Tuesday, September 02, 2008

US 9- Horseshoes, Hand Grenades & Jelena

A day after top-seeded Rafael Nadal was tested by Sam Querrey, the tightrope walking became contagious on Ashe Stadium Court as in back-to-back matches both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer's Open prospects seemed on the verge of going down in flames.

In the end, the person smiling the most might turn out to be Andy Roddick.

During the hot afternoon, #3-seed Djokovic followed up his 3rd Round match with Marin Cilic, in which the young Croat matched him shot for shot, by having to fight into a 5th set against #15 Tommy Robredo. Battling fatigue, illness and multiple injuries, Djokovic seemed to be channeling another chaotic Serb as he muddled through and found a way to advance by a score of 4-6/6-2/6-3/5-7/6-3 after 3:44 on the court. But the victory comes with a price, as it potentially leaves him as less a threat to win this tournament than he had been at the start of the day.

In the next match, #2-seed Roger Federer drifted from vulnerable to dominating and back again, then back the other way again during his own five-setter against Igor Andreev. Just when it looked as if he'd assert himself and take control of the match, he'd start making very un-Federer-like errors and Andreev would come storming back.

In the final set, Federer took a quick lead and it seemed as if he'd finally make quick work of the Russian. He ultimately won 6-7/7-6/6-3/3-6/6-3 in 3:32 to extend his U.S. Open winning streak to 31 matches, but he had to save four break points at 4-2 in the final set, aggressively rushing the net far more often than usual in order to fight his way out of the corner. The way Federer's play was bouncing off the walls, allowing the push-and-pull contest to get back on serve in the deciding stanza might have been the difference between winning and losing the entire match.

So it was all a case of close only counting in horseshoes and hand grenades for Robredo and Andreev.

By the time the dust had settled, all the dancing on the head of a pin hadn't actually resulted in any big upsets (#5 Nikolay Davydenko being ousted by Gilles Muller, the second qualifier to reach the QF in the Open Era, doesn't count), but it sure left a slew of limping, dragging and extremely questionable men still playing in the bottom half of the draw... along with Roddick.

With two back-to-back marathons, the day session lasted until nearly 8:30pm. Roddick took the court less than an hour later, and was off it in about 87 minutes after a thorough beating of Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets, 6-2/6-4/6-1.

After escaping his own tight predicament against Ernests Gulbis a few matches ago, Roddick has been nearly untouchable. He hasn't been pushed, and he's played mostly at night, out of the energy-sapping sun that nearly cut Djokovic down to size today. He'll face the Serb next, and he's surely the fresher of the two. If he wins there, he might get Federer in the SF. In the past, it'd be a fait accompli that Roddick would go down with only a modicum of fight. But no longer.

Roddick's already beaten Federer, or at least the aura-sapped, half-step slow being who's been going by that name ever since the real former #1 came down with mono at the start of the season, this year. And the inconsistency that Federer showed today surely leaves open the possibility that the Deposed King Roger might be ripe to be conquered yet again.

For maybe the first time in half a decade, Roddick, who looks to be getting better with each match in New York, might have timing and the luck of the draw on his side.

But does he remember how to take full advantage of it?

In the night session, the Jelena Jankovic/Sybille Bammer match was moved to Louis Armstrong Court when the Federer match went way long. And, for once, Queen Chaos had a fairly calm outing.

Oh, she led 6-1/2-1, then soon found herself down 2-3 in the 2nd. But that's pretty minor stuff after her previous four matches. She served for the match at 5-3, but was broken. But it didn't matter, since she immediately broke Bammer's serve to claim the match (not that it took a masterpiece of a game to do it -- the Austrian only held once the entire match... and she double-faulted on match point), 6-1/6-4.

Oh, there was one Jankovician moment, though. In that 5-3 game, at 30/40, Jankovic lined up to serve, only to see that Bammer was waiting to return a shot on the wrong side of the court -- the deuce court rather than the ad. Visibly embarrassed, 7-year old Tina's mom trudged to the correct spot.

What was it I said about people being discombobulated simply by being within Jankovic's gravitational pull?

Next up is Punch-Sober, who looks like a totally different player simply by having her service toss and serve appear normal. Dementieva handled Patty Schnyder today to advance to her first Open SF since 2005. Jankovic's last SF appearance in Flushing Meadows was in 2006, when she imploded against Justine Henin and lost the final ten games of the match.

...it was quite fun today, after CBS's atrocious coverage yesterday (oh, about the network's great long-time U.S. Open Late Night Show? Gone. Kaput. Yet another bad move.), seeing USA Network make great efforts to jump back and forth between the Federer/Andreev and Davydenko/Muller matches that were happening simultaneously. With that, and with the surprising posting of some junior scores during the broadcast, it was difficult not to wonder whether it was some sort of concerted response to the amazing lack of effort CBS put into its broadcast on Labor Day.

...in the Girls competition, American Christina McHale had herself quite a day. In singles, she upset #8-seed Ksenia Lykina. Then, in doubles, she and Julia Boserup knocked off #1-seeded Elena Bogdan & Elena Chernyakova.

...AWARD UPDATE: doubles partners Cara Black and Liezel Huber are individual nominees for the "Doubles Star" award. As a team, they're alive in the SF of Women's Doubles, while Huber has already advanced to the Mixed Doubles final with Jamie Murray. Black has yet to play her SF match with Leander Paes against Petrova/Bjorkman.

...tomorrow night, the expected Williams vs. Williams collision takes place in the QF. The sisters are tied 8-8 in career meetings, with Venus holding a 2-1 advantage in matches at the U.S. Open. Then, in what will seem an oddity to have another match following the all-Williams affair, Nadal will face off with Mardy Fish in another quarterfinal. If the last few days with the top 3 seeds is any indication, that one could be another tightrope walk. A year ago on Night Nine, Nadal fell in a 4th Round night match against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

...and, finally, since time sort of got away from me today and I wasn't able to put the finishing touches on the latest edition of Backspin Time Capsule ('91 U.S. Open), it'll be delayed until tomorrow.

4...Lindsay Davenport (4-0)
3...Jill Craybas (2-1)
2...Bethanie Mattek (2-0)
2...Ashley Harkleroad (1-1)
1...Jamea Jackson (0-1)

2000 Maria-Emilia Salerni d. Tatiana Perebiynis
2001 Marion Bartoli d. Svetlana Kuznetsova
2002 Maria Kirilenko d. Barbora Strycova
2003 Kirsten Flipkens d. Michaella Krajicek
2004 Michaella Krajicek d. Jessica Kirkland
2005 Victoria Azarenka d. Alexa Glatch
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova d. Tamira Paszek
2007 Kristina Kucova d. Urszula Radwanska

[series tied 8-8; Serena 1 walkover win]
98 Aust.Open 2nd - Venus 7-6,6-1
98 Rome QF - Venus 6-4,6-2
99 Miami F - Venus 6-1,4-6,6-4
99 Grand Slam Cup F - Serena 6-1,3-6,6-4
00 Wimbledon SF - Venus 6-2,7-6
01 Ind.Wells SF - Serena walkover
01 US Open F - Venus 6-2,6-4
02 Miami SF - Serena 6-2,6-2
02 R.Garros F - Serena 7-5,6-3
02 Wimbledon F - Serena 7-6,6-3
02 US Open F - Serena 6-3,6-4
03 Aust.Open F - Serena 7-6,3-6,6-4
03 Wimbledon F - Serena 4-6,6-4,6-2

05 Miami QF - Venus 6-1,7-6
05 US Open 4th - Venus 7-6,6-2

08 Bangalore SF - Serena 6-3,3-6,7-6
08 Wimbledon F - Venus 7-5/6-4

1998-01...Venus 5-1
2002-03...Serena 6-0
2005-08...Venus 3-1
Hard...Venus 5-4
Clay...tied 1-1
Carpet...Serena 1-0
Grass...tied 2-2
Australian...tied 1-1
Roland Garros...Serena 1-0
Wimbledon...tied 2-2
US...Venus 2-1
2nd Round...Venus 1-0
4th Round...Venus 1-0
QF...Venus 2-0
SF...Serena 2-1
F...Serena 6-3

#16 Flavia Pennetta/ITA v. #6 Dinara Safina/RUS
#4 Serena Williams/USA v. #7 Venus Williams/USA
#5 Elena Dementieva/RUS def. #15 Patty Schnyder/SUI
#2 Jelena Jankovic/SRB def. #29 Sybille Bammer/AUT

#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. Mardy Fish/USA
#17 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG vs. #6 Andy Murray/GBR
#8 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #3 Novak Djokovic/SRB
(Q) Gilles Muller/LUX vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) v.
Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) or #5 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP)
#4 Srebotnik/Sugiyama (SLO/JPN) vs. #10 Raymond/Stosur (USA/AUS)

#7 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. M.Gonzalez/Monaco (ARG/ARG)
Robredo/Roitman (ESP/ARG) or Lopez/Verdasco (ESP/ESP) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)

#5 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) v. Petrova/Bjorkman (RUS/SWE)
Huber/J.Murray (USA/GBR) def. Craybas/Butorac (USA/USA)

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)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
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 9. More tomorrow.

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


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