AO 6.0 - Shadow of a Doubt?
The Radwanska has been hiding in the shadows (hmmm, might heat be a weapon against It's evil?) for most of this Australian Open. But Day 6 showed that It might be just about ready to make an impact on this slam. Nothing of major evil-tinged importance occurred on Saturday, but there were several instances in which you could see and feel The Rad nibbling around the edges of the draw.
The biggest "warning shot" -- the first real "Hello, My Name is The Rad" moment of this AO -- came in the first match of the day.
In that contest, #1-seeded Victoria Azarenka faced off with Bannerette Jamie Hampton. Even while Vika grabbed a big early 5-1 lead, she just didn't seem totally "right," tossing in some double-faults in ways uncharacteristic of her since she rose to the top of the game one year ago. Hampton broke her serve as she served at 5-1, then did it again at 5-3, as the American held her own with the Belarusian, keeping her pinned behind the baseline with her groundstrokes, and keeping her off-balance with her shot selection as the only player in 2013 to hold a set point against Aga Radwanska (in the Auckland SF) followed along with the blueprint of how to mess with a power player in today's game.
Azarenka got a break of serve to take the opening set 6-4, but her confidence simply wasn't there. Hampton broke her serve back-to-back times to begin the 2nd set, too. She held for 3-1, as Vika's late 1st set "bloodletting" leaked into a second stanza. Hampton had two set points on Azarenka's serve at 5-2, but her first seemingly-nervous errors of the match allowed Vika to hold. At that point, Hampton called for a trainer to look at her back (a chronic injury, according to ESPN2's Chris Evert). Still, when play resumed, she was able to serve out the set at 6-4.
Hampton's back pain -- she was wincing on her swings -- became more and more of an issue in the 3rd. Still, she battled, breaking to go up 2-1, then doubling-over at the conclusion of the game. But as the set wore on, one began to wonder if maybe Vika had her own alter ego giving her a little help, because, make no bones about it, she got very lucky on this day. If Hampton, who ended up with around twice as many winners (41) as Vika, had been healthy the #1-ranked player in the world might well be out of this Australian Open. She's not, though. She got a quick break to even things at 2-2 in the 3rd, then another for 4-2. After falling behind love/40, a frustrated Azarenka pulled herself together with the help of a few Hampton errors, now coming more and more often. Vika put together five straight points to hold for 5-2, then put the match away with a forehand winner to close out a 6-4/4-6/6-2 win. A fortunate one, to be sure.
As disappointing as the final result was for Hampton, though, she CAN leave Australia with her head held high after her first career semifinal in Hobart, and then this match, a perfect example of how a young player can "win for losing" and gain future confidence and additional resolve as a result.
Of course, Vika knows something about "woulda, coulda, shoulda" matches in Melbourne. This win is one of those which ANYTHING can be made of. Either it's the sort tight match that "helps" her next week, or it's revealed a crack in the current world #1's exterior that will soon be exploited by someone (maybe named Serena, or maybe someone before the SF) and make her a FORMER world #1.
The Rad didn't didn't get a pelt to hang on the wall of It's dark lair on Day 6, but It DID remind everything that It's still here. Also there. And, soon, maybe everywhere.
=DAY 6 NOTES=
...Azarenka wasn't the only current (or past, or future) top player to have a few edgy moments. Even Serena Williams had a few.
Against Ayumi Morita, Williams actually found herself down break point early in the match. In the 2nd set, she double-faulted on a break point to fall behind 2-0 with her first lost service game this week. Morita actually held for a 3-0 lead. But, of course, Serena picked up the spare pieces and won 6-1/6-3. She even put in a 128.7 mph serve today, the second-fastest (behind Venus' record) serve ever recorded in a WTA main draw match.
Former #1 Caroline Wozniacki found herself down a break in both sets, including a 4-3 in the 1st, against qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. She bounced back to win in straights, 6-4/6-3, and move to within one win of maintaining her Top 10 ranking. She'll next face Svetlana Kuznetsova, dangerously playing into form with yet another three-set win (over Carla Suarez-Navarro) in her post-knee injury comeback. The Russian already has one win over the Dane this season.
In what would have been a great night match -- if it'd been scheduled for under the lights on Laver, that is, rather than a late night mixed doubles match -- the two top-ranked teens met for the second time in 2013 when Sloane Stephens, 19, faced off with Laura Robson, 18. Just as with the Brit's match with Petra Kvitova, it was a contest of streaks, and one in which the Aussie-dominated crowd was noticeably against the Australia-born Robson's opponent.
Stephens went up a double-break at 4-0 in the 1st, only to see Robson, after getting treated by a trainer for back/neck issues, win the next four games. In game #9, Stephens, renowned in her young career for failing to hold onto leads, double-faulted on game point, but held for 5-4. She failed to convert two set points on Robson's serve a game later, but managed to do it on SP #3 when Robson ended a long rally by sailing a ball long to give the set to Stephens by a 7-5 score.
In the 2nd, Stephens again raced to an early lead, going up 4-1. Serving for the match at 5-3, the American fell behind 15/40. She got herself out of danger with the wonderfully entertaining win of a point in which she scrambled several times to keep the rally alive, then worked her way into the net and put away a volley. That was followed by a big serve to get to match point. Stephens flubbed an easy volley into an open court on MP, but she smiled at the error rather than be dragged down by it (or It?). On MP #2, Robson pushed a forehand wide and Stephens won 7-5/6-3 to match her career-best Round of 16 result.
Asked after the match what it'd be like to play 42-year old Date-Krumm in the 4th Round, Stephens noted that she guessed it'd be "like playing one of my mom's friends."
A few hours later, Sloane's mother avoided having to talk to her friends -- can you say, "damage control?" -- about her daughter's comment, as KDK lost her 3rd Round match to Bojana Jovanovski and failed to advance to her first AO Round of 16 since 1994. The Japanese vet is still alive in the doubles with Arantxa Parra-Santonja, though.
...in doubles results from today, Sam Stosur is now free to flee the country. Already a "Crash & Burn" loser in singles (2nd Rd.), and a Mixed Doubles quick-out (w/ Luke Saville) to Sania Mirza & Bob Bryan in the 1st Round, she and Julia Goerges were sent packing on Day 6 by Varvara Lepchenko and Zheng Saisai in their 2nd Round match. Now... shoo, Sammy! Shoo! Go start your season someplace else and forget about this month.
In a they-can't-buy-any-luck result, after both lost in the 1st Round in singles, then in the 1st Round in doubles as a team, Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova met up in the 1st Round in Mixed Doubles today. Shvedova & Denis Istomin defeated King & Marcelo Melo, so at least one of them got a win. Of course, I'm sure Vania will be singing a sad song on her flight out after her 0-3, blink-and-you-missed-her, trip to Melbourne.
...the junior competition has begun. No big upsets occurred on Saturday, but amongst the winners were #3-seed Ana Konjuh (CRO), #4 Antonia Lottner (GER), #6 Carol Zhao (CAN), #7 Anna Danilina (KAZ) and #15 Allie Kiick (USA). Also, Sara Tomic (AUS) -- yes, she's HIS sister -- advanced.
...DAY 6 "LIKE":
-- Maria Kirilenko, a winner today over Yanina Wickmayer, being "ambushed" in an on-court interview and questioned about not wearing any ring to signify her engagement to ice hockey star Alex Ovechkin. Well, she wasn't... until she went into her tennis bag to pull out the rock and shut the guy up!
After a slow start to '13, Kirilenko's season seems to be starting just as Ovechkin's does the same. After a league-wide labor dispute and lockout, the NHL starts its season a few months later than scheduled this weekend.
...and, finally, the Mixed Doubles draw has produced an incredibly interesting 1st Round match, as former doubles partners Cara Black (w/ Paul Hanley) and Liezel Huber (w/ Max Mirnyi) will face off for the first time since Black's return after having a child. The two parted ways in 2010, with both publicly sniping at one another. Of course, such a thing is nothing new where Huber is concerned.
Oh, speaking of that, if Huber/Mirnyi were to advance, Liezel's old "friend," Elena Vesnina, once again is within shouting distance (literally) as a possible opponent two matches later in the QF (w/ Leander Paes, another player who's no stranger to doubles controversy). Vesnina won her eighth straight singles match today, advancing to her second career AO Round of 16.
*WOMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. Elena Vesnina/RUS
#10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#3 Serena Williams/USA vs. #14 Maria Kirilenko/RUS
Bojana Jovanovski/SRB vs. #29 Sloane Stephens/USA
#6 Li Na/CHN vs. #18 Julia Goerges/GER
#13 Ana Ivanovic/SRB vs. #4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
#5 Angelique Kerber/GER vs. #19 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
Kirsten Flipkens/BEL vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
*MEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #15 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI
Kevin Anderson/RSA vs. #5 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#4 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #16 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#10 Nicolas Almagro/ESP vs. #8 Janko Tipsarevic/SRB
Jeremy Chardy/FRA vs. #21 Andreas Seppi/ITA
xx vs. #3 Andy Murray/GBR
#7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #9 Richard Gasquet/FRA
#13 Milos Raonic/CAN vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI
*WOMEN'S FINAL 16*
#1 - Victoria Azarenka, BLR
#2 - Maria Sharapova, RUS
#3 - Serena Williams, USA
#4 - Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
#5 - Angelique Kerber, GER
#6 - Li Na, CHN
#10 - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
#13 - Ana Ivanovic, SRB
#15 - Maria Kirilenko, RUS
#18 - Julia Goerges, GER
#19 - Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
#25 - Sloane Stephens, USA
#43 - Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
#47 - Elena Vesnina, RUS
#56 - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
#75 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
19 - Stephens
21 - Jovanovski
22 - Wozniacki
23 - Azarenka, A.Radwanska
24 - Goerges, Makarova
25 - Ivanovic, Kerber, Kirilenko, Sharapova
26 - Vesnina
27 - Flipkens, Kuznetsova
30 - Li
31 - S.Williams
[by career slam Round-of-16's; career 4th Rd. at AO]
41...Serena Williams (10)
27...Maria Sharapova (7)
25...Svetlana Kuznetsova (7)
15...Ana Ivanovic (3)
15...Agnieszka Radwanska (4)
14...Victoria Azarenka (5)
14...Caroline Wozniacki (5)
13...Li Na (5)
7...Maria Kirilenko (3)
5...Angelique Kerber (1)
4...Ekaterina Makarova (3)
3...Elena Vesnina (2)
2...Julia Goerges (2)
2...Sloane Stephens (1)
1...Kirsten Flipkens (1)
1...Bojana Jovanovski (1)
[current long slam Round of 16 streaks]
[by preseason "Grand Slam Master List" rankings]
1 - Serena Williams
2 - Maria Sharapova
3 - Victoria Azarenka
5 - Li Na
6 - Agnieszka Radwanska
7 - Angelique Kerber
12 - Ana Ivanovic
16 - Caroline Wozniacki
19 - Maria Kirilenko
22 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
28 - Ekaterina Makarova
30 - Sloane Stephens
32 - Julia Goerges
unlisted - Kirsten Flipkens
unlisted - Bojana Jovanovski
unlisted - Elena Vesnina
*WOMEN'S CAREER SLAM FINAL 16's - ACTIVE LEADERS*
*WOMEN'S SLAM FINAL 16's - ACTIVE LEADERS, since 2010*
*WOMEN'S OVERALL WON/LOST - BY NATION*
[through 3rd Rd.]
13-9...United States (Stephens,S.Williams)
[no players left in draw]
5-3 = JPN
5-7 = CZE,FRA
4-2 = GBR
3-6 = ROU
3-7 = ESP
2-2 = UKR
2-3 = TPE
2-4 = SVK
2-5 = ITA,KAZ
1-1 = AUT,GRE,ISR,SUI,THA,UZB
1-2 = POR
1-3 = CRO
1-7 = AUS
0-1 = BUL,CAN,GEO,LUX,NZL,RSA,SLO
0-2 = NED,SWE
0-3 = HUN
*AO "ZOMBIE QUEEN" WINNERS*
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Serena Williams, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2013 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
*AO "LAST QUALIFIER STANDING" WINNERS*
2006 (3rd Rd.) Olga Savchuk, UKR
2007 (2nd Rd.) A.Kremer/LUX, A.Kudryavtseva/RUS, T.Paszek/AUT, J.Vakulenko/UKR, R.Voracova/CZE
2008 (4th Rd.) Marta Domachowska, POL
2009 (2nd Rd.) E.Baltacha/GBR, A.Brianti/ITA, S.Karatantcheva/KAZ
2010 (4th Rd.) Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
2011 (3rd Rd.) Vesna Manasieva (Dolonc), RUS
2012 (3rd Rd.) Nina Bratchikova, RUS
2013 (3rd Rd.) Valeria Savinykh/RUS, Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Cagla Buykakcay/TUR d. Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA 4-6/6-2/10-8
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson/GBR d. #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE 2-6/6-3/11-9
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
TOP LAVER NIGHT MATCH: 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson/GBR d. #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE 2-6/6-3/11-9
FIRST VICTORY: #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS (def. O.Puchkova/RUS)
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Mona Barthel/GER (lost to K.Pervak/KAZ in 1st Rd.)
UPSET QUEENS: Russia
REVELATION LADIES: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-6 in 1st Rd.; 1-7 overall)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR & Valeria Savinykh/RUS (3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Madison Keys/USA (3rd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: #9 Samantha Stosur (2nd Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: xx
IT (???): Nominees: S.Stephens, K.Date-Krumm
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: S.Kuznetsova, C.Wozniacki, K.Date-Krumm
CRASH & BURN: #9 Samantha Stosur/AUS (lost to J.Zheng in 2nd Round; led 5-2 in 3rd and served for match at 5-2 and 5-4)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (down 3-0 in the 3rd set vs. Lisicki in 1st Rd.; had lost back-to-back 1st Rd. slam matches)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Early Nominees: L.Robson, M.Sharapova
DOUBLES STAR: xx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 6. More tomorrow.