Friday, August 30, 2013

US 4.5 - It's Still Early, But It's Late Enough to Look Ahead... right?

Ninety-six matches down, and the Serena-Vika scenario is still intact. Only thirty more matches to go before the "seemingly inevitable" might, you know, actually happen.

=EARLY-ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rounds (Days 1-4)=
1t. Serena Williams, USA & Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...they both have put up a pair of bagel sets on opponents -- Vika had a double-bagel, while Serena spread hers out over two rounds. They've both lost just four total games, too. So, with these two seeming to be on a collision course in this draw, I'm going with a rare co-Players-of-the-Early-Rounds honor... until one separates from the other based on their play against a higher level of competition.
3. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
...quietly -- yes, I'm talking about Queen Chaos -- and handily dispatched Madison Keys and Alisa Kleybanova after a resurgent summer, and is still flying low under the radar in NYC. She's one win away from facing either Li or Robson.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
...wasn't bothered by either of two three-named Spaniards. Gets long-named Hordette (Pavlyuchenkova) next.
5. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...enjoy it while it lasts, since it's likely subject to change. As it is, she now finds herself in a four-person section of the draw along with three Italians.

RISERS: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP & Simona Halep/ROU
...CSN was the first woman to get a win on Day 1, double-bageling Lauren Davis. She's still rolling. As is Halep, who's how 30-3 in her last thirty-three matches, on three different surfaces.
SURPRISES: Vicky Duval/USA & Julia Glushko/ISR
...17-year old, #296-ranked qualifier Duval pulled off the win of the tournament (so far) over '11 champ Sam Stosur. Glushko, also a qualifier, has a shot to flirt with some of countrywoman Shahar Peer's past best Open results -- a 4th Round ('10) and QF ('07).
VETERANS: Zheng Jie/CHN & Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...Zheng is always the most dangerous, oft-overlooked player in a slam draw. Just ask Venus. Kuznetsova is the only woman left in the draw not named Serena who has won the U.S. Open before.
COMEBACKS: Flavia Pennetta, ITA & Christina McHale/USA
...Pennetta (def. '12 semifinalist Errani) has been a crowd favorite in NYC before. Could she be about to become one again? McHale was one of the first Bannerettes to have a breakthrough a few years ago. She's since been passed by by several Americans from her generation. Finally, though, she's showing some push back.
FRESH FACES Alison Riske/USA & Kurumi Nara/JPN
...Riske has been the Last Wild Card Standing at back-to-back slams. Qualifier Nara has had her best-ever slam after being winless in majors five days ago.
DOWN: Samantha Stosur/AUS & Nadia Petrova/RUS
...hmmm, seems like I could pencil in these two for this award at nearly every slam, doesn't it? Stosur was taken out in the 1st Round by a 17-year old qualifier in her second career slam match, while Petrova finished off a 0-4 2013 slam season with a 1st Round loss at Flushing Meadows. Oh, Sam. Oh, Nadia. Oh, my. Sometimes coaching changes don't exactly pay immediate dividends.

=NIGHT 4 NOTES= the late afternoon and early evening matches, Camila Giorgi defeated Hsieh Su-Wei to join Kurumi Nara and Julia Glushko as the three qualifiers still standing in the 3rd Round. Giorgi's win solidifies the Italians as this Open's "Revelation Ladies," as four Italians (Giorgi, Knapp, Pennetta & Vinci) have reached the Final 32, tied with the Hordettes for the second most woman alive in the draw behind the Bannerettes (5).

The Williams Sisters debuted in doubles on Thursday evening, and needed three sets to take out Carla Suarez-Navarro and Silvia Soler-Espinosa.

Meanwhile, the star of Day 2, 17-year old qualifier Vicky Duval, went down in straight sets to Daniela Hantuchova. Not a huge surprise, as this often happens when young players get big wins (making what Laura Robson has done at recent slams even more impressive, as well as Sloane Stephens, for that matter). Although, if things had gone to a 3rd set you never know what might have happened... we are talking about Hantuchova, after all. Still, somehow, I doubt we've seen the last of the young Haitian-American. Look at how far she's already come since she was being called "the biggest underdog in tennis history" before she faced off against Kim Clijsters in the 1st Round of the Open last year.

In the night match on Ashe, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Chanelle Scheepers in -- can you guess? -- straight sets. Do they play any other sort of matches on Ashe at night? says something about the scheduling of the Ashe night session that neither of the featured matches got much play on ESPN2's airwaves. The Williams Sisters doubles match was shown rather than Wozniacki/Scheepers, while the, as expected, one-sided Nadal/Dutra Silva affair was shown some, but Hantuchova/Duval and Isner/Monfils were aired more. Sure, there's the American connection with those two matches, but the other night the same didn't hold true when Novak Djokovic walked out onto Ashe while Venus Williams was in the middle of her battle with Zheng Jie.

That night, ESPN2 acted as if it was contractually obligated to show only Ashe matches as the night session "officially" began, going so far as airing opening title credit sequences, pre-match chit-chat and in-the-tunnel interviews before going to the Djokovic match rather than simply sticking with the Venus/Zheng match that should have been carried over when it went to break at around 7:05 pm. Instead, Mike Tirico directed everyone to ESPN3 coverage that night, obviously knowing the on-air freeze-out was going to be coming soon. Eventually, the main network coverage picked up the Venus/Zheng match, but it should never have left it. You know, sort of like what happened tonight. For a network that covers all the slams, it really shouldn't be such a virtual work-in-progress every single time out, you know?

Although, I will give the ESPN2ers credit -- especially Brad Gilbert -- today for knocking the tournament organizers for the scheduling of less-intriguing match-ups on Ashe under the lights on Night 4. Seriously, nothing against the Dane, but why was she scheduled for a night match when she's no longer #1 and hasn't been a factor in a slam in what feels like ages? And against Scheepers? Nadal on Ashe is great, but how about having him play against a better opponent than Dutra Silva? And why didn't Isner get the "Blake treatment" and get his match with the Frenchman on Ashe? The Aussies always schedule their countrymen and women for night matches on Laver at the AO, and the U.S. has usually given some sway to Americans in recent years, as well. In this case, "sway" shouldn't even have come into the equation. Isner is a legitimate player, and is always one of the stars of the North American hard court circuit. Blake got scheduled at night on Ashe for years when he was barely ever anything more than a first week factor, if that. Why doesn't Isner rate that now, with Andy Roddick off doing a talk show on Fox Sports 1 these days and the Querrey/Harrison generation still a huge question mark? At least the people paying for the tickets on Ashe would have gotten more for their money.

Unfortunately, the last few years, the tournament seems to be more interested in getting things wrapped up on Ashe by 11:00 or 11:30 than putting potentially great matches on display there in primetime, and sets the schedule to make it more likely to happen. It's too bad. These night matches use to be the most fun of the entire tennis season, and great promotion for the sport. It's very rarely that anymore, and they're normally a big snoozefest, even with all the lights and the big stage set up, ready for something great to happen.

Speaking of missed opportunities...

...finally, and naturally, there will be no Li/Robson match tomorrow night on Ashe. It'll be Serena/Shvedova (that could be good, but it also could be like every other women's night session match so far, too) after what could be an intriguing match up -- unless it's not -- between Juan Martin del Potro and Lleyton Hewitt. Instead, Li/Robson will open play on Ashe on Friday... you know, at 11 a.m. on a Friday, when the stands are a buzz and always packed with fans.

[through 2nd Rd.]
[North America/Atlantic]
15-14...United States [Hampton,McHale,Riske,Stephens,S.Williams]
0-1...Puerto Rico
[South America]
10-5 [Kirilenko,Kuznetsova,Makarova,Pavlyuchenkova]
[Non-Russian Europe/Scandinavia]
9-2...Italy [Giorgi,Knapp,Pennetta,Vinci]
5-3...Serbia [Ivanovic,Jankovic]
5-5...Germany [Kerber,Lisicki]
4-4...France [Cornet]
4-5...Romania [Halep]
3-1...Poland [A.Radwanska]
3-4...Slovak Republic [Hantuchova]
3-5...Czech Republic [Kvitova]
3-6...Spain [Suarez-N.]
2-0...Belarus [Azarenka]
2-0...Denmark [Wozniacki]
2-0...Estonia [Kanepi]
2-1...Great Britain [Robson]
5-3...China [Li,J.Zheng]
3-1...Kazakhstan [Shvedova]
2-2...Japan [Nara]
0-1...New Zealand
[Africa/Middle East]
2-0...Israel [Glushko]
1-2...South Africa

2002 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA (W)
2003 (Week 1 POW) Jennifer Capriati, USA
2004 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA
2005 (Week 1 POW) Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Maria Sharapova, RUS (W)
2007 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2008 Venus Williams, USA
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2013 (co) Serena Williams/USA & Victoria Azarenka/BLR
AO: Maria Sharapova, RUS (to SF)
RG: Serena Williams, USA (W)
WI: Serena Williams, USA (to 4th Rd.)
US: (co) Serena Williams/USA & Victoria Azarenka/BLR

2006 Russia
2007 Ukraine
2008 Slovak Republic
2009 Belarus
2010 North America
2011 United States
2012 France
2013 Italy
AO: United States
RG: North America/Atlantic
WI: Australia/New Zealand
US: Italy

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
Co-TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA & #2 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Chanel Simmonds/RSA d. (WC) Taylor Townsend/USA 2-6/6-2/7-5
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - (Q) Duval/USA d. #11 Stosur/AUS 5-7/6-4/6-4
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF/Doub.): xx
FIRST WINNER: Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (def. Davis/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #29 Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK (lost to LL Mayr-Achleitner/AUT)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia [1-4 overall, Stosur out 1st Rd, Rogowska double-bageled, only WC Barty advanced to 2nd Rd.]
CRASH & BURN: #11 Sam Stosur/AUS - '11 champ, lost 1st Rd. to Duval/USA, 17-yr. old qualifier in second career slam match, ranked #296
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: #15 Stephens/USA def. Minella/LUX after being down break at 4-2 in 3rd; (Q) Duval/USA down set and 4-2 vs. Stosur/AUS in 1st Rd.
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to Mladenovic/FRA, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Giorgi/ITA, Glushko/ISR, Nara/JPN
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Alison Riske/USA (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: S.Williams, Stephens, Hampton, McHale, Riske
IT: Nominee: V.Duval/USA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kleybanova/RUS - first slam win/appearance since AO '11, prior to Hodgkin's diagnosis; Pennetta/ITA, Jankovic/SRB, McHale/USA
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: Stephens/USA
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: Duval/USA, Stephens/USA

All for now. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

Olive how you bombarded the scheduling. Can't understand the Caro's slot at all. Not a young shining star anymore , not a top 5 players... At least Louis Armstrong got good vibes going for the matches so far. LI and Robson match up should really be in the afternoon at least to get people watching. I shouldn't complain cos it's right in my time zone. Well, maybe that's deliberate so the china fans can follow on TV?

Fri Aug 30, 01:49:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmm, China's time zone might have had something to do with it... but I hesitate to give them that much credit, considering the night schedule. There, they're really mostly more interesting in trotting show ponies across the stage than putting on an entertaining night of competition.

Fri Aug 30, 12:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Li was solid. Was so afraid she unravelled after 03 down second set. Carlos is good for her. Robson was tight, probably too much expectation from herself, I saw in a statement that she thought LI gave in a lot of errors last year and hope she would do the same. Not going to happen cos LI was ready!

Fri Aug 30, 01:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

A year of working with Rodriguez seems to have paid dividends, as maybe things are becoming more natural and her fitness is improved. She's got a shot to slip through the draw now... likely Jankovic next, then A-Rad/Lisicki/Makarova and she'd be in the semis.

Of course, then it'd probably be Serena... and we'd start talking about whether a third AO final might finally be the charm for Li in January. ;)

Fri Aug 30, 01:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 224jax said...

Did you take into consideration the history of the Azarenka/S. Williams opponents before considering Azarenka and Williams to be neck & neck in your ranking? Azarenka's wins came mostly from the errors of her opponents. If she had been playing anyone else she would not have pulled through double faulting the way she did. Sometimes the numbers don't tell the true story. Yes Wozniack was a better player before she was injured. She still seems to play tentatively, as if she is still injured or afraid of being injured. If Azarenka doe not up her game she will not be in the final. Serena should play everyone as if she is play Sharapova!

Fri Aug 30, 05:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

3rd time on Ashe Saturday for Caroline - may we call her W-Ashe-niacki ;)

Fri Aug 30, 06:03:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Fri Aug 30, 06:53:00 PM EDT  

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