Friday, August 29, 2008

US 5- Serving it Out?

Let's hope it doesn't end like this.

After the early (or as "early" as it could be with two rain delays) night session match was completed, we had to once again wonder if we were seeing the last of Lindsay Davenport at a slam. At age 32, already once retired and having battled injuries all summer, every grand slam experience has the potential to be a final one in her Hall of Fame career. Tonight's loss was no exception.

Not Her Night / DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

On Night Five, Davenport fell to Marion Bartoli 6-1/7-6 in a match that saw her usually reliable serve let her down time and time again at crucial moments in a contest that the Pastry seemed to have in the bag, but in which she failed to succinctly stamp the American down when she had the chance with three break points for 5-2 in the 2nd, and while holding a match point at 5-3.

At 5-5, Davenport tossed in four double-faults (three to begin the game, and one to end it) to be broken, though she broke right back to force a tie-break. There, Davenport again double-faulted on the opening point, and didn't hold her serve until she found herself down 6-2. Bartoli won the breaker 7-3 to advance to the 4th Round (she'll face a second consecutive mom in Sybille Bammer) and continue her resurgent hard court summer.

As for Davenport, who knows? She's yet to let on whether or not she'll return in 2009. One would wish she would, for her best shot at one more run at a slam would probably come in Melbourne in January, when she'd likely be at her healthiest while many of the other top players would yet to be in peak form ('08 champ Maria Sharapova might not even be there, for all anyone knows, depending on how well her shoulder rehab goes).

But maybe Davenport isn't looking for a final dream slam to go out on, and is more inclined to wish to enjoy the experiences that tennis provides. She stated that one of her goals in her comeback was just to be able to play Wimbledon, the Open and the Olympics again this summer. She did that, if barely, thanks to her injuries and, tonight, lack of stamina after barely playing at all the last three or four months. One got the feeling earlier this year that if she could compete well through the U.S. Open, she might walk away happy. That didn't happen, though.

She surely wasn't happy when she walked off the court tonight, not wishing to grant an on-court interview. If she had anything definitive to say, she probably would have done so then. So, that might portend well for at least one more (if only partial) season on tour next year.

Still, no matter what, the clock isn't TOO far from striking midnight for the final time.

Well, Jelena Jankovic took to the court once again on Day Five. So, of course, the latest episode in her serialized tale of narrow escapes, winking humor in the face of danger and slow trek toward cult heroine status just HAS to chronicled.

Always the story, not yet the champ / Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Seriously, what would your Friendly Neighborhood Backspinner do without Queen Chaos to talk about every other day?

As always, Jankovic's 3rd Round match with Zheng Jie was an adventure. She actually broke the Chinese doubles Bronze Olympic medalist's serve in the opening game of the match, but it didn't reveal anything about how the afternoon was going to go for Jelena. It was just a tease... though a telling one, since fourteen of the match's twenty-four service games resulted in breaks of serve for the returner.

Serving up 5-4 in the 1st, Jankovic was broken. She won the set 7-5, but the extra long time it took to do it was a sign of things to come. In the twelfth game of the 2nd set, Jankovic ended up serving an eighteen minute, eleven-deuce, seven break point game that she finally put away on her fifth match point to win a 7-5/7-5 match in 2:10 that could have been finished up so much earlier.

As usual, Jankovic's inability to use her serve as a weapon means she has to work harder to win every point than most other players with grand slam dreams -- producing longer points and games, and serving to further wear her body down in a tournament where her draw if favorable, but probably not favorable enough for her to take full advantage of since she can never seem to get off the court without grinding herself down just a little bit more with each passing round.

To her credit, she usually finds ways to win matches like this (and the one against Sofia Arvidsson in the 2nd Round, not to mention the one against Arvidsson in which she trailed the Swede 5-1 in the 3rd in Miami, or the one against Paszek in Melbourne or... well, you get the idea), unlike another Serbian who shall go nameless. But doing it EVERY round is a recipe for another season without that elusive slam title on her resume.

But, as it is, she's still living and breathing and making my life a little easier every other day in this tournament. I'll be sad to see her leave this U.S. Open.

Who knows... maybe she'll defy all expectations and not leave until the final match. Now THAT would be some REAL drama, huh?

...later in the afternoon, it was another rendition of "down goes Svetlana Kuznetsova" that was played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. And, unlike Jankovic, the Russian didn't get right back up again. After the Contessova talked about how much she enjoyed the Open after her previous match, Katarina Srebotnik made her enjoyment a bit more muted with her 6-3/6-7/6-3 3rd Round win over the #3 seed and 2004 champion.

While Kuznetsova's failings are becoming less and less surprising, not to mention more and more uninteresting, 27-year old Srebotnik has had quite a slam journey for herself this summer. In Paris, she upset Serena Williams in the 3rd Round, as well. Then, at Wimbledon, she lost that marathon match with the 16-14 3rd set against Julia Goerges in the 1st Round. She'll next face Patty Schnyder for a spot in the quarterfinals.

...meanwhile, Jankovic's next opponent will be Caroline Wozniacki, the Suddenly Deadly Dane who won the all-Z Girls matchup with Victoria Azarenka on Day Five, 6-4/6-4. In just her second season of grand slam participation, C-Woz had now advanced to two Round of 16 matches, matching her 4th Round result in Melbourne (she lost to Ivanovic )from earlier this year.

...QUESTION: What exactly does Novak Djokovic have to do to get a night match around here? He was an unquestioned star under the lights a year ago, and has since won his first grand slam and Olympic Bronze. Now, Roddick -- who hasn't won a slam title in five years and has gone backwards in '08 rather than forward -- has notched two matches on the big stage in the more forgiving night temperatures. Yeah, yeah. Roddick's an American, a crowd favorite and is going to be given special treatment... but still, what exactly does Djokovic have to do to get ONE night match before the quarterfinals? I wouldn't be surprised if when the schedule for the next batch of matches in the bottom half of the men's draw is announced, the Roger Federer/Radek Stepanek matchup is chosen over the Serb-vs-Croat match between Djokovic and New Haven champ Marin Cilic. Sure, Federer is the four-time defending champ... but still.

...apparently, the word circulating around the Open is that Ashley Harkleroad might now be pregnant. She won't be awaiting Bartoli in a future round in this tournament, though.

...and, finally, as we begin Labor Day weekend in the U.S. (actually, I guess it'll technically begin during the late Roddick/Gulbis match, during which both will see their birthdays arrive at the stroke of midnight), Saturday's featured night matches will include Dinara Safina (now the last member of her family still in the draw and a potential late-into-the-night battle between James Blake and Mardy Fish.

18...Kei Nishikori, JPN (to 3rd Rd.)
19...Ernests Gulbis, LAT (2nd Rd. match late)*
19...Marin Cilic, CRO (to 3rd Rd.)
19...Juan Martin del Potro, ARG (to 3rd Rd.)
(*)- turns 20 on Aug.30 (Saturday)

5...Spain (Almagro-Ferrer-Nadal-Robredo-Verdasco)
3...France (Monfils-Simon-Tsonga)
3...Russia (Andreev-Davydenko-Tursunov)
3...USA (Blake-Fish-Querrey)
2...Argentina (del Potro-Nalbandian)
2...Croatia (Cilic-Karlovic)
2...Italy (Cipolla-Seppi)
2...Serbia (Djokovic-Troicki)
2...Switzerland (Federer-Wawrinka)
1...Austria (Melzer)
1...Chile (Gonzalez)
1...Czech Republic (Stepanek)
1...Finland (Nieminen)
1...Great Britain (Murray)
1...Japan (Nishikori)
1...Luxembourg (Muller)
Gilles Muller, LUX
Flavio Cipolla, ITA
(#)- TO FINISH: Roddick (USA) vs. Gulbis (LAT)

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 5. More tomorrow.

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


Blogger mjgrace22 said...

I really feel for Sveta. The talent has always been there, but the thing between her ears is often messed up! It must be very frustrating to be her fan... :(

As for the Kuznetsova curse, I don't think it was you Todd. Sveta is cursing herself slam after slam (and lately, tournament after tournament).

Sat Aug 30, 01:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

She's sort of done a "reverse Novotna," winning a slam early and THEN putting together a string of disappointing, frustrating results.

As painful as it was to watch Novotna fail on the big stage, I think seeing her finally win Wimbledon after so much trail and error was my personal favorite tennis moment.

Oddly enough, I'd think Novotna's journey would be the more desirable of the two. Though Kuznetsova still has a lot of time to get things straight and not retire a single-slam champion.

Sun Aug 31, 12:20:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Vicki said...

Todd I know I'm a bit late but you've hit the Lindsay situation right on the head. part hopes Lindsay retires but there is another part of me that would like to continue on next year and prove that she better than she show at the open. Everything considered it wasn't that bad.

Thu Sep 04, 04:48:00 AM EDT  

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