Sunday, June 02, 2013

RG.8- Try as It Might

Even The Rad couldn't put a crimp in Day 8 in Paris. But It surely tried.

A day after presiding over little drama on the women's side, but quite a bit of it on the men's, Aga & Ula Radwanska's malevolent alter ego did It's entity's level best on Sunday to bring the hammer down on the likes of Sara Errani, the '12 women's runner-up, as well as Roger Federer. Yep, Roger-frickin'-Federer.

I sense Something may be thinking a bit too highly of Itself.

Of course, neither was having anything of it. Errani, facing Carla Suarez-Navarro, suffered some sort of chest/rib cage/muscular injury in the opening set, and was treated on more than one occasion by trainers. The diminutive Italian dropped the set 7-5, and then fell behind 4-2 in the 2nd. But then whatever The Rad slipped into Errani's breakfast wore off, and she began to take charge. From that point, Errani won four straight games to take the set, and nine of ten to take control of the 3rd. She won 5-7/6-4/6-3.

Then again, maybe The Rad simply decided to instead turn Its attention to Federer (bad idea, Dark One!), who had a rare slip and fall on the court, seemingly injuring his ankle against Gilles Simon. For a bit, Federer just didn't look like himself. He trailed the Frenchman two sets to one and was down 2-0 in the 4th. But then Federer remembered who he was, rid his body and brain of any Radwanskian poison he may have unwittingly ingested (Hmmm, remember that video the other day that proved that Roger was on Aga's radar? See, I tried to warn him!) and reeled off seven straight games to take the 4th and seize the momentum in the 5th en route to winning to reach his ATP record thirty-sixth straight slam quarterfinal.

Now that I think about it, though, maybe all that was simply a smokescreen. A diversionary tactic to turn everyone's attention (hey, it worked on NBC!!) from the "most important" match of the day, the last one to begin on Day 8. The match-up between the last remaining bit of human Radwanska in the women's draw -- Agnieszka -- against '08 Roland Garros champ Ana Ivanovic.

There, A-Rad quickly took a 3-0 lead and sailed to a 6-2 1st set win, then led 4-1 in the 2nd while everyone was wiping the beads of sweat off their brows following Federer's Day 8 escape. AnaIvo got things back to 4-4, but then the previously-preoccupied Rad swung over to Court Lenglen and lent Aga a hand. She won the final two games to win 6-2/6-4 to slip deeper into Parisian territory than any Radwanska ever has before. Aga will face Errani, injured or not, in the quarterfinals with one of two former Roland Garros champions awaiting the winner in the semis.

Yes, the time is getting near for someone to save us before it is too late.

Is "the end" nigh, or are we nearer to the end of the latest Radwanskian threat? Stay tuned to this space for further battle reports.

...Serena Williams, of course, had no such stumbling blocks today, unless you count the close scoreline early in the 2nd set against Roberta Vinci that simply forced her to up her game a bit to surge ahead and close things out 6-1/6-3. She ended the match by winning ten points in a row, stretching her career-best consecutive match winning streak to twenty-eight.

In fact, maybe the only time Serena HASN'T been prepared so far at this slam was after today's match, when she was bent over stuffing some bananas into her tennis bag as Rennae Stubbs was beginning her interview with her on Tennis Channel.

Next up for Serena is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who no longer lurks in the shadows of this draw -- she'll be right out in the open two days from now. The unseeded Hordette reached her second consecutive slam quarterfinal as an unseeded player (the first woman to do that since the 32-seed set-up began at the '01 Wimbledon -- thanks to Galileo West for getting me to do the research on that one) with a 6-4/4-6/6-3 win over #8-seed Angelique Kerber. Oh, and after her wobbly finish -- twice failing to serve out the match -- against Bojana Jovanovski, Kuznetsova didn't mess around in the 3rd set against the German. Up 5-3, she served things out on her first try, giving her another shot in a slam at a potential winner of the tournament. It should be noted, while Sveta has managed to win two slams (including RG in '09) in her enigmatic career, she's been tantalizingly close to upsetting history in three others. In Paris in '04, she held a match point against eventual champ Anastasia Myskina in the Round onf 16, then one year later in Paris, she held another match point against Justine Henin in another 4th Round match-up. Henin would go on to win the crown, as well. Nearly four years later in Melbourne, Kuznetsova served for the match in the QF against Serena, but failed to get the job done. Naturally, Williams went on to win that AO title. So, if not for Sveta's missed-it-by-that-much career, two future Hall of Famers would be one slam championship lighter, and Myskina wouldn't have been the first Russian to win a grand slam, it'd have been Maria Sharapova. Or, considering how the Hordettes' fed upon one another's success back in '04, who knows how the Russian Tennis Revolution might have played out.

At least Kuznetsova will get another shot at Serena in a slam QF this coming week. We probably think we know what's going to happen there... but do we really?

...meanwhile, the junior competition has begun, and five of the Girls sixteen seeds were dumped out in the first day of play, including two in the Top 5 as Elizaveta Kulichkova (RUS) defeated #3 Katerina Siniakova (CZE), and Slovak Kristina Schmiedlova knocked off #3 Varvara Flink (RUS). In other matches, Mexico's Victoria Rodriguez defeated #8-seed Hsu Ching-Wei (TPE), Hordette Veronika Kudermetova upset #16 Ipek Soylu (TUR), and Croat Jana Fett (and, no, she's not a character from the next "Star Wars" trilogy) took down Aussie Sara Tomic. some doubles results of note, Francesca Schiavone & Samantha Stosur, opponents in the '10 women's singles final, teamed to defeat Kimiko Date-Krumm & Arantxa Parra-Santonja, while Cara Black & Marina Erakovic , runners-up in two pre-RG tune-ups, took out #9-seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Kveta Peschke, who won the title in Brussels last weekend.


NBC, after the Federer five-set comeback, naturally decided to show the about-ten-hours-old Serena match rather than the LIVE one between a former #1/RG champ (AnaIvo) and a former #2/Wimbledon runner-up (A-Rad).

SOMEONE is going to find a pulverized melon on their doorstep tomorrow.

...and, finally, while I've used this space in the past to talk about Anabel Medina-Garrigues' slam QF futility, tied only in WTA history with Anna Smashnova for the "worst" career slam mark when compared to their regular tour success (both with 10+ titles), it should be noted that a late-career surge COULD still end the 30-year old AMG's side-by-side stroll through history with Smashnova.

I mean, just look at Roberta Vinci.

Though the Italian lost her 4th Round match today to singles #1 Serena, 31, the 30-year old co-doubles #1 (Vinci and Williams set a tour mark earlier this year as the first pair of thirtysomethings to ever simultaneously sit atop the singles and doubles rankings), the latter chapter of Vinci's career has been far better than the rest. Over the past year, she's reached career-high ranks in both singles and doubles, and her three singles titles in 2011 briefly brought her into the AMG/Smashnova discussion, as she went from three career titles to six, but she had yet to reach a slam quarterfinal. In fact, at this time last year she had never even reached the ROUND OF 16 at a slam. But then she reached the 4th Round at Wimbledon, then escaped the clutches of both AMG and Smashnova's fates with her first slam QF at the U.S. Open. Vinci has yet to get to the ten title mark for her career, winning her eighth earlier this season, but if and when she does get to double-digits, I won't have to include her in any "worst best player in slam history" talk.

So, in other words, there IS still hope for one magical run to a slam QF for AMG. So, keep fluffin' those balls, Anabel. One of these times it just might work!

#1 Serena Williams/USA def. #15 Roberta Vinci/ITA
Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS def. #8 Angelique Kerber/GER
#4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL def. #14 Ana Ivanovic/SRB
#5 Sara Errani/ITA def. #20 Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA vs. #12 Maria Kirilenko/RUS
Francesca Schiavone/ITA vs. #3 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
Jamie Hampton/USA vs. #18 Jelena Jankovic/SRB
#17 Sloane Stephens/USA vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #16 Philipp Kohlschreiber/GER
#12 Tommy Haas/GER vs. #29 Mikhail Youzhny/RUS
#3 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #13 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#9 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI vs. #7 Richard Gasquet/FRA
#32 Tommy Robredo/ESP def. #11 Nicolas Almagro/ESP
#4 David Ferrer/ESP def. #23 Kevin Anderson/RSA
#6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA def. Viktor Troicki/SRB
#2 Roger Federer/SUI def. #15 Gilles Simon/FRA

xx vs. xx
#5 Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

xx vs. xx
#16 Fyrstenberg/Matkowski (POL/POL) vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

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

306...Martina Navratilova
299...Chris Evert
278...Steffi Graf
233...Jimmy Connors
224...Andre Agassi
222...Ivan Lendl
214...Venus Williams
210...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

36...ROGER FEDERER, 2004-current
27...Jimmy Connors, 1973-83
15...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 2009-current
14...Ivan Lendl, 1985-89
23...Roger Federer, 2004-10
11...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 2010-current
10...Ivan Lendl, 1985-88
NOTE: Rod Laver had 11 con. pre-Open Era SF (1960-62)

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.)
IT "??": xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kuznetsova/RUS, Mattek-Sands/USA, Jankovic/SRB, Schiavone/ITA
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, Kuznetsova/RUS, Schiavone/ITA
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 8. More tomorrow.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Remind me not to enlist Ivanovic in The Cause: she's got four combined losses to Radwanskas -- 3 vs. Aga, 1 vs. Ula -- in 2013!

She's clearly NO secret weapon to prevent annihilation.

Mon Jun 03, 12:50:00 AM EDT  

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