Friday, May 27, 2016

RG.6- Test Day

At grand slam time, every round is a "test day."

It's an opportunity for players to answer the lingering questions regarding whether or not they're a legitimate major title contender in their current form and mindset. Be it their unique personal histories, injuries, foibles, follies, mind games or other such wild card issues, nearly everything comes into play at some point along the long two-week grand slam haul, a path that must be traversed in order to attain one of four ultimate tennis prizes.

Usually, it's a case of trying to manage to juggle all of it, keeping every proverbial ball in the air until the very end. If the player is just a little bit lucky, that is.

On Friday, many players passed their scheduled 3rd Round "pop quiz" with flying colors. Another received a tentative passing grade (with the chance for extra credit that might ultimately go on her "permanent record"), and one more was a living example of the notion that sometimes whenever something CAN go wrong it most definitely will. Let's call that one "Petra's Law."

As usual, it was the only result that was TRULY definitive.

...the bottom half of the 3rd Round draw was up first in Paris as sixteen women paired up to determine which eight would advance to the Round of 16.

- One of the most encouraging test takers on Day 6 was Simona Halep. At least I think so... but I'm not quite sure.

A round after the Swarmette looked as if she could have been pushed over the Cliffs of Simona had Zarina Diyas been ready to seize the opportunities provided, she faced off with a potentially even more dangerous, but far less experienced, foe in Naomi Osaka. The 18-year old from Japan was playing her first Top 10 opponent on her first show court match at a slam. Not that she showed any real nerves under the circumstances. Osaka has a big game and is willing to use it, going for her shots (sometimes to her own detriment) with a "no fear" approach that will allow her to notch more big wins in the future but, for now, her willy-nilly approach to shot and decision-making and wild inconsistency will produce more near-misses like the one she had today against Halep.

The story of this match revolved around just a few key games. In game #9 of the 1st set, after Halep had broken serve for a 4-2 lead only to see Osaka immediately break back, the Romanian served at 4-4. Up 30/love, a double-fault and forehand error allowed Osaka into the game. The teenager's backhand winner gave her a break point. An error prevented her from cashing in, but Halep's backhand error gave her another chance. She didn't need it, as Halep double-faulted to hand her the break, and the most important game in the opening stanza. Serving for the set, Osaka went up 40/15 and won the set 6-4 off a Halep error.

In the 2nd it was Halep's ability to hold the opening game of the set that provided her with the ability to stay one half-step ahead throughout. In game #1, she squandered a 30/love lead before Osaka began to dictate play with her power and aggression. Halep failed to put away four game points, losing three with errors, but still found her way to an important hold for 1-0. Two errors and a DF contributed to Osaka dropping serve a game later, but she got on board two games after that with a hold for 3-1. She then took a 40/love lead on Halep's serve with three consecutive winners. She got the break to get back on serve at 3-2, but reclaimed the larger advantage when Osaka's long backhand handed the break back. Having never allowed Osaka to get to even on the scoreboard, Halep climbed out of a love/30 hole to hold for 5-2, then broke a game later to secure a 6-2 set win.

Still, even while she was back even in the match, Halep was openly frustrated with her play early in the 3rd as her perfectionism was threatening to rear its sometimes-ugly head once more. It's the same sort of moment that has led to mounting frustration in previous slam defeats when it caused her to lose her focus. She kept the potential flaw in check this time, though. Osaka reached BP again in another game #1, but again the Romanian managed to hold. Three games later, Halep surged back from 30/love down to break for a 3-1 lead as Osaka's errors threatened to be too much for her to overcome. Still, she'd manage one more run at Halep, who would again turn her away. The Japanese teen fired a lethal backhand service winner to break for 3-2, then held for 3-3. For a brief moment, the momentum seemed to be turning in her favor.

But Halep stopped the surge, playing a good, focused game #7 to hold for 4-3. It was the most positive moment of the day for the Swarmette, as a breakdown there might have soon afterward sent her over the Cliffs of Simona. Instead, she kept her footing, then saw Osaka's hail of errors dominate down the final stretch. Three consecutive Osaka errors -- she spread around her mistakes like jam on toast, dropping points with a double-fault and both an errant forehand and backhand -- handed Halep a break for 5-3, then three more errors in the first four points of game #9 brought a match point for the Romanian. Halep's forehand winner finished things off, ending the 4-6/6-2/6-3 match after 1:44 of play.

For Osaka, this was another successful slam run. She's got big weapons, but hasn't yet found a way to get a consistent handle on her power. While she's a dangerous force lurking in any draw she needs to clean things up if she's going to anything more than a floater with potential. Thankfully, she realizes this.

For Halep, the efforts to read the Romanian tea leaves for her remaining time in Paris may prove inconclusive after this one. But she showed enough to make one believe she may be on the right track. Maybe. We'll see next time out.

She'll face '10 RG finalist Samantha Stosur, who more than surpassed expectations by putting up just her fourth win in fifteen matches against '15 RG finalist Lucie Safarova. The Aussie lifted her game in (nearly all) the big moments vs. the Czech, breaking her for 5-3 in the 1st and staving off two BP before holding to serve out a 6-3 set with an ace.

A nip-and-tuck 2nd set ended with Safarova dominating a 7-0 tie-break to knot the match, but then the 1st set scenario returned for the 3rd. Another late break of serve put Stosur up 4-2. Safarova went up 40/love on Stosur's serve a game later, but the Aussie fired another ace to reach deuce. Safarova broke on her fourth BP of the game. On serve at 6-5, Stosur took a 40/15 lead on Safarova's serve in game #12, pulling off another break to end the match when the Czech missed on a forehand. Stosur won 6-3/6-7(0)/7-5.

While Osaka was experiencing her first of what she hopes will be many shots at a big stage win over a top tier opponent in a slam, 32-year old Stosur is at the point in her career where any legitimate shot she has at a second slam title run could be her last. It's been six years since her only final appearance in Paris, and five since her sole major title at the U.S. Open in 2011. She's gone thirteen slams without reaching a QF, and time is now getting short for the elusive "one more big turn." The two women are tied 3-3 in career head-to-head meetings, with the Romanian winning their last three meetings, including a 2 & 0 crushing of the Aussie earlier this month in Madrid during Halep's title run. But Stosur is 2-0 vs. her at Roland Garros, winning a pair of straight sets matches in 2010 and '11.

- Meanwhile, we got another version of Petra Kvitova on Friday in Paris. "Extreme Bad Petra." You sort of get the idea that, with her, just signing her name to the exam paper today was an act of rebellion.

Unseeded Bannerette Shelby Rogers continued her unexpected Paris run with a 6-0/6-7(3)/6-0 (yes, that's correct) victory. The 1st set lasted just twenty-one minutes, with Kvitova's winner/unforced errors numbers (2/14) about as ugly as they can get. The Czech was down a break in the 2nd set, but managed to push things to a tie-break, which she won 7-3. But then it was right back on the hamster wheel. Kvitova fell apart even further, while Rogers soared. She got a break to start the set and never looked back.

Of course, this sort of scoreline isn't exactly a unique thing for Rogers.

Wins over #17 Karolina Pliskova, Elena Vesnina and now #10 Kvitova have the world #108 into her first slam Round of 16. As for Kvitova, something is just wrong. She can't blame this on being "rusty" as she did a loss a few weeks ago.

Considering all her health issues, some further investigation is really necessary. Overdue, really. As it is, though, we're left with an extreme example of just how low Bad Petra can go. For the match, she had 35 errors (lower than they may have been since she won so few points in the two sets) to Rogers' 18, while she had zero aces and six DF (Rogers, in contrast, had six aces and one DF). Rogers was 6-of-10 on BP chances, while Kvitova was 1-for-5. The 1st and 3rd set stats, separated from the competitive 2nd, only further belabor the point: Rogers won 50 of 73 points, and had 17/6 winner/UE numbers vs. Kvitova's 6/19.

#PetrainParis wasn't supposed to look like this. But, really, who can REALLY be suprised that it did?

Rogers will next face another seed, #25 Irina-Camelia Begu, who continued to screw with the entire class' grading curve by carrying over her great spring run to yet another round in Paris. Of course, the Romanian, bless her, just couldn't help herself and had to play yet another three-setter on Day 6, her third in a row this week. This time she defeated Annika Beck 6-4/2-6/6-1 to reach her second slam Round of 16 (w/ '15 AO).

- Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza tested out pretty well in HER 3rd Round match vs. Yanina Wickmayer. Except for that stretch when she didn't. But then she finished up strong. So, you know... a bit of "the old usual" from her.

Garbi weathered a shaky stretch in the 1st set as she ping-ponged from good to bad. Up a break, she double-faulted twice and lost her advantage at 3-3. It wasn't a "Full-On Bad Petra," though. She pulled her fortunes back from the Cliffs of Simona and closed out the opening set in thirty-eight minutes. She then jumped out to an early lead in the 2nd as Wickmayer never gained any sort of foothold in the set. Muguruza's ace put her up 5-0, and she broke to close out a 6-4/6-0 win. She won twelve of fifteen return points in the set, converting all three of her BP chances. In all, the Spaniard won 26 of the set's 35 points.

Her Round of 16 opponent will be Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian wasn't totally satisfied with her efforts vs. fellow Hordette Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. But she won 6-1/6-4... so it's probably best to just let all the usual which-Sveta-will-show-up so-far-sleeping dogs snooze for as long as possible.

- the other Round of 16 match that resulted from today's matches will give us -- drumroll, please -- a Radwanska vs. Pironkova Movie Monster Special.

Unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova, in the middle of another of her out-of-nowhere slam runs, destroyed Sloane Stephens, winning 6-2/6-1. Stephens defeated the Bulgarian 4 & 1 in the 3rd Round in Paris a year ago. This time, Pironkova won 57 of 82 points, including 28 of 45 on the Bannerette's serve. So she lost just eight of thirty-seven on her own serve.

She'll face Aga, who led Barbora Strycova 6-2/3-0 and seemed on her way to a straight sets win in the 2nd set tie-break (she led 5-3), only to be forced to a 3rd. There, Radwanska broke the Czech to open the set on her fourth BP of the game, took another 3-0 lead and finally secured a 6-2/6-7(6)/6-2 win.

And, of course, you can't mention this match without having a look at this:

Sheesh. That gets a very odd "A" grade -- for CRAAAAAAAAAAAAZY -- every time.

For the record, Aga is 11-2 all-time vs. Pironkova (who's also 0-1 vs. Ula). But one of her wins came in Paris... even if it WAS in the old indoors event held there almost a decade ago. doubles, the likes of Hingis/Mirza, Bertens/Larsson, Makarova/Vesnina, Hlavackova/Hradecka, Babos/Shvedova, Krejcikova/Siniakova, Zhang Yifan/Zheng Saisai and Krunic/Lucic-Baroni (go Bracelet!) all advanced to the Round of 16, while Garcia/Mladenovic got a 1st Round win. But it was the Alize Cornet/Magda Linette vs. Madison Brengle/Tatjana Maria match that got the attention.

Of course, it wasn't because of the doubles action. The tournament seemed to do everything it could to hide the match from as many eyes as possible, perhaps fearing what might happen (or maybe trying to shield Pastry Cornet from too much heated attention after yesterday's controversial singles win over Maria).

Maria got some measure of "revenge" in a 6-4/2-6/6-1 win, but that was a secondary (if that) part of Day II's story here.

Rather than just accept that she lost, even with all the overt dramatics and stretching/breaking of trainer's visit/treatment rules yesterday during Cornet's very Alize-like in-match actions (which is why no one should really be TOO surprised by what happened there -- the Pastry's drama/pain/excitement numbers always tend to "pull a Spinal Tap" and get "turned up to the 11" under ALL circumstances, after all), Maria seems intent on pushing this into ridiculous territory, possibly by seeking legal action of some kind because of the rulings during the match.

I mean, really? Can one be a worse loser? Which she did do, after all.

Be upset. Demand some accountability from the Powers That Be for a lack of consistency in enforcing the rules. But also know when to say when.

Here, I'll help -- "when."

...LIKE FROM DAY 6: Any Na is good Na.

...LIKE FROM DAY 6: Fancy meeting you here...

...VOICES FROM THE GRAVE ON DAY 6: "What did we do!?!?!?!?"

..."Hmmmm..." FROM DAY 6: Maybe Pat Cash's checked headband was (sort of) the forerunner of the latest black-and-white look back in 1987?

...LIKE FROM DAY 6: Courtney Nguyen and Gigi Salmon silently listening on Roland Garros Radio as the microphones catch a certain male French player re-arming his racket with a new tacky grip, with the process producing an audible (tight, sticky... if that makes sense) sound. Intimate, fascinating and hilariously absurd all rolled into one!


...LIKE FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE DAY 6: The Most Interesting Bee in the World

...and, finally, another Lenglen moment.

Today, a few notes about how La Divine's influence stretched beyond a racket and ball. She was also a fashion icon. As noted on the Museum at FIT blog, "Lenglen fully embodied the idea of a liberated, active woman, and her fashion choices were a visible extension of her spirit and tenacity, on and off the court."

She is forever linked with French designer Jean Patou, known for his designing of sportswear for women, including being credited with inventing the tennis skirt. Patou created the then-shocking outfits worn on court by the French superstar, as she played in sleeveless dresses cut at the knee at a time when women dressed covered from head to toe. Designing with the idea of "femme moderne," the designed crafted clothes that were elegant, but also true to the newly-realized female athleticism of the day.

Here is a brief interview with Ariele Elia, the Assistant Curator of Costume + Textiles at the Museum at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York, in which she touches on Patou, Lenglen and active wear from the era connected to an exhibition at the museum in 2014. The interview is followed by a short piece on Patou which includes photos and more on his connection to Lenglen.

Celebrated as an "Icon of the Week" a few years ago on, Lenglen's place in fashion history was put into greater context.>


"She was great entertainment. Her temperament drove spectators to tears. But even the fainthearted couldn’t look away. After all, she introduced glamour to the court.

Lenglen’s earlier tennis outfits went along with her time. She paired short-sleeved white blouses and mid-calf white cotton skirts with a wide brimmed bonnet for sun protection. Her twist to the status quo was in skipping traditional corsets and heavy underwear.

What set her further apart was a trademark cropped bob she kept until her retirement. Early into her career, she began wrapping it around a wide silk scarf. Her version of a feminine sportsband was the first of its kind.

At her 1920 Wimbledon finals, she made headlines with a change in appearance. Decked in full makeup, Lenglen walked onto court sporting a full-length fur coat only to unsheath it to reveal a tight-fitting sleeveless top and a scandalously short skirt. God forbid, it was knee-length! Of her outfit, (men's tennis star) Bill Tilden remarked, “Her costume struck me as a cross between a prima donna’s and a streetwalker.”

Her daring wear was crafted by Jean Patou, a designer most revered for eradicating the flapper look by lengthening women’s skirts. Once he started designing her cutting edge tennis wear, Lenglen became a pinnacle athletic figure for the Jazz Age.

Her career was about the time women’s suffrage met its peak; when greater opportunities for equality started to emerge. What Lenglen contributed to her time was incredibly significant. She turned women’s tennis from a game to a sport through and through.

And while her on-court outfits scandalized, they more importantly paved the way for flexibly convenient sportswear for women. To the practical attire, Lenglen also added a personalized touch of glamour – her shiny white stockings rolled to the knee for example, caused a bit of perverse outrage.

What we’ll appreciate most in retrospect today, is how Lenglen moved in her outfits. Combining balletic styles to her tennis strokes gave Lenglen enough of an edge to make her sportswear high fashion, even in the midst of a game."

Lenglen's influence and inspiration continues today. The Hermes 2010 Spring Collection saw the 1920's Frenchwoman serve as the muse of designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

The Hermes link shows many of the looks that were created. Here's an example of two (on the left), along with images of Lenglen (right) that resemble what Gaultier produced ninety years later.

#25 Irina-Camelia Beug/ROU vs. Shelby Rogers/USA
#13 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS vs. #3 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
#6 Simona Halep/ROU vs. #21 Samantha Stosur/AUS
Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL vs. #2 Aga Radwanska/POL

#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. Krejcikova/Siniakova (CZE/CZE)
xx vs. #6 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
xx vs. Brengle/Maria (USA/GER)
#10 Goerges/Ka.Pliskova (GER/CZE) vs. #7 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
Krunic/Lucic-Baroni (SRB/CRO) vs. #9 Xu Yifan/Zheng Saisai (CHN/CHN)
xx vs. #4 Babos/Shvedova (HUN/KAZ)
xx vs. xx
xx vs. Bertens/Larsson (NED/SWE)

#1 HC.Chan/J.Murray (TPE/GBR) vs. xx
Voskoboeva/Martin (KAZ/FRA) vs. #6 Hlavackova/Roger-Vasselin (CZE/FRA)
#4 Shvedova/Mergea (KAZ/ROU) vs. Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND)
Klepac/Huey (SLO/PHI) vs. #5 Vesnina/Soares (RUS/BRA)
#8 Vandeweghe/B.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Chuang/Kontinen (TPE/FIN)
Xu Yifan/Draganja (CHN/CRO) vs. xx
#7 YJ.Chan/Mirnyi (TPE/BLR) vs. Jankovic/Zimonjic (SRB/SRB)
xx s. #2 Mirza/Dodig (IND/CRO)

2006 Wimbledon 2r (Grass) - A.RADWANSKA 7-5 (7-6(5)
2007 Stockholm SF (Hard) - A.RADWANSKA 6-4,6-3
2007 Wimbledon 1r (Grass) - A.RADWANSKA 6-2,6-1
2007 Warsaw 1r (Clay) - A.RADWANSKA 7-5,6-1
2007 Fed Cup (Clay) - A.RADWANSKA 6-2,6-3
2007 Paris QF (Hard) - PIRONKOVA 3-6,6-4,6-3
2008 Istanbul SF (Clay) - A.RADWANSKA 7-6(1),3-6,6-1
2009 Stuttgart 2r (Clay) - A.RADWANSKA 6-3,6-3
2011 Fed Cup (Hard) - A.RADWANSKA 6-2,6-4
2012 Eastbourne 1r (Grass) - PIRONKOVA 6-2,6-4
2013 Wimbledon 4r (Grass) - A.RADWANSKA 4-6,6-3,6-3
2013 Madrid 1r (Clay) - A.RADWANSKA 6-2,6-4
2015 Eastbourne QF (Grass) - A.RADWANSKA 6-2,6-2
2016 Roland Garros 4r (Clay) - ?

*FRENCH WOMEN IN RG ROUND OF 16 - since 1997*
1997 Mary Pierce
1998 Sandrine Testud
1999 Julie Halard-Decugis
2000 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2001 Sandrine Testud
2002 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2003 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Amelie Mauresmo
2005 Mary Pierce
2006 Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Marion Bartoli
2008 -
2009 Virginie Razzano, Aravane Rezai
2010 -
2011 Marion Bartoli
2012 -
2013 -
2014 Pauline Parmentier
2015 Alize Cornet
2016 ?

TOP QUALIFIER: Viktoriya Golubic/SUI
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Lucie Safarova/CZE
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Lucie Hradecka/CZE d. Grace Min/USA 6-7(4)/6-1/11-9 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #25 Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU d. CoCo Vandeweghe/USA 6-7(4)/7-6(4)/10-8 (3:38)
FIRST VICTORY: #24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (def. Sorribes Tormo/ESP
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Jelena Ostapenko/LAT (lost 1st Rd. to Osaka/JPN)
UPSET QUEENS: The South Americans (players from three S.A. nations in 2nd Round)
REVELATION LADIES: The French (second most players in 2nd Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (remaining Quartet members Vinci, Errani & Schiavone 0-3; retired Pennetta last not in MD in 2002)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: C.Buyukakcay/TUR, V.Cepede Royg/PAR, L.Chirico/USA and V.Golubic/SUI (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: M.Georges/FRA, V.Razzano/FRA, and T.Townsend/USA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: A.Cornet, K.Mladenovic, P.Parmentier
IT "??": Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR (first Turk w/ GS match win)
CRASH & BURN: #3 Angelique Kerber/GER (1st Rd./Bertens - fifth AO champ out RG 1st Rd. in Open era)

Artist: Paul Thurlby (2013)

All for Day 6. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Shelby Rogers-I don't double bagel players often, but when I do, they are 2014 Wimbledon finalists. Kvitova and Bouchard getting double bageled by Rogers is interesting. Now, this is a small sample size as Rogers has only played 61 tour level matches in her career. In contrast, Ka. Pliskova played 75 matches in 2015 alone. But it does stand out when the only 2 times she has done it were to players ranked in the top 12. The only time it happened to her? Petkovic, who took her down at Wimbledon last year. She is 3-0 vs Rogers, and also denied Rogers her first title by defeating at Bad Gastein in 2014.

But there is hope for Rogers. Until this week, Stosur had been 4-10 vs Safarova, and Svitolina 0-7 vs Ivanovic.

Sat May 28, 11:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Planet WTA!

Sat May 28, 02:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Bertens survives. Which means I need to mention doubles. Only 4 of the sweet 16 are still alive in doubles(Kuznetsova, Bertens, Williams x 2). And they all are on the schedule for tomorrow, so with the Williams match suspended, and the winner playing Bertens/Larsson, we will see if either one offers a walkover.

Sat May 28, 03:42:00 PM EDT  

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