Wednesday, January 21, 2015

AO 3 - Righteous Russians Rock the Rod

You just never know when a slam is potentially going to turn on a single moment. But we might very well have seen such an instance on Day 3.

One year after Lucie Safarova failed to convert a match point against Li Na in the 3rd Round, then saw the Chinese woman go on to win the title, Alexandrova Panova did the Czech one better against her fellow Russian in their 2nd Round matchup today. She had TWO match points against #2 seed Maria Sharapova.

But, wouldn't you know it, that was the moment when Sharapova had Panova just where she wanted her.

Really, coming into today, Sharapova didn't seem ripe to have to fend off an upset bid. Not at all. One of the favorites to win the tournament, and not just because of name recognition this time around, Sharapova arrived in Melbourne having played fantastically in Brisbane. Rarely has she ever looked quite so in form this early in the season. At least not since her second, post-shoulder surgery career. Not only that, but she was facing off against a Russian, and Sharapova has dominated her fellow Hordettes over the years, including having lost just one match (vs. Anatastasia Pavlyuchenkova last season) in her last twenty-two all-Russian face-offs, and sporting a 29-2 mark (w/ a loss to Elena Vesnina in '10) in her last thirty-one. But it didn't end there. Panova, a qualifier, is ranked #150, and Sharapova was been taken out by a player ranked outside the Top 100 just once (Michelle Larcher de Brito, Wimbledon '13) in the last forty-one months. She won the 1st set, too. By a 6-1 score, and it wasn't a fluke. She did it convincingly.

Panova showed a good serve and a whole lot of heart in this one, two things we've seen from her in the past in easily her most famous match before this one, in her tooth-and-nail battle with Roberta Vinci in the 2013 Fed Cup final, a dramatic clash that immediately put itself into the Match of the Year conversation even while it was one of the final matches actually played that year.

Thing is, Panova lost that day despite serving for the match three times, and holding four match points.

Flashforward to today and it looked like Panova was finally going to be the star. When Sharapova's game suddenly lost it's timing, Panova took the chance and ran with it in the 2nd set. An early break gave her a 3-1 lead, then Sharapova's double-fault gave her a chance to serve out the set at 5-2. Sharapova saved three set points and broke her, but Panova served things out to knot the match two games later, converting on her fourth set point to win 6-4.

In the 3rd, despite having never beaten a Top 30 player in her career, Panova came THIS CLOSE to making Sharapova the first #2 seed to lose in the 2nd Round of the Australian Open since 1980 (Mima Jausovec def. Evonne Goolagong). She opened the set with a break of serve, and held onto the advantage -- and actually increasing it to a two-break lead -- until she served at 4-1. That's when Sharapova started to come around, slowly but surely. Still, even after having her break lead cut in half, Panova served for the match at 5-4.

That's when the '08 AO champ punched her way out of the corner she'd trapped herself in.

Up 30/15 on Panova's serve, Sharapova went for a forehand winner that barely went long. Rather than having two break points, it was 30/30. She missed a shot down the line and Panova held match point. Sharapova saved it with a second serve forehand return winner down the line. A netted return gave Panova a second MP, which Sharapova saved when she fired a forehand winner behind her opponent. Panova would save one break point in the game, but Sharapova would get a second opportunity and put it away with a crosscourt forehand, her fifth winner of the game, to knot the set at 5-5.

In last year's 2nd Round in Melbourne, Sharapova survived the Extreme Heat conditions to take down Karin Knapp in a 10-8 3rd set, but that was nothing compared to what she did to her opponent here. After twice being a point away from the win, Panova saw her day go from nearly spectacular to sudden disaster in about ten minutes. Sharapova held at love to take a 6-5 lead, and quickly grabbed a 40/15 lead on Panova's serve in Game #12. She didn't put away the first chance, but when Panova's wide replay ended a rally Sharapova was declared a 6-1/4-6/7-5 winner. Just like that.

No matter how many times we see Sharapova do something like this, it's hard not to be more than a little in awe of it. Even when she SHOULD be, she's just never HOPELESSLY down. AND never, ever, ever is she OUT of a match.

Just as happened last year, might the eventual course of this Australian Open have been irreversibly altered today? Is Panova this year's Safarova, and Sharapova this year's L-? Well, we shall see.
But stranger things have happened... and Maria is still Maria.

...while Sharapova and Panova were battling it out on Laver, Hisense played host to a whale of a contest of its own between new Top 20 Czech Karolina Pliskova and big-talking, big-hitting wild card Pastry Oceane Dodin. Both players were hitting with amazing power, keeping their shots flat and never allowing a moment to go by without the possibility of something that would make you go, "Whoa!" happening on any given swing of a racket.

While Pliskova's clean winner-hitting, almost effortless service-acing game has been picking up steam over the past year, most recently spiking with a great run to the Sydney final and a nice match there against Petra Kvitova, Dodin is really just now starting to garner the attention of most. Well, if today was the 18-year old's introduction to the greater tennis world, then we might all remember years from now what went through our minds when we first saw her.

For one, she literally hits the snot out of the ball. Yeah, I know, "literally" would mean that tennis balls actually have noses. They don't, of course, but Dodin might be able to hit them so hard that they decide to grow noses just to keep her happy.

Now, while Dodin is capable of producing some awe-inspiring shots, that she hits every ball like her life depends on said ball being hit as hard as humanly possible also means that she racks up an unTennisGodly number of errors, some of them quite frightening to the patrons with courtside seats on either end of the stadium. But, wow, if she can ever harness that power she's going to be playing for slam titles some day. She's already said she wants to be #1, so there's no lacking in confidence in this one. In either case, while she ultimately didn't take down Pliskova today, she's going to knock off some very big names very soon if they have the displeasure of facing her on a day when she can keep most of her balls in the court.

While the potential of Dodin, who last season missed seven months with dental surgery and issues with vertigo but still ended up winning four ITF singles crowns, will likely be the thing remembered most about this match, Pliskova had to play a great match in order to survive her. Sure, even while her exterior remained calm, the Czech must have been feeling something on the inside in the final two sets of this match, as her first serve really began to abandon her and nearly cost her a match that she seemed to be in control of... or as close as you can ever be to that when your opponent can hit a screaming winner at your feet off of a serve that most opponents don't even get back over the net.

After taking the 1st set 7-5, Pliskova opened the 2nd with a break and then threw in a Lisicki-styled, love service game to take a 2-0 lead. In other words, she hit four straight aces (one on a second serve) as she ran off a string of seven consecutive points. But the feat only seemed to stoke Dodin's own game. She held and broke for 2-2, but then gave away her advantage with a DF on break point a game later. The girl's game just has no filter. She hits it hard every time, all the time, sometimes to her detriment. But the ultra-aggressive game is her calling card, and some of the return winners she hit against Pliskova's serve, which was second on tour last season to only that of Serena Williams when it came to aces, were positively stunning. Dare I say it, the way those balls were fired back for winners they sort of brought to mind some of the returns that a little bald American used to pull off against the big serve of Pete Sampras.

As Pliskova's first serve began to falter, Dodin's power turned the tide of the match... in both directions. She broke for 4-4 with a series of huge shots, then her own double fault and error combo broke herself at love one game later in a game that ended in about as odd a fashion as I can ever remember. Dodin's racket flew out of her hand on her serve, but her shot landed in the service box. Pliskova returned the ball into the backcourt at Dodin's feet, but, you know, she couldn't really do anything about it because, ummm, her racket was on the ground up around the service "T."

Dodin didn't let the break bother her, though. She just broke Pliskova right back at love for 5-5, then broke her again to take the set at 7-5 and head to a 3rd.

There, Pliskova opened with a break, and took a 3-1 lead after Dodin took a medical time out following the third game of the set. The timeout reinvigorated the Pastry, as her slightly lagging start was reversed and she broke for 3-3 as Pliskova's first serve once again began to go awry. But Pliskova is the player looking to make her slam breakthrough in Melbourne this January, and the steadiness she showed last week in Sydney finally came back to her in the back-half of the set. She broke Dodin at love for 4-3, then held at love for 5-3. She went up 40/love, winning her eleventh straight point, and held triple match point.

Dodin saved all three and held for 5-4.

Dodin opened the next game with a wild return error, which was followed by a Pliskova winner and another error from the Pastry. Pliskova was at triple match point yet again. This time she put the match away on her first attempt, firing a huge serve up the middle that Dodin could only swat at and spray wide as the Czech won 7-5/5-7/6-4 to match the career-best 3rd Round slam result she achieved last summer in New York. She'll face Ekaterina Makarova next, with the winner heading off to likely meet Simona Halep in the QF. (But, who knows, Halep is facing Jarmila Gajdosova tonight on Laver in a match -- thanks to Rafa Nadal's latest whatever it turns out to be --that won't be over until well after this post goes up... maybe the Luck of the Aussies at this AO will continue.)

In the end, Pliskova hit 14 aces to 10 for Dodin, but the teenager averaged a higher speed on both her first and second serves, and likely her ground strokes, as well. And it's not like Pliskova is a big softy when it comes to speed. Dodin led 40-37 in total winners, but the Pastry's all-or-nothing game also meant her unforced error total (41) dwarfed that of the Czech (with 16, quite a low number for a power player in a 34-game match).

Here's a good piece on Dodin. It was posted before today's match, but it doesn't matter. Everything in it about her is still interesting and pertinent for the future.

Among some of the quotable highlights:

Dodin: "I like to be seen as a phenom; I like not being like everybody else."

Dodin: "I'm just trying to win points as quick as possible, that's my game and I love it. Sure, I make a lot of errors and it's tough to lose points on silly mistakes, but I take lots of pleasure playing like this. That's just who I am. So I don't especially like getting looking at the stats after my matches because it's not always pretty and it can upset me!"

Coach Georges Goven: "She wants to become the No.1 player in the world and that's the goal we can set with her game style because it's limitless."

Dodin: "Being No.1 is a dream but I know how hard one needs to work to get there. I'm ready for it, so we'll see. There's so much to do before."

We've seen young players play with gaudy power and a total lack of fear before in early round slam matches like this, so who knows what will ultimately become of Dodin. But unlike some sudden stars who advance mostly on grit, there's surely something good in her game. And, one day, maybe even great. Either way, it looks like Amelie Mauresmo has yet another promising French weapon to keep in her back pocket for Fed Cup time.

...the doubles began today, and the sometimes-odd developments that revolve around the joining together and dissolving of teams was on full display.

With Cara Black not sure if she would play in 2015, citing the difficulty of traveling with a young child and the possibility of becoming a mother yet again, she and Sania Mirza decided to part ways as partners. As luck would have it, former doubles #1 Hsieh Su-Wei was also breaking up with her longtime partner Peng Shuai, so a new team was born that combined the two duos who ended up playing each other in the doubles final of the WTA Finals in Singapore last November, where Black & Mirza claimed the crown at the last event they played together as a regular team.

Installed as the #2 seeds in Melbourne, when the draw came out Hsieh/Mirza found themselves just one match away from a 2nd Round clash with... Black and new parter Zheng Saisai, as the veteran from Zimbabwe decided in late November to forego retirement and possibly play into '16 if Zimbabwe fields a Fed Cup team, with plans to begin to "slow down" this season.

Both pairs were first up in Day 3 action on Wednesday, with Hsieh & Mirza easily handling the Argentine pair of Irigoyen/Ormaechea (well, it's nice to finally see a South American woman, at least, as none were able to get into the singles main draw) by a score of 6-2/6-0. They won't be playing Black/Zheng, though, as they were ousted 6-1/6-4 by Dabrowski/Rosolska just a week after retiring from their previous '15 match last week in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Hsieh's ex-teammate Peng, with new partner Xu Yi-Fan, failed to convert five match points against Kimiko Date-Krumm & Casey Dellacqua. The Chinese pair led 6-4/5-1 and held two match points, then had three more at 6-5 in the 3rd. KDK/Dellacqua ultimately won 4-6/7-5/7-6(5). So, essentially, the whole doubles switch-up has worked out pretty well for Mirza, but it's been pretty much a debacle for everyone else involved.

Sigh. Ah, doubles.

Speaking of head-shaking doubles tidbits, Original Swiss Miss Martina Hingis & Flavia Pennetta knocked off New Swiss Miss Belinda Bencic & Katerina Siniakova in straight sets today. Meanwhile, the Williams Sisters... wait for it... pulled out of the doubles draw. Do I hear an echo?

Speaking of nice doubles combinations that would have been worth checking in on, Sloane Stephens & Taylor Townsend also withdrew today. Now, I don't know if it was you-know-who that was the one hitting the ejector seat button or not. But I'm just going to go with my more dastardly instincts and assume as much. When in doubt, just go ahead and doubt The Former Semifinalist, I always say. Or at least I'm going to start to always say it. You know, starting right... NOW. other singles matches on Day 3, AnaIvo's 1st Round conqueror, Lucie Hradecka continued her bid for Last Qualifier Standing with a victory over Polona Hercog. 19-year old German Carina Witthoeft didn't allow Christina McHale to leave any part of herself on the court today -- the Bannerette wasn't out there long enough for that. After dropping just four games in her 1st Round match, Witthoeft lost just three today in a 6-3/6-0 victory. Bethanie Mattek-Sands' comeback continued with a 7-6(3)/7-6(6) win over Kristina Mladenovic, as BMS came back from a 5-2 deficit in the 2nd to close out the match in straights. And Peng Shuai, the lone Chinese player left in the draw, rather quietly is still alive in the singles after a 6-2/6-4 win over Roberta Vinci.

In the night session on MCA, Genie Bouchard looked like she was about to wipe out Kiki Bertens. She led 6-0/5-1 and served for the match, then suddenly lost focus and saw her game go off for a stretch, as occasionally happened to her during her deep slam runs a year ago. In 2014, she generally righted herself and moved on, and the same thing happened here. She served out the match in her second attempt, winning 6-0/6-3 to move forward. She'll face Caroline Garcia next. Bouchard has looked very good so far this season, but if the Pastry can keep her nerves in order, that could be a very good one.

...DAY 3 LIKE #1: Vika on the Kia Open Drive. Be sure to stay around long enough for the "sexy face" at the end.

...DAY 3 LIKE #2: And Sam Stosur's version of the same drive. So, who's the "hottest" tennis player?

...DAY 3 LIKE #3: really, who could have possibly predicted THIS guy would suddenly resurface with great play during a slam? Do you even remember that Baghdatis made the AO men's final NINE years ago?

...DAY 3 THE "BACKSPIN AFTER SCHOOL DRAMA CLUB" Presents...: "Seriously, ESPN2? Another 5-minute discussion about Sharapova's shrieks? Seriously? Sharapova does that and we're talking about shrieks, man? We're talking about shrieks? We ain't talking about the game. We're talking about shrieks. You just saw her play, and play like THAT. You see her give everything she's got. But we're talking about shrieks. We're talking about shrieks? Not the game. Shrieks. We're talking about shrieks. We're talking about shrieks?"

And... scene. [And a special thanks to Allen Iverson to inspiring this little production.]

Hours later, during a Sharapova/Panova highlights package, Brad Gilbert (who wasn't around earlier) said if he was playing someone who made such noise he'd go to the umpire and refuse to play. My answer to that: well, then I would hope that the umpire would call your opponent up the net, tell the two of you to shake hands, and then congratulate the other player because Mr. Gilbert has just forfeited the match.


to the hard copy version of the 2015 WTA Media Guide, or at least one editing decision in this year's version. It's nice and handy thing to have the Guide around each year (the one recent year in which it was only available in PDF form was an unnecessary headache that had me often using the previous season's version of the book), as the actual printed edition is more easily accessible than having to jump online to get the information. Plus, it's a nice way to spend some time and absorb tennis history and info by just flipping through it, never being sure what you'll stumble onto (something I've done in the past).

Fifteen second example: I just randomly opening the new edition to a bio page -- in this case, Kveta Peschke -- and learned that she "Admires Martina Navratilova because of the great person she is and all she has achieved in and for tennis," and that her favorite actor was Christopher Reeve, that "Mamma Mia" is her favorite musical and she lives movies with happy endings.

See, you never know what you might find -- and it literally only took a few seconds.

Anyway, back to my mini-rant.

Really, if you're going to remove the now doubles-active Martina Hingis' grand slam and tour singles information from the "Former #1 Players" pages for retired players, then maybe that info should be included in the Swiss Miss' active player bio page in the opening section of the book. As it is, the old singles data is gone, but only Hingis' doubles information is included with her current bio. So, if you want to check out the five-time slam singles champ's yearly results at the slams when she was dominating the sport then you have to either consult a previous edition of the Guide, or go through the process of seeking it out online. And that's a pain in the butt.

...and, finally, the much-anticipated match-up between former #1's, one a two-time AO champ, will be played tomorrow night. As expected, it'll be played on... MCA, at the same time that Hewitt will be getting all the Aussie fan attention on Laver, followed by the Rod's nightcap -- the Stosur/Vandeweghe match.

Wait. Huh? A 2nd Round match-up with that much star power is on the SECOND show court, at a time when NO ONE in Australia will be paying attention to it? Seriously? Wozniacki/Azarenka doesn't even warrant being placed on Laver during the daytime? This slam gets a lot of things right, but this is a case of it getting something very wrong.

Aussies hawt sun got the red outta me today! #SunblockFail #ShouldNameItSunUnblock

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Serena Williams, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2013 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2014 Li Na, CHN
2015 Maria Sharapova, RUS

62...Serena Williams *
60...Margaret Court
56...Lindsay Davenport
52...Martina Hingis
47...Steffi Graf
46...Martina Navratilova
44...Maria Sharapova *
43...Kim Clijsters
43...Monica Seles
42...Venus Williams *
41...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
* - active

TOP QUALIFIER: Renata Voracova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Renata Voracova/CZE def. #17 Zhu Lin/CHN 5-7/7-6(5)/6-2 (saved MP in 2nd set)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): Nominee: 2nd Rd. - #1 Sharapova d. (Q) Panova 6-1/4-6/7-5 (saved 2 MP)
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
FIRST VICTORY: Julia Goerges/GER (def. #32 Bencic/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Belinda Bencic/SUI (lost 1st Rd. to Goerges/GER)
UPSET QUEENS: Nominees: French, Czechs, Germans
REVELATION LADIES: Nominees: Czechs, French, Americans, Spaniards
NATION OF POOR SOULS: China (year after Li wins title, 1-5 in 1st Round)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: Allertova/CZE(x), Hradecka/CZE(W), Panova/RUS(L)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: Chang/TPE(x), Dodin/FRA(L), Falconi/USA(x)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: Dellacqua(x), Gajdosova(x), Stosur(x)
IT (??): Nominee: Dodin (wild card Pastry)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: J.Gajdosova/AUS (first AO MD win in 10th try); M.Brengle/USA; B.Mattek-Sands/USA; V.Zvonareva/RUS
CRASH & BURN: #5 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 1st Rd. vs. qualifier Hradecka/CZE; one of eight seeds to lose on Day 1)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS (2nd Rd.: saved 2 MP vs. Panova/RUS)

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

this is amazing.

Wed Jan 21, 08:11:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

haha very cute 5 year old in youtube.

i was just thinking about pova's 2 mp turnaround similarity to li's last year match. mmm, her turn finally? it's gonna be good if she meets genie. the current sharapova vs the future one. haha.

halep was very impressive tonight. rock solid all around. her style is like henin's, doesn't she. she is bit underrated and under radar, but i think she has great chance. her game doesn't really have holes, unless you meet top form serena. and i truly believe she should've won against genie in wimbledon last year if she hadn't fallen down.

any idea why williamses pulled out of doubles? i wonder if anything happened to serena.

Wed Jan 21, 11:14:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

i just couldn't get over how the kid was throwing herself into every backhand shot. she had nice topspin on the FH, too. it's amazing to be so young and have such good hand-eye coordination.

couldn't find any reference to why they withdrew...presumably both are in good health atm...there have been rumors that the sisters have been fighting...or not as close...but this is conjecture on my part.

Wed Jan 21, 01:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Ha! That little girl reminds me of those old videos of a teeny-tiny Agassi hitting ball after ball after ball.

I wonder how Kimiko will do when she plays against her? Because you just know she will some day! :D


Halep's game has been compared favorable to a few players over the past year, but I've always favored the Henin-like aspects of how she plays. Hmmm, maybe that's why she's been surging up the "Face of Backspin" list recently. Vika is still on the cover of the weekly club magazine, but Simona is edging her way into the editor's writing room. ;)

Oh, and I forgot to look for this earlier. Here's the video of Dodin losing her racket but getting her serve in, then Pliskova hitting the ball back at her feet:

Wed Jan 21, 01:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Q. Last week there was a story that the Hong Kong Tennis Association were fined by the WTA because of what happened in Hong Kong. The reason was they felt they damaged your reputation. Did you feel the incident damaged your reputation?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don't think so. You know, I didn't make any mistake in any way. I never entered the tournament, so I can't withdraw from a tournament if I've never entered it. It's just unfortunate what happened, but I think the WTA is good in terms of they want to protect their players, protect their own image. I think what they did is fine.

Wed Jan 21, 02:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Notice the "we":

Q. Caroline and Victoria Azarenka will play in the second round. How hard is it early in a slam to play someone who is such a top player, highly regarded player?

SERENA WILLIAMS: It's definitely not easy. She has to play Victoria. I have to play Zvonareva. We have both pretty intense second-round matches, players who have been to the finals and one who has won Grand Slams. It's going to be tricky for her and for me as well just to stay focused. I think we all come out even more focused when we're playing someone really good.


Notice the shade:

Q. Do the jitters get more as there's more pressure being No. 1 or less because you've had so much experience?

SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think overall it stays the same. But I just am more open to talking about it. Before I was very quiet about it. But even today I told Patrick, I'm a little nervous. He's like, It's okay. Just make sure you keep your feet moving. I'm more open about it now.

Q. Can you compare the nervousness you feel in the first round of a Grand Slam versus a final?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, usually when you get to a final, you want to win. I just want to do the best I can. Yeah, I think it's different because at least when you're in a final, you have a little momentum. When you're in a first round, you don't have momentum. Usually the nerves aren't as bad in general for me in a final. There's been finals where I've been really, really tight.

Q. Can you think of one or two where you were really tight?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah. I was really, really tight at Wimbledon 2004. I was the most tight last year at US Open. But I think it was because I was going for 18. I had never been that tight in a match, period, so...

Wed Jan 21, 02:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Eric, have you ever seen the video of 4-year-old Petra playing? Too cute--and she is swinging that racket!

Wed Jan 21, 02:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Here's some Kvitova childhood video (don't know if it's the one you were talking about, Diane):

Fun Fact: the last time Azarenka and Wozniacki met in a slam was the 2008 U.S. Open, with Caro winning the 3rd Rd. match 6-4/6-4

Wed Jan 21, 04:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jessica said...

If I never again have to listen to commentators complaining about women grunting during matches, it will be too soon. (Have they never heard Nadal play??)

Unless the opposing player complains, I can't see it as a problem. And a lot of players have been quoted as saying they barely notice it during the course of the match.


What do we think about Pironkova's chances against Cibulkova? Tsvetana's been playing great in Australia so far this year and Cibulkova must be feeling a lot of pressure to defend all those points from last year's final. Could an upset be possible?


Also find it strange that Azarenka/Wozniacki aren't on Rod Laver. Both are former #1's for long stretches and one is a two time champion in Melbourne. But I guess the draw of veteran Aussies is too strong.

Wed Jan 21, 08:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, the commentators are like a dog with a bone -- they just won't let it go.

Knocking off Cibulkova here is precisely the sort of match that Pironkova has found a way to win in the past. Of course, it likely depends on Cibulkova. If she can recapture the feeling she had in Melbourne last year, she'll probably win. But she hasn't played as well as that over the course of the 12 months since her appearance in the AO final.

I guess, in the end, the lure of having both Hewitt and Stosur on Laver at night won out. This tournament puts more Aussies under the big stadium lights than the U.S. Open does with Americans, and there has been an overabundance of good ones to schedule there so far this AO. And considering this is supposed to be the hottest day of the tournament so far, it might actually benefit Vika to play under the lights. We know Caro wouldn't have been bothered an iota by playing the heat.

Wed Jan 21, 08:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Jessica - that's a good call re: Pironkova d. Cibulkova. Could totally see that happen. And re: Nadal and grunting. Don't you know? Nadal is a man and the physical exertion to play tennis absolutely requires grunting. Granollers agrees. Thus, it's not an issue. (joking) Honestly, I think the issue with women grunting goes back to "unladylike" behavior, people with their minds in the gutter, and the pitch. Maybe the higher pitch is more irritating? I agree tho...if the opponent isn't affected, then what's the big deal...(altho it does affect the spectator experience hence why I personally don't watch Sharapova often...but I don't begrudge her of her grunt. #youdoyou)

Diane - I haven't seen the video of 4-yo Petra but I hope it's the one that Todd posted. It's ADORABLE. I love her leg crossover after she hits the ball.

Todd, thanks for posting that.

While I think that Vika/Caro is a more interesting match, I'm glad that Stosur is getting her moment in her home country. Who knows if she'll even be here tomorrow. The attention is also a curse...but she deserves the special treatment as a slam winner.

Interesting that Vika has a bad record against her contemporaries (Caro and Petra...she's good against Aga)...It seems like she has played well when the other two are on walkabout and vice versa.

I posted some excerpts from interviews earlier...Caro's and Nick Kyrgios's were also really good. NIck showing his maturity. Caro showing her new attitude about winning.

Wed Jan 21, 11:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Madison Keys is SUPER tight right now. Not playing well.

Nicole Gibbs cannot put a ball away at the net... She also just had a bad call.

Wed Jan 21, 11:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jessica said...

I think we were a little too optimistic about Pironkova's chances.

Down 2-6 0-5 on her serve.

Wed Jan 21, 11:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

LOL. I think it's still a good prediction on paper.

Keys has not hit a single backhand today. All into the net.

Wed Jan 21, 11:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Yes, that was one of the Kvitova videos. I've also seen one of her really having a go at the ball, and looking very "Petra" while she hits it.

Wed Jan 21, 11:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha. Yep, that's Pironkova/The Weeping Angel. Just when you're paying attention to her, she turns back to stone. ;)

Thu Jan 22, 12:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

wow, a revived vika in australia! i didn't see much only last couple of points. but she looked focused, dialed in. when i just thought she won't look too bad if she loses in 3 sets, and here, won in 2 against a brickwall. i am so sorry i doubted you, vika. haha. it's all good.

Thu Jan 22, 04:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

this statement from reuters is pretty cool:

The statuesque Belarusian, wearing a high-visibility dress in fluorescent yellow and dictating play like a traffic cop, was too powerful for the Dane, bullying her from the baseline to wrap up the match in 98 minutes at Margaret Court Arena.

Thu Jan 22, 05:44:00 AM EST  
Blogger Galileo said...

Azarenka DID beat Wozniacki. Todd and I totally called it! :)

Thu Jan 22, 05:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah... it's nice to have her back. ;)

Thu Jan 22, 07:06:00 AM EST  

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