Wednesday, September 04, 2013

US.10 - What If They Had a U.S. Open Quarterfinal and No One Remembered That It Happened?

If someone had called out -- or said anything, anything at all, in anger or celebration -- on Arthur Ashe Stadium court from about 12 noon to around 1:30 p.m. it would have echoed around the entire complex, bouncing off every seat and rising into the perfectly blue, cloudless sky on its journey into nothingness. Why? Because, during that time period, Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci were playing a quarterfinal match which would send one of the longtime Italian friends on to her first career slam semifinal. You could have heard a pin drop.

And not in a good, ultra-dramatic, edge-of-your-seat sort of way, either. Rather than, "The Italians are coming!," which has rightfully been shouted all over the grounds over the past week and a half, it was more along the lines of, "These are the Italians?"

At some times today, as she failed to show any emotion while staving off set points, or getting an important break of serve in the 1st set, Vinci looked like she was off on an afternoon-in-Central-Park stroll in the summer heat, squinting into the sun and watching a dog or squirrel or two. You'd have never known that the 30-year old #10 seed was playing in the most important singles match of her career. As the match was slipping away, it was obvious that she was nervously rushing through her service games in an attempt to get off the court a little bit faster, not even waiting for the ball kids to stop moving before she had started her service motion for the next point. But then you remembered that she was occasionally doing the same thing in the 1st set when its winner was still to be determined, too. The veteran was tight, nervous and, while she didn't show it outwardly in any sort of Safina-esque way, it was pretty obvious.

To be fair, Pennetta, too, was tight early on. If she'd been playing an opponent primed and ready for action, she would have had to pull something better out of herself. But she didn't have to. Instead, just keeping her head on her shoulders and not allowing the pressure of such a match to cause her game to implode and cave in on itself was more than enough, to the tune of a 6-4/6-1 score in maybe the most subdued big-moment match in memory (yes, subdued -- a match with two ITALIANS!), or at least since the early days of the Williams Sisters facing off in slam finals and not wanting to show any outright happiness after winning a point, game, set or match for fear that it might make her sibling feel bad. Pennetta and Vinci have known and played against each other since their pre-teen years so, while they aren't family like Venus and Serena, they surely DID grow up together. Thus, any true emotion -- such as that shown at this slam in the past when Pennetta battled toward three previous QF with wins over the likes of Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova -- was restricted from public display. Sure, Pennetta showed her happiness as the match turned her way for good, and when it was over. But it still felt more like the 31-year old had just advanced out of the 1st Round than produced the best slam result of her career barely a year after undergoing wrist surgery.

Vinci, facing her third consecutive countrywoman at this U.S. Open, did show a bit of fight early-on, as the pair traded breaks at the start of the match as both were bedeviled by stunningly low first serve percentages. Pennetta got another break to lead 3-2, then held four break points in Game #7, only to see Vinci hold, then break to get back on serve one game later. Pennetta broke back (the fifth break of the set) and served for the set, getting to double set point after hitting an ace. With no emotion, Vinci saved both, held two break points, and then finally dropped the first stanza on SP #3 when she sliced an approach shot and couldn't get back Pennetta's backhand at the net. Pennetta won 6-4.

From there, Vinci essentially just sleepwalked through the rest of the match. In a flash, Pennetta took a 4-0 lead without having to do anything extraordinary, while Vinci's only real focus came when she was trying to rush through her own service games. Vinci avoided a 6-0 set, but only barely. When Pennetta lofted a lob over her net-hugging countrywoman it was finally, mercifully (for everyone), over.

Even in light of a moment of career success for a player like Pennetta, who has experienced great excitement at this slam in the past and had wonderful crowd support, the subdued nature of the entire thing ultimately carried over the to the crowd, too. It was if the match had been played in something of a vacuum, or that everyone had been lulled to sleep by the "action." Once it was all over, if was easy to forget that it had even happened at all. At least Serena's double-bagel of Carla Suarez-Navarro last night was memorable for its thoroughness and lack of mercy, as Williams dispensed with the Spaniard without apology on CSN's 25th birthday... ouch.

Oh, well. At least Azarenka is still left to play HER quarterfinal tonight on Ashe. While her last match was U-G-L-Y, at least it had THAT going for it.

=DAY 10 NOTES= Mixed Doubles, Abigail Spears and Santiago Gonzalez became the first players to advance to a final at this year's Open. They'll face the winner of Mladenovic/Nestor vs. Hlavackova/Mirnyi.

The #2, #3 and #4 Women's Doubles seeds have been knocked out of the quarterfinals. #1 Errani/Vinci are still alive, and in their QF match will face the winner of Pavlyuchenkova vs. the Williams Sisters. junior play, there was a big upset in the Girls singles on Day 10, as Bannerette Tornado Alicia Black upset #4-seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova 7-5/7-5 in the 2nd Round.

Elsewhere, two North American hopes went out, as Russia's Maria Marfutina defeated a retiring (at 7-6/3-0) American Christina Makarova, while Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo upset Canadian Francoise Abanda. Brit Katie Boulter defeated #8-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens, as well, and unseeded Italian Jasmine Paolini got another win of note, taking out #13-seeded Brit Katy Dunne.


ESPN2's Pam Shriver, after Vinci made an approach shot and was easily passed with a down-the-line Pennetta backhand, wondering to broadcast partner Chris Evert just how many times Shriver herself had tried that shot against Evert in decades past in points that ended precisely the same way.

Evert apologized for getting the best of Shriver. But, really, that was just a case of Chrissie being nice... known as The Ice Queen as a competitor, she didn't REALLY mean it.

...and, finally, Victoria Azarenka will get a chance tonight to shake off any lingering "ick" from that Round of 16 match yesterday. She'll face Daniela Hantuchova, as the Slovak tries to reach her second slam semifinal ('08 AO) and make the Final Four at this Open an "all-thirtysomething" party.

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #5 Li Na/CHN
Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. Daniela Hantuchova/SVK or #2 Victoria Azarenka/BLR

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #21 Mikhail Youzhny/RUS
#3 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #9 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI
#8 Richard Gasquet/FRA vs. #4 David Ferrer/ESP
#10 Tommy Robredo/ESP vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. Williams/Williams (USA/USA) or Pavlyuchenkova/Safarova (RUS/CZE)
#5 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) def. #3 Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO)
#10 Mirza/J.Zheng (IND/CHN) def. #4 Hsieh/Peng (TPE/CHN)
#8 Barty/Dellacqua (AUS/AUS) def. #2 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #4 Paes/Stepanek (IND/CZE)
#10 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) vs. #2 Peya/Soares (AUT/BRA)

Spears/S.Gonzalez (USA/MEX) vs. #7 Hlavackova/Mirnyi (CZE/BLR) or Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN)

Unseeded - 2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
Unseeded - 2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Unseeded - 2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
Unseeded - 2013 FLAVIA PENNETTA, ITA
Wild Card - 2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic,SRB
#12 - 2005 Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
#12 - 2007 Venus Williams, USA
#10 - 2001 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#10 - 2002 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#10 - 2012 Sara Errani, ITA
Note: unseeded D.Hantuchova to play SF

2004 Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Tatiana Golovin, FRA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2010 Kaia Kanepi, EST
2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
2013 Li Na, CHN
AO: Sloane Stephens, USA
RG: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
WI: Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
US: Li Na, CHN

2005 Sania Mirza, IND
2006 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2007 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2008 Coco Vandeweghe, USA (jr.)
2009 Melanie Oudin, USA
2010 Beatrice Capra, USA
2011 Esther Vergeer, NED (wheelchair)
2012 [Brit] Laura Robson, GBR
2013 [Bannerette] Vicky Duval, USA
AO: [Fortysomething] Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
RG: [Post-Vergeer WC champ] Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
WI: [Upstart] Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR
US: [Bannerette] Vicky Duval, USA

2010 Vania King, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 "Future Sloane" (Stephens), USA
2013 Camila Giorgi, ITA

2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Justine Henin, BEL *
2008 Serena Williams, USA *
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS *
2012 Serena Williams, USA *
2013 Serena Williams, USA
AO: Maria Sharapova, RUS
RG: Serena Williams, USA *
WI: Sabine Lisicki, GER
US: Serena Williams, USA
* - won title

2006 Wimbledon - Justine Henin-Hardenne (RU)
2007 Roland Garros - Justine Henin (W)
2008 Australian Open - Maria Sharapova (W)
2008 Roland Garros - Ana Ivanovic (W)
2009 U.S. Open - Serena Williams
2010 Wimbledon - Serena Williams (W) *
2010 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2013 Australian Open - Maria Sharapova
2013 Roland Garros - Serena Williams (W)
2013 U.S. Open - Serena Williams *
* - co-Top Player in Early-Rds.

2010 Venus Williams, USA
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
[AO winners]
2011 Andrea Petkovic, GER
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2013 Laura Robson, GBR

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
Co-TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA & #2 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
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) Vicky Duval/USA d. #11 Samantha Stosur/AUS 5-7/6-4/6-4
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF/Doub.): 4th Rd. - #18 Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP d. #8 Angelique Kerber/GER 4-6/6-4/7-6(3)
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: 3rd Rd. - (Q) Camila Giorgi/ITA d. #6 Caroline Wozniacki 4-6/6-4/6-2
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: Daniela Hantuchova/SVK - 0-5 in last five slams, 3rd Rd. def. (Q) Glushko/ISR, down set and 5-2 and saved four match points
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)
IT GIRL: Vicky Duval/USA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: A.Spears/USA, A.Hlavackova/CZE

All for now. More later.


Blogger Diane said...

You know who Vinci reminded me of today? Vinci--against Errani at the 2012 U.S. Open. She clearly cannot compete against her pals.

Wed Sep 04, 05:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Although, Vinci seemed to at least be able to deal with it better when it comes to Errani, considering her success against her when they've played this season. Of course, Palermo and Cincinnati aren't the Open. ;)

Wed Sep 04, 05:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

i rarely disagree with your picks...but i think that flavia should be ms. opportunity...considering she wasn't even in the main draw until someone pulled out...

and i think Li Na was the best early round player...vika was grinding out wins...and serena wasn't at her 60 60 level yet...

not sure who i would put as comeback...maybe hantuchova...

Wed Sep 04, 07:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I'm aware that there were multiple/interchangeable options for so many awards this time. That's probably why I didn't really doing Awards Updates on the daily posts like I usually do, because it would have just been confusing/circular. If I'd given Zombie Queen early on rather than waiting and going with Hantuchova, it would have changed all the other winners.

For a moment, today I even considered taking "Comeback" away from Pennetta, giving it to Kleybanova, freeing up Pennetta for "Ms.O," which would have left "Broadway" for Li (maybe), shifting "Lady of the Evening" to Giorgi or Duval, with "It" going to one of those two, as well. Hantuchova for "ZQ" was sort of my early "safe" pick so that I could have her already slotted for one and I could then work around it for the rest.

Well, both Vika and Serena lost only four games each in the first two rounds, and had a pair of bagel sets. Li had lost eight and had no bagels, so that was why I went with them there. I was going to give "Mid-Round" to Li until she was so up-and-down vs. Makarova, while Serena blitzed Stephens and CSN.

Wed Sep 04, 08:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

decisions decisions...


Wed Sep 04, 09:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

gasquet beat ferrer. maybe throwing socks did help afterall. is that finally a breakout at slams?

finally vika toned down her drama level, still not the best but at least focused and controlled. she really needs to step up serving out the match. it should have been a drive volley winner at 30-30, instead she let it bounced and did not do enough and she screamed. so she knew.

diane, i love your idea of 'bring back the shorts' campaign! after this hideous outfit, i think it deserves a column to pound nike. :o

Wed Sep 04, 10:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

When the Open is over, I'm going to pass the idea around the tennis Blogosphere; I think there'll be takers :)

Wed Sep 04, 10:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Sounds like a great idea, Diane! :)

Wed Sep 04, 10:48:00 PM EDT  

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