Monday, May 25, 2009

RG.2- Please Dinara, Don't Hurt 'Em!

Say hello to Dinara Safina, the number one and only... to double-bagel her opponent in the 1st Round of Roland Garros.

So far, so good. So very good, in fact.

If world #1 Safina is going to chisel a favorable inscription into the currently design-in-waiting stature of herself in the mythical women's tennis Hall of Champions, she may never have a better chance to meet the grand slam title prerequisite than she has at this tournament. And on Day 2, she surely seemed to be a Russian on a mission.

Poor, Anne Keothavong. She had the unenviable "luck" of being the first player to be trapped under the wheels of the Safina SUV as it hums along in Paris. 6-0/6-0 is a pretty looking scoreline, but never believe it's not a painful one on the losing end of it... especially one who was getting patted on the back a week ago for becoming the first British woman to reach a clay semifinal in twenty-six years. In the end, it's not been a good day when in discussing your loss people are forced to call to mind that ugly Graf/Zvereva Roland Garros final from 1988. Never.

Cold reality is a wicked mistress, I guess.

Safina's reality, though, is that she has to maintain this head of steam for two more weeks. Let's have none of this Russian Cat using up more of her nine lives stuff. Next up in the 2nd Round is a fellow Hordette, qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko. Maybe Dinara will go a little easier on her than she did on the Brit, out of professional courtesy?

Vitalia might be hoping so... but Safina can't be letting thoughts of mercy creep between her ears. As a member of a family with infamous bouts with brief thoughts growing into self-destructive on-court monsters, she's better being safe than sorry.

In other words... Please, Dinara. DO hurt 'em. For your own good.

...there were some interesting results today, including:

1) Venus Williams having to go three sets to take out Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Serena plays tomorrow.

2) recent Fed Cup stars Flavia Pennetta and Alexa Glatch facing off (with -- surprise! -- the American coming out on top, losing just two games). Pennetta has now lost in the 1st Round of a slam twelve times in her twenty-five career appearances.

3) Aravane Rezai somewhat surprisingly not having first-title-hangover, getting a win over veteran Ai Sugiyama

4) Sabine Lisicki's sick (in a bad way) spring ending with a thud, otherwise known as a loss to Lucie Safarova

5) Maria Sharapova dropping the 1st set to Anastasiya Yakimova, then seizing control in the last two stanzas to advance fairly easily

6) And, last but not least, Patty Schnyder being ridden out of the RG singles competition by a Bondarenko, as Kateryna won in straight sets (meanwhile, Alona lost in three to Dominika Cibulkova). So, after matching her career-best Paris result a year ago with a quarterfinal, Schnyder follows it up with her first 1st Round exit there since 2000. Sneaky, Patty. Sneaky.

But even with all those happenings, there was another match (well, two-thirds of a match anyway) that caught my fancy. So far, it's really the only "goosebumpy" -- is that a word? -- action I've seen to this point in the tournament.

Over the past few months, Caroline Wozniacki has gone from a player I liked to one that I've really taken to pulling for. I'm not precisely sure why just yet, but there's just something "cool" about a C-Woz match. Somewhere between those early clay season semifinal battles with the Elenas Vesnina and Dementieva and her 1st Round match today with Vera Dushevina, watching C-Woz play has taken up a seat right next to watching Queen Chaos do her thing on the Backspinner "favorite things to do" list during a WTA tournament. Probably not surprisingly, their best matches seem to follow a similar pattern.

That was the case today, too, as Wozniacki dropped the 1st set 6-4, and soon found herself down a break at 3-1 in the 2nd. The chances of the first Top 10 seed being dumped out of this tournament were unfortunately looking good, but that's when C-Woz buckled down and got to work. Battling a sometimes-wayward forehand, she got a break and put the set back on serve as the darkness was encroaching upon Chatrier Court.

Much like a certain Serb, the Dane often grabbed big leads in her service games as she tried to knot the match, only to see a forehand smack into the net and soon find the game at deuce. Wozniacki never lost her serve again in the set, which would have given the Russian the opportunity to immediately serve for the match, but keeping that slate clean wasn't easy. In the end, she broke Dushevina in a very Jankovician way... in the middle of a rally, set point down, Vera stopped play and challenged the call that a Wozniacki shot had hit the baseline. The umpire trotted over, checked the mark, declared Dushevina wrong and awarded to point to C-Woz. Set, Wozniacki. 7-5.

And now the two have to come back on Day Three to finish up things.

In a weird way, Wozniacki is just like Jelena... without all the theatrics and in-match comedy skits. And, surprisingly or not, I'm really digging the whole thing.

Now, hopefully, my RU pick for this tournament will find a back door through which to escape into the 2nd Round. You know, just like a certain J-Bot we know and love has been known to do.

...qualifiers, wild cards and lucky losers! Oh, my! All three saw their likes win 1st Round matches today, as qualifiers Polona Hercog (over #23-seed Alisa Kleybanova) and Michelle Larcher de Brito, wild card Olivia Rogowska (over Maria Kirilenko, perplexing once again) and lucky loser Mariana Duque-Marino (over #26 Anna Chakvetadze... ditto) all advanced. So far, that makes five qualifiers, one wild card and a LL that have won so far, with more still to make their debuts on Day Three.

...and, finally, what's the deal with ESPN2? You know, the "grand slam network." So, you have a Monday that's a national holiday in the U.S. and you don't have any live coverage from Roland Garros scheduled? None? Not even a couple of hours around noon when you might have the chance to grab some eyeballs that you might not otherwise during the week? On a day when Sharapova, Venus, Rafa, Federer and Roddick are ALL in action? All right, I guess you guys know what you're doing. (Chuckle.)

QF: 1998, 2008
4th Round: 2002-03, 2005-07
3rd Round: 1997, 1999
2nd Round: 2001, 2004
1st Round: 1996, 2000, 2009

TOP QUALIFIER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Corinna Dentoni/ITA d. Sesil Karatantcheva/KAZ 4-6/6-3/6-2
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.- Shvedova/KAZ)
IT GIRL: xxx

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

I was kind of riveted by the Woz-Dushevina match, too. Dushevina has this habit of occasionally coming out of nowhere and making things difficult for a top player. She can get so many balls back, for one thing, but she was hitting winners today, too. Some of the rallies were really great. It was the most enjoyable match I saw today (I also enjoyed a lot of the Schnyder-Bondarenko match, however).

I'm not into C-Woz like you are, but I do like watching her play, and I enjoy her personality on and off the court. I think she has a really good attitude, and...well, what's not to like?

Tue May 26, 12:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger leia said...

A lot of people HAVE been referring to the similarities between Caro and JJ. I find that kind of fascinating because while I generally like Caro (as Diane said, what's not to like) but I don't quite enjoy her game as much.

That said, I'm looking forward to their possible Round 16 RG match. Their matches always go the distance and I think it will again if they meet in Paris. Needless to say, I'm hoping Queen Chaos will prevail =D

Tue May 26, 01:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, it took a little while for JJ to grow on me, and I guess I'm just jumping on Wozniacki's bandwagon early. :)

She's just in the very beginning stages of things, so we'll see how she progresses. Corinna Morariu was talking about Wozniacki's fight this morning on TC, and that might have a great deal to do with it. It's what originally drew me to Dokic back when she was first coming up, too.

(Fun image today on Tennis Channel, though. C-Woz posing with the Little Mermaid statue by the water in Copenhagen.)

Tue May 26, 09:00:00 AM EDT  

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