Wednesday, September 01, 2010

US.3- Down and Out

This wasn't how Victoria Azarenka's U.S. Open was supposed to end.

The Belarusan came to New York City with high expectations. She'd won a hard court title in Stanford at the start of the North American summer season, giving many hope that her hard-charging "Star-enka" side might finally win out in Flushing Meadows. Some people were picking her to walk away with the women's title, while others (like your's truly) were at the very least holding onto the idea that she'd close out this two-week stretch in a far better place on the tennis landscape than she's ever found herself at the conclusion of any of her previous slam outings which have always come up a match or two short or what she seemed capable of pulling off.

Well, Azarenka WILL end up with her name on everyone's tongue as a result of this Open, just not in the way she or others had been hoping. Rather than being known for her tennis, she'll be known as the player who collapsed on the Grandstand Court today, was rolled off in a wheelchair looking like she'd just been run over by a NYC transit bus, and, for a bit, had people's hearts a little in their throats when the story began to circulate that she'd also suffered a head injury before her match with Gisela Dulko had even started.

In just the seventh game of her 2nd Round match with the Argentine, down 5-1, the already sluggish-looking Azarenka walked along the baseline, then dropped her racket at her feet. Seconds later, she dropped to the court and rolled over on her side, an immoble lump. As many people ran to her aid, including Dulko, it was a scary sight.

After she was quickly attended to and removed from the court, Azarenka was taken to the hospital. At first, it appeared as if the heat might have claimed its first official victim at this Open (especially considering Azarenka's previous issues with heat illness in an Australian Open match in '09 against Serena Williams in which she'd had to retired after she'd been dominating play before being struck down by the conditions), but it was more than that. Apparently, she fallen before the match while running sprints, landing on her arm and head. After being checked out by medical personal before the start of play, officials were positioned just off-court, monitoring her condition.

Later in the day, after being released from the hospital, Azarenka issued a statement detailing her pre-match injury and saying that she was feeling dizzy on the court and having trouble seeing before she collapsed. She said that she'd been diagnosed with a concussion.

It was a sad capper to an already bad week for Azarenka. Just yesterday, she saw Edmonton Oiler goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, whom she's considered near-family since the Russian and his Belarusan wife took her into their home a few years ago, sentenced to thirty days in jail as a result of a DUI arrest earlier this year (he's currently appealing). One wonders how much that stressful situation might have been weighing on her heart and mind prior to today's match, and then you throw in a legitimate (and potentially serious) health issue of her own to deal with and you get the idea that Azarenka is going to want to put this U.S. Open behind her as quickly as possible once she's feeling well again and is physically capable of traveling out of the city. Thankfully, it looks like she'll be all right after today's scare, but this is just one in what's become a long line of frustrating slam endings for a player with so many attributes of a great champion... but one who sees her closest age group rival (and friend) -- #1 seed Caroline Wozniacki -- once again moving ahead of her by leaps and bounds when it comes to career accomplishments.

Obviously, this incident is one with extenuating circumstances, but the fact remains that it's always SOMETHING that holds Azarenka back. The heat. Her anger. Her nerves. A fall. At some point, once the dust and the pain have settled from Day 3's happenings, it'll be time to wonder just why this player seems so star-crossed on the big stage. Is it simply bad luck that will eventually pass, or is there something within her that is the root cause of so many disappointments? Is her entire career going to be this way, and just how long can a player hold up while running into so many figurative brick walls?

Again, though, that's a discussion for another day. Right now, it's good enough to just be glad that some horrific nightmare scenario didn't play out for Azarenka -- or the sport as a whole -- today. Even in the face of something bad, some good can be found.

=DAY 3 NOTES= Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino (world #179) on Day 3, Venus Williams faced off against a player whose game Venus complimented after the match, just moments before saying that now she knows how it feels to play against herself. Hmmm, does that count as a compliment to herself, too? Just wondering. Ha.

Anyway, after the hard-hitting, six-foot-one Marino, using a big, ace-producing serve to push things into a tie-break, battled Williams hit-for-hit though the opening set. But, slowly but surely, Venus took over the match played in windy conditions. After hitting a shot beyond the baseline to go down a mini-break to Marino at 2-1 in the TB, Venus inched her way back into the set-deciding first-to-seven skirmish. The two faced off nose-to-nose at the net after both had chased down short balls, but it was Wiliams who emphatically won the point with a reflex volley at the Canadian's feet to give her her first set points at 6-3. She won the TB 7-3, then took the 2nd set 6-3 to close out the match.

Williams will get another qualifier in the 3rd Round in Luxembourg's Mandy Minella after the 24-year old defeated Venus' Wimbledon conqueror, Tsevetana Pironkova, today in straight sets by a 6-4/6-0 score.

...Daniela Hantuchova successfully went the distance against Vania King in their 2nd Round match, coming back from a set down to win 5-7/6-3/6-4. At Wimbledon, the Slovak erased a 7-6/4-1 deficit against the American to win their 1st Round encounter at the All-England Club. Two weeks later, King went on to the Ladies Doubles championship with Yaroslava Shvedova. Now we'll see if Vania can get the last laugh a second time this summer.

Ana Ivanovic once again did something today she's had a hard time doing for most of the past two years -- keep her forward momentum going by following up her 1st Round win and taking out #21-seed Zheng Jie 6-3/6-0 in the 2nd Round. Also, in a battle of Pastries who've had a few harsh words for each other in the past, wild card Virginie Razzano upset #13 Marion Bartoli 7-5/6-4.

After having to scramble to get past Elena Vesnina in the 1st Round, Samantha Stosur had a surprisingly easier time of it in the 2nd Round against countrywoman Anastasia Rodionova, winning today 6-1/6-4 and reaching the 3rd Round at the Open for the first time in her career. Meanwhile, Melanie Oudin's "year-after" run ended today on Louis Armstrong when she failed to take out the second of her two Ukrainian opponents in the tournament. For a bit, it looked like she might knot the match at a set each and carry some momentum into the 3rd. At that point, it'd been fair to wonder if lightning could strike in the same place twice.

It didn't. Alona Bondarenko held off Little MO, winning 6-2/7-5. the night session, "the search for the perfect blonde" continued on Ashe, as Kim Clijsters swept through 19-year old Aussie Sally Peers without the sort of super-troubling lapse she had in her opening match against Greta Arn. She won 6-2/6-1. Of course, it probably helps when your opponent is essentially in awe of you, with Peers having considered the Belgian her idol since she was a kid. ESPN2 even showed a photo of a 12-year old Peers posing for a photo with Clijsters during an Australian Davis Cup match in 2003 which was being attended by Barbie because she was dating Lleyton Hewitt at the time.

...and, finally, a heads-up to Mary Carillo this afternoon. Not for making a mistake, but for quickly admitting to it and laughing it off. Essentially, during the Williams match, she got Karolina Sprem and Irina Spirlea's respective "odd" histories with Venus mixed up, wrongly saying it was Sprem who "accidentally" bumped a teenage Williams during a changeover in the SF of the '97 U.S. Open. Actually, that was Spirlea (at the time she was anything but apologetic, noting how VW was acting "like she was Venus f***ing Williams," only without the *'s, leading Richard to call her a "big white turkey"), while Sprem was Venus' Wimbledon opponent when the umpire called out the score incorrectly and a point "disappeared" during a tie-break. After a commercial break, Carillo was quick to set the record straight. Good for her.

Far too often on ESPN, when a mistake is made it's never mentioned or owned up to, as everyone apparently hopes that no one noticed it, or will think THEY were the ones mistaken since no one ever brought it up again. That's not Carillo, and it was refreshingly human to see her admit that today.

Mandy Minella, LUX (Q)
Virginie Razzano, FRA (WC)
[still to play]
Akgul Amanmuradova, UZB (Q)
Beatrice Capra, USA (WC)
Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, ESP (Q)
Mirjana Lucic, CRO (Q)
Tamira Pazek AUT (Q)

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Laura Robson/GBR d. #2q Jelena Dokic/AUS 6-1/6-4
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xxx
FIRST WINNER: #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA (def. Ayumi Morita/JPN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #8 Li Na/CHN (lost to Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR)
IT GIRL: xxx

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


Blogger Jeppe said...

I'm glad I didn't watch the Azarenka drama live - sounds very unpleasant. I feel sorry for the girl and wish her a speedy recovery. On a lighter note: Does this qualify her for your 'Broadway Bound' award, or did you have something less dramatic in mind?

With Vika out, I can see Nastia P make a deep run in that quarter. I beleive she even has a good record against Venus.

Thu Sep 02, 08:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jeppe said...

By the way, I think Kim is still the woman to beat in this Open, but wish Caroline all the best.

Thu Sep 02, 08:10:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck to Vika. Did you see Wozniackis game today??

Slam bang thank you mam. A double bagel for your coffee break served by Caroline Wozniacki. 6-0, 6-0 in 47 minutes, 76% first serves. How much to convince the unbelievers? SHE deserves the #1 seed.

Thu Sep 02, 02:17:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or is this not better than a double bagel?

2 fried eggs, sunshine up!

Thu Sep 02, 02:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


I've considered Azarenka for that, but decided against because it feels a bit crass to go down that road. "Crash & Burn" might be a good fit, though. (Quite literally, actually).


Yes, Caroline was quite the force of nature today. :)

Thu Sep 02, 06:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Neil Jhonson said...

AT THE US Open 2010, top seed Rafael Nadal and reigning women's champion Kim Clijsters advanced into their next rounds.

The Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal defeated 39th-ranked Uzbek Denis Istomin 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5. He will now face Frenchman Gilles Simon in the third round, who beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.Find out more update on US Open 2010

Sat Sep 04, 07:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger AIr said...

welcome to sprocket

Wed Dec 01, 09:15:00 AM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home