Friday, September 01, 2017

US.5 - You'll Miss the Best Things If You Keep Your Eyes Shut

Is it possible that we didn't see Petra Kvitova coming? Yet, suddenly, here she is.

Fact is, the Czech's comeback from career-saving hand surgery has gone through several public phases. At first, we were just happy to have her back in Paris. Then, in Birmingham, she won her a title in just her second tournament of the season. Suddenly she was (unfairly) thrust into a "favorite" role at Wimbledon, one that she simply wasn't close to being able to back up so early in her return. As the summer has gone on, she's continued to smile broadly even while her on-court results haven't exactly been eye-popping, or even encouraging. She went 3-4 on summer hard courts, arriving in New York off of blink-and-you-missed-it losses to Sloane Stephens (2 & 3) and Zhang Shuai (2 & 1). Before this Open, Birmingham was still the only event in which she was able to post multiple wins.

And then we finally saw exactly what Kvitova was coming back from following the December home invasion knife attack in which she physically fought off an intruder despite wearing a boot on her injured foot. Before the unveiling of the photo of what her injured hand actually looked like after the attack, we knew the story, and understood that she felt lucky to be able to hold a tennis racket, and that she was thankful beyond words to the surgeons who'd pulled her back from the brink of career extinction and the inner circle who kept her emotionally afloat.

But a picture often really is worth a thousand words and innumerable explanations.

It's difficult not to say "yikes!" out loud, even after having already seen the grisly shot a few times. At least that's been my experience. With one photo, the idea that Kvitova might have never been able to play tennis again is a living and breathing reality, as is that under other less-fortunate circumstances in life beyond that of a star athlete she may have been likely to have no better than a "claw" for a left hand for the rest of her life, with only the hope that many more surgeries might allow her do normal everyday things again with her dominant hand. Let alone play a professional sport in which that very hand is the body part through which her talent writes the story of her career.

Yet, after her all-encompassing 6-0/6-4 3rd Round win over Caroline Garica today on Ashe, Kvitova is still alive -- and looking good -- in this U.S. Open, where she's now won more matches in a week than she did in her previous two slam outings in 2017 combined. After playing the big points well in a 7-5/7-5 1st Round win over Jelena Jankovic, the Czech has surrendered a total of seven games to back-to-back Pastry opponents, Garcia and Alize Cornet.

"You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in."

While her earlier summer results forced a unfortunate re-calibration of the unrealistic expectations for her comeback, at least in immediate terms, it'd be easy to do the same again (only reversing things) after how she's looked this week. But aside from the fact that this slam is the only one at which Kvitova has never reached the semis (though she has now reached at least the Round of 16 three straight years), well... there's that photo, the subject of which was the result of a robbery that netted the still-at-large assailant less than $200 (US).

How different a story the Kvitova one may have been.

But because of what we've seen (and likely still don't know about what she's personally gone through, and maybe still privately does), whatever happens for Petra from here on out, at least in 2017, is pretty simple. It's "found gold." Just as she essentially said it was when she returned. A little earlier than expected, in fact. To think she only missed *one* slam in a season that started less than two weeks after her career suddenly hung in the balance on an operating table.

So, because of all of the above, there's really no sense in wishing or hoping, or anything else when it comes to Kvitova and this tournament, nor any of those she plays in future weeks and months this fall. It's just about there actually being those future weeks and months at all.

Go, Petra. Just go. To wherever you end up.

...while Kvitova has moved through a little bit under the radar to this point, that ends in the next round. That's where the two-time slam champ will meet another in the radiant form of pre-event "favorite" Garbine Muguruza. Kvitova holds a 2-1 advantage in their head-to-head, including a win on hard court in Beijing late last season.

Mugu continued her summer practice of kicking butt and taking names today (did Carl give her pointers on how to compile a "Squish List" with *everyone's* name on it?) with another demolition of Magdalena Rybarikova, the same Slovak she defeated 6-1/6-1 in the Wimbledon semifinals in July. She must have a special affinity for the score, because she won by the same 6-1/6-1 score on Day 5 on Armstrong.

Displaying the same pressure game stoked by belief and a cool-headed calm (yeah, I'm describing Garbi, as difficult as that might have been believe to be accurate not that long ago) that has led to a 19-2 summer record, the Spaniard faced one moment of adversity today. She lost her serve to open the 2nd set. She simply proceeded to win the final six games, finishing the match with nearly twice (56-30) as many points as her opponent. The win eliminated Simona Halep and Venus Williams from the race for #1 at the end of this slam, leaving just incumbent Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Mugu herself still in the mix.

Mugurzua has dropped just nine total games through three rounds and, really, has had just *one* bad day this summer, a quick semifinal loss in Stanford to a super-in-form Madison Keys. Today's victory extends her current winning streak to eight matches, and she's won ten straight at slam level. She's won eleven straight sets overall, and twelve straight at Wimbledon and this U.S. Open (and 20 of 21).

Clearly, Mugu, maybe more than any player since the rise of Vika Azarenka -- though a certain Latvian might challenge the notion at some point -- enjoys the big stage that the majors present. We saw that when she first upset Serena in Paris in 2014. She's proven that she can handle the pressure of the slams despite having at times in the past having had some difficulty doing the same on the "regular" tour. But she changed even that line from her career's thumbnail description en route to the Cincinnati title a few weeks ago.

And, yes, of course I'm now going to mention that Muguruza has indeed accomplished the "feat" (at least it seemed as much at the time) I predicted she would back in January -- reaching at least the Round of 16 at all four majors in a season for the first time in her career.

You're welcome, Garbi. Ha!

...before the end of the day, the crowds saw two Bannerettes advance to the Round of 16 (with another to play tonight, and four more tomorrow).

On Armstrong, Sloane Stephens continued her comeback following an 11-month absence due to foot surgery. It's a run that has seen her jump from the #900's to her current #83 (and at least #61 after today once this slam is over). After previously knocking out former slam finalists Roberta Vinci and #11 Dominika Cibulkova, she handled Ash Barty by a 6-2/6-4 score to advance to her first U.S. Open 4th Round since 2013.

On Ashe, just as news was coming out that her sister Serena had given birth to a baby girl, Venus Williams defeated Greek Maria Sakkari 6-3/6-4 to reach her fifteenth U.S. Open Round of 16 in her 20th anniversary tournament at Flushing Meadows. Venus made the final in her 1997 debut, and reached at least the Round of 16 in twelve straight appearances. As the effects of her Sjogren's syndrome (we'd later learn) became apparent, she failed to advance past the 3rd Round from 2011-14, but has now added three more second weeks runs since 2015.

...Ekaterina Makarova survived some horrible scheduling, Caroline Wozniacki and her own emotions the other night, but she couldn't do the same today in a tired performance against Carla Suarez-Navarro. The Russian managed to claim the 2nd set, but that win was between a pair of sets dominated by CSN, who won 6-1/3-6/6-2 to reach her fourth career U.S. Open Round of 16, and second straight.

In the final 3rd Rounder of the day/early evening session schedule, '16 quarterfinalist Anastasija Sevastova defeated Donna Vekic in straight sets. doubles, Kiki Mladenovic avoided yet another early exit, rallying along with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (another mid-level top seed ousted early in singles) to defeat Beatriz Haddad & Ana Konjuh, winning 5-7/6-3/6-0. The Pastry-Hordette duo were just 1-2 as a pair on summer hard courts.

Meanwhile, Elise Mertens & Demi Schuurs knocked off Alona Ostapenko & TPFKAGB, 7-5/6-2. I'll try not to judge the RG champ by the company she keeps. But, hey, at least we got some Classic Ostapenko reactions in this one...

Later, Latvian Thunder rinsed the bad taste out of her mouth, teaming with Fabrice Martin in Mixed Doubles to defeat #2-seeded Mirza/Dodig, coming back from a set down to claim a 5-7/6-3 [10-6] victory.


OF NOTE ON DAY 5: While Sveta, swollen wrist and all, is out of this U.S. Open, her wisdom lingers.

...and, finally... while a certain "dastardly" Russian plays on Ashe once again tonight (vs. fellow wild card Sonya Kenin), I suspect we'll hear a new round of histrionic fretting about it all, debating how long it will be before Western civilization falls as a result, and how we're now all certainly doomed from this day forward.

Yet, earlier today on Ashe, Denis Shapovalov played on Ashe, as well.

A few months ago, wasn't the Canadian suspended for angrily hitting a ball that smacked the chair umpire in the face, and getting defaulted as a result? Yet he gets to play on the biggest stage? I mean, isn't that "sending the wrong message to the younger generation?"

Exactly, Neil. Exactly.

When anyone starts preaching about "worrying about the kids," then you generally know that's the last thought on their mind. Backspinner Rule #8.

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP vs. #9 Venus Williams/USA
#13 Petra Kvitova/CZE vs. #3 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
#30 Julia Goerges/GER vs. Sloane Stephens/USA
#16 Anastasija Sevastova/LAT vs. x

And, of course, she has a typo on her tweet about hating typos. So Dasha. ;)

1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2010 Wimbledon - Vera Zvonareva
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Agnieszka Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2015 U.S. Open - Roberta Vinci
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (W)
2016 U.S. Open - Karolina Pliskova
2017 Roland Garros - Alona Ostapenko (W)
NOTE: Hingis (1997 AO)-W

2013 AO: Sloane Stephens/USA
2013 RG: -
2013 WI: Kirsten Flipkens/BEL
2013 US: Flavia Pennetta/ITA
2014 AO: Genie Bouchard/CAN
2014 RG: Simona Halep/ROU (RU), Andrea Petkovic/GER
2014 WI: Lucie Safarova/CZE
2014 US: Ekatarina Makarova/RUS, Peng Shuai/CHN
2015 AO: Madison Keys/USA
2015 RG: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI
2015 WI: Garbine Muguruza/ESP (RU)
2015 US: Roberta Vinci/ITA (RU)
2016 AO: Johanna Konta/GBR
2016 RG: Kiki Bertens/NED
2016 WI: Elena Vesnina/RUS
2016 US: Karolina Pliskova/CZE (RU)
2017 AO: CoCo Vandeweghe/USA
2017 RG: Alona Ostapenko/LAT (W)
2017 WI: Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
2017 US:
17 consecutive, 18/19 slams

JAN: Venus Williams, USA
AO: Venus Williams, USA
FEB/MAR: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
I.W./MIAMI: Venus Williams, USA
1Q: Serena Williams, USA
APR/MAY: Laura Siegemund, GER
MAY: Samantha Stosur, AUS
RG: Timea Bacsinszky, SUI
2Q Clay Court: Laura Siegemund, GER
JUN: Anastasija Sevastova, LAT
WI: Venus Williams, USA
2Q Grass Court: Venus Williams, USA
JUL/AUG: Julia Goerges, GER
AUG: Chan Yung-Jan/Martina Hingis, TPE/SUI
[2017 Weekly VETERAN Award Wins]
6...Venus Williams, USA
5...Lucie Safarova, CZE
5...Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
4...Barbora Strycova, CZE
3...Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
3...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
3...Peng Shuai, CHN
2...Alize Cornet, FRA
2...Julia Goerges, GER
2...Andrea Petkovic, GER
2...Aga Radwanska, POL

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.); Rogers (down 4-2 in 3rd set vs. Gavrilova in 2nd Rd.)
IT ("?"): xx
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Kenin/USA, Sharapova/RUS
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Brady, Kenin, Rogers, Stephens(W), Vandeweghe, V.Williams(W)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Sharapova/RUS, Stephens/USA, Kanepi/EST, Kvitova/CZE
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Nominees: V.Williams/USA, Goerges/GER, Suarez-Navarro/ESP
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)
5: "You'll Miss the Best Things If You Keep Your Eyes Shut" (I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, 1978)

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Find it amusing that Sharapova didn't pass Kenin in the rankings until last night. Or that Kenin is that close to the Top 100. Still not the lowest ranked player left. That is Kanepi.

Stat of the Day-48-Number of singles matches played by Lucie Safarova, the #1 doubles player.

As Lucie tries to hold on to the #1 doubles ranking, will her singles play affect her?

Yes and no. You see, over the last 20 years, we have had both only doubles specialist, and dual threats. Starting with Kournikova in 1999, when she played 54 singles matches, there have been a number of both.

Tied for the bottom: Mirza(2015-16), Huber(2007-08-09-11), and Black(2007,09) with 0. Black, a co-#1 with Huber 3 times, but a 4 time #1 overall, managed to play 2 and 4 matches the other 2 years.

Safarova the last 2 years has only played 5 matches after the USO, although she did play 15 in 2013. With the 48 she has played(before today), it is safe to assume that she will be in the 60-65 range by the end of the year, to go along with the 36 in doubles.

But is that too much? In the last 17 seasons(23 women due to co #1's), the 60 mark has only been passed 3 times. The team of Errani(67) and Vinci(69) both did in 2013, while in 2012 Vinci played 72 singles and 65 doubles matches.

It should be a fair fight down the stretch, as neither Makarova or Vesnina has played more than 6 matches after the USO in singles the last 2 years. As a comparison, Cibulkova played 19 last year.

Sat Sep 02, 11:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And, of course, the good news within those Safarova numbers is that her heavy workload this year is a sure sigh that she's (mostly) moved beyond the viral issues that put her in the hospital a while back, and the dogged her for over a year via retirements and poor singles results.

Sat Sep 02, 11:28:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home