Thursday, August 28, 2008

US 4- Ivano-victimized

When Julie Coin received her mathematics degree at Clemson, she surely never dreamed she'd see this day. I'd say that Ana Ivanovic didn't think SHE'D experience what she did on Day Four, either... but I'm not quite sure that's the case.

Adieu, AnaIvo... again / AFP/Don Emmert

With Justine Henin having retired just weeks earlier, Ivanovic WAS a deserving #1 player when she claimed the spot back in June just days before winning her first slam title at Roland Garros. But the top spot can be as much a burden as an honor, especially for a young player who didn't see the Belgian's exit coming and wasn't prepared to take her place. The same sport-topping mantle that La Petit Taureau perched herself atop with such authority has been nothing less than a plague on AnaIvo's life and times this summer, a situation only further exacerbated by a thumb injury that curtailed her ability to prepare for and participate on the hard court circuit the last month and a half.

After briefly looking the part of #1 in Paris, she hasn't come close since.

It all came to a head in her 2nd Round match today against Coin, a 25-year old qualifier from France who'd never played a main draw match on tour until two days ago, when she defeated Casey Dellacqua to get the first Top 100 win of her career. Ivanovic gives her two, after a 6-3/4-6/6-3 win that Coin admittedly didn't believe was possible.

It shouldn't have been, either. Ivanovic should have been able to take control of a match like this, but instead it was Coin who was the steadier of the two. It was she who was more consistently aggressive. And, in the end, it was Coin who seized her opportunities to win.

#133 Zheng Jie (WC) - Wimbledon 3rd Round
#94 Tamira Paszek - Montreal 3rd Round
#188 Julie Coin (Q) - U.S. Open 2nd Round

In the 1st set, Coin led 5-3. While serving to stay in the set, an Ivanovic forehand was called in on the baseline, seemingly giving the Serb a 40/30 advantage. But Coin's replay challenge was upheld and the ball was declared out, giving the Pastry a set point. Moments later, Ivanovic netted a backhand and the storyline for this match was set.

At Wimbledon, Ivanovic barely survived a 2nd Round encounter with Nathalie Dechy, but a seed was planted in her psyche that made her question her ability to stay in the tournament. One round later, she lost to wild card Zheng Jie. After she nearly squandered her 1st Round match against Vera Dushevina at this U.S. Open, it was apparent that the vultures were circling on her chances this time around, too. A confident player would have ignored them... but AnaIvo apparently took them to heart. Again.

In the 2nd set, Coin began to feel the magnitude of what she was close to pulling off. With victory in sight, she blinked for the first and only time in the match. After being broken to give Ivanovic a 5-4 lead, Coin lost twelve of fourteen points to end the set and proceed to a 3rd. There, the roles were reversed.

Up 40/love on Coin's serve at 2-2, Ivanovic failed to grab the lead and put the qualifier in her place. Coin held, finishing off the save with a forehand nicely placed in a narrow opening past an approaching Ivanovic. She then broke AnaIvo at love to go up 4-2, and ran her consecutive points streak to ten.

By then, Ivanovic was past the point of no return. Coin was the believer, while AnaIvo was the pretender.

Leading 5-3, Coin double-faulted on her first match point, but didn't crumble under the pressure again. Ivanovic painted a line to survive a second match point, but then sailed a forehand long on the third to finally end the match. Poof! The #1 seed was gone. Within seemingly mere seconds, Ivanovic had exited the court with a weak wave to the crowd, looking for a place to hide. Again.

A Fountain of Coin / AFP/Getty Images/Matthew Stockman

Even with the historic significance of this upset -- rankings-wise, it's the biggest in U.S. Open history and it marks the first time the women's top seed has exited the event this early in forty years of Open Era tennis -- it's not really a TRUE "shocker." Ivanovic is far from a proven commodity as the #1 player. Rather than be inspired by her accomplishment, she's been diminished by it.

Hmmm, maybe Jankovic ISN'T the most dramatic Serb, after all?

Obviously, Ivanovic just wasn't emotionally ready to assume the top ranking. Not yet, anyway. I guess now we know why her inner circle didn't tell her that that semifinal meeting in Paris against Jankovic was for the #1 ranking until AFTER the match, huh?

As things stand, Ivanovic's '08 slam results read like an economy in downturn -- RU = W = 3rd Round = 2nd Round. She's only 4-3 as the #1-ranked player, and has three losses to players ranked outside the Top 93. While talented enough to attain the top spot, she's just not mentally strong enough at the moment to hold onto it. So, please, someone take it from her before she hurts herself.

Does anyone out there really WANT the #1 ranking?

"I do."

Serena, is that you? Dinara?

We'll soon find out.

As I suspected might be the case after she pulled out of the U.S. Open, USA TODAY is reporting that Maria Sharapova's agent says that the Supernova won't be returning to the tour this season after rehabilitating her rotator cuff injury. Better safe now than sorry later.

...the "Last Qualifier Standing" race is down to two, as Coin and Anna-Lena Groenefeld remain. Coin next faces countrywoman Amelie Mauresmo (they played at the same club in the past), while ALG goes up against yet another Pastry, Alize Cornet. tiny section of the draw has worked out so that Venus Williams might have a shot to knock off four DIFFERENT tennis siblings -- Alona Bondarenko in the 3rd Round, Agnieszka Radwanska in the 4th Round, Serena Williams in the QF and Dinara Safina in the SF.

...speaking of sisters, the Radwanskas lost in doubles to the Chinese Olympic Bronze-winning pair of Yan Zi & Zheng Jie today.

...SOME MATCHES OF NOTE: #20 Nicole Vaidisova was bounced from the tournament by wild card Severine Bremond, Venus and Serena allowed a total of five TOTAL games in their two singles matches today, and Cornet ended any hopes of seeing whether or not Bethanie Mattek would revert to past fashion form should she be scheduled for a night match

...and, finally, the night session saw Serena Williams and Rafa Nadal totally out-class their opponents in a really fine example of poor scheduling. Things could be interesting tomorrow night, though, as Lindsay Davenport (vs. Marion Bartoli) and Andy Roddick (vs. Ernests Gulbis) return for seconds at Ashe Stadium.

=EARLY ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rds.=
TOP PLAYER: Venus Williams/USA
...if all three weren't in the same half of the draw, at this point it'd be difficult to see a final that didn't include two of three from the group of Venus, Serena and Safina (well, maybe Dementieva, I guess.) But it's only Day Four. (RU: Serena Williams/USA & Dinara Safina/RUS))
RISERS: Li Na/CHN & Zheng Jie/CHN
...with Beijing behind them, the Cookies can now operate without the Olympic pressure lurking beyond every corner. (ALSO: Elena Dementieva/RUS)
SURPRISES: Julie Coin/FRA & Tatiana Perebiynis/UKR
...they knocked out the two highest seeds to fall so far in either the men's or women's draws. (ALSO: Anne Keothavong/GBR)
VETERANS: Nadia Petrova/RUS & Amelie Mauresmo/FRA
...either Mauresmo or Petrova could be the big beneficiaries of Ivanovic's exit. (ALSO: Severine Bremond/FRA))
FRESH FACES Ekaterina Makarova/RUS & Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
...the NextGen Hordettes and Slovaks are making their marks. (ALSO: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Victoria Azarenka/BLR)
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...she had a ready excuse -- the thumb and lack of match play -- coming in, but the world #1 should be able to out duel #188 if she's truly worthy of being the top-ranked player in the world. (ALSO: Anna Chakvetadze, Vera Zvonareva & Maria Kirilenko/RUS)
COMEBACKS: Lindsay Davenport/USA & Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER
...Davenport is still standing without pain, and ALG is serving some scorchers (Cornet could be in trouble in the 3rd Round).

MOST ODDLY DRAMATIC MATCH INVOLVING A SERB: 2nd Rd. - Jankovic def. Arvidsson 6-3/6-7/7-4 2:44, "Down Goes Jankovic!" turned out to be a rallying cry for the world #2. Sure, she said that if she'd cramped up during the match like she did on the treadmill after the match that she might have had to retire -- but does anyone really believe that? Nope. We'd just been treated to a classic, multiple trainer-calling, wince-inducing production number that would have gone down in the annals of Open history. Darn it... it's a rare occasion when you can accuse Jelena of not being dramatic ENOUGH.
MOST SADLY DRAMATIC/HISTORIC MATCH INVOLVING A SERB: 2nd Rd. - Coin def. Ivanovic 6-3/4-6/6-3's surprising that Coin was the player who got it done, but anyone who was actually paying attention (not Mr. Courier, I guess) before the Open began knew that AnaIvo was going to be susceptible to a potential early-round upset.

FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Shahar Peer/ISR (lost to Li Na)
UPSET QUEENS: The Chinese (Li def. Peer/Errani, Zheng d. Medina-Garrigues, Peng d. Daniilidou)
REVELATION LADIES: Even with Daniela Hantuchova being ousted in the 1st Round, the Slovaks still put two players -- Dominika Cibulkova and Magdalena Rybarikova -- into the 3rd Round. (RU: The Ukrainians, with Alona Bondarenko and Tatiana Perebiynis in the final 32)
ZOMBIE QUEEN (1r-2r): She's not likely to win the tournament after her bone yard escape against Sofia Arvidsson, but Jelena Jankovic wears THIS crown rather well. Of course, if the draw falls the right way, she could take this unsteady walk into the SF and maybe beyond.
CRASH & BURNER (1r-2r): That "whew!" sound you hear is Maria Sharapova's expression of relief that her reign as the victim of "most shocking U.S. Open upset ever" only lasted one year. Ana Ivanovic, expect a thank-you card in the mail... it might be handwritten, too, since Maria has some extra time on her hands.
FASHION NEWSMAKER: Venus Williams' all-black nighttime attire... the star of an otherwise rather boring U.S. Open fashion show in '08.
PER CHANCE TO DREAM?: Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport... healthy, still kicking and seeing some light at the end of the draw tunnel after some very frustrating months.

Oh, and Nadia's lurking, too... but that's all I'll say about that, just in case.

21...Venus Williams
16...Martina Navratilova
14...Chris Evert

AO: Russians
RG: Czechs
WI: Russians
US: Chinese

AO: Poles
RG: Czechs
WI: Russians
US: Slovaks

2007 US: Maria Sharapova (3rd Rd)
2008 AO: Svetlana Kuznetsova (3rd Rd)
2008 RG: Serena Williams (3rd Rd)
2008 WI: Maria Sharapova (2nd Rd)
2008 US: Ana Ivanovic (2nd Rd)

5...France (Bartoli-Bremond-Coin-Cornet-Mauresmo)
5...Russia (Dementieva-Kuznetsova-Makarova-Petrova-Safina)
3...USA (Davenport-Williams-Williams)
2...China (Li-Zheng)
2...Italy (Garbin-Pennetta)
2...Slovakia (Cibulkova-Rybarikova)
2...Switzerland (Bacsinszky-Schnyder)
2...Ukraine (A.Bondarenko-Perebiynis)
1...Austria (Bammer)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Denmark (Wozniacki)
1...Germany (Groenefeld)
1...Great Britain (Keothavong)
1...Japan (Sugiyama)
1...Poland (A.Radwanska)
1...Serbia (Jankovic)
1...Slovenia (Srebotnik)
Julie Coin
Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Severine Bremond

TOP QUALIFIERS: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Venus Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #15 Olaru/ROU def. #22 Larcher de Brito/POR 6-2/6-3
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #2 Jankovic/SRB def. Arvidsson/SWE 6-3/6-7/7-5
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Shahar Peer/ISR (1st Rd.-Li Na)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: #1 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 2nd Rd to #188 Coin)

All for Day 4. More tomorrow.

UPCOMING: Backspin Time Capsule: 1991 U.S. Open


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