Saturday, May 30, 2009

RG.7- Sixteen on the Floor... err, the dirt

One hundred and twelve down, fifteen to go.

Another anticlimactic ending, a disappointment, a near-miss, an overdue ejection and at least one fait accompli helped fill in the final eight slots in the women's Sweet Sixteen at Roland Garros. Here's a thumbnail look at who remains, quarter-by-quarter:

QUARTER 1/Safina: This has been Safina's quarter to win since the beginning, and it still is. The re-emergence of defending champ/two-time RG finalist Ana Ivanovic, though, might make things interesting. Victoria Azarenka survived her 3rd Round encounter with Carla Suarez-Navarro today, but it's hard to see her emerging from here on a surface that still doesn't suit her game.
POWER RANKINGS: 1. Safina... 2. Ivanovic... 3. Azarenka... 4. Rezai

QUARTER 2/ex-V.Williams: The wild card of the bunch. Maria Sharapova has the most experience here, but is battling through to a slam SF a case of too much too soon in her comeback? After having to go three sets against a qualifier last round, I'm sticking with the thought that a total surprise (someone seeded between #20-29) will fill one of the Final Four spots.
POWER RANKINGS: 1. Szavay... 2. Sharapova... 3. Li... 4. Cibulkova

QUARTER 3/ex-Dementieva: This quarter got quite a bit less interesting once Caroline Wozniacki went down to Sorana Cirstea 7-6/7-5 in the final completed match of Day 7. Thus, that hoped-for Jankovic/C-Woz meeting won't be happening in Paris. Sigh. It figures. Still, this might be good news for Queen Chaos, as she's now the definitive favorite to survive. Still, a bad day could mean any of the other underrated three in the quarter could pounce.
POWER RANKINGS: 1. Jankovic... 2. Cirstea... 3. Stosur... 4. Razzano

QUARTER 4/S.Williams: Serena keeps wiggling off the hook. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez took the 1st set today, and was even early in the 3rd as Williams was visibly ill. Every additional day Serena survives, the chances of her winning a third straight slam title grows. There's momentum, and there's Serena Momentum. Someone in this quarter is going to have to cover the grenade for the good of the rest of the draw. Based on pre-Paris form, Svetlana Kuznetsova COULD. Based on pre-'09 clay season form, she's got no chance in hell against Serena in a big match (and might even lose to A-Rad, who beat her in Melbourne in '08). We'll see.
POWER RANKINGS:1. Kuznetsova (because I want to be right)... 2. S.Williams (ditto)... 3. A.Radwanska.. 4. Wozniak

We've got a slew of mouth-watering rematch possibilities on the agenda here: Safina vs. Ivanovic ('08 RG Final) in the Quarterfinals. Safina vs. Sharapova (Dinara upset Maria in Paris last year after Sharapova had MP) and Jankovic vs. Williams ('08 U.S. Open Final) in the Semifinals. Safina vs. Williams ('09 Australian Open Final), Sharapova vs. Williams (going back to the '04 Wimbledon Final), Ivanovic vs. Jankovic ('08 RG SF), Azarenka vs. Williams ('09 Oz & Miami) or Safina vs. Kuznetsova (completing this clay season's best trilogy) in the final.

Fifteen more matches and we'll have a champion.

...maybe Elena Dementieva realized that she didn't belong in the 3rd Round.

After all, even she knew she was being prepared for shipment against Jelena Dokic the other day before the Aussie's back injury forced her retirement. Today, against another Sheila in #30-seed Sam Stosur, Punch-Sober had a shot to at least make good on her I.O.U. to Australia. She did, too, losing 6-3/4-6/6-1, as Stosur continues her surprisingly good clay season.

In the 3rd set, #4-seed Dementieva double-faulted on break point in back-to-back service games to contribute to Stosur's quick 3-0 lead. Even after Stosur held to go up 4-0, I couldn't help but remember Slingin' Sammy's collapse last Wimbledon against a beaten-and-barely-caring Nicole Vaidisova after leading 3-6/6-0/4-0 and wondered if it might happen again. It didn't, though. Stosur decided to focus more on her singles in '09, and she's slowly but surely become better and better in pressure situations and serving out matches.

Thus, Dementieva officially gets the "Crash & Burn" award for this Roland Garros, two days later than she should have received it. Elena's now all-square with Australia... but she still owes JELENA one.

...sort of as expected, the completion of the Azarenka/Suarez-Navarro match had none of the drama of the suspended match from Day 6 in which the #9 seed battled back from a 7-5/4-1 deficit, her own near-meltdown and a crowd very unforgiving of her outbursts. Azarenka got an early break and went up 4-1, blinked for a moment when CSN broke back, then served out the final set at 6-2. As she exited the court, she was trailed by a very mixed reaction (actually, that's being conservative -- it was more like 60-70% anti-Azarenka) from the crowd.

Of course, not that the Tennis Channel announcers had any clue whatsoever what it was all about. Since the match landed in the lap the net's "D"-team of Katrina Adams & Corinna Morariu, one might as well have been watching the action with the sound turned off.

#1 Safina d. Rezai in TWO
#8 Ivanovic d. #9 Azarenka in THREE
#29 Szavay d. #20 Cibulkova in TWO
Sharapova d. #25 Li in THREE
#5 Jankovic d. Cirstea in THREE
#30 Stosur d. Razzano in THREE
#7 Kuznetsova d. #12 A.Radwanska in TWO
#2 S.Williams d. #24 Wozniak in TWO
#1 Nadal d. #23 Soderling in THREE
#8 Verdasco d. #10 Davydenko in FOUR
#3 Murray d. #13 Cilic in FIVE
#12 Gonzalez d. #30 Hanescu in FIVE
#9 Tsonga d. #5 del Potro in FOUR
#16 Robredo d. #29 Kohlschreiber in FOUR
#11 Monfils d. #6 Roddick in FOUR (or Monfils will get hurt and retire)
#2 Federer d. Haas in THREE

...the Junior Draws have been released. Here are the top ten seeds for the Girls and Boys singles:

1. Laura Robson, GBR
2. Ana Bogdan, ROU
3. Ksenia Pervak, RUS
4. Timea Babos, HUN
5. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
6. Ajla Tomljanovic, CRO
7. Lauren Embree, USA
8. Elena Bogdan, ROU
9. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
10. Camila Silva, CHI

1. Huang Liang-Chi, TPE
2. Bernard Tomic, AUS
3. Andrea Collarini, ARG
4. Shuichi Sekiguchi, JPN
5. Julen Uriguen, GUA
6. Julien Obry, FRA
7. Denis Kudla, USA
8. Hsieh Cheng-Peng, TPE
9. Facundu Arguello, ARG
10. Agustin Velotti, ARG

Of note, 1st Round MD winner Olivia Rogowska is the #12-seed, Christina McHale is #14, Sloane Stephens is #15 and Anna Orlik is unseeded. In Melbourne, the final four girls were Pervak (W), Robson (RU), Lertcheewakarn (SF) and A.Bogdan (SF).

...once again, now is the time when we welcome NBC to the Roland Garros party. Oh, great. So, rather than getting to see live coverage of the "embargoed" Roger Federer and Serena Williams matches today, we got highlights, Justin Gimelstob (and whoever the announcer was who said the Final 16's had "held to form"... well, you know, except for the fact that two #4 seeds went out on Day 7) and a little Novak Djokovic (going out in straights to Philipp Kohlschreiber after a great clay season, perhaps once again letting himself down in the fitness/stamina area of his game after playing so many pre-RG matches) on Tennis Channel for several hours while we waited for the "major" network to finally saunter through the door at 1:30pm, well after the Williams match was over. Surprisingly, the Federer match was at least joined in progress. Still, the Williams match -- chopped up to fit into the coverage window -- was finally aired after Federer won, many hours after it actually happened. I know this is standard operating procedure on American television when it comes to the #4 of the Big Four broadcast nets, but it's still aggravating that NBC continues to behave like the big shot who arrives late to a dinner party but keeps everyone else from eating until he or she gets there. By the time The Arrival occurs and the main course is served, it's old and spoiled and you'd just as well skip it altogether... which, except for a few minutes, is just what I stubbornly did. So, sorry for not having any real details on the Serena/MJMS match (Diane at Women Who Serve does, though -- so you can check that out if you like, as she talks about an incident that would have been nice to see LIVE).

Why not come on the air at noon and avoid all this?

And I won't even get into how this all must play on the west coast, since it doesn't effect me. But it must be even more ire-raising for tennis fans in California and the rest.

Again, thanks NBC. Are you guys sure you don't want to air a Jay Leno monologue during the coverage, too?

...and, finally, there's always one commercial every grand slam that is played and played and played and played so often during the U.S. television coverage that it drives you crazy. There are some rare exceptions, though, such as the John McEnroe-hugs-the-umpire one from a year or so ago. This Roland Garros, THE ad is the Lacoste clothing line commercial that features driving music, "cutting-edge" graphics, a shot of the actual tennis-playing Frenchman Rene Lacoste, runway-walking models and Andy Roddick (hmmm, a Brooklyn Decker wink?). So far, I like it. I really like it.

Today, Roddick advanced to the Round of 16 in Paris for the first time in his career. Throw in his actions during the Dubai Dabacle, and he's having a darn good few months.

[by age - youngest to oldest]
19...Victoria Azarenka
20...Dominika Cibulkova
20...Agnieszka Radwanska
20...Agnes Szavay
21...Ana Ivanovic
21...Aleksandra Wozniak
22...Maria Sharapova
22...Aravane Rezai
23...Dinara Safina
23...Svetlana Kuznetsova
24...Jelena Jankovic
25...Samantha Stosur
26...Virginie Razzano
27...Li Na
27...Serena Williams
[by ranking]
#1...Dinara Safina
#2...Serena Williams
#5...Jelena Jankovic
#7...Svetlana Kuznetsova
#8...Ana Ivanovic
#9...Victoria Azarenka
#12...Agnieszka Radwanska
#19...Dominika Cibulkova
#24...Aleksandra Wozniak
#25...Li Na
#31...Agnes Szavay
#32...Samantha Stosur
#36...Virginie Razzano
#41...Sorana Cirstea
#57...Aravane Rezai
#102...Maria Sharapova

4...Russia (Davydenko/Kuznetsova/Safina/Sharapova)
4...France (Monfils/Razzano/Rezai/Tsonga)
3...Spain (Nadal/Robredo/Verdasco)
2...Germany (Haas/Kohlschreiber)
2...Romania (Cirstea/Hanescu)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic/Jankovic)
2...United States (Roddick/S.Williams)
1...Argentina (del Potro)
1...Australia (Stosur)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Canada (Wozniak)
1...Chile (F.Gonzalez)
1...China (Li)
1...Croatia (Cilic)
1...Great Britain (Murray)
1...Hungary (Szavay)
1...Poland (A.Radwanska
1...Slovak Republic (Cibulkova)
1...Sweden (Soderling)
1...Switzerland (Federer)

US - Maria Sharapova/RUS (3rd Rd.)
AO - Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS (3rd Rd.)
RG - Serena Williams/USA (3rd Rd.)
WI - Maria Sharapova/RUS (2nd Rd.)
US - Ana Ivanovic/SRB (2nd Rd.)
AO - Venus Williams/USA (2nd Rd.)
RG - Elena Dementieva/RUS (3rd Rd.)

TOP QUALIFIER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Dinara Safina/RUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Corinna Dentoni/ITA d. Sesil Karatantcheva/KAZ 4-6/6-3/6-2
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS d. Mathilde Johansson/FRA 1-6/6-2/10-8 (saved 7 MP)
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.- Shvedova/KAZ)
UPSET QUEENS: The ex-Russian Kazakhs
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR & Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (both to 3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: Elena Dementieva/RUS - dominated by Dokic in 2nd, but advances with retirement, then taken out by Stosur in 3rd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: (temporary) Sharapova down 4-2 in 3rd, point from 5-2, in 2nd Rd. vs. Petrova; Azarenka down 7-5/4-1 vs. Suarez-Navarro in 3rd Rd.
LAST PASTRY STANDING: (temporary) both Aravane Rezai and Virginie Razzano to 4th Rd.

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


Blogger Kutta said...

Two things:
1) Dementieva's utter inability to serve to the backhand. Stosur's forehand returns were just cracking today.
2) Stosur's complete ability to serve high kickers to Dementieva's weaker BH side, which was, quite frankly, atrocious today. It was almost Rafa-Roger quality in terms of "High kicker to the backhand--check. Backhand shank--check."
It will be interesting to see how Dementieva does in the grasscourt season now. I definitely don't expect her to defend her Wimbledon SF.

Sat May 30, 06:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

sharapova's bday is 4/19/87...

thanks for the posts!!

Sat May 30, 06:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

You know what, Eric? You're right (of course you must know)! But I'm not going to take the blame on this one.

The "official" -- and I'll use that term lightly here -- WTA Guide for this year (which I used for that Final 16 list) lists Sharapova's birthday as February 28, 1985. I went back and checked, and the 2008 Guide DID have it correctly as April 19, 1987, though.

I should have known that a quirk like Sharapova and Jankovic being born on the same day was a coincidence that would have been noticed before.

Oh, WTA publishing arm... why do you do these types of things to me? :D

Sat May 30, 08:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

lol...the only reason why i remember is b/c sharapova's like a month older than me and she has the same exact birthday as one of my best friends

man, i thought venus was doing so well this season...and then AO and FO...ugh...i think that it all has to do with her apparel...when she has great looking clothes she plays well (i.e. the princess dresses from last year...) and when she has spastic clothes (i.e. the tie-dye dresses from this year) her results dip...

even the titles she's won this year (dubai and acapulco), she wore the princess dresses...and acapulco she said that the dress was being retired and then...BAM...bad results...

and seriously, MJMS cheated today.

not cool.

Sat May 30, 10:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, intriguing theory. ;)

Well, since Wimbledon has the predominantly-white clothing policy, I'd assume she probably won't be able to wear the tie-dye stuff there.

Sun May 31, 04:39:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home