Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oz 6: Sixteen Mathildas Waltzing

The final sixteen woman have been separated from the field. Even with the likes of Kim Clijsters, Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova amongst the missing, the Top 4 seeds are still around. As are six of the Top 7 and seven of the Top 9.

Additionally, five of the remaining sixteen are Russians. Not a big shock there. There are NO French Pastries, though. That's a change. The Serbs are gone, too. That's a whole different sad sack story. Both Williams Sisters are there, as is one Bondarenko... but no Radwanska is in sight. There are more players (2) within six months of their thirtieth birthday than there are teenagers (1) left in the draw. And for the second straight slam, a player without an official ranking is still in the mix for a grand slam title.

Here's a brief rundown of the quarters:

(1)S.WILLIAMS QUARTER: As is often the case in Melbourne, Serena seems to be getting better with each outing. She doesn't have a virtual cakewalk to the SF, but she's most decidedly the favorite to do so. Her next opponent, Samantha Stosur, beat her in '09... and that's enough to get Serena's attention, and mean the Aussie's pretty good tournament, considering she started the week with no momentum to speak of, will probably soon end. Vera Zvonareva reached the SF here a year ago, but Victoria Azarenka has her sights set on a rematch of her '09 Oz near-miss against Williams.
ORIGINAL RANKING: 1.S.Williams... 2.Azarenka... 3.Ivanovic... 4.Lisicki & Zvonareva
PICKS: S.Williams def. Stosur in TWO, Azarenka def. Zvonareva in THREE
...I'll stick with my original picks in this one.

(4)WOZNIACKI QUARTER: Despite no New Haven-esque run to stoke her confidence heading into this slam as happened in New York, Caroline Wozniacki's game has been about as sharp as her new Stella McCartney-designed print tennis dress. She'll be serverely tested against Li Na, though. Venus has been on her game so far, and if she can stay in that zone she's still the favorite to escape this quarter for her first Oz SF since 2003. Although, that semi-shaky 2nd set against Casey Dellacqua shows she's not quite on the same level where her sister resides.
ORIGINAL RANKS: 1. Wozniacki... 2.V.Williams... 3.Hantuchova or Peer... 4.An Aussie?
PICKS: Wozniacki def. Li in THREE. V.Williams def. Schiavone in TWO
...C-Woz has looked good, but I said at the start that if Venus could escape an early upset bid, I'd pick her here. So far, so good. If Li beats Wozniacki, though, this thought process could change.

(3)KUZNETSOVA QUARTER: High-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova has slipped through here without much notice thanks to the exploits of Justine Henin and Nadia Petrova, and the 3rd Round implosion of Kim Clijsters. Still, she had to go three sets to defeat qualifier Angelique Kerber in the last round, and she could go out to Petrova next. But the KC-conquering Russian isn't likely to play as well as she did against Clijsters. Henin's tank has to be running close to empty, but that's when she's traditionally been even more dangerous as her heart and guts grab the steering wheel. Luckily for her, countrywoman Yanina Wickmayer is coming off a three-setter of her own and has to soon be reaching the end game of her current eleven-match '10 win streak.
ORIGINAL RANKS: 1.Clijsters... 2.Henin/Dementieva... 3.Wickmayer... 4.Kuznetsova (& Dokic, too... just because)
PICKS:Henin def. Wickmayer in TWO. Kuznetsova def. Petrova in THREE.
...things aren't getting any easier for Justine, but she can't help but be exicited about the opportunity to reach the SF without even having to face Clijsters en route.

(2)SAFINA QUARTER: Yep, here she is again. The definitive favorite to reach a slam SF, where all her demons can be faced down yet again. Dinara Safina is joined by two unseeded players and the #31 seed in this quarter, and unless Maria Kirilenko has another monster upset in her the world #2 is likely going to get another chance to sink or swim on the big stage. Even if she is a glutton for punishment, you've got to admire her forward motion... it's certainly something that was too often absent from Marat's mentality in the latter half of his slam career.
ORIGINAL RANKS: 1.Sharapova... 2.Bartoli... 3.Jankovic... 4.Safina
PICKS: Zheng def. A.Bondarenko in THREE. Safina def. Kirilenko in TWO.
...this quarter has pretty much fallen down around Safina's ankles. Gulp. Here we go again?

Once we get past this round, the blockbuster match-ups that will tell the tale of this Australian Open will officially commence.

...on Day 6, it was as if an old Michael Jordan commercial broke out, only Belgian style.

"Like Kim. If I could be like Kim. I wanna be I wanna be like Kim. Like Kim. If I could be like Kim."

At least that's what it seemed like as nearly every one of the eight women's singles matches included one player who was essentially run out of the tournament on a rail, many with a bagel set lost and all but one in straight sets (Daniela Hantuchova three-set defeat by Li Na the sole exception, though at least Casey Dellacqua put up a 2nd set fight against Venus Williams).

...Samantha Stosur's win over Alberta Brianti, coupled with Dellacqua's loss, makes Slingin' Sam the official "Last Sheila Standing."

AO: Casey Dellacqua, AUS (4th Rd.)
RG: Alize Cornet & Emilie Loit, FRA (3rd Rd.)
WI: Anne Keothavong & Elena Baltacha, GBR (2nd Rd.)
US: Serena Williams, USA (W)
AO: Jelena Dokic, AUS (QF)
RG: Aravane Rezai & Virginie Razzano, FRA (4th Rd.)
WI: Elena Baltacha, GBR (2nd Rd.)
US: Serena Williams, USA (SF)
AO: Samantha Stosur, AUS (to 4th Rd.)

...and, finally, the junior draws are out. Of interest, only an unseeded Laura Robson makes a semi-surprising return from last year's Oz Girls final four (as the #5 seed, she lost in the final to Ksenia Pervak). She could face #11-seed Yulia Putintseva in the 2nd Round.

1. Timea Babos, HUN
2. Heather Watson, GBR
3. Daria Gavrilova, RUS
4. Gabriela Dabrowski, CAN
5. Silvia Njiric, CRO
6. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
7. Nastja Kolar, SLO
8. Camila Silva, CHI
9. Sachie Ishizu, JPN
10. Maryna Zanevska, UKR
1. Daniel Berta, SWE
2. Gianni Mina, FRA
3. Jason Dubler, AUS
4. Mitchell Frank, USA
5. Huang Liang-Chi, TPE
6. Marton Fucsovic, HUN
7. Kevin Krawietz, GER
8. Dominik Schulz GER
9. Filip Horansky, SVK
10. Guilherme Clezar, BRA

#1 Timea Babos def. Polina Leykina
Laura Robson def. #4 Gabriela Dabrowski
#3 Daria Gavrilova def. #12 Jana Cepelova
#2 Heather Watson def. #5 Silvia Njiric
#1 Timea Babos def. Laura Robson
#3 Daria Gavrilova def. #2 Heather Watson
#3 Daria Gavrilova def. #1 Timea Babos

But since I've never actually tried to pick the Girls QF-F before at a slam, those picks could be an unmitigated disaster, of course.

29...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
29...Venus Williams, USA (oldest: born June 17, 1980)
28...Serena Williams, USA
27...Justine Henin, BEL
27...Li Na, CHN
27...Nadia Petrova, RUS
26...Zheng Jie, CHN
25...Alona Bondarenko, UKR
25...Samantha Stosur, AUS
25...Vera Zvonareva, RUS
24...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
23...Dinara Safina, RUS
22...Maria Kirilenko, RUS
20...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
20...Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
19...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (youngest: born July 11, 1990)
#1 - Serena Williams
#2 - Dinara Safina
#3 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
#4 - Caroline Wozniacki
#6 - Venus Williams
#7 - Victoria Azarenka
#9 - Vera Zvonareva
#13 - Samantha Stosur
#16 - Yanina Wickmayer
#17 - Li Na
#18 - Francesca Schiavone
#19 - Nadia Petrova
#30 - Alona Bondarenko
#35 - Zheng Jie
#58 - Maria Kirilenko
NR - Justine Henin

6...Russia (Davydenko/Kirilenko/Kuznetsova/Petrova/Safina/Zvonareva)
4...United States (Isner/Roddick/Williams/Williams)
3...Spain (Almagro/Nadal/Verdasco)
2...Australia (Hewitt/Stosur)
2...Belgium (Henin/Wickmayer)
2...China (Li/Zheng)
2...Croatia (Cilic/Karlovic)
1...Argentina (del Potro)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Chile (F.Gonzalez)
1...Denmark (Wozniacki)
1...France (Tsonga)
1...Great Britain (Murray)
1...Italy (Schiavone)
1...Poland (Kubot)
1...Serbia (Djokovic)
1...Switzerland (Federer)
1...Ukraine (A.Bondarenko)

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #13 Samantha Stosur/AUS
#9 Vera Zvonareva/RUS vs. #7 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
#4 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. #16 Li Na/CHN
#17 Francesca Schiavone/ITA vs. #6 Venus Williams/USA
(WC) Justine Henin/BEL vs. (Q) Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
#19 Nadia Petrova/RUS vs. #3 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#31 Alona Bondarenka/UKR vs. Zheng Jie/CHN
Maria Kirilenko/RUS vs. #2 Dinara Safina/RUS

#1 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #22 Lleyton Hewitt/AUS
#9 Fernando Verdasco/ESP vs. #6 Nikolay Davydenko/RUS
#3 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. Lukusz Kubot/POL
#10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #26 Nicolas Almagro/ESP
#9 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #11 Fernando Gonzalez/CHI
#14 Marin Cilic/CRO vs. #4 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG
#5 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #33 John Isner/USA
Ivo Karlovic/CRO vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

TOP QUALIFIER: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Kim Clijsters/BEL
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Kathrin Woerle/GER def. Bopana Jovanovski/SRB 6-2/4-6/9-7
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd.- Henin/BEL def. #5 Elena Dementieva/RUS 7-5/7-6
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx Rd.- xxx
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xx - xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #14 Maria Sharapova/RUS (lost 1st Rd.- Kirilenko/RUS)
FIRST WIN: Dinara Safina/RUS (def. Rybarikova/SVK)
UPSET QUEENS: The Russians
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL [in 4th Rd.]
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: Maria Sharapova/RUS ('08 champ, lost 1st Rd. to Kirilenko/RUS)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: [Temporary: Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS down 3 MP to Oudin/USA in 1st Rd., or Justine Henin/BEL down 3-6/1-3 15/40 to Kleybanova/RUS in 3rd Rd.]
LAST SHEILA STANDING: Samantha Stosur/AUS [in 4th Rd.]

All for Day 6. More tomorrow.


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