Saturday, June 27, 2009

W.6- Blade Runners, Pt.II

So, can anyone prevent Venus from reaching the final?

That's surely the prevailing -- and ONLY, really -- question with eight women now remaining in the top half of the Ladies' singles draw. With each round, the few players around who might be able to challenge Williams on a day when they play great and she plays poorly has shrunk just a little bit more. As of right now, I'd say there's really only one player left who might have an inkling of a shot. If you were to stretch, there might be THREE... but the draw says Venus could only possibly face one of them.

Here, in order, is how I'd rank the chances of the Bottom 8 to reach the final (not necessarily by their simple ability, but according to how the draw has panned out for them):

1. #3 Venus Williams/USA: From the start, the berth in the final has been her's to win or lose. The only player with a real shot to beat her would seem to be Mauresmo, on a good day for her and a semi-off one for Venus. Often, Williams takes a while to get into her groove at SW19, usually escaping an early-round upset bid. Right now, she's on a 17-match, 29-set winning streak there and seems to be grasping her career destiny at the All-England Club with both arms (and maybe both legs, too). If she keeps playing as she has this past week, the only other person who could beat Williams lives in the same house as her and shares her last name. Nothing against the rest of the players in this draw, but it would be an incredible gift to the sport if the Sisters could continue to play at their current level and meet in the final. It might actually produce the women's tennis equivalent of the Federer/Nadal final from last year.

2. #17 Amelie Mauresmo/FRA: The '06 champion's game is better suited to grass than any other surface, and that means her only legit chance to win a third career slam is at SW19. But probably not this one, not with BOTH Venus and Serena looking so good. While she has the best shot to defeat Venus -- that is, if Williams EVER has a slightly bad day at this tournament -- compared to the other six women in the top half, it's hard to imagine she will. She seems to be rounding into better form with each round, though. If she gets a shot at Venus in the semis, it'll mean Mauresmo has gotten past Dinara Safina and a potential headache of an opponent in either Caroline Wozniacki or Sabine Lisicki and has continued her improvement. At that point, a shot is all she could ever ask for.

3t. #9 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN & Sabine Lisicki/GER: Their 4th Round clash should be a great match. Both are wild fun to watch and pull for. While Wozniacki is a past Wimbledon junior champ and won a grass title a week ago, Lisicki said today that she'd never won a match on grass before this tournament. Considering C-Woz's tendency to get involved in long matches, even while she's breezed past opponents the last two rounds, this could be a real humdinger... and a long one, too. The winner, if they're not tired out, would have a good shot to knock off Mauresmo in a QF, and would be the likely pick to take out Safina if she's there.

5. #1 Dinara Safina/RUS: So far, so good. The lack of attention is just what she needed after her Paris debacle in the final. In the 4th Round, though, Mauresmo provides a huge obstacle. The Pastry goes in knowing her best surface is grass, while Safina believes in her heart that it's her worst. That sort of equation wouldn't seem to work too much in the Russian's favor. But if Amelie lets HER nerves get the best of her, Safina's whole mindset might change. That's the only reason she's as high as #5 on this list.

6. #13 Ana Ivanovic/SRB: Is she back or not? At the very least, AnaIvo didn't duck-and-cover and exit this tournament the first chance she had. And that's SOMETHING. After merely surviving in the 1st Round against Lucie Hradecka, she's gotten better each time out. Venus will probably take care of that possible surge in confidence in the 4th Round, though.

7. Melanie Oudin/USA: She can't believe she's still around. Obviously, it'd be a stunner of epic proportions if the American reached the final, but she surely CAN go further in this draw. Agnieszka Radwanska doesn't provide enough power for Oudin to be run off the court in their 4th Round meeting. If Oudin can just keep her head and not fall into the A-Rad you-make-the-mistake-and-I'll-just-watch-and-win trap, she's going to be in the QF facing Venus Williams. Now THAT would be a different kettle of fish, but no matter what happens next the last week has been the best of Oudin's career and might have changed it forever.

8. Agnieszka Radwanska/POL: She depends on her opponent to make the costly mistake. That gets a player only so far in a slam and the rankings. While her game is somewhat reminiscent of former #1 Martina Hingis', the Swiss Miss was a better athlete and big point player in her prime. In her favor, though, the Pole seems to be in good control of her emotions, the opposite of which was ultimately Hingis' undoing once she started to lose to power players in the late 1990's... so A-Rad can stick around long enough in a match with anyone to win it if she gets a few breaks. Radwanska is interesting to watch, not to mention a real head-thumper for an inconsistent opponent, but there's no way she's not going to run into SOMEONE who has enough shots to keep her from reaching a slam final in London.

Now, after a day of rest, everything can change.

=DAY 6 NOTES= the conclusion of what was probably the best match of the tournament so far, Tommy Haas came back from being match point down twice yesterday (after losing a two sets to none lead, and holding two match points of his own on Day 5) to defeat Marin Cilic. Tied 6-6 in the 5th set going into today, Haas ended up winning the deciding set 10-8.

...hey, hey. The roof was finally closed today, but it was at the end of the day's Centre Court play.

...after Daniela Hantuchova eliminated doubles partner Ai Sugiyama is singles one day ago, on Day 6 the pair lost as a team to Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova.

...a quick rundown of today's 3rd Round women's results:

--American Melanie Oudin knocked out #6 seed Jelena Jankovic 6-7/7-5/6-2, rebounding from the disappointment of failing to convert three set points in the 1st. Showing herself to still be the fighter who saved the U.S.'s bacon in Fed Cup play earlier this season, Marietta, Georgia's own Oudin thus becomes the Last Qualifier Standing. While JJ won the opening set tie-break, she sure didn't look like she was playing to win it, just not to lose. It worked, but that's not how she reached the U.S. Open final last year and solidified her former #1 ranking during the closing weeks of the '08 season. THIS Jelena is but a shell of the player from last year, and it's no longer just because of her trip to Mexico, either. It goes deeper than that, and if she doesn't turn things around in her head soon it'll be AnaIvo who is the highest-ranked Serb at the end of the season. In this one, she complained of dizziness and said after the match she thought she might need to be taken away by an ambulance (now that would have been a sight). Hmmm, last year she talked about helicopters at SW19, and this year an ambulance. What is it about alternate forms of transportation, Queen Chaos and the All-England Club, anyway?

--Ana Ivanovic had a much easier time than expected with Samantha Stosur, and appears to have handled this year's early-round escape much better than she did last year's. Unfortunately for her, she faces Venus next. Williams bageled CSN in the 1st set and extended her Wimbledon streaks to 17 matches and 29 sets.

--Caroline Wozniacki ended Anabel Medina-Garrigues' tournament, two rounds before the QF (naturally).

--Agnieszka Radwanska failed to convert two match points against Li Na when serving at 6-4/5-4, but won the match two games later despite being outnumbered by Li in total winners by a six-to-one margin (35-6)... thanks largely to Li's additional forty-eight errors.

--Svetlana Kuznetsova, ending this post-Roland Garros Wimbledon not that differently from how Ivanovic did last year, was bounced by Sabine Lisicki without too much of a fight.

--Amelie Mauresmo double-faulted on a match point against Flavia Pennetta, but advanced in straight sets. She'll face #1-seed Dinara Safina, who continued to move through the draw under the radar since her Wimbledon expectations are so low. If she wins the next match, though, that could change.

...the junior draws have been announced, and play has begun...

1. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2. Laura Robson, GBR
3. Ana Bogdan, ROU
4. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
5. Olivia Rogowska, AUS
6. Timea Babos, HUN
7. Sloane Stephens, USA
8. Ajla Tomljanovic, CRO
9. Christina McHale, USA (lost 1st Rd.)
10. Camila Silva, CHI
1. Daniel Berta, SWE
2. Huang Liang-Chi, TPE (lost 1st Rd.)
3. Bernard Tomic, AUS
4. Agustin Velotti, ARG
5. Andrea Collarini, ARG (lost 1st Rd.)
6. Gianna Mina, FRA
7. Shuichi Sekiguchi, JPN
8. Julen Uriguen, GUA (lost 1st Rd.)
9. Dominik Schulz, GER
10. Julien Obry, FRA

...interestingly, there's a good chance that #3-seed Ana Bogdan might meet unseeded Richel Hogenkamp in the 2nd Round (Hogenkamp, fresh off her recent junior title and ITF $10K challenger win, has already won her 1st Round match)

...and, finally, the silent hand of NBC reared its ugly head today on ESPN... but not nearly as thunderously as it might have. From how it appeared, with NBC's coverage not beginning until 3pm, the network must have had the option to embargo either the Roddick/Melzer or Murray/Troicki match today. It was said earlier in ESPN's coverage, which began at 8am rather than 7am as it had all week (who knows why), that the Murray match was the one embargoed, but it was the Roddick match that ended up not being shown or the result given (while the Murray match was aired live later on ESPN).

Possibly jumping through a loophole, though, ESPN DID show the Roddick post-match press conference where it became quickly obvious that he'd won the match, though the announcers didn't actually say it at the time. Take that, NBC.

Thankfully, there's no Sunday coverage, so NBC's damage to ESPN's production (which really can't stand outside sabotage, considering the internal problems it already has) will be kept to a minimum this weekend. Of course, had the rains come today during the Roddick match and the roof had to be closed, American TV viewers wouldn't even have been able to see the first match played under the roof live... even though it would have included an American player! For the life of me, I still can't quite figure out a television contract that allows a network that hasn't aired a second of coverage to direct that of another, especially on the Orwellian level such as the one with NBC/ESPN where the cable network seems to not even be able to actually SAY the result of a match, such as Darren Cahill saying "if form holds, Tomas Berdych would face Andy Roddick next" well after Roddick had already won his match (which is why the airing of the presser was so potentially sly and smart). I don't remember a similar set-up at the U.S. Open between USA Network and CBS in the past, but then again, CBS doesn't believe that events haven't happened yet just because its coverage window is still six hours away.

Since the rain held off, what was prevented was yet another embarrassment on the heels of ESPN not being able to air the Nadal loss at Roland Garros because NBC wouldn't allow it, and the horrific coverage of that Federer near-loss during the second week in Paris. Of course, there's always the possibly of tape-delayed coverage of the semifinals next week for NBC to screw up on two separate networks thanks to sports television's most insane set of "rules," isn't there?

5...Russia (4/1)
4...United States (3/1)
3...France (2/1)
2...Czech Republic (0/2)
2...Germany (1/1)
2...Serbia (1/1)
2...Spain (0/2)
2...Switzerland (0/2)
1...Australia (0/1)
1...Belarus (1/0)
1...Croatia (0/1)
1...Denmark (1/0)
1...Great Britain (0/1)
1...Israel (0/1)
1...Italy (1/0)
1...Poland (1/0)
1...Slovak Republic (1/0)
1...Sweden (0/1)

#1 Dinara Safina, RUS
#2 Serena Williams, USA
#3 Venus Williams, USA
#4 Elena Dementieva, RUS
#8 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
#9 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
#10 Nadia Petrova, RUS
#12 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
#14 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
#17 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#23 Virginie Razzano, FRA
#32 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
#37 Elena Vesnina, RUS
#41 Sabine Lisicki, GER
#43 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
#124 Melanie Oudin, USA
17...Melanie Oudin
18...Caroline Wozniacki
19...Sabine Lisicki
19...Victoria Azarenka
20...Agnieszka Radwanska
21...Ana Ivanovic
22...Elena Vesnina
23...Dinara Safina
26...Virginie Razzano
26...Daniela Hantuchova
27...Nadia Petrova
27...Elena Dementieva
27...Serena Williams
29...Amelie Mauresmo
29...Francesca Schiavone
29...Venus Williams

Severine Bremond ('06 Wimb.)
Carla Suarez-Navarro ('08 RG)
=4th Rd.=
Marta Domachowska ('08 AO)
Anna-Lena Groenefeld ('08 US)
Hsieh Su-Wei ('08 AO)
MELANIE OUDIN ('09 WIMB.)...vs. A.Radwanska in 4th Rd.

US: Maria Sharapova (3r-A.Radwanska)
AO: Svetlana Kuznetsova (3r-A.Radwanska)
RG: Serena Williams (3r-Srebotnik)
WI: Maria Sharapova (2r-Kudryavtseva)
US: Ana Ivanovic (2r-Coin)
AO: Venus Williams (2r-Suarez-Navarro)
RG: Elena Dementieva (3r-Stosur)
WI: Maria Sharapova (2r-Dulko)

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: 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 6. More tomorrow.


Blogger Kutta said...

You know I love Amelie, Todd, but I'll be shocked and I mean SHOCKED if she wins this next one against Dinara. The one and only time (I believe) that Amelie ever beat the #1 seed at a GS was at the '99 AO, literally Momo's coming out party. After watching Dinara's match against Flipkens today, who plays like a lesser Henin/Momo, I really don't think Dinara's going to lose to Momo. Dinara's the Queen of Winning Ugly, and this one's gonna be Ugly alright, but it'll be my girl on the losing end of the stick here :(

Sat Jun 27, 08:58:00 PM EDT  

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