Friday, January 23, 2015

AO 5 - The Day After the Day

One day after Victoria Azarenka lit up Margaret Court Arena -- both literally and figuratively -- there is still the feeling that a little more needs to be done to welcome Vika back into the fold. So...

Good luck with that. ;)

...well, Ekaterina Makarova passed her first real test on Day 5. Already the only player never to be ranked #1 to have career wins over BOTH Serena ('12 AO) and Venus Williams ('14 AO), the Russian is always capable of a big upset on a grand stage. It's following those wins up that's been the problem.

Last summer, Makarova took out Aga Radwanska in the Wimbledon Round of 16, only to drop her QF match to Lucie Safarova. Two months later, though, she worked her way through the U.S. Open draw, taking out Genie Bouchard and Vika Azarenka en route to her first career slam singles semifinal. Earlier this year, she became the latest Russian to reach the Top 10, and while she came into the Australian with a higher standing and a little more protection in the draw (as the #10 seed) than usual, she was also carrying the pressure of wanting to live up not only to her previous slam result in NYC, but also her own great history at this tournament, where she'd reached at least the Round of 16 in Melbourne for four years running.

Still, even with a higher seed, Makarova found herself faced with a tricky player in #22 Karolina Pliskova in the 3rd Round. A new Top 20 player herself, the Czech saved MP against Azarenka (a bigger feat than we realized at the time?) in Brisbane and reached the Sydney final. Two days ago, she survived the whirlwind that was Oceane Dodin. No one really wanted to play either of these women, but they both had to play each other.

The 1st set was a tight one, as both held serve comfortably and only one player got a look at a break point. That player was Makarova, who was playing with her right thigh wrapped. The single BP came in game #5, and the Hordette converted it for a 3-2 lead. Both woman held serve from there on out, and Makarova served out the set at 6-4.

They traded breaks in games #2 and #3 in the 2nd, but Makarova's crisp groundstokes eventually helped her pull away, while Pliskova's forehand began to rack up errors. The Russian got a break for a 4-3 lead, and held for 5-3. A game later, she reached triple match point when Pliskova delivered her 15th forehand error of the set. But the Czech didn't give in. Instead, she used her huge serve to stay alive, for a while. An ace, a big wide serve, and a swing volley winner got the game to deuce. After Makarova's return error, Pliskova fired another ace (just her fourth of the day) to hold for 5-4.

A game later, Pliskova's push continued. She took a 40/15 lead on Makarova's serve, but the Russian saved both break points and edged ahead in the game to get her fourth MP. A wide Pliskova backhand return ended things, with Makarova winning 6-4/6-4.

Even before Maria Sharapova had started her night session match on Laver, Makarova's win had already assured that a Russian would be in the mix in the Round of 16 for the 57th time in the last fifty-eight majors. Still, that doesn't mean that two would be better.

Sharapova arrived for the first scheduled night session match on Laver, shortly after Roger Federer's shocking demise at the hands of Andreas Seppi on the same court, looking for her ninth Round of 16 or better result in her last ten visits to Melbourne, and her eleventh in her last twelve majors. After her own tightrope-walking victory over Alexandra Panova last time out, though, Sharapova wasn't infected with any similar "Upset Influenza," taking out Zarina Diyas with relative ease by a 6-1/6-1 score.

...for a bit, after having played so well at this AO, save for a brief period at the end of an otherwise dominating performance in her last match, Genie Bouchard looked like she might yet experience her first truly dramatic match of the '15 season. Caroline Garcia, who the Canadian (rightly so, to be accurate) called an "up and coming" player the other day, though the Pastry is actually slightly older than the 20-year old Bouchard, made a habit in the 1st set of pushing her opponent back with deep groundstrokes that messed with '14 AO semifinalist's rhythm.

Garcia went up a break twice early in the opening set, but then saw Bouchard come out on top of a nine-deuce service game in which the Canadian failed to convert six break point chances before finally making the seventh the charm to knot the score at 3-3. The fourteen-minute game took up the lion's share of what was by that time a contest that had only gone on for thirty-five minutes. But Garcia immediately broke Bouchard for a third time to reclaim her advantage.

But as has been the case in many of Bouchard's previous slam match wins, she found a way to fight her way out of the corner right when it seemed as if she might be in a spot of trouble. She got the set back on serve with a break for 4-4, then put the set away with another two games later. In the 2nd, Bouchard took the set at love, though in Garcia's final three service games the Pastry twice got to 30/30, and in the other game reached deuce. Bouchard was just better when it mattered most You know, sort of like she was last January in Melbourne.

After once again proving to be as adept a big event player as there has been on tour over the past year, Bouchard made a point to profess her affection for everything about the Australian Open.

Hmmm, no mention of Milos Raonic's hair, though. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

...shhhh, don't look not, but Peng Shuai is still kicking around. Way, way, way under the radar, the only Chinese woman (of six in the draw) to win a 1st Round match at this AO the year after three-time finalist Li Na finally took home the title. Peng came into Melbourne having lost two of three '15 singles matches (the win coming only after erasing a 4-1 deficit in the 3rd set vs. Pavlyuchenkova in Sydney), and having blown three match points in a doubles match with partner Xu Yifan in Shenzhen. She and Xu blew five more MP in their 1st Round loss in Melbourne, too. So that Peng has been able to focus herself and win three straight matches in the tournament, her first slam as the top-ranked Chinese player on tour and her first since being wheeled off the court of her U.S. Open semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki last summer, is a good sign for her season.

Of course, again, nothing was easy for her today against Yaroslava Shvedova. The Kazakh led 5-3 in the 1st set, and served at 5-4. She held five set points, only to see Peng break and eventually force a tie-break. There, Shvedova led 4-1, only to be forced to save a set point when she fell behind 6-5. Shvedova held a sixth set point, but Peng ultimately won on her own second to the take the TB 9-7. Peng had it little be easier in the 2nd, taking the set 7-6(7)/6-3 to reach her second (w/ 2011) Round of 16 in Melbourne.

...Yanina Wickmayer, a U.S. Open semifinalist back in 2009 in just her seventh career main draw at a major, reached her first slam 4th Round since 2011 with a three-set victory over Sara Errani. Meanwhile, Julia Goerges nearly let slip away another good result at what has been the slam where she's had the most success, but she saved herself before it was too late. The German's "Perils of Pauline" moment came she failed to put away any of three match points against qualifier Lucie Hradecka at 7-6/5-4, the tossed in her second double fault of the game to break herself. But rather than look for someone or something to save her, Goerges saved herself, breaking the Czech on her third break point to get the chance to serve for the match again. With the help of a useful net cord on match point, she did it and won 7-6(5)/7-5 to reach her third Round of 16 in Melbourne in the last four years. They're her only 4th Round slam results in twenty-eight career major appearances (twenty seven consecutive as of this AO).

...Simona Halep advanced to her fifth slam Round of 16 at the last six majors, but her win over Bethanie Mattek-Sands, while in straight sets, was an uneven, slightly unsatisfying sandwich-like venture (i.e. some pretty meat in the middle, but surrounded by two slices of somewhat stale bread). She was nearly broken early in the 1st set, saving a pair of break points before holding for 2-2, then failed to convert three BP of her own a game later. After finally breaking BMS to take a 4-3 lead, Halep took the set at 6-4 and went on to win nine of eleven games and lead 5-1 in the 2nd. But that good middle was nearly squandered, as the American battled back, winning fourteen of seventeen points in one stretch to knot the set at 5-5.

But then Halep immediatlely broke back and served out the match for a 6-4/7-5 victory. Crisis averted.

The Swarmette invasion, forecast so long ago, is happening, bit by bit. Along with Halep in the Round of 16 in Melbourne will be Irina-Camelia Begu, who defeated Carina Witthoeft in straight sets today, adding one additional round to what was already the Romanian's career-best slam result.

...meanwhile, the story of Madison Brengle's hard-earned success continues to develop, now with the addition of her revelation of a recent health scare.

...the junior singles draw is out. Here are the seeded girls:

1.Xu Shilin, CHN
2.Jil Belen Teichmann, SUI
3.Marketa Vondrousova, CZE
4.Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, ESP
5.Dalma Galfi, HUN
6.Kimberly Birrell, AUS
7.Naiktha Bains, AUS
8.Fiona Ferro, FRA
9.Luisa Stefani, BRA
10.Anna Blinkova, RUS
11.Raveena Kingsley, USA
12.Zheng Wushuang, CHN
13.Seone Mendez, AUS
14.Katie Swan, GBR
15.Miriam Kolodziejova, CZE
16.Tami Grende, INA doubles, top-seeded Hsieh Su-Wei & Sania Mirza became the first #1-seeds ousted in any of this AO's main draws, losing to Gabriela Dabrowski & Alicja Rosolska, 7-6(5)/6-4. While Sam Stosur is gone in singles, her intriguing pairing with Svetlana Kuznetsova (they won together in Moscow in '13) is still going strong. They knocked off the Rodionova sisters today.

Martina Hingis & Flavia Pennetta get the honor of playing the tournament's first scheduled nighttime doubles match on one of the two showcourts, facing off on MCA against Daniela Hantuchova & Karin Knapp in tonight's nightcap. Interestingly, it was the promise of playing doubles with Hantuchova that lured the Swiss Miss out of retirement in 2013. The two didn't really have much success, but Hingis has gone on to win two titles each with Pennetta and Sabine Lisicki in 2014-15 and climb into the doubles Top 10. mixed doubles, Mirza & Bruno Soares, who won the U.S. Open title last September, won their 1st Round match.

...DAY 5 LIKE #1: Vicky likes Vika.

...DAY 5 "IT GOES WITH THE TERRITORY": during the Bouchard/Garcia match on Tennis Channel, as Lindsay Davenport began to ask Justin Gimelstob which player's future he'd buy he immediately chimed in with "Madison Keys" before she even mentioned the names of any players. Davenport, of course, recently began coaching Keys. After a bit of silence by all, Bill MacAtee quipped, "No pressure." "Yeah, really," Davenport agreed.

...DAY 5 "Hmmmm...: nothing against those two players, but how did the Goerges/Hradecka match manage to get scheduled on Laver today? Seems a bit odd, considering it was a match-up of an unseeded player who's never reached a slam QF against a qualifier. If this was the U.S. Open and you were at Ashe Stadium, you'd likely need binoculars to get a good view of that match with those credentials. Strange.

...and, finally...

#1 Xu/CHN d. #7 Bains/AUS
Sebov/CAN d. #4 Zadoinov/ESP
#8 Ferro/FRA d. Tjandramulia/AUS
#6 Birrell/AUS d. #2 Teichmann/SUI
#1 Xu d. Sebov
#6 Birrell d. #8 Ferro
#6 Birrell d. #1 Xu

...the last Aussie to win the girls title was Siobhan Drake-Brockman in 1995, but Birrell was a semifinalist a year ago and the runner-up (to Sebov) in this week's Traralgon tune-up event. No Chinese girl has even won.

By the way, did I mention that Vika is now 20-1 in her last twenty-one matches in Melbourne? And 30-4 since 2009? And 36-4 with two titles and four finals in the seven hard court majors played since 2012? Well, it's good that I did, then.

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
Julia Goerges/GER vs. #10 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
Yanina Wickmayer/BEL vs. #3 Simona Halep/ROU
#7 Genie Bouchard/CAN vs. Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
Peng Shuai/CHN vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. Bernard Tomic/AUS
x vs. x
#6 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #10 Grigor Dimitrov/BUL
x vs. Andreas Seppi/ITA

2008 Casey Dellacqua (4th Rd.)
2009 Jelena Dokic (QF)
2010 Samantha Stosur (4th Rd.)
2011 Samantha Stosur (3rd Rd.)
2012 Casey Dellacqua, Jelena Dokic & Olivia Rogowska (2nd)
2013 Samantha Stosur (2nd Rd.)
2014 Casey Dellacqua (4th Rd.)
2015 C.Dellacqua, J.Gajdosova, S.Stosur & A.Tomljanovic (2nd)

TOP QUALIFIER: Renata Voracova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #7 Genie Bouchard/CAN
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): 2nd Rd. - #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS d. (Q) Alexandra Panova/RUS 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)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: China (year after Li wins title, 1-5 in 1st Round)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Chang Kai-Chen/TPE, Oceane Dodin/FRA & Irina Falconi/USA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Casey Dellacqua, Jarmila Gajdosova, Samantha Stosur & Alja Tomljanovic (all 2nd Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: E.Makarova/RUS, S.Peng/CHN, J.Goerges/GER, M.Brengle/USA
IT (??): Nominee: O.Dodin (wild card Pastry), M.Navratilova (coach)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: J.Gajdosova/AUS (first AO MD win in 10th try); M.Brengle/USA; V.Williams/USA; V.Azarenka/BLR
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)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: E.Bouchard (2-0 in night sessions)

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

Is Seppi Vika's old boyfriend? The one that fell off the balcony?

Fri Jan 23, 08:11:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Sergei Bubka (son of the pole vaulter... which might have come in handy, come to think of it): here.

Fri Jan 23, 11:41:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Don't know why, even though Maria won 61 61, I somehow don't think she is playing all that well. She looked flustered and made easy errors. No doubt her opponent was no match. Next up S Peng will be interesting to see. I think she may give some nightmares to Maria as her game is quite all rounded.

By the way, are all Rolex ambassadors all out of tournament? First I kept seeing Ana's ad watching highlights, then li na's, then federer's. I know caro used to be their brand ambassador too. I think they should have halep, quiet elegance. Matches it's image.

Fri Jan 23, 12:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Vika once had a dog named Rolex. But I guess that doesn't count, does it? :D

(Not sure if he's still with us, either.)

Fri Jan 23, 02:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Nasal used to be a Rolex ba--don't know if he still is. Vika is still ba for Citizen

Fri Jan 23, 06:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...


Fri Jan 23, 06:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, does it mean something that I didn't even notice that typo until you corrected it? :D

Fri Jan 23, 08:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Galileo said...

Nadal had a special watch. There was a big furore when it got nicked. Nadal's watch was worth 250,000. 250,000 of anything is a lot.

Fri Jan 23, 10:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

You have to wonder how he possibly thought he was going to get away with that, you know? :\

Sat Jan 24, 12:43:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Todd is the only person on Earth who can somehow lure me into solving a jigsaw puzzle.

Sun Jan 25, 12:48:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


(It's always a good fall back post when I don't have enough for a legit opening story.) :D

Sun Jan 25, 02:41:00 AM EST  

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