Wednesday, September 01, 2010

US 2.5- The Search for the Perfect Blonde

At this U.S. Open, an old school summertime ritual in America is thriving. The "search for the perfect blonde" is alive and well.

At the start of Day 2, the "Big Apple (Blonde) Bang" was still six wins from becoming a reality. (And, no, that isn't the title of a forthcoming release from Vivid Entertainment.) After the conclusion of Night 2, or "Morning 3," as the case may be, the BABB is but four victories away.

Early in the evening, after a long day of action of Ashe, a turquoise-and-black dress-clad Maria Sharapova finally walked onto the court to begin the main stadium's third scheduled match of the day against Aussie Jarmila Groth. Going in, it was the expected that the hard-hitting Groth might give Sharapova a test. And that's exactly what happend. For a while, at least.

Pounding balls deep in the court and returning serves down the center, Groth pushed the Russian back and dictated the course of play during the opening set. She broke Sharapova's serve to take a 2-0 lead, extended it to 4-1 and served for the set at 5-3. She was broken, offering up a preview of what would come in crunch time later. But when Sharapova gave her a second chance, she seized it. Groth crushed a second serve return for a winner on break point, taking the 1st set 6-4.

Unfortunately, Groth wasn't ready to win this match today. Not yet.

She opened the 2nd set by tossing in two double-faults in the opening game. She was broken, and soon fell behind 4-2. Occasionally, she'd flash the form she showed in the opening set, but the "big-ness" of the moment won out. She double-faulted on set point to hand the 2nd set to Sharapova 6-3, and there was little left to fight for after that. Even though the Russian had never won a match at the U.S. Open after dropping the 1st set, it didn't long in the 3rd for it to be a foregone conclusion that she'd claim her first today.

She did, putting away match point for a 4-6/6-3/6-1 win well after the night session was SUPPOSED to have begun on Ashe.

As a result of the three preceding matches needing to go a total of eleven sets to be completed, and a three-set Rafal Nadal match that lasted nearly 3:00, Caroline Wozniacki and Chelsey Gullickson didn't hit the court for the finale of Day-Night 2/Morning 3 until about ten minutes before midnight.

Even though only forty-nine days separated the two 20-year olds, it was fairly easy to tell which was the #1 seed who entered the night just seven wins from rising to the #1 ranking on the WTA computer, and which was the NCAA champion who only recently played in the college women's championship match in which she had to retrieve a ball for her opponent on match point because there were no ball kids around to do it for her. Gullickson, even with the big (but sometimes uncontrollable) forehand power she showed during the match, is simply not yet on the same level as the great Dane C-Woz. The way the American was smacking the ball around, though, you could see that the soon-to-be Georgia Bulldog junior (that is, if she doesn't turn pro instead) is going to be fun to watch develop over the next few years. Gullickson had opportunities early, getting a break point in Wozniacki's first service game, then getting to deuce in the second. If she'd managed to get her footing in those first few games, the final scoreline might have been a bit tighter than the 6-1/6-1 result that ended up appearing on the big board when the match ended just before one o'clock.

The bigger story for this Open from this match, though, was naturally Wozniacki. Her game appeared sleek (and not just because of her new form-fitting dress, either), her nerves nonexistent and her ability to sweep through an opponent intact. What resulted was a routine victory, and one more layer added to a player currently sporting a solid confidence like never before and, maybe just as importantly, carrying herself with the "air" of a champion in a field where so many players have no such attributes after one round of action (even most of the big-name ones who won their 1st Rounders, thanks to a few struggling moments that made them appear oh-so-mortal, and beatable).

There are still four potential spoilers in the draw who could upset the Big Apple cart (Sharapova's potential 3rd Round opponent Aravane Rezai likely being the most legitimately upset-minded), but if things hold to form, the Round of 16 table-setter for the open of the second week of this slam will feature a match-up that will determine whether or not the topic of conversation will center around the possible "re-birth" of a Russian or the "natural birth" of a Dane as a first-time slam champion. With very opposing game styles, it's the sort of tennis match-up that can really serve as "the straw that stirs the drink" (even if the differences between the two aren't as classic as say, Martina vs. Chris) for tennis fans, as well as grab the attention of the sporting public that might usually only peer through the glass, window-shopping for a bargain on a long holiday weekend.

It wouldn't be a bad Labor Day attraction for a sport that should embrace with both arms any time it's able to break through a late-summer/nearly-fall American sporting landscape that invariably centers around the opening of the football season and the nearing-an-end of the baseball one. Sharapova vs. Wozniacki would do that. The "search for the perfect blonde" would turn a few heads. And that's never a bad thing... especially when the participants in question would be able to hold up their end, and then some, of the ATHLETIC side of such an easy-to-exploit-for-all-the-wrong-reasons situation.

Of course, such a Russian/Dane match-up really wouldn't prove anything. Not at this tournament. Heck, not even in the "perfect blonde" debate, considering the Belgian Barbie who might be waiting for whoever survives the top half of the draw's battlefield is ALSO of the fair-haired variety. Thus, the search has the chance to continue even beyond the "BABB."

All in all, not a bad day/night/morning, I'd say.

...just wondering. Did Caroline receive the wrong size outfit for her '10 Open debut? I mean, you know, I was wondering because it was so gosh-darn tight (and frighteningly short) that I thought if she coughed she might split a seam. Somewhere in New York City, Tim Gunn was moving his glasses down his nose a bit, looking over them and uttering, "Tsk, tsk. I know you like what you've got underneath there, but that doesn't mean you have to show it to all the world, my dear." the early evening, yet another qualifier advanced to the 2nd Round (the ninth of the sixteen who were placed in the main draw to do so) as Akgul Amanmuradova defeated Chanelle Scheepers.

Meanwhile, the Germans are in fine form so far at this Open. Three of them advanced to the 2nd Round on Day 2. Julia Goerges defeated Romina Oprandi, Andrea Petkovic knocked off #17 Nadia Petrova in a 3rd set tie-break (oh, Nadia), and Sabine Lisicki wiped out Coco Vandeweghe 6-1/6-0. Of the three, Lisicki is the most intriguing as far as this tournament goes. Hardly ever healthy, if she actually IS and can STAY that way in NYC, she could very well develop into a big story. She'll face Vera Zvonareva in the 2nd Round, and things could get very interesting from there on if she could pull the "upset" (which really wouldn't that big of one, if the Geman's body is sound), as she's in the same quarter as Jankovic.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Anabel Medina-Garrigues, so -- altogether now -- AMG continues to be one WTA singles title away from joining Anna Smashnova as the only women's players in Open era history to win ten tour singles titles but never reach a slam QF.

...hey, Mr. Nicole Vaidisova, Radek Stepanek, played exactly one more match at this Open as his new wife, as he lost his 1st Round match to Julien Benneteau. Vaidisova, of course, retired earlier this year. Of note, she's only sixteen months older than the slam-debuting Chelsey Gullickson was tonight.

...and, finally, I just realized what Wozniacki's outfit reminded me of. Remember when a very young Ashley Harkleroad was being promoted as the "American Anna" and she was sent out into a slam wearing an outfit so tight and short that it'd get you arrested if you were a member of her family and saved a photo of your niece Ashley on your computer? Well, that's what it reminded me of. Kinda sorta.

[through 1st Rd]
7...Russia (Dementieva, Kirilenko, Kleybanova, Kuznetsova, Pavlyuchenkova, Sharapova & Zvonareva)
5...United States (Capra/King/Mattek-Sands/Oudin/V.Williams)
4...France (Bartoli/Parmentier/Razzano/Rezai)
4...Italy (Camerin/Errani/Pennetta/Schiavone)
3...Australia (Peers/Rodionova/Stosur)
3...Austria (Bammer/Meusburger/Paszek)
3...Germany (Goerges/Lisicki/Petkovic)
2...Belgium (Clijsters/Wickmayer)
2...China (Peng/Zheng)
2...Czech Republic (Benesova/Kvitova)
2...Poland (Radwanska/Radwanska)
2...Serbia (Ivanovic/Jankovic)
2...Slovak Repbulic (Cibulkova/Hantuchova)
2...Spain (Dominguez-Lino/Martinez-Sanchez)
2...Taiwan (Chan/Chang)
2...Ukraine (Bondarenko/Bondarenko)
1...Argentina (Dulko)
1...Belarus (Azarenka)
1...Bulgaria (Pironkova)
1...Canada (Marino)
1...Croatia (Lucic)
1...Denmark (Wozniacki)
1...Estonia (Kanepi)
1...Great Britain (Baltacha)
1...Hungary (Szavay)
1...India (Mirza)
1...Israel (Peer)
1...Latvia (Sevastova)
1...Luxembourg (Minella)
1...Romania (Dulgheru)
1...Sweden (Arvidsson)
1...Switzerland (Schnyder)
1...Uzbekistan (Amanmuradova)

[through 1st Rd]
5-7...United States
2-2...Slovak Republic
2-7...Czech Republic
1-1...Great Britain
0-1...South Africa

All for Night 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

yeah, i am eager to watch pova vs caro, then we get to see perhaps for the first time caro will eventually beat a legitimate (with slams record) former number one. question is, would that be enough? i just remember azarenka had beaten serena, kim and sharapova now in her career...mmm.

rezai...what an interesting character. i guess it will be equally fun to watch against caro if she spoils pova's USO chances here. ^0^

and i like JJ's composed attitude last night against halep. maybe, just maybe she might have a good run this time without justine and serena?

Wed Sep 01, 02:34:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the well said things about Caro and her game/situation.

1 comment: She was one of THE ONLY seeded players who was showing why she is ranked where she is. A quiet day at the office and as Caro says (not that I can remember her exact words). It doesn't matter which time of the day I play if I win. I'm happy with the win and a win is a win.

Wed Sep 01, 11:02:00 AM EDT  

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