Tuesday, September 08, 2009

US.9- Twelve... and counting?

The last time Kim Clijsters lost a U.S. Open match, she was playing in the singles final against Justine Henin. It was 2003.

She missed the tournament in 2004. Won it in 2005. Missed it again in 2006, then was retired during the fall of '07 and '08. So, her quarterfinal 6-2/6-4 win today over Li Na gives her twelve straight Open singles wins.

But will the streak end there?

Clijsters has slowed a bit at times in her matches in this tournament. Most notably, the 1st set against Marion Bartoli and the 2nd against Venus Williams. But her opponents weren't able to take full advantage of the moment. Even today, after going up 6-2/2-0 and holding break points for 3-0, she blinked ever so slightly. Li took a 4-3 2nd set lead, but couldn't keep it up.

Is Clijsters an accident waiting to happen, or is she simply re-learning how to close out matches on the grand slam stage? It took her quite a while to perfect the practice in Clijsters I, going 0-4 in slam finals before finally claiming that '05 Open crown. After two years away, the Belgian has returned in fine form and easily gotten into the swing of the tour this summer. But is she ready for the prospective "next step?"

So far, she's kept the early bad demons of Clijsters I at bay during Clijsters II. Maybe "K2" really is a different player altogether, one never again to be burdened by her pre-2005 U.S. Open title stumbles at slams. We'll see. We might be about to find out for sure, though. Considering who she MIGHT face next, that'll need to be the case if there's even a chance for there to be a thirteenth straight Open victory.

...sometimes you don't realize just how spot-on a little throw-away comment is going to be. After noting how some "big-name" announcers seem to make sport of flaunting their lack of knowledge about something/someone they should be familiar with, at least on a nominal level, that was precisely what happened during ESPN2's first hour of coverage today.

Pam Shriver laughed and noted how Yanina Wickmayer is more than a complete stranger to her, no matter the fact that the Belgian is a Top 50 player who's reached two finals this season and won a tour title. Shriver might not know the in's and out's of her game and personality, or even be able to immediately recognize her on sight, but she should at least know that much to note it (it would take about a minute of research on the tour's website to pick up the info, after all) and inform viewers that Wickmayer didn't just fall from the sky or get into the quarterfinals simply because all the players around her choked away their matches. Think of how nice it might have been for casual fans to be told of Wickmayer's past anger issues, including her ejection from an ITF a while back after she'd reached the finals in both singles and doubles (she even had to forfeit her prize money), or that she'd worked with Justine Henin's former (and future?) coach, Carlos Rodriguez. With just a few sentences, the Belgian would have become a living and breathing individual, rather than just an unfamiliar name in the on-screen singles bracket. Oh, well.

It baffles me that some television people being paid to act as "experts" find it perfectly legitimate to reveal themselves to not really care enough to try even a little to get their hands on some basic knowledge of a player who -- hello -- is one match away from being a grand slam semifinalist. With some announcers it would be a shocking thing to point out, but with Shriver, honestly, it's pretty much on par with her sometimes-slapped-together television performances from past seasons (especially years ago when she was always teamed on match coverage with Mary Joe Fernandez, who often fell into Shriver's trap and joined her in harping on inanities when she really knew better).

These days, Shriver and MJF still do matches together, but you'll notice that today Cliff Drysdale did it with them, thereby preventing them from going off on tangents that serve no one any good. I've always felt that somewhere along the line, someone as ESPN realized that Shriver needed to be saved from herself on occasion. She's generally done a good job in recent seasons, but it's moments like today's that bring back all those oh-so-bad memories.

...speaking of ESPN2, why did today's on-screen score graphic list Li Na's full name rather than just her surname, as is the case with every other player (including Li in past matches)? Is it possible that the person in charge of the lettering wasn't quite sure whether the Chinese woman's last name was "Li" or "Na" and decided to list both just to cover all the bases? It's probably not out of the question.

...well, once again the Andy's were more bark than grand slam bite, weren't they? Most people overlooked Murray's dominance by Federer in Cincinnati last month, as well as Roddick's inability to win close matches on hard courts in North America after losing that 16-14 5th set to Federer at Wimbledon. As it turns out, both were clues that neither was going to be able to play at their best for two weeks in New York. Can you say "six straight" for Federer? It's looking more and more likely, isn't it?

...some junior results of note today: in 1st Round matches, Elena Bogdan (ROU), unseeded at this slam after having played few junior matches lately, double-bageled #13 Miyabi Inoue (JPN), and #16-seeded American Beatrice Capra defeated Belarusian Anna Orlik. In 2nd Round contests, Brit Laura Robson (also unseeded) took out #7 Lauren Embree (USA), and Hordette Yana Buchina upset #5 Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.

...AWARDS UPDATES: there are still a few Backspin Awards in limbo for this Open, including "Ms. Opportunity," "Junior Breakout" and "Doubles Star." The junior event has to play out a bit more before contenders come into view, but the other two are ripe with nominations.

As for Ms. Opportunity, barring an upset of Serena Williams by Flavia Pennetta tonight, she'll come from the top half. It won't be Melanie Oudin, since she's already earned the "It Girl" crown. So, if Oudin doesn't make it to the final, it'll be whichever player of the remaining four in the top half does so. If Oudin DOES reach the final Saturday, though, it'll go to the winner of the Wickmayer/K.Bondarenko semifinal.

In doubles, both Liezel Huber and Cara Black are still alive in the Women's and Mixed Doubles. American Carly Gullickson, in the Mixed SF with Travis Parrott, is a potential surprise winner. And, of course, there's always the chance it'll go to the winning team in the Women's Doubles competition, depending on the "significance" of the victory. In other words, this award is still pretty cloudy.

...and, finally, after waiting until the women's night session had been completed before posting a Daily Backspin the last few days, I'm getting one up early today due to the relatively light Day 9 schedule. If the Serena/Pennetta match (or Nadal/Monfils, which could produce the first nighttime five-setter of the tournament if things work out right) warrents another report, I'll do a 9.5 "U.S. Open at Night" Backspin later tonight to make up the difference.

Yanina Wickmayer/BEL vs. Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR
Melanie Oudin/USA vs. #9 Caroline Wozniacki
(WC) Kim Clijsters/BEL def. #18 Li Na/CHN
#10 Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#1 Roger Federer/SUI def. #14 Tommy Robredo/ESP
#12 Robin Soderling/SWE def. #8 Nikolay Davydenko/RUS
#4 Novak Djokovic/SRB def. #15 Radek Stepanek/CZE
#10 Fernando Verdasco/ESP def. John Isner/USA
#7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #11 Fernando Gonzalez/CHI
#13 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #3 Rafael Nadal/ESP
#6 Juan Martin Del Potro/ARG def. #24 Juan Carlos Ferrero/ESP
#16 Marin Cilic/CRO def. #2 Andy Murray/GBR

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #6 Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez (ESP/ESP)
#3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS) vs. #8 Mattek-Sands/Petrova (USA/RUS)
#11 Yan/Zheng (CHN/CHN) vs. #4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA)
#13 Kleybanova/Makarova (RUS/RUS) def. #10 Kirilenko/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) def. Ball/Guccione (AUS/AUS)
#4 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) def. #7 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)
#3 Bhupathi/Knowles (IND/BAH) def. Ljubicic/Llodra (CRO/FRA)
#5 Mirnyi/A.Ram (BLR/ISR) vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

#1 Huber/M.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Gullickson/Parrott (USA/USA)
#5 Hsieh/Ullyett (TPE/ZIM) vs. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)

1995 US Open - Monica Seles, USA (RU)
2002 Roland Garros - Mary Pierce, FRA (QF)
2006 Australian Open - Martina Hingis, SUI (QF)
2008 Wimbledon - Zheng Jie, CHN (SF)
2009 Australian Open - Jelena Dokic, AUS (QF)
2009 US Open - Kim Clijsters, BEL (to SF)

2000 Wimbledon - Jelena Dokic, AUS
2000 US Open - Elena Dementieva, RUS
2002 Roland Garros - Clarisa Fernandez, ARG
2003 Roland Garros - Nadia Petrova, RUS
2007 Australian Open - Serena Williams, USA
2008 Wimbledon - Zheng Jie, CHN (WC)
2009 US Open - Kim Clijsters, BEL (WC)
2009 US Open - Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR or Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
ALSO: unseeded Melanie Oudin/USA would qualify w/ QF win over Wozniacki

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): 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
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 9. More tonight or tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

If the commentators can't be bothered to do a little research to learn how to pronounce the players' names (and then get all indignant when they are corrected), they certainly aren't going to do any research on their careers. Shriver can be quite amusing, and this season, she even had somewhat of a feminist awakening (that appears to be slipping away, however). But she often gives away her lack of knowledge about the players.

I was outraged when she left the booth to "turn in" Mary Pierce a few years ago, for waiting more than 20 seconds to serve. Suddenly she felt she had to do the chair umpire's job and get involved in the match.

The confusion over the Chinese players' names will never end. The American commentators either arrange the names American-style, or switch back and forth.

Tue Sep 08, 11:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, I guess we should be glad that she wasn't referred to a Yanina What's-Her-Name. Of course, there IS still time for that.

I must say, though, I was quite amused when, before Shriver interviewed Nadal tonight, she referred to a pull to his "tummy muscle." Somehow, though, I don't think she was going for a laugh on that one. :)

Tue Sep 08, 11:24:00 PM EDT  

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