Thursday, August 29, 2013

US.4 - Please Vika, Don't Hurt 'em (well, then again...)

The rain. The rain. It went away. But I'm sure it'll be back another day.... but everything was fine and good under the sun on Day 4.

Especially when it came to Victoria... err, I mean, Vika Azarenka.

For a bit on Thursday, one began to wonder whether or not Azarenka was EVER going to lose a game at this U.S. Open. After double-bageling Dinah Pfizenmaier at Ashe Stadium two nights ago, she raced off to a 5-0 lead against her Canadian opponent this afternoon on Louis Armstrong, as she continued to kick butt and take names during her stay in New York City, running her game-winning streak to seventeen games.

Vika: "Umm, is that Wozniak with a 'k' or a 'ck,' dear? And no 'i,' either? Hmmm, maybe I'm thinking of someone else."

Aleksandra Wozniak:: "Yeah, I know. I get that all the time. Plus, I've been injured and I'm just coming back. So, no hard feelings. And it's a 'k,' if it's not too much of a bother."

Vika: (rolls eyes) "Canadians. Why is it that only the hockey players will punch people in the face?"

Aleksandra Wozniak: (shrugs shoulders)

Perhaps Wozniak took offense to such a hypothetical conversation taking place inside the Belarusian's head, but was just too polite to say so. For when Azarenka had three set points for a third straight love set at this slam, the Canadian broke her serve. Two games later, Vika had a fourth set point on serve and failed to convert it, too, getting broken again. Ultimately, Azarenka broke Wozniak to take the 1st set 6-3, then raced to a 4-0 lead in the 2nd before dropping serve yet again.

A-Woz got her point across, politely reminding everyone that she's a former tour singles champion and was once nearly a Top 20 player (#21 in '09). Azarenka beat her 6-3/6-1 in 1:10, running her season hard court record to 27-1. While Vika outwardly showed that she didn't enjoy her mistakes in this match, which prevented a "prettier" scoreline (for her, not her opponent) more resembling her 1st Round match, she still allowed Wozniak the opportunity to breathe a bit late in the 1st.

She needs to dispense with such nonsense, I say! This is the U.S.-freakin'-Open! Step on necks and twist!

(Kidding... well, sort of.)

If Azarenka is going to win this U.S. Open, these sort of lapses have to be eliminated. To win in New York she has to be a "Noo Yawker." Against Serena and a partisan crowd a week and a half from now, it might just be essential.

Come on, Vika. I know you have it in you.

...a large part of the early action today centered around the young and the "old."

American Christina McHale, in a horrendous slump this season after reaching the 3rd Round at three slams in '12 (but not the U.S. Open), finally advanced to the 3rd Round in New York today with a three-set win over Elina Svitolina. Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, touted in the morning as a future grand slam winner by Mark Knowles on Tennis Channel, took #8-seed Angelique Kerber to three sets, but the German managed to push her way through to victory. Meanwhile, Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara, who'd never won a main draw slam match as of a week ago, got her second in four days today, taking out #19 Sorana Cirstea, who essentially flamed out for what remained of her summer after her headline-grabbing final run in Toronto came to an end a few weeks back at the hands of Serena Williams.

Cirstea's high-to-low fate has been felt by a number of short-term "summer stars" in North America (see "Cibulkova") this year, but one of them is most definitely not her countrywoman, Simona Halep. The #21-seeded Romanian took out Donna Vekic 6-2/6-1 today to reach her first U.S. Open 3rd Round, as she waits to possibly meet a certain Dane down the line in the quarterfinals.

Well, unless it'll be veteran Roberta Vinci who'll be waiting for her there. The #10 seed advanced today, along with fellow vets Serena (3 & 0 over Galina Voskoboeva), Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic and Flavia Pennetta, who took out #4 seed -- and '12 semifinalist -- Sara Errani, 6-3/6-1. Pennetta is suddenly a very interesting option in the same quarter that includes Wozniacki and Halep. Pennetta was an Open quarterfinalist in '08, '09 and '11, and is finally rounding into form this summer after her late-season wrist surgery of last year. Pennetta will next face '04 champion Kuznetsova, the #27-seed who has already reached two slam quarterfinals in 2013 when she was unseeded (the only woman to have ever done that in a single season since slams began seeding thirty-two players in 2001).

...of course, the most surprising result of the early action of Day 4 might have come from Petra Kvitova. No, she didn't lose to someone she should have beaten. That really wouldn't be all that surprising anymore, would it? No, she defeated Bojana Jovanovski... in straight sets! Imagine that.



For the second time this season, it's the Aussies. In all, Australians went 1-4 at this U.S. Open, with 2011 champ Sam Stosur's 1st Round exit the lowlight. Well, unless you count "lucky loser" Olivia Rogowska getting double-bageled by Sara Errani. As it was, only wild card teen Ashleigh Barty advanced to the 2nd Round, as she lost on Day 3 to wrap up the singles participation at this slam of the women from Australia. Side Note: Barty & Casey Dellacqua, AO and Wimbledon finalists in '13, are still alive in doubles, though.

There isn't a great wealth of concentrated upsets by players from multiple nations at this slam, so there's really one option -- the Bannerettes. Venus Williams knocked out #12 Kirsten Flipkens on Day 1, followed by qualifier Vicky Duval's ouster of #11 Stosur on Day 2. Throw in additional wins from wild card Alison Riske (def. Tsvetana Pironkova & #28 Mona Barthel), Christina McHale (Julia Goerges) and wild card Sachia Vickery (Mirjana Lucic-Baroni), and it's a pretty clear choice. And, as of this posting, there's still room for more, as Duval faces Daniela Hantuchova late on Day 4.

With Barty out yesteday and Vickery losing to qualifier Julia Glushko today, Riske wins this honor for the second straight slam with her victory today over Barthel, matching her 3rd Round result at the All-England Club.


no L.G. Granderson!

...LIKE #2 FROM DAY 4:

no Hannah Storm, either!


that I know that neither situation will last for too much longer.

...and, finally, I'll be back later with a late night post that will include coverage of the evening matches -- Duval/Hantuchova, Wozniacki at night -- and the collection of "Early-Round Awards" for this U.S. Open.

WI: Great Britain (0-6 1st Rd.)
WI: Australia (1-3 1st Rd., Stosur & Dokic losses)
US: Czech Republic (2-5 1st Rd., Kvitova loses)
AO: Great Britain (0-4 1st Rd.; all on Day 1)
RG: Romania (1-5 in 1st Rd.; Cadantu double-bageled)
WI: Slovak Republic (1-3 in 1st Rd.; all 3 w/ WTA titles lost)
US: Germany (four of nation's five highest-ranked players out in 1st Rd.)
AO: Australia (1-6 in 1st Rd., 1-7 overall)
RG: Czech Republic (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
WI: Great Britain (1-6 in 1st Rd.)
US: Australia (1-4 overall, Stosur out 1st Rd., Rogowska double-bageled, only WC Barty to 2nd)

2004 Russia
2005 United States
2006 France
2007 Russia
2008 China
2009 United States
2010 Taiwan
2011 Romania
2012 Romania
2013 United States
AO: Russia
RG: Slovak Republic
WI: Czech Republic
US: United States

2007 Ahsha Rolle, USA (3rd Rd.)
2008 Severine Bremond, FRA (4th Rd.)
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
2010 Beatrice Capra, USA & Virginie Razzano, FRA (3rd Rd.)
2011 Sloane Stephens, USA (3rd Rd.)
2012 Mallory Burdette/USA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (3rd Rd.)
2013 Alison Riske, USA (in 3rd Rd.)
AO: Madison Keys, USA (3rd Rd.)
RG: Virginie Razzano, FRA (3rd Rd.)
WI: Alison Riske, USA (3rd Rd.)
US: Alison Riske, USA (in 3rd Rd.)

[Monthly/Quarterly winners]
FEB: Serena Williams, USA
MAR: Serena Williams, USA
APR: Serena Williams, USA
MAY: Maria Sharapova, RUS
JUN: Nadia Petrova/Katarina Srebotnik, RUS/SLO
JUL: Serena Williams, USA
AUG: Jelena Jankovic, SRB
[2013 Weekly Veteran Award Wins]
6...Li Na, CHN
5...Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
5...Nadia Petrova/Katarina Srebotnik, RUS/SLO
5...Maria Sharapova, RUS
5...Roberta Vinci, ITA
4...Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
4...Yvonne Meusburger, AUT
4...Venus Williams, USA
3...Virginie Razzano, FRA
3...Galina Voskoboeva, KAZ
3...Serena Williams, USA
3...Klara Zakopalova, CZE
2...Marion Bartoli, FRA
2...Cara Black, ZIM
2...Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, ESP
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Kveta Peschke, GER/CZE
2...Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka, CZE/CZE
2...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2...Shahar Peer, ISR
2...Kveta Peschke, CZE

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
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.: Glushko/ISR, Nara/JPN (Giorgi & Duval to play 2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Alison Riske/USA (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: S.Williams, Stephens, Hampton, McHale, Riske (Duval still to play 2nd Rd.)
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: Nominees: Duval/USA, Stephens/USA
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: Duval/USA, Stephens/USA

All for now. More tonight.


Blogger Eric said...

Going to jump on the bandwagon here.

I also laughed when they were talking about his "legacy." Todd, you said it perfectly. He has an exciting game, but disappointing results (due to atrocious shot selection). At one point didn't he have a 0-10 career 5-set record? Or am I thinking of someone else?

I remember that one of the first matches I ever watched 12 years ago was of him vs. Xavier Malisse. At the time I thought he was one of top players in the world bc I figured that's who would be showcased. He was like No. 60 in the world. And he lost.

I think the other thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that Michael Chang, who won a slam, had such a quiet goodbye; but James Blake, who never went past the QFs of a slam was so celebrated.

I think his legacy was the fact that he always was looking for a platform to express his verbose opinions.

But's a new day...and he's "gone" now.

Thu Aug 29, 07:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

was that J-Block in the background yesterday? I figured it was some drunk dude who was heckling James...saying things like, "go Ivo, one more game, one more point" etc. I didn't really hear anyone bothering Ivo...but i wasn't listening carefully the whole time.

Thu Aug 29, 07:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, as far as yesterday, I think there was a mixture from both sides, since it wasn't the customary night match on Ashe that Blake has so often been gifted over the years due to the lack of real U.S. men's contenders other than Roddick.

But, really, the actions of the Blake fans have always contributed to a general rowdiness in his Open matches (for example, I doubt we'd have gotten so many Howard Stern-inspired "Bababooey" screams during the that match if it was anyone playing other than Blake -- it's always been as if the umpire just lets it go, when there'd be constant mentions for quiet in every other match, and if you have loud fans of another player, sort of like traveling soccer fans, then it's just not a particularly entertaining scene.

Thu Aug 29, 07:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

But, then again, that IS what makes the Open so difficult for some players to win. The noise (which Stosur, ironically, complained about before she won the title) and the "too crowdy" (as Kvitova said the other day) nature of the tournament make it unique.

Thu Aug 29, 07:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

i love monfils. so fun to watch, so entertaining and so ready to get the crowds involved. i have not seen the USO stadium chanting the player's name so loud, and not for a US player.

errani's interview is saddening. the weigh of expectation. yeah, she was never the favourite, but you can always count on her to fight. and she didn't fight today. a lot of players suffer from that slide, petra surely is one. vika doesn't and partly because she has a much higher expectation of herself and doesn't really care how others look at her. haha. works out the best though.

ooh.. li vs robson, what a cracker. i hope li wins and gets her revenge, she has played well so far.

lapses in vika's match, nothing new since wimbledon. she knew it, she will just have to control it. ivanovic looks good though, can give her a good match if they can to meet.

Fri Aug 30, 12:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Errani has to work so hard to be successful. She's done a pretty job of defending points and living up to the expectations built from last year (who would have thought in January she'd still be ranked so high?), but I'd imagine it's very mentally wearing.

Fri Aug 30, 12:35:00 PM EDT  

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