Tuesday, January 27, 2015

AO 9 - Russians Rule the Rod

Well, I guess it's safe to say that we were spoiled by yesterday's wonderfully competitive Round of 16 matches from the top half of the women's draw. On Tuesday in Melbourne, the bottom half -- you know, the section that brought us all those upsets last week -- didn't follow suit or live up to the hype.

Not by a long shot.

...in the first women's quarterfinal of Day 9, #3 seed Simona Halep, already a past slam finalist and viewed as the "most likely" next first-time major champion, faced off with #10 Ekaterina Makarova, who has shown a propensity for big stage wins (she's the only player never ranked #1 who has defeated both Williams Sisters, notching the pair of wins in Melbourne in '12 and '14) but is only now, at 26, starting to develop an overall consistency in her results.

On paper, it SOUNDED like an interesting match-up that might challenge the high level of play we saw in yesterday's group of very good Round of 16 matches. It SHOULD have been just that, too. Pity Halep didn't actually shown up at Rod Laver Arena with her mind and game ready to compete. Oh, she was there. Physically. Barely. But that's about the only "good" thing that can be said about her performance, or lack of one worth remembering, in a match handily won by the Russian, 6-4/6-0.

Makarova played well enough, but she really didn't have to be much more than just "all right" in order to walk away with the victory. She simply (and smartly) played within herself, remaining calm and not going for TOO much, and letting Halep's lacking play sink her chances all on its own. As a result, we didn't get a match that, ala Madison Keys' win over #4 seed Petra Kvitova last week, would exponentially raise the Russian's name recognition and get people talking about Makarova. But the shy Hordette is likely perfectly fine with that. All that matters is that she's off to another slam semifinal without having dropped as set, as she continues to seize opportunities to officially declare herself a "player" in the scramble for a major title.

Halep is left to figure out just what her issues were today, and hope that it doesn't carry over to Romania's Fed Cup tie in Galati next week.

The match's pattern was clear from the start, as it began at 11 a.m., and by 11:15 a.m. Halep was already looking like a player who had no answers, and no particular inclination to slow down her descent and find them, either. Makarova quickly went up 40/15 on the Romanian's serve, breaking for 1-0 as Halep's usually-superb movement was less than adequate, and her error totals were abnormally high. Even when she managed to control a rally, as she did after double-faulting to face a break point in game #3, she do something like push an easy forehand volley well wide, which she did to give Makarova a 3-0 lead. Through the first three games, Halep had seven errors to just a single winner.

She got one of the breaks back, and seemed to finally show up for the match four games into the opening set. She had a break point to get back on serve at 4-3, but failed to convert it. After that, Makarova took control of most of the rallies from game #9 on. The lefty Russian held a set point on Halep's serve in that game, but the Romanian managed a hold with an ace. No matter, Makarova simply served it out one game later, as Halep's error on SP #3 ended the 6-4 set.

In the 2nd, Halep's fight was missing in non-action. Her usual problem-solving skills were on holiday, too. Perhaps she left them all back at the hotel, tucked under the pillow on which sat a little mint when she first arrived. Makarova broke her for a 1-0 lead, then recovered nicely after going down love/40 on her own serve in the following game, holding for a 2-0 lead. From there, the errors coming off Halep's racket were numerous and sometimes ugly, as balls sailed long or into the net, and the Romanian didn't really seem to have much interest in firing herself up and figuring out a way to survive. She just accepted her fate, and looked for the exit. It wasn't a pretty sight, and honestly should be beneath her after what she's accomplished in major events over the past year. This wasn't a final, it was a QUARTERfinal. She's been here before. Unless there was an injury or illness that she doesn't want to blame for the display, she should be embarrassed by her effort after coming into the match with a 9-0 record on the season.

After squandering a few more break chances afforded her after she pulled off a drop shot winner (it mostly seemed more of a way to end a point quickly than to get some momentum going in her favor), Halep netted a hard Makarova serve up the "T" and it was 4-0. The end couldn't come soon enough for Halep. Thankfully she, and we, didn't have to wait much longer. Just two games more and she was finally put out of her misery.

Makarova remains, though, and now sports a healthy 38-15 career mark in hard court slams (vs. 15-14 on clay and grass). While she prefers to stay "in the shade" rather that in the spotlight, that might not be an easy option soon. As it is, she's currently the second-best lefty player on tour... but there's nothing that says that still isn't subject to change.

...the second QF of the day was the far more hyped of the two, but it didn't turn out to be much better. The high profile meeting between #2 seed Maria Sharapova and '14 AO semifinalist Genie Bouchard, after a full year of the tour trying (mostly successfully, it should be noted... up to a point) to cast the 20-year old as the "next Sharapova" or some Canadian version of that, their fourth match-up turned out just like the previous three -- with Sharapova showing rather emphatically that Bouchard still has a ways to go to live in her rather impressive shadow.

But, hey, at least one never got the feeling that Bouchard wanted to get off the grounds early in order catch an early flight. So that was at least one improvement over the first match. Sharapova was just too good. Just days after Venus Williams turned back the clock on Laver to reveal something that resembled her former self, so did Sharapova. Her serve drove her game, and the momentum it provided raised the level and effectiveness of all her other shots. Her competitiveness and will to win are always a given. The result was a thorough 6-3/6-2 dismantling of Bouchard, who, calling to mind her similar inability to find her way into the Wimbledon final against Petra Kvitova, was never able (or was unwilling) to take a step back and try to find a way to better absorb the Russian's powerful shots. She paid the price, early and often.

Sharapova jumped on Bouchard from the first swing and never let up. She broke her for a 1-0 lead, won six of the first seven points, and eight of the first ten. Bouchard managed to save break point to avoid a steeper decline, and got her first two BP looks at Sharapova's serve in the sixth game. But the Russian fired a backhand passing shot to hold for 4-2, and Bouchard never reached break point again. Serving to stay in the set, on Sharapova's second set point, Bouchard missed on an attempt at a backhand down the line and Sharapova won the 1st at 6-3.

In the 2nd set, Sharapova was even better. She made sixteen of twenty-one first serves, winning 88% of them. She allowed Bouchard only five points on her serve all set, and faced no break points. After failing to convert a break point in the second game of the set, Sharapova broke the Canadian two games later for 3-1. It was all the advantage that she needed, but she broke Bouchard again on her next break point opportunity four games later, converting it to win the match and put a bow on a consummate performance deep into a hard court slam against a high-level opponent the sort of which we haven't seen from her since, well, maybe since she won her only Australian Open title seven years ago.

Bouchard finished with thirteen winners against thirty unforced errors.

Sharapova is now 9-0 in 2015, and is riding a 16-2 run that stretches back to last season. She's 5-0 head-to-head against Makarova, who will now try to do what another Russian (Alexandra Panova, who held 2 MP in the 2nd Rd.) came so close to doing early last week. It's the first all-Hordette slam semi match-up since Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva faced off in Melbourne in 2009.

...the wheelchair draws are out (see below), and world #1 Yui Kamiji is back to try to win the one slam title that eluded her in 2014. The 20-year old Japanese won a WC Doubles Grand Slam (all four titles) with Jordanne Whiley last year, and two of the three WC singles slam competitions (Wimbledon doesn't hold a singles championship). She also reached the singles final in Melbourne, only to lose to Germany's Sabine Ellerbrock, her possible opponent in the semifinals this time around.

...in the juniors, Slovak Tereze Mihalikova upset #2-seed Swiss Jil Teichmann 5-7/7-6(5)/7-5, and Sara Tomic (AUS) and Charlotte Robillard-Millette (CAN) advanced to the Round of 16.

...DAY 9 LIKE #1: Maria gets all inspirational and stuff...

...DAY 9 "She's just saying...":

...DAY 9 LIKE #2: Russian logic


...DAY 9 "Oh, who knows?": Hopefully, we won't have to find out what she's talking about anytime soon, either.

...DAY 9 LIKE #3... but I don't really know why: The Australian Open site's Chinese language version.

...and, finally, an earlier post than usual tonight (thank you, Schedule Gods), allows me to to maybe watch a match without having to also work on a recap. Or maybe deflate a football or two, or twirl and do that bend-over-and-stick-your-butt-out thing that Vika did when she missed a shot in Melbourne. Who knows -- the possibilities are endless!

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #11 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
Madison Keys/USA vs. #18 Venus Williams/USA
#10 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS def. #3 Simona Halep/ROU
#2 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. #7 Genie Bouchard/CAN

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #8 Milos Raonic/CAN
#4 Stan Wawrinka/SUI vs. #5 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE def. #3 Rafael Nadal/ESP
#6 Andy Murray/GBR def. Nick Kyrgios/AUS

#16 Goerges/Groenefeld (GER/GER) vs. Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE)
#14 YJ.Chan/J.Zheng (TPE/CHN) vs. Krajicek/Zahlavova-Strycova (NED/CZE)

#14 Inglot/Mergea (GBR/ROU) vs. #6 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU)
Cuevas/Marrero (URU/ESP) vs. Bolelli/Fognini (ITA/ITA)
#4 Dodig/M.Melo (CRO/BRA) def. F.Lopez/Mirnyi (ESP/BLR)
Herbert/Mahut (FRA/FRA) def. Benneteau/Roger-Vasselin (FRA/FRA)

#1 Mirza/Soares (IND/BRA) vs. (WC) Dellacqua/Peers (AUS/AUS)
#3 Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) vs. #5 C.Black/Cabal (ZIM/COL)
#7 Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs. #4 Hlavackova/Peya (CZE/AUT)
SW.Hsieh/Cuevas (TPE/URU) vs. #2 Srebotnik/M.Melo (SLO/BRA)

#1 Xu Shilin/CHN vs. #14 Katie Swan/GBR
#11 Raveena Kingsley/USA vs. Viktoria Kuzmova/SVK
#4 Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov/ESP vs. Destanee Aiava/AUS
#10 Anna Blinkova/RUS vs. #5 Dalma Galfi/HUN
Anastasia Gasanova/RUS vs. Manca Pislak/SLO
Greet Minnen/BEL vs. Chihiro Muramatsu/JPN
#6 Kimberly Birrell/AUS vs. Charlotte Robillard-Millette/CAN
Sara Tomic/AUS vs. Tereze Mihalikova/SVK

#1 Roman Safiullin/RUS vs. Jake Delaney/AUS
Marc Polmans/AUS vs. Sumit Nagal/IND
Alexander Bublik/RUS vs. #14 Stefanos Tsitsipas/GRE
#11 Tim Van Rijthoven/NED vs. Djurabeck Karimov/UZB
#7 Seong-chan Hong/KOR vs. #12 Bogdan Bobrov/RUS
Marko Osmakcic/SUI vs. #3 Taylor Harry Fritz/USA
#6 Duck Hee Lee/KOR vs. Sameer Kumar/USA
#16 Akira Santillan/AUS vs. Chien-hsun Lo/TPE

Gao/Tjandramulia (CHN/AUS) vs. Arbuthnott/Francati (GBR/DEN)
Hobnarski/Minnen (GER/BEL) vs. #6 Bolsova Zadoinov/Sebov (ESP/CAN)
Pedraza/W.Zheng (USA/CHN) vs. #4 Tomic/S.Xu (AUS/CHN)
Lapko/Mihalikova (BLR/SVK) vs. #2 Kolodziejova/Vondrousova (CZE/CZE)

Delaney/Polmans (AUS/AUS) vs. #5 Santillan/Van Rijthoven (AUS/NED)
Valkusz/Wessels (HUN/GER) vs. Tukuda/Yamasaki (JPN/JPN)
Ito/Takahashi (JPN/JPN) vs. #3 Kecmanovic/Mmoh (SRB/USA)
#8 Hurkacz/Molcan (POL/SVK) vs. #2 Blumberg/Luz (USA/BRA)

#1 Yui Kamiji/JPN vs. Sharon Walraven/NED
Katharina Kruger/GER vs. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
Marjolein Buis/NED vs. Jiske Griffioen/NED
Jordanne Whiley/GBR vs. #2 Aniek Van Koot/NED

#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN vs. Maikel Scheffers/NED
Gustavo Fernandez/ARG vs. Gordon Reid/GBR
Nicolas Peifer/FRA vs. Joachim Gerard/BEL
Adam Kellerman/AUS vs. #2 Stephane Houdet/FRA

#1 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley (JPN/GBR) vs. Sharon Walraven/Katharina Kruger (GER/NED)
Marjolein Buis/Sabine Ellerbrock (NED/GER) vs. #2 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek Van Koot (NED/NED)

#1 Shingo Kunieda/Stephane Houdet (JPN/FRA) vs. Nicolas Peifer/Adam Kellerman (FRA/AUS)
Gordon Reid/Gustavo Fernandez (GBR/ARG) vs. #2 Joachim Gerard/Maikel Scheffers (BEL/NED)

2013 Miami 2nd Rd. (HC) - SHARAPOVA 6-2/6-0
2013 Roland Garros 2nd Rd. (RC) - SHARAPOVA 6-2/6-4
2014 Roland Garros SF (RC) - SHARAPOVA 4-6/7-5/6-2
2015 Australian Open 4th Rd. (HC) - SHARAPOVA 6-3/6-2

1975 Natasha Chmyreva (L)
2005 Maria Sharapova (L)
2006 Maria Sharapova (L)
2007 Maria Sharapova (W)
2008 Maria Sharapova (W)
2009 Elena Dementieva (L), Dinara Safina (W), Vera Zvonareva (L)
2011 Vera Zvonareva (L)
2012 Maria Sharapova (W)
2013 Maria Sharapova (L)
2015 Ekaterina Makarova, Maria Sharapova

306...Martina Navratilova
299...Chris Evert
278...Steffi Graf
262...Serena Williams #
224...Venus Williams #
210...Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
198...Lindsay Davenport
180...Monica Seles
174...Conchita Martinez
170...Maria Sharapova #
164...Gabriela Sabatini

65 - Serena Williams #
60 - Margaret Court
56 - Lindsay Davenport
52 - Martina Hingis
47 - Steffi Graf
47 - Maria Sharapova #
46 - Martina Navratilova
45 - Venus Williams #
43 - Kim Clijsters
43 - Monica Seles

52...Chris Evert
44...Martina Navratilova
37...Steffi Graf
25...Serena Williams #
21...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
19...Evonne Goolagong
19...Martina Hingis
19...Maria Sharapova #
19...Venus Williams #
18...Lindsay Davenport
18...Billie Jean King
18...Gabriela Sabatini
18...Monica Seles

Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
[ Unseeded - Keys??? ] *
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (RU)
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
[ #18 - V.Williams??? ] *
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
[ #11 - Cibulkova??? ] *
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
#10 - 2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
* - in QF

2015 Venus Williams, USA

AO: Aniek Van Koot, NED
RG: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
US: Aniek Van Koot, NED
AO: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
RG: Yui Kamiji, JPN
US: Yui Kamiji, JPN

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; V.Williams/USA; D.Cibulkova/SVK
IT (??): [Madisons] Madison Keys/USA & Madison Brengle/USA
COMEBACK PLAYER: Victoria 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); V.Williams/USA

All for Day 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Caroline back in top 5 and with few points to defend in the coming months you never know ;) Could be a very good AO next year if she can get a decent draw. Hope the new ranking will bring her a bit of inspiration and confidence - and then I hope Serena gets her #19.

Tue Jan 27, 02:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

So straight sets. Makorova rocked Halep. Anti climax on Maria-genie match. Shock of the day, Nadal lost in straight sets and by a far gap... Speechless

Tue Jan 27, 08:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger Galileo said...

I had Halep in my suicide pool thinking shed win and then I could pick Maria in the semi-final then Serena to win. And I would've gotten away with it too if it wasn't for that meddling Makarova.

Also, Nadal himself admitted he probably wasn't going to win this tournament. He probably has his eyes on the French and Wimbledon in particular.

Wozniacki traditionally does well at those big Premiers in March. I think she has points to defend there but it should still be a rich hunting ground.

Tue Jan 27, 08:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Watching the Venus/Keys match today, I kept having flashbacks to Sharapova/Davenport at '04 Wimbledon.

I thought Davenport played a good match that day...but it was like it was Sharapova's destiny to win.

Tue Jan 27, 09:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I like Jo Durie as a commentator. She's made some really good observations. The man who commentates with her is also very good. I don't know his name though.

(and I love it when they call players out on gamesmanship...in their genteel English way. you'd think they were complimenting you based on their tone and wording.)

Tue Jan 27, 09:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, if Venus had actually won that match it would have been a case of a player who really didn't play very well getting "a pass" to the next round. Easily her worst match of the tournament, and her '15 season, so far. Once it started, it was clear it was always Keys' match to win and, in the last few games when she finally cleaned up her errors, she finally just took a step forward and let happen what SHOULD have.

Tue Jan 27, 09:45:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, Nadal took the position that a QF was a very good result for him. And going in, it would have been. He looked capable of more about half-way through, though.

For as long as he's around, it seems his entire season's grade of "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" will depend on what he does in the clay season, or more specifically, in Paris. As long as he wins there again, everything else is, not meaningless, but surely ancillary. When (if?) he ever doesn't win there, though, everything will look SO different and he won't get a "pass" for lacking results/health elsewhere. He always finds a way to be ready for those two weeks... so he likely will be again.

Tue Jan 27, 09:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

so serena vs maria, and serena getting her 19th?!

i was so tempted to pick venus, what a good story that would be.

Wed Jan 28, 12:54:00 AM EST  

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