Sunday, June 01, 2008

RG.8- The Styles Make the Serbs

Hey, why NOT use a little classic TV comedy history to place the Serbs into a proper context?

"Give us any chance we'll take it
Read us any rule we'll break it
We're going to make our dreams come true
Doing it our way.

Nothing's going to hold us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We're going to make our dreams come true.

There ain't nothing we won't try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there's no stopping us." - lyrics from "Making Our Dreams Come True" theme song of ABC series "Laverne & Shirley" (1976), by Cyndi Grecco

Way back when there was a little show called "Laverne & Shirley," which featured the team of two young women who were clearly dissimilar on the surface, but who together formed a solid bond through friendship that strengthened them both. All right, so Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic aren't QUITE the same as "L&S"... but there's enough different about them that the linking of their careers in tennis history will surely provide an interesting point/counterpoint about how two players can naturally take two very different paths in an attempt to reach the same destination.

No, not Milwaukee... but the 2008 Roland Garros final.

Jankovic might not have a "J" monogrammed on all her clothes ala "Laverne," but she sports similar dramatic tendencies. The slightest bump is reason to be pessimistic in a Jelena match, as the inner cynic is never very far from the surface. Jelena might not enjoy a milk & Pepsi combo (though, who knows?), but she surely could keep Kleenex stock high all by her lonesome with her repeated trips to the back of the court to wipe her nose. Sometimes, you get the feeling she's got some form of A.D.D.. Well, either that or you just want to reach across the world to shake her and say, "Snap out of it!"

Ivanovic, on the other hand, has the cheery, apple-cheeked "Shirley" vibe going pretty strong right about now. She's even got her own signature celebration -- the clenched fist and body spin move. We've been seeing that one a lot in Paris. She might not have her Boo Boo Kitty stuffed animal tucked perfectly away in her tennis bag as "Shirley" might, but AnaIvo certainly always seems to have everything in place when she's on the court. With her often seemingly-calm demeanor, it's sometimes a shock to the system when you see a bead of sweat trickle down the side of her face.

Jelena is easily deemed the "fun-loving one," with all the good AND bad connotations. Ana is fun, too... but she goes about it on her own terms.

On Day Eight, the Serbs' respective Round of 16 matches only served to further highlight the starkly opposite standard operating procedures of the two. AnaIvo added another victim to her "Please Ana, Don't Hurt 'em" list -- Petra Cetkovska, who went down with a double-bagel in the city of croissants. Very neat and tidy. Meanwhile, Jankovic was her usual clothes-strewn-all-over-the-court self, seemingly well on her way to an easy victory over Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-3/5-2 lead and a couple of match points... only to choose then to blink and allow A-Rad back into the match. From her wrapped forearm to her tended-to shoulder/neck, and from her constantly sniffling nose to her call-questioning and ball exchange smirking "flights of fancy," Jelena just couldn't help herself and ended up making the end of the 2nd set a stomach flip-flopping affair. She eventually won a deciding tie-break... and everyone should give a hearty thanks to A-Rad for missing that backhand long on match point, because Jankovic was a few points away from taking us all on another of her crazed U-turns in the middle of the highway. Remember Tamira Paszek in Melbourne in January? Visions of that were about to be flashing before everyone's eyes.

AnaIvo... "Shirley?" Jelena... "Laverne?" Close enough at least. Yet, somehow, they find themselves in exactly the same Final Eight position in this tournament.

Hmm... if Jelena is Laverne, and AnaIvo is Shirley, does that mean Novak Djokovic is relegated to being "The Big Ragu?" Poor guy... even though he HAS gone from "rags to riches." You know, since "L&S" was a spin-off of "Happy Days," he COULD be The Fonz. Of course, then that would leave open the roles of Potsie and/or Ralph Malph rather than Lenny or Squiggy. Either way, someone's not going to be happy with their assigned lot in life.

Don't fret, I'll turn this thing around to a current television show at some point.

Anyway, needless to say, both Ivanovic and Jankovic are currently traveling down different paths on the same road hopefully leading to the same place. While one would expect AnaIvo to take the scenic route all planned out for her in the tourist guide book, rarely deviating off course, Jankovic is almost contractually obligated to NOT beat a proper path, and occasionally traipse into the woods in search of that odd-looking flower that she thought she saw out of the corner of her eye the other day.

And that's just what's happened so far in Paris.

Somehow, it looks like they both may end up meeting just outside the city limits, right at the fork in the road... and that fork is now but one match away in the semifinals. If the tennis Gods had any sense of television history, both "Laverne" AND "Shirley" would be able to play in the Roland Garros final. But THAT is not in the script... not this season, anyway. Thus, one of the two will see their route to the capital of the Land of Opportunity deemed the "correct" one, while the other goes in search of a date with Richie Cunningham or that strange visitor from Ork.

And so it goes.

(Sorry about this, but I was obviously feeling a tad punchy today.)

...putting a little teeth in the old axiom (or would it be a rule of science?) that what goes up must come down, both Flavia Pennetta and Katarina Srebotnik fell flat in their attempts to follow up their Day Six upsets of the Williams sisters. Pennetta was taken out in straights by qualifier Carla Suarez-Navarro, who's the first Q-survivor to reach the QF of a slam since Severine Bremond did it at Wimbledon in 2006, while Srebotnik was shown the exit door by the always tricky (and "Sneaky") Patty Schnyder. This is the first time Schnyder has reached the RG QF since 1998 after having lost in the Round of 16 five of the last six years. Don't worry, Patty gets AnaIvo, not Jelena. A Patty-Jelena match would entail the theorizing about so many wild potential scenarios -- both realistic and surreal -- that your Friendly Neighborhood Backspinner would probably be curled up in a ball of confusion in the corner if that QF was on deck.

...three of the five French men remaining in the draw were eliminated on Day Eight. That leaves only Julien Bennete-... hmm, he plays Federer, doesn't he? Um, that leaves only Gael Monfils to carry on the hopes of the home nation.

...oh, all right, here's one scenario. Patty whizzes a ball past Jelena's head... Jelena calls for a trainer to treat her wind burned earlobe. "I honestly didn't think I'd be able to go on. It REALLY hurt," declares Jankovic after the match. Real or imagined? You be the judge.

...#11-seeds Peng Shuai & Sun Tiantian lost in the 3rd Round of doubles to Victoria Azarenka & Shahar Peer. Hey, at least the Cookies won't have to worry about that matchup in Beijing... unless Benjamin Linus turns a wheel and Jerusalem suddenly pops up on the outskirts of Minsk.

...yes, that's an inane "Lost" reference. See, I told you I'd bring this "classic TV" thing into the present eventually.

...Nuria Llagostera-Vives & Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez knocked off #12-seeded Lisa Raymond/Samantha Stosur. Oh, well, at least the old team is finally back together again. (Okay, marking Raymond/Stosur off the potential "Comeback" award winner list.)

...the #4-seeded Bogdan (Ana) lost to Richel Hogenkamp in the 1st Round of Girls Singles action, but have no fear -- the #10-seeded Bogdan (Elena) won her 1st Round match. What did I say about what comes up must come down? Of course, this one might involve the rare-utilized Romanian version of the same rule.

...and, finally, I recently dug out a notebook of my old, old pre-Backspin grand slam tennis writings from 1986-93, put together when I was a but a wee lad with a cow lick and a penchant for short pants. Well, not really. I mean, I did write them for practice and my own amusement when I was in school... but I never had a cow lick, nor wore short pants when I wrote any of the stuff. In any event, I'm going to begin a new Backspin "Time Capsule" series using what I wrote then about particular women's (and sometimes men's, too) slam finals. What goes up will depend on whatever slam happens to be taking place at the time, and they'll either be posted before or during the current event. Thus, sometime this coming week I'll post what I wrote after 17-year old Steffi Graf won her first career slam at Roland Garros in 1987... and probably note whenever I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, and maybe when I didn't, too.

Should be fun. Or not. We'll see.

AO (2003-08): 2r (4)=4r=SF
RG (2004-07): 1r (2)=3r=SF
W (2004-07): 1r=3r=4r (2)
US (2004-07): 2r=3r=SF=QF
#- 13 of 14 return trips to slams (pre-'08 RG) have resulted in an equal or better result than the previous year

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)
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 8. More tomorrow.


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