Friday, January 22, 2016

AO 5 - Into the Long Night...

A day in Melbourne that opened with rain eventually found it's way around to featuring an "instant classic" match between Aussie Daria Gavrilova and Pastry Kristina Mladenovic under the lights on Hisense.

That one deserves more than a token mention here, so I'll be back later -- before the start of "Snowmaggedon 2016" (and Day 6) -- with a recap.

But before that match, there was all this...

...once again, half a world away from New York, a slam managed to play matches under roofs on THREE courts while it was raining outside for most of the day.

Although, with every passing day, we get closer to having actual evidence that wonders DO indeed exist. Even the USTA can't screw this one up, right? Right? Hmmm.

All right, on with the rest of Day 5.

...even with play restricted to Laver, Court and Hisense for most of the day, all the women's 3rd Round matches in the top half of the draw made it onto the Friday schedule in Melbourne.

First up on Laver, #12 Belinda Bencic occupied more than a few spots on the Frustration Scale while playing against Kateryna Bondarenko, as the Ukrainian vet took the 1st set before the Swiss teenager righted herself (for the most part). Still, while serving for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd, Bencic threw in two double-faults, sprayed two other shots and had to face down break point. But she got the hold to win 4-6/6-2/6-4 and somehow managed to keep the match just under 2:00. It wasn't exactly the sterling performance Bencic would have preferred while reaching her third career slam Round of 16, but it was enough on this day.

Either way, she still got off one of the lines of the day.

Bencic will next face #5 Maria Sharapova in the 4th Round. The Russian put together a well-played, dominant performance today against Lauren Davis. Well, that is, if you forgive the messy, un-Sharapovian 2nd set that sprung up from the depths of Laver Arena in between the 1st and 3rd sets and, for a bit, swallowed up the gummy candy maven.

Playing for her 600th career win, Sharapova took the 1st set at 6-1, and then the 3rd at love. But in the 2nd an uncharacteristic spate of errors (33... in the SET!) plagued her game throughout. Still, she very nearly won it to finish up in straight sets. Davis served up 4-2 in the 2nd, and later led 4-2 and 5-4 in the tie-break, yet all along one fully expected Sharapova to do what she always does under such circumstances: get back even and then pull away. She did the former to force the TB, but the latter would take an additional set. Davis reached set point when Sharapova missed on a seemingly easy short ball eleven points into the breaker, slicing a ball that landed just outside the line to give Davis a set point at 6-5. A forehand error then forced Sharapova to go the distance in what would ultimately be a 6-1/6-7(5)/6-0 victory. the only women's match scheduled in the daytime on MCA, #4 Aga Radwanska won her eleventh straight match dating back to last season to advance to her sixth straight AO Round of 16. For most of the 1st set, though, Monica Puig gave her quite a lot to handle as the Puerto Rican's serve was cooking and her forehand was firing. At 3-3, she went up 30/love on the Radwanska serve, then got the break to take a 4-3 lead.

And then Radwanska took over the match and never looked back.

The Pole didn't lose another game, running off nine straight as her quick feet, soft hands and nimble brain put Puig into a mental corner from which she never escaped. Once A-Rad immediately broke back for 4-4, the confidence began to be siphoned out of Puig's body and pumped right into the Radwanska bloodstream. Puig had a break chance in game #9, but failed to convert. At that point, though we didn't know it at the time, it was all over. Aga won 6-4/6-0.

Afterwards, when asked about playing with the pain of the ankle injury that she had re-taped between sets, Radwanska acknowledged the issue, but shrugged it off as a necessary evil of competing on the tennis tour. "Pain is my second name," she said.

Radwanska will next face #15 Roberta Vinci... no, check that, make it Anna-Lena Friedsam, as ANOTHER seed fell today when the U.S. Open finalist lost to the #72-ranked Germay despite Vinci having taken the 1st set at love. Friedsam raced to a 4-0 lead in the 2nd set, only to see the Italian battle back to tie things up. But it wasn't meant to be, as Friedsam reached the 4th Round for the first time in her slam career with a 0-6/6-4/6-4 win. Tomorrow she could be joined by two of her countrywomen -- Angelique Kerber and the winner of the Laura Siegemund vs. Annika Beck 3rd Rounder -- in the Round of 16. Kerber faces Madison Brengle. a later 3rd Round match, one of the young Hordettes who has made a name for herself at this AO, Margarita Gasparyan, took out one of the young former Hordettes who has made a name for herself at this AO, Yulia Putintseva by a 6-3/6-4 score to reach her first career slam Round of 16. She'd arrived in Melbourne without a main draw win (0-2) at a major.

And in the opening night match on Laver, Serena Williams was just too much for 18-year old Daria Kasatkina. Williams fears no one, so she surely didn't fear Kasatkina, either. Of course, it likely didn't help the young Russian's cause that she'd defeated Venus a few weeks ago, so she was more than on Serena's radar. Plus, Williams has seemingly made a point to get off to quick starts in her matches in Melbourne, quite the opposite of how she went about winning three slams last season.

It happened again tonight, as she jumped on Kasatkina, who didn't actually play poorly, right from the beginning. In fact, Williams played very close to a perfect match. The stats speak to the utter cleanliness of her performance.

Afterward, Serena was encouraging to the young Russian when they met at the net. "Love your game, love your forehand," she said.

The final 3rd Rounder from the top half on the schedule -- Carla Suarez-Navarro vs. Elizaveta Kulichkova, another Russian -- was set to go on as the last night match on MCA even later tonight.

...the mixed doubles was expected to get underway today, but the weather had other ideas. Either way, Martina Hingis & Leander Paes will be looking to no only defend their 2015 AO MX title, but they'll be looking to win a third straight slam, as well.

So, the possibility exists that if Hingis win the MX with Paes and the WD with Sania Mirza, she'd have swept both doubles titles at three straight slams and would head to Paris with a chance at TWO "Dream" Slams.

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Zhang Shuai not being content with being just a one day story

...SOMETHING YOU CAN COUNT ON FROM DAY 5 (or during any interview conducted by Rennae Stubbs): There will always be at least one cringe-worthy moment that makes you wonder why they continue to give a microphone to Rennae Stubbs...

Of course, sometimes Stubbs doesn't have to do anything for something to come tumbling out of a player's mouth about a half-second before they cover their mouth in embarrassment. (See Daria "I'm good from behind" Gavrilova from tonight... though that one was about as endearing as you'll likely to get.)

...BEHIND THE SCENES "MOMENT OF THE DAY" ON DAY 5: Roger Federer reacts to a 27-shot rally during the Sharapova/Davis match

...AO STAT OF THE FIRST WEEK: Seventeen years apart

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Kateryna workin' the Bondarenko Bun

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: That it wasn't Vegemite

...WHAT'S NEXT ON DAY 5?: A "You Must Be THIS Tall to Enter Court" sign joke?


...MEANWHILE, ON DAY 5: The work to get back continues...

...DISLIKE FROM DAY 5: No, Cantore. Just go away.

...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Squirrel Appreciation Day!

...and, finally, I'm thinking this might have to be the preferred mode of transportation around here this weekend:

Hey, everyone should have an AT-AT, right?

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Margarita Gasparyan/RUS
#12 Belinda Bencic/SUI vs. #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#4 Aga Radwanska/POL vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER
x vs. Daria Gavrilova/AUS

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #14 Gilles Simon/FRA
#9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #7 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #15 David Goffin/BEL
#14 Roberto Bautista Agut/ESP vs. x

That was fun ?? ????

A video posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

2002 Daniela Hantuchova & Kevin Ullyett
2003 Martina Navratilova & Leander Paes
2004 Elena Bovina & Nenad Zimonjic
2005 Samantha Stosur & Scott Draper
2006 Martina Hingis & Mahesh Bhupathi
2007 Elena Likhovtseva & Daniel Nestor
2008 Sun Tiantian & Nenad Zimonjic
2009 Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi
2010 Cara Black & Mahesh Bhupathi
2011 Katarina Srebotnik & Daniel Nestor
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Horia Tecau
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova & Matthew Ebden
2014 Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor
2015 Martina Hingis & Leander Paes

5 - Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
4 - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
4 - Martina Hingis, SUI
3 - Sania Mirza, IND
3 - Samantha Stosur, AUS
2 - Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2 - Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2 - Serena Williams, USA
2 - Venus Williams, USA
ALSO: Cara Black (5), Liezel Huber (2)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #14 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
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): #7 Angelique Kerber/GER d. Misaki Doi/JPN 6-7(4)/7-6(6)/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): Nominee: 3rd Rd. - Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: Nominee: 3rd Rd. - Gavrilova/AUS d. #28 Mladenovic/FRA 6-4/4-6/11-9
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 AUSSIE STANDING: Daria Gavrilova/AUS (in 4th 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: Monica Puig/PUR (2nd Rd. - saved 5 MP vs. Kr.Pliskova/CZE, who set WTA record w/ 31 aces in match)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: D.Gavrilova/AUS, V.Azarenka/BLR, Zhang Shuai/CHN, A.Radwanska/POL

All for Day 5. More later.


Blogger colt13 said...

Stat of the Day-86-1. Obviously Navratilova's 1983 singles run. But what does 61-2 mean? Her doubles record the same year. Stunning. Radwanska wont reach that. But statistically, she should win a slam within 2 years. Why? There are some things worth looking at. Sylvia Hanika is the only other winner not to have won a slam. She reached the FO final in 81, her 11th slam, then never passed the QF in her last 32. In fact, she only won two more titles, the last defeating Angeliki Kanellopoulou aka mom of Maria Sakkari. But there have been others who won the YEC before winning a slam. The last was Mauresmo, who during 05-06 had a 24-3 run, winning Philly, YEC, AO, Paris and Antwerp, while beating 12 Top 10 players. Radwanska's current run? 27-4, won Tianjin, Tokyo, YEC and Shenzen, with 4 Top 10 wins.
But what about the others who won a slam after the YEC? Mauresmo-1st slam after, Novotna-2nd, Sabatini-8th. Clisters won in 2002, won the USO in 2005, but due to injuries-8th. The 2 surprises on this list? The Chris and Martina! What? As a reminder Evert didn't win the USO in 71, won the 1st YEC in 72, won in 5th slam, while Navratilova won the 78 final-which wasn't a season ender-then won the next slam(Wimbledon).

Fri Jan 22, 10:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Seeing Hanika on those lists of WTA Championships/Finals winners every year is one of those things that always make you sort of tilt your head to the side like a dog looking at something that confuses it, even though at this point it really shouldn't. ;)

It'd be nice if years from now people didn't think the same thing when they see Radwanska's name there.

Fri Jan 22, 12:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Good luck this weekend, Todd. And remember--in the event you can't get your freezing hands on an At-At, there's slways the trusty olgasavchuk!

Fri Jan 22, 12:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Those olgasavchuks can really clear the roads! They leave plows in the dust! :)

Fri Jan 22, 07:39:00 PM EST  

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