Friday, August 29, 2014

US.5 - The Land of Opportunity

Whew! What was that? If I didn't know any better, while we didn't see a full-blown assault on the tennis senses on Day 5, I might think that on Friday we experienced a small attack of mini-Radwanskian proportions aimed at the bottom half of the women's draw, which maybe from here on out we should just refer to as "the land of opportunity."

After playing doubles with Serena into the night on Day 4, there was a legitimate question whether or not Venus Williams was going to be present and accounted for in her afternoon match against Sara Errani on Day 5. And, right on cue, at least at the start, she wasn't. Against a player who was 0-3 against her, having never won a set, the same sort of listless Venus we've sometimes seen the last few years -- both before and after her Sjogren's diagnosis -- dropped the 1st set at love. At love. It's just the eighth time that's ever happened in an opening set in Williams' career. She lost the other seven matches.

It didn't look as if history was going to repeat itself, though, as Williams took full control in the 2nd set, handing the Italian a bagel right back. She took a 5-3 lead and served for the match in the 3rd, only to see Errani battle back to get the break and force a deciding tie-break. Errani grabbed a mini-break in the TB at 2-0, and ultimately never trailed. Another successful drop shot that she'd utilized on the day against Venus, who couldn't get to the ball quickly enough to do anything with it, kept her a nose ahead of Williams at 3-2. Two holds put her up 5-2, but Williams wasn't going away. She held her two serves to close to 5-4, then got to one of Errani's drops and put away a crosscourt backhand winner to knot the TB at 5-5. The next point essentially decided the match.

With both players having chances to put away the point but being unable to do so, Errani saw her drop shot retrieved by Venus, who fired back a hard shot that Errani's reflex volley immediately rebounded across the net. Williams got that one back, too, but another volley from Errani produced a winner that gave her a match point. One point later, Errani hit a ball behind Williams in the backcourt to put away the match, winning a 7-5 tie-break to emerge the winner of a match with the very odd-looking scoreline of 6-0/0-6/7-6(5).

A year after exiting the U.S. Open in the 2nd Round with a cloud of self-doubt hanging over her head, as she questioned her desire to even go out on court for the first time in her career after a very stressful year of attempting to uphold her then-Top 5 ranking, the old Errani who gritted her way to the '12 Roland Garros final (and two more slam SF, including at the '12 Open) was back. Now ranked just outside the Top 10, Errani let loose with her Italian fire after her victory, wagging her index finger ("no, no, no") toward the stands and perhaps setting off a slew of upset alarms around the grounds.

Moments later, #2 seed Simona Halep, who'd blown a 5-2 lead and three set points in the 1st against qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and lost the opening stanza in an 8-6 tie-break, was hit off the court by the 32-year old, 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist, who won 7-6(6)/6-2.

Soon afterward, another of the teens who've flashed great promise over the course of the 2014 season, did so again. 17-year old Belinda Bencic took out #6-seeded Angelique Kerber 6-1/7-5, winning a late battle of nerves as she saved four set points and sent the German packing, too.

And with that, the bottom half of the draw now has a giant hole ripped in it, with just one Siberian-born thread holding together what was the original framework of just five days ago. Bencic will next face Jelena Jankovic, while Lucie Safarova and Peng Shuai will play, as well. From that group of four a semifinalist will emerge. Safarova just had her first career slam semi result at Wimbledon, while JJ hasn't penetrated that far into a slam since 2010, and not in New York since she reached the '08 final. Peng hasn't come close, while New Swiss Miss Bencic, naturally, hasn't ever been this far in a major until now.

For the other semifinal berth, it'll be the Errani/Lucic-Baroni winner against the survivor of the only real "marque" section of the draw remaining intact. Caroline Wozniacki and Andrea Petkovic are playing as I post this, and the winner there will get whoever wins the night match between Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki.

So, there's still at least one "big fish" named Maria alive who could ultimately produce a "likely" finalist in the bottom half. But if she goes out tonight, too, well, I think we'll have confirmation that a certain entity we know and "love" might just be having a fun New York holiday over the Labor Day weekend... and maybe got a little bored and needed something to do this afternoon.

...Lucic-Baroni is a step ahead of Aleksandra Krunic in the Last Qualifier Standing race, leading "in the clubhouse" with the advancement into the Round of 16 one day before the Serbian Good Luck Charm tries to do the same against, gulp, Petra Kvitova.

Of course, gulp, maybe it'll be Petra doing the gulping. How hot and humid is it supposed to be in NYC on Saturday, anyway?

...looks like The Rad, the Tennis Gods, the Kuznetsova Curse or something even more mysterious (?????) decided that there would be no Mladenovic Magic at this Open. After losing her 1st Round singles match to Kvitova, Kiki and Timea Babos were bounced in 1st Round of doubles by the Williams Sisters last night. Today, she and Daniel Nestor -- winners of two slam Mixed titles -- were upset in THEIR opening match by Chan Yung-Jan & Ross Hutchins.

At least the result gives Chan reason to stick around for the weekend, since she and her sister Hao-Ching were knocked out of the doubles today by Kimiko Date-Krumm & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova. Venus & Serena are the only all-sisters duo still in the draw, and they're also on the court at this very moment.

Cross that line, Vika! Go ahead, cross it!

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: The dress that makes it look like you're watching JJ through a chain link fence.

...SOMETHING TO ADMIRE FROM DAY 5: Italian passion.

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: That Twitter allows Sania to essentially wear a "digital message t-shirt" every day. You know, just like back in the old days when she was the original Backspin "It Girl" winner at the 2005 U.S. Open.

...THE SCARIEST SIGHT OF DAY 5: Hannah Storm AND LZ Granderson on air on the ESPN set... at the same time!


Poor Grigor. What did he do to deserve such shabby treatment? At least he'll have a horror story to recount to Maria later.

...SPARE HOPE FROM DAY 5: that the re-emergence of '99 SW19 semifinalist Lucic-Baroni will stoke the hopefully-still-slightly-burning embers regarding one more comeback from Jelena Dokic. Dokic broke out at the very same Wimbledon fifteen years ago, upsetting #1 Martina Hingis and barely looking back before losing in the QF to Alexandra Stevenson. A year later, at 17, she reached the semifinals at the All-England Club. She had talked as recently as less than a year ago about not being ready to give up on one more WTA run, but fitness issues and then another injury silenced her tennis. She hasn't been heard from since losing in Tennis Australia's Demember Australian Open Wild Card Playoff tournament and then dropping a 1st Round doubles match in Melbourne a few weeks later.

But maybe she's watching the U.S. Open, and it's making her think, "Hey, if she can do it, so can I."

..."EXACTLY," FROM DAY 4, 5 & any other time Varvara Lepchenko plays:

She plays Serena next... someone should tally up the total count.

...and, finally, we don't know what's going to happen in tonight's match featuring Sharapova and Lisicki, but after what happened during the daylight hours the Russian should be advised to watch her back.

101...Chris Evert
98...Jimmy Connors
89...Martina Navratilova
79...Andre Agassi
74...SERENA WILLIAMS (post-2nd Rd.)
73...Steffi Graf
73...Ivan Lendl
71...Pete Sampras
68...ROGER FEDERER (post-1st Rd

JAN: Ana Ivanovic, SRB
FEB: AUS Fed Cup Team
MAR: Martina Hingis, SUI
APR: Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
MAY: Sara Errani, ITA
RG: Andrea Petkovic, GER
WI: Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE (POM: Kvitova)
JUL: Andrea Petkovic, GER (POM: Wozniacki)
AUG: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
[2014 Weekly Comeback Award Wins]
7...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
4...Andrea Petkovic, GER
4...Heather Watson, GBR
3...Michaella Krajicek, NED
3...Tamira Paszek, AUT
3...Sloane Stephens, USA
2...Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2...Petra Cetkovska, CZE
2...Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2...Sara Errani, ITA
2...Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS

TOP QUALIFIER: #32q Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Duan Yingying/CHN d. Irena Pavlovic/FRA 6-3/1-6/7-6(5) [Pavlovic up 5-1 3rd, held MP]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - (WC) CiCi Bellis/USA d. #12 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 6-1/4-6/6-4 (Bellis world #1208)
FIRST WINNER: #4 Aga Radwanska/POL (def. S.Fichman/CAN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (lost to M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
REVELATION LADIES: United States (12 Bannerettes 2nd Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: France (1-5 in 1st Rd.; only win in Pastry-vs.-Pastry match-up)
CRASH & BURN: #12 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (AO runner-up; lost 1st Rd. to Bellis/USA, 15-year old in slam debut)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: A.Petkovic/GER (down 4-1 in 3rd vs. Puig in 2nd Rd.); S.Errani/ITA (V.Williams served 5-3 in 3rd in 3rd Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: A.Krunic/SRB, M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO(W)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Nicole Gibbs/USA (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: N.Gibbs, V.Lepchenko, S.Williams, V.Williams(L)
IT ("Girl"): CiCi Bellis/USA (15-year old Wild Card; youngest MD win since 1996 - Anna Kournikova)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO, C.Wozniacki/DEN, A.Petkovic/GER
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: B.Bencic/SUI, S.Errani/ITA, J.Jankovic/SRB
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: M.Sharapova/RUS, S.Williams/USA

All for now. More later.


Blogger Eric said...

Venus is really dragging today...

Fri Aug 29, 06:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

That's three matches in less than 24 hours for her. :(

Fri Aug 29, 06:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Well done Caroline. Positive, aggressive, good serves, good netplay, stronger forehand - yes Caroline 2.0 is up and running better and better. Time for a Carlsberg.

Fri Aug 29, 06:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Didn't think it would go by QUITE that quickly. Well done. :)

Fri Aug 29, 07:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Safarova and her lefty magic broke the the streak of even seeds losing.


Galileo - can't believe I forgot about Loit and Dechy...but we're still down by 2 lol.


Todd, your Captcha thing is SO HARD sometimes. LIke i'll go through 4 or 5 before I can read it.

Fri Aug 29, 10:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Eric - Parmentier.

Sat Aug 30, 12:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Also, considering the Van Uytvanck thing, they might also be counting Mladenovic's WTA 125 Challenger title, too.

Sat Aug 30, 01:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Lefty magic? Kvitova didn't have it.

Should be noted with Makarova and Safarova still alive, that their hasn't been a lefty win since Seles in 92, none have reached the finals since Seles in 96, and since Kvitova won Wimbledon, it should be mentioned that there have not been back to back slams won by different lefties since Seles and Navratilova won the French and Wimbledon in 1990.

If I am not mistaken, Kerber is the only lefty the past 10 years to even make the SF here.

Sat Aug 30, 05:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Toni Nadal had a stroke of genius when he got right-handed Rafa to play left-handed. There are such natural advantages in tennis.

I wonder if any female player has ever made that sort of switch when they were young?

Sat Aug 30, 06:57:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Penny said...

^^ Sabine Appelmans switched hands, I think. Although I don't think it was for tactical reasons. Rather she wanted to play in the same group as her friend, who was lefty.

Mon Sep 01, 06:50:00 AM EDT  

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