Thursday, August 31, 2017

US.4 - Hop on Pop

She's not quite making anyone forget Paris, but she'll always have that. Now Alona Ostapenko is trying to make it in New York City. And, of course, if she can make it there, she'll be able to make it anywhere.

At first, the Latvian showed no signs of any "slam after" maladies immediately following her unexpected title run at Roland Garros. Really, she didn't have time. After a quick trip back home, she was off to play the grass court season. A former Wimbledon junior champ, she showed well. She reached the 3rd Round in Eastbourne, then became the first maiden slam winner in eleven years -- and that was an out-of-retirement Kim Clijsters, not a 20-year old first-time TOUR-title winner -- to reach the QF in her next major, falling in a respectable fashion to Venus Williams at the AELTC. But after a bit more time off, and more dates and appearances and everything else that goes with winning a major, especially if you're the first from your country to do it, Ostapenko's summer hard court season wasn't exactly a proving ground for anything. She failed to win her two matches, falling to Varvara Lepchenko in a three-setter in which she lost two TB (still, not a bad result) and Aleksandra Krunic in straights (who defeated Johanna Konta and is STILL alive in this Open, so...), and was a question mark when this U.S. Open began.

She hasn't really *answered* any questions at Flushing Meadows just yet, but she's getting closer.

Today in her 2nd Round match against Romanian Sorana Cirstea, Ostapenko got an early break in the 1st and held the advantage throughout, saving seven BP. She dropped serve early in the 2nd, but then quickly broke back in what was a four-breaks-in-four-games stretch. She tossed in three DF in one of those, but brushed the trouble aside and eventually got the break advantage on her side. She put Cirstea away on her first match point attempt, winning 6-4/6-4 to reach the 3rd Round in New York for the first time.

In all, Ostapeno had thirteen DF, but was able to overcome it with twenty-four winners (vs. 29 UE) in two sets. In a three-setter in the 1st Round, she had seven DF, and 30/35 W/UE stats. While her serve wasn't exactly helping her today, she did up her 1st Serve Win Percentage to 55% after being at just 46% in her opening match.

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
"Dr. Seuss"

After being 0-2 in North America this summer, Ostapenko is 2-0 at this Open. She's 15-2 in slams in 2017 (23-14 elsewhere). Obviously, she likes the big stage. And it doesn't get any bigger than the U.S. Open. Her quick dispatch of Lara Arruabarrena on Ashe Court in the end-of-the-day-session conclusion of their rain-interrupted 1st Round match two days ago was a hint of what is likely to come. Eventually. Serving up 3-1 in the 3rd, she won twelve of fourteen points and swept the final three games after arriving on court after Rafa Nadal has wrapped up his win with a little time to spare. She didn't need too much. Her immediate facial expression after that one was something along the lines of, "This place isn't too shabby. I'll have to come back again soon and spend a little more time here."

She will, too. Of that, no matter what additional thunder the Latvian produces from her racket over the next few years, we can be quite certain.

...first off, the wrap up some of the usual early-round awards...

TOP PLAYER: Garbine Muguruza
...she came in atop many of the "favorite" lists for the next Open champ, and she's pretty closely resembled as much through the first two rounds. After handing Venus Williams a bagel set in the Wimbledon final, she's made it three straight slam matches with at least one 6-0 set win. At Flushing Meadows, the #3 seed defeated Varvara Lepchenko 6-0/6-3 and Duan Yingying 6-4/6-0. She'll next get #31 Magdalena Rybarikova, the Slovak she defeated 6-1/6-1 in the SW19 semis in July. In all, the Spaniard has won nine straight slam matches, with twelve straight sets (and 18 of 19, only dropping the 1st to Angelique Kerber in London in the Round of 16). One more win and Muguruza will eliminate Simona Halep and Venus from the formerly eight-strong group of women who could reach #1 at the end of this tournament.

...not to pile on, but I'm piling on. While the likes of Italy was a possibility here, with the nation that produced both finalists two years ago going 0-3 and with Sara Errani out due to suspension. But Germany, with a larger and more (theoretically) competitive contingent, went 2-7 in the 1st Round, with one of the wins coming in a German-vs.-German 1st Round match-up. Of course, defending champ Kerber is a big part of this, becoming the second DC ever to lose in the 1st Round, but the German losses were stretched across multiple generations of players, with Petkovic, Lisicki, Barthel, Zaja (who qualified), Beck and Witthoeft all falling. Only Tatjana Maria and #30 Julia Goerges, with the best chance to "save" the entire national effort, advancing.

...the contending nations here were fairly easy to pick out, it was just a matter of matching the nation to the award. The contenders:

CHN: 4-1 in the 1st Round, with seeded Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai being joined by Zheng Saisai (def. Van Uytvanck) and Duan Yingying (def. C.Liu).

AUS: Stosur isn't in NY, but the Aussies went 4-0 in the 1st Round, with wild card Arina Rodionova getting a win along with seeded Dasha Gavrilova and unseeded Ash Barty (def. Konjuh, then Sasnovich in the 2nd) and Ajla Tomljanovic (def. Larsson). As a group, they'd had just two MD match wins at the U.S. Open (both in '13 by Barty and Tomljanovic, the latter while representing Croatia) before this year.

JPN: the one certainty was that Japan was going to win one of these. 4-2 in the 1st Round, Naomi Osaka's win over Kerber was the biggest get. But Nao Hibino (especially, def. Bellis) and Kurumi Nara (def. Sorribes) did their part, while Risa Ozaki knocked out qualifier Danielle "The Little Giant" Lao, too.

So, Japan gets the "UQ," and the Aussies the "RL."

...the biggest almost-story of the day session (on the women's side, anyway) was #1-seeded Karolina Pliskova, with the top ranking on the line, being made to find her game over the course of three sets after an extremely slow start against the aggressive game of qualifier Nicole Gibbs, who'd posted her seventh straight 1st Round win at a hard court major yesterday.

In the end, though, the Czech -- not surprisingly -- didn't let the treacherous footing make her head spin. She just played on, and eventually things started to turn in her favor.

"With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street."
"Dr. Seuss"
Theodor Geisel (1904-91)
...children's book author, political cartoonist, poet, animator, book publisher, and artist

Pliskova fired an ace on the first point of the match, but it was in no way indicative of how "on" her game was on this day. The Czech hasn't had quite the banner summer she did a year ago when she began her climb to the #1 ranking, highlighted by a run to the Open final. But she's shown consistency in the majors ever since her last trip to NYC. She followed up her '16 Open RU (her best slam result) with a QF in Melbourne (her best AO), a SF in Paris (her best RG) and a 2nd Round at Wimbledon (not great, but it matches her best there). So it wasn't a moment to panic when she dropped the 1st set to Gibbs by a 6-2 score, firing three DF in a game at one point.

In the final two sets, Pliskova's game didn't dip as it did in the 1st, and maintained a nice, even keel until she was given an opportunity to pounce, which she then did. A break for 5-3 in the 2nd led to a hold to take the set, and another in the 3rd for a 4-3 lead provided an advantage she didn't relinquish. Pliskova had saved BP in game #3, and that turned out to be Gibbs' last stand, as the two-time NCAA champion had a hard time keeping the ball inside the lines in the closing games. The Czech's serve dominated the final set (she won all sixteen 1st serve points) and, after the Bannerette held to stay in the match, Pliskova served out the final game at love to win 2-6/6-3/6-4. She's won eight of her last nine matches at the U.S. Open.

And she officially wins the "Pliskova Slam Stakes" over Kristyna, too.

0 / 0 - W
1 / 0 - RU (Karolina best: 16 US)
1 / 0 - SF
1 / 0 - QF
0 / 0 - 4th Rd.
3 / 2 - 3rd Rd. (Kristyna best: 15 WI/17 AO)
[2017 US: Karolina in 3rd Rd.]
8 / 6 - 2nd Rd.
[2017 US: Kristyna out in 2nd Rd.]
7 / 8 - 1st Rd.
7 / 13 - lost in qualifying
18 - Karolina best twin result (2017: AO,RG,US)
6 - Kristyna best twin result (2017: -)
5 - same result (2017: WI)
1 - both didn't play = 2011 Wimbledon
Karolina SLAM MD W/L TOTAL: 31-21 (post-2nd Rd.)
Kristyna SLAM MD W/L TOTAL: 10-16
Karolina SLAM Q W/L TOTAL: 2-7
Kristyna SLAM Q W/L TOTAL: 7-13

...meanwhile, we learned a week or so ago that Dasha + Dasha = Shelby.

Dasha+Dasha=Shelby?? @daria_gav @shelbsrogers #????

A post shared by Daria Kasatkina (@kasatkina) on

Well, this is what happens when it's a Dasha vs. Shelby.

While the 3:31 contest between #25 Dasha Gavrilova and Shelby Rogers is the longest women's match in U.S. Open history, it's not quite the longest on tour in 2017. It's third, in fact, behind the 3:36 Kuznetsova/Jankovic crazyballs match in Melbourne, and a 3:32 marathon between Mladenovic and Watson in Acapulco.

While Gavrilova still will leave this summer with her first tour title (New Haven), first U.S. Open MD win and Aussie #1 ranking, you hope this loss doesn't leave a bad aftertaste. Rogers was up a break three times in the 1st, and got within 30/love of avoiding a TB, only to be broken and have to win one by an 8-6 score. But after forcing a deciding final set, it was Gavrilova who led 4-2 in the 3rd in this one. But she couldn't hold the advantage, and soon found herself serving to stay in the match at 4-5, love/40. She saved those three MP, then another (Rogers sprayed a forehand in the middle of the court on #4) to get back to level. Two points from defeat on serve at 5-6, the Aussie again held, this time to force a TB.

"Being crazy isn’t enough."

The Bannerette got the mini-break lead for 2-0, but after a Gavrilova hold the next five points were won by the returner until 4-4. At 5-5, Rogers got another break to reach her fifth MP, which she finally converted to win 7-6(6)/4-6/7-6(5).

...early in the day, things weren't quite so crazy. In fact, things were almost aggressively tidy.

Along with Ostapenko's 6-4/6-4 final scoreline in her 11 a.m. match, #4 Elina Svitolina notched season win #47 with a 6-4/6-4 win of her own over TPFKAGB conqueror Evgeniya Rodina, while Jennifer Brady defeated #22 Barbora Strycova 6-1/6-1. The Bannerette has knocked off two seeded players in '17 slams (AO: Vesnina), and is a combined 5-1 in the hard court majors.

I suspect Kathy Rinaldi might be watching, if not with later this year in mind, then maybe 2018.

Meanwhile, Kaia Kanepi, back from her foot problems, became the Last Qualifier Standing with a 6-4/6-2 win over Yanina Wickmayer. It's the Estonian's tenth slam 3rd Round or better result, but her first since a Round of 16 run in New York (where half of those results have come) in 2014.

She'll next face Naomi Osaka, as the 19-year old overcame the "match after" curse and followed up her win over DC Kerber with at 6-3/4-6/7-5 victory over Denisa Allertova. Osaka served for the match at 5-4, but couldn't put it away. But she got the break, then closed it out on her second attempt.

Among those still to play on Day/Night 4 are Svetlana Kuznetsova, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe.

...doubles action finally got underway after a one day delay on Thursday, and some big-name seeds are already out.

Kayla Day & Caroline Dolehide upset #10 Spears/Srebotnik in straight sets, while Chung Chia-jung/Misaki Doi knocked off #8 Groenefeld/Peschke.

OF NOTE ON DAY 4: How do you end an 0-for-7 run vs. a Top 10 player, at her best slam, after being an emotional wreck after blowing a 6-2/5-4 lead and serving for the match? By being the more aggressive player. 52 winners. 23 of 27 net points. Makarova advances, while Caro follows up her '16 semifinal with a 2nd Round exit in that VERY late-starting match on Night 3.

LIKE ON DAY 4: It has begun...

NOTE ON DAY 4: I don't think I took note of this a few weeks ago.

Dushevina was part of the solidifying second tier of Hordettes that helped fill out the rankings dominance of the 2000's, winning her lone singles title in 2009 at age 22, but having reached her first of four finals in 2005, the season after Russians won three slams, the season-ending championships and the Fed Cup title. She defeated Maria Sharapova in the 2002 Wimbledon girls final.

LIKE ON DAY 4: Fun with video...

SEEN ON DAY 4: Dasha + Shelby = a distracted Dasha

Kasatkina advanced past Christina McHale today, and will next face Ostapenko. Oh, yes... a rematch of the Charleston final.

LIKE ON DAY 4: Oh say can you see... the Bracelet as the new Serbian #1?

...and, finally... the paring down of the contenders in the Colt Extra-Special New York Groove Edition Challenge" continues...


Speaking of... hey, it wouldn't be the U.S. Open without Ace Frehley singing "New York Groove"... in this case, through the years.


5...USA (Brady,Kenin,Rogers,Stephens,V.Williams)
3...RUS (Kasatkina,Makarova,Sharapova)
2...CZE (Kvitova,Ka.Pliskova)
2...ESP (Muguruza,Suarez-Navarro)
2...LAT (Ostapenko,Sevastova)
1...AUS (Barty)
1...CHN (Sh.Zhang)
1...CRO (Vekic)
1...EST (Kanepi)
1...FRA (Garcia)
1...GER (Goerges)
1...GRE (Sakkari)
1...JPN (Osaka)
1...ROU (Niculescu)
1...SRB (Krunic)
1...SVK (Rybarikova)
1...UKR (Svitolina)
Keys/USA - Maria/GER
Kuznetsova/RUS - Nara/JPN
A.Radwanska/POL - Putintseva/KAZ
Safarova/CZE - Hibino/JPN
Vandeweghe/USA - Jabeur/TUN
Vesnina/RUS - Flipkens/BEL

2006 Russia
2007 Ukraine
2008 Slovak Republic
2009 Belarus
2010 North America
2011 United States
2012 France
2013 Italy
2014 United States
2015 Japan
2016 Ukraine
2017 Australia
AO: Australia
RG: Muslim women
WI: Great Britain
US: Australia

2004 Russia
2005 United States
2006 France
2007 Russia
2008 China
2009 United States
2010 Taiwan
2011 Romania
2012 Romania
2013 United States
2014 United States
2015 United States
2016 China
2017 Japan
AO: United States
RG: South America
WI: United States
US: Japan

2011 CZE (2-5 1st Rd., Kvitova loses)
2012 GER (4 of 5 highest-ranked GER out in 1st Rd.)
2013 AUS (1-4, Stosur out 1r, Rogowska 0-6/0-6)
2014 FRA (1-5 1st Rd.; only win in FRA-vs-FRA)
2015 SRB (1-4; Ivanovic/Jankovic/Krunic 1st Rd.)
2016 BEL (0-4 in 1st Rd.)
2017 GER (2-7 1st Rd.; Kerber 2nd U.S. DC out 1st Rd.)
AO: ROU (2-4 1st Rd.; 1st Loss, 1st Seed Out)
RG: GER (2-5 1st Rd.; Kerber first RG #1 out 1st Rd.)
WI: CZE (0-6 2nd Rd.; first none in Wimb. 3r since 2009)
US: GER (2-7 1st Rd.; Kerber 2nd U.S. DC out 1st Rd.)

2002 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA (W)
2003 (Week 1 POW) Jennifer Capriati, USA
2004 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA
2005 (Week 1 POW) Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Maria Sharapova, RUS (W)
2007 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2008 Venus Williams, USA
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Serena Williams, USA
2012 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2013 (co) Serena Williams/USA (W) & Victoria Azarenka/BLR
2014 Serena Williams, USA (W)
2015 Simona Halep, ROU
2016 Serena Williams, USA
2017 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
AO: Karolina Pliskova, CZE (to QF)
RG: Samantha Stosur, AUS (to 4th Rd.)
WI: Johanna Konta, GBR (to SF)
US: Garbine Muguruza, ESP

Eva Birnerova/CZE
Youlia Fedossova/FRA
Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
Varvara Lepchenko/UZB
Aga Radwanska/POL (all 2nd Rd.)
Alize Cornet/FRA
Ekaterina Makarova/RUS (3rd Rd.)
Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER (4th Rd.)
Anastasia Rodionova/AUS (3rd Rd.)
Lourdes Dominquez-Lino/ESP
Mandy Minella/LUX (3rd Rd.)
Silvia Soler-Espinosa/ESP (3rd Rd.)
Olga Puchkova/RUS (3rd Rd.)
Camila Giorgi/ITA (4th Rd.)
Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni/CRO (4th Rd.)
Johanna Konta/GBR
Anett Kontaveit/EST (4th Rd.)
CiCi Bellis/USA (3rd Rd.)
Kaia Kanepi/EST (in 3rd Rd.)
AO: Mona Barthel/GER & Jennifer Brady/USA (4th Rd.)
RG: Petra Martic/CRO (4th Rd.)
WI: Petra Martic/CRO (4th Rd.)
US: Kaia Kanepi/EST (in 3rd Rd.)

316...Serena Williams *
306...Martina Navratilova
299...Chris Evert
278...Steffi Graf
259...Venus Williams *
210...Arantxa Sanchez Vicario
198...Lindsay Davenport
185...Maria Sharapova *
180...Monica Seles
174...Conchita Martinez
164...Gabriela Sabatini

JAN: CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
AO: CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
1Q: Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
APR/MAY: Elise Mertens, BEL
MAY: Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
RG: Alona Ostapenko, LAT
2Q Clay Court: Beatriz Haddad Maia, BRA
JUN: Donna Vekic, CRO
WI: Maria Sakkari, GRE
2Q Grass Court: Donna Vekic, CRO
JUL/AUG: Anett Kontaveit, EST
AUG: Arina Rodionova, AUS

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Jamie Loeb/USA def. (PR) Vera Zvonareva/RUS 7-6(4)/5-7/6-4 (3:16; delay after fan faints as Loeb to serve out at 5-4 in 3rd)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - (WC) Maria Sharapova/RUS def. #2 Simona Halep/ROU 6-4/4-6/6-3 (Night 1)
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: Nominee: 1st Rd. - (WC) Sharapova def. #2 Halep (Night 1)
FIRST VICTORY: Kristyna Pliskova/CZE (1st Rd. - def. Eguchi/JPN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Lauren Davis/USA (1st Rd. - lost to Kenin/USA
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Germany (2-7 1st Rd.; DC Kerber out; one of two w/ a win defeated another German)
CRASH & BURN: #6 Angelique Kerber/GER (lost to Osaka/JPN; second U.S. DC to lose 1st Rd.loss, w/ '05 Kuznetsova; out of Top 10)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: Kuznetsova (saved 3 MP vs. Vondrousova in 1st Rd.)
IT ("?"): xx
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Kenin/USA, Sharapova/RUS
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: 2nd Rd.: Vandeweghe; In 3rd Rd.: Brady, Kenin, Rogers, Stephens, V.Williams
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Sharapova/RUS, Kanepi/EST, Makarova/RUS
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Nominees: V.Williams/USA, Goerges/GER, Makarova/RUS
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominees: Sharapova/RUS & Halep/ROU
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: Sharapova/RUS

Preview: "Halep Hears a Who" (Horton Hears a Who!, 1954)
1: "Mugu on the Loose" (Dr.Seuss on the Loose, 1973 [CBS TV])
1.5: "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" (The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, 1958)
2: "Thing One and Thing Two" (The Cat in the Hat, 1957)
3: "The 500 Hats of Svetlana Kuznetsova" (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, 1938)
4: "Hop on Pop" (Hop on Pop, 1963)

All for Day 4. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Osaka's interviews are like early Jankovic. Both insightful and random.

Rogers is a different player at a slam. 10 wins in 5 tournaments(slams and Charleston). 11 wins in her 13 other tournaments.

Stat of the Day-42- The amount of wins for Ekaterina Makarova in her career best stretch.

Which isn't now. Remember that 2014-2015 stretch? If you don't, I will remind you. Starting from Wimbledon 2014(ranked 22nd)to Wimbledon 2015, she was 42-24, with 2 slam SF, and 6 Top 20 wins.

This is what makes her current 12 month block so interesting. Starting this stretch ranked 29th, she is "only" 24-21 in this stretch(current USO numbers not included). But is 9-2 in her last 3 tournaments, and has 9 Top 20 wins.

The fact that she has more quality wins bodes well for the fact that she hasn't peaked. One of the reasons that the 2015 streak ended was due to injury, as she actually did not play after the USO, coming back for Brisbane early in 2016.

It is plausible that her 12 month hot streak just started with DC, and she will be on her way back to the Top 10, and a legit threat to win a slam, especially down under, where she has reached the round on 16 7 times.

One last look at her 2015 AO run. After beating An-Sophie Mestach, she had a pretty tough test, beating Vinci, Ka.Pliskova, Goerges and Halep, before running into another that she hates to play as much as she did Wozniacki. Sharapova leads 7-0, but as we have seen with Wawrinka and Kerber, you can change the narrative.

Thu Aug 31, 08:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Speaking of Osaka, I saw that she's playing doubles with Schiavone, which is kind of an interesting duo.

Fri Sep 01, 01:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

No one could ever fill the spot that JJ will leave when she retires. No one--not ever. But it's comforting to know that not all will be lost: we have Ostapenko! The very sight of her lights me up, just as the sight of QC always has. I already liked her, but once I was around her in Charleston, I was hooked. Latvian Thunder is a samba-swaying, rubber-bodied (like JJ!), chronically mugging, delightfully artless and hilarious piece of work. I hope her personality doesn't get too airbrushed vy the WTA.

Fri Sep 01, 06:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hear-hear! ;)

Fri Sep 01, 07:55:00 PM EDT  

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