Sunday, September 05, 2010

US.7- The Usual Suspects

When it comes to this U.S. Open, it's best to have "been there, done that."

In the three women's Round of 16 matches completed during daylight hours on Day 7, the more experienced of the two players on the court proved to be in the proverbial driver's seat from the moment the first ball was struck. It's sort of become the theme of this season's final slam.

Today, Kim Clijsters saw Ana Ivanovic break to get back on serve in the 1st set at 2-3. But there's a reason why the Belgian is the defending champion of this tournament and came into today on an Open winning streak of seventeen matches (and 23 of 24 dating back to 2003), while the Serb is a former #1 who's still trying to regain her form after winning too much too soon a couple of years ago. After the break, Clijsters won nine of the next ten games to win 6-2/6-1.

Meanwhile, Francesca Schiavone went to Paris a few months ago and did what hardly anyone thought she could -- win a grand slam. After spending most of her summer celebrating her improbable moment in the sun, she's been all business in New York (well, except for that between-the-legs shot... though it actually seemed like a reasonable decision at the time, and DID help her win that particular point), the confidence she gained from her Roland Garros title run is now apparent. She's yet to lose a set in this event, and although 19-year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been a player to watch for a few years now, she's still trying to get into her first career slam QF. Today wasn't her day to do it, as the Italian vet broke the Russian in her first service game of the match and never gave up her advantage. She won 6-3/6-0, and will finally end her under-the-radar existence in this Open in her next match when she faces...

Venus Williams. Off the three Round of 16 day matches, it was Williams' opponent, Shahar Peer, who presented the most potential for a difficult day. For a while, she did, too. At 2-2 in the 1st set, the Israeli tested Venus, breaking her serve to go up 3-2. But Williams immediately broke back. Peer broke again to go up 4-3, but again Venus got things back on serve one game later. In an eight-deuce game, Peer held serve (coming back from a love/40 hole) to push the set into a tie-break. At that moment, one sort of figured that such a long, drawn-out fight to get into a tie-break probably didn't bode well for Peer, though. And it didn't, either. Venus quickly went up 5-1, and won 7-3. In the 2nd set, Williams broke serve to go up 3-2, then saved a break point and held for 4-2. The final three games of the match included breaks of serve, and Venus got the last one to win 7-6/6-3 on the thirteenth anniversary of her 1997 semfinal match with Irina Spirlea, in which a 17-year old Williams overcame match point (and "the bump") to win in a 9-7 3rd set tie-break and make it all the way to the final in her U.S. Open debut. Peer is a good, tough player... but Venus was trying to win this tournament (and nearly succeeding, though she lost in that '97 final to Martina Hingis) since the Israeli was just ten years old.

Experience was worth its weight in gold on Day 7. Actually, except for a few rare exceptions, is has been since Day 1.

With the top half of the draw's Round of 16 set to play on Monday, barring wins from Kaia Kanepi or Andrea Petkovic, all of the women's final eight will have reached at least one slam semifinal in her career. It'd be a quarterfinals without a single player who could be considered a "slouch," or a one-time slam Final Four interloper.

In the top, two of the remaining eight women (Maria Sharapova & Svetlana Kuznetsova) have combined to win five slams, two more (Caroline Wozniacki & Vera Zvonareva) have reached slam finals, and another two (Dominika Cibulkova & Yanina Wickmayer) have slams semis on their resumes. For her part, Kanepi HAS reached another slam QF ('10 Wimbledon). Only Petkovic is currently in unchartered slam territory. The bottom half is even more experienced. The four women consist of three former slam champions (with a total of ten titles amongst them), along with one of two players (the winner of Sam Stosur vs. Elena Dementieva) who've combined to reach a total of three slam finals in their careers.

We began this Open with the knowledge that the two most accomplished female players in the sport would not participate, and wondering which players would rise to the occasion to fill the void. Well, so far, it looks like it's a lineup made up of a hearty collection of "the usual suspects."

Which one will turn out to be Keyser Söze, though, is what the second week of this Open will be about.

...the junior draws are out and play has officially begun. Beatrice Capra is not in the Girls Draw (so, coupled with Pavlyuchenkova's loss, I guess that means that Zuzu/Trice is hereby dubbed this Open's "It Girl").

None of the top Girls' seeds lost today (the #6 Boys' seed did), but there were a few results of note: Sloane Stephens (a four-time Girls slam quarterfinalist, including in Paris and London this season) defeated Silvia Njiric ('10 AO QF& RG SF), Veronica Cepede Royg knocked out Grace Min, and Monica Puig took out Madison Keys.

1. Daria Gavrilova, RUS
2. Timea Babos, HUN
3. Irina Khromacheva, RUS
4. Elina Svitolina, UKR
5. Monica Puig, PUR
6. Karolina Pliskova, CZE
7. Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
8. Laura Robson, GBR
9. Gabriela Dabroswki, CAN
10. Jana Cepelova, SVK
11. An-Sophie Mestach, BEL
12. Zhang Saisai, CHN (lost 1st Rd.)
13. Tang Hao-Chen, CHN
14. -vacant-
15. Sloane Stephens, USA
16. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP

1. Juan Sebastian Gomez, COL
2. Marton Fucsovics, HUN
3. Tiago Fernandes, BRA
4. Jiri Vesely, CZE
5. Damir Dzumhur, BIH
6. Jason Kubler, AUS (lost 1st Rd.)
7. Duilio Beretta, PER
8. Agustin Velotti, ARG
9. James Duckworth, AUS
10. Denis Kudla, USA
11. Renzo Olivo, ARG
12. Mate Zsiga, HUN
13. Victor Baluda, RUS
14. Dominic Thiem, AUT (lost 1st Rd.)
15. Roberto Quiroz, ECU
16. Mitchell Frank, USA

#8 Laura Robson/GBR d. #1 Daria Gavrilova/RUS
#6 Karolina Pliskova/CZE d. #15 Sloane Stephens/USA
#3 Irina Khromacheva/RUS d. #7 Kristyna Pliskova/CZE
#2 Timea Babos/HUN d. #9 Gabriela Dabrowski/CAN
#8 Laura Robson/GBR d. #6 Karolina Pliskova/CZE
#3 Irina Khromacheva/RUS d. #2 Timea Babos/HUN
#3 Irina Khromacheva/RUS d. #8 Laura Robson/GBR

...apparently, Robson is going to play in the juniors FOREVER. Do you realize it's now been over two years since she won the Wimbledon Girls title? Yet, she's still here. She's had great results since SW19 '08, including reaching the junior finals at the Australian the last two seasons, and the semis at last year's U.S.Open and this season's Wimbledon. But she's yet to win a second junior slam title. So, while I pick her to reach another final here, I'm not picking her to win. Instead, I'll go with Hordette Khromacheva to flip the script from a season ago and knock off the Brit (after Heather Watson took down Yana Buchina in the final in '09).

...hmmm, I wished I'd known before now that picking Andy Murray to reach a slam final would mean that he wouldn't even reach the second week. Why, with that knowledge in hand I would have picked him that far more often, just so he'd be out of my hair earlier. "Destined" to win a slam? Yeah, SURE he is. If we have to continue to hear at every slam how this "is going to finally be his time," I think I'm going to throw up. Please. He's more Tim Henmanesque than anyone realized or is open to admitting (imagine if he was a women's player of similar standing who constantly falls on her face at slams -- no one would try to soften the blow of his exit by talking about what he'll do on that mythical tennis date known as "some day," they'd just talk about how he isn't "strong enough" to come through when it matters). Personally, I wouldn't have any problem betting dollars against Nutella-topped bagels that Murray ends his career with exactly as many slam titles as Gentleman Tim.

...and, finally, I've always liked how CBS has traditionally managed to move around the grounds a bit better during its coverage of the Open compared to some four-lettered networks (and one with a peacock for a mascot). Sometimes, though, it's a detriment to the flow of a match, as far as the viewer is concerned.

I taped the early coverage today to speed-watch it back later (I decided to actually PLAY tennis instead of watch it this morning... though judging by the way I "played," that's a matter of opinion, I guess), so you can imagine the rip in the time continuum that occurred when the Clijsters/Ivanovic match I was watching was at 4-2 Barbie when CBS went to a commercial. As I scanned forward, I realized that for some reason the network ran a piece about the Bryan Brothers (I don't think they actually appeared in a match on CBS today, so it really made no sense), then did a quick drop-in (a welcome one, actually) for the end of the 1st set of the Schiavone/Pavlyuchenkova match. When the coverage was finally returned to the Clijsters/Ivanovic match, today's women's contest with the best combo of well-known players, it should be noted, KC had already wrapped up the 1st set and led 3-0 in the 2nd. If the viewer blinked, they missed the only part of the match that mattered. Actually, even if they kept their eyes open I guess they remained "shut," too.

I think we now know which control booth the old ESPN/NBC production monkeys have taken up residence in for the fall. Maybe the food services cart at CBS has fresher bananas at this time of the year. Either that, or they have feces-throwing competitions during the commercial breaks.

#1 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. #14 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#11 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS vs. Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
#31 Kaia Kanepi/EST vs. #15 Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
Andrea Petkovic/GER vs. #7 Vera Zvonareva/RUS
#6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA def. #20 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
#3 Venus Williams/USA def. #16 Shahar Peer/ISR
#5 Samantha Stosur/AUS vs. #12 Elena Dementieva/RUS
#2 Kim Clijsters/BEL def. Ana Ivanovic/SRB

#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #23 Feliciano Lopez/ESP
#10 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #8 Fernando Verdasco/ESP
#25 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI vs. #20 Sam Querrey/USA
#12 M.Youzhny/RUS or #18 J.Isner/USA vs. Tommy Robredo/ESP
#17 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. Richard Gasquet/FRA
#19 Mardy Fish/USA vs. #3 Novak Djokovic/SRB
#5 Robin Soderling/SWE vs. #21 Albert Montanes/ESP
#13 Jurgen Melzer vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

TBD vs. #6 King/Shvedova (USA/KAZ)
#14 Vesnina/Zvonareva (RUS/RUS) vs. TBD
#5 Raymond/Stubbs (USA/AUS) vs. #2 Huber/Petrova (USA/RUS)

TBD vs. #9 Fyrstenberg/Matkowski (POL/POL)
#14 Aspelin/Hanley (SWE/AUS) vs. TBD
#10 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL) vs. #16 Bopanna/Qureshi (IND/PAK)

#1 Huber/B.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #7 Raymond/Moodie (USA/RSA)
#4 Mattek-Sand/Nestor (USA/CAN) vs. Chan/Hanley (TPE/AUS)
Peschke/Qureshi (CZE/PAK) vs. Dulko/Cuevas (ARG/URU)
Groenefeld/Knowles (GER/BAH) vs. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)

33...Venus Williams, USA (3 in 2010)
17...Kim Clijsters, BEL (2)
5...Francesca Schiavone, ITA (2)
[to play 4th Rd.]
12...Elena Dementieva, RUS (1)
2...Samantha Stosur, AUS (1)

59-9...Venus Williams, USA
34-5...Kim Clijsters, BEL (18 consecutive US Open wins)
25-10...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
[to play 4th Rd.]
40-11...Elena Dementieva, RUS
5-6...Samantha Stosur, AUS

AO: Maria Kirilenko, RUS
RG: Ons Jabeur, TUN (jr.)
WI: Petra Kvitova, CZE
US: Beatrice Capra, USA
[US Open]
2005 Sania Mirza, IND
2006 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2007 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2008 Coco Vandeweghe, USA (jr.)
2009 Melanie Oudin, USA
2010 Beatrice Capra, USA

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Laura Robson/GBR d. #2q Jelena Dokic/AUS 6-1/6-4
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #4 Jelena Jankovic/SRB def. Simona Halep/ROU 6-4/4-6/7-5
FIRST WINNER: #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA (def. Ayumi Morita/JPN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #8 Li Na/CHN (lost to Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR)
UPSET QUEENS: The Taiwanese
REVELATION LADIES: The North Americans
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Mandy Minella/LUX & Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP (3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: Beatrice Capra/USA
COMEBACK PLAYER: [Nominees: A.Ivanovic/SRB, M.Sharapova/RUS & D.Cibulkova/SVK]
CRASH & BURN: #10 Victoria Azarenka/BLR (retired after collapsing in 2nd Rd. vs. Gisela Dulko/ARG)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: [Nominees: Stosur/AUS - 1st Rd. - down set and a break vs. Vesnina/RUS; Petkovic/GER - 2nd Rd. - down 3 MP vs. Mattek-Sands/USA; Wickmayer/BEL - 3rd Rd. - down MP vs. Schnyder/SUI]
LADY OF THE EVENING: [Nominee: V.Williams/USA]
BROADWAY-BOUND: [Nominees: V.Williams/USA for her fashion & dancing; F.Schiavone for her between-the-legs shot; A.Petkovic for dancing & win from 3 MP down]

All for Day 7. More tomorrow (including thoughts on what looks like could be a very late night on Ashe for Sam and Elena).


Blogger Diane said...

That will teach you to leave the scene, huh? A few years ago, I experienced the other side of the coin. It was my birthday, and the Australian Open had just begun. I went out for drinks and dinner about the time that JJ began playing. I wanted to watch, but--it was my birthday, and it was only the first round. So I had a really long dinner--the kind you have now and then at a nice restaurant. And when I got home, Jankovic and Paszek were still playing. I was a year older, and QC was still on the court, trying to put away pesky Paszek, which she finally did.

I keep hoping the U.S. Open will plan matches around my schedule, but the organizers don't seem interested.

Sun Sep 05, 10:05:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C-Woz vs Sharapova isn't a night match, I find this really surprising.

Sun Sep 05, 10:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


Of course, now we know that you have to watch JJ from the time she talks to an interviewer in the tunnel leading to the court (in the right frame of mind, who knows what will come out of her mouth) to the time she chooses her new car in the post-match ceremony simply because it matches a pair of shoes she has at home. :)

Hmmm, yet another moment where experience counts.


It's probably because it's a national holiday (Labor Day) and CBS is carrying coverage throughout the day rather than ESPN2. I'm sure someone was whispering into the schedule-makes' ears. If it was taking place on Tuesday, it probably would be a night match. I think the Sharapova/Oudin match last year was during the day, too, possibly under the exact same circumstances.

Sun Sep 05, 10:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

i like the notion of 'usual suspects', it's comforting to see. things are in order.

Mon Sep 06, 01:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

I'm really not sure about your Comeback nominees. Ivanovic always kept a few interesting results here and there, and her quick exit against Clijsters really doesn't show that she's going to be back to her old self. For Sharapova, well it's been more than a year that she's having decent results. A comeback award would not be justified unless she shows she's back to the Supernova (and thus at least making the finale). Cibulkova would need to beat Kuznet to become a real candidate (the match starts in 15 minutes, so we'll see :D).

The real Comebacks, in my opinion (unless Sharapova makes the final or Cibulkova goes on), are Stosur and Schiavone. After being both non-entities since their Roland Garros finale, including sharing Crash & Burn at Wimbledon, here they are both in quarterfinals (when no one thought they would) and showing very impressive tennis in the way.

Mon Sep 06, 10:47:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...


"Comeback Player" is the toughest to figure out for this slam. I agree, AnaIvo's loss sort of eliminates her, but I kept her there because Sharapova and Cibulkova could lose their next matches, too. I also agree that Sharapova is really only a legit winner if she wins the tournament (or at least makes the final). I added Cibulkova simply as a fallback possibility. Kuznetsova actually might be a decent contender, but since she just won a slam last year it doesn't feel right.

Same with Schiavone, since it was only a few months ago that she won RG ("Ms. Opportunity" might be more her style). As you'll see today, Stosur is the "Zombie Queen," and since I try to not double up on too many awards I probably wouldn't consider her there, as well.

Hmmm, Cara Black is still alive in doubles as of this morning. Without Huber, a title there with Rodionova would make her a contender.

Other possibilities: Meghann Shaughnessy (Doubles), Vania King?? (if she won another slam doubles title after losing early in singles to Hantuchova?), Anna-Lena Groenefeld (alive in doubles and mixed)

I suspect this one might go down to the wire.

Mon Sep 06, 12:25:00 PM EDT  

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