Wednesday, September 09, 2009

US.10- Middle-Round Madness

Sure, this has sort of turned into the "Oudin Open," but there were other players out there winning matches in the middle rounds, too.

TOP PLAYER: Serena Williams/USA
...Oudin's been the story, but Serena is still the favorite to star in the final headline. (RU: Kim Clijsters/BEL)
RISER: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...hopefully, if she knocks off Oudin, no one will hold it against her -- and simply transfer their backing to her. (ALSO: Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR & Kleybanova/Makarova, RUS)
SURPRISE: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
...unlike with American tennis in the post-Williams breakout years, it didn't take all that long for another threat to emerge from Belgium's first post-Henin/Clijsters tennis generation. (ALSO: Carly Gullickson/USA)
VETERAN: Flavia Pennetta/ITA
...she didn't wilt, even against Serena, and put a nice, classy finishing touch -- probably winning a nice chunk of new fans in the process -- to her brilliant summer. (ALSO: Cara Black/ZIM)
FRESH FACE Melanie Oudin/USA
...not really a big surprise, I guess. Still, it's been a while since someone so small did so much heavy lifting as defeating Dementieva, Sharapova and Petrova back-to-back-to-back. (ALSO: the American juniors, so far, including Sloane Stephens, Asia Muhammad, Beatrice Capra and Lauren Davis)
DOWN: The Russians
...apparently, it's not against WTA rules to have a Hordette-free slam QF round. Who knew? (ALSO: Gisela Dulko/ARG)
COMEBACK: Kim Clijsters/BEL
...Brad Gilbert says she's the only person left who has any chance to defeat Serena. Hmmm, I don't know who that's good news for. (ALSO: exciting night sessions on Ashe during the second week... finally)

MOMENT THAT WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR A GENERATON (at least): 3rd Rd. - Oudin d. Sharapova 3-6/6-4/7-5
....has it only been five years since Sharapova was the 17-year old knocking off a former champion in a slam?
MOMENT THAT WILL BE REMEMBERED FONDLY BY ONE PLAYER, BUT SPARK NIGHTMARES FOR ANOTHER: 4th Rd. - Pennetta def. Zvonareva 3-6/7-6/6-0 fun as it was to watch Pennetta celebrate after saving six match points, it was just as sad to watch Zvonareva's collapse.

IT GIRL: Melanie Oudin
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Flavia Pennetta
MIDDLE-ROUND CRASH AND BURNS: Maria Sharapova (3rd Rd.), Victoria Azarenka (3rd Rd.), Dinara Safina (3rd Rd.) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (4th Rd.), Kristina Mladenovic (Jr. 1st Rd.)

And things aren't QUITE over just yet. Oudin vs. Wozniacki on Night 10 could still provide a classic capper to the most memorable middle rounds of a slam in recent memory.

...I think we probably all sort of knew that no matter how wild and strange this Open has been, the sight of a Bondarenko sister in a slam singles semifinal was probably too odd an occurrence to come off. I mean, slam semifinals with two Belgians (but not one named Justine) is a virtual everyday occasion compared to something like that.

Yanina Wickmayer, finally getting her day in the sun (apparently, even Pam Shriver did some overnight research), showed she was more ready than Kateryna Bondarenko to seize upon this golden career opportunity. In the 1st set, Bondarenko saved four set points over two different games, but the Belgian claimed the set 7-5. In the 2nd, the Ukrainian led 4-1 and had a shot at 5-1. But her serve was broken, and Wickmayer went on to take the last five games of the match to win 7-5/6-4... finally making good on that slam semifinal prediction I made for her this summer.

Yeah, I know that Wimbledon pick, based on the thought that a section of the draw would implode and Wickmayer (who'd been playing very well in the month leading up) would survive, has nothing to do with the U.S. Open. Sheesh, Wickmayer lost in the 1st Round at SW19. Still, that she actually pulled off such a long shot result two months later, albeit at a different slam that saw a section of the draw collapse, is still kind of cool to point out, you know. (Kind of like when I made that pick in '04 that Sharapova would shock the world and reach the Wimbledon final, yet not win it -- I still like to count it as something of a "victory.") the way, this is the ninth time in the Open Era that at least two unseeded women have reached a slam semifinal, and the first time since Alexandra Stevenson and Mirjana Lucic did it at Wimbledon in 1999. It's been thirty-one years since THREE did it, but if Melanie Oudin wins tonight it'll happen for just the third time in the Open Era.

...AND THE WINNERS ARE: Cara Black & Liezel Huber. In a QF matchup of the two best regular doubles teams on tour this season, Black/Huber pulled ahead to take a 6-3/2-6/7-5 win and reach the SF. So, last year's Backspin co-Players of the Year once again have the chance to "rescue" their slam season by winning the final major of the season, just as the duo did a season ago after going 0-for-3 in the other slams. Of course, they'll have to go throught Stosur/Stubbs, and probably Williams sisters, to do it.

Late yesterday afternoon, American Carly Gullickson, a particular Backspin favorite over the years, advanced with Travis Parrott to her first-ever slam final when the pair upset #1-seeded Liezel Huber & Mahesh Bhupathi in the Mixed SF (they'd knocked off the #3 and #6 seeds earlier). They face #2-seeded Black/Paes in the final.

...there was one big junior upset today, as #3-seeded Timea Babos was knocked off in the 2nd Round by American Lauren Davis.

...and, finally, I'll be back later tonight with a nighttime Daily Backspin to talk about the "Princess Charming vs. The Little Engine That Could" contest that'll take place under the lights on Ashe tonight. I'm thinking Melanie Oudin, who won't necessarily have to adjust to the power of Caroline Wozniacki in the early going as she did against her previous opponents, won't start slowly this time around. The American will claim the 1st set against the Dane, but C-Woz will "pull an Oudin" and break late in the 2nd and threaten to push things to a 3rd set. What happens after that I won't even try to guess, largely because I simply don't want to prejudice myself even a little against one of the two. I can't root AGAINST either of them, and I'd prefer to just sit back and enjoy the show.

Yanina Wickmayer/BEL vs. Melanie Oudin/USA or #9 Caroline Wozniacki
(WC) Kim Clijsters/BEL vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#1 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #12 Robin Soderling/SWE
#4 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #10 Fernando Verdasco/ESP
#11 Fernando Gonzalez/CHI vs. #3 Rafael Nadal/ESP
#6 Juan Martin Del Potro/ARG vs. #16 Marin Cilic/CRO

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS)
#11 Yan/Zheng (CHN/CHN) or #4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA) vs. #13 Kleybanova/Makarova (RUS/RUS)

#4 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) def. #1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)
#3 Bhupathi/Knowles (IND/BAH) vs. #5 Mirnyi/A.Ram (BLR/ISR)

Gullickson/Parrott (USA/USA) vs. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)

1976 Roland Garros: R.Tomanova/F.Mihai/V.Ruzici
1978 Australian Open: C.O'Neil/D.Evers/C.Matison
1971 Roland Garros: H.Gourlay/M.Schaar
1971 Australian Open: L.Hunt/W.Shaw
1975 Australian Open: N.Chmyreva/S.Barker
1983 Roland Garros: J.Durie/M.Jauvosec
1994 Wimbledon: G.Fernandez/L.McNeil
1999 Wimbledon: M.Lucic/A.Stevenson
2009 US Open: K.Clijsters/Y.Wickmayer @
@ - Oudin would also be unseeded semifinalist

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Eva Hrdinova/CZE def. Laura Robson/GBR 7-6/4-6/7-6
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd.- Melanie Oudin/USA d. #4 Elena Dementieva/RUS 5-7/6-4/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd.- Melanie Oudin/USA d. #29 Maria Sharapova 3-6/6-4/7-5
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.-Chang/TPE)
FIRST WIN: (WC) Vania King/USA (def. Anastasiya Yakimova/BLR)
UPSET QUEENS: The Americans
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Anastasia Rodionova/AUS (3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: Melanie Oudin/USA
CRASH & BURN: #4 Elena Dementieva/RUS (2nd Rd.-Oudin/USA
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #10 Flavia Pennetta/ITA (saved 6 MP in 4th Rd. vs. Zvonareva/RUS)

All for Day 10. More tonight.


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