Tuesday, September 05, 2017

US 8.5 - The Waiting Place

While Madison Keys moved a step closer to something potentially great on Night 8 at the U.S. Open, Elina Svitolina was left to wait for her own opportunity to do the same. Again.

"You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place."

"Dr. Seuss"

After arriving in New York as one of the eight women with a shot to be the #1-ranked player at the end of this Open, Svitolina had managed to make the Final 3 heading into Monday evening. Facing off with Keys in the Round of 16, the Ukrainian was looking to follow the same pattern that the Karolina Pliskova did a year ago at Flushing Meadows by building upon her tour-leading "regular" event results and finally having a true "breakout" slam performance. The Czech rode the momentum of a big summer hard court title (Cincinnati) to the Open final after having never previously reached a slam Round of 16 and, a year later, is the current #1-ranked player in the world. Toronto champ Svitolina, the WTA leader with five titles in 2017, showed up with four 4th Round+ slam results in majors, as well as having reached her second Roland Garros QF in three years earlier this season. She was already deeper into this U.S. Open draw than she'd ever been before in her career, but her goals were much higher.

Keys pulled out in front in the opening set tonight on Ashe. The Bannerette saved two break points to hold for 5-4 in one key situation, then sprinted ahead to a 5-0 lead in the eventual tie-break, winning it 7-2. But Svitolina found her form in the 2nd, winning it 6-1 in a breezy twenty-four minutes to force Keys into another three-set "Late Show" under the lights.

In the 3rd, Svitolina seemed the better equipped to go forward, as Keys had looked progressively tired since the 2nd set, and seemingly had one foot out the door. But the 22-year old has learned to hold on in matches such as this, after earlier in her career having the tendency to get riled up and go for too much and instead lose even more quickly, usually in a hail of errors and blown opportunities to get back into the match.

But Svitolina, too, found herself in the position of having to prove how much she's learned from past experiences. Remember, while she did reach the QF in Paris earlier this year, she should done ever better. She led Simona Halep 6-3/5-1 in the QF, twice served for the match and held a MP in a 2nd set TB, only to lose it and then go out in an emotionally crushing love 3rd set that lasted just twenty minutes.

Svitolina led Keys 4-2 here, and served at 4-3. But it turned out to be Keys' whose heart would grow three sizes by the end of the match.

"And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day."
"Dr. Seuss"

Svitolina double-faulted on the first point of the crucial game. It was her first of the day, but wouldn't be her last, as her serve totally broke down and her U.S. Open life was suddenly in jeopardy. The Ukrainian fell behind 15/40, then was broken for 4-4 by a huge Keys return. Keys' "light bulb moment" had arrived. With her shots now finding their range, and her confidence growing with every swing, she quickly went up 30/love on serve and held for a 5-4 lead.

An Australian Open semifinalist in 2015, and a Top 10 player in '16, Keys was supposed to finally reach her potential in 2017. But a pair of wrist surgeries, an unwise decision to return too soon, and a continual battle with pain as she tried to play earlier in the summer threatened to derail Keys' entire season. Until the summer hard court season, that is. A dominating title run in Stanford (def. Muguruza and Vandeweghe), and another good week in Cincinnati (def. Vandeweghe and Kasatkina, and playing into a 3rd set TB vs. Muguruza after having had MP) allowed Keys to arrive at this U.S. Open, where she'd reached her fourth straight slam Round of 16 last year, harboring thoughts of contending for the title and making good on what she *thought* 2017 was going to be like for her nine or ten months ago.

The best laid plans of mice and Madison may still be alive, after all.

As the match edged close to the witching hour, the time where Keys has come to shine in New York, she was suddenly resembling an unstoppable subway train that Svitolina had less and less chance of slowing down. Serving to stay in the match she'd been two games from winning just moments earlier, the Ukrainian opened game #10 by being pulled from one end of the baseline to the other by Keys' groundstrokes, then saw the Bannerette go up love/15 with a winner into an open court. Another DF from Svitolina made it love/30. As the match time hit 2:00, and midnight was less than a quarter hour away, a Svitolina error gave Keys double match point. Moving to reach a ball in the middle of the left sideline, Keys fired a backhand winner down the line from her position in the doubles alley, taking her fourth straight game and the match, 7-6(2)/1-6/6-4. She's 10-1 on summer hard courts, and the fourth U.S. woman in this Open's quarterfinals, the most since 2002.

For Svitolina, though, it means that the learning process is not over.

"So, on beyond Z!
It's high time you were shown
That you really don't know
All there is to be known."

The Ukrainian's career has always been about that process, gradually (for her, as she started the climb while still a teen) making her way up the tour ladder, step by step. While her 2017 slam experiences have surely been frustrating, they actually fit the pattern the almost-23 year old has established over the years. A huge result in a major, before she'd experienced the near-miss results she has this season, might have been considered "out of character," no matter how nice they would have been to see. There's still a chance for an alteration in that trend this season, though, as Svitolina still might find herself at #1 before the end of the year, doing so without ever having reached a slam semifinal. Needless to say, whatever happens in the season's final quarter, Svitolina's "To-Do" list will need to be somewhat altered for 2018.

Let the process continue.

LIKE ON NIGHT 8: Juan Martin love

LIKE ON NIGHT 8: Being of two minds on the subject...

*2017 U.S. OPEN FINAL 8*
[by career slam QF]
39...Venus Williams, USA
10...Petra Kvitova, CZE
6...Kaia Kanepi, EST
4...Karolina Pliskova, CZE
4...CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
3...Madison Keys, USA
3...Sloane Stephens, USA
2...Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
[by career US QF]
12...Venus Williams
2...Kaia Kanepi
2...Petra Kvitova
2...Karolina Pliskova
2...Anastasija Sevastova
1...Madison Keys
1...Sloane Stephens
1...CoCo Vandeweghe
[w/ consecutive slam QF]
2 - CoCo Vandeweghe
2 - Venus Williams
[w/ consecutive US QF]
2 - Karolina Pliskova
2 - Anastasija Sevastova
[2017 slam QF - unseeded]
AO - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, CRO
AO - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA
RG - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
WI - Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
US - Kaia Kanepi, EST (Q)
US - Sloane Stephens, USA
[2017 1st-time GS QF]
AO - none
RG - Caroline Garcia, FRA
RG - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
WI - Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
US - none
[2017 slam QF]
3 - Karolina Pliskova, CZE (1-1) *
3 - CoCo Vandeweghe, USA (1-1) *
3 - Venus Williams, USA (2-0) *
2 - Simona Halep, ROU (1-1)
2 - Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (1-1)
2 - Johanna Konta, GBR (1-1)
2 - Garbine Muguruza, ESP (1-1)
[2017 slam QF - by nation]
9...USA (3/0/2/4) - KEYS,STEPHENS,VANDEWEGHE(3),S.Williams,V.WILLIAMS(3)
4...CZE (1/1/0/2) - KVITOVA,KA.PLISKOVA(3)
3...LAT (0/1/1/1) - Ostapenko(2),SEVASTOVA
2...ESP (1/0/1/0) - Muguruza(2)
2...FRA (0/2/0/0) - Garcia,Mladenovic
2...GBR (1/0/1/0) - Konta(2)
2...ROU (0/1/1/0) - Halep(2)
2...RUS (1/0/1/0) - Kuznetsova,Pavlyuchenkova
1...CRO (1/0/0/0) - Lucic-Baroni
1...DEN (0/1/0/0) - Wozniacki
1...EST (0/0/0/1) - KANEPI
1...SUI (0/1/0/0) - Bacsinszky
1...SVK (0/0/1/0) - Rybarikova
1...UKR (0/1/0/0) - Svitolina
[WTA career slam QF - active]
47...Serena Williams, USA
24...Maria Sharapova, RUS
16...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
16...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
12...Aga Radwanska, POL
9...Simona Halep, ROU
9...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
8...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
7...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
7...Sara Errani, ITA
7...Angelique Kerber, GER
7...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
7...Patty Schnyder, SUI
7...Samantha Stosur, AUS
[WTA slam QF in 2010's]
19...Serena Williams, USA
14...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
11...Maria Sharapova, RUS
9...Simona Halep, ROU
9...Aga Radwanska, POL
8...Li Na, CHN (retired)
8...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
7...Sara Errani, ITA
7...Angelique Kerber, GER
6...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
6...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
6...Garbine Muguruza, ESP
6...Samantha Stosur, AUS

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)
5: "You'll Miss the Best Things If You Keep Your Eyes Shut" (I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, 1978)
6: "A Czech Maiden is Faithful One-Hundred Percent" (Horton Hatches the Egg, 1940)
6.5: "Lists-a-Paleussical" (Seussical, 2000 [Broadway])
7: "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish!" (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, 1960)
8: "Daisy-Head Maiden" (Daisy-Head Mayzie, 1995/2016)
8.5: "The Waiting Place" (Oh, the Place You'll Go!, 1990)

All for Night 8. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...


I know I have a habit of comparing Thiem and Svitolina, but they both let one get away yesterday.

I missed this from two weeks ago, but Rittner is stepping down as Fed Cup Captain, to be replaced by former ATP player, and former coach of Anastasia Myskina, Jens Gerlach.

4 good QF matches. All are 51/49 matches.
Vandeweghe over Pliskova. The balls have been bouncing high for Vandeweghe. Although if Pliskova can get the serve clicking early, it should be fun. Thinking 7-6, 7-5.

Venus over Petra. Petra has been in better form, but Venus has been peaking for the slams. Assume she scrapes by.

Sevastova over Stephens. Most likely to be the one that goes 3. Sevastova wears people down, but Stephens has the better "A" game.

Kanepi over Keys. 8 out of 10 times, I would pick keys, but going with the veteran over the "youngster". I tease, because at 22, it is her 6th MD here. Should be about 80 breaks here. Realistically about 15.

Stat of the Day- 197- Career high ranking for Lina Stanciute, the highest ever ranking for a Lithuanian woman.

You had to know this was coming. With Latvia and Estonia doing so well, why not look at the neglected Baltic member, at least for tennis.

Lithuania needs their tennis version of Sarunas Marciulionis, the basketball player who was a trailblazer in regards for foreign players making it in the NBA. So important that he is in the Hall of Fame, although he only played 7 seasons, and avg 13 ppg.

But it only takes one to change a generation. Sadly, they only have one player in the Top 1000. Joana Eidukonyte was ranked 720 2 months ago, which would have put her in front of Sloane Stephens, so there is hope.

To show how a generation changes, look no farther than the John Stephens (aka Sloane's dad) era New England Patriots. They had one winning record in the 6 years he was there, and the last one was 2-14. Those fans, similar to my Jaguars, led by Blake "Pick Six" Bortles, would have been happy reaching a Super Bowl. Then Tom Brady came along, and they have reached SEVEN in his time.

With Sevastova and Kanepi in the final 8, first time 2 Baltic States women have managed the feat at the same slam, it may be time for either Latvia or Estonia to get a WTA Tournament. Radwanska became big, and Poland got one. Wozniacki got big, and Denmark got one. Why not one of these two?

The bet would be on Estonia. Why? Because they have a facility in the Tallink Tennis Center that has already hosted Zonal Fed Cup play.

With a combination of Ostapenko, Sevastova, Kontaveit and Kanepi, it should be interesting to watch the Baltic States the next couple of years.

Tue Sep 05, 11:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Speaking of the Patriots (and waaay off topic), I wish they'd go back to their old "Pat Patriot" helmet logos. So much better than the one they've had for a while now. They can't wear different helmets during the season anymore, though, so it'd have to be a full-time switch to white helmets, or use the old/updated logo on silver (which would still work).

Of course, I think the Chargers blew it by not going back to their old true powder blue uniforms when they did manage to do the right thing and return to the white helmets a while back. Should have stuck with the numbers on the side of the helmets they used in the "Throwback" phase, too.

So even a good move can still be screwed up.


Three Baltic state women in the Top 30, by the way. Impressive.

You're probably right on Tallinn, but you wonder if Riga might get one at some point. It's the Latvian capital city and, of course, Ostapenko's hometown. Maybe an indoor event at the Arena Riga, which seems to host almost everything else based on the lists.

As you noted, one player can change a lot. Ostapenko might be that player in this case.

Tue Sep 05, 01:15:00 PM EDT  

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