Wednesday, August 31, 2016

US.3 - Day of the Dane

Don't look now, but we have a Caro Sighting. Circa 2014... in 2016.

Playing her most aggressive brand of tennis in two years, since she last played in a major final in New York City and climbed back into the Top 5, Caroline Wozniacki overcame a slow start to beat back #9-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova to pull off a 6-4/6-4 victory to advance to the 3rd Round of this U.S. Open. The win is the Dane's first Top 10 victory since last September, and just her second Top 20 win over the past year (though she did miss two and a half months this spring with an ankle injury).

Of course, Sveta being Sveta, theirs was a match with a few huge momentum shifts, even if she didn't play her usual three-set nail-biter. The Russian jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the 1st set before Wozniacki ran off six straight games to take the lead in the match.

In the 2nd, while the Dane maintained her consistency, Kuznetsova began to see her game come apart at the seams a bit. Down break point while serving at 1-2, she tentatively tried to aim an overhead rather than simply blasting it for a winner. The result: an ugly shot that floated out to give Wozniacki a 3-1 lead. The break was delivered right back to her one game later, though, as Caro double-faulted on a BP after having fallen behind 15/40.

Wozniacki got the break back, then gave it away again, as things went back on serve at 5-4. Looking to push things into a 3rd set, Kuznetsova served to stay in the match, and led 30/love. But her "moment" it didn't last. Two bad mishits later and it was 30/30, and after dumping another shot into the net she presented Wozniacki with a match point. As she'd managed to be all day, while still maintaining her get-to-every-ball defensive posture, Wozniacki took the opportunity to be aggressive when she got it. The Dane fired a forehand winner to take the match, reversing the result of her loss to the Russian at Wimbledon in June.

While Kuznetsova has had a resurgent twelve months on tour, Wozniacki's past WTA year has been pretty close to a nightmare. Sveta has returned to the Top 10, but as she's done so Caro has slipped from #5 at last year's Open all the way down to #74 heading into this one. Her recent coaching stint with David Kotyza never really amounted to much, as she got hurt a week into it, and then the former/longtime Kvitova team member stepped away to spend more time with family (and, perhaps, sensing a call might be forthcoming at some point from a certain Czech, I wonder?). So, really, there was no reason to think that this was going to be a poor Open for Kuznetsova, AND an encouraging one for the Dane.

Well, except for the fact that we sort of know that Sveta can win the title or lose in the 1st Round at ANY tournament she plays, while Wozniacki has managed to make New York's slam the one at which she's most thrived, reaching both of her major career finals there.

Now-thirtysometing, Kuznetsova has made it clear this week that she's not going anywhere, and that she believes she's still got more to accomplish in the sport. There was a legitimate question about 26-year old Wozniacki's future before the start of this event. But the fight she showed in escaping Taylor Townsend in the 1st Round, and now the where-have-they-been-all-your-life? (save for two summers ago, that is) aggressive tactics she showed today, calls for a complete re-thinking of the future Wozniacki timeline. Sure, she's recently expressed an interest to enroll in some classes at Yale, but she also ran a marathon a while back. But she didn't BECOME a marathoner.

Maybe SHE has some things that she can still accomplish in what remains of the tennis chapter of HER life, as well.

And, really, there's no time like the present.

Hmmm. Alllll right. That's not exactly a coming-strong-to-the-microphone (ala, say Venus) moment, but let's give it a "pass" for now, yes?


...hmmm, did someone mention a certain Czech? Yep, she was in action today, too.

While Petra Kvitova went 10-3 on summer hard courts, winning a Bronze in Rio and reaching the New Haven semis, anyone with any working knowledge of the Petra dynamic knows that all that means absolutely nothing when it comes to her prospects at this slam. It's not about what Kvitova did two weeks or five tournaments ago, it's about what she did two games or five minutes ago compared to what she might do five games or two minutes from now... and they will usually be in no way connected in any discernible, intellectually fathomable fashion found anywhere else on this earth. In fact, those watching are probably going to question whether or not there was a bodysnatching that might have taken place under their nose.

But, of course, that's what made the WatchESPN coverage of Kvitova's meeting with Cagla Buyukakcay on Ashe Stadium today all the more frustrating -- or amusing, I suppose -- as the match commentators seemed flabbergasted by how Petra could have put up such good results recently, but been so frighteningly inconsistent during this match. I mean, they seemed legitimately stunned by the reality of the situation.

Bless 'em... their naivete is quaint. Well, at least it would be if they weren't being paid to dispense it as "expert" opinion. But, hey, moving on...

Kvitova led Buyukakcay 3-1 in the early going, but both players (especially the error-prone Turk, who was quite obviously slow to adapt in her first career appearance on Ashe) were having a difficult time holding serve, especially when serving into the sun on a court flooded with pre-afternoon shadows. Still, the Czech seemed on her way to a quick 1st set win. But we knew better.

Right on cue, Kvitova was broken at love, the fourth break of serve in the match's first five games, then saw Buyukakcay go up 40/love on her own serve a game later. Naturally, Petra then ran off four straight points to reach BP and get the break to take a 4-2 lead. Up 5-2, Kvitova again seemed set to coast. You're kidding, right? As Buyukakcay became more comfortable, Petra wavered enough to make things, umm, "interesting." Yeah, that's the word. Serving up 5-3, the Czech went down love/30, faced a BP, then double-faulted to get the set back on serve. Buyukakcay soon pushed the "out of reach" set to a tie-break, and actually had won more points (33-32) than Kvitova before it began. In the TB, the Turk went up 2-0... but then lost five straight points. Serving two at 5-2, Kvitova closed out the set with back-to-back holds to win 7-2 and end the 55-minute set.

After so many breaks in the 1st set, the 2nd didn't see its first BP until Kvitova had the honor at 3-3, going up love/40 on Buyukakcay's serve. Picking up her game ("Oh, hey Good Petra!"), the Czech faced off with her opponent at the net, guessed correctly -- moving to her left -- from her position near the mid-court and reflexively hit a volley winner to get the break for a 4-3 lead. From there, the Good Petra mojo carried her to the finish for a 7-6(2)/6-3 win after one hour and thiry-three minutes of Petra-ites waiting for the other shoe to drop, them being pleasantly surprised when it never really did. Well, at least not with a thud.

So far, so good. But, with Kvitova, it's never a comfortable "truce" when her ultimate slam fate hangs in the balance. the middle of the afternoon, with the heat and humidity (perhaps deceptively) at its worst, near-Top 10 Brit (AO semifinalist and recent Stanford champ) Johanna Konta suddenly (but "gracefully," as she would wryly note) went down in a heap while serving to stay in the 2nd set (down BP, at 5-6, in fact, after missing on a first serve) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova. Dropping her racket and going to a knee, Konta was audibly wheezing and gasping for breath, and was soon on her back, wrapped in ice packs and wet towels while she waited for medical attention and the chair umpire kept a watchful eye on her as she ran around to get things organized and the correct personnel to the court as quickly as possible. Once the trainers got there, Konta was treated and, eventually, made it back to her chair.

In surprisingly quick fashion, she actually returned to the baseline, but only to serve her second serve (well long), securing the break for Pironkova and knotting the match at one set each.

After a break between sets, Konta came back seemingly none the worse for wear. She got an early break lead over Pironkova, led 2-0, and never looked back, putting away a 6-2/5-7/6-2 victory that was anything but routine. That's what you call a well-earned win.

(Or, if you're Pironkova, I suppose you might say that waiting around for twenty minutes while Konta was treated on the court, then standing in one place while she served a DF to end the 2nd set, then having to wait again during the between-sets off-court break, only to come out cold and immediately drop your first service game and never get back the momentum, MIGHT have put you at a BIT of a disadvantage, even though you weren't the one having any sort of physical issues. But there's nothing in the rules that prevented all that, so there's not much that can done... even if one were to "pull a Tatjana" and threaten to sue or something. I mean, we know how the USTA handles lawsuits, anyway, right?)

...elsewhere during the day session, it looked for a bit as if Dominika Cibulkova might squander her amazingly fortunate draw. But after dropping the opening set to Evgeniya Rodina in a tie-break, she bounced back to take the 2nd, then overcame a 2-0 deficit in the 3rd set to reel off six straight games and win 6-7(5)/6-2/6-2. The only other seed in the #12-seeded Slovak's section remains #7 Roberta Vinci, who handled what might have been a tricky opponent in Christina McHale, winning 6-1/6-3.

As Vinci picks up steam and begins to recapture the flow and snarl that she rode all the way to the final a year ago, well, look out. What an Italian has done over the course of the season means little when death is on the line, err, I mean when an incredible grand slam opportunity presents itself for a second year in a row. Just ask Francesca. While everyone remembers that Schiavone was the first Italian to reach a slam final (and win it, too) in 2010 in Paris, it's easy to forget that she followed up that run with another appearance in the Roland Garros final one year later.

I'm just sayin'.

...also winning on Wednesday was Belinda Bencic, who didn't have to go long distance in a 3 & 2 win over Andrea Petkovic, and Elina Svitolina, who had to go three sets (for a second straight round) to take out Lauren Davis. Monica Niculescu won the all-Swarmette match-up over qualifier Ana Bodgan, 6-0/6-1; and Naomi Osaka reached the 3rd Round of her third 2016 slam with a victory over qualifier Duan Yingying.

Carina Witthoeft, who knocked the the first seed out of this Open with her victory over #30 Misaki Doi, had to go three sets in 2:45 to defeat Yulia Putintseva today. The 21-year old German had led 6-1/5-2, holding three MP, before the Kazakh took things to the third. From there, Witthoeft won 6-1. Of some note, especially considering Putintseva's umm, shall we say, "competitive nature," these two are still scheduled to team up for doubles this week, too. Okay.

...late in the afternoon, after getting through the 1st Round when her opponent retired in the 2nd set, #2 Angelique Kerber seemed well on her way to another easy day vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, leading 6-2/4-1. But the 34-year old Croat has the firepower, as well as the recent slam history (two wins over Simona Halep the last two years in New York and Paris, respectively) and even recent history with Kerber (they played a three-setter in Montreal), to not be simply counted out. And she wasn't, either. Out of it, that is.

Lucic battled to get back into the set, and even held a SP late in the 2nd on Kerber's serve. The German saved it and they eventually went to a TB. There, Lucic surged to the lead. A backhand return winner gave her a second SP at 6-5, and then she held a third a few moments later. But back-to-back errors overturned her possibilities in the match, as she went from being one point from forcing a 3rd set to facing a MP at 8-7. As it was, a third consecutive error off the Croat veteran's racket ended the TB, 9-7 in Kerber's fave. Kerber won 6-2/7-6(7) and continues on her merry way toward possibly ending this U.S. Open as the #1-ranked player in the world.

By the way, while it's not a hey-look-at-those moment (ala SimonaShortz), I do like Kerber's "stained glass window" skirt.

...doubles and mixed got underway on Day 3. Some early winners included Mattek-Sands/Safarova, the Kichenok sisters and the glad-to-see-they're-back-at-it Czech duo of Krejcikova & Siniakova.

Rio Gold medalists Makarova/Vesnina are set to finish their 1st Rounder as this post.

Meanwhile, after Aleksandra Krunic had some nice success with good friend Xenia Knoll earlier this year (reaching two WTA finals, winning one, and playing in a $100K final, as well), while the Bracelet also had modest success with fellow Serb and Fed Cup teammate Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon (reaching the 3rd Round), neither of those pairings were in order for this U.S. Open. Knoll played today with JJ by her side, while Krunic was with Andreea Mitu. Both teams lost their 1st Round matches. Seriously, I think someone (a few people, really) got their wires crossed on all this.

Sania Mirza & Barbora Strycova are set to play later in the day, while Martina Hingis & Leander Paes open up their MX title defense, as well.

LIKE ON DAY 3: Further evidence of Serena's superhero tendencies...

LIKE ON DAY 3: Ditto.

LIKE ON DAY 3: Ditto (again).

"YEAH, SURE..." ON DAY 3: So, Djokovic gets a walkover in his match on Ashe, and the tournament moves the Monfils sideshow in as a replacement. That's bad enough, but then the lunk-headed shills of ESPN talk about how great it is for the fans on Ashe to get such a "bonus," since the Frenchman's a "born entertainer."

Well, for one, let's dispense with this "bonus" talk when it's a "replacement" match. And, hmmm, let's see... a match with the #1 player in the world and defending U.S. Open champ, or a player who doesn't think beyond five feet in front of him, never wins anything of note, would rather do spins into the back wall for no apparent reason in an attempt to get a ball ten feet over his head or leap through the air and injure his wrist upon landing (it's called gravity, Gael) than construct any sort of game plan or style of play that would make use of his immense talent while trying to win a match, and then, when he does manage to fluke into putting up a "W," it's essentially a fleeting, meaningless moment in time since you know some sort of retirement or no-show performance will be just around the corner.

Yeah, that's a "good" thing. (Rolls eyes.) Of course, I wouldn't expect the USTA to know the difference.

I'd ask for a refund, or try to find a sucker to unload the ticket on.

LIKE ON DAY 3: Petra being Petra (the good side)

LIKE ON DAY 3: Aga, who we sort of rarely ever realize, in many respects, may be remembered as "Poland's Li Na"...

"NOTE TO SELF" ON DAY 3: So THAT'S what it's like not playing in New Haven.

...and, finally...

Not surprisingly, Dasha didn't retweet this headline...


A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

1992 Monique van den Bosch/Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
1996 Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch/Chantal Vandierendonck, NED
2000 Maaike Smit/Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Maaike Smith/Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Korie Homan/Sharon Walraven, NED
2012 Marjolein Buis/Esther Vergeer, NED
1992 Nancy Olson/Lynn Seidemann, USA
1996 Hope Lewellen/Nancy Olson, USA
2000 Branka Pupovac/Daniela Di Toro, AUS
2004 Sakhorn Khanthasit/Ratana Techamaneewat, THA
2008 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek Van Koot, NED
1992 Oristelle Marx/Arlette Racineaux, FRA
1996 Oristelle Marx/Arlette Racineaux, FRA
2000 Christine Otterbach/Petra Sax-Scharl, GER
2004 Sandra Kalt/Karin Suter Erath, SUI
2008 Florence Gravellier/Arltte Racineaux, FRA
2012 Lucy Shuker/Jordanne Whiley, GBR

JAN: Zhang Shuai, CHN
FEB: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
MAR: Christina McHale, USA
APR: Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
MAY: Christina McHale, USA
JUN: Shelby Rogers, USA
JUN: Tara Moore, GBR
JUL: Julia Boserup, USA
2Q Grass Court: TARA MOORE, GBR
JUL: Kristina Kucova, SVK
AUG: Laura Siegemund, GER
[2016 Weekly SURPRISE Award Wins]
4...Cagla Buyukakcay, TUR
4...Laura Siegemund, GER
3...Veronica Cepede Royg, PAR
3...Anna-Lena Friedsam, GER
3...Viktorija Golubic, SUI
2...Ekaterina Alexandrova, RUS
2...Ana Bogdan, ROU
2...Julia Boserup, USA
2...Mariana Duque, COL
2...Myrtille Georges, FRA
2...Paula Cristina Goncalves, BRA
2...Han Xinyun, CHN
2...Kristina Kucova, SVK
2...Christina McHale, USA
2...Tara Moore, GBR
2...Aliaksandra Sasnovich, BLR

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)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Belgium (0-4 in 1st Rd.)
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: #32 Puig (Olympic Gold medalist; lost 1st rd. to Sai.Zheng/CHN)
ZOMBIE QUEEN (TBD at QF): Nominees: #31 Babos (1st Rd. def. Haas/AUT, trailed 4-0 in 3rd); #13 Konta (2nd Rd. - collapses at end of 2nd set due to heat vs. Pironkova, wins 6-2 3rd set)
IT ("??"): Nominee: K.Day/USA ("teen")
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: C.Bellis/USA, A.Bogdan/ROU(L), Y.Duan/CHN(L), M.Gonzalez/PAR, R.Hogenkamp/NED, Wang Yafan/CHN(L)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: In 2nd Rd.: C.Bellis, L.Davis, K.Day, N.Gibbs, M.Keys, V.King, V.Lepchenko, C.McHale(L), S.Rogers, S.Williams, V.Williams
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: M.Keys/USA (won latest-ending women's match - 1:48 a.m.)

All for Day 3.


Blogger colt13 said...

This is inspired by the post the last couple of days regarding Caroline Garcia and the French team.

Stat of the Day-0- Amount of teams that have won Fed Cup without having anybody in the year end Top 20. France, led by Garcia, ranked at #33, is the highest. Even the outliers, Slovakia in 2002, had Hantuchova in the Top 10, while 2006 Italy had Schiavone at #15.

The perception of Garcia has more to do with the overall state of French tennis. Just as Keys was the first new American in the Top 10 since Serena, France hasn't had anyone in the Top 10 since Bartoli retired. The only reason I can't say Top 20 is that Cornet spent a couple of weeks at #20 in Oct 2014. Before that, you have to go back to Rezai in June 2010.

And if you are curious about next year, 6 of 8 teams do have a player that fits the criteria. France obviously doesn't, but who is the other? The Netherlands, although Bertens(career high of 21) is currently at 22.

Wed Aug 31, 08:35:00 PM EDT  

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