Tuesday, January 24, 2017

AO.9 - Cuckoo for CoCo?

Oh, what to make of CoCo Vandeweghe.

After so many not-so-conflicting opinions on the subject over the past couple of seasons, my thoughts were collectively unified during her thumping destruction of Garbine Muguruza in their quarterfinal match-up on Day 9. The Bannerette virtually beat the Spaniard about the head and shoulders in front of the entire tennis world on Tuesday, denying her even an insincere hint of mercy. Not during the match, nor after it, either.

And I have to say... I sort of found myself loving it.

No, really.

I admit, I dreaded the thought of Vandeweghe reaching a slam semifinal heading into the day, but by the end of it I was duly impressed by her in pretty much every way. Even her performance after the match. For, as the final result was plainly clear and it was just a matter of time before Muguruza was allowed to leave the arena with all her limbs still attached to her body, I feared CoCo might do or say something ill-advised that would "ruin" the entire fascinatingly exhilarating experience. So, it was a relief when she kept the chest-thumping, overt (and "overproduced") celebrations, and look-at-me theatrics to a minimum, and instead settled into a "light bravado and truth-telling" mode that was quite intriguing. A little confidently salty, but also undeniably honest, even if it might have crossed the line into unsightly bragging territory with just a little more prodding.

But that didn't happen. Not this time. Oh, Vandeweghe took it right up to the edge by talking about freight trains and how Muguruza "cracked" in the end, but I think she colored just enough outside the lines to be interesting, but not so much as to be onerous and/or disrespectful. Like someone once said about a bowl of porridge found in a cottage in the middle of the forest, she was "juuuuust right." Anyway, I have to say, I really sort of got into it all.

(Yeah, it shocked the hell out of me, too.)

In fact, Vandeweghe's performance in this match was so good that she might have a difficult time living up to it. Anyone who saw it now knows what she's fully capable of... and just ask a certain Petra how that can weigh on a career. CoCo's groundstokes on the (newly?) quick Laver court surface produced the sort of thudding sound I've only ever really previously associated with the likes of the players I've always looked to as the "ball-striking king and queen" of the last two decades -- Juan Martin del Potro and Lindsay Davenport. The echo of their clocking of tennis balls on a court had such a unique sound that they could likely be identified by ear. The sounds of the balls coming off Vandeweghe's racket in this QF match were very similar.

Ah, poor Garbi. She just really didn't even have a chance in this one, did she? She could never truly read the style or direction of the CoCo serve, nor her groundstrokes, either. As a result, she often had to guess, and the shots were coming at her too hard to be even the slightest bit wrong and have any sort of chance to get a competitive response back over the net. It was difficult enough even when she guessed right.

Fairly much from the start in this one, Muguruza had her back pressed firmly against the wall by the force of Vandeweghe's game. The Spaniard had to save two break points in the opening game (after which CoCo held at love), two more in game #3, and then four more in game #5 before she finally double-faulted under the pressure of it all on Vandeweghe's eighth BP of the set (and fifth in that game alone). With a break lead at 4-3 on her side, the already-confident Vandeweghe seemed to grow three sizes the rest of the way.

By the end, Muguruza was left to scurry down the beanstalk back home from CoCo's home in the Melbourne sky above Laver Arena.

To her credit, Muguruza held Vandeweghe off as long as she could, going up love/30 on CoCo's serve in game #8 (Vandeweghe still held), and saving a set point to hold her own serve a game later. She even reached BP as Vandeweghe attempted to serve out the 1st set at 5-4, only to see the Bannerette fire an ace to save it, blast a backhand to get her second set point, and then put in an unreturnable serve to close out the set at 6-4.

Things would only get worse for Garbine in the 2nd.

Vandeweghe broke her serve in the opening game, and then unleashed a string of booming groundstrokes and serves that only further boosted her still-rising level of play. While still harboring diminishing hopes of getting back into the match, Muguruza double-faulted and fall behind 15/40, then watched as CoCo blasted a forehand winner behind her to go up a double-break. Another thunderous forehand clanged off Muguruza's racket at the baseline as the lead climbed to 4-0. A forehand winner secured another break for 5-0. Serving to close out the set at love, no one foresaw any hint of mercy in Vandeweghe's game. Nor should there have been. Her near-perfect game on this day didn't deserve a blemish in its closing moments, though it DID nearly get one as Muguruza managed to hold a BP. But it was only a temporary restraining order against the beat-down that Vandeweghe was bound and determined to finish off. Her 6-4/6-0 win puts the 25-year old into her first slam semifinal, making her the latest North American woman in recent seasons (Stephens '13, Bouchard '14 and Keys '15) to carve out a maiden major event breakout Down Under.

None did so quite as emphatically as Vandeweghe did on this day, though.

Afterward, she talked about her game being an unstoppable "freight train." And this time there wasn't an ounce of exaggeration or hint of malice in the air. It was just the truth. CoCo's truth. And no one, not even Muguruza herself, could deny it.

Though it didn't look like it on this day, Muguruza had come into the QF without having dropped a set in Melbourne, and had played consistently well in the early weeks of 2017, showing great fight and only losing a match before this one when she'd retired in the 1st set of the Brisbane semifinals in Week 1. It really wasn't her fault that CoCo made her look rather pedestrian.

So, yeah, this was a rather eye-opening match.

It was easy to pass off Vandeweghe's quick dispatch of #1-ranked Angelique Kerber two nights ago in what was the first win by a non-Williams U.S. woman over a top-ranked player since 2001 (Capriati def. Hingis) as a case of the German's "off" '17 form contributing mightily to the end result, but this is another kettle of fish, as they say (or once said, I guess). If she can consistently play like THIS, well, Vandeweghe is going to be a monster to deal with. Everywhere. She's now won six of her last seven matches against Top 10 opponents, and at this slam alone has defeated a world #1, the defending champ, the winners of three of 2016's four major titles, and two other former slam finalists. So far.

Of course, the reality is that this was just an example as how good she CAN be. Maintaining that sort of level isn't always so easy. I mean, even Serena has difficulty doing it. As far as Vandeweghe is concerned, the ball-striking ability and fabulous service skills have always been in the mix, it's just been a matter of harnessing the thunderous power she's capable of generating off her racket, getting into the sort of shape that would allow her to be something other than a player with "a big punch," but little staying power, and having the discipline on game day to play a smart game rather than just a bludgeoning one. Credit to coach Craig Kardon for getting inside her head enough to convince her to give herself a chance to utilize her skill, ride the wave of her naturally outwardly-confident air and defiant attitude and, last but not least, even break down and agree to occasionally be tactically cagey and throw in a wicked (and well-disguised) kick-serve even when she'd prefer to just try to blast the ball through her opponent on EVERY serve if she had her druthers.

I mentioned the other day that I wondered if there would ever be a "Dr. Strangelove" moment around here where Vandeweghe was concerned. In other words, a moment when I'd "learn to stop worrying and love the bomb Bombastic Bannerette."

As noted many times, I didn't start out on "the side of right" when it came to either Justine Henin or Victoria Azarenka. After having issues with both early on in their careers, I eventually turned quite dramatically (at the '03 U.S. Open with Henin, and maybe during the "Cheaterenka" years at the AO for Vika) and never looked back. I now refer to them as the two "Faces of Backspin" over the years. Is this slam going to be the fulcrum on which all things CoCo change?

Well, let's not get ahead of things. That hasn't happened. Not yet, at least.

But, to be sure, Vandeweghe IS an interesting cat, with a family filled with athletic success, and the notion I posted two WTA Yearbooks ago about her having the odd distinction of being able to simultaneously be both a "breath of fresh air" AND "something of a dick" holds true still today. But that doesn't always have to be construed as a bad thing.

During ESPN's coverage of this match, Mary Joe Fernandez talked about how Vandeweghe admitted after her upset of Kerber that she was actually very nervous, sort of revealing her overt expressions of smirking bravado bordering on disrespect following the match as something (at least a little) of a false face, whether it was a necessary one or not, and whether it was for her own benefit of that of others. The comments, for me, automatically made Vandeweghe a more interesting character than she'd been before, and maybe connected a few of the disparate notes about her far different, more friendly, persona aside from the chest-bumping moments with the pre-approved, pro wrestling feel.

So, I guess I can somewhat blame this entire post on MJF. Hey, it wouldn't be the first time I've blamed her for something, right?

That "Dr. Strangelove/Vandeweghe" moment has not yet come calling, but it sure feels a whole lot closer than it did twenty-four hours ago. If it arrives, I won't fight it. There's no fighting in the War Room, after all.

To be continued...?

...earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Venus Williams story continued in Melbourne, after all these years.

Nineteen Januarys after she faced off with her sister in their first professional match against each other in a 2nd Round of the 1998 Australian Open, then went on to reach the quarterfinals in her tournament debut as a 17-year old, and fourteen years since she played Serena in the 2003 AO women's final in what was the last leg of the original "Serena Slam," the now 36-year old Venus is back.

Back in the semifinals, that is.

The next question, of course, is just how far can she go in this first major of 2017. And if she reaches the weekend with her match slate still clean, will she find -- shocker... but not really -- a VERY familiar face waiting for her there?

While Williams' story has been a long-term one, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's has deceptively got some years on it by this point, as well. It could be that the true tale of the Russian's career is only beginning to find its footing, though. Venus has been on people's minds since the mid-1990's, when Pavlyuchenkova was just out of diapers, but the now 25-year old found herself in the spotlight more than a decade ago. In the wake of the early 2000's Russian tennis revolution which reached its zenith when three different Hordettes claimed slam titles (two in all-Russian finals) in 2004, all eyes soon found Pavlyuchenkova and dubbed her the "next in the line" of Russian champs. For good reason, too. She dominated in the juniors, winning three junior slams in 2006-07 and becoming the girls #1. Sports Illustrated even listed her in a group of young sports stars who would, essentially, be the generational game-changers in various sports over the coming decade, and Pavlyuchenkova was tennis' representative. Fitness, inconsistency and an unreliable serve have prevented that forecast from becoming reality, but she's still won eight tour singles titles and maintained a Top 30 (sometimes even better) standing since 2010. Since the start of 2016, though, the Russian has seen an improvement in all three areas of worry, even if it hasn't translated into upper-end results such as titles and/or finals.

Of course, anything the Russian is ever likely to accomplish can't help put pale in comparison to Williams' Hall of Fame career. Today she was seeking her 21st career semifinal and, maybe even more impressively, her second in the past year, with her 37th birthday beckoning this coming June. Already the oldest slam quarterfinalist since 1982 (Billie Jean King, 39), Venus, who'd advanced so far without so much as dropping a single set, found herself two wins from becoming the oldest slam singles finalist since a 37-year old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

In a match that started at 11 a.m. Melbourne time, both women had some trouble with their serve in the early going. Venus eventually figured things out, but Pavlyuchenkova never did.

With the Russian jumping on her second serves in the opening game, Williams saved one BP, but a Pavlyuchenkova forehand return winner of another of Venus' second serves gave her a break advantage. But it would be Pavlyuchenkova's own service games that would be her downfall. She was broken in game #4 after hitting two double-faults, broke back, but then gave the advantage back a game later when Williams came in to the net behind a second serve return for a put-away volley. Serving down 5-4, the Russian fell behind love/30 when Williams fired a down-the-line forehand winner, then hit a ball deep in the court to produce a Pavlyuchenkova error. Venus' backhand return winner of another second serve closed out Pavlyuchenkova's serve game at love, getting the break to take the 1st set 6-4 with a 13-5 edge in winners and with the Russian's service numbers -- a 55% win pct. on First Serve, but just 40% on her Second -- telling much of the story.

Game #2 of the 2nd set turned out to be a 12-minute slog (albeit a successful one) for the Russian, who saved three BP before finally holding on her fifth GP despite a pair of DF in the game (her fifth and sixth of the day). At 1-1, perhaps tired from the previous game, Venus dropped serve to fall behind 2-1. But after a rest during the changeover, Williams broke back for 2-2. After dropping serve again in game #7, she once more turns things back in her favor with another break of Pavlyuchenkova, this time at love.

Holding at love to go up 5-4, with an eight-point win streak, Williams looked to do precisely what she's done this entire AO, play efficiently in the final games and close out the match to avoid having to go three sets (even on a good weather day such as today, which was some thirty-degrees cooler than Monday, wrapping things up as quickly as possible would be key for her down the line in this event). But after taking the opening point on Pavlyuchenkova's serve, Williams missed on consecutive forehands to turn over the lead in the game. Ultimately, the Russian held with an extended big-hitting rally that finally ended with a long Williams backhand that evened things at 5-5. After another love hold from Venus that was punctuated by an ace, Pavlyuchenkova overcame a love/30 deficit to send things to a tie-break.

The Hordette would go up 2-0, but again would be unable to overcome her own service issues. A large return of a second serve gave Williams a 2-1 lead as Pavlyuchenkova's First Serve win percentage dipped to 35% on the day. Her eighth DF of the match made it 3-3, and set off the stretch of points that would end the match without the Russian putting another on the board. Williams fired winners to lead 4-3 and 6-3, then Pavlyuchenkova's ninth DF ended the match, with Venus emerging with another straights sets AO win, 6-4/7-5.

Pavlyuchenkova, even while she reverted to being thwarted by some of her previous career obstacles today, should still be encouraged about her progress despite the setback. If things go according to play, she's still in the process of building a more stable foundation for long-term success. With the current resurgence in young Russian talent, from Daria Kasatkina to the horde of new junior Hordettes, "middle child" Pavlyuchenkova, with two of her four career slam QF coming in the past year, is proving that she might still have a few of those big results that were expected from her a decade ago still left in her yet.

As for Venus, who knows where she might go from here. She's been breaking new ground since she was in her early teens, and now has two slam SEMIFINAL appearances in the past seven months. If 35 is the new tennis 25, as it appears to be at his AO, well, then Venus is the poster child for never growing old, never giving up, and never giving in.

...in women's doubles, the semifinals are being shaped, as well, and top seeds are falling left and right.

Already one of just three Top 10 seeded duos to reach the QF, #3-seeded Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina fell to #12 Andrea Hlavckova/Peng Shuai 7-5/7-6(5). #2 Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova are still alive, though, advancing today with a win over #11 Raquel Atawo & Xu Yifan, while Eri Hozumi & Miyu Kato, who defeated #2 Hingis/Vandeweghe over the weekend, took out Lucic-Baroni/Petkovic.

#1-seeded Garcia/Mladenovic are set to face off with Aussie wild cards Ash Barty & Casey Dellacqua under the lights on Laver tonight.

As it stands, Mattek-Sands (in the MX QF with Mike Bryan) is the only woman still alive in both doubles draws.


? ???? ?? ????? ??? ????? ???????????????? #home

A photo posted by Daria Kasatkina (@kasatkina) on

...A BIG THANK-YOU ON DAY 9: ...to the AO organizers, schedule-makers, etc. who -- unlike at SOME SLAMS -- chose to contest today's women's quarterfinal matches consecutively on the same court rather than simultaneously in different arenas.

The latter practice has become common at other majors in recent years, no matter that it's essentially a kick in the teeth not only to fans/chroniclers who aren't on the tournament grounds, but also to those who are, but are forced to miss out on all or part of the tournament's late-stage action in the singles draw for no reason other than the shortsightedness of those with the power to make such decisions. Purposely making it MORE difficult to watch what are supposed to be showcase moments in a specific draw at a showcase event is detrimental to coverage of the slams, the two tours and the entire sport, and fosters the environment where too many people who SHOULD, and those who might otherwise if given the opportunity, aren't really familiar with many top players even after they've advanced into the second week of a slam. Could you imagine, say, the NFL starting two playoff games at the exact same time, denying large chunks of a possible audience the ability to enjoy both?

While it's surely not perfect, usually, the AO is a step ahead of the other slams in many areas, from putting roofs on courts to building up the entire event around the actual tennis, and being as fan-friendly as possible, rather than putting a nose in the air and acting as if all that matters are the ancient rules, regulations and desires of a few individuals in high places. I'd say that it'd be nice if this sort of thing would lead the other majors to set up their schedules similarly... but I wouldn't advise anyone pledging to hold their breath until such a reality occurs.

Of course, I guess there's always the prospect of reporting and talking about how things happen in an "alternate" reality where everything is in our favor. We could agree to go there, ignore our eyes and brains and how we've used them to process information for our entire lives, and have the slams we WANT rather than the slams as they actually are. But, I mean, when does that sort of thing happen in real life, right?

Oh, wait.

...LIKE ON DAY 9: Vania King can STILL sing...

My stress relief ????????

A video posted by Van King (@vaniaking89) on

...WHO'D HAVE THUNK IT? ON DAY 9: That both of these women would still be alive in at least one AO draw nineteen years later...

...BELIEF ON DAY 9: If they win the WD title, they just HAVE to perform this routine on the court now, don't they?

...AS EXPECTED ON DAY 9: The Hall just didn't have enough Belgians. But it's probably met the quota now. For quite a long while, anyway.


...LIKE ON DAY 9: That this clip is actually of a former NFL running back talking about running over players on the defensive side of the ball, and someone is using it here in relation to that Nazi getting popped in the face on Inauguration Day. But what does it say that I got a chuckle out of it when thinking that Vandeweghe probably sometimes has the same thoughts going through her head when she plays like she did today? (And, no, it didn't come to mind because Jon Wertheim is on the other end of this interview, either.)

Hmmm, maybe I can see my CoCo "Dr.Strangelove" moment being a little closer around the bend than I thought, huh?

...and, finally...

A rave from the last Jedi himself...

At least he MAY be "the last Jedi."

These days, who knows?

CoCo Vandeweghe/USA def. #7 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
#13 Venus Williams/USA def. #24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS
#5 Karolina Pliskova vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO
#9 Johanna Konta/GBR vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#1 Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA/FRA) vs. (WC) Barty/Dellacqua (AUS/AUS)
#12 Hlavackova/Peng (CZE/CHN) def. #3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
Hozumi/Kato (JPN/JPN) def. Lucic-Baroni/Petkovic (CRO/GER)
#2 Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE) def. #11 Atawo/Yi.Xu (USA/CHN)

#1 Mattek-Sands/M.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Svitolina/Guccione (UKR/AUS)
Krajicek/Klaasen (NED/RSA) vs. Spears/Cabal (USA/COL)
(WC) Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs.(WC) Stosur/Groth (AUS/AUS)
Dabrowski/Bopanna (CAN/IND) vs. #2 Mirza/Dodig (IND/CRO)

#1 Rebeka Masarova/SUI vs. #13 Carson Branstine/USA
#10 Mai Hontama/JPN vs. Ekaterina Vishnevskaya/RUS
#4 Emily Appleton/GBR vs. #14 Yuki Naito/JPN
(WC) Yuan Chengyiyi/CHN vs. #7 Bianca Andreescu/CAN
#6 Jodi Anna Burrage/GBR vs. #11 Marta Kostyuk/UKR
Sofya Lansere/RUS vs. En Shuo Liang/TPE
#5 Olga Danilovic/SRB vs. Zeel Desai/IND
#16 Elena Rybakina/RUS vs. #2 Taylor Johnson/USA

#1 Appleton/Burrage (GBR/GBR) vs #5 McNally/Subhash (USA/USA)
#3 Andreescu/Branstine (CAN/USA) vs. Collins/Niemeier (GBR/GER)
Chwalinska/Swiatek (POL/POL) vs. Johnson/Mossmer (USA/USA)
Brune Olsen/Helgo (NOR/NOR) vs. Nagata/Naklo (JPN/THA)

#1 Jiske Griffioen/NED vs. Aniek van Koot/NED
Diede de Groot/NED vs. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
Lucky Shuker/GBR vs. Marjolein Buis/NED
Katharina Kruger/GER vs. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN

#1 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) vs. Buis/Shuker (NED/GBR)
Ellerbrock/Kruger (GER/GER) vs. #2 de Groot/Kamiji (NED/JPN)

Bye Melbourne - hello practice court ?? #keepgrinding #mygame

A photo posted by Caroline Wozniacki (@carowozniacki) on

Not meant to be tonight! But this photo put a smile on my face straight away ? love them

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

2015 Venus Williams/USA & Martina Hingis/SUI
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 Venus Williams, USA
NOTE: S.Williams would share honor if a Venus/Serena final happens

2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Shahar Peer, ISR
2008 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2009 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2010 Maria Kirilenko, RUS
2011 An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (jr.)
2012 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2013 [Fortysomething] Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
2014 [Teen] Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2015 [Madisons] Madison Keys/USA & Madison Brengle/USA
2016 [NextGen Belarusian] Vera Lapko, BLR
2017 [Party] (Ash) "Barty Party"

Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Madison Keys, USA
Unseeded - 2016 Johanna Konta, GBR
Unseeded - 2017 CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (RU)
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
#10 - 2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
NOTE: Lucic-Baroni (unseeded) to play QF
[other slams, since 2012]
Unseeded - Flavia Pennetta, ITA - 2013 U.S. Open
Unseeded - Peng Shuai, CHN - 2014 U.S. Open
Unseeded - Roberta Vinci, ITA - 2015 U.S. Open (RU)
Unseeded - Kiki Bertens, NED - 2016 Roland Garros
Unseeded - Elena Vesnina, RUS - 2016 Wimbledon
Unseeded - Caroline Wozniacki, DEN - 2016 U.S. Open
#28 Andrea Petkovic, GER - 2014 Roland Garros
#26 Flavia Pennetta, ITA - 2015 U.S. Open (W)
#23 Lucie Safarova, CZE - 2014 Wimbledon
#23 Sabine Lisicki, GER - 2013 Wimbledon (RU)
#23 Timea Bacsinszky, SUI - 2015 Roland Garros
#21 Sara Errani, ITA - 2012 Roland Garros (RU)
#21 Samantha Stosur, AUS - 2016 Roland Garros
#20 Garbine Muguruza, ESP - 2015 Wimbledon (RU)
#20 Kirsten Flipkens, BEL - 2013 Wimbledon
#18 Genie Bouchard, CAN - 2014 Roland Garros
#17 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS - 2014 U.S. Open

2013 AO: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2013 RG: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2013 WI: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2013 US: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2014 AO: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2014 AO: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2014 WI: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2014 US: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 AO: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 RG: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2015 WI: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 US: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
2016 AO: Buis/Kamiji, NED/JPN
2016 RG: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2016 WI: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
2017 AO: ?

TOP QUALIFIER: Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #5 Karolina Pliskova/CZE (4 games lost)
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Ons Jabeur/TUN def. Dalila Jakupovic/SRB 2-6/7-6(5)/7-5 (comeback from 6-2/4-1 down)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Lucie Safarova/CZE def. Yanina Wickmayer/BEL 3-6/7-6(7)/6-1 (saved 9 MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - Kuznetsova d. Jankovic (3:36)
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): x
TOP LAVER/MCA NIGHT MATCH: 3rd Rd. - Ka.Pliskova d. Ostapenko (double-break down at 5-2 in 3rd set)
FIRST VICTORY: #29 Monica Puig/PUR (def. Tig/ROU)
FIRST SEED OUT: #4 Simona Halep/ROU (lost to Rogers/USA)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Romania (First Loss, First Seed Out & two players ranked in Top 32 ousted in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Mona Barthel/GER & Jennifer Brady/USA (4th Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Dasha Gavrilova (4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: Vandeweghe/USA, Konta/GBR, Lucic-Baroni/CRO
IT (Party): (Ash) "Barty Party"
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Barty/Dellacqua, Lucic-Baroni/CRO
CRASH & BURN: #4 Simona Halep/ROU (1st Rd./Rogers; 2 con. AO 1st Rd. exits)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Lucie Safarova/CZE (1st Rd. - saved 9 MP vs. Wickmayer)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Karolina Pliskova/CZE (back from 5-2 in 3rd vs. Ostapenko on Night 6; cancelled "The Dasha Show" on Night 8)

All for Day 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

I just realized that so many key players were missing from the draw -- sharapova, kvitova, azarenka, and to a lesser extent, keys and stephens.

I listened to Mugu's post-match presser and I found myself wishing she wouldn't be so graceful and diginified about her performance. It's something I admire about her...but I just feel like if she wants to dominate, as she says, she's gotta disrupt the flow of her opponent in some way. She lost 2% conviction in the second set and it really allowed Coco to steamroll.

Like throw your racket at your opponent (ala Grojean) or bash your head on your racket (ala Youzhny). Do something! I mean that's what separates the greats from the Ana Ivanovic's (no shade).

Nice coverage Todd! :)
Hope life treating you well.

Tue Jan 24, 10:01:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Eric, you may not have watched enough of Mugu's matches, She"/ had some "moments."

That Lynch clip made my day. Really.

Tue Jan 24, 11:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...


Tue Jan 24, 11:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

What moments Diane? Hope you are well as well!!! :)

Tue Jan 24, 11:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

She can get extremely sullen and go on an angry "muttering tour" around the court, tapping (can't recall whether she's broken any) rackets and generally working up quire a snit. Turns some people off, but that's just Mugu!

I'm okay, thanks, but it's tough dealing with all this cat cancer (Velma died, and now her sister has cancer, too, with poor prognosis).

Tue Jan 24, 11:38:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cats!!

Oh yes, I did know that Mugu can go into Brat mode. I just meant that when her opponent is zoning, she's gotta do something to disrupt their rhythm.

Tue Jan 24, 11:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

No Whiley for wheelchair?

Stat of the Day- 20- Consecutive MD slam appearances for Lucic-Baroni. Due to her mid career disappearance, her durability is overlooked. She has been in 26 of the last 27, and the one she missed(2012 AO), was not due to injury, as she lost in qualies.

Vandeweghe is the latest story of this year's AO, but Pavlyuchenkova was a early one. Both her, and Lucic have delayed greatness stories. Pavlyuchenkova was the Girls singles and doubles champion in 2006. Lucic did the same, but in 1997.

I will skip why Lucic-Baroni's career arc is the way it is-you can read that elsewhere. But I will point out some of the unique moments. Won her first WTA singles and doubles events. Won her first ITF doubles event, reached the final in her first singles event. Even with all of that, when she made her miracle Wimbledon run, she was ranked 134. Then went 3-4 the rest of 1999. Started 2000 ranked at 49, she bottomed out, only having 2 MD wins all year, a 5-14 record overall, and ending the year at 201. Then primarily truncated seasons until 2008, which was spent mainly on the ITF circuit.

Her late career arc has been about consistency. Between 2010 and 2013, her year end ranking each year was between 104 and 116. The last 3? Between 61 and 82. Her high is 32(last century), but if she wins tonight is projected to be 29.

Tue Jan 24, 12:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hey, nice to hear from you!

I think Muguruza was just sort of at a loss about what to do, and couldn't read or react to Vandeweghe's shockingly good play. At least she didn't blame it all on an injury, and gave full credit to her opponent. That's never a given in the after-match postmortem.

That said, she showed a whole lot of fight in Week 1 in Brisbane, winning three-setters and not getting mopey and looking lethargic. I guess that's progress. I picked her to have a consistent slam year in '17 and reach at least the Round of 16 at all four majors for the first time ever. So far, so good. ;)

Lynch never liked to talk much when he played, but when he did/has it's usually been pretty interesting. :)

Whiley had wrist surgery late last year, but she'll be back soon.

What I'm really interested in at this WC competition is to see how de Groot performs in her first slam. She's done really well in all the other events, and could face Griffioen in the semis.

With Lucic-Baroni's run, the change in the court surface (making the action faster) at this AO has REALLY changed the way the draw would normally look at this stage. SO many big-hitting players. You could make a case that the four women in the semifinals might just be the biggest-hitting final four at a major ever. Well, I'm sure there was some combination that involved Graf/Seles/Davenport/Pierce and a Williams or two a while back that could MAYBE top it, but this will surely be the most top-heavy, as far as power is concerned, group of semifinalists at a major in quite some time.

Tue Jan 24, 01:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, I guess it wasn't "surgery" for Whiley, technically, was it? Fractured wrist.

Tue Jan 24, 02:50:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Ah, got it, Eric.

Tue Jan 24, 08:12:00 PM EST  

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