Thursday, September 01, 2011

US.4- The Charm Defensive vs. The Harm Offensive?

So far, so good, for world #1 Caroline Wozniacki. But one has to wonder how long the Charm Defensive can hang on in an Open that seems more than set to operate at the discretion of Serena Williams' Harm Offensive.

Wozniacki didn't have too much trouble with Arantxa Rus on Night 4. The 20-year from the Netherlands took out a wobbly Kim Clijsters at Roland Garros a few months ago, but she had no such luck in a 6-2/6-0 loss against the Dane. How much Wozniacki got from the win, though, is debatable.

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there." - Yogi Berra, former New York Yankee catcher

During ESPN2's coverage, Chris Evert literally implored Wozniacki to use her big advantage in the match to take more chances in the 2nd set, just for the practice, and not just "play to get off the court" as quickly as possible. While she did win it at love, she really didn't put the proverbial boot on Rus' neck down the stretch. Not that she should go for broke all the time. Altering (even slightly) and adding to one's game isn't an overnight thing, and sometimes the price of improving is losing a few times in the process. That could have had something to do with Wozniacki's hard court losing streak coming into New Haven last week, but one hopes that her fourth straight title on the Yale campus doesn't make her believe that she should abandon any plans to try to pump up certain aspects of her game in order to be more of a force in the slams. The new coaching arrangement (whomever it's with... as it's still a big secret -- he's apparently currently coaching a male player) would seem to point toward a slightly new approach, but it's always going to be a delicate situation to try to change the game of a #1 player (just ask JJ).

Unless Svetlana Kuznetsova pulls her old form out of her tennis bag for a few more rounds, Wozniacki should at least get to the quarterfinals. If she faces Andrea Petkovic, who's already outhit and beaten her once this year, there, then she'll be put to a real test. If she passes it, her semifinal reward will likely be... Serena. Well. Wozniacki's charming approach could still get her very far at this Open, but likely only SO far. With that, C-Woz's '11 slam experience would be concluded. As I thought before the start of this season, though, 2012 is where the story of the Dane's quest for an elusive slam title will write its most important chapters.

Of course, a (once again) rededicated and (yikes!) maybe even more athletic (she's getting help from a trainer of boxers) SuperSerena might have something to say about that.

...after allowing just two games to Bojana Jovanovski in the 1st Round, Serena Williams lost just one against qualifier Michaella Krajicek in a 6-0/6-1 victory today. She's now won all fourteen matches she's played on hard courts this summer. the late afternoon/early evening, Sloane Stephens continued the assault of the Bannerettes on the draw this first week. After slipping past qualifier Reka-Luca Jani (five times fast!) in the 1st Round, the 18-year old took down #23-seeded Shahar Peer today. She breezed past the Israeli in a 6-1 1st set, then toughed out a close 2nd when Peer's unforced errors finally led her down a dark alley from which she couldn't find her way to safety. Stephens took the 2nd set tie-break 7-3, putting away match point with a forehand winner on a mid-court Peer shot. The co-winner of last year's "Junior Breakout" award at the Open, Stephens is the "Last Wild Card Standing" one year later, one of three 21-or-under Americans who've advanced to the Final 32.

...the first "Battle of the Jelenas" since 2003 took place on Louis Armstrong today, and Jelena Jankovic was surely letting her QC flag fly. She was broken by Jelena Dokic in the opening game of the match, and fell behind 3-1. It was about that time that the Chaotic One opened her bag of tricks. A call to the trainer and a trip off court to treat a lower back injury was followed by the Serb completing her final five game sweep of the set to win the opening stanza 6-3. In the 2nd, she went up 4-2, but had her serve broken as the Aussie caught her on the scoreboard at 4-4. At that point, Dokic -- who, after a woeful, nagging injury-filled summer, actually assured herself of a great trip to Flushing Meadows just by winning in the 1st Round to get her first Open win of any kind, qualifying or main draw, since 2003 -- became her own worst enemy. Ending the game with back-to-back double-faults, JD gave away the chance she'd battled back to get, and ultimately lost 6-3/6-4.

As both players were leaving the court, JJ's back injury seemed like a potential issue. As Tennis Channel commentators noted during the match, Jankovic seemed fine during the points, but looked to be moving a little gingerly otherwise. Bending down to put her racket away and lift up her tennis bag, Jankovic looked to be being very careful not to do anything that might make her back any worse than it might already be. Hmmm, JJ has an up and down match, called for a trainer, wins, then leaves the court with her health being something of a question mark...

Ah, QC, nice to see you've made the trip to New York. other matches, Serena's destruction of Krajicek helped produce the "Last Qualifier Standing," as Spaniard Siliva Soler-Espinosa became the last of her kind in the Final 32 when she knocked out #31 seed Kaia Kanepi. Both the 1st Round "giant killers" -- Romanians Alexandra Dulgheru and Simona Halep -- are no longer in the draw. Yesterday, Dulgheru (def. Wimbledon champ Kvitova) lost, and today Halep (def. RG champ Li) went down in three sets to Carla Suarez-Navarro. As for CSN and SSE... along with countrywoman Anabel Medina-Garrigues' win yesterday, it means that Spain has somewhat surprisingly (no, actually, there's probably no "somewhat" about it) advanced three women to the Final 32.

One year after facing off with Gisela Dulko in the 2nd Round, then fainting (she'd suffered a pre-match concussion in a fall) and being wheeled off the court, Victoria Azarenka made some better memories on Day 4 when she once again faced off with the Argentine in a 2nd Rounder. This time, she won 6-4/6-3. Of course, now she'll face Serena in the 3rd Round... so, her bad day might just end up being delayed.

Meanwhile, Andrea Petkovic survived a scare, coming back from a set down to take out vet Zheng Jie. Plus, the plight of the Czechs in the women's draw got a bit worse. The "Nation of Poor Souls" for this slam was just 2-5 in the 1st Round, then one of the two winners -- Lucie Safarova -- stuggled to get past 16-year old Madison Keys yesterday. On Day 4, the other 1st Round winner -- Petra Cetkovska -- pulled out of the event with a left thigh injury (looks like that tiring New Haven final run took its toll) before the start of her scheduled 2nd Round match against Ana Ivanovic.

...according to Mary Carillo's interview with WTA head Stacey Allaster, discussions could eventually occur with players such as Maria Sharapova and Azarenka (or their "teams") about the on-court sounds they make. Yeah, nothing like attacking the "hard-hitting" issues head-on. Andy Roddick took a few shots at tennis commentators last night on ESPN2, making good points about their too-easy on-air judgments about players -- but also showing that he probably listens a little TOO much to what people are saying about him. Same with Allaster, since I doubt the grunting/shrieking issue would go as high up the ladder as her office if TV commentators didn't harp on the issue so much. She mentioned something about paying attention to things that might effect the reputation of "the brand," making me wonder if so much critical thought was being given to the sorts of things that might effect/protect/assist the actual players. Fact is, the WTA -- for good or (mostly) bad -- wouldn't get any attention at all in some corners if it didn't involve around the sounds some players make on court. It's an eye-rolling reality, but a reality nonetheless. That being the case, obviously, the tour has OTHER things that need to be addressed FIRST in order to better the future of the women's game, both on and off court, and listening to the bleating of commentators over the (non-existent) protests of the players whose potential on-court distraction is the ONLY reason to address the issue publicly isn't the way to go. All it does is brown-nose the on-air commentators. Nothing more, nothing less.

Oh, I know what the tour could do! It could come up with another new logo. Because, you know, THAT'S how you advance and protect "the brand," making the WTA a better entity for all involved, securing the future of the sport for all humanity. Blahblahblah.

Well, before the blahblahblah, read Diane's take on the interview over at Women Who Serve.

...and, finally, before the start of play on Day 5, I'll be posting an additional edition of Backspin that will include the "Early-Round Awards." Hmmm, I wonder who the "Top Player" will be?

WI: Great Britain (0-6 1st Rd.)
WI: Australia (1-3 1st Rd.)
US: Czech Republic (2-5 1st Rd., Cetkovska w/d before 2nd Rd.)

[U.S. Open]
2006 E.Birnerova/CZE, Y.Fedossova/FRA, K.Flipkens/BEL, V.Lepchenko/UZB, A.Radwanska/POL (2nd Rd.)
2007 Alize Cornet/FRA & Ekaterina Makarova/RUS (3rd Rd.)
2008 Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER (4th Rd.)
2009 Anastasia Rodionova/AUS (3rd Rd.)
2010 Lourdes Dominquez-Lino/ESP & Mandy Minella/LUX (3rd Rd.)
2011 Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP (in 3rd Rd.)
AO: Vesna Manasieva (Dolonts), RUS (3rd Rd.)
RG: Chang Yung-Jan/TPE & Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP (3rd Rd.)
WI: Misaki Doi/JPN (3rd Rd.)
US: Silvia Soler-Espinova/ESP (in 3rd Rd.)

[U.S. Open]
2007 Ahsha Rolle, USA (3rd Rd.)
2008 Severine Bremond, FRA (4th Rd.)
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
2010 Beatrice Capra, USA & Virginie Razzano, FRA (3rd Rd.)
2011 Sloane Stephens, USA (in 3rd Rd.)
AO: Jelena Dokic/AUS, Caroline Garcia/FRA & Alicia Molik/AUS (2nd Rd.)
RG: Iryna Bremond/FRA, Caroline Garcia/FRA & Pauline Parmentier/FRA (2nd Rd.)
WI: Sabine Lisicki/GER (SF)
US: Sloane Stephens/USA (in 3rd Rd.)

[Monthly/Quarterly winners]
MARCH: Sania Mirza/Elena Vesnina, IND/RUS
1Q...Greta Arn, HUN
APRIL: Nadia Lalami, MAR
MAY: Greta Arn, HUN
2Q CLAY...Lucie Hradecka, CZE
JUNE: Mona Barthel, GER
2Q GRASS...Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
JULY: Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT
AUGUST: Petra Cetkovska, CZE
[2011 Weekly Award Wins]
4...Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
4...Casey Dellacqua, AUS
3...Mona Barthel, GER

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Alexandra Panova/RUS def. #6q Andrea Hlavackova/CZE 3-6/6-2/7-6(7)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: Monica Niculescu/ROU (def. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner/AUT)
FIRST SEED OUT: #5 Petra Kvitova (lost to Dulgheru/1st Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Czech Republic (2-5 in 1st Rd., Cetkovska walkover in 2nd)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Sloane Stephens/USA (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST AMERICAN STANDING: five alive in 3rd Round
IT: xx
CRASH & BURN: Wimbledon champ, #5 Petra Kvitova/CZE (1st Rd./lost to Dulgheru) & Roland Garros champ, #6 Li Na/CHN (1st Rd./lost to Halep)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Early Nominee: Falconi/USA (down 4-1 and two breaks vs. #27 Safarova in 2nd Rd.)

All for Day 4. More soon.


Blogger Eric said...

- Serena only dropped two games against Bojana...

- Diane is Diane from Women who Serve?!?! I didn't know that...I love that blog...but have never commented...

- SuperSerena -- LOVE IT

- Harm Offensive -- LOVE IT

- Charm Offensive...?? Is Woz charming? I dunno...I don't know why, but whenever I watch her play, I always find myself rooting against her... I recognize her skill, for sure...but I guess her tennis isn't flashy enough for me. I feel like the other ppl are taking the risks and they should be rewarded. (My inner psychologist tells me that it's bc I don't take enough risks in my own life so therefore, all the tennis players I like play super risky...) But even her personality...just seems...blah...please enlighten me on what is so charming?!?!? (I'm being serious) I suppose she has a nice smile.

- That being said, I kind of want to see how Woz would do against Serena (but I also want Vania to win a couple more rounds...)

As usual, thanks Todd!

Thu Sep 01, 11:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I can't get over how you and Diane both have

- Are all the tennis bloggers friends?

- Do bloggers get press passes to go to event? That would be so cool... Are there blogger conventions where you all meet? I always thought bloggers were just fans like i feel that my obsession is least you guys channel it into creativity...

Thu Sep 01, 11:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Oh, and I wanted to ask you, how many more majors do you think Venus could have won...I mean she's always been the better athlete out of the sisters...and she's been facing these fatigue issues since at least 07 AND in the good morning america clip she said that she "lost feel for the ball"...i mean that explains a lot of why she would suddenly have a rash of errors sometimes...i mean inconsistency has been her biggest challenge...

(and i know i know..."would have, could have, should have," one knows...but i'm just asking your opinion...)

when i look at the majors since 06, I think she would have had a better shot at (surprisingly there weren't that many...any major won by Clijsters, Serena, Sharapova, Henin, I didn't really consider because if they had played Venus it would have been a toss up...):

- 2011 US Open
- 2011 Wimbledon
- 2010 Wimbledon
- 2008 Australian (def by ivanovic)
- The year she lost to Sesil at the French

oh and since Serena pulled out of Cincy...does she still have an undefeated streak? I didn't know what the official rules to count for "undefeated" were...

sorry for all the posts...i have tennis on the mind

Fri Sep 02, 12:17:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I think I had the fact that Serena has dropped three total games on my mind, and got my wires crossed between my brain and my fingers.

The "charm/harm" thing with Wozniacki dates back to around the time a couple of years ago when I started calling her the "Princess of Charm," then added (hopefully) that she might have a "side of harm" when I did a season preview about her here and at On the Baseline. She was a breath of fresh air for the sport at the time but, of course, time and the whole issue of not winning a slam has sort of "roughed her up" a bit. I still think she seems a genuinely nice person, though, so I think it still fits (even though I don't really use her P-of-C label too much anymore).

Thing is, I'm afraid a Serena/Wozniacki match be unhealthy for C-Woz... though maybe she'd learn something from it.

Sure, Diane's great! I thought the Diane/"Diane" connection had been apparent before (maybe not, though). I comment there regularly. I'm sure she'd welcome your comments, as well (right, Diane?). ;)

I get press releases, event announcements/invites and the like, and could maybe do more, but I don't wander TOO far away from Backspin HQ very often.

I think some of Venus' technical issues in her game -- mostly with her forehand -- often led to her in-match error runs sometimes, though. She might have won a few more, especially at Wimbledon, but I don't think it's as clear-cut a "what if" as, say, Seles' stabbing. VW never won the AO or RG when she was at her peak around 2000-01... and then Serena exploded all over the game in '02.

Venus is a great athlete, but I'm not sure she's a better one than Serena. No women's player has ever really been like SW.

I don't think the WTA continues an "official" winning streak where there's a walkover defeat, but I may be wrong on that. Anyone?

The w/o doesn't COUNT as a loss on her record, though, so she's technically 14-0 since Wimbledon. I won't count her streak as continuing when I do the '11 winning streak list next time, but I will make a note that she won however many more matches after the walkover.

Fri Sep 02, 12:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

The Diane/Diane connection has haunted me thoughout my life :)

Eric, join in any time! (And thank you so much.)


Fri Sep 02, 10:06:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home