Wednesday, January 20, 2016

AO 3 - Savoring the Luck While It Lasts

With early morning rain pushing much of the schedule back on the non-show, non-roof courts only Rod Laver, Margaret Court and Hisense saw action at the beginning of Day 3. So, if a player was lucky, they were scheduled in a first-up match on one of those courts and didn't have to worry about their daily routines being disturbed one iota.

Naturally, because it's usually pretty good to be her (well, except when you-know-who has been around for about a decade or so) Maria Sharapova was scheduled to play the first match up on Laver.

Against 21-year old, #105-ranked Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Sharapova took advantage of her opponent's relative inexperience on such a big stage against such a highly ranked opponent. The Russian raced out to a 4-0 lead before Sasnovich began to even get anything resembling a foothold in the moment/match. As it turned out, Sasnovich got two breaks of serve of Sharapova in the 1st, but those were the only two games she won in the opening set. She won just one total game in the 2nd, as Sharapova was victorious 6-2/6-1 in 1:11 and advanced to the 3rd Round at what has traditionally been her second-most consistently successful major (after Roland Garros).

The last five years in Melbourne, Sharapova has put up 4th-RU-SF-4th-RU results. She won a title ('08), played in another final and two additional semis in her first six trips Down Under, too. She reached the final a year ago, losing admirably (compared to most of her results against her the last eleven years) to Serena Williams. If they meet again at this AO, though, it'll be in the quarterfinals.

Next up on Laver after Sharapova was, of course, the aforementioned Serena Williams. She defeated Hsieh Su-Wei 6-1/6-2 and looked even better doing it (even while wearing the same outfit that she did on Monday) than she did while notching her 1st Round win.

Hey, the Sugarpova candy magnate can't ALWAYS be on the good side of the lucky stick, right? But, who knows... maybe one day.

...stop me if you didn't see THIS coming (as hard as that would be to fully believe), but Svetlana Kuznetsova today followed up her great week in Sydney and dominating performance in the 1st Round two days ago with a near-clunker of a loss today to Kateryna Bondarenko.

After Sveta had won her second straight 6-0/6-2 match on Monday over Daniela Hantuchova (the same scoreline as her win in the final this weekend over Monica Puig), I "joked" -- really, umm, I think -- that she must love that scoreline, and wondered if her "wonderful horrible" pattern might mean she'd LOSE by that score in her next outing.

Well, for a bit, it looked like she almost might do just that.

When the scoreline had Bondarenko leading 6-1/4-1 it seemed as if Kuznetosva might win the "necessary" two games to hold up PART of her end of the deal. But then she staged a short-lived, but ultimately unnecessary, comeback to get to 5-5. She then dropped the final two games of the match and lost 6-1/7-5.

Hmmm, the less said about this pattern from Kuznetsova the better, I suppose. It gets sort of repetitive. Of course, this also means she'll probabably go out and WIN her next tournament. So there's that. a battle of 18-year old former junior champs (both wearing the same outfit today, too, by the way... grrr), Daria Kasatkina took on Ana Konjuh. While Kasatkina had knocked out a seeded player on Day 1, Konjuh had barely survived the 1st Round (coming back from 6-0/3-0 vs. Ula Radwanska, and saving BP at 4-4). But the Croat didn't have such fortune today. Kasatkina didn't allow it. The Russian continued her rise, climbing past her heralded generational counterpart in a routine, and fairly subdued, manner by a 6-4/6-3 score. Konjuh double-faulted on match point. Kasatkina didn't go crazy over her victory. She's been here before remember, having reached the 3rd Round as a lucky loser at last year's U.S. Open.

Subdued will not work in Kasatkina's next match, though, as she'll face none other than Miss Serena Williams. Of note, Kasatkina has already notched a win over Venus this season (in Week 1), so she theoretically has a chance to become the first player to defeat both Sisters in a single season since 2014. Surprisingly, last season was the first time since the Williamses both joined the WTA tour that no player managed to defeat both in a season.

1997 Lindsay Davenport
1998 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (both in Sydney, won title), Martina Hingis
1999 Steffi Graf (both in Sydney)
2000 Lindsay Davenport
2001 Martina Hingis (both in AO)
2002 Kim Clijstrs (both in WTA Chsp., won title)
2003 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Lindsay Davenport (both in L.A.), Maria Sharapova
2005 Silvia Farina-Elia
2006 Jelena Jankovic
2007 Justine Henin (both in U.S. Open, won title)
2008 Jelena Jankovic, Li Na
2009 Kim Clijsters (both in U.S. Open, won title), Elena Dementieva
2010 Jelena Jankovic (both in Rome)
2011 Samantha Stosur
2012 Angelique Kerber
2013 Sabine Lisicki
2014 Ana Ivanovic
2015 none
2016 none

...another player who barely escaped the 1st Round wasn't so lucky today, either. Magdalena Rybarikova had saved two MP en route to knocking off Yanina Wickmayer on Day 1, but was forced to retire with an ankle injury today after dropping a 9-7 1st set tie-break to Lauren Davis.

...doubles action began on Day 3. Some results:

The Kichenoks defeated 17-year olds Priscilla Hon & Hobart finalist Kimberly Birrell (fellow Hobart RU Jarmila Wolfe retired from her singles match yesterday), while the intriguing pair of Madison Keys & Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Janette Husarova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (who STILL can't catch a break... come on, 2016 season!).

Meanwhile, the AO fans were treated to a Jankovic/Petkovic pairing... but not for long. They lost to Ysaline Bonaventure & Raluca Olaru in straight sets. Sigh. No JJ/Petko vs. Gavrilova/Svitolina match in the 2nd Round.

Still to play as of this posting, the Six Degrees of Dream Team Separation duo of Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Sabine Lisicki. Remember, before Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza first teamed up last March they both won titles with BMS (Sydney w/ Mirza) and Lisicki (Brisbane w/ Hingis). Of course, Hingis/Mirza defended BOTH those titles -- or half of each one, I guess -- in recent weeks. Mattek-Sands is trying to defend her own '15 AO women's doubles title, but without (then) first-time partner Lucie Safarova, who couldn't come back to Melbourne because of her continued bout with the illness that slowed her at the end of last season.

...LIKE FROM DAY 3: The postscript being even better than the initial headlines

Not that anyone watching television in the U.S. saw it, as ESPN chose to leave that Zhang/Halep match immediately after match point during live coverage to get back to 1st set action of Lleyton Hewitt. Or maybe it was yet another discussion of match fixing. Who really knows?

...STILL-NOT-SURE-ABOUT-THAT...THING FROM DAY 3: It always looks like they're broadcast from inside an abandoned gym, or found something that fell off the back of a truck onto the side of the road.

..."AS I WAS SAYING..." FROM DAY 3: When Tennis Channel opened Day 3 coverage by talking about two legends being upset on Day 2, they immediately mentioned Rafa Nadal. But I had a hard time remembering who the SECOND legend was. Then they mentioned Venus Williams and I was like, "Oh, yeah..."

I'd already moved on and forgotten about that one, essentially following along with the well-practiced plan that I'd talked about yesterday regarding Venus and one of "those losses." As I was saying...

...LIKE FROM DAY 3: Non-aired matches.

One of the best things about watching streaming coverage of the matches not shown on the networks is that the cameras often stick around for the post-match moments on the more intimate outer courts as the players interact with courtside fans, sign autographs, hand out towels, etc. It's always interesting to watch (as it was today after the Kasatkina/Konjuh match, for example), even if the mind can't help but ask itself just how close to creepy it's getting when some of the fans return for multiple encounters along the fence with the lingering winning player... or strain to get the player to make eye contact for a little TOO long... or hang the damp towel they were given around their neck as they return again later... then reach out and try to touch the player as she heads toward the open gate... then finally walks away in the opposite direction (whew) holding the towel up to their nose and smelling the Russian's sweat. Yeah. It's, umm, "interesting."

But maybe that's just me.

...DAY 3 CROP TOP UPDATE: I didn't notice or question Serena's fashion choice much today. Much. I mean, I now barely notice that from some angles that it looks like something she might choose to sleep in as well wear while hitting fuzzy yellow balls in the sunshine.

But, one more round and I'm SURE it'll be just like that Venus loss. "Hmmm? What oddly cut crop top? Oh, yeah. I didn't even notice it."

...LIKE FROM DAY 3: Maria flaunting her good fortune. With her match over early, she got to enjoy the late-arriving Wednesday sunshine.

...LIKE FROM DAY 3: Still loving her job after (finally) winning (for the first time in 2016) on Day 2

...LIKE FROM DAY 3: Sharon Fichman -- kicking butt, taking names and puttin' 'em in their place

...and, finally, with the early-in-the day rain (but there was still tennis on THREE courts -- imagine that, USTA), the big-time players finishing up quickly, and the prospects of Radwanska/Bouchard and Kvitova/Gavrilova coming later on in the night session, I thought I'd go ahead and post something early so those potentially noteworthy matches could be discussed individually in a shorter post before the start of play tomorrow.

Truthfully, I guess I have to get in as much as possible now since weather forecasts are currently predicting the possibility of an historic snowfall (I mean, if you consider maybe two or three feet -- no, that's not a typo -- "historic") on Friday/Saturday in the Washington D.C. area, and who knows if Backspin HQ will even be ABLE to be powered up enough to fitfully crank out daily AO recaps on the weekend. We shall see.

Yep, still s*****.

1997 Martina Hingis / Natasha Zvereva
1998 Martina Hingis / Mirjana Lucic
1999 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2000 Lisa Raymond / Rennae Stubbs
2001 Serena Williams / Venus Williams
2002 Martina Hingis / Anna Kournikova
2003 Serena Williams / Venus Williams
2004 Virginia Ruano-Pascual / Paola Suarez
2005 Svetlana Kuznetsova / Alicia Molik
2006 Yan Zi / Zheng Jie
2007 Cara Black / Liezel Huber
2008 Alona Bondarenko / Kateryna Bondarenko
2009 Serena Williams / Venus Williams
2010 Serena Williams / Venus Williams
2011 Gisela Dulko / Flavia Pennetta
2012 Svetlana Kuznetsova / Vera Zvonareva
2013 Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci
2014 Sara Errani / Roberta Vinci
2015 Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Lucie Safarova
[titles - active]
4...Serena Williams, USA
4...Venus Williams, USA
4...Martina Hingis, SUI
2...Sara Errani, ITA
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2...Roberta Vinci, ITA
1...Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR
1...Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
1...Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
1...Lucie Safarova, CZE
ALSO: Cara Black (1), Liezel Huber (1), Vera Zvonareva (1), Zheng Jie (1)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2 - Virginie Razzano/FRA d. #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA 6-1/4-6/6-1 (ends streak of 61 con. slam MD)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): Nominee 1st Rd. - #7 Kerber/GER d. Doi/JPN 6-7(4)/7-6(6)/6-3
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 1st Rd. - (Q) Kr.Pliskova/CZE d. #25 Stosur/AUS 6-4/7-6(6)
FIRST VICTORY: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (def. Q/Kumkhum, THA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #17 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Gasparyan/RUS)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-8 in 1st Rd.; only AUS-born in 2nd Rd. is a Brit)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: N.Gibbs/USA, N.Osaka/JPN, Kr.Pliskova/CZE, M.Sakkari/GRE, A.Sevastova/LAT, Wang Qiang/CHN(L), Zhang Shuai/CHN
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Han Xinyun/CHN (in 2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Daria Gavrilova/AUS (in 2nd Rd.)
IT (??): xx
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 1st Round to Q/Zhang Shuai, CHN - first Top 2 AO seed out in 1st since Ruzici/ROU in '79)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: Konjuh/CRO (1st Rd. - down 6-0/3-0, saved BP at 4-4 vs. U.Radwanska); #7 Kerber/GER (1st Rd. - saved MP vs. Doi)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: V.Azarenka/BLR, Zhang Shuai/CHN, Kr.Pliskova/CZE

All for Day 3. More later.


Blogger jo shum said...

Oh Petra
Not entirely unexpected but still....

Bouchard though is expected to lose to an in form aga

Wed Jan 20, 07:22:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

That Williams list has a bunch of #1's on it. If Kasatinka pulled off the upset, it would be a good omen-and a great win. The only non top 10 players on the list weren't far off-Farina-Elia reached #11 and Lisicki got to #12.

Since I haven't seen the match yet-How do you get 31 aces and lose? Only a Pliskova could do that.

Wed Jan 20, 09:56:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the day. The talk about Azarenka being 2nd favorite got me thinking. You can't judge too much on the early season warmups, but you do judge on the previous season. Azarenka is trying to win the AO without having won the previous season. This is rare. As usual, Serena defies probability as she did this in 2007, after only playing 4 tournaments in 2006. The only other time it has happened in the last 21 years? Mary Pierce-who won it in 95, without winning in 94, although she reached 5 finals.

Wed Jan 20, 10:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

So I guess you can fully appreciate "Bring Me the Sweat Of Gabriela Sabatini" :)

Lucky for me, the Petra match was on way past even my worst bedtime, so I didn't have to see the the train wreck. At least she lost to someone really good, but Oh. Petra.

Wed Jan 20, 10:42:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Someone on Twitter said Radwanska was "Aga-ing" Bouchard in that match. Such a perfect description.

Great stats! If Kasatkina won, would THAT be a bigger upset than Vinci? In some ways...

Not that you would have seen much of it (on ESPN or Watch ESPN, at least) -- see the 3.5 recap. :(

Wed Jan 20, 02:04:00 PM EST  

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