Tuesday, June 30, 2009

W.8- Middle-Round Maneuvers

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

Things started last Monday with 128 women in the main draw. While there are but four remaining, ALL of the top four seeded women have reached the semifinals, including three of the same players who advanced to this point at the All-England Club a year ago.

Is there anything or anyone that can prevent another Williams vs. Williams final?

TOP PLAYER: Serena Williams/USA
...is Serena actually playing BETTER than Venus? Maybe, even though big sister has been mowing through opponents the last two rounds (it could be that Serena's great is just so much more flashy that she SEEMS to be playing better). Either way, if they meet in the final, the previous fortnight would go out the window, which could be a hell of a lot of fun to watch. (RU: Venus Williams/USA & Williams/Williams in doubles... I sense a theme)
RISER: Dinara Safina/RUS
...she's too good to be totally bummed out and distracted by what happened in Paris. Of course, she still might leave London with a bad taste in her mouth and a a SafinaScowl on her face. (ALSO: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL)
SURPRISES: Elena Vesnina/RUS & Melanie Oudin/USA
...Vesnina's surges probably shouldn't be so much of a surprise six months into the season, though. Ditto for Oudin, who's now flashed in Fed Cup AND at a slam before her eighteenth birthday. (ALSO: Alisa Kleybanova/Ekaterina Makarova, RUS/RUS)
VETERAN: Elena Dementieva/RUS
...again, she proved she should never be counted out until she's TOTALLY out. And I mean airplane leaving the tarmac out. (ALSO: Francesca Schiavone/ITA)
FRESH FACES Victoria Azarenka/BLR & Sabine Lisicki/GER
...it's just a matter of time before Azarenka does something grand. Like, say, by the end of next season. Lisicki seems to be on a rocket trip to the Top 10 before the 2010 Wimbledon. (ALSO: Richel Hogenkamp/NED)
DOWN: Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...she's not going to go five years before she rediscovers her slam mojo again, is she? (ALSO: Zi Yan/Zheng Jie, CHN)
COMEBACK: Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...things didn't end well but, assuming she's healthy, she might have gotten back enough confidence to be a factor in North America after being anything but for the past thirteen months. (ALSO: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK)

HISTORIC, but Amelie would probably rather forget about it: 4th Rd. - #1 Safina d. #17 Mauresmo 4-6/6-3/6-4
...the first match played (partially) under the Centre Court roof, Mauresmo might remember it as maybe her last chance to make an impact at SW19 -- she was up a set and a break, then 3-0 in the 3rd. Thankfully, 2006 cemented her Hall of Fame credentials.
...the bloom is off Queen Chaos' rose. Can it grow back before she gets to New York?
"UNKNOWN" JUNIOR ALERT: Girls 2nd Rd. - Hogenkamp d. #3 A.Bogdan 3-6/6-1/6-4
...when was the last time an unseeded junior came into a slam with such a head of steam as this one?

MS. OPPORTUNITY: Elena Dementieva/RUS. Punch-Sober strikes yet again with a second straight SW19 SF result out of her weak section of the draw.
IT GIRL: Sabine Lisicki/GER. Can she be what ALG never could? You know, the long-awaited heir to Graf's German throne.
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Melanie Oudin/USA. The American reached the 4th Round, and made even more fans in London than she did when she saved Mary Joe Fernandez's Fed Cup coaching credibility a few months ago.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Dinara Safina/RUS. Naturally, the Russian Cat showed she had more lives in reserve when she escaped Mauresmo in the Round of 16, then advanced to her first Wimbledon semi. Of course, her grass-hating big brother reached the same round at SW19 a year ago, but it didn't change his opinion of the lawns (he lost in the 1st Round this year in what he says was his final appearance at the All-England Club).
COMEBACK: Ana Ivanovic/SRB. Of course, we won't know if her "recuperative" Round of 16 run really meant anything until the end of this summer.

TOO BAD: Vera Zvonareva, finally making her return from torn ankle ligaments in Charleston several months ago, had to give Virginia Razzano a walkover victory in the 3rd Round when her injury flaired up.
TOO GOOD: Venus Williams, on Day 7. She eliminated AnaIvo 6-1/0-1 in singles early in the day, then she and Serena took out former Wimbledon Doubles champs Yan & Zheng 6-0/6-0 later.
TOO LITTLE: Caroline Wozniacki lost in the 4th Round to nemesis Lisicki, who also wiped her out in the Charleston final, and is still in search of her first slam QF result. She and Anabel Medina-Garrigues are the only players currently in the Top 20 who've never done it.
TOO MUCH... and that's a good thing: Victoria Azarenka made quite a few points here at Backspin HQ by hitting back at the Anti-Grunting Brigade. I knew she was probably just having a bad few days in Paris, and I'd likely forgive her quite quickly. All is well again with the A-Train.

Now, who does Richard Williams think is going to win this title anyway?

...only one of today's women's quarterfinals was much of a contest, and even it wasn't a great match in the end.

Venus easily blasted through A-Rad 6-1/6-2 (she actually had a point for a bagel opening set twenty-two minutes into the match). Dementieva did the same against Schiavone, 6-2/6-2, and even Serena was simply too much for Azarenka (who at least kept her head about her, only slamming down her racket a few times after immediately giving back the one break she'd grabbed in the match at 3-2 in the 2nd set). Williams had a 13-to-1 winners/unforced errors ratio in the 1st set of the 6-2/6-3 win, and when she served for the match with new balls you almost had to feel sorry for the Belarusan.

The only match that went three sets was the one between Dinara Safina and Sabine Lisicki. The German took the 1st set 7-6, then the Russian managed to win a close 2nd set despite having issues with her serve. In the 3rd, for a while, it looked like neither player wanted to win the match (neither could hold serve in the opening stages of the set). But, just as was the case against Mauresmo yesterday, Safina was bailed out of a potential jam when her opponent seemed less ready to take the match than she was. After having twelve aces in the first two sets, Lisicki has none in the 3rd and then couldn't hold her serve down 1-5 to at least force Safina to have to hold her nerves and serve out the match. In the end, Safina had ZERO aces and FIFTEEN double-faults, but still managed to take the match 6-7/6-4/6-1.

It's hard to beleive she'll get such assistance against Venus in the SF. And Dementieva, after getting to the final four without facing a single seeded player (quite amazing in the era of 32 seeded players at a slam), might be in for a very rude awakening when she gets Serena next.

At this point, as has been the case from Day 1, everything on the women's side of the draw seems to just be a prelude to the final matchup that was one of the most predictable ones in a slam since the days when Evert and Navratilova were winning nearly every slam, or Graf and Seles were reaching so many finals in the early 1990's... or, really, maybe it'd be more appropriate to say it's similar to when the Williams Sisters were battling so often at the start of this decade.

...a few years ago, the ATP used the slogan "New Balls" to promote the tour. At this Wimbledon, the WTA could almost use the phrase "Old Balls" to describe the semis, what with both Williams Sisters and Dementieva, three of the more veteran players in the draw when things began, still alive. For that matter, the men's QF have a very familiar, "old school" look, as well, with mainstay Federer joined by the likes of Hewitt, Roddick, Ferrero, Haas and even Karlovic (he's 30-years old, in spite of this really being his first great Wimbledon run after years of wowing everyone with his serve and then losing earlier than expected).

Additionally, the top four seeds have advanced to the women's singles SF. It's only the seventh time since 1989 that it's happened, and five of those times were at Wimbledon. Grass just seems to have a way of eradicating Cinderella's dreams, I guess. Here are the occurrences during the span:

*TOP 4 SEEDS TO SLAM SF - 1989-09*
1992 Roland Garros (Seles-Graf-Sabatini-Sanchez Vicario)
1992 Wimbledon (Seles-Graf-Sabatini-Navratilova)
1993 Australian (Seles-Graf-Sabatini-Sanchez Vicario)
1995 Wimbledon (Graf-Sanchez Vicario-Martinez-Novotna)
2003 Wimbledon (S.Williams-Clijsters-Henin Hardenne-V.Williams)
2006 Wimbledon (Mauresmo-Clijsters-Henin Hardenne-Sharapova)
2009 Wimbledon (Safina-S.Williams-V.Williams-Dementieva)

...the 2nd Round junior match that I mentioned the other day came off on Day 8, and Dutch girl Richel Hogenkamp DID continue her recent run by knocking off #3-seed Ana Bogdan 3-6/6-1/6-4. Meanwhile, unseeded Akiko Omae of Japan upst Roland Garros Girls finalist #15-seed Daria Gavrilova.

...and, finally, East Coast viewers lucked out today since the order of the Wimbledon schedule allowed the Venus/A-Rad match to be shown live on ESPN, along with the last half of the Safina/Lisicki match (though not a lick of the first set and a half, since it was apparently decided that it was more important to air every point of Williams' thrashing of Radwanska). The end of Safina/Lisicki was also simultaneously shown on NBC, followed by live coverage Serena/Azarenka on the peacock network. But I suspect, what with NBC's 10am-in-all-time-zones coverage, the rest of the country got royally screwed today since even the net's LIVE coverage wasn't live there. Then, when ESPN returned to air at 1pm Eastern, when NBC was still on air in some portions of the U.S., it had to wait even more hours before showing a replay of the Serena/Azarenka contest despite having promoted last night that it'd be shown at 1pm.

Thus, I didn't really have major complaints today, but I'm sure many others did.

#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. #3 Venus Williams/USA
#4 Elena Dementieva/RUS 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) def. #5 Soares/Ullyett (BRA/ZIM)
#4 Bhupathi/Knowles (IND/BAH) vs. #9 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)
Aspelin/Hanley (SWE/AUS) vs. Blake/Fish (USA/USA)
#2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB) def. #8 Kubot/Marach (POL/AUT)

#1 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) vs. #11 Sugiyama/Sa (JPN/BRA)
xx vs. #12 Ruano-Pascual/Huss (ESP/AUS)
xx vs. #15 Benesova/Dlouhy (CZE/CZE)
xx vs. #2 B.Bryan/Stosur (USA/AUS)

3...United States
1...Slovak Republic

31...Russia (W: 2)
11...United States (W: 2)

*2009 WTA SF*
5...Caroline Wozniacki (5-0)

18...Venus Williams (13-4)
16...Serena Williams (13-2)
8...Elena Dementieva (2-5)
5...Dinara Safina (3-1)

2004 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2005 Venus Williams, USA
2006 Severine Bremond, FRA
2007 Marion Bartoli, FRA
2008 Zheng Jie, CHN
2009 Elena Dementieva, RUS
AO: Vera Zvonareva, RUS
RG: Samantha Stosur, AUS
WI: Elena Dementieva, RUS

2006 Li Na, CHN
2007 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2008 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2009 Sabine Lisicki, GER
AO: Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
RG: Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
WI: Sabine Lisicki, GER

AO: Serena Williams, USA
RG: Patty Schnyder, SUI
WI: Venus Williams, USA
US: Vera Zvonareva, RUS
AO: Yan Zi/Zheng Jie, CHN
RG: Elena Dementieva, RUS
WI: Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
US: Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
AO: Jelena Dokic, AUS
RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
WI: Ana Ivanovic, SRB

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #2 Serena 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)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - Melanie Oudin/USA d. Jelena Jankovic/SRB 6-7/7-5/6-2
FIRST SEED OUT: #23 Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN (1st Rd.-Schiavone/ITA)
IT GIRL: Sabine Lisicki/GER
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Elena Dementieva/RUS
CRASH & BURN: Maria Sharapova/RUS - lost to Gisela Dulko/ARG in 2nd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Dinara Safina/RUS - in 4th Rd., down set and a break, then 3-0 in 3rd to Amelie Mauresmo/FRA; advanced to first Wimbledon SF
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha/GBR (2nd Rd.)

All for Day 8. More tomorrow.


Blogger Zidane said...

I have just noticed something quite interesting about the women game (that you probably already noticed since you compile tons of stats): the 68 last Slam finalists (including the Wimbledon), which goes back to the 2001 French Open, have come from only 5 countries (United States, Russia, Belgium, France and Serbia).

The men game, in comparison, is much more varied on this aspect (only going back to the 2008 Australian Open, finalists come from 6 different countries - Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Serbia, France and Britain), it says a lot on the territoriality of the elite of the sport.

Wed Jul 01, 02:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hmmm, I didn't have that one. It's an even more interesting stat when you consider that so many of the men's finalist slots have been filled by just Federer and Nadal, while during that same span (at least recently) the women's #1 ranking has been such a hot potato.

Wed Jul 01, 12:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger vernondudley said...

"the 68 last Slam finalists (including the Wimbledon), which goes back to the 2001 French Open, have come from only 5 countries (United States, Russia, Belgium, France and Serbia)."

Hingis reached the Australian Open final in 2002.

Wed Jul 01, 08:53:00 PM EDT  

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