Tuesday, June 04, 2013

RG.10- C'est la vie, Rad

Sometimes, things just don't go as planned. Even for The Radwanska. The end is NOT nigh... it's just postponed.

As Day 10 began, the air seemed ripe for Radwanskian mayhem. As the first matches of the day proceeded, it looked as if The Rad might have It's day, too. It didn't happen, though. But have no fear, Rad minions who peek in here on occasion (I've heard it through the grapevine that such a thing occurs) to check out how The Cause is going -- or maybe just to laugh at our naivete -- Tuesday wasn't a TOTAL loss for the Axis Powers of Darkness.

When human alter ego 1.0 -- otherwise know as Aga -- went up against Sara Errani in the first quarterfinal to begin today, everyone knew it was going to be a tough battle for The Rad the win. After all, even with her odd chest "injury" from the Round of 16, the diminutive-but-naturally-fiery Italian was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year, while A-Rad was playing in her first-ever QF in Paris. Last week, Aga even had a stated goal of "hopefully" reaching the quarters. Well, that mission was indeed accomplished... but was there more to come? Errani, ranked #5 in the world behind #4 Radwanska, came into the match sporting a career 0-28 mark against Top 5 players, so the opportunity for more Radwanskian damage was surely there.

But it didn't happen. In a match filled to the brim with service breaks, Errani played the big points just a little bit better. The Italian broke the Pole for a 2-1 lead in the 1st, only to see Radwanska break back one game later. It would become a consistent pattern in the match. But the one moment when it didn't hold up determined the opening set, as A-Rad failed to convert on five break point chances in Game #6 as Errani held for 3-3, then broke Aga for 4-3 in the next game. At 5-4, Errani won a drop vs. drop contest on one point and served out the set at 6-4.

In the 2nd, Radwanska got a break to go up 3-1, but Errani broke right back. Then the same thing happened, only in reverse, as Errani went up 4-3 and 5-4 with breaks, only to see Radwanska immediately put things back on serve a game later. In all, there were eight breaks of serve in the first ten games of the 2nd, leading to a tie-break to decide the set, the match and maybe the future of humanity. Errani held a match point at 6-5 in the TB, then again at 7-6. Finally, on her second chance, Errani saved the world.

Errani is now 1-28 vs. Top 5 players. But The Cause is still "undefeated" -- at least figuratively... in this timeline, so far -- against the Radwanskian Threat. Of course, that doesn't mean It can't win a skirmish or two, or get REAL close. For example...

In the day's other women's QF, Serena Williams faced off with Svetlana Kuznetsova, the same Russian who'd defeated her in the RG final eight in 2009 en route to her second career slam crown. Over the past year, Serena has gathered steam since losing to Virginie Razzano in the 1st Round in Paris, targeting this event to "even" things with history, while Kuznetsova used the last half of '12 to rest, regroup and recover from knee surgery. So far, the time away seems to have done wonders for Sveta. After ending last year at #72, she's climbed into the Top 40 and twice reached slam quarterfinals as an unseeded entrant (the only woman to ever do that since the institution of 32 seeds at the slams).

In the very first game of the match, there was cause for The Cause to worry. Williams, after not being broken all tournament, faced break point in a game in which she double-faulted twice. But she held, broke Kuznetsova at love and raced to a 6-1 win in the set. It looked like the match would be a breeze.

Au contraire, mon ami.

After taking a medical break to treat an abdominal injury, Kuznetsova came out a different player in the 2nd. So did Serena. While Kuznetsova's serve speeds went down in the 2nd, the rest of her game was suddenly supercharged as she was pulling out long rallies and blasting forehand winners while Williams conversely saw her service numbers dip and frustration set in like it hasn't for her in, well, about twenty-eight matches. Kuznetsova broke Serena's serve to go up 2-0, the saved two break points on her own serve a game later. Another break of Williams made it 4-0. Serena twice cut in half the two-break advantage, and even closed to 5-3 and held four break points to get back on serve. But Sveta pulled out a big serve for an ace on the third, then held to take the set at 6-3 when Williams netted her return attempt of a Kuznetsova drop shot.

The match was even, and Serena's history in her worst slam round -- she's lost thirteen slam QF matches, almost twice as many as in any other round -- made it easy to wonder when the "it's always something in Paris" notion was going to rear its head yet again. While 34-8 in three-set matches at the other three slams, Williams entered the deciding set with just a 9-8 mark in such contests at Roland Garros. And when Kuznetsova opened the 3rd with another break, off a Serena error, it started to get REALLY hairy. Up 2-0, the Russian had multiple shots to take control, having multiple break points in yet another Williams service game. She missed on a drop shot on #2, then saw Serena save a rally with a backhand crosscourt winner on #3. But Sveta never went away in the game, following up an earlier absolute "kill" of a Williams second serve with an outright winner off a FIRST serve in the latter stages. But Serena, clenching her fist and firing herself up as she is often wont to do, got to game point and converted it with a winner that flew past Kuznetsova as the Russian literally hit the red dirt in the backcourt.

From there, the match turned back in Serena's favor as Kuznetsova's inability to put her down let loose the Williams beast within.

Serena broke Kuznetsova for 2-2. Up 40/love in game #5, Williams let things slip to deuce, and then even to a break point for Sveta. But it was the Russian's last stand. Serena held, broke for 4-2 and then won a fifth consecutive game to get within one game of her first RG semifinal since 2003. A final swing volley winner in Game #9 emphatically held serve and ended the match, a 6-1/3-6/6-3 win for Williams, who improved to 7-1 in three-setters in '13, and to 14-2 over the last two seasons.

So, A-Rad went bye-bye, but Serena didn't. The Radwanska was 0-2 on the women's side. Of course, It got back some measure of "respect" when Roger Federer, after surviving the other day, didn't today against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Radwanska can't win 'em all, but neither can we.

The Radwanskian Threat at this slam is probably over, but I know I'll still be looking over my shoulder for a few days, as there remain a few big icons left who could fall "earlier than expected" in Paris. But while paranoia still legitimately lingers, I suspect this is a "see you in London" moment for The Rad.

We shall see. But, for now, we can all take a much-needed breath. Whew!

...in Mixed Doubles, Liezel Huber & Marcelo Melo defeated Jelena Jankovic & Leander Paes to reach the quarterfinals, setting up a meeting between Huber and former partner Lisa Raymond (with Bruno Soares).

With the Doubles quarterfinals set and with six teams remaining in the Mixed (one QF has yet to be played) competition, there are three women alive in both draws -- Cara Black, Lucie Hradecka and Kristina Mladenovic. Black, in the quarters with Marina Erakovic, is a RG title away from a Career Doubles Slam. The only other active players who've accomplished the feat are Raymond and the Williams Sisters.

...in junior action, the Round of 16 is set and, much like in the women's draw, it has a Ruso-American tone. Two Hordettes (Elizaveta Kulichkova & Darya Karatkina) and a pair of Bannerettes (Taylor Townsend & Louisa Chirico) are joined by two Slovaks (Kristina Schmiedlova & Petra Uberalova) and single representatives from ten other nations, including #1 seed Ana Konjuh (CRO) and #2 Belinda Bencic (SUI).

Both Konjuh and Bencic had good wins on Day 10, with the Croat defeating Jamie Loeb in straight sets, while Bencic took out Beatriz Haddad Maia in three.


why, with only four main draw singles matches to be played on a specific day, do you schedule both women's matches at the same time, then do the same with the men's? In this set-up, half the matches get short-shrifted in terms of attention. This sort of thing is unavoidable in the early stages of the event, but this is Day 10 and everything is on schedule. Couldn't some sort of staggered start schedule, with doubles matches in between, have allowed all four matches to be (mostly) viewed/consumed individually as they were being played by fans?


Kuznetsova's clothing sponsor, a Chinese company, is being sued by Nike & Michael Jordan for copyright infringement, as its logo is very similar to the one used for the company's Jordan line of products, well know for the logo of a silhouette of Jordan flying through the air to dunk a basketball. Even more blatant, the name of the company means "Jordan" in Chinese.

Really... come on now, guys.


That Rennae Stubbs is getting double -- at least -- pay by the Tennis Channel. Through the first ten days of this slam she has, at various times, been used as on-set host, match commentator, sideline observer and interviewer. And I think she had some taped video segments in there, too. Is this just an example of "rookie hazing," with the rest of the TC crew "taking it easy" while she does so much extra work, or is the network trying to figure what exactly it is that she does best? The likes of Mary Carillo, Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez have been used in multiple roles in slam coverage over the years, but I don't know if I can remember anyone -- especially someone so recently a player and only now stepping into full-time broadcasting work -- being stretched quite as thin at a single slam as Stubbs has been in Paris.

That said, while still a little rough around the edges in a few of her many roles, the Aussie has handled everything quite well, I'd say.

...and, finally, because I forgot to include it the other day. And I fear I'll pay for that later.

#1 Serena Williams/USA def. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#5 Sara Errani/ITA def. #4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
#12 Maria Kirilenko/RUS vs. #3 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
#18 Jelena Jankovic/SRB vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #12 Tommy Haas/GER
#3 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #9 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI
#4 David Ferrer/ESP def. #32 Tommy Robredo/ESP
#6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA def. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. Lepchenko/Zheng Saisai (USA/CHN)
#5 Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) vs. #11 Pavlyuchenkova/Safarova (RUS/CZE)
#10 Mladenovic/Voskoboeva (FRA/KAZ) vs. #4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
Black/Erakovic (ZIM/NZL) vs. #2 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #8 Marrero/Verdasco (ESP/ESP)
#16 Fyrstenberg/Matkowski (POL/POL) vs. #7 Peya/Soares (AUT/BRA)
Cuevas/Zeballos (URU/ARG) def. Bednarek/Janowicz (POL/POL)
Llodra/Mahut (FRA/FRA) def. #2 Granollers/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP)

Black/Qureshi (ZIM/PAK) def. Petrova/Cabal (RUS/COL)
#5 Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) def. #3 Srebotnik/Zimonjic (SLO/SRB)
#8 Huber/Melo (USA/BRA) vs. #4 Raymond/Soares (USA/BRA)
Hradecka/Cermak (CZE/CZE) def. Grandin/Polasek (RSA/SVK)

#1 Ana Konjuh/CRO vs. Petra Uberalova/SVK
Margot Yerolymos/FRA vs. #5 Darya Karatkina/RUS
Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS vs. #14 Carol Zhao/CAN
Ayaka Okuno/JPN vs. #5 Antonia Lottner/GER
Sara Sorribes Tormo/ESP vs. Louisa Chirico/USA
Ilka Csoregi/ROU vs. Kristina Schmiedlova/SVK
#11 Taylor Townsend/USA def. Victoria Rodriguez/MEX
#2 Belinda Bencic/SUI def. Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA

Karen Khachanov/RUS vs. #13 Guillermo Nunez/CHI
#11 Johan Sebastien Tatlot/FRA vs. #8 Borna Coric/CRO
#3 Laslo Djere/SRB vs. Christian Garin/CHI
Enzo Couacaud/FRA vs. Calvin Henery/FRA
#5 Kyle Edmund/GBR vs. Noah Rubin/USA
Young Seok Kim/KOR vs. #14 Alexander Zverev/GER
#6 Gianluigi Quinzi/ITA vs. Albert Alcaraz Ivorra/ESP
Lucas Gomez/MEX vs. #2 Nikola Milojevic/SRB

#1 Bencic/Lottner (SUI/GER) vs. D.Gonzalez/Haddad Maia (ECU/BRA)
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
#5 Garin/Jarry (CHI/CHI) vs. Onishi/Saito (JPN/JPN)
Marterer/Miedler (GER/AUT) vs. Favrot/Henery (FRA/FRA)

[30+ wins]
74...Martina Navratilova, 1984
55...Chris Evert, 1974
53...Martina Navratilova, 1986
50...Martina Navratilova, 1983
45...Steffi Graf, 1988
45...Steffi Graf, 1987
44...Steffi Graf, 1993
41...Martina Navratilova, 1982
37...Martina Hingis, 1997
37...Martina Navratilova, 1978
36...Chris Evert, 1976
36...Monica Seles, 1990
35...Venus Williams, 2000
33...Chris Evert, 1982
33...Chris Evert, 1981
33...Chris Evert, 1975
32...Steffi Graf, 1994
31...Chris Evert, 1971
NOTE: Serena Williams has won 29 straight

2012 RG: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (3rd)
2012 WI: Serena Williams, USA (F)
2012 US: Robert Vinci, ITA (4r)
2013 AO: Li Na, CHN (QF)
2013 RG: Dinah Pfizenmaier, GER (2nd) & Sara Errani, ITA (QF)

TOP QUALIFIER: Anna Schmiedlova/SVK
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: #24q Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE d. Alexandra Panova/RUS 1-6/7-5/10-8
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #13 Marion Bartoli/FRA d. Olga Govortsova/BLR 7-6(8)/4-6/7-5
FIRST VICTORY: #5 Sara Errani/ITA (def. Rus/NED)
FIRST SEED OUT: #11 Nadia Petrova/RUS (lost 1st Rd. to Puig/PUR)
UPSET QUEENS: Slovak Republic
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Czech Republic (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Paula Ormaechea/ARG & Dinah Pfizenmaier/GER (both 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA (3rd Rd.)
LAST PASTRIES STANDING: Marion Bartoli/FRA, Alize Cornet/FRA & Virignie Razzano/FRA (3rd Rd.)
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: Azarenka/BLR, Jankovic/SRB, Kirilenko/RUS, Errani/ITA
IT "??": Nominee: Pfizenmaier/GER, Errani/ITA, Kirilenko/RUS, Jankovic/SRB, Black/ZIM, Mladenovic/FRA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kuznetsova/RUS, Jankovic/SRB, Black/ZIM
CRASH & BURN: #10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (4 of 5 pre-4th Rd. slam exits since lost #1 ranking, before which had reached 4th Rd.-or-better 10 of 11 times)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #13 Marion Bartoli/FRA (1st Rd.: down a break 3 times in 1st & 2 MP in 3rd set; 2nd Rd.: down 4-1 in 1st & a break in 2nd set in 2nd Rd.)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Nominees: V.Williams/USA, S.Williams/USA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Black/ZIM, Hradecka/CZE, Mladenovic/FRA
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to #6 Li Na, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy)

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Just Serena being Serena.

Kuznetsova is like Mary Pierce to me. Eventually was underrated even though she reached 6 slam finals, but you are surprised she didn't do more.

Tue Jun 04, 06:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Colette Lewis said...

Todd, it is not ANNA Schmiedlova in the junior draw, it is her younger sister Kristina, who qualified.

Tue Jun 04, 10:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, thanks Colette. I guess I just saw the last name and totally looked past the first, assuming it was Anna since she'd reached the Girls final last year.

ANOTHER pair of sisters... and one qualified for the women's draw, while the other qualified for the junior. It never ends.

Wed Jun 05, 12:36:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

My IP law background forbids not to mention it: the Jordan situation is a case of trademark infringement ("trademark counterfeiting", to be more accurate) not copyright.

Kuznet and Federer both losing two hours from each other, this is The Rad hurting me real good.

I always had the feeling these two players were somehow linked. Their games are very similar (no wonder I like them both so much). Federer once said Kuznet was the player he found most interesting to watch in the WTA. Kuznet's US Open title was the day before Federer claimed his first US Open title. Kuznet's French Open title was the day before Federer claimed his first as well.

colt - I also had this impression for a while with Kuznet and Pierce. Since Pierce had 5-year gaps between her high achievements, I have been looking forward to 2014 for a while (2004, 2009...) where Kuznet is concerned. Maybe her 2013 quarterfinals are the way for her to set the table.

Wed Jun 05, 02:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

(Actually, no, this is trademark infringement, not counterfeiting.)

Wed Jun 05, 03:55:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Kuzzy is always dangerous, esp on clay. Too much couldn't do the trigger. Mmm we still have seed 1,2,3,5 as semi finalists, who said there is no stability in WTA? They should now criticizing the ATP. The ferrer and Roberto match was such a bore, tsonga and federer.... I like tsonga enough though..

Wed Jun 05, 10:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Zidane - details, details. :D

Wed Jun 05, 12:30:00 PM EDT  

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