Sunday, January 25, 2015

AO 7 - Genie's Melbourne Mulligan

Maria Sharapova has experienced it this past week in Melbourne. To a lesser degree, so has Serena Williams. But through the first six days of this Australian Open, Genie Bouchard was never really pushed into a corner and forced to play for her Australian Open life. In fact, she was pretty unfazed by anything that happened on the court during her matches, losing a total of fourteen games through three rounds of play. Her biggest issue was being asked by "an old man" to twirl and setting off a mini-controversy that involved several big name players, Billie Jean King and anyone else with an opinion... even if they had no real idea what it was they were espousing an opinion about.

But that changed on Day 7 when, in a flash, the 2014 semifinalist saw her '15 AO life pass right before her -- and her Army's -- eyes.

In the first match of the day, Bouchard looked as if she was going to get a light workout against Swarmette Irina-Camelia Begu. Planting ground strokes deep in the court, the Canadian took a quick 5-0 lead. She won the 1st set 6-1, and sort of looked a little bored by the lack of competition, as Begu was clearly fighting her nerves, playing "safe" and didn't seem intent on even trying to move more into the court. Bouchard took a two-break, 3-0 lead in the 2nd set... then everything changed.

Begu finally lifted her game a bit by trying something different, but the shocking thing was how off-the-rails Bouchard's game suddenly became. Perhaps it was another case of the 20-year old experiencing a touch of nerves just before closing out a match. It's happened before, but she usually rights herself before the match gets sticky. She had a brief lapse after taking a 6-1/5-0 lead in her 3rd Round match against Caroline Garcia, as well, but managed to finish off the Pastry in two sets. That didn't happen here.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Bouchard had dropped serve three straight times and the Romanian was up 5-3. With her timing off, and as happens when Bouchard is placed in an uncomfortable hitting position, she was often lunging for shots and her error totals increased. After the eighth game, while the ball kids were moving the tennis balls from one side of the court to the other, Bouchard sat down on an empty linesperson chair and sighed. Ever the perfectionist, this wasn't how she envisioned things going this morning... or even a few minutes earlier.

With Begu serving for the set, though, Bouchard broke at love to get back on serve at 5-4. Again it looked like things would end quickly. But that didn't happen, either. In the next game, Begu reached set point... and Bouchard double-faulted to hand the 6-4 set to the Romanian. Just like that, what looked like an uncomplicated day was about simple survival.

Finally, a set later than expected, Bouchard collected her game and righted the course. She got a break of serve to open the set, and then carried that momentum to the finish. In her four service games in the 3rd set, Bouchard never faced a break point. She won 6-1/5-7/6-2 to advance to her second straight QF in Melbourne, getting within one match of matching her breakthrough career-first slam semifinal from a year ago.

Coming to Melbourne without an actual, official coach by her side, Bouchard is stepping onto new ground as she attempts to defend the first of the slam points hauls from last year that counted for a massive percentage of the total that lifted her to a Top 10 and, briefly, Top 5 ranking. One gets the feeling that the confident and headstrong Canadian would like to prove that she can do it on her own if she HAS to.

From here forward, though, with a lapse similar to the one she experienced today, Bouchard's Australian Open will be over in a flash, just like that 2nd set slipped through her grasp in this match.

This was her one Melbourne "mulligan." She won't get another.

...well, we're at that point in the tournament when the main draw singles schedule begins to get fairly light. In the night session on Laver, Simona Halep will face Yanina Wickmayer in the final Round of 16 match from the bottom half of the women's draw, setting the stage for one of the more anticipated men's matches of the tournament so far as Andy Murray faces off with Grigor Dimitrov in the quest to possibly claim the slot on the final weekend in Melbourne that Roger Federer won't be filling.

Only three quarterfinalists were revealed during the day. I'll keep this recap a little light and just take a quick look at those matches, leaving the Halep match to play out after this post. After all, tomorrow is going to be a busy day, as we'll get:

Serena vs. Muguruza: a rematch of Serena's worst-ever slam loss in Paris last year
Azarenka vs. Cibulkova: the two-time champion against the '14 runner-up
Keys vs. Brengle: The Battle of the Madisons
Venus vs. Aga: an all-sister affair, a rematch of the Montreal final...and Martina N. thrown in for a little spice under the lights on Laver

...As for today's other Round of 16 matches...

Ekaterina Makarova downed Julia Goerges in straight sets and has yet to drop a set in Melbourne. She's now reached at least the QF at five of the last six hard court majors.

Maria Sharapova made it two Russians in the QF with a straight sets win over Peng Shuai, as she continues to make one wonder if the best chance to keep her (at least) from a date in the final might have been a few shots that didn't come off Alexandra Panova's racket four days ago.

Up 4-2 in the 1st, Sharapova experienced her only real competitive lapse of the day. After saving four break points, she handed Peng a fifth chance when she netted a forehand that should have gone into an open court for a winner after the Chinese vet had been pulled off the court chasing a wide-bouncing Sharapova shot. One point later, Sharapova double-faulted and lost the 14-point game as the set got back on serve at 4-3. But Maria quickly made up for her error, breaking Peng a game later, holding at love to take a 6-3 set and then not losing another game the rest of the day in a 6-3/6-0 win.

That said, she didn't serve particularly well. Sharapova put in just 45% of her 1st serves, though she did make up for it by winning 67% of her 2nd serves. Since facing down match points and defeating Panova in the 2nd Round, Sharapova has dropped just five games in the two matches that have followed.

She'll face Bouchard next in what will surely be a super-hyped match in what could be the best group of QF match-ups we've seen at a slam in quite some time. While there are various combinations possible, imagine four matches that include match-ups like Sharapova/Bouchard, Halep/Makarova, Keys/V.Williams (for the generational Bannerette angle... sorry, Aga) and, last but not least, S.Williams/Azarenka.

It doesn't end there, either. The possibilities for some amazing groupings of semifinalists are rich with promise, as well. A few examples:

SERENA vs. VENUS / MAKAROVA vs. SHARAPOVA: a post-Cold War, post-Russian Revolution remix
AZARENKA vs. AGA / HALEP vs. SHARAPOVA: intriguing rematches of two of the best '14 slam match-ups (Vika/Aga AO QF, Maria/Simona RG F)
MUGURUZA vs. KEYS / HALEP vs. BOUCHARD: the NextGen takes over
CIBULKOVA vs. AGA / HALEP vs. BOUCHARD: former slam runners-up X 4

And there so many others, too. Any combination that might include BrengleFly will essentially be the most unpredictable slam result, well, maybe ever. I mean, in a decade long career, Madison Brengle would have won about the same number of tour-level main draw matches as she will have won at just this event were she to reach the semifinals. doubles, some big-name teams were ousted on Day 7. Kiki Bertens & Johanna Larsson took out Svetlana Kuznetsova & Sam Stosur, while Klaudia Jans-Ignacik & Andreja Klepac upset #9-seeds Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka.

...Bernard Tomic may have lost today to Tomas Berdych, but his sister won. Sara Tomic knocked off the #16-seeded girl in the singles competition, Tami Grende of Indonesia, in a 1st Round match.


Last year, I toyed with the idea of adding another honor to the regular Backspin Slam Awards for the four majors, but ultimately held off. But with several potential candidates at this AO, I'm going to pull the trigger and begin the four-times-annual act of honoring a worthy veteran player in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York. I'll call it the "Kimiko Date-Krumm Cup for Veteran Achievement," or the KDK Cup for short, because, really, who else should such a thing be named for other than the fortysomething Japanese woman who just keeps on going? Who knows, there's even a chance that Kimiko might one day even win the very award named for her. Hopefully, that wouldn't mess with the time space continuum TOO much.

There's no inaugural winner just yet, but I can surely think of at least one more-than-worthy "old cat" still remaining in the draw.

...DAY 7 LIKE #1:

A song from my playlist before the match :) thought I share it with u guys before I go to sleep :) good night ??

Film zamieszczony przez uzytkownika Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35)

...DAY 7 LIKE #2: Sharapova on missed shots...

...DAY 7 LIKE #3: The Serena Williams Rescue and Lost Dog Service: Melbourne Chapter

My best Australian buddy lost his dog yesterday. All my Melbourne followers have u seen her? Help! It's a girl and her name is Jax ??

Fotka zverejnená uživatelem Serena Williams (@serenawilliams),

...DAY 7 "AGAIN, WHAT IS IT ABOUT BOUCHARD AND POST-MATCH INTERVIEWS IN MELBOURNE?": No "Toiletgate" seems in the cards, though. Crossing fingers.

...DAY 7 LIKE #4: Vika the Artist

...DAY 7 "OOPS": today was the coolest weather day of this Australian Open so far. You know, with weather like this the fitter-than-ever Petra might just have the inside track to-... oh, wait. Yeah, that DID happen last night.

...DAY 7 BOTTLEGATE: everything in it's place...

...DAY 7 LIKE #5: This. Just watch and you'll understand. (Thanks, Jo!)

...and, finally, not surprisingly, it only took ESPN a few minutes to start the hype. Although, it IS warranted hype.

Me and my many faces expressions ?????? caption this....

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

"I ask you to do this, and you do... bleeeaaahhhhh. Just bleeeaaahhhhh.">

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #24 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
#11 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK vs. Victoria Azarenka/BLR
Madison Keys/USA vs. Madison Brengle/USA
#18 Venus Williams/USA vs. #6 Aga Radwanska/POL
#10 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS def.Julia Goerges/GER
Yanina Wickmayer/BEL vs. #3 Simona Halep/ROU
#7 Genie Bouchard/CAN def. Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU
#2 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Peng Shuai/CHN

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. Gilles Muller/LUX
#12 Feliciano Lopez/ESP vs. #8 Milos Raonic/CAN
#4 Stan Wawrinka/SUI vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/ESP
#9 David Ferrer/ESP vs. #5 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE def. Bernard Tomic/AUS
#3 Rafael Nadal/ESP def. #14 Kevin Anderson/RSA
#6 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #10 Grigor Dimitrov/BUL
Nick Kyrgios/AUS vs. Andreas Seppi/ITA

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. #16 Goerges/Groenefeld (GER/GER)
Bertens/Larsson (NED/SWE) def. Kuznetosva/Stosur (RUS/AUS)
#3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) def. Soler-Espinosa/Torro-Flor (ESP/ESP)
Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE) vs. #7 Garcia/Srebotnik (FRA/SLO)
Jans-Ignacik/Klepac (POL/SLO) def. #9 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
#14 YJ.Chan/J.Zheng (TPE/CHN) vs. #4 Hingis/Pennetta (SUI/ITA)
#5 Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) def. Kudryavtsova/Pavlyuchenkova (RUS/RUS)
Krajicek/Zahlavova-Strycova (NED/CZE) def. Dabrowski/Rosolska (CAN/POL)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #14 Inglot/Mergea (GBR/ROU)
#12 Butorac/Groth (USA/AUS) vs. #6 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU)
Cuevas/Marrero (URU/ESP) def. (WC) Bolt/Whittington (AUS/AUS)
Bolelli/Fognini (ITA/ITA) vs. Marach/Venus (AUT/NZL)
F.Lopez/Mirnyi (ESP/BLR) def. Erlich/Huey (ISR/PHI)
#16 J.Murray/Peers (GBR/AUS) vs. #4 Dodig/M.Melo (CRO/BRA)
Herbert/Mahut (FRA/FRA) def. #8 Qureshi/Zimonjic (PAK/SRB)
Benneteau/Roger-Vasselin (FRA/FRA) def. Becker/Sitak (GER/NZL)

#1 Mirza/Soares (IND/BRA) vs. Spears/S.Gonzalez (USA/MEX)
Klepac/Guccione (POL/SLO) vs.(WC) Dellacqua/Peers (AUS/AUS)
#3 Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) vs. Krajicek/Mergea (NED/ROU)
Raymond/Lindstedt (USA/SWE) vs. #5 C.Black/Cabal (ZIM/COL)
#7 Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs. Medina-Garrigues/Andujar-Alba (ESP/ESP)
HC.Chan/J.Murray (TPE/GBR) vs. #4 Hlavackova/Peya (CZE/AUT)
SW.Hsieh/Cuevas (TPE/URU) vs. KC.Chang/Zhang (TPE/CHN)
(WC) Gavrilova/Saville (AUS/AUS) vs. #2 Srebotnik/M.Melo (SLO/BRA)

[began w/ 2001 Wimbledon]
01 US - Bedanova
02 AO - Ad.Serra-Zanetti
02 RG - Pierce,C.Fernandez,Suarez
02 WI - Likhovtseva
02 US - Bovina
03 AO - Shaughnessy,Ruano-Pascual
03 RG - Pierce
04 WI - Sprem
04 US - Asagoe
05 RG - Karatantcheva
06 AO - Hingis(wc)
06 WI - Bremond(q)
07 AO - S.Williams[W],Safarova
07 US - Szavay
08 RG - Kanepi,Suarez-Navarro(q)
08 WI - Zheng(wc),Tanasugarn
09 AO - Dokic(wc),Suarez-Navarro
09 RG - Sharapova,Cirstea
09 WI - Lisicki,Schiavone
09 US - Wickmayer,K.Bondarenko,Oudin,Clijsters(wc)[W]
10 AO - Henin(wc)[RU]
10 RG - Shvedova
10 WI - Kvitova,Kanepi(q),Pironkova
10 US - Cibulkova
11 WI - Lisicki(wc),Paszek
11 US - Kerber
12 AO - Makarova,Errani
12 RG - Shvedova(q)
12 WI - Paszek
13 AO - Kuznetsova
13 RG - Kuznetsova
13 WI - Kanepi
13 US - Hantuchova
13 US - Pennetta
14 RG - Muguruza
14 WI - Zahlavova-Strycova
14 US - Bencic
14 US - Peng
UNSEEDED PLAYERS LEFT IN AO DRAW: Azarenka, Brengle vs. Keys, Wickmayer

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 MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): Nominee: 4th Rd. - Keys/USA d. #4 Kvitova/CZE 6-4/7-5
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 4th Rd. - Keys/USA d. #4 Kvitova/CZE 6-4/7-5
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, M.Brengle/USA; V.Azarenka/BLR; V.Williams/USA; G.Muguruza/ESP
IT (??): [Madisons] Madison Keys/USA & Madison Brengle/USA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: 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: Nominees: E.Bouchard/CAN (2-0 in night sessions); M.Keys/USA (def.Kvitova)

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

hey todd, i can't see the 'twitter' images properly but ok if i clicked it to open separately.

yes nadal one was funny, nice smile in the last game. haha.

Sun Jan 25, 06:14:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I don't know what's happening there. They all were find last night, and they seem to be showing up all right on the same post on the white background Backspin site (and they're the same posts).

Sun Jan 25, 11:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, some of them weren't showing up for me here, either, a few minutes ago. But now they are. Maybe they're just slow coming up. :\

Sun Jan 25, 11:40:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Now they're not working again.

Sun Jan 25, 11:42:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, I just replaced all the Twitter embed code, so hopefully they'll work, if there was something wrong there.

Sun Jan 25, 11:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Both Pova and Princess look shaky right now. The match could turn out to be a mess, and I half expect it will. For quality, I anticipate the Halep-Makarova quarterfinal, but we'll be lucky to even hear about it.

Bouchard, I suspect, hasn't yet learned to be comfortable with change. Begu got into her head so fast. I've seen that happen before with her; I think she's less emotionally steady than she appears to be--just imagine what she'll be like when she gets that under control.

Sun Jan 25, 12:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, she has the calm exterior, but (sort of like with what Sharapova said about yelling at herself in her head) you get the feeling there's something quite different going on inside. She even had trouble at times in the slams last year closing out opponents, so it's a bit of a pattern.

Maybe the lighter schedule will help one of Makarova's matches to finally be talked about on ESPN since... yeah, who am I kidding?

Sun Jan 25, 12:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Pam Shriver did call her "Sneaky Makarova" :)

Sun Jan 25, 02:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Ah so Vika is not entirely back. Domi had more conviction while vika was not sure. Set 2 moving up tactic worked. Didn't see set 1 and 3 only 2. Maybe i should have haha.

Sun Jan 25, 10:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, you saw the best Vika of the match then. :)

Shot selection... she stayed away from Cibulkova's FH in the 2nd, but not the 1st or 3rd. Not a coincidence how things turned out in each set. :\

Mon Jan 26, 01:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

But even in set 2 she was tight. Wasn't thinking straight. She lost because she was too tentative. I said before, she can't wait for the other to make mistake. In set 2 she was against her back so she played brilliantly. When she was up a break, went back to playing too safe. Never work against hard hitters. She was right about intention all along, she lost because she didn't take her opportunities. Same as Brisbane.

Mon Jan 26, 02:17:00 AM EST  

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