Wednesday, September 03, 2014

US.10 - Hey, Makarova

I suppose the reality was that her long, mostly match-free season was going to eventually catch up to Vika Azarenka in New York. Today it did, courtesy of Ekaterina Makarova.

While two-time U.S. Open finalist Azarenka came into her quarterfinal against the Russian while sporting a 34-3 record in hard court grand slams the last few seasons, and was riding a 16-2 stretch at Flushing Meadows only surpassed by Serena Williams' 18-0 march over the same span. After struggling to get through early round matches against Misaki Doi and Christina McHale, the Belarusian had hit her stride in the 3rd Round (vs. Makarova's doubles partner, Elena Vesnina) before barely escaping the upset clutches of qualifier Aleksandra Krunic two nights ago in maybe the best match of the tournament. Afterward, she awkwardly rankled some feathers -- or made herself seem more human, depending on your point of view -- with an off-tune rendition of "Happy Birthday, Gael" and a press conference that highlighted how athletes who've spent most of the last six months rehabbing injuries don't particularly want to dwell on it and all the pain and frustration they went through, you know, now that they're a bit healthier. It was all a combination of the joyful Azarenka and the snippy Vika, and it was the first time we've really seen it in 2014 since she's mostly been off tour. There was reason to think that the formerly #1-ranked player who used to always win while also courting controversy and challenging people to embrace her (or not), edges and all, for who she is, not who she isn't.

We may well be on the way to seeing that full-blown Azarenka again soon, or at least come 2015, but none of that mattered on Ashe against Makarova.

The Hordette's excellent ground game has led her to be able to pull off big wins in majors over the years, but following them up has always been the mental hurdle she's been unable to overcome. Hence, her failure to reach a slam semifinal, which she was playing to reach on Wednesday. Early on, her nerves showed. She played tight, double-faulting to give Azarenka a break point chance, then missing an easy forehand to fall behind 3-2. But Vika failed to take advantage of the situation, throwing in her own double-fault a game later and eventually giving the break back. As Makarova slowly picked up momentum, she seized the moments that Azarenka didn't.

After Azarenka failed to convert two break point chances in game #9 as the Russian held for 5-4, Makarova came back from a 40/15 deficit on the Belarusian's serve to reach break and set point a game later. A forehand error from Azarenka gave the set to Makarova, and put Vika in the position of having to battle back from a set down to win for a third time at this Open.

In the 2nd set, Azarenka held off a charging Makarova for as long as possible. She held after being down love/40, saving four BP in the second game of the set. A game later, the Russian opened with a double-fault, but saved a break point and held for 2-1. It was a key point in the match, as Azarenka had failed to grab an early lead and now her position with her back against the wall for the rest of the set was an even more precarious one. She saved two more BP in game #4 (making Makarova 0-for-6 in the set) to hold for 2-2, but two games later wasn't so lucky (maybe the Serbian Good Luck Charm stole it?). Down break point, Vika's shot off the net cord bounced out and she was broken for 4-2. After seemingly holding something in all match (apparently, she suffered some food poisoning Monday night... seriously, though, why are you eating sushi during a slam?), Azarenka destroyed a racket in a fit of anger.

It didn't help.

Makarova held for 5-2, as the Russian more than looked ready to finally add her name to the list of Hordettes with slam semifinals to their credit. A backhand winner put her up 40/15 on Azarenka's serve, giving her double match point. It was soon over, with the Hordette winning 6-4/6-2 and the "Macarena" song blasting throughout Arthur Ashe Stadium. (Hmmm, Makarova... Macarena. "Genie in a Bottle." "Sweet Caroline." I think someone working the Ashe sound system has been Googling song titles.)

Having not shown any cracks at this Open, Makarova survives as the only remaining Russian who can celebrate the tenth anniversary of Svetlana Kuznetsova's U.S. Open title run with one of her own (Wouldn't that just be the way of the Tennis Gods and/or the Kuznetsova Curse? A Russian DOES win, just not Sveta.). She's already beaten title favorite and potential SF opponent Serena Williams in a slam, and even bested TWO Williams sisters at this very Open in doubles. So far, the Russian has yet to lose a set in singles to anyone at this Open.

Meanwhile Azarenka, who took a "no excuses" line afterward and talked of not knowing two months ago if she'd even be able to play in New York, can take this QF result, try to build on it in the closing months of '14 and, you know, maybe keep the singing to a minimum. Or not.

Whatever feels right, I suppose. It's just nice to have her back.

...the Women's Doubles semifinalists are now set with Kimiko Date-Krumm & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova advancing today over Andrea Hlavackova & Zheng Jie. KDK, 43, is looking to become the oldest slam champion since a 49-year old Martina Navratilova won the U.S. Open Mixed in 2006. Mixed Doubles, Abigail Spears & Santiago Gonzalez advanced to the final, defeating wild cards Taylor Townsend & Donald Young. They'll face either #1-seeded Sania Mirza & Bruno Soares or Chan Yung-Jan & Ross Hutchins, who play in the late afternoon. Mirza is the only woman still alive in both the doubles and the mixed. Flavia Pennetta and Makarova are alive in singles and women's doubles.

...2013 U.S. Open girls finalist Tornado Black advanced to the junior Round of 16, joining three other Bannerettes there (as well as a Canadian, as the North American bump continues). There are five American boys remaining in the final sixteen.

The draw for the inaugural Billie Jean King American Collegiate Invitational held this week in Flushing Meadows is out.

...meanwhile, as the search for a legitimate 2014 "Ms.Backspin" continues, as I compiled this season's past Fed Cup awards (listed below), another real contender emerged. Twice this season my overall MVP on a Fed Cup weekend has been a German, as the team has advanced to the FC final for the first time since the Graf era. I've been considering the powerful Czech squad, if another FC title were to go in their column, as a real "Ms.B" threat, but wasn't sure about Germany's viability were it to go the other way. But after remembering the MVP sweep, well, if Germany were to pull off the win I can see the team "throwing a pajama party" to celebrate a Fed Cup win AND co-"Ms.Backspin" honors.

The last Fed Cup champs to also win the Backspin POY award were the Italians in 2009.

It wasn't ALL bad today.

...LIKE FROM DAY 10: Captain Picard is in the house. Or, if your prefer, Professor Xavier. Or maybe Ebenezer Scrooge, or Macbeth. To each their own.

..."AH, NOW I SEE WHY AnaIvo HAS SO MANY COACHES" FROM DAY 10: "You're fired!"

...LIKE ...or not? FROM DAY 10: Speaking of coaches, it SHOULDN'T be noteworthy that Makarova has a female coach, but I guess it is.



...SUGGESTION FROM DAY 10: How about they just play let serves and eliminate the argument? Simple.

..."ASK MONFILS #2" FROM DAY 10: What about being a better singer? THAT'S what inquiring minds want to know!

..."ANSWER MONFILS #2" FROM DAY 10: Dance off, anyone? (Hmmm, on second thought, maybe not.)

...SANIA ♥ NYC FROM DAY 10: Hmmm, nine years after being the original "It Girl," Mirza's still has "it" in Flushing Meadows. Two semifinals, and maybe better.

...THE REAL REASON PAVLYUCHENKOVA UNDERACHIEVES??? FROM DAY 10: ?My new hitting partner. But I hear he's got quite a drop shot.

...HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF ON DAY 10?: Can Flavia Pennetta become a cool queen of the New York night? Hmmm, I seem to remember another time she was at the center of a memorable night match at the Open. In the 2009 Round of 16, the Italian saved six match points in the 2nd set against Vera Zvonareva, then went on to win the 3rd set at love while Zvonareva was ripping tape off her legs, slapping her knee while sitting on the court, slamming her racket into the net post, burying her head in a towel and exclaiming, "I hate this crowd" as she walked off the court in defeat.

Of course, that run at the '09 Open ended with a QF loss to Serena Williams. So there's that.

...and, finally, just how good are the odds that the Novak Djokovic/Andy Murray match tonight breaks the record for the latest-ending match in U.S. Open history? Target time: 2:27 a.m. Though I suppose it might come down to how long the Williams/Pennetta match takes to complete. A three-setter there and a record may fall in the early morning hours.

#1 Serena Williams/USA or #11 Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. #17 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
Peng Shuai/CHN vs. #10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #8 Andy Murray/GBR
#3 Stan Wawrinka/SUI vs. #10 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#6 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. #14 Marin Cilin/CRO
#20 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

Hingis/Pennetta (SUI/ITA) vs. #3 C.Black/Mirza (ZIM/IND)
#4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) vs. Date-Krumm/Zahlavova-Strycova (JPN/CZE)

#1 B.Bryan/M.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Lipsky/R.Ram (USA/USA) vs. #12 Butorac/Klaasen (USA/RSA)
Berlocq/L.Mayer (ARG/ARG) or #4 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) vs. #11 Granollers-Pujols/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP)

#1 Mirza/Soares (IND/BRA) or YJ.Chan/Hutchins (TPE/GBR) vs. Spears/S.Gonzalez (USA/MEX)

Natalia Vikhlyantseva/RUS vs. Greetje Minnen/BEL
Katerina Stewart/USA vs. Anna Bondar/HUN
#3 Iryna Shymanovich/BLR vs. Katherine Sebov/CAN
#9 Anhelina Kalinina/UKR vs. #7 Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov/ESP
#6 Jil Teichmann/SUI vs. Caroline Dolehide/USA
Vera Lapko/BLR vs. #4 Tornado Alicia Black/USA
Raveena Kingsley/USA vs. #11 Anna Kalinskaya/RUS
#16 Olga Fridman/UKR vs. Marie Bouzkova/CZE

#1 Andrey Rublev/RUS vs. #14 Taylor Harry Fritz/USA
#9 Marcelo Zormann/BRA vs. #6 Francis Tiafoe/USA
#4 Stefan Kozlov/USA vs. Seong-chan Hong/KOR
Alexander Bublik/RUS vs. #5 Quentin Halys/FRA
#7 Duckhee Lee/KOR vs. Henrik Wiersholm/USA
Omar Jasika/AUS vs. #3 Jared Donaldson/USA
#8 Roman Safiullin/RUS vs. Mikael Ymer/SWE
Matteo Berrettini/ITA vs. Jan Choinski/GER

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x

#1 Jamie Loeb/USA vs. Jennifer Brady/USA
Danielle Rose Collins/USA vs. Olivia Janowicz/USA
Julia Elbaba/USA vs. Alexandra Cercone/USA
Kristie Ahn/USA vs. #2 Hayley Carter/USA

#1 Marcos Giron/USA vs. Raymond Sarmiento (USA)
Mackenzie McDonald/USA vs. Alexander Sarkissian/USA
Peter Kobelt/USA vs. Gregory S. Andrews/USA
Jared Hiltzik/USA vs. #2 Clay Thompson/USA

2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Justine Henin, BEL (W)
2008 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS (W)
2012 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2013 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2014 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
AO: Li Na, CHN (W)
RG: Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
WI: Petra Kvitova, CZE (W)
US: Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
(W) - won title

Unseeded - 2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
Unseeded - 2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Unseeded - 2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
Unseeded - 2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
Unseeded - 2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
Wild Card - 2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic,SRB
#17 - Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
#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
#10 - 2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
NOTE: #11 Pennetta to play QF

2004 Elena Dementieva (RU), Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2005 Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova
2006 Maria Sharapova (W)
2007 Anna Chakvetadze, Svetlana Kuznetsova (RU)
2008 Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina
2010 Vera Zvonareva (RU)
2012 Maria Sharapova
2014 Ekaterina Makarova

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
2014 Peng Shuai, CHN
AO: Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
RG: Simona Halep, ROU
WI: Lucie Safarova, CZE
US: Peng Shuai, CHN

2010 Venus Williams, USA
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Serena Williams, USA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Victoria Azarenka, BLR

2010 Vania King, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 "Future Sloane" (Stephens), USA
2013 Camila Giorgi, ITA
2014 Belinda Bencic, SUI

[Week 6]
OVERALL MVP: Andrea Petkovic, GER
RISER: Angelique Kerber, GER
SURPRISE: Lyudmyla Kichenok/Olga Savchuk, UKR
VETERAN: Andrea Hlavackova/Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, CZE
COMEBACK: Casey Dellacqua, AUS
FRESH FACE: Belinda Bencic, SUI
DOWN: SVK Fed Cup Team
[Week 16]
OVERALL MVP: Angelique Kerber, GER
RISER: Aga Radwanska, POL
SURPRISE: Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
VETERAN: Andrea Petkovic, GER
FRESH FACE: Caroline Garcia, FRA
DOWN: SRB Fed Cup Team

TOP QUALIFIER: #32q Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #17 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
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)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #16 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. (Q) Aleksandra Krunic/SRB 4-6/6-4/6-4
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: Nominee: 4th Rd. - #16 V.Azarenka d. (Q) A.Krunic 4-6/6-4/6-4
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: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO (in Round of 16 for first time in 15 years, after family's abusive background<)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Aleksandra Krunic/SRB & Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO (both 4th Rd.)
IT ("Girl"): CiCi Bellis/USA (15-year old Wild Card; youngest MD win since 1996 - Anna Kournikova)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
LADY OF THE EVENING: Victoria Azarenka/BLR
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: S.Mirza/IND, A.Spears/USA, YJ.Chan/TPE, Hingis/Pennetta, Date-Krumm/Zahlavova-Strycova

All for now. More later.


Blogger Zidane said...

If Pennetta wins tonight, there would be no top 10 seeds in the semifinals. Does anybody know if it ever happened before at the Open or in any major?

Wed Sep 03, 06:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Meant single-digit seeds.

Wed Sep 03, 06:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Nope, never. I couldn't find any in the Open era. Not even at the AO in the 1970's. There have been a few with just one single-digit, including last year's Wimbledon being the last time. but none with zero.

Wed Sep 03, 06:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

well, eating sushi was plain stupid. not seizing the opportunities in first set came biting vika back. she had a chance but didn't take it. but makarova's form was much better, good ground strokes and great serving. just hope she doesn't choke against williams.

Wed Sep 03, 09:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I'm partially in favor of doing away with let serve calls. For net interference, I think, yes, do away with them. But for other interference, I think they should definitely be kept. In fact, I think a lot more of them (like crowd yelling) should be called by the umpires.

Wed Sep 03, 10:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yes, there's really no reason not to play let serves off the net cord, especially since the little device the umpires have that goes off is apparently as untrustworthy as the ESPN crew was saying during the Makarova/Azarenka match (the person with their finger on the net was more accurate). During the round-about during the match about whether or not a serve clipped the net or not, I kept waiting for someone to say they should just play them. Never happened, though.

Thu Sep 04, 01:32:00 AM EDT  

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