Tuesday, September 01, 2015

US.2 - They Almost Had Paris, but Not New York

After six seeds fell on Day 1 (three in the Top 10), things picked right up where they left off early on Tuesday, courtesy of Lucie Safarova and Timea Bacsinszky.

In June, the two women came within a Serena-Williams-teetering-on-the-edge-of-oblivion moment in the semifinals against Bacsinszky from meeting to decide the Roland Garros title in one of the more unexpected slam final match-ups in recent memory. As it was, Timea lost to Williams that day, and then Safarova did the same in her maiden slam final appearance two days later.

In New York, Serena is trying to win her fourth major title of 2015. But Safarova and Bacsinszky won't have anything to say about the outcome.

#6 Safarova, just a few days after defeating Lesia Tsurenko in the New Haven semifinals, couldn't pull off the feat again. Sometimes Tsurenko gets that look on her face that says, "Don't get in my way." And that was pretty much the tone of this match, as the two were tied at 2-2 in the 1st... and then Tsurenko just took over, winning ten of the final twelve games, including going up a double-break at 4-0 in the 2nd. She ultimately won 6-4/6-1, notching her fifth Top 10 win of 2015, but her first career U.S. Open main draw victory. Tsurenko out-pointed Safarova 63-41 on the day, as the not-on-it-at-all Czech committed more than twice as many (33-15) unforced errors.

Oh, and it WASN'T the shoes this time, either. While everyone else seems to be wearing florescent colored shoes at this Open, as the Ukrainian did last week, today Tsurenko simply wore plain, white footwear. The power of simplicity, I guess.

Meanwhile, it was an even worse day for #14 Bacsinszky, playing in more than relative obscurity on Court 9 versus Barbora Strycova. The match wasn't even available for streaming on the ESPN3 list of matches and the match stats didn't include winners/unforced errors, so I'm assuming that it's a non-TV court... and for a 2015 slam semifinalist and one of the best stories of the season, too. Good work, USTA. Of course, considering how things went, maybe anonymity was for the best for Timea, as she lost 7-5/6-0, dropping serve eight straight times to end the match.

Bacsinszky had actually held for 1-0 to start things off, then neither woman could find a way to hold. After seven straight combined breaks of serve, the Swiss served for the set at 5-3... but she was then the victim of an eighth straight break in the set. After Strycova broke the string and held, Bacsinszky was broken again, then Strycova held at love to take the 1st at 7-5. Bacsinszky didn't win another game, going out 7-5/6-0 as the Czech swamped her to the tune of a 63-37 advantage in points. The victory ends Strycova's three-match '15 losing streak in the majors.

Bacsinszky, such a great story all season, has had a miserable summer since leaving Wimbledon. This is her fifth consecutive loss, including going 0-4 on summer hard courts. Not. Good.

But she's survived worse.

...things settled down on Day 2 after the early spate of (more) upsets. Especially at the very TOP of the bottom half of the draw, things were MORE than a bit quiet on Tuesday.

After #1 Serena Williams had a short work day/night on Ashe on Monday, with Vitalia Diatchenko retiring after eight games (6-0/2-0), #2 Simona Halep had a similar experience on Day 2. Her 1st Round opponent, Marina Erakovic, retired after eleven games today, as the Swarmette advanced 6-2/3-0.

#4 Caroline Wozniacki, somewhat forgotten as the actual RUNNER-UP last year, easily advanced past NCAA champion Jamie Loeb 6-2/6-0; while #20 Victoria Azarenka handled Lucie Hradecka 6-1/6-2. Vika was an Open finalist in 2012-13, and reached the QF a year ago. More reasons why you shouldn't overlook Azarenka at this Open.

#11 Angelique Kerber, the Stanford champ earlier this summer, put away Alexandra Dulgheru 6-3/6-1 in a little over an hour, winning in the 1st Round of a slam for the fifteenth time in the last sixteen. She's reached at least the 3rd Round in fourteen of the last sixteen.

...while the top half of he draw had its share of blown matches yesterday, #29 Irina-Camelia Begu stepped up in the first wave of Day 2 matches to help the bottom half keep pace.

The Romanian dropped the opening set to Belarusian Olga Govortsova 6-1, but quickly rebounded to take the 2nd at love and race to a 4-1 lead in the 3rd. She held a MP at 5-2, and served for the match at 5-3. But Govortsova broke serve, then took things to a tie-break. She won it 7-3, downing Begu 6-1/0-6/7-6(3), advancing the U.S. Open 2nd Round for just the second time in the last seven years (the 27-year old had a 3rd Round result in '12).

Later, Laura Robson did her part, as well. Shockingly, Hordette Elena Vesnina was the beneficiary of a 3rd set collapse, rather than being the perpetrator of one, as is often the case.

Robson, in the draw with a protected ranking, led the Russian 4-0 in the 3rd, only to lose seven of the last eight games of the match as Vesnina won 3-6/6-3/7-5. She hit an ace to give herself a match point, then Robson sailed a return to end things. Robson, who is now 2-7 in '15 after returning this summer after a year and a half absence following wrist surgery, hasn't won a main draw match at a slam since the 2013 U.S. Open. As the #30 seed, the Brit won a 2nd Rounder over Caroline Garcia in Flushing Meadows two years ago before losing a round later to Li Na. Robson is currently ranked #618.

...in the afternoon, 18-year old qualifier Jelena Ostapenko took out Germany's Annika Beck. Beck was a up a break on three different occasions in the 3rd set, but Ostapenko got the break back in the next game each time. The last break-back got things even at 4-4, then the Latvian held at 15, then broke Beck again (also at 15) to win the match 6-4/1-6/6-4. Last year's Wimbledon girls champ, Ostapenko got her first career slam MD win at Wimbledon earlier this summer (as a wild card), and has now added her first Open victory, as well.

Ostapenko's win continues the strength of the Baltic nations at this slam. On Day 1, Estonia's Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi both advanced.

...oh, if only the match was played at Wimbledon, things might have been different.

Tsvetana Pironkova, who hasn't exactly built on the first career tour title she won in Sydney at the start of 2014, looked as if she was going to get a good Open (not Wimbledon!) win over Mona Barthel today. But then, well, she didn't.

The Bulgarian took the 1st set 7-5, breaking the German on her eighth BP/SP of the twelfth game, then led 5-2 in the 2nd set. She served at 5-3, but failed to put the match away. She led 3-1 in the eventual tie-break, too, but Barthel ultimately won it 7-4. Then Pironkova fell behind 5-0 in the 3rd.

Every time something like that happens, you sort of keep your eye on it... you know, just in case a MAJOR collapse comes about. It didn't here, though. Barthel won 5-7/7-6(4)/6-1 to reach the Open 2nd Round for the fourth time in her career. She's never advances beyond that point, though.

...Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza didn't suffer the same fate as Bacsinszky today, as the Spaniard DID get her first win since leaving London. After going 0-2 in the summer hard court season, then dismissing her coach, the 21-year old took down Carina Witthoeft 6-2/6-4 today to record her first career U.S. Open match victory.

Meanwhile, #18 Andrea Petkovic was very Petko today, while Caroline Garcia was very, well, Caroline Garcia.

Garcia won the 1st set 6-3 against the German, and held four break points at 3-3 to grab an advantage in the 2nd. But Petkovic battled and held for 4-3, then Garcia was eventually broken in game #10 as Petko took the 2nd at 6-4. In the 3rd, again, Garcia found herself on the edge of grabbing hold of the match, only to fail to convert. Up 4-2, she held a BP for a 5-2 lead, but the German held and forced the Pastry to continue to hold serve if she wanted to play in the 2nd Round.

Not shockingly, considering her shaky past in such moments, Garcia wasn't able to do it.

Petkovic went up 40/love on Garcia's serve in game #8, breaking to get back on serve at 4-4. After Petko held to take a 6-5 lead, Garcia had to hold to stay in the match and force a deciding tie-break. In a tight game #12, Petkovic went up 30/15, only to see Garcia fire an ace to avoid a deep hole. Still, Petko got to match point. Garcia saved it, and held a game point of her own. Again, she couldn't put away the big point. On MP #2, Garcia netted a forehand and Petkovic advanced 3-6/6-4/7-5 in 2:34.

Well, at least it didn't happen on Ashe Court, or Chatrier. Right, Caroline?

...and, alas, The Bracelet is no more.

(Backspin pauses for a brief moment of silence.)

One year after Aleksandra Krunic put on a fabulous run to the U.S. Open 4th Round, defeating Keys and Kvitova (and nearly Vika, too) along the way, she is out of this year's Open in the 1st Round, dropping the Serbian women to 1-3 at this slam.

Krunic was likely under tremendous pressure to live up to her '14 result, but she still should have won her match against Danka Kovinic, largely because she had multiple leads but squandered them all. After winning the 1st set 6-4, Krunic was up a break twice in the 2nd (at 1-0, and 2-1), but failed to hold the lead against Jelena Jankovic's protege.

I just like saying that.

Kovinic won the 2nd 7-5, then raced out to an early lead in the 3rd and never gave it away, winning 4-6/7-5/6-1. The first Montenegrin to win a slam MD match, now Kovinic has two to her credit.

Oh, well. Krunic has still had a career year so far, and she'll be able to be the Serbian Good Luck Charm next season in Fed Cup, too.

Peace, Bracelet.

QUALIFIER WINS: Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR (def. Putintseva), Johanna Konta/GBR (def. Chirico), Jelena Ostapenko/LAT (def. Beck)
WILD CARD WINS: none so far
BANNERETTE WINS: Varvara Lepchenko (def. Flipkens)

QUALIFIERS STILL TO FINISH ON DAY 2:: Hibi, Mrdeza, Panova, Rogers, Sasnovich, Siegemund

...later in the afternoon/early evening, Francesca Schiavone lost to former Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3/6-1.

I mention the 35-year old former RG champ's defeat because the Italian continues to chase WTA slam history of her own, no matter what it takes. This is Schiavone's sixty-first consecutive slam, one off the tour record set by Ai Sugiyama. She entered this Open ranked #95, and her standing will drop still more after the Open, so she's in real danger of finishing the season outside the Top 100 for the first time since 1999. And that could play a part in ending her consecutive slam, since if she slips much farther she won't get an automatic spot in the MD at next year's Australian Open.

It's her slam results as she's been chasing down Sugiyama that are truly striking, though. This 1st Round loss is her fourth straight at the Open, and her third one-and-out at the 2015 slams. Not only that, but she's lost in her opening match at nine of the last ten slams, and eleven of thirteen.

Hopefully she'll put together something decent down the stretch this season to ensure herself the chance of #62 if she remains injury-free, and not have it come with anything resembling an "asterisk" that might come with a wild card (she wouldn't get one for Melbourne, but Roland Garros might award her one as she'd be going for a record-breaking #63 in what could even be a career farewell moment). Schiavone is just 2-9 since defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova in that exciting match at Roland Garros in the spring. Maybe she'll be able to draw on that to put up a SF or better result at one of the smaller 4Q tournaments this fall and give herself a little wiggle room as far as her ranking heading into 2016.

Crossing fingers.

...I'm going to end the recap here, but if anything MAJOR happens in the early evening hours or into the night (Kvitiova plays the late night match on Ashe), I could come back with a Day 2.5 post. Otherwise, the final part of the Graf Era/Serena Era Volley series will probably be posted by morning.

Hmmmm... FROM DAY 2: Was it just me, and that yesterday had many little moments of drama, but was Day 2's schedule decidedly LACKING as far as compelling 1st Round match-ups? And many of the ones that were of note -- Safarova/Tsurenko, Bacsinszky/Strycova -- turned out to be busts. There just didn't seem to be a lot of buzz. There were stretches when there were, really, NO matches of great interest being played on the grounds. I mean, anywhere.


Hmmm, then maybe you shouldn't have set fire to a few bridges before you crossed them. You know, in case you might encounter trouble and need "safe passage." Sometimes you really do reap what you sow.

LIKE FROM DAY 2: Maria's not on the court, but...

LIKE FROM DAY 2: Varvara Lepchenko has been "promoted" by ESPN. In her first mention today after her win, she was simply called "American Varvara Lepchenko," rather than "naturalized (citizen) American Varvara Lepchenko," as she was a season or two ago. Incessantly, in fact.

DISLIKE FROM DAY 2: Of course, that public access television-ready LZ Granderson has been "promoted" to first-up-on-the-couch status with Chris McKendry and Patrick McEnroe in the network's opening segment ALSO says a great deal about the quality (or lack thereof) of the coverage provided by ESPN, which just has absolutely no storytelling abilities when it comes to covering the slams.

At one point today there were eleven matches going on, including those involving Lleyton Hewitt (in his last Open), Dominic Thiem (a NextGen player viewers need to become familiar with), Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza, Andrea Petrkovic vs. Caroline Garcia, Bannerette Christina McHale and multiple 2015 title-winner Anna Schmiedlova... and ESPN had Bobbsey Twins (Dreadlocks Edition) Granderson and Chris McKendry (who I generally used to enjoy... but she's been ESPN-ified) interviewing John Isner, showing Wozniacki press room snippets and Djokovic practicing. And then they went to commercial. Pathetic.

Someone should get a VCR and a box of old 6-hour cassette tapes of some of HBO's Wimbledon coverage from about twenty years ago and throw the ESPN directors and producers into a room, lock the door, and force them to watch how a slam SHOULD be covered on an all-encompassing daily basis. Maybe, after a while, they'd "get" it. Or, you know, they'd go all Uruguayan rugby team on each other and the network could just start over with a whole new group of well-fed, more creative people. Just a thought.

Here are some reminiscences about HBO's twenty-five years of coverage, which ended in 1999.


Of course, that person would probably be the new producer of ESPN's tennis coverage if the above item actually became reality. Sigh.


I like it... though I hate that I even care at all. But then I realize that I don't.

LIKE FROM DAY 2: Jeter. In. The. House. !!

LIKE FROM DAY 2: The Dream Team is in the house, too!

DISAPPOINTING TRUTH FROM DAY 2, no matter how much money ESPN pays to be the SOLE broadcaster of the U.S.'s home slam: It's pretty damn bad when you have to watch an entire slam online because the over-the-air coverage is so pathetic. At least there's the night session... but I'm sure they'll find a way to screw that up, too. Speaking of...

...and, finally... what do you do when a player embarrasses himself and the sport on an international basis? Why, you put him on center stage in a night match on the biggest court in the world in his very next slam match, that's what. Hence, Andy Murray vs. Nick Kyrgios on Night 2 on Ashe.

That'll learn 'im. Nick will think before he speaks next time. Yeah, okay.

JAN: Madison Keys, USA
FEB: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
MAR: Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
1Q: Simona Halep, ROU
APR/MAY: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
MAY/JUN: Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
RG: Timea Bacsinszy, SUI
2Q Clay Court: Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
JUN: Camila Giorgi, ITA
2Q Grass Court/WI: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
JUL/AUG: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
AUG: Simona Halep, ROU
[2015 Weekly RISER Wins]
6...Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
5...Garbine Muguruza, ESP
5...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
4...Caroline Garcia, FRA
4...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
4...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
3...Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
3...Kiki Bertens, NED
3...Zarina Diyas, KAZ
3...Simona Halep, ROU
3...Madison Keys, USA
3...Karin Knapp, ITA
3...Teliana Pereira, BRA
3...Aga Radwanska, POL
3...Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
2...Alize Cornet, FRA
2...Camila Giorgi, ITA
2...Julia Goerges, GER
2...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2...Tatjana Maria, GER
2...Monica Niculescu, ROU
2...Alison Riske, USA
2...ROU Fed Cup Team
2...Lucie Safarova, CZE
2...Anna Schmiedlova, SVK
2...Sloane Stephens, USA
2...Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2...Anna Tatishvili, USA
2...Coco Vandeweghe, USA
2...Heather Watson, GBR

TOP QUALIFIER: (WC) Jessica Pegula/USA
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
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): xx
FIRST VICTORY: Mariana Duque/COL (def. Kenin/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 1st Rd. to Cibulkova/SVK)
CRASH & BURN: Nominees: Serbs (#7 Ivanovic, 1st Rd.-Cibulkova; #21 Jankovic, 1st Rd.-Dodin), #8 Ka.Pliskova (out 1st Rd. in :52 to Tatishvili; U.S. Open Series winner)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: Brengle/USA (1st Rd. - blew 6-2/4-2 lead, Sai.Zheng served at 5-2 and 5-4 in 3rd, Brengle broke to won on 6th MP of final game); Govortsova/BLR (1st Rd. - down 4-1 in 3rd to Begu, MP at 5-2 and Begu for match at 5-3)
IT ("xx"): xx
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Bertens/NED, K.Bondarenko/UKR, Konta/GBR, Kontaveit/EST, Ostapenko/LAT, Pegula/USA, Tatishvili/USA
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Dodin/FRA, Mattek-Sands/USA
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Brengle, Davis, Falconi, Keys, Lepchenko, Mattek-Sands, Pegula, Tatishvili, Vandeweghe, S.Williams, V.Williams
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: Duval (lost in qualifying), Cibulkova, K.Bondarenko

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Post a Comment

<< Home