier Rochus.

#9 Elena Dementieva, RUS (2006 Oz 1st - Schruff)
#10 Patty Schnyder, SUI (2005 Wimb. - Ant.Serra-Zanetti)
#15 Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER (2006 U.S. - Rezai)
#15 NICOLE VAIDISOVA, CZE (2008 RG - Benesova)

TOP QUALIFIERS: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez/ESP & Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xxx
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #15 Nicole Vaidisova/CZE (1st-Benesova)
IT GIRL: xxx

All for Day 1. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

While I appreciate what Vaidisova has gone through with injury and illness--in the end, I think her greatest problem is that she's a head case. She's pretty error-prone, and once she starts making errors, she gets shaky, which causes her to make more errors, and she self-destructs. There's quite a bit of talent there, but she can't seem to put it all together. I noticed she was absent from Charleston this year; I think she got tired of leaving every year after her first round.

Tue May 27, 12:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, I agree. One would like to have hoped that she'd have grown out of that a bit by now, but maybe not. And she was so close to the RG final in 2006 (just one shot from having match point), too... one wonders what would have happened had she managed to win that match against Kuznetsova.

Tue May 27, 05:29:00 PM EDT  

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