Monday, August 29, 2016

US.1 - Sisters From Another Mother?

Sometimes you get the notion that Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza might just be sisters from another mother.

Both players have very high highs. They also have very low lows. They often look as if NO ONE can beat them. But they also sometimes sleepwalk through losses vs. players they should beat without much difficulty, looking out of sorts and/or lethargic, causing their supporters to reflexively go into cover-your-eyes-ears-and-heart mode at the first sign of trouble. Then feel better. Then feel bad again. Watching their matches can replace the day's yoga session for many, what will all the stretching in place and holding of breath and positions.

Day 1 in Flushing Meadows was another of those days. For both, as well as those who (bless 'em) rise and fall right along with them.

I've often used this space this season to chronicle a particular Romanian's penchant for sometimes falling off a proverbial "cliff" at important moments, but she's hardly the most guilty of such a crime amongst the players on tour. The Czech and the Spaniard are worse offenders.

Both players flirted with such an end, but ultimately walked back their worst inclinations from the edge.

Court 12 was prepared on Monday to be pretty crowded as the day began, since no one knew whether Bad Petra, Good Petra, Extreme Petra, Cover Your Eyes Petra or some combined guest list consisting of those and others would show up. And that's not even counting the sometimes multiple personalities we get from Kvitova's Day 1 opponent, Jelena Ostapenko.

As it turned out, the whole gang put in brief appearances.

Ostapenko raced to a 3-0, double-break lead in the 1st, winning a five-deuce game to take the secure advantage over the Czech. Quite honestly, Kvitova didn't look good at all, and it appeared as if it would be an ugly day for the two-time slam champ. But while Petra can go hot and cold, Ostapenko is just as capable of a big upset (she came in 2-0 vs. Kvitova this season) as she is to blow a big lead. She dropped serve in game #4 to cut her advantage in half, but still served for the set at 5-4. She was broken, and Kvitova reeled off three more games to steal a 7-5 set win. In the 2nd, Kvitova led 4-2, but then was broken as Ostapenko got back on serve to revive her hopes. Naturally, for both of them, the Latvian didn't win another game all day. Kvitova won 7-5/6-3, having been fortunate to escape without being stretched TOO far in what could have been a very sticky situation that might have sent her home early from this slam.

Of course, she's certainly not out of deep waters at this Open yet. While Kvitova DID reach her only career Open QF in New York last year, she's failed to advance beyond the 3rd Round at any slam this season, and has fallen so early in six of the last eight majors, and nine of eleven (with, of course, a Wimbledon title in '14 being her high point during that stretch). In other words, whether you liked what Petra Kvitova did today, could stand to watch it without sitting cross-legged and repeating some sort of hopeful mantra, or are still worried for her... well, just wait, because your opinion will likely change (maybe multiple times) during her 2nd Round match. Such is the life of a Petra-ite.

As for the Garbi-kins... well, they might want to team up with the fans of Kvitova at some point, just so that everyone can get a little moral support. Stronger Together and all, you know.

Last summer, Muguruza reached the Wimbledon final, then essentially failed to show up to play for any extended length of time at anything approaching that level of efficiency until the fall, when she was often brilliant yet again. This past spring, she won Roland Garros. She's been searching for consistency ever since. Again. And sometimes it's been ugly... "Bad Petra" ugly.

With the Spaniard, it's been a case of two steps forward, one step (or 1.5?) back -- either due to injury, illness or mental lapses -- for a few seasons now. Not that that makes either her (or Kvitova) unique on tour. They're just the most blatant examples of the phenomenon, largely because of their high ranking, high profile status and, you know, the grand slam trophies at home that should serve to prove to not only others, but also themselves, what they are truly capable of achieving when the recipe for success isn't poisoned by outside (or inside) influences.

Against Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens on Louis Armstrong this afternoon, Muguruza again looked like she didn't belong anywhere near a tennis court. For a while. She fell behind 3-0, and lost the 1st set 6-2. Treated courtside (you've seen it before with her, so you know the drill) between sets for "whatever" might be ailing her this time, Muguruza eventually found herself and her game and dispensed with the audition to be an extra on "The Walking Dead." (By the way, my two-months out prediction to be on the other end of Negan's "Lucille" bat in the season premiere? Michonne.)

Muguruza grabbed a 3-0 lead of her own in the 2nd, finally putting away the set on her fifth set point to take it at love, then went out to a 3-1 lead in the 3rd, as well. Mertens wasn't blown away this time, but Muguruza stayed one step ahead throughout. Serving at 5-3, the Spaniard closed things out for a 2-6/6-0/6-3 win that had more drama than it needed or should have had.

Maybe some day one, or both, of Kvitova and/or Muguruza will be "go to" players when it comes to knowing -- deep down to your marrow -- that you're going to get the very best each women has to offer on whatever day they hit the court. Whenever. However. No matter what's at stake. But, as of now, that is most definitely not the case with either.

They're both still alive in this U.S. Open. But for how long? Certainly, even they have no earthly idea. And that's a problem.

...don't think I didn't notice something else about that Kvitova/Ostapenko match, either. See?

The whole thing, as is TOO often the case on tour, was further complicated by the fact that Kvitova and Ostapenko wore IDENTICAL outfits, right down to their headbands and shoes (and even ponytails). At least Ostapenko wore white shoelaces (Petra's were hot pink) and sported one wristband (to Petra's two), so they weren't COMPLETE mirror images. But, really, as I've harped for the last year, something needs to be done about this.

Doubles teams at the Olympics were forced to wear identical outfits in order to differentiate them from their opponents, but two players facing off in singles court can't be bothered to present opposing images? In no other sport is this sort of thing even a remote possibility, and from a (confusing) viewing standpoint it shouldn't be allowed to stand (at least not in matches on TV courts... even if such a new "dress code" would ONLY extend to the majors).

It's really just stupid, plain and simple... not to mention an insanely easy fix. Which means it never will be. Fixed, that is.

...after a season in which she's been collecting "firsts" like a U.S. presidential candidate tweeting up a storm at 1 a.m., Cagla Buyukakcay added another feat to her bushel of breakthroughs -- which have included Turkey's first tour singles final and title (Istanbul), first slam main draw and MD win (RG), first Top 100 ranking, first tennis Olympian, etc. -- on Day 1 as she was the first player to notch a 1st Round win at this U.S. Open. Her 6-2/6-1 win over Irina Falconi was the Turk's first ever MD victory in New York, of course. One more win and she'll be the first Turk to reach the 3rd Round of a major.

The "First Seed Out" moment took place not long afterward, as #30 Misaki Doi fell in straight sets to Maria Sharapova (see yesterday's post for an explanation of that) Germany's Carina Witthoeft. It's the second straight slam in which Witthoeft has knocked the first seed out of the draw, as she put down #25 Irina-Camelia Begu on Day 1 at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

...2015 finalist Roberta Vinci opened up her "year-after" campaign right where she ended her last -- on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Even though the roof wasn't closed, technically, this was the first match played on the court when there was a roof READY to go, if needed. So at least there was that. As far as the result, it was good news for the Italian. She's had a particularly bad summer run, but she handled Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-2/6-4 today.

...the new Grandstand court was christened on Monday by Caroline Wozniacki and Taylor Townsend. And, in a bit of a surprise, the '14 finalist and former #1 was NOT upset by the Bannerette qualifier. Not that she looked particularly great doing it, mind you.

A year ago, the Dane came to New York ranked #5 in the world. Today, she's #74. That pretty much says it all about the last twelve months of her career. Injury, bad losses and near-irrelevance doesn't look good on Wozniacki. There's also the recent news of the end of yet another short-term coaching stint (this one featuring David Kotyza) by the latest to be lured in by the prospect of righting Wozniacki's path. The "official" reason for the split are "family reasons" on Kotyza's part, as Caro herself made sure to make clear the other day.

Of course, the departure of Kotyza means the return of father Piotr in the lead coaching role. So the prospects of any future up-tick doesn't look much brighter than the frustrating Wozniacki present. Not that the coaching REALLY matters. The "want-to" has to come mostly from Caro herself. She proved she could do it two years ago, but hasn't seemed as willing since.

After dropping the 1st set today vs. Townsend, Caro came back to win 4-6/6-3/6-4, but she didn't look like a player with a long 2016 U.S. Open shelf life. After taking a 3-0 lead in the 2nd, Wozniacki got things to the 3rd. There, she saw Townsend save BP to hold for a 4-3 lead, but then swept the final three games to advance. Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic escaped with a win today, staging a comeback to take out Samantha Crawford 6-7(6)/6-3/6-4, but she's got work to do if her final '16 slam is going to amount to much. A quarterfinalist in her Open debut in '14, Bencic's season has been frustrated by injuries (back, then wrist), and she's fallen outside the Top 20 just a little over a year after what seemed like a career-defining title run in Toronto last summer. While the Swiss teen is filled with fight, she's still out of form (her double-fault on SP in the 1st is probably more telling than even her eventual win). How far that will get her in NYC is anyone's guess. But the prospects don't look particularly good.

...elsewhere, Angelique Kerber's most recent quest to become the #1 player in the world began in the best way possible. For her. After an exhausting summer, the German only had to play thirty-three minutes today vs. Polona Hercog. She never lost a game, as the Slovenian retired from the match after losing the first seven games.

While the hopes were high for a great 1st Round match between longtime foes (usually in classic fashion) Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone, what occurred on Louis Armstrong was anything but. The Russian quickly took a 4-0 lead and never looked back, wining 6-1/6-2.

Qualifier CiCi Bellis, 17, took out Viktorija Golubic, but fellow Bannerette, #28 CoCo Vandeweghe fell in three sets to Naomi Osaka, who once again flashed considerable potential, 6-7(4)/6-3/6-4. The 18-year old Japanese has already reached the 3rd Round at two slams this year, upsetting Elina Svitolina (#18 seed) to get there in Melbourne, then Jelena Ostapenko (#32 seed) en route in Paris.

Unfortunately, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova's long international nightmare of a 2016 season continued on Day 1. Oh, she opened her 1st Round match by breaking the serve of Anastasija Sevastova. The good news ended there. She lost 6-3/6-3. It's too depressing to even run her season's won/lost totals up the flagpole anymore.

Yep. It's come to that.

...I said going into this slam that #12-seeded Dominika Cibulkova had the draw of Top 4 seed, and might be able to reach the QF without facing a seeded player. Well, two of the other three seeds in her section DID lose today. First came #30 Doi, then #21 Begu fell in quick fashion to Lesia Tsurenko 6-0/6-4 late in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Cibulkova defeated Magda Linette in straights.

#7 Vinci, who won today but hasn't won three matches (which she'd have to do to reach the Round of 16 to face the Slovak) since February, is already the only other seed in Cibulkova's section, and she's hardly a sure thing to survive until the second week. usual with the Open, this is a "somewhat early" post, leaving open the option of a second to fill in the gaps of the day (if necessary) later tonight.

TYPICAL, ON DAY 1: After ESPN purchased the entire U.S. Open event a short while ago, it was touted how the network would provide far-reaching coverage, making use of ESPN, ESPN2 and using the online WatchESPN to fill in the blanks. The first year of the agreement, all that held true. Since then, not so much. Day 1 began at 11 a.m. with neither ESPN nor ESPN2 providing coverage and, with Tennis Channel left out in the cold in the current agreement, viewers could ONLY go online to watch matches, with the "official" coverage not beginning until 1 p.m., on ESPN only.

So, when the tournament is at it's most hectic and the pulse of the event is first taken, in the opening rounds when there are too many matches going on to keep count of them all, the official network of the event was sitting on its collective hands, leaving all those talking heads with nothing to do on camera or on microphone (of course, that's almost a good thing, really).

As with so many things over the years, ESPN likes to collect (horde?) properties, but once that work is complete it sees no real reason to attempt to make the broadcast and coverage as good as possible. Unless it's the NFL or college football (which, in truth, I AM really itchin' to see start up full-speed later this week), everyone else sits at the kiddie table, with smaller plates and portion sizes. That's the reality of (all) sports coverage in the U.S., with ESPN leading the charge (even the flippin' Hot Dog Eating Contest last month wasn't shown live on an actual network channel for the first time in ages), which is fine and understandable. Football is the money machine that raises the tide for all boats.

Just don't tout how great you and your coverage of other events is going to be. Then it won't be so easy to poke holes in it all.


Obviously, one can never have a wry sense of humor since, after making this oh-so-Genie joke while watching the VMA awards show Sunday night, Bouchard's sarcasm-wrapped compliment (which is what it was, really) was greeted by pretty much only comments about people insulting her, calling her names, declaring her a "hater" and (as is often the case whenever anyone does anything other than discuss Serena in the most glowing and easy to understand terms) making themselves look small while they "defend" Williams from something that she didn't need to be defended against in the first place.

LIKE ON DAY 1: Umm, this. I think.

LIKE ON DAY 1: Me, disguised as the clock on Court 17... and just being unable to take this ongoing sideshow any longer.


LIKE ON DAY 1: Si-mo-na kissin' butt.

Hopefully, it's a good sign.



Pastry Caroline continues to try to be as diplomatic as humanly possible, even while showing her displeasure with the FFT's actions (and timing). At some point, you almost wonder if it'd just be smarter to just go all-hellfire-and-brimstone just to get it all out. Sometimes such a cathartic move works on the court.

[ By the way, someone in the comments sections translates and essentially gives a rundown of what she said, if it helps. ]

LIKE ON DAY 1: Not short on star power here, huh?



Okay, 2016... we surrender. (Just don't sucker punch us one more time in November... that we won't ever forgive.)

LIKE ON DAY 1: There will be no wheelchair competition at the U.S. Open this year, but all the usual suspects are officially starting to trickle into Rio for the Summer Paralympics competition. Tennis' "other" medal run begins on September 8, and goes until the 16th.

I'm Rio ready!!!... Well.. After I've tamed my hair I will be ??!! #proudparalympian????

A photo posted by Jordanne Whiley (@jordanne_joyce) on

LIKE ON DAY 1: I'm sure there's a WTA equivalent in here somewhere, but it's not coming to me at the moment. Give it time.

Hmmm, something Petra-related?

...and, finally...

She isn't playing, but Vika is "covering" this U.S. Open.

This explains a LITTLE... haha.

2009 Vania King, USA (def. Yakimova)
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA (def. Morita)
2011 Monica Niculescu, ROU (def. Mayr-Achleitner)
2012 Anna Tatishvili, GEO (def. Foretz-Gacon)
2013 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP (def. Davis)
2014 Aga Radwanska, POL (def. Fichman)
2015 Mariana Duque, COL (def. Kenin)
2016 Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (def. Falconi)
AO: Petra Kvitova, CZE (def. Kumkhum)
RG: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, RUS (def. Sorribes-Tormo)
WI: Daria Kasatkina, RUS (def. Duval)
US: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR (def. Falconi)

2005 #28 Flavia Pennetta, ITA (Schruff)
2006 #15 Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER (Rezai)
2007 #29 Samantha Stosur, AUS (Cornet)
2008 #24 Shahar Peer, ISR (Li)
2009 #25 Kaia Kanepi, EST (K.Chang)
2010 #8 Li Na, CHN (K.Bondarenko)
2011 #5 Petra Kvitova, CZE (Dulgheru)
2012 #27 Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (Hradecka)
2013 #29 Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK (Mayr-A.)
2014 #25 Garbine Muguruza, ESP (Lucic-Baroni)
2015 #7 Ana Ivanovic, SRB (Cibulkova)
2016 #30 Misaki Doi, JPN (Witthoeft)
AO: #17 Sara Errani, ITA (Gasparyan)
RG: #32 Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (Osaka)
WI: #25 Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU (Witthoeft)
US: #30 Misaki Doi, JPN (Witthoeft)

JAN: Angelique Kerber, GER
FEB: Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
MAR: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
APR: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA/FRA
MAY: Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza, SUI/IND
JUN/RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
JUN: Karolina Pliskova, CZE
JUL/WI: Serena Williams, USA
JUL: Simona Halep, ROU
AUG: Monica Puig, PUR
[2016 Weekly POW Award Wins]
3...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Simona Halep, ROU
2...Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza, SUI/IND
2...Angelique Kerber, GER
2...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
1...Irina-Camelia Begu, ROU
1...Kiki Bertens, NED
1...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
1...Sara Errani, ITA
1...Irina Falconi, USA
1...Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA/FRA
1...Madison Keys, USA
1...Johanna Konta, GBR
1...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
1...Garbine Muguruza, ESP
1...Monica Puig, PUR
1...Aga Radwanska, POL
1...Lucie Safarova, CZE
1...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
1...Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
1...Elina Svitolina, UKR
1...CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
1...Serena Williams, USA
[2016 Fed Cup Overall MVP Wins]
FC I: Karolina Pliskova, CZE (1st Rd.)
FC II: Caroline Garcia/Kristina Mladenovic, FRA (SF)
[2016 Fed Cup Overall Captain MVP Wins]
FC I: Alicia Molik, AUS
FC II: Mary Joe Fernandez, USA
[Most 2016 Fed Cup Team MVP Wins]
2...Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2...Lesia Tsurenko, UKR

TOP QUALIFIER: Taylor Townsend/USA
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Eri Hozumi/JPN d. (WC) Amanda Anisimova/USA 6-1/2-6/7-6(1) [Hozumi trails 4-0 in the 3rd, saves a MP vs. the 14-year old]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: Cagla Buyukakcay/TUR (def. Falconi/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Misaki Doi/JPN (lost 1st Rd. to Witthoeft/GER)
IT ("??"): xx
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Day 1 wins: C.Bellis/USA, Duan/CHN, Wang Yafan/CHN
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: Day 1 wins: C.Bellis, C.McHale, S.Rogers

All for Day 1. More tomorrow (or later tonight).


Blogger colt13 said...

I should have looked at Puig as a first time slam winner. No match play since and lots of press is a learning experience.

Not sure if it is injury or rust, but Bencic isn't bending well or going up and back well. Does seem ok side to side. Anybody that plays her like Flipkens did last week should beat her.

Stat of the Day-200- Number of points gained by Virginie Razzano in Carlsbad. In 2013. Once those points came off, she dropped out of the Top 100, never to return. This was the name that stood out then the WC was announced, because she is still living off the Serena match. You get 240 pts for R16 at a slam, and 280 to win some low level WTA events. Razzano hasn't earned 240 or more pts in an event since 2009! For comparison, Hantuchova, ranked #249, has passed that total 3 times the last 4 seasons(2013 US QF, Birmingham 13-W, Pattaya City 15-W).

Mon Aug 29, 09:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Well, that was a really good job of describing the anguish of caring what Petra does. It really is physical. Lately, I find myself putting the match on but not really watching it; I just "check in" now and then. Because I get tired from yelling at her, and she pays no mind to me at all. Petra is maddening.

Someone in Cincinnati tactfully asked Garbi, at her press conference, about all that mugu-ing she does on court from time to time. She denied having any "down" emotions at all. She gave a charming little speech about it, in fact. No one can deflect like Muguruza; she's so totally engaging and good-humored. But she mugus....

Mon Aug 29, 10:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I knew all these WC's that Razzano gets were a little perplexing, but now it's even more so. They're always either at RG or as a reciprocal WC at the other slams, so it's only the FFT that's doing it for some odd reason. I mean, there's no other player in all of France more deserving of these slams MD slots?

She must have a very good friend/supporter high up in the federation, because it makes no sense. Hmmm, sort of like with many thing the FFT does, I guess. I seems to do everything it can to NOT make the young or in-their-prime French players comfortable or even give them a necessary boost without being absolutely forced to do so. Which, frankly, would explain a lot about the performances of the French as a whole -- male and female -- over the years.

Oh, nobody mugus better than Mugu! :)

I mean, really, she even looks worse out there than Petra (and that's saying something) when she's having one of those stretches. At least there's a hint of frustration in those moments from Kvitova, but Muguruza doesn't even register that.

Tue Aug 30, 10:08:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, and on Puig... I wonder if she even picked up a racket as anything other than a prop for a photo session or parade since Rio (well, other than that time w/ Rio the Dog) until she set foot on a practice court in NYC? It's a legitimate question. I mean, where would she have found the time?

Her energy got her a 4-1 lead in the 1st set yesterday, and that was about all she had to give.

Tue Aug 30, 10:11:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home