Friday, January 19, 2018

AO.5 - She's a Brick-by-Brick House

Not unexpectedly, Elina Svitolina's methodical construction project designed to turn herself into a major champion took another step toward completion on Friday, though one has to seriously wonder whether the Ukrainian's annual "To-Do" list for 2018 originally included an item about "showing the next generation who's (still) boss."

That's exactly what the world #4 and most accomplished women's tennis player ever from her nation was faced with on Day 5. Namely, her #541-ranked 15-year old countrywoman/qualifier/3rd Round opponent whose week-long run in Melbourne had already included five match wins, a heralded slam debut and a slew of references to Martina Hingis, as most of Marta Kostyuk's age-related accomplishments in recent days haven't been witnessed since the Swiss Miss was making Sweet Sixteen wish lists in the mid-1990's. But while the precocious '17 AO girls champ has taken the tennis world by storm in Melbourne, finally learning to love tennis more and more along the way, Svitolina has continued to resemble the player whose entire career has been about successfully taking things step by step, moving one rung up the WTA ladder at a time.

As things have worked out, Svitolina's placement in her half of the draw has allowed her to go from the pre-tournament "betting favorite" in the eyes of the Australians who somehow determine such things to one of the few players in her entire section with legitimately highlighted career resume entries. With the 3rd Round beginning on this day, only one former slam winner (Ostapenko) and another former finalist (Wozniacki) -- who might have to play *each other* before facing the Ukrainian -- were anywhere near Svitolina in the draw, and only one of those with slam SF (2) and QF (2) to their credit have ever advanced so far in the AO. The rest of the sixteen in her half of the draw have never produced anything better than a Round of 16 result at a major.

Of course, Svitolina, too, has been unable to make her own slam mark via any sort of leap or bound. Just as she's gradually raised her season-ending ranking since making her pro debut in 2010 -- 498-269-156-40-29-19-14-6 -- she's been unable to make any sort of Latvian Thunder-like push at the slam level. Since reaching the QF at Roland Garros in 2015, she went into today with another QF and three Round of 16's, but nothing more despite climbing as high as #3 in the rankings, winning her last six singles finals (10-2 in her WTA career), posting twenty-two Top 20 wins (fourteen against Top 10ers and five over world #1's), and last year becoming the first woman to win three Premier 5 titles in single season. She had a chance at something huge last spring in Paris, where she led Simona Halep 6-3/5-1 in the QF, twice served for the match and had a MP, only to ultimately implode in a love final set that was over in twenty minutes.

Svitolina has always had an analytical version of a champion's mind, and her season of work with Justine Henin in '16 only served to cement her work-religiously-toward-an-established-goal mindset. But until she can fully put that moment in Paris behind her by reaching the level of accomplishment at a major that just eluded her at RG, the perfectly planned out path to greatness for Svitolina will always be incomplete, preventing her from being a no-brainer addition to the list of truly "elite" players on tour.

Svitolina's Ukrainian tennis records (first woman in the Top 10 and Top 5, the highest-ranked player ever, etc.) are all things that Kostyuk will soon set her sights on (maybe sooner than anyone imagined a week ago, in fact), and if and when she ever follows in those particular footsteps she'll be able to look back and see how much she's learned between then and today, for the teenager was rightly schooled in the basics of big-time tennis this afternoon by her countrywoman. There'll be no hard feelings, though, of course.

Kostyuk opened the match with love break of Svitolina's serve, but the 23-year old quickly settled in after that. She broke back a game later and the lesson officially began. While the #4 seed had all her shots working, including the serve that she made it a goal to improve since last season (always the list-maker), the teen's own second serve bedeviled her throughout (which is just what you'd expect to get with a 15-year old, I guess). She had five double-faults in her first three service games, and sported a 33% 1st serve percentage while dropping the set 6-2. Svitolina jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the 2nd, and Kostyuk's ninth DF of the match -- on MP -- closed out the 6-2/6-2 contest.

The loss ends the record-breaking run of the promising, athletic reigning junior champ with the big shots to dream even bigger. She's just not yet at the level of the player whose own records she may match, or even break, one day.

Meanwhile, Svitolina gets another chance at putting on a second week run at a major, having finally broken out of her AO holding pattern after 3rd Round exits in Melbourne in 2014, '15 and '17. After admitting the other day that some previously undisclosed (and unnoticed) malady had almost caused her to pull out of this tournament before it'd even started, we'll have to take it upon ourselves to try to judge her chances of finally breaking through her personal grand slam glass ceiling, while also admitting that it's sometimes difficult to tell what's going on *inside* Svitolina.

As of today, though, her chances for grand success look good. Hmmm, maybe those bookies knew what they were talking about, after all.

...well, one of the results of so many top names being upset in the opening two rounds, and *two* matches hosting night schedule matches, is that the Friday daytime schedule was absent the usual marquee WTA names you'd generally see at this stage of a major, and which usually drive the live over-the-air television coverage of the event. With Caroline Wozniacki and Alona Ostapenko set to close out the evening on, respectively, Laver and MCA, Day 5 began with, not to sound disrespectful, 3rd Round AO match-ups that sort of resembled what you might get in the 2nd Round in Baku. Or maybe Prague.

Petra Martic and Luksika Kumkhum kicked the day off on the big court at 11 a.m., while Denisa Allertova and Magda Linette occupied the stadium *still* named for the former player whose name we dare not speak (since Tennis Australia apparently has decided to punt the whole issue until a further date, or until -- they maybe hope -- the controversy will blow over and replaced by something that will leave people even more aghast. (Heehee, they must think they're living in the U.S. or something.)

Hardly shockingly, Tennis Channel's coverage went full-on with the Bryan brothers doubles match on Hisense. Fine, then.

Starting things off on MCA was yet another Czech making a slam breakthrough as 24-year old qualifier Allertova jumped on Poland's Linette in the 1st set in a battle of players seeking to reach their maiden career slam Round of 16. She took the set 6-1, then turned around a 0-3 start in the 2nd to get back on serve at 4-4 and go on to claim the victory, 6-2/6-4.

While Thailand's Kumkhum, fresh off her win over Belinda Bencic, was playing in her first career 3rd Round match, Martic was trying to reach her third Round of 16 in the last four majors despite missing nearly a year with a back injury from Wimbledon '16 until spring '17. The Croat returned to action last season and promptly won 29 of her first 35 matches on all levels, a stretch that included two slam qualifying runs in Paris and London that turned into her second and third career slam 4th Round results after she'd not posted a MD slam win since 2013. At Roland Garros, Martic led Svitolina 5-2 in the 3rd set and was up love/30 on the Ukrainian's serve, then served for the match herself, but squandered it all by dropping 20 of the final 23 points in the match.

Against Kumkhum, Martic surged in the closing moments of a pair of sets to get the win, breaking late in the first to lead 4-3, the winning the set 6-3, then recovering from a 40/15 hole in game 11 of the 3rd set to break Kumkhum and then serve out the match to win 6-3/3-6/7-5. The former world #42 (2012), on her 27th birthday, is set to gain over twenty spots (at least) in the rankings and return to (at least) the Top 60 after this AO.

...the match-up between Elise Mertens and Alize Cornet had the sort of drama and full-breathed bellows that one would expect from any match involving the Pastry...

But the story here revolves around the Belgian. While Mertens saw Cornet erase her double-break lead in the 1st set, where 4-1 turned into 4-4, she managed to break back for 6-5 and then serve out the set a game later. After Cornet's between-sets call for a trainer and doctor as she dealt with the Melbourne heat, Mertens went about taking a 5-4 lead and serving for the match. After two DF, including one on MP, and a BP saved with a big wide service winner, the Waffle finally put away MP #4 to win 7-5/6-4.

Mertens' AO debut was delayed a year, as she missed out on Melbourne while winning her maiden tour title in Hobart rather than head off for AO qualifying. A week ago, the Belgian defended that Hobart crown, and picked up a doubles one, as well. Now, in her very first Australian Open, she's into her first career slam Round of 16. I guess we can take it as gospel that Down Under works pretty well for her, huh?

...since I'd like to *maybe* be able to get enough shut-eye to *possibly* see a little of the session-closing matches -- Wozniacki/Bertens and Ostapenko/Kontaveit -- on the show courts in the wee small hours of the morning, I'm going to wrap up the Day 5 post right here. As I post, yet another Ukrainian -- Kateryna Bondarenko -- leads Wimbledon semifinalist Magdalena Rybarikova in one of the remaining two 3rd Rounders in the day session, while the all-vet match-up between Carla Suarez-Navarro and Kaia Kanepi has yet to begin. doubles, today's 2nd Round results have set up a battle of Chan sisters in the coming days, as #1-seeded Latisha (w/ Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova) will meet #14-seeded Angel (Hao-Ching) and her partner, Katarina Srebotnik, in the 3rd Round.

...LIKE ON DAY 5: British wit


...LIKE ON DAY 5: Thank you for your service...


She's like "Mommmmmmmmmmm my friends are looking" #freshfaces

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

...and, finally... KAROLINA/KOALA in 2020!

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
Petra Martic/CRO vs. Elise Mertens/BEL
(Q) Denisa Allertova/CZE vs. #4 Elina Svitolina/UKR
x vs. x
x vs. x

@tom_couch the master of warm ups ?? @kasatkina ???????

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Olga Savchuk, UKR (3rd Rd.)
Anne Kremer, LUX (all 2nd Rd.)
Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS
Tamira Paszek, AUT
Julia Vakulenko, UKR
Renata Voracova, CZE
Marta Domachowska, POL (4th Rd.)
Elena Baltacha, GBR (all 2nd Rd.)
Alberta Brianti, ITA
Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ
Yanina Wickmayer, BEL (4th Rd.)
Vesna Manasieva (now Dolonc/SRB), RUS (3rd Rd.)
Nina Bratchikova, RUS (3rd Rd.)
Valeria Savinykh, RUS (both 3rd Rd.)
Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
Zarina Diyas, KAZ (3rd Rd.)
Lucie Hradecka, CZE (3rd Rd.)
Zhang Shuai, CHN (QF)
Mona Barthel, GER (both 4th Rd.)
Jennifer Brady, USA
Denisa Allertova, CZE (in 4th Rd.)

3rd Rd. - Sandra Kleinova, CZE (1997)
3rd Rd. - Bernarda Pera, USA (2018) #
3rd Rd. - Veronika Martinek, GER (1995)
3rd Rd. - Gloria Pizzichini, ITA (1996)
3rd Rd. - Ons Jabeur, TUN (2017)
3rd Rd. - Tine Zwaan, NED (1974)
4th Rd. - Maria Jose Gaidano, ARG (1993)
3rd Rd. - Dasha Kasatkina, RUS (2015)
#-to play 3rd Rd.

[since 7-round event in '87]
1987 QF - Elizabeth Smylie
1987 4th Rd. - Janine Tremelling
1987 4th Rd. - Wendy Turnbull
1988 QF - Anne Minter
1989 4th Rd. - Nicole Provis
1990 4th Rd. - Rachel McQuillan
1991 4th Rd. - Rachel McQuillan
1993 4th Rd. - Nicole Provis
2003 4th Rd. - Nicole Pratt
2004 4th Rd. - Alicia Molik
2005 QF - Alicia Molik
2006 4th Rd. - Samantha Stosur
2008 4th Rd. - Casey Dellacqua
2009 QF - Jelena Dokic
2010 4th Rd. - Samantha Stosur
2015 4th Rd. - Casey Dellacqua
2016 4th Rd. - Dasha Gavrilova
2017 4th Rd. - Dasha Gavrilova
NOTE: Barty to play in 3rd Rd.

TOP QUALIFIER: Marta Kostyuk/UKR (first player born in 2002 in slam MD)
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #21 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Caroline Dolehide/USA def. Conny Perrin/SUI 5-7/6-3/7-6(7) (trailed 5-0 and 6-2 in the deciding TB, saved 5 MP to record first career slam match win)
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Andrea Petkovic/GER def. Petra Kvitova/CZE 6-3/4-6/10-8 (Petko up 4-0 in 3rd, 3 MP saved by Kvitova; Kvitova for match at 6-5 and 8-7)
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): xx
FIRST VICTORY: Duan Yingying/CHN (def. Duque-Marino/COL)
FIRST SEED OUT: #13 Sloane Stephens/USA (1st Rd. - lost to Zhang Shuai; 0-8 since winning U.S. Open)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: USA (women lose first eight 1st Rd. matches, go 1-9 on Day 1, 3/4 of '17 U.S. Open all-Bannerette semifinalists ousted)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Denisa Allertova/CZE (in 4th Rd.) (LL: Bernarda Pera/USA in 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Ash Barty (in 3rd Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominee: Pera
IT (TBD): Nominee: Kostyuk ("Teen")
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kerber, Sharapova, Kanepi, A.Radwanska
CRASH & BURN: Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe & Venus Williams, USA (3 of 4 '17 U.S. Open semifinalist lose on Day 1)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (2nd Rd. - Fett/CRO served up 5-1, 40/15 in 3rd set; 2 MP saved)
KIMIKO VETERAN CUP: Nominees: Kerber, Sharapova, Hsieh, CSN, K.Bondarenko, Strycova, Safarova
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominees: Barty, Mertens

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Ostapenko was in her band waggon mode a lot of her match - OUT, Caroline won her match not with ease but without any doubt, She just had some issues with: Court - moth and seagull shit, audience, umpire calls - well he was bad, I'm sorry he should have ordered cleaning of the court in both ends and some funny calls too - out with him. Apart from that an ok match, where Carolines forehand held. Her 4th fourth round in AO and her 20th in slams - not bad me thinks ;)

Fri Jan 19, 09:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Ostapenko was injured. I hate that—so many injuries.

Fri Jan 19, 10:26:00 AM EST  
Blogger colt13 said...

Svitolina/Mertens needs to happen.

Martic, Fett, Pera(born), Lucic-Baroni. Croatia should be proud.

Stat of the Day-43- Career high ranking for Player B.

You probably will figure out who a am talking about before the reveal. But let us take 2 players, one current, and one from the past.

Player A
17 Slams
Best-4th rd
11-1st rd losses
0 WTA titles
1 WTA final
Rankings last 7 years-82,75,40,94,153,190,192

Player B
15 Slams
Best-3rd rd
10-1st rd losses
0 WTA titles
1 WTA final
Rankings 1990-1984-

Seems pretty equal, right? Player A is Madison Brengle. I used her because the numbers were similar, and she represents an average player. But with Marta Kostyuk's run this week, which mentioned her mother Talina Beiko reaching 391 in 1994, which means that Marta will pass her in the rankings, as live is 243, there is someone else in the draw that had their mother play.

Player B is Maria Sakkari's mother, Angeliki Kanellopoulou. As you can see, she had success for a number of years on tour, but almost did it as a part time player. Of those slams, she never played the AO, and played Wimbledon once. An 8 time entry at the French, her best run(1985-3rd rd) was ended by the eventual winner in Chris Evert.

Her other career highlights included playing in the Olympics, and reaching the tour final in Athens, where that had an event from 1986-1990. 86 is when she reached the final, losing to Sylvia Hanika.

Maria once said that she wanted to 43 to match her mom. With a CH of 48, she is close.

Fri Jan 19, 12:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

That’s interesting, colt! And I do believe she’ll match (and likely surpass) her mom.

Fri Jan 19, 07:27:00 PM EST  

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