Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AO.3- The Little Mermaid

Two rounds into this Australian Open, it's still hard to determine exactly what Caroline Wozniacki has brought with her to Melbourne.

"'Why have not we an immortal soul?,' asked the little mermaid mournfully; 'I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.'" - Hans Christian Andersen

Surely, Wozniacki still harbors the dream to hope to lift a slam trophy one day. Maybe even at the end of a virtual fairy tale story less than two weeks from now, after having so many people overlook and essentially disregard the world #1 when it comes to discussing potential champions at this slam. Or even semifinalists, for that matter. But is fate working against her?

The Dane won again on Day 3, and did so while showing some nice progress after her tactically tentative 1st Round win. With seemingly more confidence in her wrist, she wasn't content to play defense and set up 6-8 feet behind the baseline. There was "more" of Wozniacki in this one. She went for her 1st serve, getting a rare-for-her nine aces. She went to the net on occasion, too, and even showed some positive, demonstrative emotion when she put away a winner. Perhaps, it was a sign of a slightly more aggressive on-court personality being implemented under the coaching relationship with Ricardo Sanchez? If so, the new face seemed to have a fairly successful "try-out" on this day.

But there were a few questions raised, as well. For one, her penchant for falling way behind in sets is back. After having to climb out of huge holes in Sydney against Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska (the former being successfully pulled off, the latter not so much), Wozniacki won the 1st set today against Anna Tatishvili, but found herself down 4-1 in the 2nd to the Georgian. She had to fight off multiple set points, avoiding a three-setter although the Evert Academy resident served for the set at 5-3, and had break point on Wozniacki's serve at 5-4. If and when she faces either Kim Clijsters or Li Na in this tournament, that sort of stuff won't likely be able to be survived.

Late in the match, she even raised this Backspinner's eyebrow concerning her on-court state of mind when she tried to have the chair umpire employ the "hinderance rule" when Tatishvili yelled in excitement as she laced a winner down the line past the Dane. It was a shot that Wozniacki had to stretch to even get close to, and really had no shot to get back. Still, she tried to get the point in her column ala when Serena Williams lost a point against Sam Stosur in the U.S. Open final in a similar situation. Was Wozniacki worried about having to go to a 3rd set, possibly due to the blisters that were treated by trainers and could be a lingering issue on the sticky Melbourne courts, or was it another of the signs of Sanchez's impact on her on-court demeanor? It WAS a move reminiscent of a certain chaotic-and-often-pugnacious Serb, who once (or twice, or maybe three times) employed the Spaniard as a coach, than the generally agreeable Dane. Is that a good thing? Does it fit her? Will she fully embrace it as the year goes on, and how might that change her overall mindset in big matches against top players?

"She knew this was the last evening she would ever see him for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home, given up her lovely voice, and daily suffered unending torment - and he had no idea of it. This was the last night she would breathe the same air as he, or look upon the deep sea and the starry blue sky; an everlasting night without thoughts or dreams waited her, for she had no soul and could not gain one." - Hans Christian Andersen

Ultimately, after a few sticky moments, Wozniacki defeated Tatishvili, 6-1/7-6. But whether she's progressed enough to have a shot to hold onto her #1 ranking, and whether or not that's even a GOOD thing right now, is something that is yet to be determined. Continuing to live the life of the #1 player, she still finds herself in a tough quarter, and remains one win away from having ANY shot to hold onto the top spot after this tournament. Like the title character in fellow (Odense-born) Dane Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a character who wanted what she knew she would ultimately not to able to have, might Wozniacki be spending the next few days wistfully lamenting her situation, ala "the little mermaid," or planning a way around her seeming fate, both in Melbourne, as well as beyond?

Ah, but I guess that will have to be a lecture topic for "Wozniology-102," if and when that class ever becomes a reality.

...on Night 3, Victoria Azarenka went up against crowd favorite Casey Dellacqua, with the Aussie's grandmother (who became somewhat famous during Dellacqua's '08 Round of 16 run) cheering from the stands.

But she wasn't Azarenka's grandmother, so Vika didn't show any mercy. In fact, while it seems inconceivable that she could have done it again, the Belarusian DID, in fact, once again drop the opening game of the match, then reel off twelve straight games to get the victory. Azarenka did the exact same thing in the 1st Round against Heather Watson. She ALMOST came up short this time, though. With Dellacqua serving down 6-1/5-0, she led 40/15. Then Azarenka upped her game a half-notch and overtook the Aussie to get the break.

It was nice to see Azarenka getting a little attention on ESPN2, but shame on me, I guess, for longing for the (probably never to come) day when one of her matches on the network won't be interrupted by a ten-minute diatribe on the noise she makes when she hits her shots. Or how any of the commentators have heard complaints from fans about the noise coming out of their televisions. Really? If they were courtside, at least, I could understand a LITTLE. But how exactly do those people get agitated by all the loud noises while sitting at home? For one, the commentators voices are piped in louder than anything on court. Truthfully, I think all the talk by the ESPN2ers serves to cause the reality of the situation to be exaggerated in the minds of viewers. Plus, they know they can get the commentators attention if they complain, in person, about something they always hear THEM complaining about. But even if those people do somehow have super-hearing, can outrun a speeding bullet and/or the possess the proportionate strength of a spider, as long as they also have a working index finger (or one of eight other digits, for that matter) there's a little thing called "volume control" on every remote that can take care of that problem. I'm just saying. Personally, as I've noted so often, I don't even notice the noise. Or if I sometimes do, it makes me laugh. But maybe I'm just deaf, or just warped.

(I'm sure Carl is making a nasty comment somewhere right about now.)

...the other leading contenders for a trip to the women's singles final had easy days, as well. Li Na took out Olivia Rogowska, 6-2/6-2, to run her Dorothy Tour record over the last two-plus years to 23-4. And Kim Clijsters handled Stephanie Foretz-Gacon, 6-0/6-1. Still, though, late in the day on ESPN2, when Cliff Drysdale proposed a potential Clijsters/Wozniacki QF meeting, Pam Shriver said she's probably pick the Dane right now because Clijsters "hasn't shown her enough yet." I'd say that the comment came in error (maybe she was thinking of Li, but said "Wozniacki" because Drysdale's question really made no sense with the Chinese vet possibly preventing KC from reaching the QF, anyway) or because it was at the end of a long day, or that it was an attempt to be intentionally provocative for no real good reason (ala Brad Gilbert). But since we're talking about Pammy... it's probably "safer" for all involved to not even attempt to figure out the meaning of it all. So I won't. a somewhat surprising result (at least that it was a straights sets affair), Romina Oprandi took out her countrywoman, #10 seed Francesca Schiavone, 6-4/6-3. Thus, after going four-for-four in producing dramatic matches at 2011's slams, including that record-setting 4:44 win in Melbourne, Francesca is now 0-for-1 in 2012. In a less-than-shocking result, Iveta Benesova downed #16 Peng Shuai 6-2/6-4. Meanwhile, Christina McHale's fine slam play continued as she fashioned a comeback to defeat Kiwi Marina Erakovic, 3-6/7-6/6-3.

Elsewhere, Nina Bratchikova defeated Alberta Brianti, reaching the 3rd Round and getting a leg up on the competition in the race for "Last Qualifier Standing." Jamie Hampton is the only qualifier yet to play her 2nd Round match.

...yeah, it's sort of shocking, but Anabel Medina-Garrigues is still alive in the Australian Open draw. In fact, she's thriving. On Day 3, she took out Olga Govortsova 6-1/6-0! She's still yet to reach a slam QF in her career (I'll hold off on the usual Anna Smashnova comparision for now), and with Li next up for her in the 3rd Round, her days in Melbourne may be numbered.

...the "Last Aussie Standing" is about to be determined. With both Dellacqua and Rogowska losing (but sharing the "Last Wild Card Standing" honors), that leaves only Jelena Dokic alive in the women's draw. She'll face off with Marion Bartoli in the 2nd Round. Yesterday, I was thinking that she'd be in the running for sole possession of "LAS" honors even if she loses. But a check of the award rolls shows that it would mean the honor would be split three ways between the trio. Even for JD, I can't change the "rules." Of course, she COULD make the whole thing elementary with, you know, a win.

...DAY 3 LIKES: The 2012 WTA/ATP Media Guide finally arriving at Backspin HQ (Bethanie Mattek-Sands, by the way, is sporting eyeblack pads in her bio photo... can you hear my eyes rolling?). Tennis Channel's Justin Gimelstob sitting courtside in dark glasses, looking like David Hasselhoff on "Knight Rider" in 1985... minus the leather jacket and K.I.T.T., that is. Marcos Baghdatis, after being broken by Stanislas Wawrinka last night, destroying his racket in the changeover area, handing the mangled mass to a ball kid to throw away, then reaching into his bag for another racket and destroying it... then pulling out another, still wrapped in plastic, and smashing it... then reaching for another plastic-wrapped stick and crushing it, too. Baghdatis then flashed a quick smile as the crowd went nuts, and went out and immediately broke Wawrinka to get back on serve. And, also, my confirmed upcoming "date" with Jelena... at 3 o'clock on Thursday morning. Yep, the Dokic/Bartoli 2nd Rounder has been scheduled as the first match up on Laver for Night 4. Jelena Under the Lights... (at least) one more time for old time's sake. Day 3's schedule was set, Roger Federer, who'd passed Stefan Edberg a year ago to become the all-time men's AO match win leader, was ready to attempt to become THE all-time leader, breaking a tie with Margaret Court at 60 victories. But he advanced to the 3rd Round with a walkover, so that particular moment will have to wait.

...and, finally, the initial scheduled "check point" at this first slam of 2012 arrives after Day 4, as the Early-Round Awards will be handed out in this space tomorrow.

2008 Jessica Moore, AUS (2nd Rd.)
2009 Jelena Dokic, AUS (QF)
2010 Justin Henin, BEL (RU)
2011 Jelena Dokic/AUS, Caroline Garcia/FRA & Alicia Molik/AUS (2nd Rd.)
2012 Casey Dellacqua/AUS & Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)

TOP QUALIFIER: Paula Ormaechea/ARG
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Bibiane Schoofs/NED d. Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ 6-4/3-6/11-9
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: #3 Victoria Azarenka/BLR (def. Heather Watson/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Flavia Pennetta/ITA (1st Rd.- lost to Nina Bratchikova/RUS)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Great Britain (0-4 in 1st Round, all on Day 1)
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS & Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Nominees: Dokic, Dellacqua & Rogowska in 2nd Rd.
IT: xx
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: #5 Stosur/AUS (lost 1st Rd. to Cirstea)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: #15 Lisicki (down 4-2 in 3rd to Voegele, 1st Rd.)

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

I didn't find Wozniacki's accusation out of character or unusual. For some time now, she's been pretty contentious (in a non-tennis way) on the court, but she somehow gets a pass for it. Some of her arguments with umpires have been Stubbs-like, but without the humor (and often without the defense). Not that I think it's that big a deal, either. It's just that if Serena or JJ were to exhibit the same behaviors, we'd hear about it for days.

It's probably good that Wozniacki struggled a bit with Tatishvili because her draw tends to be either tricky or just plain difficult.

Wed Jan 18, 05:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...


You said exactly what I was going to write about Wozniacki. I don't understand how someone can be referenced so positively in the press but be so catty and have such a misguided sense of humor (power of being blonde??)...but then again, I was always bothered that Federer would get a pass with his similarly backhanded comments when he lost. (I mean really, he and Serena said the same things like "the opponent got lucky" and the media response was so was referenced as "acting like a champion" and the other "disillusioned".)

Also, besides this hindrance rule incident, there have been some "timely" medical timeouts with Caroline too...

But anyway, regarding her tennis, which I really, really, really respect...altho I liked her 2010/Jan 2011 form best...:

I think what I like most about Caroline's new game under Sanchez hasn't been her court position, but her use of angles. I think placement and pulling opponents off the court is a good way to counter a lack of raw power...and it plays into Caroline's penchant for never missing a shot.

I think the best I've seen Caroline play was against Li Na last year at the AO...and I don't think she's reached that level yet. The 9 aces was surprising, but I wasn't sure if that was due to seemed like she wasn't good at reading serves...Tatishvilli's first strike was amazing tho when she had time to set up (reminds me of aravane rezai)...


Diane, what you said about Mauresmo and accepting that she wasn't going to do well at the French...I feel like once you accept you're not going to do well (i.e. lower expectations), wouldn't you do better since there's less pressure? I dunno...

But I feel like Stosur will have a similar career to Mauresmo...there are two majors that each of them preferred...

(And speaking of Mauresmo...I feel like her ultimate triumph at Wimbie 06 also came bc she refused to lose to Henin, who she had beef with...)


Todd, I'm surprised you haven't commented on the commentators yet...

I have so many irks so far...

Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, and MJ Fernandez have no idea who the rank and file players are and hearing them mention that so and so are a threat and quality player bc they had an upset a few years they don't know those facts, they're reading from's not like us who can recall from memory...

And srsly, Chris Evert saying that Kvitova isn't fit (this is the fittest she's been)...and MJ saying that Tatishvilli has a lot of upside due to the power of her groundstrokes...and being surprised that she's been training at Evert Academy for almost 10, but obviously she's not consistent which is why she's 80 in the world......ughhhhh

And then there's Patrick McEnroe and his "intimate knowledge" of all American players...who takes credit for every American player's success and condemning all those who don't abide by his program...


Kvitova/Azarenka/Wozniacki are all showing more emotion and fighting and not wanting the others to show them up...making of a good trivalry...


Ok, so maybe work today was more contentious than I thought it was...I started writing not realizing how much I had said...

Thu Jan 19, 02:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thu Jan 19, 02:34:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Greta Arn's personality was really nice. I don't think I've ever seen her play before.

I'm happy she was able to have her moment.

And Vania's post-match interview was nice too. I didn't realize Vania was so...deep/introspective...and cautious...that sheds some light on the way she plays tennis.

and my word verification is "palin"...

Thu Jan 19, 02:40:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric an ace is an ace isn't it?? But it's surprising that she can do so many and most among the WTA stars until now. Most of C-Woz aces were down the T or very angled - she's truly made some efforts to make her serve better. For a long time her first serve was so good she had a 100% win lasted to the beginning of second set. Her forehand is a lot better and even if she loses a few netpoints she is winning there too. She's about peeking right now - I guess in the quarter final she'll have reached the top. Kvito looks to be beatable and Serena hasn't had real resistance yet and is still playing very rusty. Carls good friend from Belgium is actually playing better tennis than Serena. Well enough of that - looking forward to the around 3 am C-Woz battle (local DK time). All in all she looks good together with Todds favorite Vika.

Thu Jan 19, 09:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Yes, Hoergren, an ace is an ace...but there will always be more or less aces depending on the type of returner...unless you have a great serve.

I mean, in her 2 matches, Wozniacki has 10 aces. So one match was 9, and the other was 1. Did she really serve that much better vs. Tatishvili? I think the opponent contributes some to the aces stat...

I mean, I'd be interested to hear others' opinion on the matter...For example, i do agree that you can have better serving days than others...

It will be interesting to see what Woz's ace count is against a player who anticipates and returns better and who possesses more physical range (i.e. taller) and speed than Tatishvili.

Thu Jan 19, 11:06:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

You bring up a good point, Eric. Why Mauresmo's resignation over the French Open never reduced the pressure on her--I don't know. My guess, though, is that like Bartoli (until 2011), she just didn't like being there. It's a pity, because she was a very good clay court player.

Thu Jan 19, 12:00:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric did you watch the game? Many of the aces were perfect and even players like Kvitova wouldn't have reached them. You are right about good and bad days that's the fun about tennis - just reminding you of Stosur. Ok I'm a Caro fan - admitted - but not so blind i can't see what see is missing, but still I saw the improvements earlier mentioned. Will be interesting to watch her further matches. Imho she's right there where she should be and ready for her first slam.

Thu Jan 19, 02:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I want to hear Wozniacki threaten to shove a tennis ball down a linesperson's throat. There. I said it. :D

Hmmm, would the headline on the story the next day be, "Wozniacki Expresses Desire to Feed the Less Privileged?"

Thu Jan 19, 03:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Hi Hoergren,

No need to apologize for being a Caroline fan! I don't dislike her myself -- definitely not her tennis.

Yes, I watched the game...I'll try to find a clip on youtube to watch it again...but to my recollection, Caroline's service didn't stick out to me...I'll watch closely again tonight.

Thu Jan 19, 03:29:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...


Lol. Thanks for the levity.

No, I think the headline would be:

"Make-believe kangaroo bite makes Caroline Rabid with Rage--Star and press laugh off event."

Thu Jan 19, 03:35:00 PM EST  

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