Wednesday, January 22, 2014

AO 10 - To Live and Radwanska Down Under


Sometimes you get The Radwanska, and sometimes It gets you. The same can be said for Its namesake, as when Aga Radwanska opens up her overstuffed bag of tennis goodies some magical slight-of-hand moments are sure to follow.

Ah, but if you're not careful you might get caught watching her performance in wide-eyed wonderment. And once you catch yourself doing that, it's already too late. You're finished. Just ask Vika Azarenka. Or maybe don't... she's probably still sore from getting "Radwanska'ed" today at Rod Laver Arena.



Day 10's quarterfinal between two-time defending champion Azarenka and Radwanska seemed as if it might present a case of history repeating itself. After all, while so many other players have been victimized by the clever Pole's array of spins, drops, lobs, angles, blind 360-degree backhand flip volleys, between-the-legs shots and occasional you-never-see-it-coming-until-you're-already-too-far-out-of-position-to-do-anything-about-it bursts of offensive firepower, the Belarusian has not been one of them. Against Vika, Aga had been unable to break through, losing twelve of fifteen career matches, including five consecutive as Azarenka has climbed into the sport's "Big 3." And they weren't close matches, either, with Aga not being able to get to five games in any set.

Coming into the match on an eighteen-match winning streak in Melbourne, Azarenka had lost just four sets in the run, and was the only quarterfinalist at this year's Australian Open who'd reached the final eight without dropping a set. Rounding into something close to top form in her Round of 16 match against Sloane Stephens, Vika seemed a good bet to three-peat as champion. Even with the presence of two-time finalist Li Na in the top half of the draw, Azarenka was declared the odds-on favorite to take the title once Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova both exited early.

Meanwhile, Radwanska, who ended 2013 looking like a shadow of her former Wimbledon finalist self, then lost her only "official" AO tune-up match in Sydney, had been pushed to three sets twice in Melbourne, and looked for all the world to be about to be hit off the court by Garbine Muguruza in the early stages of her most recent match. The Pole found her clever game in that Round of 16 contest, eventually frustrating the 20-year old Spaniard with every shot in the book. But that was against a young player who'd never before been so deep into a slam. Azarenka had (and more), so surely the same result wouldn't occur today.

But what ultimately happened was the sort of display from which legends -- and grand slam title runs? -- are born. Radwanska was aided by an error-plagued, tense and agitated Azarenka through the opening stages of the match, but by the time the final set had concluded, well, Aga had created a Radwanskian classic that featured an unlikely victim. Over a span of two hours, Azarenka went from "odds-on favorite" to a player who didn't seem to know exactly what was going on, and one who had even less of an idea about what to do about it.

Right from the start, while the Belarusian was already having troubles corralling her form in the first games of the match, Radwanska began to create even more problems. Seemingly convinced of the belief that things would be different this time, A-Rad made a habit of pushing and pulling Vika wherever she wanted. Moving Azarenka up and back within the same point, Aga followed up a lob with a smash volley to get to break point. After an Azarenka error, the Pole took a 2-0 lead. And the 1st set rout was on.

As occurred against Muguruza, Radwanska had some difficulty holding serve in the next game, facing a break point. But also just as she did against the Spaniard, A-Rad managed to hold, then saw Vika's error total climb into double-digits as the match slipped into just its fourth game. Soon, Azarenka began to realize that this day wasn't going to simply be about her overcoming another slow start. That was just a small portion of her nightmare, as she was also having to deal with a Radwanska growing more confident with each locked-away game and every sequence of shots that can't help but be mind-boggling to many, but that simply come naturally to her.

In game #4, on her fifth break point, Aga moved in behind a groundstroke, forcing Azarenka to attempt to pull off a lob that sailed long to put Radwanska up 4-0. A hold of serve made it 5-0, but in the final games of the 1st set, Azarenka slowly began the process of gathering herself together by avoiding a bagel and holding for 5-1. Still, A-Rad served for the set and pulled off one final clever moment -- a drop shot -- to close out a 6-1 set in which she kept a generally erratic Azarenka off balance with her vast variety of shots, highlighted by the sort of defensive rally-continuing groundstokes that suddenly become seemingly out-of-nowhere winners that she'd actually been setting up during for the previous four strokes.

Showing signs of frustration and anger in the first game of the 2nd set, Azarenka saved three break points in a thirteen-point game to hold. With the match already on the line, the Belarusian made an effort to hit her way out of her troubles by using her aggression to get to Radwanska with her power before the Pole could get her with everything else. In short bursts, it worked. She held three break points of her own in game #2, but Radwanska, unlike in the past against Vika, found ways to counter it. Aga held for 1-1 after moving forward to the net and forcing Vika to pull off a passing shot that landed harmlessly in the net.

After holding for 2-1, Azarenka nearly let her temper get the best of her, slapping at a ball at the net with a ball kid standing nearby. The boy was never struck, but Vika came very close to opening up another controversial can of worms Down Under. From that point on in the set, Azarenka seemed to catch herself just in the nick of time. She gave up a break when Radwanska stepped in to hit a winner to go up 3-2, but then Vika broke Radwanska at love and followed up with a hold at love in a game that included four consecutive clean groundstroke winners to take a 4-3 lead.

Finding more winners than in the 1st, Azarenka stayed on serve for the next three games then, with the match reaching a critical stage at 30/30 on Vika's serve at 5-5, Azarenka changed the direction of Radwanska's crosscourt backhand and smacked a backhand winner down the sideline. She followed with a big serve to get to 6-5 to force A-Rad to hold to stay in the set. Employing the get-before-you're-gotten strategy, Azarenka attacked Radwanska's second serve, pushing groundstrokes deep into the court and going up 40/love before firing a forehand return winner to grab the set at 7-5 and head directly for the changeover area looking like the two-time AO champ she is. Having had her back pressed to the wall and come out slugging, she seemed to have taken Aga's best shot and survived it.

But the problem was, Radwanska had yet to give Azarenka her very best shot. Actually, in the 3rd, she gave her one after another after another.

In the first game of the 3rd, Azarenka seemed focused. She passed a charging Radwanska with a backhand down the line, and held a second game point despite having failed to convert the first when a seeming sure-fire down the line winner was somehow slapped back for a winner by Aga, who'd perfectly anticipated the shot and managed to just get her racket on the ball. But Azarenka missed on a swinging volley on GP #2, and soon faced two break points, the second coming after a double-fault. Radwanska got to a drop and put away a winner to break for 1-0.

The moment seemed to break Azarenka's spirit. From there, she became a spectator in the match, admitting later that at times it was like she was just watching. In truth, there was a lot to watch... but pretty much all of it came courtesy of Radwanska.

The Pole held for 2-0, then saw Azarenka double-fault to fall behind love/30. She was broken at love for 3-0, then saw Radwanska put on a closing display worthy of enshrinement at Newport. If she had it, she flaunted it. The squat shot, the deceptive direct-the-ball-to-the-corner short swinging winner, and even a sudden ace on game point to hold for 4-0. Soon, Radwanska won a point in which she got back a high backhand volley over her head that was immediately followed up by a half-volley and a volley winner.

Azarenka was being "Radwanska'ed" right before our eyes. It was like a slow-motion car wreck, and it was so fascinating that you just couldn't take your eyes off it.



Aga's bag of tricks is always chock-full of goodness. Sometimes her cleverness is pure fun. Sometimes it's downright exhilarating and leaves you breathless not only from the crazy-genius shot-making you just saw, but because you're already on the edge of your seat wondering what will come next. Such is the easy-going on-court brilliance of this 25-year old, who might just be in the process of not only outgrowing her supernatural alter ego, but also carving out a singular and specific place of honor in the sport that, quite honestly, no one might ever dare to replicate for fear of looking foolish making the attempt.

For a small "Greatest Hits" sample of some of Radwanska's most tantalizing shots from this match, take a look right here.

With the clock ticking on her reign as AO champion, Azarenka saw Radwanska spin more gems down the stretch. The Pole glided around the court in game #5, getting back a defensive replay to an Azarenka smash, then racing in to get to a drop shot and putting it away for a winner. It was classic Radwanska, making the wild and crazy seem pre-planned and easy. And Vika was helpless to do anything about it... so she double-faulted on break point to fall behind 5-0. Radwanska then served out the match to reach her first AO semifinal, winning 6-1/5-7/6-0, ending the match with an inconceivably electric run of games, points and shots under the circumstances.

"She's a genius!," ESPN2's Pam Shriver had declared of Radwanska earlier in the match. Later, she added, ""There's a Genie on the other side of the draw, and a genius on this one." It was impossible to argue with her. While I've often "declared" that some of Radwanska's power derives from a (mythical?) pact with her malevolent alter ego, today it was all Aga.

The Radwanska doesn't have the seductive soul of the tennis artist that was on full display in Melbourne today. But Aga does. Is it enough to make it on her own? We shall soon see.



=DAY 10 NOTES=
...in the first women's quarterfinal of the day, in a match-up of two five-and-a-half feet or less women, Dominika Cibulkova grabbed the match by the throat in the early going and never really let go, leaving Simona Halep (in her first career slam QF) frustrated at her inability to gain a foothold in the biggest match of her career so far.

The slightly-more-supercharged Cibulkova, having changed rackets and improved her serve, has been (as usual) an energetic fireball at this AO, running over opponents and taking out Maria Sharapova in the 4th Round. Against Halep, the Slovak never relented on her aggression, and the Swarmette's positioning way behind the baseline during rallies never had any sort of answer for it. Maybe if Halep was working with a coach in Melbourne, attempting to move in more would have been in the game plan. Oh, well... maybe next time. Here, Cibulkova took advantage of Halep's wanting serve and broke in her first attempt and got off to a 3-0 lead. In game #8, a big and deep return from the Slovak produced an error from the Romanian and the break of serve gave Cibulkova the chance to serve out the set, which she did for 6-3.

In the 2nd set, Cibulkova was even better. Continuing to step into the court and take control, she broke Halep's serve three more times, taking the set at love and banking her "second" Top 10 win of this event (though Halep is, technically, still only #11 at the moment), and advancing to her second career slam semifinal ('09 RG).

Halep, while she'll be upset at her efforts in this match, should be encouraged by her result at this slam. Even after being the tour's Most Improved player last year, her ability to move up from her #11 position into the year-end Top 10 was questioned by some in the lead-up to the 2014 season. But, the Romanian ultimately exceeded her seeding in Melbourne and improved upon her former career-best slam result of the 4th Round at last year's U.S. Open. With her ranking set to enter the Top 10, making her the first woman from her country to debut there in eighteen years, and with her being set to announce her new coach after the AO, she'll now look to make a little hay in the spring. With few points to defend until Rome (she'll have the points from six titles to replace starting soon afterward), where she started her climb last year by reaching the semis as a qualifier, Halep should have a shot to be a Top 8 seed at Roland Garros, the slam event where her game probably fits best.

So, it'll be either Dominika or Aga in the final, maybe even against Genie. Just like we all predicted.

...with #4 Li Na being the highest remaining seed, this is just the third time in the Open era that one of the Top 3 seeds didn't reach the AO semis (*-champion):


1978 - #5 Betsy Nagelson, Dianne Evers (unseeded), Christine Matison (unseeded), Chris O'Neil (unseeded)*
1997 - #4 Martina Hingis*, #12 Amanda Coetzer, #14 Mary Joe Fernandez, Mary Pierce (unseeded)
2014 - #5 Li Na, #5 Agnieszka Radwanska, #20 Dominika Cibulkova, #30 Eugenie Bouchard

...in doubles, the women's final is set. Defending champs Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci advanced past Kveta Peschke & Katerina Srebotnik, while Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina defeated Raquel Kops-Jones & Abigail Spears. The final two teams have a recent history, too. The Russians defeated the Italians in last year's Roland Garros final.

...in the juniors, the singles is down to the final eight. Some results from today: Bannerette Olivia Hauger, who earlier knocked out #1-seed Varvara Flink, advanced, as did the unseeded Kimberly Birrell (AUS) and Jana Fett (CRO). The seeded players remaining are #2 Ivana Jorovic (SRB), Elizaveta Kulichkova (RUS), #6 Jelena Ostapenko (LAT), #7 Sun Ziyue (CHN) and #10 Anastasiya Kornadina (RUS).

...also, the Wheelchair action has begun. Top-seeded German Sabine Ellerbrock won her match to advance to the semifinals, as did #2 Yui Kamiji of Japan, along with the Netherlands' Jiske Griffioen and Brit Jordanne Whiley.


...DAY 10 "UNEXPECTED LIKE":

--
even after what happened to Azarenka on Day 10, and how she was often disregarded by the talking heads on ESPN2 during the first nine days of this AO, there was at least one lovely moment that came from this match. And it came from the mind of Chris Evert, too. In the section of the match where it looked as if Vika was turning around her day and was going to battle back to possibly take the match, Evert said, "When I think of power, I think of Serena. When I think of focus, I think of Sharapova. When I think of fight and heart, I think of Azarenka"

Vika might not have won this Australian Open, but that's quite a nice compliment coming from one of the greatest players in the history of the game, no matter how often Evert might make one forget that little fact on occasion when she briefly loses herself behind a microphone.

...umm...




All right, all right. Rub it in, why don't ya, Aga? But, you're right, the time for the end of the "Vika Pic-o-the-Day" for this AO has finally arrived.


...DAY 10 "ALMOST OVERLOOKED DISLIKE":

--
I just realized that I don't think that ESPN2 has had a moment where a "Vegemite taste test" is conducted, as a player being interviewed on the set is urged to taste the foul-tasting (to anyone who wasn't indoctrinated to the product at a young age, it seems) Aussie snack spread. In the past, Vera Zvonareva didn't bat an eye while taking a taste, while some (especially American) players have had to spit it out without swallowing. Justine Henin, I remember, was smart enough to not even try it. Sure, it might have been a needlessly cruel tradition, but it was still great fun! I miss it.

...DAY 10 "USUAL EYEROLL":

--
while covering the Radwanska/Azarenka match, Tennis Channel had to hustle off the air at the top of the hour, with Vika serving in the first game of the 2nd set, so that ESPN2 could pick up coverage. Of course, over at ESPN2, Texas and Kansas State were playing a college basketball game, so the bottom of the screen directed viewers online to ESPN3. The game very nearly went to overtime before Texas hit a three-point shot in the closing second to slip away with the win. Of course, that's when the tennis coverage picked up on ESPN2, and Chris McKendry said they'd "get to" the, you know, LIVE match that TC viewers were just directed from there to here to view... and then everyone on the set spent 10-15 minutes or so showing highlights of last night's Djokovic/Wawrinka match, then did the same with Cibulkova/Halep and then talked even longer about Djokovic/Wawrinka.

Think they'd do that sort of thing with, well, ANY of the other millions of live sporting events that the network covers? No, of course not.

...and, finally, while it looked like it might happen -- and I was prepared to tear down this entire recap and start over if it had -- there was no "Second Radwanskian Massacre" on this day.

Grigor Dimitrov flirted with having as such declared when he pushed Rafa Nadal to the brink of seeing his own "odds-on favorite" role in this AO unceremoniously brought to a close, but the Spaniard ultimately prevailed in four tight sets over the Bulgarian. So, "De-Gifting Day" did not get an official date of January 22.

Hmmm, maybe Anna & QC -- and maybe the mysterious old woman? -- are on the verge of something great, after all? Hmm, or maybe I've just been blinded by the light of The Citizen, and that's why I've steadfastly denied that the secret workings of The Rad have played any part in the goings-on at this slam. Maybe I'll wake up this weekend, after the champion has been decided, and realize that I was terribly wrong. But, as of today, I stand by the belief that Anna has prevailed.

Who knows, maybe Aga's soulful run here is a sign of something great and new, and not the last-chance vestiges of The Rad's grand Plan to destroy us all. We shall see. After all, it's hard to believe that what we've seen from Roger Federer as this AO could possibly have such dark origins, right?

Well, unless, of course, he ends up going on to lose to a certain Scot after failing to put away two match points just before I posted this recap.

(Crossing fingers.)




=WOMEN'S SINGLES SF=
#30 Eugenie Bouchard/CAN vs. #4 Li Na/CHN
#20 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK vs. #5 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL

=MEN'S SINGLES SF=
#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #4 Andy Murray/GBR or #6 Roger Federer/SUI
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. #8 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI

=WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL=
#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. #3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)

=MEN'S DOUBLES SF=
Butorac/Klaasen (USA/RSA) vs. #8 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)
#14 Kubot/Lindstedt (POL/SWE) vs. #13 Llodra/Mahut (FRA/FRA)

=MIXED DOUBLES QF=
J.Zheng/Lipsky (CHN/USA) def. #5 Medina-Garrigues/Soares (ESP/BRA)
Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) vs. Hantuchova/Paes (SVK/IND)
#6 Mirza/Tecau (IND/ROU) vs. Goerges/Qureshi (GER/PAK) or #4 Hlavackova/Mirnyi (CZE/BLR)
Gajdosova/Ebden (AUS/AUS) vs. #2 Srebotnik/Bopanna (SLO/IND)

=GIRLS SINGLES QF=
Olivia Hauger/USA vs. Jana Fett/CRO
Kimberly Birrell/AUS vs. #10 Anastasiya Kornadina/RUS
#6 Jelena Ostapenko/LAT vs. #4 Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS
#7 Sun Ziyue/CHN vs. #2 Ivana Jorovic/SRB

=BOYS SINGLES QF=
#1 Alexander Zverev/GER vs. #11 Hyeon Chung/KOR
Bradley Mousley/AUS vs. #9 Kamil Majchrzak/POL
#7 Quentin Halys/FRA vs. Petros Chrysochos/CYP
#10 Andrey Rublev/RUS vs. #2 Stefan Kozlov/USA

=GIRLS DOUBLES QF=
#1 Kalinina/Kulichkova (UKR/RUS) def. Christie/Ostapenko (GBR/LAT)
#4 Kornadina/Stojanovic (RUS/SRB) def. #5 Stollar/Wallace (HUN/GBR)
Bains/Tjandramulia (AUS/AUS) def. #8 Hon/Teichmann (AUS/SUI)
#2 Boulter/Jorovic (GBR/SRB) def. Cabrera/Hives (AUS/AUS)

=BOYS DOUBLES QF=
#7 Jasika/Majchrzak (AUS/POL) def. #1 Kozlov/Mmoh (USA/USA)
#3 Halys/Tatlot (FRA/FRA) def. Shakhnubaryan/Vasilyev (RUS/RUS)
Martinez Portero/Munar Clar (ESP/ESP) def. #4 Medvedev/Safiullin (RUS/RUS)
#5 Mielder/Mousley (AUT/AUS) def. #2 Rublev/Zverev (RUS/GER)

=WOMEN'S WC SINGLES QF=
#1 Sabine Ellerbrock/GER def. Kgothatso Montjane/RSA
Jordanne Whiley/GBR def. Sharon Walraven/NED
Jiske Griffioen/NED def. Lucy Shuker/GBR
#2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. Marjolein Buis/NED

=MEN'S WC SINGLES QF=
#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN def. Gordon Reid/GBR
Maikel Scheffers/NED def. Adam Kellerman/AUS
Gustavo Fernandez/ARG def. Michael Jeremiasz/FRA
#2 Stephane Houdet/FRA def. Joachim Gererd/BEL

=WOMEN'S WC DOUBLES SF=
#1 Kamiji/Whiley (JPN/GER) vs. Ellerbrock/Montjane (GER/RSA)
Shuker/Walraven (GBR/NED) vs. #2 Buis/Griffioen (NED/NED)

=MEN'S WC DOUBLES SF=
#1 Houdet/Kunieda (FRA/JPN) vs. Gerard/Kellerman (BEL/AUS)
Fernandez/Jeremiasz (ARG/FRA) vs. #2 Reid/Scheffers (GBR/NED)




*2014 AO FINAL FOUR*
[by career slam SF]
6...Li Na (3-2)
3...Agnieszka Radwanska (1-1)
2...Dominika Cibulkova (0-1)
1...Eugenie Bouchard (0-0)
[by career AO SF]
4...Li Na
1...Eugenie Bouchard
1...Dominika Cibulkova
1...Agnieszka Radwanska
[by their nation's 2014 AO won/lost]
9-4...Slovak Republic [Cibulkova]
7-5...China [Li]
5-0...Canada [Bouchard]
5-1...Poland [A.Radwanska]
[WTA most career slam SF - active]
24...Serena Williams (21-3)
19...Venus Williams (14-5)
17...Maria Sharapova (8-9)
7...Victoria Azarenka (4-3)
6...LI NA (3-2)
6...Jelena Jankovic (1-5)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (4-1)
4...Ana Ivanovic (3-1)
4...Samantha Stosur (2-2)
4...Vera Zvonareva (2-2)
4...Petra Kvitova (1-3)
4...Caroline Wozniacki (1-3)
3...AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (1-2)
3...Sara Errani (1-1)
[WTA most slam SF since 2010 - active]
7...Serena Williams (7-0)
7...Victoria Azarenka (4-3)
7...Maria Sharapova (4-3)
6...LI NA (3-2)
4...Petra Kvitova (1-3)
3...Samantha Stosur (2-1)
3...Vera Zvonareva (2-1)
3...AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (1-1)
3...Sara Errani (1-2)
3...Caroline Wozniacki (0-3)
[WTA Slam SF since 2010 - by nation]
11...Russia
9...United States
7...Belarus, CHINA
6...Italy
5...Belgium
4...Czech Republic, Germany
3...Australia, Denmark, POLAND
2...France
1...Bulgaria, CANADA, Serbia, SLOVAK REPUBLIC
[2014 WTA SF - by nation]
5...United States
3...CHINA
2...Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia, Spain
[Players w/ "Career SF Slam" - active]
Victoria Azarenka, BLR
Maria Sharapova, RUS
Serena Williams, USA
Venus Williams, USA

*RECENT AUSTRALIAN OPEN SEMIFINALISTS*
2005: S.Williams (W) - Davenport (RU) - Dechy/Sharapova
2006: Mauresmo (W) - Henin-Hardenne (RU) - Sharapova/Clijsters
2007: S.Williams (W) - Sharapova (RU) - Clijsters/Vaidisova
2008: Sharapova (W) - Ivanovic (RU) - Jankovic/Hantuchova
2009: S.Williams (W) - Safina (RU) - Zvonareva/Dementieva
2010: S.Williams (W) - Henin (RU) - Li/Zheng
2011: Clijsters (W) - Li (RU) - Zvonareva/Wozniacki
2012: Azarenka (W) - Sharapova (RU) - Clijsters/Kvitova
2013: Azarenka (W) - Li (RU) - Sharapova/Stephens
2014: Bouchard, Cibulkova, Li, A.Radwanska

*LOWEST-SEEDED WOMEN IN AO SF, since 2000*
Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE

**LOW-SEEDED AO CHAMPIONS - OPEN ERA**
Unseeded - 1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA
#30 - 2014 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN???
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK???
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
#7 - 2005 Serena Williams, USA
#5 - 1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
#5 - 2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS
#5 - 2014 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL???
#4 - 1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
#4 - 1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
#4 - 2014 Li Na, CHN???

*AO "COMEBACK PLAYER" WINNERS*
2007 Serena Williams, USA
2008 Zi Yan & Zheng Jie, CHN
2009 Jelena Dokic, AUS
2010 Justine Henin, BEL
2011 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2012 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2013 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2014 Ana Ivanovic, SRB

**AO "MIDDLE-ROUND TOP PLAYER" WINNERS**
2007 Serena Williams, USA*
2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS*
2009 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2010 Serena Williams, USA*
2011 Li Na, CHN
2012 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2013 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2014 Li Na, CHN
--
* - won title




TOP QUALIFIER: Belinda Bencic/SUI
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #2 Li Na/CHN
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Cristina Mitu/ROU def. #4 Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER 3-6/6-4/9-7
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #3 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Karin Knapp/ITA 6-3/4-6/10-8
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #14 Ivanovic d. #1 S.Williams 4-6/6-3/6-3
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 3rd Rd. - #14 Ivanovic d. #17 Stosur 6-7(8)/6-4/6-2
=============================
FIRST VICTORY: #18 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL (def. Laura Robson/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #7 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Julia Goerges, GER)
UPSET QUEENS: Australia
REVELATION LADIES: Romania
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (top-seeded #7 Errani & #12 Vinci out 1st Round; Schiavone out 1st Rd. 5/6 slams)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Zarina Diyas/KAZ (3rd. Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (4th Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: D.Cibulkova, A.Radwanska
IT (Teen): Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
COMEBACK PLAYER: Ana Ivanovic/SRB
CRASH & BURN: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (lost 1st Rd. to world #88 Luksika Kumkhum; worst slam result since losing 1st Rd. at '11 U.S. Open following Wimbledon title run)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #4 Li Na/CHN (3rd Rd. - saved MP vs. Safarova)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to (LL) Falconi/USA, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy); 7 con. slam losses; 22 1st Round exits in 47 slams
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominees: A.Ivanovic, A.Radwanska, (the women's champion)
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: J.Gajdosova, K.Srebotnik, S.Mirza, K.Mladenovic, J.Zheng, J.Goerges
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx




All for Day 10. More tomorrow.

9 Comments:

Blogger jo shum said...

It's a strange AO
I guess not vika is gone I can enjoy the tennis.
Her service game was a problem and this time fully exploited. What do you think will happen to her? Quite disheartening when the chance of winning AO again is there. I always think she underestimates everyone except a few hard hitters. And she almost always ran into troubles when she loses focus on the first point. I still can't get over the fact that she didn't fight for the first game of the third set, that was the turning point.

Wed Jan 22, 06:38:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Actually, when you think about it, though, she was actually much better through the first four rounds in this AO than she was last year in either the AO or US when she reached the finals.

I think she'll be fine. Sometimes you just get beat, and Aga was pretty much converting trick shots with a severely high level of difficulty at a 100% clip out there.

P.S. - I really should be getting a little sleep right now. Grrr... Federer/Murray.

Wed Jan 22, 06:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger 224jax said...

I am a Serena fan and sometimes I get so depressed when she loses that I won't even watch the remainder of the tournament. I am glad I let her loss go and moved on. No excuses.

My husband could take or leave tennis. He only watches because I love tennis. But, we agree that the matches between Sharapova and Cibulkova and Radwanska and Azarenka were two of the best women's tennis matches we have ever seen.

I refrain from picking a favorite after Serena leaves a tournament. This championship is definitely not going to be a "gimme". Some great tennis being played at this 2014 AusOpen.

Wed Jan 22, 11:24:00 AM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

First a great report from the Aga-Vika match - as if you were there - well done. Second - nice to see that womens tennis is not only brute force. If Aga wins it will make many youngster try to play like her, and that's IMHO a great plus for womens tennis. And even if Aga loses in the semi it's been one of the most enjoyable matches I've seen. I still hope for a final between the two genie and genious ;)

Wed Jan 22, 03:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Jo & 224jax -

Yeah, there's something of a balancing act at play there when the player you're really behind goes out. I know that in a lot of other sports when "my team" is out of things I have disdain for what happens after that and just want the season/event to end so that I can look forward to the next one.

When Dokic was prominent, I invested so much that it was a huge loss when she went out. Since then, while Henin and Vika have become "The Face of Backspin," I've reacted less and less like that with them. Of course, as with most things, I always root for whoever I pick to win to do so because I want to be correct. Ha! Because I don't always pick Vika, I just prepare to defend her if something happens -- and if often does -- where I feel she needs it, but otherwise I can appreciate it when anyone else plays well.

As I said in another comment, while I didn't want to see Azarenka lose, I enjoy watching Radwanska work so much that I really don't have any problems with Aga beating her here.

Leif -

Thanks. ;)

Hmmm, so you're saying that Aga might be creating followers and imitators who will use her as a role model years from now?

(pause)

Would that count as a potential new generation of Minions?

(pause)

Maybe Zidane is right about all this! :)

Wed Jan 22, 03:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

"State of Denial" is the new threat level :D

Wed Jan 22, 06:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

I know, I actually like aga but the fact that I went to Australia and saw vika lost in front of me pissed me off. At least I get some constellation that li is in the final again and has a great chance to win. Hehe.

Thu Jan 23, 04:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, I didn't know you were there, Jo. Oooh... so you got to see Redfoo's hair close up then?!

At least you got to have that experience, so that's something, right? :D

Thu Jan 23, 07:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Not close up, redfoo was pretty quiet. :)
I had been here before, saw last few matches of henin in 2011.

Last year went to French open, saw Maria, vika and Serena's matches. That was a treat.

Went to Wimbledon in 2010 and forgot who I saw. I remember seeing li played and possibly kvitova. Yes she beat caro handily that year , right?

But am going to watch tmr night roger and rafa. That is priceless.

My next stop I hope I can go NY some time.

Thu Jan 23, 08:18:00 AM EST  

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