Monday, June 29, 2009

W.7- The New Deal

As noted earlier, after a Sunday of rest and the busiest Monday on the grand slam calendar, everything changes. Well, at least a LITTLE.

Well, not really THAT much, now that I think about it. Here are the women's final eight, a some quick thoughts and a prediction for each quarterfinal matchup:

#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. Sabine Lisicki/GER: Safina was lucky enough to have an opponent in Amelie Mauresmo today who steadfastly refused to take advantage of the opportunities she carved out for herself. The Russian is now one win away from reaching the SF at a fourth straight slam, and five of the last six. She's gotten this far without having any pressure on herself to succeed on grass, but now that changes since she's THIS CLOSE to reaching a third slam final in '09. While she's picking up confidence with each win at SW19, it's hard to get past the thought that if she has a bad stretch against Lisicki she might not be able to get past it now that the stakes are higher. We'll soon see if she learned anything from her Paris collapse, not to mention the one in Melbourne and Paris again before that. Lisicki, who took out Caroline Wozniacki today (boy, it'd been nice to see some of that one... thanks, ESPN), has never been this far in a slam, but she handled pressure well in Charleston and is really the dark horse to break through and reach the final in the top half. PREDICTION: LISICKI IN THREE SETS

#3 Venus Williams/USA vs. #11 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL: Venus played a singles and doubles match today... and lost two games. Ana Ivanovic injured her thigh and retired down 1-6/1-0, then the all-Sisters doubles team double-bageled Zheng Jie & Zi Yan, ending a particularly disappointing SW19 for '08 singles semfinalist Zheng. Williams' Wimbledon streaks now stand at eighteen matches and thirty sets, and Agnieszka Radwanska might be in for a heap of trouble tomorrow. A-Rad, in her second straight Wimbledon QF, DID manage to break out of her "you-lose-it" pattern that always makes me question her ability to go deep into a draw, though. Instead, against Melanie Oudin today, she pressed the issue a bit and showed why she so often wins on her smarts and puckishness (remember her dancing around at the service box during that defeat of Sharapova at the U.S. Open a while back?). THAT was the Radwanska that climbed into the Top 10 and I noted always seemed to get better every time I saw her about a year ago. I thought THAT A-Rad was in hibernation, but there she was today. Only because of that, I guess A-Rad could push this one to three sets if Venus' forehand starts to fail her, but there's been NO evidence of that happening at SW19 so far this year. Radwanska's soft serves just seem like they'll provide target practice for Williams. PREDICTION: WILLIAMS IN TWO SETS

#4 Elena Dementieva/RUS vs. Francesca Schiavone/ITA: Does this one really matter in the long run (you know, like two days after this match is over)? Won't the winner simply lose the SF to the winner of Williams/Azarenka? Probably. Schiavone is a true surprise, but her '09 grass season (she was two matches in Birmingham and reached the Netherlands SF) means this result isn't as much of a fluke as it might appear, even if her last slam QF WAS almost six years ago. Meanwhile, Dementieva has continued her pattern of getting a good result right when everyone starts to discount her. She has yet to lose a set. Of course, since that pre-tournament scenario in which I noted that Punch-Sober might be able to reach the semis without facing a seed has actually played out to the letter, I'm not sure how much that stat really means. Still, it's hard to argue with a player who is one win away from reaching her fourth SF in the last five slams after having reached four in her previous THIRTY-EIGHT slams. She's doing something right, and I think she will again here. PREDICTION: DEMENTIEVA IN TWO SETS

#2 Serena Williams/USA vs. #8 Victoria Azarenka/BLR: Serena has a shot to reach the final in a fourth of the last five slams. The Dementieva/Schiavone winner should only be a minor obstacle, so Azarenka is all that's left in her way before that expected rematch with Venus. Somehow, though, even with so much anticipation for this third big-time meeting between these two this season, I don't think this is going to be much of a match. If Azarenka, who took a tumble to the grass late in her match today (she didn't seem to injury herself badly, though she appeared to possibly hyperextend her knee), has a hard time getting past Nadia Petrova -- having to win a set in a tie-break and going three -- then it's hard to imagine the two-time slam quarterfinalist challenging an in-form Serena at the All-England Club. Still, I must say, after turning on Azarenka in Paris after her antics against Suarez-Navarro in their hotly-contested match, I'm right back on board the A-Train after her frisky responses over the past week to those media members and fans who attempted to chide her for her in-point grunting. Even though I can easily gravitate to a please-the-crowder like Wozniacki, as I showed with La Petit Taureau, I'm often a bigger sucker for a player who's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to people who complain because they like to hear themselves talk. PREDICTION: WILLIAMS IN TWO SETS

Of course, ANYTHING could happen, right? (All right, butt "technically" covered.)

...while the Safina/Mauresmo match was the first official match played under the Centre Court roof, the one between Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka, which played out while the sun shined outside (the roof remained closed) AND after nighttime darkness had swallowed up the grounds, was the first FULL match to be played indoors.

Murray won in a four-hour five-setter after being pushed once again. Truthfully, one wonders how many more times he can keep that up if he intends to have a shot to reach and/or win the final and erase that "no British man since Fred Perry in 1936" business.

The match ended at around 10:40pm London time. Ah, nothing beats nighttime tennis. Not in New York. Not in Melbourne. And, now, not at SW19, either.

...a few additional comments about a few of today's women's matches:

--Oudin's inexperience finally did her in against A-Rad. She was up a break in both the 1st and 2nd sets, but lost the advantage both times. She held game point for 5-5 in the 1st, but was ultimately broken after some ill-timed errors, and served for a tie-break at 5-6 in the 2nd, only to be broken again to end the match. Still, she learned a great deal at this Wimbledon.

--of course, the same can't be said for Mauresmo. The draw opened up big-time for the '06 champ to put forth one more (final?) run for a Wimbledon SF-or-better. She had her chances against Safina today. She erased a break disadvantage in the 1st set to take it 6-4, but couldn't hold her own advantages the rest of the match. She was up a set and a break in the 2nd, but failed to secure the set (the roof was closed with the Russian up 4-1). In the 3rd, she led 3-0 but lost six of the final seven games of the match. The Williams Sisters were always going to be a tough nut for Mauresmo to crack at this tournament, but she could have and probably should have handled Safina. Turning 30 on the final day of this Wimbledon, she probably won't get an opportunity like this again.

--yet another grand slam ended with tears fallling down AnaIvo's cheeks, but at least this exit was the result of something beyond her control. A 6-1/6-1 loss to Venus might have hurt her psyche more than her thigh hurts after injuring it today. Thank the tennis Gods for small favors?

...AWARDS UPDATES: filling the role for the third time in a little over a year, Safina wins the "Zombie Queen" title for her comeback-X-two today against Mauresmo. "Ms. Opportunity" will be given to the winner of the Dementieva/Schiavone quarterfinal match. Lisicki will win the "It Girl" award, unless Azarenka upsets Serena and keeps the title in play going into the semis.

...ITF/JUNIOR UPDATE: While all the attention of the tennis world is focused on London, there ARE matches going on elsewhere. One ITF title-winner of note from this past weekend was Ukraine's Julia Vakulenko, as the tour's hard-luck woman won a $25K clay event in Perigueux, France. Another was 17-year old American Jacqueline Cako, who won a $10K in Wichita, Kansas.

Meanwhile, at the Grade 1 junior grass event at Roehampton, France's Kristina Mladenovic, the junior #1 and top seed in the Wimbledon Girls, won the title with wins over Brit Heather Watson (QF), Noppawan Lertcheewakarn (SF) and Olivia Rogowska (Final). The Boys title was won by the NCAA champ, American Devin Britton.

...congratulations to Lindsay Davenport on the birth of her daughter, Lauren. Soon, Jagger will have a playmate.

...a Wimbledon official has apparently admitted to scheduling matches featuring the likes of Gisela Dulko, Maria Kirilenko and Sorana Cirstea on bigger courts over players such as Safina, Serena and Svetlana Kuznetsova because of their looks. I think we all sort of knew that such things went on, but it's amazing that someone woulld actually ADMIT it.

...unfortunately, I didn't realize the other day that NBC will be "broadcasting" Wimbledon every day this week, so ESPN's coverage can be screwed ALL THE WAY to the semifinals. It's already started, too.

1) ESPN's announcers couldn't reveal the result of the Venus/Ivanovic match during the 7am to 1pm coverage (leading to Dick Enberg talking about Williams having won 29 straight sets at Wimbledon "going into her match" today, well after the match had already been completed). Although, the network pulled a "screw you, NBC" again by allowing the final score to be run in the sports score ticker at the bottom of the screen on ESPN2 while other matches were being aired. Where there's a will, there's a way. Still, if Williams had been the one who'd retired, this would have meant the biggest story of the tournament so far would have taken place off air without the network televising the event as it happened being able to discuss the draw-changing result during a six-hour telecast.

2) And how pathetic it was to hear Chris Fowler have to say that NBC "graciously allowed" ESPN to show the final points of the Roger Federer/Robin Soderling 3rd set tie-break that were taking place just after 10am East Coast time (a few minutes into the start of NBC's coverage), even though the network had been televising the match from the start. Isn't the deal usually that the televising network gets to show the conclusion of a match that it began showing, even if it happens to overlap into another net's coverage window? What sort of deal did ESPN sign in order to cover Wimbledon anyway? Does Chris Fowler have to turn over his next born child to Jeff Zucker, too? Does Brad Gilbert have to shine the floor after Conan O'Brien finishes "The Tonight Show?" Does Pam Shriver have to hit the "applause" bottom during the first week of "The Jay Leno Show"? Does Mary Carillo have to knock some sense into Ann Curry (though that could be a life-long job)? Does Mary Joe Fernandez have to gain seventy pounds so that she can go on next season's "The Biggest Loser"? All right, I'm out of 'em.

3) Naturally, NBC chose that moment to actually break away from its longtime policy of not showing any sporting event until it knows precisely down to the milisecond when it will end and televise LIVE tennis, showing the final points of Federer's victory.

It was going to be the ONLY live tennis NBC showed during its three hours of coverage. But then it started to rain (well, a LITTLE), and the Centre Court roof was closed. Someone at NBC decided to cut into the regular taped coverage to show the historic moment, then the conclusion of the 2nd set of the Safina/Mauresmo match and the start of the 3rd until 1pm came around. Of course,, no one on NBC bothered to answer the question of why the Safina/Mauresmo match wasn't being televised live at the time anyway, and it wasn't until play actually began after the roof opening delay that the SCORE of the Safina/Mauresmo match was even mentioned at all.

This just in: NBC just started running ads for its Winter Olympics 2010 coverage for next February. Ooh, I can't wait.

THIS JUST IN: not surprisingly, NBC is embargoing the Williams/Azarenka match tomorrow.

...and, finally, be on the lookout this week for the latest versions of "Backspin Time Capsule" (Novotna's collapse in the '93 Wimbledon final)and "Decade's Best" for Wimbledon 2000-09, which will also include the cutdown of the "Players of the Decade" list to the official finalists which will be counted down every week to #1 starting after the U.S. Open.

#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. Sabine Lisicki/GER
#3 Venus Williams/USA vs. #11 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
Francesca Schiavone/ITA vs. #4 Elena Dementieva/RUS
#8 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

Lleyton Hewitt/AUS vs. #6 Andy Roddick/USA
#3 Andy Murray/GBR vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero/ESP
#24 Tommy Haas/GER vs. #4 Novak Djokovic/SRB
#22 Ivo Karlovic/CRO vs. #2 Roger Federer

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #11 Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez (ESP/ESP)
#4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA) vs. #12 Groenefeld/King (GER/USA)
Barrois/Garbin (GER/ITA) vs. #3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS)
Kleybanova/Makarova (RUS/RUS) vs. #2 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #5 Soares/Ullyett (BRA/ZIM)
#4 Bhupathi/Knowles (IND/BAH) vs. #9 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)
xx vs. Blake/Fish (USA/USA)
#8 Kubot/Marach (POL/AUT) vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

[3 slams/24 berths]
9...Russia (Wimb.'09: 2-Dementieva/Safina)
4...United States (2-Williams/Williams)
2...Belarus (1-Azarenka)
1...Germany (1-Lisicki)
1...Italy (1-Schiavone)
1...Poland (1-Radwanska)
1...Slovak Republic

Elena Dementieva (to QF)
Nadia Petrova (out 4th Rd.)
Agnieszka Radwanska (to QF)
Tamarine Tanasugarn (out 1st Rd.)
Nicole Vaidisova (out 1st Rd.)
Serena Williams (to QF)
Venus Williams (to QF)
Zheng Jie (out 2nd Rd.)

WI: Venus Williams, USA
AO: Jelena Jankovic, SRB
RG: Dinara Safina, RUS
WI: Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
US: Jelena Jankovic, SRB
AO: Dinara Safina, RUS
RG: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
WI: Dinara Safina, RUS

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: Dinara Safina/RUS - down set and a break, then 3-0 in 3rd to Amelie Mauresmo/FRA, advances to first Wimbledo QF
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha/GBR (2nd Rd.)

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


Blogger Topaz said...

Excellent wrap up as always.

I disagree with only one of your picks...for some reason, I am favoring Frannie to come through.

I agree, it would have been *really* nice to see even a few points of CWoz and Lisicki...did they even mention the match? Though, I am pleased that we got to see the Oudin match.

And, ESPN once again showed Venus's presser, so we knew that AnaIvo had pulled out before the NBC coverage began. I had to chuckle. Is anyone at NBC even noticing I wonder?

Mon Jun 29, 07:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kutta said...

I could care less now that Amelie and Sveta are both out of this tournament, but it just sucks to see ANOTHER close 3-set loss after being up a set and a break for Amelie. I first fell in love with her (and her game) during her 3-set loss to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon '04 SF, and I can't believe this happened AGAIN, 5 years later. Oh, well. At least I'm not in tears like I was after the RG loss. I pretty much predicted this, after all.

Mon Jun 29, 10:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Topaz said...

Kutta, I'm a huge Amelie fan as well. I actually got a picture taken with her this past year in Miami.

It is incredibly frustrating to be a fan of her, almost seems like she is afraid to win. She had it and then almost...seemed to lose interest?

Mon Jun 29, 11:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kutta said...

Topaz: She choked, plain and simple. I am 100% convinced that the only reason she ever won that Wimbly title was karmic retribution for what happened Down Under. Other than that, she's destined to go down in history as a choker, and really a One Slam Wonder. Or 1.5 Slam Wonder. Sad but true.

Tue Jun 30, 01:20:00 AM EDT  

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