Friday, September 05, 2008

US 12- Calm in the Face of Chaos

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same."
- from Rudyard Kipling's "If"

That's the quote above the doors leading to Centre Court at Wimbledon... but it just as easily could have been the mantra for success of any of the four women who competed in today's U.S. Open semifinals.

One woman's win on Day Twelve could portend a "return to order" in women's tennis by the end of this weekend, while the victory by another means we could be on the eve of one of the wildest finishes in grand slam history. Take a guess which player the latter is referring to.

Yep, hold onto your underpants, Queen Chaos is just one win away from being a grand slam champion.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Mixing good defense with some well-timed moments of aggression in a match which featured a distracting sun and nearly-20 mph winds, Jelena Jankovic made her fifth grand slam semifinal appearance the charm, defeating Elena Dementieva 6-4/6-4 largely by keeping her head and remaining steady in the face of potential trouble. Punch-Sober, meanwhile, sometimes resembled her old Punch-Drunk self, seeing her serve and game bothered by both the aforementioned sun and wind, resulting in six double-faults and forty-two errors in the match (Jankovic had just one and twenty-two).

Of course, it wouldn't be a Queen Chaos match without a few moments of danger (and one oddity).

Jankovic was broken in the first game of the match, and found herself trailing 2-4, love/40 on serve at one point in the 1st set. But after holding, Jankovic saw Dementieva double-fault on the first point of the very next game (possibly because of the sun causing her to awkwardly adjust her service toss), which ultimately ended in a break of serve. At 5-4, Jankovic held a set point... only to be warned by the chair umpire for a code violation after taking too long to towel off. Whether the oddly-timed moment distracted Dementieva or not, it didn't matter. Punch-Sober was broken again moments later, and Jankovic had stolen away a set that she'd appeared to have been on her way to losing.

In the 2nd set, Dementieva gained a quick advantage with an early break, but she couldn't hold it and Jankovic immediately broke back. Serving to stay in the match at 5-4, Dementieva quickly went down love/40. Jankovic wrapped up the 6-4 set with another break... and her merry ride continues.

The Whirling Dervish didn't see fit to spin in place for too long today. After reveling in being some combination of the tour's "clown princess" and "drama queen," Jankovic played a very professional match on the biggest stage she's found herself on since she imploded against Justine Henin on the same Ashe Stadium court two years ago. Of course, she still managed to throw in one split-and-smile moment amidst her very businesswoman-like day. But we sort of expect that from her, and she's more than willing to oblige. Bless her.

Who knew a serious Jelena could still be a fun Jelena? I guess winning makes up for drama, since winning IS dramatic in and of itself... and has greater rewards, too.

Jankovic's opponent in the final? Serena Williams, of course.

Serena heeded Kipling's advice as well as Jankovic did, while Dinara Safina had as equally difficult a time dealing with the conditions as her fellow Hordette Dementieva had in the preceding match... and this time coach Zeljko Krajan couldn't talk her off the ledge.

Safina got an early break, but it didn't last long. Down 5-3, she had two break points to get back on serve, but Williams prevailed against the Russian Cat AND the wind in her face during the game, saving both BP and closing out the set at 6-3.

At the start of the 2nd set, Serena quickly served notice that she wasn't going to fade like so many of Safina's opponents have in the face of Marat's sister during her fairly-spectacular summer. At 1-1, she smashed a forehand right into the body of the approaching Safina. Safina managed to deflect the laser shot with her racket, avoiding a painful moment, but the message from Williams was clear: "this match is mine, and you can't have it."

After managing to battle from behind to win so many times over the past few months, Safina finally hit the wall. It wasn't going to happen again. No way. No how.

Serena put away the match, 6-3/6-2, with a thudding ace up the middle, setting up a very unlikely final match for the U.S. Open title and the #1-ranking against Jankovic.

After her match, a teary-eyed Jankovic joked in her on-court interview that she might have to go to the lockerroom and cry some more after her career-best slam achievement. Hopefully, she saved a few. She'll surely need them after her next match... whatever the result turns out to be.

With much rain scheduled for Saturday, the Women's final could be in danger of being delayed. Of course, considering Jankovic will be playing in it, could it really be expected to be any other way? In fact, a screwy schedule would be very fitting.

With Queen Chaos, always expect the unexpected.

With the rains looming, the schedule managed to double up some SF/F contests and crown three champions today -- in Men's Doubles, as well as both Junior Doubles competitions.

Bob & Mike Bryan won their sixth career slam title as a team, defeating Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes in the final. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn & Sandra Roma won the Girls, while Nikolaus Moser & Cedrik-Marcel Stebe took the Boys.

Cara Black & Liezel Huber defeated Spaniards Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Virginia Ruano-Pascual to advance to the Women's Doubles final against Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur. juniors action, top-seeded Yang Tsung-Hua of Taiwan advanced to his third Boys slam SF of 2008. He won the title at Roland Garros, and was runner-up in Melbourne. Unseeded Devin Britton in the last American alive in Boys singles.

Two of the four remaining American Girls at the start of Day Twelve advanced to the SF, and very nearly three did so. Melanie Oudin won the big match with Madison Brengle, 4-6/6-4/6-1, and Coco Vandeweghe defeated Tamaryn Hendler. Gail Brodsky nearly joined them in the final four, but ultimately lost to France's Kristina Mladenovic 5-7/7-6(8)/6-4. Surprise quarterfinalist Gabriela Paz Franco of Venezuela defeated RG Jr. RU Elena Bogdan.

...AWARDS UPDATE: By reaching her first career slam singles final, Jelena Jankovic reigns as the Open's "Ms. Opportunity." Meanwhile, "It Girl" will go to either Oudin or Vandeweghe, with the "Junior Breakout" winner either one of the two Americans or the other two Girls semifinalists.

...and, finally, with a little luck, the hurricane remnants that will be hitting the New York area tomorrow won't wreak TOO MUCH havoc with the scheduled matches. As I said before, if the right combination of long matches and rain delays comes about the Women's final might be delayed until Sunday.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are scheduled to hit the court first, so Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray might be in for a long day... which could work out rather well for the Federer/Djokovic winner, if the Men's final goes on as scheduled Sunday afternoon. As for Serena and Jelena? Well, obviously, they're going to have to play it by ear... and eye... and so on and so on and so on.

AO: Martina Hingis, SUI
RG: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
WI: Severine Bremond, FRA
US: Tatiana Golovin, FRA
AO: Serena Williams, USA
RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
WI: Marion Bartoli, FRA
US: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
AO: Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
RG: Ana Ivanovic, SRB
WI: Zheng Jie, CHN
US: Jelena Jankovic, SRB

AO: Arantxa Rus/NED def. Jessica Moore/AUS
RG: Simona Halep/ROU def. Elena Bogdan/ROU
WI: Laura Robson/GBR def. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA
AO: Bernard Tomic/AUS def. Yang Tsung-Hua/TPE
RG: Yang Tsung-Hua/TPE def. Jerzy Janowicz/POL
WI: Grigor Dimitrov/BUL def. Henri Kontinen/FIN

1999 US - def. Martina Hingis
2001 US - lost to Venus Williams
2002 R.Garros - def. Venus Williams
2002 Wimb - def. Venus Williams
2002 US - def. Venus Williams
2003 Aust - def. Venus Williams
2003 Wimb - def. Venus Williams
2004 Wimb - lost to Maria Sharapova
2005 Aust - def. Lindsay Davenport
2007 Aust - def. Maria Sharapova
2008 Wimb - lost to Venus Williams
2008 US - vs. Jelena Jankovic

AO: Jonathan Erlich & Andy Ram
RG: Pablo Cuevas & Luis Horna
WI: Daniel Nestor & Nenad Zimonjic
US: Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan

AO: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Ksenia Lykina
RG: Polona Hercog & Jessica Moore
WI: Polona Hercog & Jessica Moore
US: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn & Sandra Roma

AO: Hsieh Cheng-Peng & Yang Tsung-Hua
RG: Henri Kontinen & Christopher Rungkat
WI: Hsieh Cheng-Peng & Yang Tsung-Hua
US: Nikolaus Moser & Cedrik-Marcel Stebe

#4 S.Williams def. #2 Jankovic in 2
...everything says to go with Serena. She's been eying this title for months, and her play has backed up her intentions, loud and clear. But, I'll admit, if Jankovic gets herself into a position to possibly win this match, I won't be pulling for my pre-tournament pick of Williams to become a reality.

Jankovic becoming a grand slam champion, at the tournament that fits her dramatic personality to a "t," after a summer that saw her injured and unprepared as she slogged across the Atlantic and then the North American landscape (with a trip to China tossed in), and after the 7:36 on the court during her first four U.S. Open matches, when she was faced with either playing herself into shape or spontaneously combusting would just about be the wildest run to a major title in women's tennis history. It'd certainly be the most fun, and easily most entertaining to talk about in its aftermath. I surely know that I'll be thinking of all sorts of ways between now and the final to describe the alternate universe-like aspects of such a moment as Jankovic lifting the championship cup... just in case.

But I'd like to quote the words of Sugar Ray Leonard way back when when he was announcing whether or not he'd ever fight "unbeatable" champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler. After extolling all the virtues of such a bout, and what an amazing event it would be, Leonard ended by stating, "Unfortunately, it'll never happen."


Of course, a few years later, Leonard came out of early retirement brought about by a detached retina and actually DID fight Hagler. It was simply billed as "The Fight." Leonard won it.

So never say never... not when Queen Chaos is involved.

#4 Serena Williams/USA vs. #2 Jelena Jankovic/SRB

#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #6 Andy Murray/GBR
#8 Andy Roddick/USA or #3 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #10 Raymond/Stosur (USA/AUS)

#2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) def. #7 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) 7-6/7-6

#5 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) def. Huber/J.Murray (USA/GBR) 7-6/6-4

#12 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA vs. Coco Vandeweghe/USA
Gabriela Paz Franco/VEN vs. #2 Melanie Oudin/USA

#1 Yang Tsung-Hua/TPE vs. #3 Grigor Dimitrov/BUL
Filip Krajinovic/SRB vs. Devin Britton/USA

#3 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/Sandra Roma (THA/SWE) def. Mallory Burdette/Sloane Stephens (USA/USA) 6-0/6-2

Nikolaus Moser/Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (AUT/GER) def. #2 Henri Kontinen/Christopher Rungkat (FIN/INA) 7-6/3-6/10-8

TOP QUALIFIERS: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Serena 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
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): QF - #4 S.Williams/USA def. #7 V.Williams/USA 7-6/7-6
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Shahar Peer/ISR (1st Rd.-Li Na)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Jelena Jankovic/SRB
COMEBACK PLAYER: Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER
CRASH & BURN: #1 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 2nd Rd to #188 Coin)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB (7:36 on court in first four matches)

All for Day 12. More tomorrow.


Blogger leia said...

I'm keeping my expectations low while crossing my fingers. I would love to have JJ prove her detractors wrong. PLUS, it would make for great drama! =D

Sat Sep 06, 03:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, you'll notice I picked against the storyline when she played Wozniack, then Dementieva, and now Serena, too. :)

Sat Sep 06, 10:41:00 AM EDT  

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