Wednesday, September 09, 2015

US.10 - Flavia-phonic!

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Through the first week of this U.S. Open, Petra Kvitova was mostly the picture of a casual, breezy and funny presence that had been dropped down in the middle of New York City. And why shouldn't she have been? Having been finally diagnosed with mono after Wimbledon, some of the questions about her health issues this season (and earlier) seemed to have been answered. She came to Flushing Meadows off a title run in New Haven, and she'd barely been tested in the opening rounds in Flushing Meadows as she reached her first QF at the event.

But if you know Petra, you're always waiting for IT to happen. For HER to show up... especially in the heat and humidity of New York, for the Czech has always been subject to wilting in the summer heat in America, struggling with her asthma and/or whatever her undiagnosed health issues have been or possibly continue to be. Good Petra (or "Stereo Petra," as she was in Connecticut after her best post-mono diagnosis run) is great to watch, but Bad Petra ("Mono Petra") is rarely ever far behind, waiting in the shadows to spoil the day.

Kvitova's quarterfinal opponent on Wednesday was none other than #26 seed Flavia Pennetta, the 33-year old who has perhaps shined her brightest on the big stage of NYC. She's reached at least the QF (one SF) six times at the Open since 2008, pulling off many dramatic victories and winning over both small and large crowds.

Kvitova came into today's match only having lost her serve once through the first four rounds. Playing short matches, the often physically fragile and/or ill #5 seed had yet to face the same sort of issues with the heat that have felled so many at this Open. In her last match against Johanna Konta, though, her huffing in puffing in a tight, straight sets match were somewhat worrisome. So, today was to be the multi-sided Czech's first real NYC test, as far as both the weather AND her opponent were concerned.

As it turned out, Pennetta was the one who had all the answers.

Through Kvitova's first three service games, Pennetta had her opponent's back against the wall in an 11 a.m. match that was set up to run directly into the tough afternoon weather conditions, as well as an overhead sun position that would wreak havoc with the Czech's service toss throughout the opening set. Pennetta broke her for just the second time in the tournament in the first game of the match and held additional BP in games #3 and #5. But her inability to back up her break, losing her own opening service game and then giving up the advantage by dropping it again to give Kvitova a 4-2 lead, prevented her from taking the opportunity that the Czech had presented her with. It was clear that Kvitova's health was going to be an issue, as Pennetta won every even moderately long rally. In Game #7, one long rally essentially took Kvitova out of action for a handful of points that followed. After Pennetta had run the Czech back and forth across the baseline until she was unable to get back a shot, taking the point to deuce, Kvitova's long delay in serving the next point as she tried to catch her breath led to a time warning. She then hit an ace to get to game point, but then her issues led to back-to-back DF, the second of which gave Pennetta a BP. Kvitova saved it with a big serve, then was forced to save another BP in an important hold for 5-2.

Serving at 5-3, Kvitova served from the difficult sun end of the court. A DF brought things to 30/30. She saved a break point, then held a set point, but another DF squandered it. On Pennetta's second break point, she finally converted it with a backhand return winner.

In all, Kvitova had six double faults in the set which had just moments earlier been on her racket, and consistently showed the signs of distress that are the "canary in the coal mine" when it comes to the onset of Bad/Mono Petra. The clock was still ticking down toward the arrival of you-know-who, but Kvitova was continuing to keep one step ahead. Barely, and with a little help from Pennetta.

After having broken Kvitova to keep the set alive one game earlier, the Italian took a 40/love lead on serve in game #10 as the Czech was visibly struggling and even opened the game by missing an easy shot at the net by a wide margin. But two double-faults brought down Pennetta's house, the final coming on Kvitova'a second set point as she grabbed the stanza at 6-4 and moved forward, hoping against hope that she could keep her personal reaper at bay.

Once again, Kvitova found her back against the wall at the start of the 2nd, but she again saved a BP to hold for 1-0. Kvitova broke the Italian to take at 3-1 lead, and it looked as if she might be able to beat the clock. But she wasn't safe yet.

The Czech fell down love/40 in game #5, and Pennetta got back on serve with a big return winner to get to 3-2. She got to deuce on Kvitova's serve two games later, but a beautifully angled backhand winner from the corner got the Czech to game point and she held with a wide serve and backhand winner combination to hold for 4-3. The Italian's attempt to fully lure Bad/Mono Petra out into the sunlight continued two games later. After Kvitova continued to win big points to extend the game, Pennetta finally got the break on her third BP of the game with a return winner to the corner to go up 5-4.

Serving for the set, Pennetta pushed out an easy down the line forehand on set point, then squatted with her head down immediately afterward, fighting off the effects of her lost opportunity. But rather than bathe in the disappointment, she instead showed no mercy. She dragged a tired and laboring Kvitova to the net with a drop shot to reach set point. Again, Big Point Petra saved it with a deep return to elicit a Pennetta error, then reached break point with a forehand to the corner. But Pennetta was undaunted. After saving a second BP with a backhand winner, she reached her third set point and put it away when Kvitova's backhand flew wide. With a 6-4 2nd set win, Pennetta had done what she needed to do -- push Kvitova to a 3rd set in the heat.

She had her right where she wanted her.

Kvitova held on as long as she could in the 3rd, passing Pennetta at the net to hold for 2-1. But by the time game #5 rolled around, already playing with her right thigh wrapped, the Czech was crouching in pain. She fell down love/30, an error gave Pennetta double BP, and on the Italians' second try she converted when a Kvitova shot sailed long as the score when to 3-2.

In contrast to her opponent, Pennetta was still fresh and playing on her toes. And she showed Kvitova no mercy in the final games. She held at love for 4-2, then a worn down Kvitova began to outwardly show frustration with her condition, slumping her shoulders and swatting a ball after falling behind early in game #7. Still, the Czech got to game point. But when a wide Pennetta return took Kvitova into the outskirts of the sidelines, she didn't even attempt to follow her reply back into the court. As she stood in the shadows, Pennetta put away an easy winner into a wide open court.

It was over, as long as Pennetta held her nerve.

The Italian reached BP when a Kvitova backhand went wide, then claimed it via a Kvitova error as Pennetta simply made her play because it was apparent that she couldn't do it for long with any effectiveness. With a 5-2 lead, Pennetta served for her second U.S. Open semifinal appearance in the last three years. She mercilessly moved the Czech side to side on the baseline with well-place groundstrokes, then forced her to race to the net for a drop shot that she couldn't return. 30/15. With the Italian playing quickly as Kvitova attempted to lag in the backcourt, a return error gave Pennetta a double match point. On MP #2, a long Kvitova backhand ended things, as Pennetta won 4-6/6-4/6-2 to make it TWO Italians in the Open semis for the first time ever.

Hey, what's a New York party without multiple Italians, eh?

=DAY 10 NOTES= the juniors, the quarterfinals are now set. Two Americans remain, along with a pair of Hungarians and a Belarusian duo. The Wimbledon champ, #10 Sofya Zhuk (RUS), defeated #8 Usue Arconada (USA) today and will next face #2 Dalma Galfi (HUN), who defeated unseeded Indian Karmen Thandi. Bannerette wild card Kylie McKenzie gets #11 Fanni Stollar (HUN), while her #9-seeded fellow American Sonya Kenin took out Tessah Andrianjafitrimo on Wednesday and will face #13 Vera Lapko of Belarus. If Serena Williams win the women's title, while 15-year old Kenin makes it an American sweep with a win of the junior crown, it would quite the interesting turn, considering Kenin hadn't yet been born when Williams won her first U.S. Open title in 1999.

Meanwhile, Lapko's fellow Belarusian Iryna Shymanovich's QF opponent will be the U.S.'s Francesca Di Lorenzo, who defeated Australian Open girls champ #4 Tereza Mihalikova (SVK) today.

The American boys have dominated the junior slams this summer season (filling three of the four final slots at RG and Wimbledon), and the stage is set for the same to happen at the Open. Four U.S. players are in the quarterfinals, including #1 Taylor Fritz (RG runner-up), #2 Michael Mmoh, and #5 Tommy Paul (RG champ). One American is certain to reach the semis, as Fritz faces wild card Alex Rybakov, while Paul and Mmoh both play in separate QF matches in the bottom half of the draw. Only the QF featuring Wimbledon finalist Mikael Ymer (SWE) and Chung Yunseong (KOR) is without an American boy.

...the Billie Jean King Collegiate Invitational draws are out (see below). Jamie Loeb won the inaugural event at Flushing Meadows in 2014, then went on to win the NCAA women's championship while playing for North Carolina this year. I'll go with last year's runner-up in the event, #4-seeded Julia Elbaba (Virginia), to defeat #4 Lauren Herring (Georgia).

...only one women's doubles QF was finished this afternoon before rain interrupted play, as Anna-Lena Groenefeld & Coco Vandeweghe advanced. Two more matches are to be finished (Dellacqua/Shvedova vs. Kudryavtseva/Pavlyuchenkova) or started (Hingis/Mirza vs. Errani/Pennetta). Also, the two mixed semifinals are set to be played (one also with Hingis, by the way).

...the other QF between #2 Simona Halep and #20 Victoria Azarenka has been interrupted due to rain and should be resumed later, so I'll wait to do an additional post for that one.

Next year, there will be a roof. So, of course, there will be no rain in 2016. Plan for it.

Ummmmmm... ON DAY 10: Oh, my.

LIKE ON DAY 10: Do it, Maria! Do it!

Don't Dare Me

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

LIKE ON DAY 10: Petko!

LIKE ON DAY 10: Still looking over everyone's shoulder...

...and, finally... why am I not surprised?

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Roberta Vinci/ITA
#26 Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. #20 Victoria Azarenka/BLR or #2 Simona Halep/ROU

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #9 Marin Cilic/CRO
#5 Stan Wawrinka/SUI or #15 Kevin Anderson/RSA
vs. #12 Richard Gasquet/FRA or #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 M.Hingis/S.Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. #11 S.Errani/F.Pennetta (ITA/ITA)
#12 A.Kudrayvtseva/A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS/RUS) or #4 C.Dellacqua/Y.Shvedova (AUS/KAZ)
vs. A.Groenefeld/C.Vandeweghe (GER/USA)

S.Johnson/S.Querrey (USA/USA) vs. #8 J.Murray/J.Peers (GBR/AUS)
#12 P.Herbert/N.Mahut (FRA/FRA) vs. D.Inglot/R.Lindstedt (GBR/SWE)

A.Hlavackova/L.Kubot (CZE/POL) vs. B.Mattek-Sands/S.Querrey (USA/USA)
#4 M.Hingis/L.Paes (SUI/IND) vs. #2 Y.Chan/R.Bopanna (TPE/IND)

#13 Vera Lapko/BLR vs. #9 Sonya Kenin/USA
(WC) Kylie McKenzie/USA vs. #11 Fanni Stollar/HUN
Iryna Shymanovich/BLR vs. Francesca Di Lorenzo/USA
#10 Sofya Zhuk/RUS vs. #2 Dalma Galfi/HUN

#1 Taylor Harry Fritz/USA vs. (WC) Alex Rybakov/USA
#3 Mikael Ymer/SWE vs. #11 Chung Yunseong/KOR
#5 Tommy Paul/USA vs. #4 Hong Seong-chan/KOR
Alex De Minaur/AUS vs. #2 Michael Mmoh/USA

#1 Brooke Austin (Florida) vs. Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA)
#3 Lauren Herring (Georgia) vs. Maegan Manasse (California)
Julia Jones (Mississippi) vs. #4 Julia Elbaba (Virginia)
Josie Kuhlman (Florida) vs. #2 Robin Anderson (UCLA)

#1 Ryan Shane (Virginia) vs. Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA)
#4 Gonzales Austin (Vanderbilt) vs. Winston Lin (Columbia)
Jared Hiltzik (Illinois) vs. #3 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (Virginia)
Quentin Monaghan (Notre Dame) vs. #2 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA)

Hey, after a while, you get used to it.

AO: Venus Williams/USA & Martina Hingis/SUI
RG: Lucie Safarova, CZE
WI: Martina Hingis, SUI
US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA

2010 Vania King, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 "Future Sloane" (Stephens), USA
2013 Camila Giorgi, ITA
2014 Belinda Bencic, SUI
2015 Lisa Raymond, USA

JAN: Sachia Vickery, USA
FEB: Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
MAR: Katerina Stewart, USA
1Q: Margarita Gasparyan, RUS
APR/MAY: Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
MAY/JUN: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
RG: Monica Niculescu, ROU
2Q Clay Court: Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
JUN: Anett Kontaveit, EST
2Q Grass Court/WI: Anett Kontaveit, EST
JUL/AUG: Barbora Krejcikova, CZE
AUG: Johanna Konta, GBR
[2015 Weekly ITF PLAYER Wins]
2...Olga Govortsova, BLR
2...Anhelina Kalinina, UKR
2...Daria Kasatkina, RUS
2...Johanna Konta, GBR
2...Katerina Stewart, USA
2...Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
2...Sachia Vickery, USA

TOP QUALIFIER: (WC) Jessica Pegula/USA
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Tereza Mrdeza/CRO d. #2 Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ 5-7/7-6(8)/7-6(4) [3:12; saved 3 MP]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #12 Belinda Bencic/SUI d. Misaki Doi/JPN 5-7/7-6(3)/6-3 (down 3 MP in 2nd; outburst/crying/no shake umpire's hand)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - #20 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. #11 Angelique Kerber/GER 7-5/2-6/6-4
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: Petra Cetkovska/CZE d. #4 Carolina Wozniacki/DEN 6-4/5-7/7-6(1) (saved 4 MP; ended past midnight after 3:02)
FIRST VICTORY: Mariana Duque/COL (def. Kenin/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 1st Rd. to Cibulkova/SVK)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Serbia (1-4; #7 Ivanovic, #21 Jankovic and '14 star Aleksandra Krunic out in 1st Rd.)
CRASH & BURN: #8 Karolina Pliskova/CZE (1st Rd. loss to Tatishvili/USA; :52; U.S. Open Series "winner")
ZOMBIE QUEEN: (LL) Daria Kasatkina/RUS (lucky loser, reached3rd Round after wins over Gavrilova & Konjuh -- best LL slam result since 1997, best at Open since 1993)
IT ("Kiki"): Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Johnna Konta/GBR & Anett Kontaveit/EST (both 4th Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA (3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: #1 Serena Williams (in SF)
COMEBACK PLAYER: #20 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
BROADWAY-BOUND: Lisa Raymond (farewell New York performance)
LADY OF THE EVENING: #1 Serena Williams/USA

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

It broke my heart, but I was consoled by the fact that my favorite Fighting Italian has reached the semifinals. I'm always thrilled to see Flavia make a big run; she can never be counted out. And to have two Italians in the last four is about as good as it gets.

Wed Sep 09, 11:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

And I am disappointed Vika didn't make it. But, a negative differential with a 100% bp conversion actually made the match looked tight. Haha. I guess sometimes things are meant to be. That sudden rain delay was very questionable.

Wed Sep 09, 11:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Am I the only one who thinks Vika's physique has changed? At first, I just thought she hadn't taken off post-injury weight. But now, it seems like something else, like her body is just--thicker. Her face seems fuller to me, too. She looks healthy, just different. To me.

Thu Sep 10, 12:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, it'd been great to see Vika go further, but you have to wonder how much the injury issues she had during this summer hard court season might have held her back just enough that she wasn't able to fully peak in NYC. She was close, but not quite there.

Could some of that be the result of training to strengthen her core -- and hopefully prevent injury -- leading to the thicker physique? Not sure. When you think back, Capriati had a little of the same body changes as she got older, I think. She was bigger and stronger looking later in her career than when she first broke in. That said, Vika isn't in the shape she was before 2014, so maybe that's the next step for 2016... now that she can assume "health," to get back that extra half/quarter step of speed that could make a huge difference in rallies with a player like Halep.

Thu Sep 10, 12:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

How to balance core muscles with agility. I do think getting bigger and stronger is not a bad idea. She is not getting younger so running all the time won't sustain. Getting a bit of speed back should be possible, have a feeling she is trying to build and form more like Serena. But her balls she plays should be more crisp and angled, now rely on too much rhythm , at the same time giving opponents a lot space to put the balls back on place. Anyway, just saying.

Thu Sep 10, 09:52:00 AM EDT  

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