Monday, June 03, 2013

RG.9- The Art of Vika Getting It Done

Kudos to Victoria Azarenka. In the past, when things went bad, or not "perfectly," she'd react in a way that would foretell her eventual doom. No longer. Now, when faced with a poor response -- from outside sources or within -- she generally takes a step back, re-evaluates, and returns just a little bit stronger. So far, it's gotten her to #1, won her two slam crowns and put her in position to take out Serena Williams in last year's U.S. Open final.

It happened again on Day 9.

Now, Vika might not be en route to a third slam title in Paris, or even her fourth slam final in the last six. But after time off with an ankle injury, and various matches since her return last month that have made it easy to point out all the things she ISN'T compared to a few other top players, and even herself in Melbourne, she seems to be pulling things together when it matters. Again.

After getting bumped around -- by herself and others -- for her play (especially her serve) in the 3rd Round against Alize Cornet, and knowing she was going to have to step things up against Francesca Schiavone today, the Belarusian calmly -- a word she couldn't have spelled a few years ago if you spotted her "c-a-l-m," which would have caused her to cock her head to the side and look confused at such a foreign concept -- took care of business. Against the trickiest opponent she's faced in Paris, she simply played the best match she's played at this slam, at least after messing around a bit with her serve in the first half of the opening set.

Azarenka made a habit of squandering leads in her service games in the early-going, losing a 40/love lead in Game #4 and a 40/15 advantage in Game #6 on her way to being broken. But she didn't crack, or implode. She stayed calm, then did what she had to do. Putting return pressure on the '10 champ, Vika managed to limit the damage by immediately breaking back one game later on both occasions, then finally held serve by upping her aggression. She broke again to take the set at 6-3, bringing into the equation her great record of 81-1 in her last eighty-two matches in which she claims the 1st set.

From there, she simply overwhelmed Schiavone, reeling off a total of nine straight games to close out the Italian, who was forced into errors by Azarenka's deep shots and, by the end of the match, seemingly resigned to her fate as she watched Vika drop shot AND lob over her for a winner on the same point. Azarenka won 6-3/6-0 and is now one win away from her first Roland Garros semifinal.

In a slam dominated in the headlines by Serena, Maria and The Rad (well, the latter around here, at least), Vika is still alive and putting people in the position of having to think about what they might say should they be proven wrong in the next few days, maybe even this weekend and quite possibly the rest of this season.

Of course, those of us who appreciate the Belarusian for what she is, rather than what she isn't, are more than used to seeing those people twist in the wind as it changes mid-gust. Vika is used to it by now, too, I suspect. She might not wish it so, but she's learning to live with it. Bless her.

As for this space, well, the time-worn scenario just makes everything a little bit more fun.

...three of the four American women who reached the Round of 16 played on Day 9. None of them made it safely to Day 10.

First up was Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was dispatched by Maria Kirilenko 7-5/6-3. The Hordette has yet to drop a set at this Roland Garros, and will next face Vika.

Bannerette #2, Sloane Stephens, was eliminated in straight sets by Maria Sharapova. The Russian converted on her third break point of the 1st set -- the only BP's for either player in the set -- for a 4-3 lead en route to winning 6-4. The first three games of the 2nd featured eight total break points (there were twelve in the set, with nine chances for Sharapova), and the players exchanged breaks in the first two games. Later, Sharapova broke Stephens for a 4-3 lead and held the advantage until converting a second break on match point to secure the 6-4/6-3 victory and reach her third straight RG quarterfinal.

(And that short break down of the match was far more than anyone got to see on Tennis Channel today, see below.).

The final Bannerette to fall, unseeded Jamie Hampton, fell later and harder than the rest. In the last match to be completed on Day 9, she was obliterated by Jelena "Call Me Pinkie" Jankovic 6-0/6-2 as the Serb advanced to her fourth RG quarterfinal, but first since 2010. JJ reached the semifinals in her other three trips to the final eight. doubles, Schiavone's day didn't get any better on Monday, as she and Samantha Stosur lost to the team of Cara Black/Marina Erakovic, who advanced to the quarterfinals. It was a good day for Black, as she also advanced to the Mixed SF with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.

...over the past week, Estonia's Anett Kontaveit won her second 2013 ITF challenger event, but her trip to Paris must not have gone well for Kontaveit, as she lost in the RG junior 1st Round today to Ilka Csoregi. Kontaveit lost in doubles, too. Meanwhile, the Girls #1 seed in Paris (and the AO Girls champ), Ana Konjuh, reached the final of an ITF circuit event in Maribor, losing to Polona Hercog. Unlike Kontaveit, though, she managed to win her opening round match in Paris today.

In a sequel to yesterday's update, #11-seed Taylor Townsend used The Force to take out Jana Fett. Also, Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) defeated #13 Barbora Krejcikova (CZE), while Swiss Miss Chiara Grimm took out #12 Christina Makarova (USA).

In the Boys draw, #1-seed Nick Krygios was sent packing. With Wayne Montgomery, as the #2 seeds, the Aussie also lost in doubles.


Tennis Channel, displaying an obtuse stubborn streak not seen before this slam, not airing much of the 1st set -- or, as it turned out, much of the action at all -- of the Sharapova/Stephens match as it happened live, choosing instead to show the last half of the 4th set -- not just a deciding game or tie-break -- and then the end of the 5th of Gasquet/Wawrinka. Why? Who knows? (NBC wasn't airing coverage this time, either, so there goes that reasoning.) Not that anyone in the American audience would particularly care whether or not a Frenchman was bounced from Paris, and surely not by THIS Swiss player. Now, one might look at this as a "tennis decision" to show "more important" games than the early ones in a new match or the late ones of a straight sets contest, except for the fact that the "usual" in U.S. tennis coverage is to show the early/late games of the matches of top men's players -- and surely Sharapova and Stephens, in THE marquee match of the day, are that for the women, especially in the U.S. -- rather than the important ones in women's matches featuring "less than top tier" players. You know, sort of like how things were today, except in a gender reversal situation.

Sharapova/Stephens didn't get on the air until 3-3 in the 1st, and then only for half a game, and then again at 5-3 after the men's match had been knotted at two sets each (so, all THAT was essentially worthless). Then, once Stephens seemed to make a match of things by getting a break for 1-1 in the 2nd, naturally, TC decided it was time to high-tail it out of there and go back to the men. Where they stayed, until Wawrinka finally eliminated Gasquet...


...and allowed the women to get back on the only actual network covering the tournament at the time. When coverage picked up again, Sharapova was at match point. So, in the "marquee match of the day," approximately four games (five, if you're being super generous) were aired live.


..."Hmmmm" FROM DAY 9:

considering how many of the line calls checked by the chair umpire in the Azarenka/Schiavone match were "judged" to have been ruled incorrectly on ESPN2's ShotSpot system, one wonders if umpires should need to get an advanced degree in "Clay Markspotting" (with a minor in "Finding the Correct Mark," as was highlighted in the Jankovic/Hampton match) in order to make the ignoring of the advances in the sport made by the challenge system in Paris a worthwhile, "old school" endeavor. Sharapova wonders, too.

...and, finally, some Week 22 awards have yet to be dispensed, so a big hand for the "Junior Star" of the week, Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. The 16-year old won the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl in Belgium, defeating #1-seeded Waffle Elise Mertens in the semis and then Bannerette Louisa Chirico in the final.

In weekend action on the ITF circuit, Israeli Deniz Khazaniuk won her fourth title of the season to earn "Circuit Player of the Week." Austria's Barbara Luz also won her fourth, while Yvonne Meusburger, another Austrian, won her third.

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL vs. #5 Sara Errani/ITA
#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
#32 Tommy Robredo/ESP vs. #4 David Ferrer/ESP
#6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

xx vs. Lepchenko/Zheng Saisai (USA/CHN)
#5 Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) vs. xx
xx vs. #4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
Black/Erakovic (ZIM/NZL) vs. #2 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)

xx vs. #8 Marrero/Verdasco (ESP/ESP)
#16 Fyrstenberg/Matkowski (POL/POL) vs. xx
Cuevas/Zeballos (URU/ARG) vs. Bednarek/Janowicz (POL/POL)
Llodra/Mahut (FRA/FRA) vs. #2 Granollers/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP)

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

[by career slam QF]
36...Serena Williams (4 con.)
20...Maria Sharapova (3 con.)
14...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2 con.)
10...Victoria Azarenka (4 con.)
8...Jelena Jankovic
8...Agnieszka Radwanska (2 con.)
4...Sara Errani
3...Maria Kirilenko
[by career RG QF]
8...Serena Williams
7...Maria Sharapova (3 con.)
6...Svetlana Kuznetsova
4...Jelena Jankovic
3...Victoria Azarenka
2...Sara Errani (2 con.)
1...Maria Kirilenko
1...Agnieszka Radwanska
[WTA most career slam QF - active]
33...Venus Williams
9...Nadia Petrova
7...Francesca Schivone
[WTA most slam QF since 2010 - active]
6...Petra Kvitova
5...Li Na
5...Samantha Stosur
5...Caroline Wozniacki

*RG UNSEEDED QF's - since 32 seeds*
2002 Clarisa Fernandez/ARG, Mary Pierce/FRA, Paola Suarez/ARG
2003 Nadia Petrova/RUS
2004 -
2005 Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL
2006 -
2007 -
2008 Kaia Kanepi/EST, Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP (Q)
2009 Sorana Cirstea/ROU, Maria Sharapova/RUS
2010 Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
2011 -
2012 Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (Q)
2013 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS

AO: Venus Williams (3rd)
RG: Vania King & Bethanie Mattek-Sands (3rd)
WI: Serena Williams (4th)
US: Serena Williams (RU)
AO: Serena Williams (4th)
RG: Sloane Stephens & Varvara Lepchenko (4th)
WI: Serena Williams (W)
US: Serena Williams (W)
AO: Sloane Stephens (SF)
RG: Serena Williams (in 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: A.Radwanska/POL, Kuznetsova/RUS, Azarenka/BLR, Jankovic/SRB, Kirilenko/RUS, Errani/ITA
IT "??": Nominee: ("Radwanska Opponent") Dinah Pfizenmaier/GER
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kuznetsova/RUS, Jankovic/SRB
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
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Black/ZIM, Hradecka/CZE
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 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

I tuned in at 4-3 first set and saw vika reeled off the rest. So good that I didn't see her wobble earlier. But I agree, wnever she is bad earlier, she will improve the next match. And I also feel that she now plays into tournament more than fresh and ready fom the start.

Looks like we might be heading onto top 4 seeds into semifinal? That will be cool. But quite nice to see Kuzzy pushing on and love to see jankovic giving a fight.

Mon Jun 03, 06:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

She did it again Aga made an exceptional shot - the tweener - perfectly shot. If you missed it look for Aga's Tweener or take this link:
Just watching it makes you happy. Todd maybe time for raising the level of you know what ;-)

Tue Jun 04, 12:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Good to see Vika getting back into good form, no matter what ultimately happens in Paris. Wimbledon and the Open await. :)


Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that shot! She's putting together quite a video arsenal, isn't she? (No pun intended.)

Waiting until after the QF to possibly adjust it... Errani just might make it elementary, after all. ;)

Tue Jun 04, 01:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

It's the first time I remember seeing a tweener in the women's game!

Tue Jun 04, 07:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Schiavone has been hitting tweeners for years. She hit one a few days ago at Roland Garros. When she hit one at the French Open in 2010, the sports media was quick to say she was "copying" Federer. Unfortunately, no one with a big audience came forward to say the obvious--that Schia was hitting tweeners routinely before Fed ever hit his famous one. Just the routine sexism.

And of course, there was the famous "Sabatweenie."

Tue Jun 04, 08:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

You're right, I remember Schiavone's now!

Tue Jun 04, 09:31:00 AM EDT  

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