Thursday, September 02, 2010

US 4.5- To Live and Droop in New York

Two rounds in, and we're actually talking only about the players who are actually IN Flushing Meadows. Well, with one exception.

=EARLY ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rounds=
TOP PLAYER: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
...she even LOOKS like a different player on the court now. She's still the "Princess of Charm," but there looks to be something more under the surface. Could it be a killer instinct? (RU: Francesca Schiavone/ITA... while no one has been paying attention to the only '10 slam winner in the women's draw, Schiavone has given up fewer games than only C-Woz)
RISERS: Samantha Stosur/AUS
...has she finally realized that she can be a big-time player somewhere outside of Paris? (RU: Vera Zvonareva/RUS & Andrea Petkovic/GER... the German overcame 3 match points, while the Russian has so far overcome herself)
SURPRISE: Mandy Minella/LUX was something of a surprise that the 24-year old made it through qualifying, let alone slip into the 3rd Round. (RU: Chan Yung-Jan/TPE & Virginie Razzano/FRA... Chan will be C-Woz's second straight Taiwanese opponent, while wild card Razzano is the last surviving Pastry in the singles draw)
VETERANS: Kim Clijsters/BEL & Venus Williams/USA
...looking better each round, might they be heading for a meeting of the minds in the SF? Venus just got her 200th career slam match win, while Barbie still hasn't lost in NYC since 2004. (RU: Elena Dementieva/RUS, Flavia Pennetta/ITA & Daniela Hantuchova/SVK... vets keeping alive the it's-not-over-until-it's-over belief that a huge slam result is still possible, otherwise known as the "Schiavone Doctrine")
FRESH FACE Beatrice Capra/USA happy as fellow Baltimore native Pam Shriver is for Capra's success, Melanie Oudin is probably even more glad for having someone remove that huge monkey from her back. (RU: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS & Rebecca Marino/CAN... one defeated Venus twice in '09, while the other received the greatest compliment possible from Williams -- she said she reminded her of herself)
COMEBACKS: Maria Sharapova/RUS & Ana Ivanovic/SRB
...has the time come for the past to become the present again? (RU: Patty Schnyder/SUI & Mirjana Lucic/CRO... everyone seems ready to write off Sneaky Patty, except for Patty. Everyone long ago wrote off Lucic, except for Mirjana.)
DOWN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
...after her concussion-related collapse in the 2nd Round, Azarenka's season total for retirement losses is up to five. After blowing that huge lead against Serena in Melbourne in January, the Belarusan has strung together 1st Round, 3rd Round and 2nd Round slam results. (RU: Li Na/CHN & Zheng Jie/CHN... they began the season as slam semifinalists, but neither ended the season's final slam as even the last Chinese woman standing)
UNDERRATED: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL, Petra Kvitova/CZE & Kaia Kanepi/EST
...Wickmayer was a semifinalist a year ago, but you'd have to search far and wide to find her mentioned as anywhere but as a name on a line in the draw. Kvitova and Kanepi faced off in the Wimbledon QF to reach their first career slam semi, and have managed to pick up where they left off in Flushing Meadows. Their big moments in the sun come in their next matches, as Kanepi faces Jankovic and Kvitova gets Clijsters.

"Every match I win now, it's like winning an entire tournament." - Mirjana Lucic, after winning her first main draw slam singles match in eight years

1st Rd. - Jankovic d. Halep 6-4/4-6/7-5 2:19 in the blazing heat, JJ saw her opponent get a coaching violation, fail to serve out the match at 5-4 in the 3rd and physically wilt in the conditions down the stretch. She hasn't yet looked like a good bet to reach the second week, but when does she ever? It's never stopped her before.
2nd Rd - Capra d. Rezai 7-5/2-6/6-3
...the U.S. Open wasn't big enough for two teenaged American "It" Girls, so Little MO had to go down on Wednesday for Capra to step into the spotlight on Thursday. Be careful what you wish for, Trice... you just might get it. Just ask Melanie.
2nd Rd - Dulko d. Azarenka 5-1 ret.
...if it's a slam, then you know there's a good chance that the Belarusan is going to figuratively go down in a heap on the court at some point. This time, it happened LITERALLY... and against the same Argentine who made Azarenka the "First Seed Out" at Roland Garros in May, too.

"The doctor told me that she didn't think I was going to grow much more. It was a pretty sad day." - the diminutive Melanie Oudin

THE WHAT-HAVE-YOU-DONE-FOR-ME-LATELY GANG: already out of this year's U.S. Open: '10 Australian Open semifinalists Li Na and Zheng Jie, '10 Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, former world #1 Dinara Safina, '09 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles champs Carly Gullickson & Travis Parrott, New Haven finalist Nadia Petrova and "better-choice-than-Dokic" Tennis Australia wild card pick Sophie Ferguson, amongst others. All right, I threw that last one in just so that I could rub TA's nose in their mistake one more time.
THE WHAT-AM-I-DOING-HERE-THIS-LATE BULLDOG: NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson, who's taking off her first semester as a junior at the University of Georgia to give pro tennis a "try-out," make her official slam debut in a nighttime match on Ashe against #1-seed Caroline Wozniacki that didn't begin until 11:50pm. Recently, Gullickson's normal nightly hit-the-hay time was 9pm.

"It's definitely the best moment of my life." - Beatrice Capra, after defeating Aravane Rezai

FIRST SEED OUT: #8 Li Na (lost to Kateryna Bondarenko)
UPSET QUEENS: The Taiwanese. A tough call since there haven't been too many upsets, and hardly any by multiple players from the same nation. So, I'll go with the ladies of Taiwan for Chan Yung-Jan's wins over Anne Keothavong and Tamira Paszek (though that last one's barely an upset, if at all), and Chang Kai-Chen's win over Carla Suarez-Navarro.
REVELATION LADIES: The North Americans. After so many years of seeing young Europeans grab so many honors, "the New World" posted some impressive slam debuts by the likes of Rebecca Marino (CAN) and Beatrice Capra, saw Shelby Rogers (USA) push Peng Shuai to three sets, and Chelsey Gullickson make Darren Cahill wide-eyed and stunned at the notion that she'd even consider going back to Georgia. And that's not even counting the likes of Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton, Coco Vandeweghe, Krista Hardebeck, Christina McHale, Irina Falconi, Sharon Fichman and others worth keeping tabs on for years to come.
ZOMBIE QUEENS?? (1r-2r): nothing's official, but Jelena Jankovic (Simona Halep served for the match against her in the 1st Round) and Andrea Petkovic (she survived three Bethanie Mattek-Sands match points in the 2nd Round) have thrown their hats into the ring for consideration.
CRASH & BURNER (1r-2r): "Down & Out in Paris, London and New York," by Victoria Azarenka. Next month's #1 selection in the Oprah Book Club.
FIRST VICTORY: In a good omen for a better Open result than most expected, Francesca Schiavone nearly double-bageled young Ayumi Morita to grab the first match victory at Flushing Meadows for 2010.
LAST AMERICANS STANDING?: Venus Williams is in the 3rd Round. Yeah, we expected that. Beatrice Capra is, too. Oh, I guess we didn't see THAT one coming.
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Lourdes Dominguez-Lino and Mandy Minella are still kicking around in the 3rd Round.
IT GIRL (so far): Beatrice Capra is a good bet to hold on, but don't count out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Alexandra Dulgheru.
FASHION FORWARD... and, umm, I'm not sure...: Sharapova's turquoise and black number, Venus' little black dress (circa 2010), Azarenka's all-black-in-100-degree-heat outfit (?????... it's almost like she's ASKING for it) and Nadia Petrova's wearable wallpaper (did she go shopping with Mattek-Sands?)

"She serves so well and mixes up her shots. It seems like every time I would have an opening, she would hit a big serve. I know what it's like now, playing myself. I was very impressed." - Venus Williams, on Rebecca Marino... umm, and herself, I guess

Kim Clijsters got her daughter Jada to take a picture with Sally Peers? Turn-about is fair play, you know.
Hard-hitters like Rebecca Marino, Jarmila Groth and Chelsey Gulickson were better off playing and losing to top players like Venus, Sharapova and C-Woz, respectively, or facing off against each other and possibly winning those matches? After all, you have to know first hand what you're hoping to face if you're ever going to actually get to face it when it matters one day.
Nicole Vaidisova realizes that she retired many months ago, but STILL only played one less actual match at this U.S. Open than her husband Radek Stepanek did?

"I saw a specialist in New York and had an MRI, and he said I had a tendon that was torn. He said I didn't necessarily have to fix it, but I'd have a droopy toe the rest of my life. I thought it over and decided it was better to have the surgical procedure, for my career and for my life." - Serena Williams

and, finally...

In finally talking about and revealing that she tore a tendon in her foot, and had to get stitches in BOTH feet, when she was injured in Germany earlier this summer, Serena Williams said she decided to have surgery because the doctor said that if she didn't she'd have "a droopy toe" for the rest of her life if she didn't. I'm glad that Serena will be all right... but, oh my, would it have been difficult to NOT dub her "Droopy" if she'd decided to skip the operation and continue to play.

Whew! Crisis averted. You know, sort of like the whole Serena & Justine-less slam thing.

=NIGHT 4 NOTES= the night session, Maria Sharapova handled veteran Czech Iveta Benesova 6-1/6-2, running her career Open record under the lights to 13-0.

...meanwhile, in another match that didn't end until evening, Bethanie Mattek-Sands held three match points on her own serve at 5-4 in the 3rd set against Andrea Petkovic, but couldn't put a serve into the court to save her Open life. She was broken, and the German prevailed 3-6/6-3/7-5.

In a bit of a suprise, #9-seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who usually avoids early-round upsets at slams, lost tonight to Peng Shuai. Peng has always had talent (remember that win over Barbie in KC 1.0?), but it usually doesn't show too much at the slams. So far, it has at this one, though. She's now the last Chinese woman in the draw.

It wasn't a very good day for the Radwanskas, as Urszula also lost today, to Lourdes Dominguez-Lino.

Speaking of bad days, #22-seed Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez had a pretty crappy one, too. Not only did she lose in singles to Patty Schnyder, but she and Nuria Llagostera-Vives also lost their 1st Round match to Alexandra Dulgheru and Magdalena Rybarikova in the first big upset in the Women's Doubles competition.

...and, finally, as I mentioned earlier, Serena Williams finally spoke publicly about her foot injury to Christine Brennan of USA Today. Of course, the article wasn't dubbed as such, but wouldn't it have been great if it'd been entitled "Death to Droopy?" Just a thought. Good night, folks. Come on back -- I'm here all week.

15...Venus Williams (February-April)
12...Agnes Szavay (July-August)
11...Yanina Wickmayer (January)
11...Samantha Stosur (April-May)
10...Serena Williams (January-May)
10...Anna Chakvetadze (July-August)

6 - Russia (Dementieva/Kuznetsova/Kirilenko/Pavlyuchenkova/Sharapova/Zvonareva)
3 - Italy (Errani/Pennetta/Schiavone)
2 - Belgium (Clijsters/Wickmayer)
2 - Serbia (Ivanovic/Jankovic)
2 - Slovak Republic (Cibulkova/Hantuchova)
2 - United States (Capra/V.Williams)
1 - Argentina (Dulko)
1 - Australia (Stosur)
1 - China (Peng)
1 - Czech Republic (Kvitova)
1 - Denmark (Wozniacki)
1 - Estonia (Kanepi)
1 - France (Razzano)
1 - Germany (Petkovic)
1 - Israel (Peer)
1 - Luxembourg (Minella)
1 - Romania (Dulgheru)
1 - Spain (Dominguez-Lino)
1 - Switzerland (Schnyder)
1 - Taiwan (Chan)
1 - Ukraine (A.Bondarenko)

[through 2nd Rd]
7-10...United States
4-2...Slovak Republic
3-8...Czech Republic
1-2...Great Britain
0-1...South Africa

All for Night 4. More tomorrow.


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