Saturday, May 31, 2008

RG.7- Birds on the Wire

"I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, you must not ask for so much.
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, hey, why not ask for more?

Oh like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free." - lyrics from "Bird on the Wire" (1968), by Leonard Cohen

The Sweet Sixteen in Paris can't outrun reality no matter how hard they try. Some will see their dreams end in the blink of an eye, while others (umm, about half of them) will wish for more for yet another round in the Land of Opportunity.

#1 Sharapova vs. #13 Safina
#7 Dementieva vs. #11 Zvonareva

...hmmm, I'll guess that the survivor here will be a Russian. Ha! Dementieva, the '04 RU the last time this tournament was turned upside down because of the absence of Justine Henin, has had the most RG success of this group. Safina and Zvonareva have probably had the better overall clay court seasons... though both could revert to their former selves and melt into a puddle of goo at any moment in these big matches. My, now THAT would be a mess on the red clay, wouldn't it? Which leaves us with Sharapova, who's been "enjoying" a bumper car ride through the first three rounds. The Supernova is 3-2 against Safina (1-1 on clay, though the loss was in the '06 RG 4th Rd.), 8-2 against Dementieva (1-0) and 5-3 versus Zvonareva (1-0). So, maybe things ARE falling into place for Sharapova. PICK: DEM-... no, ZVON-... no, SAF-... well, I might as well bite the bullet and pick Sharapova even though I might not be able to look at myself in the mirror in the morning
#4 Kuznetsova vs. #16 Azarenka
Kanepi vs. Kvitova

...this would seem to be Kuznetsova's section to win. She was the '06 RG RU, and was Henin's personal favorite to win this title. But while the Contessova has allowed an average of just 4.7 games per match through three rounds, it should be noted that 18-year old Azarenka has allowed an average of -- get this -- TWO. The talent has always been there for the teenager from Belarus, but she's yet to win her maiden title on tour after tour trips to finals (two this season). Of course, Kuznetsova hasn't won one outright on the court for about a year and a half, either. Kanepi was the '01 RG Girls champion (she beat Safina and Kuznetsova along the way), while 18-year old Czech Maiden Kvitova is the youngest player left in the field. She's only ranked #87, but she's had enough big wins this season (the latest her 3rd Round three-setter over Agnes Szavay) to make you believe she's going to at least be quite close to being the top-ranked Czech by the end of the season. My head says Kuznetsova will emerge here, but my gut says Azarenka... and my heart sort of wants to go with Kvitova. PICK: hey, I picked AZARENKA as a surprise semifinalist at the start of this thing, so I'll stick with her
#26 Pennetta vs. (Q) Suarez-Navarro
#3 Jankovic vs. #14 A.Radwanska

...if Jankovic doesn't reach the SF from this group she'll only have herself to blame -- which she might if she doesn't play more aggressively throughout against A-Rad than she did versus Cibulkova. If she allows the Pole to stick around and mess with her mind, as she has a tendency to do against top players at times, this could be a very uncomfortable match to watch... sort of like how your stomach feels when you go over the crest of a hill too fast in a car. 19-year old Last Qualifier Standing Suarez-Navarro has shown some great mettle this season. Pennetta's never gone past this point in a slam. Just a thought to ponder before their match-up. PICK: JANKOVIC, but not without some anxious moments
#10 Schnyder vs. #27 Srebotnik
#2 Ivanovic vs. Cetkovska

...Jankovic might still trip up, but it'd be difficult to envision AnaIvo doing it here. Sharapova is the #1 seed, but Ivanovic has been the one playing like it. Schnyder's nursing an ankle, while Srebotnik will be interesting to watch to see if her career-best win over Serena will inject her with enough confidence to continue this ride, or if she'll have the sort of characteristic letdown here that often comes after such a moment in the career of a player who doesn't have a whole lot of experience handling them. PICK: IVANOVIC, with ease

#1 Federer vs. Benneteau
#24 F.Gonzalez vs. Ginepri

...Federer is going for his sixteenth straight slam SF, and it'd have been hard to envision any of these three halting that run even before he seemed to turn up the volume on his game the other day. Watch, he'll win this thing and all the questions about him a few months ago will be like a bad dream by the end of the summer. PICK: FEDERER, reminding everyone who they're talking about
#28 Ljubicic vs. Monfils
#5 Ferrer vs. #21 Stepanek

...neither Ljubicic nor Monfils has ever come up truly big in a slam (though the Croat was a RG semifinalist in '06), but one of them is going to be a win away from a SF -- and only Monfils could have Chatrier living and dying on a point-by-point basis. The winner of the Ferrer/Stepanek match is going to be the last line of defense when it comes to keeping Federer out of the final. PICK: FERRER, though Monfils would be a real trip on the 25th anniversary of Yannick Noah's out-of-the-blue title in 1983 (maybe one day Monfils' son will be picked up for marijuana possession, too)
Gulbis vs. Llodra
#3 Djokovic vs. #18 Mathieu

...two Frenchmen here, but Djokovic would seem to be on his way to a fifth straight SF-or-better result at a slam. In fact, he might be Federer's best chance at finally winning this title. If the Serb can knock off Nadal, the Swiss Mister is suddenly the favorite. PICK: DJOKOVIC, trying once again to be part of an all-Serb slam sweep of the singles titles
#19 Almagro vs. Chardy
#2 Nadal vs. #22 Verdasco

...come on, Nadal is 24-0 in Paris. He'll eventually lose, and while Almagro is better than his name recognition, it won't be in this section. PICK: NADAL, eyeing Roger-Rafa Rumble at Roland Garros, Part Trois

...Jelena Jankovic finished off her 3rd Round match against Dominika Cibulkova that was called yesterday with JJ leading 7-5/4-2. Hmmm, wonder if Venus might have been able to do the same today had she pushed -- even just a little... gently -- for HER match to be called yesterday. It was interesting listening to Tennis Channel's (courtesy of the BBC, since it hadn't aired on TC earlier in the day?) match coverage of Venus-Pennetta last night, with the announcer noting that the Jankovic match had been stopped so this one likely would be, too, after the current game. It was 3-2 in the 2nd set at the time... but the match finished with Pennetta winning 6-3.

...oh, Nadia. Petrova just wasn't present in her 3rd Round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova today. Apparently, it was an all-day thing, as she and Patty Schnyder lost their 1st Round doubles match against Casey Dellacqua & Francesca Schiavone, too.

...Maria Sharapova nearly squandered the 1st set of her match against Karin Knapp, serving at 5-4 put failing to close out the set. The Italian ended up pushing things into a tie-break, where Sharapova stepped things up and won it, then bageled Knapp in the 2nd set. Roger Federer has been remarkable since he fumbled away the 1st set of his 2nd Round contest against Albert Montanes, carrying over his momentum by working over Mario Ancic today in a clinic. Did Sharapova finally get fed up earlier today and rattle her own cage straight for the rest of the tournament, as well? We'll see against Safina.

...Ashley Harkleroad gets things done with her clothes ON, too. (Oh, the double entendres that could be made there if Sesil was the topic of that sentence.) At least she did on Day Seven when she and Galina Voskoboeva upset the #2-seeded doubles team of Srebotnik/Sugiyama in the 2nd Round. Of course, with her singles fortunes as they are, was Katarina as focused (or rested) as she would normally be in such a match? Certainly, Jonas Bjorkman's doubles results dipped a while back when he found himself in surprising positions in slam singles draws. American remains in singles -- Robby Ginepri in the men's Round of 16. Even though his pre-RG clay results were showing some improvement coming into Paris, he's not likely the one anyone would have expected to be the Last Yank Standing.

...and, finally, what kind of reality is it on the women's side where there are more players named Petra still playing than there are any named Williams? Ah, welcome to the post-Taureau era.

5...Russia (Dementieva-Kuznetsova-Safina-Sharapova-Zvonareva)
2...Czech Republic (Cetkovska-Kvitova)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic-Jankovic)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Estonia (Kanepi)
1...Italy (Pennetta)
1...Poland (A.Radwanska)
1...Slovenia (Srebotnik)
1...Spain (Suarez-Navarro)
1...Switzerland (Schnyder)
#1...Maria Sharapova
#2...Ana Ivanovic
#3...Jelena Jankovic
#4...Svetlana Kuznetsova
#8...Elena Dementieva
#11...Patty Schnyder
#12...Vera Zvonareva
#14...Dinara Safina
#15...Agnieszka Radwanska
#17...Victoria Azarenka
#24...Katarina Srebotnik
#30...Flavia Pennetta
#49...Kaia Kanepi
#77...Petra Cetkovska
#87...Petra Kvitova
#132...Carla Suarez-Navarro
19...A.Radwanska-Suarez Navarro

5...France (5 men)
5...Russia (5 women)
5...Spain (4 men/1 woman)
3...Czech Republic (2 women/1 man)
3...Serbia (2 women/1 man)
2...Switzerland (1 man/1 woman)
1...Belarus (1 woman)
1...Chile (1 man)
1...Croatia (1 man)
1...Estonia (1 woman)
1...Italy (1 woman)
1...Latvia (1 man)
1...Poland (1 woman)
1...Slovenia (1 woman)
1...United States (1 man)

#1...Melanie Oudin, USA
#2...Arantxa Rus, NED
#3...Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
#4...Ana Bodgan, ROU
#5...Jessica Moore, AUS
#6...Polona Hercog, SLO
#7...Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
#8...Kurumi Nara, JPN
#1...Bernard Tomic, AUS
#2...Cesar Ramirez, MEX
#3...Jonathan Eysseric, FRA
#4...Yuki Bhambri, IND
#5...Henrique Cunha, BRA
#6...Jose Pereira, BRA
#7...Marcelo Arevalo, FRA
#8...Juan Vazquez Valenzuela, ARG

TOP QUALIFIERS: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez/ESP & Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Ana Ivanovic/SRB
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st- Sharapova d. Rodina 6-1/3-6/8-6
FIRST SEED OUT: #15 Nicole Vaidisova/CZE (1st-Benesova)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: Serena Williams/USA (3r- lost to Srebotnik)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Maria Sharapova/RUS [2 pts. from 1st Rd. loss]
LAST PASTRIES STANDING: Alize Cornet & Emilie Loit (both 3rd Rd.)

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


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