Friday, August 31, 2012

US 5.0 - A Star is Born: 2012 U.S. Open Edition

Gee thanks, Kim. You can't put away your opponent in the 1st set two days ago, and she goes on to defeat you in straight sets. Then, that same player takes out my pre-tournament pick to win the title two days later. It's just a neverending vicious cycle, isn't it? (Shakes head.) Do I get no "discount" for naming you Backspin's all-time MVP?

As it is, a star seems to be being born at this Open. And her name isn't Sloane. It's Robson. Laura Robson.

In many cases, whenever a young player without any huge wins on her career resume finally pulls off one, as 18-year old Brit Robson did in the 2nd Round when she ended Kim Clijsters' singles career, she isn't able to recapture the magic in her next match. But that Robson was able to bounce back and get a second, maybe even bigger, win over #9 seed Li Na (who'd been in the running with Petra Kvitova as the hottest player coming into this Open) today says a great deal about her mental make-up. Case in point, Robson said today, "I don't see how I can not be relaxed." With Robson's 3rd Round victory, this slam has now experienced its first bona fide "birth."

"Current Sloane," you've got some work to do.

In the 1st set against Li, Robson was getting in less than 50% of her 1st serves, but she was still able to keep pace with the Chinese veteran. She served at 5-3, only to be broken. But her immediate break back allowed her post-Clijsters confidence to continue to resonate after taking the set 6-4. Li rebounded, though, pushing the 2nd set into a tie-break, then coming back from 3-1 down to take it 7-5.

In the 3rd, Robson didn't fade. In fact, she got stronger. She went up a break, and held to lead 4-2. She coasted to a 6-4/6-7(5)/6-2 win. In all, Robson had nine aces and an 83% 1st serve win percentage in the match, but she impressively increased her proficiency as the day went along. She increased her "1st serves in" percentages from 45% to 56% to 62% with each set, and her 1st serve win percentage from 77% in the 1st to 85% in both the 2nd and 3rd.

Robson isn't like any British women's player since, well, maybe the days of Virginia Wade, for her future is looking brighter and brighter at every turn this summer. Her Round of 16 result at this Open makes her the first British woman to go so far in a slam since wild card Samantha Smith reached the 4th Round of Wimbledon in 1998. Robson was four years old at the time. Ah, but does she have a THIRD big upset in her? She'll get her chance in the 4th Round, with defending U.S. Open champ Samantha Stosur up next.

"Current Sloane" will try to chip away at Robson's star-turn on Saturday night, facing off with Ana Ivanovic. But maybe one night later, Robson will get HER turn in primetime on Ashe against Stosur. After all, isn't it about time the DC is brought in out of the sunlight to see if she'll spoil under the lights on the big stage? I think it is.

Another win and this thing could get REALLY huge. Epic, even.

...apparently, even with Li having Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodriguez in her corner, she wasn't up to being La Petit Taureau. Drat! I guess I knew that all along... and I simply hoped that I could pretend otherwise for a couple of weeks, just for old time's sake. Oh, well.

Gee thanks, Kim. Speaking of...

...out on Court 17 on Friday, Kim Clijsters' career continued. She & Bob Bryan defeated Irina Falconi & Steve Johnson 6-2/6-2 in a fun 1st Round Mixed Doubles match. Among the shenanigans: Clijsters virtually whiffing on an overhead volley, just nipping the underside of the ball, causing it to simply backspin in the air and fall at the base of the net, and KC and Bryan pulling off not one, but two, flying chest bumps -- the last in celebration of their victory. They potentially got a break earlier in the day, too, as their possible 2nd Round opponents -- #2 seeds Lisa Raymond & Mike Bryan -- lost.

Hmmm, should I make note of the fact that the last time Bob Bryan played with a tennis superstar in the final event of her career, he teamed with Martina Navratilova in the Mixed Doubles at the '06 U.S. Open? They ended up winning the title. I'm just saying.

...Maria Sharapova faced seven break points on serve against Mallory Burdette, but saved them all but one and won 6-1/6-1. Burdette's loss, combined with that of Kristina Mladenovic to Marion Bartoli, means the two players share "Last Wild Card Standing" honors.

In the evening, #1 seed Victoria Azarenka played her first career match under the lights on Ashe. She crushed #28-seeded Zheng Jie, 6-0/6-1 in less than an hour. She's lost just six games through three rounds, and is now 29-2 on hard courts this season.


Andy Roddick staving off retirement for at least one more match in front of 23,000 of his closest friends on Ashe, taking out Bernard Tomic, who came up very small on such a big occasion (he's no Robson!) and only gave me another reason to not particularly like him (I'm not sure why I've had that vibe with him since his AO run in January, but I do). Roddick won 6-3/6-4/6-0 in 1:27, allowing Vika to get on court a lot quicker than she might have expected.

Later, Roddick talked about working hands-on with his foundation, ala Andre Agassi, after he's finished. But one wonders, considering his quick wit and big personality, if somewhere down the road he ends up having the sort of post-tennis, media-savvy career (he already has a radio show) that John McEnroe has had for the last twenty years.


Pam Shriver, apparently trying to fill time because the night's matches were so short, asking WAY too many questions of Vika after her match with Zheng, even going so far as to try to get her to recite the rap lyrics she was listening to as she walked on court. Azarenka said she'd let her listen to the sanitized version later, but Shriver said she could "handle it." Of course, considering Shriver jumped back when Robson said "butt" the other day, I higher doubt she'd react well.

...????? FROM DAY 5:

the news that the planned late-in-the-year wedding between Maria Sharapova and Sasha Vujacic is off, and the couple apparently no longer together. All right, insert your own joke here about coming up with a new Sugarpova flavor -- but I've got dibs on "Jerky."

Of course, my question now is what happens to poor "Yuri" and "Yelena?" Hmmm, maybe "Future Sloane" has been slipping me incorrect information in my sleep about Maria's "future children." Of course, considering the "absentee" nature of Yuri and Yelena's pop in those Radwanska tales, maybe I should have sensed that something was up.

...and, finally, while Clijsters is still alive in the Mixed draw, I'll post the link-filled "Best of Clijsters 2.0" tomorrow.

#1 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. Anna Tatishvili/GEO
Laura Robson/GBR vs. #7 Samantha Stosur/AUS
#3 Maria Sharapova/RUS vs. #19 Nadia Petrova/RUS
#11 Marion Bartoli/FRA vs. #5 Petra Kvitova/CZE
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

[U.S. Open]
2007 Ahsha Rolle, USA (3rd Rd.)
2008 Severine Bremond, FRA (4th Rd.)
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
2010 Beatrice Capra, USA & Virginie Razzano, FRA (3rd Rd.)
2011 Sloane Stephens, USA (3rd Rd.)
2012 Mallory Burdette/USA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (3rd Rd.)
AO: Casey Dellacqua/AUS & Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
RG: Claire Feuerstein/FRA, Melanie Oudin/USA & Irena Pavlovic, FRA (2nd Rd.)
WI: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (4th Rd.)
US: Mallory Burdette/USA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (3rd Rd.)

Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. Champion; 1998 Women's Champion & '00 RU)
Martina Hingis (1994 Jr. RU; 1997 Women's Champion & 1998-99 RU)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (2001 Jr. RU; 2004 Women's Champion & '07 RU)
[still in 2012 draw]
Victoria Azarenka - 2005 Girls Champion
Marion Bartoli - 2001 Girls Champion
Maria Kirilenko - 2002 Girls Champion
Nadia Petrova - 1999 Girls RU

[Monthly/Quarterly winners]
FEB: Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
MAR: Maria Sharapova, RUS
APR: Jelena Jankovic, SRB
JUN: Nadia Petrova, RUS
JUL: Venus Williams, USA
[2012 Weekly "VETERAN" Wins]
7...Li Na, CHN
6...Venus Williams, USA
5...Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
5...Nadia Petrova, RUS
5...Francesca Schiavone, ITA
5...Samantha Stosur, AUS
5...Roberta Vinci, ITA
4...Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
4...Jenela Jankovic, SRB
4...Hsieh Su-Wei,TPE
4...Zheng Jie, CHN

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #7 Samantha Stosur/AUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: (WC) Krista Hardebeck/USA def. Tamaryn Hendler/BEL 7-6(9)/5-7/7-6(3)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #6 Angelique Kerber/GER def. Venus Williams/USA 6-2/5-7/7-5
TOP ASHE NIGHT SESSION MATCH: Nominee: 2nd Rd. - #6 A.Kerber/GER d. V.Williams/USA 6-2/5-7/7-5 (2:45, ends at 12:20 am)
FIRST WINNER: Anna Tatishvili/GEO (def. Foretz-Gacon/FRA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #27 Anabel Medina-Garrigues/ESP (lost to Hradecka/CZE)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Germany (four of five highest-ranked Germans fell in 1st Round)
CRASH & BURN: Nominees: #8 Wozniacki/DEN (lost 1st Rd. to Begu, after Open #1 seed in 2010-11; second straight 1st Rd. slam loss); #23 Clijsters/BEL (lost 2nd Rd. to Robson; ends 22-match U.S. Open match win streak)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: #6 Kerber/GER (down 4-2 in 3rd set vs. V.Williams, 2nd Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Olga Puchkova/RUS (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Mallory Burdette/USA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: 4 Americans in 3rd Rd. (0-2 so far)
IT: Nominee: L.Robson/GBR
BROADWAY-BOUND: Nominee: S.Stephens/USA

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Courtesy of Leif, here are parts of an interview with Thomas Johansson concerning Caroline Wozniacki. I thought it was pretty interesting, as well as realistic (in terms of ThoJo maybe getting through to C-Woz that there is no quick fix). Thanks, Leif. :)

Thomas Johansson:

She didn't attack the ball, she was back in her old style and was too passive. She has to dare win matches and not be afraid to lose them. If she doesn't do that, she'll get hammered. She has to take the initiative. If she doesn't do that, she'll still be a good player, but she won't get near the top 3.

(What happened)

I don't know. I don't have an answer. She wasn't close to playing this badly in´practice or in her matches.while I've been working with her. At Wimbledon, at least she played well and lost. This was a very very bad match.

As I've said, every one hit's winners today. If you don't play at a high tempo like I asked her, it doesn't matter if you're up against number three or number 103.

If you play defensively today, you're not going to win. Against a player who has respect for Caroline, it's important that you make her notice early in the match that "I'm number 8, and you're number 98.

It's too bad, because that wasn't the Caroline I've been watching recently. Begu plays well and stays calm, she focuses on what she has to do, while Caroline falls farther and farther behind the baseline and hits shorter and shorter balls. Now Caroline will watch that match again so she herself can see what happens.

I think she's been in a great mood. She's fantastically well. The she has the unfortunate knee injury. Then there's a match ...

(Did the preparation for the match go well?)

Yes The knee was slightly questionable. I was surprised at how well Begu served. She didn't fall off once during the match. She played well, but Caroline let her.

(Does she doubt herself during this development phase?)

It IS difficult. You can compare her a bit to Lleyton Hewitt, who was number one in the world. He was extremely quick and very strong in the corners. But he didn't take the initiative much himself. His opponents figured out how to beat him . He fell in the rankings and had difficulty hanging on.

Caroline's only 22. She has to realize herself what she has to do.

(What's most important for her team to do right now?)

First get her knee ready. Then it's back to practice and more work. But it has to show up during matches. If you watch practice Caroline and match Caroline, practice Caroline would double bagel match Caroline.

(Does she need a mental coach?)

All players have slumps. Caroline's a fantastic player, but she has to believe in what we're doing. Caroline moves better than the other top players, but they're more aggressive. On the practice court it's different. There she's aggressive.

Sat Sep 01, 01:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Who knew the Harrison brothers were so good at doubles... They've taken out some really good teams. Dont know if that's due to the environment... Also Christian Harrison has a very slight stature. I was surprised to see that.

Sat Sep 01, 03:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

A good thing is that Caroline has Rory. If you look at these animated gifs you'll understand why:

Love is in the air - good for her after US Open.

Sat Sep 01, 04:36:00 PM EDT  

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