Tuesday, January 21, 2014

AO 9 - Seeing is Believing... and Beliebing


Even winning a grand slam doesn't answer all future questions. Nor does it prevent wants and unrealized desires from dotting the landscape of a player's career. On Day 9, two players who have lifted grand slam trophies in the past went about attempting to take another hard-won step toward claiming a second. Nothing comes easily or quickly (at least not for very long) on the WTA tour, and Li Na and Ana Ivanovic are living proof of it.

Genie Bouchard, though, might just be the exception that proves the rule.

In the first women's QF of the day, a pair of 31-year olds -- Li Na and Flavia Pennetta -- faced off for the first time in four years. When questioned about the match-up the other day, Li, as only she could, made a point to note to reporters that she was actually one day younger than her Italian opponent. When asked if she was sure, Li smiled and said she was certain that she was.

And, sure enough, she was correct. Li was born on February 26, 1982, while her more senior colleague Pennetta came into the world on February 25, 1982. Not that we should be surprised that Li was correct and on top of things, especially in this tournament. Over the years, the sometimes-inconsistent (but not quite as much since latching on with coach Carlos Rodriguez) Chinese vet has shined more consistently in Melbourne than at any other slam. She became the first Asian woman to reach a slam final at the AO in 2011, and last year she reached another.

But for all that Li has done well Down Under over the years (and, annually, in January -- the three season-opening week titles she's won in her career are more than any other active player, and make up nearly 40% of her career title total), she's never been an Australian Open champion. Oddly enough, the one slam she HAS won came in Paris, on the red clay that has never been her best or most-favored surface.

Still, Li's charm and sense of humor have won her legions of fans, and that's not even counting the billions who follow her career back home in China. While, with the Asian tennis and cultural boom around the world, Li has become one of the most important and influential athletes on the planet, it never really shows. Every interview she gives is a joy, and nearly every anecdote about her elicits a smile. She cracks jokes. She cracks on her husband (actually Jiang Shan, but whose name "Dennis" was chosen by him because it rhymes with "tennis") on open microphones in front of thousands of people. She even cracks the back of her head on the hard court surface of Rod Laver Arena -- as she did in a fall in last year's AO final, a match that she seemed fully capable of winning before a series of stumbles (literally) -- and still manages a smile as the doctors are asking her to focus her eyes on a finger so that they can check her for a concussion.

But, still, the "unfinished business" in Melbourne lingers.



Against Pennetta, who came back from career-threatening wrist surgery last year to reach her first career slam semifinal at the U.S. Open, Li had an opponent without any tangible demon to slay. Rightly so, she didn't have any expectation that her latest comeback would prove to be so successful, having been ranked outside the Top 80 heading into Flushing Meadows last summer. But, Italian to the core, the well-liked Pennetta is bound and determined to enjoy the ride, wherever it takes her.

On Day 9, it turned out to be a short ride for Flavia. Apparently, the single day in Li's favor made all the difference.

Coming off a brilliant takedown of Ekaterina Makarova in the Round of 16, Li maintained her momentum into today's match. After having closed out the Russian with a love 2nd set two days ago, Li jumped to a three-break lead at 5-0 against Pennetta. Serving for the set, she held two set points, only to see Pennetta get on the board with a break to end Li's 14-game winning streak. Saving face, the Italian held serve a game later before Li held at love to take the 1st set 6-2.

It was the same story in the 2nd, as Li once more raced to a multi-break lead at 4-0. Again, Pennetta surged late to "clean up" the scoreline. Fortunate to have not been double-bageled, Pennetta was soon shaking Li's hand at the net at the end of their 6-2/6-2 match. In all, while Li had twenty-three winners in the match's sixteen games, Pennetta's game was pulled down by twenty-seven unforced errors.

Hard as it is to believe now, Li was very nearly out of this tournament in the 3rd Round. Against Lucie Safarova, Li was down match point against the Czech. She saved that MP... and has since won 32 of 41 total games against three opponents. In her fourth Australian Open semifinal in the last five years, Li again finds an elusive second major title within sight. If she can keep her feet, even more so than her head, she just might get to wrap her hands around that title, too.



If she does, well, it just might be the moment that will put a smile on more faces than any other in the history of tennis. But, as always, win or lose, the best smile would belong to the Chinese vet herself.

Hey, she's Li Na... she's just built that way.



Maybe in another life, Eugenie Bouchard was a legendary tennis champion, a groundbreaking captain of industry, or maybe even an historic world leader. Whatever the secret might be to her natural composure and right-headed attitude regarding what it takes to become a success, she seems to have an inherent edge over many of her counterparts who, even after years of effort, still haven't quite learned how to get it right. It's a trait that could soon prove to be something that spins into existence something that we've never seen before -- a Canadian who lifts grand slam singles trophies.

In our current reality, Bouchard, like Pennetta, also sports a birthday -- February 25th -- that is one day earlier on the calendar than Li's, only the Canadian was born almost twelve full years later, in 1994. Over the past eighteen months, she's seen fit to take the first steps toward making a mockery of the easy-as-it-goes climbing of the WTA ladder. In a era in which teenagers, with both physical and tour-sanctioned playing limits holding them back in the early stages of their careers, aren't "supposed" to resemble the rocket-like projectiles that formerly shot up the WTA rankings right from the moment they stepped on the court as a professional, Bouchard has managed to do just that over the last eighteen months.

In 2012, she was the junior Wimbledon champ. One year ago, she failed to make it through qualifying in Melbourne, but then returned to London during the summer and reached the 3rd Round of the Ladies' draw. By the end of her first full season on tour, the 19-year old was in the Top 40 as the highest-ranked teenager in the world, and was named the WTA's "Newcomer of the Year." At this Australian Open, armed with a favorable draw as the #30 seed, and positioned in almost the identical place that a then-19-year old Sloane Stephens made a surprise semifinal run in Melbourne a year ago, Bouchard found herself in position on Day 9 to follow her North American counterpart into a slam final four while playing in just her fourth career main draw at a major.

Her opponent was Ana Ivanovic, a woman who knows a little about winning at a young age.

AnaIvo recognizes the terrain of the road that Bouchard is currently walking, or will likely tread in the very near future. The Serb traveled along the same potential-laden, pressure-packed, expectation-loaded trail some six years ago. She didn't like it much. In fact, a case can be made that the worst thing that ever happened to the Serb's career was that she won Roland Garros and rose to the #1 ranking at age 20 in 2008 (courtesy of then-#1's Justine Henin's surprise first retirement).

Before that point, AnaIvo had reached a pair of slam finals and was progressing naturally up the WTA ranks. Henin's retirement opened up the race for the #1 ranking, and Ivanovic and fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic played a semifinal match at Roland Garros that would determine which would assume the top position in the sport. At the time, Ivanovic's inner circle didn't tell her the additional stakes of the match. It turned out to be a warning sign. Without the prior knowledge of the situation, Ivanovic won the semifinal, and then went on to defeat a never-really-ready-for-primetime Dinara Safina in the RG final to become the top player in the sport.

And, really, nothing went much well after that.

Oh, Ivanovic's talent kept her from falling away completely, but her #1 ranking, slam title and all the attention and pressure that came with it served more as an anchor to her career than a balloon that lifted her confidence to even greater heights. AnaIvo had won six titles before winning RG, but only claimed one in '08 after winning in Paris. By the end of the year, Jankovic had passed her to take the year-end #1 ranking. It'd be two years before Ivanovic would win another title of any kind, as she fell out of the Top 20 amid a string of coaching changes, in-match collapses and head-shaking losses on big stages. From 2011-13, she won just one title.

It was reasonable to question whether she'd ever get back to where she once was. But, to her credit, Ivanovic never stopped trying. She's still not there yet, but she came to Melbourne after having opened her season with a Week 1 title in Auckland, and her QF run at this AO is just her second at a slam since she won RG six years ago. In the 3rd Round, she showed admirable nerves in downing Sam Stosur in front of an Aussie crowd under the lights on Laver, and then followed it up with her first career victory over Serena Williams in the Round of 16. In both matches, she sported the sort of forehand that rekindled dreams are made of.

Playing against Bouchard, though, who'd beaten her last year at Wimbledon, was another kind of pressure. As the #14-seed, following her win over odds-on AO favorite Williams, Ivanovic was now the favorite herself, playing against a preternaturally composed teen with nothing to lose, but with an attitude that doesn't simply accept any loss as inevitable. For the Serb, a comeback was no longer a whimsical fantasy. It was real. And she was one win away from throwing herself right back into the fire in which she'd been burned so badly before. How she reacted might reveal the direction of the rest of her career.

The opening set was divided into two distinct parts. The first half was about Ivanovic and Bouchard serving big and pounding groundstrokes. While AnaIvo showed no signs of reverting to post-2008 form, Bouchard showed no evidence whatsoever that she was feeling nervous -- at least on the outside -- about playing in her first major quarterfinal. Half-way through the set, both players began to have trouble holding serve. At 5-4, with Ivanovic serving for the set, a long Bouchard shot was called in, but Ivanovic played the ball, lost the point, and was no longer able to call for a replay challenge. Despite an attempt by Ivanovic to wield influence, the chair umpire would not overrule the rather obviously wrong call, either. The Serb was broken for 5-5.

But just as happened against Stosur when Ivanovic lost a downpour-interrupted point and unsuccessfully tried to get the umpire to allow it to be replayed, AnaIvo came back strong. In the past few years, she likely would have folded up and gone home. But not here. Instead, she broke Bouchard at love -- the set's fifth straight break of serve -- and then quickly raced to a 40/love lead on serve. Ivanovic held for 7-5.

Then, once more, an injury threw an AO match a curve ball.

After Ivanovic had advanced past Williams while the American was dealing with a back injury (and Maria Sharapova's movement was hampered by an injured hip in her loss, as well), Ivanovic's own ailing body reared its head in the 2nd set. Still, her and Bouchard's stats remained remarkably similar, with the Serb taking advantage in just one category (2nd serve points won, as, just as she had against Stosur and Williams, AnaIvo was aggressively tagging serves for winners or rally-controlling starting points every chance she got). Still, it was Bouchard who earned the early break for 3-1. At 4-2, Ivanovic put in a call for a trainer to look at a hip injury. After she managed to break Bouchard to get back on serve, AnaIvo went off for a seven-minute session with a trainer.

A year ago, another 19-yead old North American failed to emerge from such a break in Melbourne with any sense of the moment, and then she quickly succumbed to it by losing the mental/heart battle before a ball had been struck after the delay. That wasn't the case with Bouchard. She upped her aggression when Ivanovic returned, taking a quick 40/love lead on the Serb's serve and breaking her for 5-3. The Canadian's point was taken, but her advantage didn't last long. Allowing a few errors to creep into her game, Bouchard was broken a game later. After back-to-back holds, Bouchard edged ahead in game #12, reaching set point. When Ivanovic double-faulted, the Canadian won 7-5 and the match was even.

While Ivanovic's movement may have been slightly influenced by the injury, it didn't play so big a part in the outcome that it could be blamed for the result. No, Bouchard has to take the lion's credit there, for with the first real opportunity of her career in front of her, the steady Canadian grasped it with both hands. Again, she got an early break and led 3-1, and then, feeling the moment in every good way that she could, she poured it on and very nearly pulled off another break for 5-1, twice getting to break point before Ivanovic held for 4-2. But in the closing moments, it was the youngster who held firm. After the Serb failed to put away a volley into the open court, Bouchard took a 40/love lead and held for 5-2. One game later, on (naturally) what would be the only match point she'd need, Bouchard moved forward during the final rally of the match, whacked a pair of forehands to opposite corners of the court. The second turned out to be a clean winner, closing out the 5-7/7-5/6-2 match and finally allowing the composed Canadian to express her joy.



So, Ivanovic, having played well enough to not feel as if she squandered a big opportunity, can leave Melbourne with her head held high and a return to the Top 10 squarely in her sights. But it's Bouchard who moves onward, with Genie's Army in tow, into her first career slam semifinal a month before she says goodbye to her teenage years.

But, no matter how mature she may appear on the court, she IS still a teenager. She finally let down her guard long enough to prove it during her post-match interview. While this AO's on-court questioning has seemed more (overly) personal at times this AO, it has produced a few memorable moments. While none will top Novak Djokovic's impersonation of coach Boris Becker, Bouchard's answer to a Twitter question about what person in the world she'd date if she could will likely stick to her for longer than she probably intended. After pausing to come up with an answer to the question, she finally covered her face and said Justin Bieber (a fellow Canadian who, by the way, she lists in her tour bio as one of her favorite singers). The crowd on Laver both laughed and groaned at the same time. It might have been Bouchard's only (half) misstep the entire day!

Oh, well. She still got a stuffed wombat (to go along with a kangaroo and koala) for her few troubles from her traveling band of fans in the stands, and has now officially staked her claim to being the best young player on tour. Maybe even better yet, her focused, business-like attitude about her game and career -- think some amalgam of the cool-headed Evert and stoic Graf -- stand in stark contrast to many of the young players who've recently come into prominence. The confident Bouchard seems well-equipped to handle what she's about to experience. Her coach, Nick Saviano, says she likes the spotlight of the big stage, and it was obvious in today's match that she's comfortable enough there that she won't be devoured by it.

Li will still be the favorite when the two meet in the semifinals, but the Chinese vet had better make sure she maintains the high level of play she's had in her last two matches. If not, Bouchard will be more than happy to take a chance on a final four berth not necessarily being something that she's satisfied with in this her very first appearance in an Australian Open main draw.

After the way she handled her business today, it's easy to be a believer in, well, the belieber.



=DAY 9 NOTES=
...hmmm, not a whole lot else to include in this section, but I'll cover as many bases as possible.

Two more #1 seeds fell in Melbourne on Day 9, as the top-seeded Mixed Doubles team of Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Alejandro Peya lost to Zheng Jie & Scott Lipsky, and girls #1 Varvara Flink of Russia fell to Bannerette Olivia Haugher in the 2nd Round.

Elsewhere in the juniors, Croat Jana Fett, playing like a Jedi master, took out #5-seeded Xu Shilin of China, 3-6/6-4/7-5.

...in Awards news, Bouchard picks up the "It [Teen]" award for this AO, adding it to the "Junior Breakout" (Wimbledon '12) and "Zombie Queen" [Wimbledon '13] honors she'd already collected before her 20th birthday. She's operating waaaay ahead of the curve now.

If Ivanovic or Pennetta had won today, they'd have wrapped up the "Comeback" award. Pennetta won it last season's U.S. Open, so AnaIvo is still the leader in the clubhouse for selection. But it's now been opened up to some of the doubles stars, too, such as the re-teamed duo of Peschke/Srebotnik. Of course, if all else fails, I suppose I could take the unconventional route and go with "The Kuznetsova Curse."


...one year ago..."Veni, Vedi, Vika":




...DAY 9 "THE CURRENT STUDY IN PROGRESS INVOLVES...":

--
seeing whether or not Bouchard gets any of the "Sloane treatment" on ESPN2. She's not American, but she's Canadian (and that's close enough -- ha!). She's an easy-to-like personality with what seems like a great future, and the ESPN commentators can actually say her name without making fun of not being able to say her name. There could be a real rooting interest there for U.S. viewers -- who are already used to not being able to tell the difference between American and Canadian actors in television and movies, not to mention in the news and politics. I mean, come on, could the mayor of Toronto be more "American-like" without, say, donning a red, white and blue headband or something? (And this is coming from someone who grew up watching the shenanigans of a string of mayors in Washington, D.C.!)

Thing is, and you could sort of read between the lines tonight as Chris Evert & Co. talked about all the composure, maturity (well, aside from the Bieber comment, maybe) and knows-what-she-wants-and-how-to-get-it qualities that Bouchard shows. It sort of went without saying that hardly any of Bouchard's best qualities also apply to Stephens at the moment, though no one would actually say it (you could see it their faces that they realized it, though).

Team Genie vs. Team Sloane. I guess this gives TG the win for this AO, meaning the Canadian leads the Backspin week-by-week Backspin standings for 2014:

2-0-1 - Team Genie
0-2-1 - Team Sloane


...and, finally, glory be... could it be???? A night session without a women's match that goes deep into the night???

Ah... small favors.




=WOMEN'S SINGLES QF=
#30 Eugenie Bouchard/CAN def. #14 Ana Ivanovic/SRB
#4 Li Na/CHN def. #28 Flavia Pennetta/ITA
#11 Simona Halep/ROU vs. #20 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
#5 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL vs. #2 Victoria Azarenka/BLR

=MEN'S SINGLES QF=
#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #22 Grigor Dimitrov/BUL
#4 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #6 Roger Federer/SUI
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE def. #3 David Ferrer/ESP
#8 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI vs. #2 Novak Djokovic/SRB

=WOMEN'S DOUBLES QF=
#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) def. #6 Black/Mirza (ZIM/IND)
#4 Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO) vs. Gajdosova/Tomljanovic (AUS/CRO)
#3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) def. #7 Hlavackova/Safarova (CZE/CZE)
#8 Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) def. Peer/Soler-Espinosa (ISR/ESP)

=MEN'S DOUBLES QF=
Butorac/Klaasen (USA/RSA) def. Huey/Inglot (PHI/GBR)
Bolt/Whittington (AUS/AUS) vs. #8 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)
Mirnyi/Youzhny (BLR/RUS) vs. #14 Kubot/Lindstedt (POL/SWE)
#5 Paes/Stepanek (IND/CZE) vs. #13 Llodra/Mahut (FRA/FRA)

=MIXED DOUBLES QF=
J.Zheng/Lipsky (CHN/USA) vs. #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)




*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
#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
==
NOTE: #11 Halep & #20 Cibulkova to play in QF

*AO "IT" PLAYER WINNERS*
2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Shahar Peer, ISR
2008 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2009 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2010 Maria Kirilenko, RUS
2011 An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (jr.)
2012 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2013 [Fortysomething] Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
2014 [Teen] Eugenie Bouchard, CAN




TOP QUALIFIER: Belinda Bencic/SUI
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
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): Nominee: 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, S.Halep
IT (Teen): Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: A.Ivanovic, Peschke/Srebotnik
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, V.Azarenka
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: J.Gajdosova, A.Hlavackova, K.Srebotnik, S.Mirza, Kops-Jones/Spears
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx




All for Day 9. More tomorrow.

13 Comments:

Blogger Zidane said...

And now, Djokovic also fell to combat, breaking his nice straight-slam-semifinal streak. This is a very unusual - and exciting - Slam.

Tue Jan 21, 11:06:00 AM EST  
Blogger Karen Williams said...

I would love a Bouchard/Halep final, if only to sock it to the ATP that this is where the future of tennis lives, in its young ones. Had enough of the 4 top guys hogging all the points & acting like no one else deserves a chance

Tue Jan 21, 03:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey Karen! Haven't heard from you in a while! :)

Of course, to break out the old chestnut, when the ATP always has the same finalists it means it's a "golden age" of tennis. When the same happens with the WTA it means that only a few players are really all that good. ;)

Tue Jan 21, 04:52:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Well, a Jerzy or a Grigor or a Milos is going to have to step in and take it. So far, not. But I like their potential. Or hey--maybe a Roger?!

Tue Jan 21, 07:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Or even a Scot?

Tue Jan 21, 07:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Oh, I think he's going to stay at the top. I'm all into the Murray-Lendl thing. Lendl, as it turns out, is a good coach. But I wonder if all of the former greats are good coaches. History doesn't speak in favor of good players having coaching skills.

Tue Jan 21, 08:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, but with Lendl being so detail-oriented and such a game-changing player in his era, as far his training, etc. I suppose he should have been seen as potentially a good coach.

On the other hand, more self-centered players whose game revolved around their personal competitive spirit, like Connors, haven't been as good. Not surprising, I guess. John McEnroe wasn't crazy enough to even try... thank goodness for that. :)

It's partially because of that that I wonder how good a fit Becker is going to be with Djokovic. Not a good start, either.

Tue Jan 21, 09:11:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Ain't tennis great - you never know 100%. Congrats to Aga for a wonderful 3rd set - now I hope that I can get a chance to see all the match later today - and yes i fell asleep after the Cibulkova match which was great too. Wonder if we will see a final between Aga and Genie that could be really grreat - or what do you think Todd? A bit scary maybe.

Tue Jan 21, 10:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Classic Radwanska. As in Aga, not "The."

Really, she's such an exciting, and head-shakingly fascinating player to watch that I can't even feel bad about Vika going out. I mean, I get to see at least one more Radwanska match this week and, really, that's almost like getting an extra, unexpected episode of your favorite television show. :)

Genie would be fun (in some ways, it would be a slam run not seen on tour since, probably, Sharapova, at 17, just took off all at once and reached the Wimbledon final in '04), but it's hard for me to not want to see Li get another shot at the AO title.

Either way, it's going to be a final that no one saw coming.

Tue Jan 21, 11:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

As hard as you try to deny the presence of The Radwanska in this tournament, Pavlyuenchenkova getting physical troubles after winning the first set against Aga, Serena losing early, Sharapova losing early, Djokovic losing early and now Aga beating one of her main nemeses, this is The Rad signature to me.

I'm not getting out from under my bed until Saturday.

Wed Jan 22, 01:18:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

It is unreal. Halep didn't get into the match and so did vika. I feel that when Serena lost, the land of opportunity opened up with Everyone believing she can win. Amazing. I do feel sad the vika couldn't do it a third time. But hell I hope li will finally take it. But by what has happened in AO so far.... Nothing can be sure. (I have a theory , if Serena is still in vika will be too). ;)

Wed Jan 22, 05:14:00 AM EST  
Blogger Karen Williams said...

Hey Todd, I am around. Just getting caught up in life. I have been ranting and raving over at my blog this AO. Congrats to Aga on her big win last night but has there ever been a player as hated as Azarenka? You would think that she is Serena for all the vitriol that gets thrown at her. Damn

Wed Jan 22, 12:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Karen-

Hmmm, at times, Henin was "public enemy #1" when she was at the top. Of course, I became a great fan. Going back even more, Irina Spirlea was the focus of a lot of dislike, which she sort of brought on herself. I kind of liked her, too.

I sense a pattern here. :D

Wed Jan 22, 03:39:00 PM EST  

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