Thursday, June 25, 2009

W.4- Early-Round Endeavors (or should I say "endeavoUrs?"

Two rounds in, and things have (mostly) gone according to plan.

Things started on Monday with 128 women in the main draw. While there are but thirty-two remaining, ALL of the top fifteen seeded women have reached the 3rd Round, and nineteen of the top twenty.

If things continue to hold to this sort of form, is there anything that can prevent another Williams vs. Williams final?

=EARLY ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rds.=
TOP PLAYER: Venus Williams/USA this point, just losing a set would be a headline-grabbing moment. (RU: Serena Williams/USA & Victoria Azarenka/BLR... heading toward a QF collision)
RISERS: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Sabine Lisicki/GER
...C-Woz is currently working on a seven-match winning streak. Lisicki seems to finally be over the injury bug that infested her game after she won in Charleston. (ALSO: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Virginie Razzano/FRA)
SURPRISES: Regina Kulikova/RUS & Gisela Dulko/ARG of the last qualifiers standing, and one of the most talented players in women's tennis who is still capable of "surprising" everyone because she DIDN'T let a match slip away. (ALSO: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP & Kirsten Flipkens/BEL)
VETERANS: The Italians
...perhaps giving us a preview of their potential Fed Cup championship later this year, Pennetta, Schiavone and Vinci are all still alive at SW19. (ALSO: Elena Dementieva/RUS)
FRESH FACES Sorana Cirstea/ROU & Melanie Oudin/USA
...Paris was no fluke. Neither was the Fed Cup QF. (ALSO: Tatjana Malek/GER & Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR)
DOWN: Maria Sharapova/RUS & Zheng Jie/CHN
...the '04 champ and an '08 semifinalist. One will probably get back to her former heights (maybe by the end of the summer?), while the other will probably always be left to savor her result from a year ago. (ALSO: Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN)
COMEBACKS: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK & Ai Sugiyama/JPN singles, with doubles still left to be played. (ALSO: Vera Zvonareva/RUS)

BEST ESCAPE WITH A NET: THE SEQUEL: 1st Rd. - Ivanovic d. Hradecka 5-7/6-2/8-6
....AnaIvo once again gets help from a Wimbledon net cord and advances after saving two match points. But, without the net, will she feel relief and play with renewed heart and confidence the rest of the way, or question her survival like she did after the "Kiss of Life?"
NO LONGER SUBSISTING ON PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 2nd Rd. - Dulko d. Sharapova 6-2/3-6/6-4's now been half a decade -- and shoulder surgery -- since the Russian went Supernova in London.
SHOWING HER TENDENCIES: 1st Rd. - Wozniacki d. Date-Krumm 5-7/6-3/6-1
...down 7-5/3-1, C-Woz finally found a back door into the match. As usual.
WHAT FOCUSING ON SINGLES CAN DO FOR A ONE-TIME DOUBLES "SPECIALIST": 2nd Rd. - Stosur d. Malek 4-6/7-6/6-4 it the Novotna Principle: try, try, try again and you might just win in the end. More on this one in Day 4 Notes.

FIRST VICTORY: Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenko was the first woman to reach the 2nd Round. She was one of the first two players to advance to the Final 64 (with Li Na) in Paris, too.
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Aleksandra Wozniak (lost to Francesca Schiavone/ITA)
UPSET QUEENS: The Germans. Anna-Lena Groenefeld lost her 1st Round match, but Sabine Lisicki defeated Anna Chakvetadze and has reached the 3rd Round. Meanwhile, qualifier Tatjana Malek upset Jelena Dokic, and nearly took out #18 Samantha Stosur, too.
REVELATION LADIES: The veteran Italians. Francesca Schiavone knocked out the first seed en route to the 3rd Round, and her countrywomen pulled their own weight, too. Roberta Vinci got wins over Birmingham champ Magdalena Rybarikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach the Final 32. Tathiana Garbin got a 1st Round win, and Flavia Pennetta is still alive in the 3rd Round, as well.
ZOMBIE QUEEN (1r-2r): Ana Ivanovic, who was given a mulligan by the tennis Gods once again courtesy of a forgiving opponent and a friendly net cord. Still, one doubts that she'll be the "walking dead" for much longer. Stosur might take care of her "undead stroll" in the 3rd Round.
CRASH & BURN (1r-2r): Maria Sharapova, who went out in the 2nd Round for the second straight year. At least Dulko didn't unsuccessfully try to make a joke about Sharapova's outfit that was somewhat lost in translation by everyone in the room, though. Somewhere, Alla Kudryavtseva is smirking... and someone mistakenly thinks she's angry with them.
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha, who reached the 2nd Round.
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Yet another Hordette, Regina Kulikova, has reached the 3rd Round along with American Melanie Oudin.

BIGGEST NON-STORY: The ability of young female athletes to kick-start the destruction of civilized (civilised?) Western society simply by making a noise when they hit a tennis ball.
BIGGEST STORY THAT AMOUNTED TO NOTHING: Jelena Dokic's return to Wimbledon. Rather than re-live her exploits as a qualifier ten years ago, she lost in the 1st Round to a qualifier.

BEST SIGN FOR BRITISH WOMEN'S TENNIS: Laura Robson, 15, was the youngest female in the main draw since Martina Hingis in 1995. And she very nearly upset Daniela Hantuchova, too.
WORST SIGN FOR BRITISH WOMEN'S TENNIS: Of the six Brits in the main draw, only Elena Baltacha won her 1st Round match, a victory that prevented a worst-ever performance by the home nation.

Meanwhile, we'll still waiting for the Centre Court roof to make its official debut. Watch, wouldn't you know it, this'll end up being one of those once-in-a-decade Wimbledons where it doesn't rain at all during the entire fortnight.

...what a difference a year makes. Last year, Samantha Stosur blew a big lead against Nicole Vaidisova in the Wimbledon 2nd Round, losing a match after being one point from going up 3-6/6-0/4-0. Today against qualifier Tatjana Malek, who knocked off a pair of other Aussies (Anastasia Rodionova in qualifying, then Jelena Dokic in the 1st Round) earlier in the tournament, Stosur avenged her countrywomen's losses and made up for her own '08 choke three times over.

Against Malek, Stosur lost the 1st set and was down an early break in the 2nd. She battled back to force a tie-break. She fell behind there 4-0, only to climb back into the proceedings and win 8-6. In the 3rd, she was down 3-0 and 4-1, but managed to pull things together and advance to the 3rd Round, winning 4-6/7-6/6-4. Stosur's looked-forward-to grass court season got off to a slow start, but it's finally starting to come together. Next up is Ana Ivanovic and, if she wins that one, probably Venus.

...HERE SHE COMES AGAIN? Carla Suarez-Navarro's best results have come at the slams over the last two years, reaching the QF at both Roland Garros and the Australian. In the 1st Round at SW19, she upset #25-seed Kaia Kanepi the other day, and today knocked off Ekaterina Makarova to reach the 3rd Round. Could she be about to pull off a surprise run again? Well, hold your horses. She plays Venus Williams next. Of course, she DID get a win over Venus in Melbourne en route to that quarterfinal. If she did it again at the All-England Club it'd be a victory of about a million times more shock and awe. Not likely.

...speaking of Venus, she made the all-sisters meeting with Kateryna Bondarenko today a thoroughly lopsided affair. Of course, what else would be exected when she loses just six point on her serve all day and never faces a break point? This win gives her sixteen consecutive victories at Wimbledon, and twenty-seven straight sets won.

...AMG UPDATE: we know that Spanish vet Anabel Medina-Garrigues won't be reaching the QF, as she's never done that in a slam in her career and is just one WTA singles title away from joining Anna Smashnova as the only player in tour history to win ten-or-more titles without ever reaching a slam quarter, but when WILL she be leaving the Ladies' draw in this tournament? Well, she faces Caroline Wozniacki, who destroyed Maria Kirilenko 6-0/6-4 today (ESPN was busing doing other things to bother with showing even a single point of that one, by the way)... so I'm going to cross my fingers and say that AMG's estimated departure time will be in the 3rd Round.

...chalk one up for the "old" Aussie. Yet another player given a shot in the arm by the subtraction of Rafael Nadal from the Gentlemen's draw is Lleyton Hewitt. Seeing him winning his 2nd Round match against #5-seed Juan Martin del Potro wasn't a stretch (I mean, I picked it before the tournament... proving that I CAN at least get ONE prediction right for this Wimbledon), but it's hard to believe anyone -- Hewitt included -- could have in their wildest dreams thought he'd win in straight sets as he did today. Sure, something might happen that could bring down the house of cards, but, as of now, the moves that would allow a "let's get the band back together" QF meeting between Hewitt and Andy Roddick are coming off right on schedule.

...and, finally, after rightfully killing ESPN so often, I thought I'd say some nice things for a change. As seems to always be the network's pattern, four days into the tournament the coverage is doing a much better job of updating scores from around the grounds (and even showing a little action from the outer courts). Why it takes several days for these things to always happen is anyone's guess, since they'd be a much more effective component of coverage were they employed during the first couple of days. But, heh, I said I'd be nice, didn't I? So, to tip things over on the "good" side, let me just say that I absolutely love the "Big Babe Tennis Demonstration" segment with Mary Carillo, Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez. Funny, informative and all the things that ESPN's coverage should always be. Hopefully, this'll be the first of many such segments from the trio.

7...Russia (Dementieva/Kulikova/Kuznetsova/Petrova/Safina/Vesnina/Zvonareva)
3...France (Bartoli/Mauresmo/Razzano)
3...Italy (Pennetta/Schiavone/Vinci)
3...United States (Oudin/Williams/Williams)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic/Jankovic)
2...Slovak Republic (Cibulkova/Hantuchova)
2...Spain (Medina-Garrigues/Suarez-Navarro)
1...Argentina (Dulko)
1...Australia (Stosur)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Belgium (Flipkens)
1...China (Li)
1...Denmark (Wozniacki)
1...Germany (Lisicki)
1...Japan (Sugiyama)
1...Poland (A.Radwanska)
1...Romania (Cirstea)
6...Spain (Almagro/Ferrer/Ferrero/Montanes/Robredo/Verdasco)
3...Germany (Haas/Kohlschreiber/Petzschner)
3...United States (Fish/Levine/Roddick)
2...Croatia (Cilic/Karlovic)
2...Czech Republic (Berdych/Stepanek)
2...France (Simon/Tsonga)
2...Russia (Andreev/Davydenko)
2...Serbia (Djokovic/Troicki)
2...Switzerland (Federer/Wawrinka)
1...Australia (Hewitt)
1...Austria (Melzer)
1...Chile (F.Gonzalez)
1...Great Britain (Murray)
1...Israel (Sela)
1...Italy (Seppi)
1...Romania (Hanescu)
1...Sweden (Soderling)

Gisela Dulko, ARG
Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
Regina Kulikova, RUS (Q)
Sabine Lisicki, GER
Melanie Oudin, USA (Q)
Francesca Schiavone, ITA
Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
Ai Sugiyama, JPN
Elena Vesnina, RUS
Roberta Vinci, ITA

2004 Brits
2005 Americans
2006 Brits
2007 Austrians
2008 Russians
2009 Germans

2006 Serbs
2007 French
2008 Russians
2009 (veteran) Italians

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Venus Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Vesna Manasieva/RUS d. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA 6-7/6-4/6-1
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Lucie Hradecka/CZE 5-7/6-2/8-6 (saved 2 MP)
FIRST SEED OUT: #23 Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN (1st Rd.-Schiavone/ITA)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: (Temporary: Maria Sharapova/RUS - lost to Gisela Dulko/ARG in 2nd Rd.)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: (Temporary: Ana Ivanovic/SRB - saved two MP vs. Lucie Hradecka/CZE in 1st Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha/GBR (2nd Rd.)

All for Day 4. More tomorrow.


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