Sunday, September 04, 2011

US.7- The Flavor of Flavia

There's just something about the flavor of Flavia at Flushing Meadows.

Two years ago, Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta had one of those classic moments under the lights. Sure, everyone remembers the match more for Vera Zvonareva's collapse and angry attack on the athletic tape wrapped around her body parts, but it was Pennetta who was the victor in that Round of 16 match. She saved six match points, and won Backspin's "Zombie Queen" award right then and there.

In the latter stages of her career, 29-year old longtime Fed Cup star Pennetta has risen into the Top 10 in singles and to #1 in Doubles. In January, she won her first career slam Doubles crown with Gisela Dulko in Melbourne. With injuries and a general "blah" feeling hovering around her game in' 11, though, she came to New York without much to really hang her hat on when it came to being able to think that she might be able to make her singles season with a good result in NYC.

Well, except for maybe that win against Zvonareva in '09.

Then it happened. She battled and took down #3 seed Maria Sharapova two days ago, and suddenly the draw opened wide for a potential career-best result in this tournament. A first-ever slam semifinal was a distinct possibility, and nothing that happened today in her 4th Round match with Peng Shuai was dissuading anyone from thinking as such.

Well, at least until, on the edge of putting the match away, Pennetta's body decided that it'd had enough in the very humid afternoon conditions and wanted to make Flavia suffer, too. And suffer she did... or very nearly did. I guess it depends on how you look at it.

She served at 6-4/6-5 against Peng, and led 30/love. She even held a match point in the two-plus hour contest. But her error on that point kept the final result in doubt, and then the humidity finally started to get the best of her. Visibly wilting in the backcourt, she very nearly vomited, having to "hold back the charge" with one of those gulps that had to feel as distasteful as it looked (bringing a whole different connotation to the phrase "the flavor of Flavia"). She spent many moments the rest of the match doubled over, hoping that her sickness would pass. But no one ever REALLY gets the best of Pennetta. Not Carlos Moya. Not Vera Zvonareva. And not Peng nor the conditions today.

Pennetta's serve was broken, and the 2nd set went to a tie-break. With her weakening condition, one had to wonder just how effective she could be in a 3rd set, if she could even complete the match at all. Worse yet, she fell behind 5-0 to Peng in the breaker, then had to ride all her hopes on trying to end points quickly with big-shot winners. The tactic worked a bit better, but she still fell behind 6-2. It looked as if her day was about to get a whole lot worse.

But then Pennetta charged back even stronger, the crowd got into the drama, and Peng shriveled just enough to make the Italian's day. After saving four consecutive match points, Pennetta knotted the score and then took a 7-6 lead, holding her second match point of the afternoon. Peng's volley into the net brought down the house, and sent Pennetta into the quarterfinals. She'll face Angelique Kerber for the right to be a semifinalist at this Open that no one saw coming.

In the end, Pennetta once again has that "Zombie Queen" look about her, for the second time in three years at this tournament. Even if she was never technically behind in the match, she had to feel like death warmed over for a while there.

"You don't look so hot yourself." - Yogi Berra, to the Mayor of New York's wife, who'd said to him at a party that he looked cool in his summer suit

And that's enough for me.

=DAY 7 NOTES= the first women's 4th Round match today, Kerber -- the least know of the Germans -- continued her country's assault on the women's draw with her defeat of Monica Niculescu. Her win makes the German women a combined 13-3 in this Open, with Lisicki and Petkovic still to play Round of 16 matches. Weird, weird, weird sight seeing Rafael Nadal suddenly start to cramp up during his post-match interview session today. Tensing up in excruciating pain, he slid off his chair and onto the floor, disappearing behind the desk in the press room.

...hahaha. What a screw up in Tennis Channel's opening minutes tonight. Ted Robinson and John McEnroe throw things down to Justin Gimelstob to interview Feliciano Lopez in the tunnel before he comes onto the court. Gimelstob begins the interview, but is interrupted by some on-site producer yelling at either him or some other staffer about needing some sort of countdown before starting the interview. After an appropriate pause, Gimelstob starts again and is interrupted yet again by the same guy. Meanwhile, a dumbfounded Lopez simply stares at it all with a dazed look on his face. Quickly back to Robinson and McEnroe. Says McEnroe, "Well, if there was any doubt that we're on the air live..."

...a few of the Bannerettes were at it again today. In the Girls 1st Round, Krista Hardebeck defeated #8 seed Natalija Kostic 6-1/6-1. Meanwhile, 15-year old Taylor Townsend (who took a wild card in the main draw qualifying tournament, and was barely knocked out in the second round by eventual qualifier Laura Robson in a 3rd set tie-breaker) today took out #15 Jesika Maleckova 6-1/6-4 in the Girls 1st Round. Townsend is also still alive in the Women's Doubles 2nd Round, playing with 17-year old fellow American Jessica Pegula. They face defending champions Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova next, with the winners meeting Wimbledon champs Hlavackova and Hradecka in the QF.

...and, finally, with such a small schedule of play on the women's side for Day 7, I'm going to cut this Daily Backspin short with two Round of 16 matches still to be completed -- Stosur/Kirilenko and Lisicki/Zvonareva. If events warrent it, I'll post an extra edition in late night tonight, or have it go up in another "Open for Brunch" spillover post tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll just include any thoughts on those matches (or anything else) on the Day 8 Backspin. So, all for now... maybe.

#1 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. #15 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#10 Andrea Petkovic/GER vs. Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
#28 Serena Williams/USA vs. #16 Ana Ivanovic/SRB
#17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS vs. #7 Francesca Schiavone/ITA
Angelique Kerber/GER def. Monica Niculescu/ROU
#26 Flavia Pennetta/ITA def. #13 Peng Shuai/CHN
#25 Maria Kirilenko/RUS vs. #9 Samantha Stosur/AUS
#22 Sabine Lisicki/GER vs. #2 Vera Zvonareva/RUS

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #22 Alexsandr Dolgopolov/UKR
#20 Janko Tipsarevic/SRB vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero/ESP
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. Juan Monaco/ARG
#11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #8 Mardy Fish/USA
xx vs. #12 Gilles Simon/FRA
(WC) Donald Young/USA vs. xx
#5 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #21 Andy Roddick/USA
Gilles Muller/LUX vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

xx vs. xx
xx vs. #8 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
#9 Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE/CZE) vs. #4 Huber/Raymond (USA/USA)
xx vs. xx

Bolellit/Fognini (ITA/ITA) vs. #7 Lindstedt/Tecau (SWE/ROU)
xx vs. xx
xx vx. xx
xx vs. Fleming/Hutchins (GBR/GBR)

(WC) Oudin/Sock (USA/USA) vs. xx
Govortsova/Matkowski (BLR/POL) vs. #7 Vesnina/Paes (RUS/IND)
Dulko/Schwank (ARG/ARG) vs. Gajdosova/Soares (AUS/BRA)
Hradecka/Cermak (CZE/CZE) vs. (WC) Falconi/Johnson (USA/USA)

[U.S. Open]
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2010 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2011 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
AO: Francesca Schiavone, ITA
RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
WI: Marion Bartoli, FRA
US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA

[Monthly/Quarterly winners]
JAN: Samantha Stosur, AUS
1Q: Samantha Stosur, AUS
APR: Aravane Rezai, FRA
MAY: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2Q/CC: Samantha Stosur, AUS
JUN: Kim Clijsters, BEL
2Q/GC: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
JUL: Julia Goerges, GER
AUG: Kim Clijsters, BEL
[2011 Weekly Award Wins]
7...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
5...Samantha Stosur, AUS
5...Kim Clijsters, BEL
4...Maria Sharapova, RUS

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #28 Serena Williams/USA
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): 2nd Rd. - Irina Falconi/USA d. #14 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 2-6/6-3/7-5
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 (3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Sloane Stephens/USA (3rd Rd.)
LAST AMERICAN STANDING: Serena Williams/USA (in 4th Rd.)
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: Flavia Pennetta/ITA - sick and nearly throwing up on court late in the 2nd set, overcomes 0-5 hole and saves 4 MP in tie-break vs. Peng Shuai/CHN to escape with straight sets 4th Round win (in QF)
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: V.Williams ("One Night Only")

All for most of Day 7. More soon?


Blogger Zidane said...

Shocking news: Zvonareva's racquet stringing breaking WITHOUT ZVonareva smashing it on the floor. What were the odds?

Sun Sep 04, 10:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Checking the junior draw, I discovered a player I didn't know: Fran├žois Abanda, a Canadian, and the youngest player in the junior top 100 (41 at 14 years old)! I will sure check her performances in the next junior slams.

Sun Sep 04, 11:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Abanda just lost to Eugenie Bouchard in the Canadian Open girls final, by the way. (See Day 8) :)

Tue Sep 06, 02:14:00 AM EDT  

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