Thursday, September 06, 2012

US 10.0 - It's All About Serena

Some short and sweet comments about Day 10's women's quarterfinals...

Maria Sharapova def. Marion Bartoli 3-6/6-3/6-4
...the stoppage of play on Day 9 with Bartoli leading 4-0 in the 1st really didn't pay any immediate dividends for Sharapova, as she seemed very slow to get into this match. Maybe as much mentally and emotionally as anything else. With more rain delaying play, including a second wave of precipitation just moments after the players had come on court for warm-ups, the match didn't resume until 1:08 pm. Bartoli continued to control things early, taking the 1st set and getting an early break in the 2nd, as Sharapova's second serve looked like it was going to be her downfall. But as the match progressed, the level of the Russian's game continued to go up. Eventually, she caught and passed Bartoli. In the 2nd, Sharapova led 18-2 in winners, taking the set to knot the match. In the sixth game of the 3rd, Sharapova fell behind 15/40 on serve, but managed to hold. She got a break one game later, then proceeded to win a slug-it-out rally with La Trufflette that ultimately ended with Bartoli stretching for a forehand at the baseline and then sending it long. In the final moments, Sharapova was the one imposing her will on the match. She hit an ace to get to match point, then a hard serve into Bartoli's body produced a wide return that ended the match. Sharapova is now 12-0 in three-set matches this season. She'll next face Victoria Azarenka, who's 11-0 in three-setters herself.

Sara Errani def. Roberta Vinci 6-2/6-4
...with the experience of having already reached a slam final in 2012, Errani was in a much better place than fellow Italian, doubles partner and best friend Vinci was today. She got up a break early in the 1st set, and was generally in control until the end. When it was over, Errani couldn't even bring herself to celebrate eliminating Vinci, bringing to mind the subdued endings to all those Venus vs. Serena slam finals in the early 2000's.

Serena Williams def. Ana Ivanovic 6-1/6-3
...well, Serena's 23-game winning streak ended early in the 1st set, but that was about the only flag that AnaIvo could fly in this one. And it took something of a "gift" for it to happen, as Ivanovic almost inadvertently landed a ball inside the line off a reflex (defensive, really) return of a forehand smash that Serena, for some reason, hit directly at the Serb rather than into the open side of the court on game point. Williams' next victim, err, I mean opponent, will be Errani. Poor Sara, I fear she might be in danger of giving up another Golden Set if Serena comes out in the super-form she's so often showed at this slam.

Really, when all is said and done, the rest of the women's singles action at this Open looks like it's going to come down to whether or not Serena breaks form. If she continues to play the way she has, Vika or Maria be damned, she'll be lifting her fifteenth slam singles trophy on Saturday night (or SOMETIME, depending on how often the skies open up over the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center over the next few days). But, there IS that lingering doubt when it comes to Serena and the Open. She first burst onto the scene at this slam in 1999, but hasn't won the Open women's title in a decade.

Coming into this Open, she seemed to be half-expecting something to happen, as that's generally been her lot at Flushing Meadows the last few times she's played. Three years ago, Serena had the "incident" with the line judge. You know, she offered to buy her dinner... AND feed her, too... by hand. Last year, she imploded in the final against Samantha Stosur, and had the whole "hindrance rule" controversy. So, anything IS still possible here, though she's probably just as likely to obliterate what's left of the field, too. And how could you not be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out which one it might be?

Come on... it's part of what makes Williams so compelling a figure. Like it or lump it.

=DAY 10 NOTES= the way, sorry for the lateness and shortened nature of the Day 10 update. I got started compiling everything later than usual, since I had to pay some respect to my old Political Science major past and watch a bit of the Democratic convention. I just can't resist a Bill Clinton speech (and tonight's was one of his best, I think... no matter your political bent).

...first, a moment of silence. For Roger Federer's 23-match undefeated streak under the lights on Ashe, as he was taken out tonight by Tomas Berdych in four sets. And what shocking thing does this development mean for Backspin? Ummm... (deep breath)... I might actually be open to rooting for Andy Murray to win this tournament now. Well, not if he's in the final against either Juan Martin del Potro or David Ferrer. But, otherwise... I'm thinking so.

Sorry, Andy.

...and goodbye to Andy Roddick, too. Not really TOO much to say about his final match, or the end of his playing career. I liked him when he was a young player and won the U.S. Open. After that, at least for me, he sort of got lost in the shuffle a bit what with the Roger/Rafa domination of the ATP during what should have been Roddick's peak years. He was never one of my favorite players, but I didn't NOT like him. I DID like it when he was really the ONLY professional, male or female, who rightly stood up for Shahar Peer during the Dubai Debacle in 2009. His personal boycott of the ATP event, at which he was the defending champ, put to shame every single men's or women's player, or tennis tour executive, who all did absolutely nothing in defense of Peer's right to play until it was "safe" to do so. Roddick, not giving a damn about the consequences, did what he thought was right. Immediately... when it mattered. And I think that said more about him, as a person, than anything he did in his entire tennis career ever could hope to do.

Plus, I suspect we'll never have much time to miss Roddick. He's going to be around for a long time. He'll be the U.S. Davis Cup captain one day, become the top American tennis commentator and probably even have his own cable TV talk show (ala John McEnroe a few years ago). Arguably, the "best" of him might still be yet to come.

...oh, Nadia. Petrova and Maria Kirilenko eliminated the Williams Sisters in doubles, but the all-Spanish team of Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez proved to be too much for the Hordettes today in the QF.

...some award news:

...with Errani's win over Vinci in the semis, the Italian wins this slam's "Ms. Opportunity" award. It's the second she's won in 2012, having grabbed the honor in Melbourne with her first-ever slam QF result. Of course, in between, she reached the Roland Garros final. As it is, she's the first woman from her nation to reach the U.S. Open semis.

...this is a U.S. Open-only honor, and it's not always an easy race to pick. So I went the speculative route on this and, since she's provided me with "so many reports about the future," I'll give it to "Future Sloane," even if "Current Sloane" might not have been up to fully claiming her spot on the center stage at this Open. The thought is that she'll find her way there... eventually.

...AnaIvo, who reached the singles quarterfinals, her best result at a slam since she won Roland Garros in 2008. I said it the other day, but I'll say it again because I love the way it sounds -- that was two Belgian comebacks AND two Belgian second retirements ago! Plus, she rebounded pretty well from that double-bagel loss she suffered at the hands of Vinci in Montreal before she left for Flushing Meadows, too.

=and... UPDATES=
...the "Zombie Queen" award, barring something happening by this weekend, will likely be headed for Sharapova's mantle, for her comeback from 2-0 down in the 3rd set against Petrova in the 4th Round and, I suppose, her win over Bartoli today after having dropped the 1st set.

...the "Doubles Star," unless something occurs in the junior doubles that catches my eye, is likely down to three nominees: Ekaterina Makarova, part of the duo who officially ended Kim Clijsters' career, and who'll now be going for her first career slam title in the Mixed Doubles final with Bruno Soares. Hsieh Su-Wei, the only woman in '12 with singles and doubles titles on BOTH the WTA tour and ITF circuit, who's still alive for HER first slam title in the Women's Doubles SF with Anabel Medina-Garrigues. And the combo of Errani/Vinci, who still have a shot to grab their second slam title of the season, not to mention get some legitimate consideration for a Top 3 (at least) finish in the year-end "Ms. Backspin" race.

...and, finally, Esther Vergeer is now one victory away from winning her fourth straight Paralympics singles Gold Medal at the Games taking place in London. As often occurs when she's competing for wheelchair slam titles, she'll play Dutch countrywoman Aniek Van Koot in the final. Vergeer in also in the Doubles semis.

#1 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. #3 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#4 Serena Williams/USA vs. #10 Sara Errani/ITA

#6 Tomas Berdych/CZE def. #1 Roger Federer/SUI
#3 Andy Murray/GBR def. #12 Marin Cilic/CRO
#8 Janko Tipsarevic/SRB vs. #4 David Ferrer/ESP
#7 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG vs. #2 Novak Djokovic/SRB

#16 Hsieh/Medina-Garrigues (TPE/ESP) vs. #3 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
#8 Llagostera-Vives/Martinez-Sanchez (ESP/ESP) vs. #2 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA)

#6 Granollers/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP) vs. #5 Paes/Stepanek (IND/CZE)
#9 Qureshi/Rojer (PAK/NED) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)

#4 Peschke/Matkowski (CZE/POL) vs. Makarova/Soares (RUS/BRA)

[2012 season]
9...Angelique Kerber, GER (4-5)
8...SARA ERRANI, ITA (5-2)
8...Agnieszka Radwanska, POL (4-4)
7...Petra Kvitova, CZE (2-5)
[2012 slams]
2...Petra Kvitova
[2010-12 slams, by nation]
9...RUSSIA (3 in '12)
4...BELARUS (3), Belgium (1), China, Czech Republic (2), ITALY (2)
3...Australia (1), Denmark, Germany (1)
1...Bulgaria, France, Poland (1), Serbia
[career slam SF - active]
19...Venus Williams (14-5)
6...Jelena Jankovic (1-5)
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova (4-1)
5...Dinara Safina (3-2)

2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Justine Henin, BEL *
2008 Serena Williams, USA *
2009 Serena Williams, USA
2010 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS *
2012 Serena Williams, USA
AO: Maria Sharapova, RUS
RG: Samantha Stosur, AUS
WI: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
US: Serena Williams, USA
* - won title

2004 Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Tatiana Golovin, FRA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2010 Kaia Kanepi, EST
2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
AO: Sara Errani, ITA
RG: Samantha Stosur, AUS
WI: Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
US: Sara Errani, ITA

2010 Vania King, USA
2011 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2012 "Future Sloane" (Stephens), USA

2007 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2008 Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
2012 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
AO: Maria Sharapova, RUS
RG: Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ
WI: Mirjana Lucic, CRO
US: Ana Ivanovic, SRB

101...Chris Evert
89...Martina Navratilova
73...Steffi Graf
62...Venus Williams *
62...Lindsay Davenport

*2012 ASHE RECORD AT NIGHT - 2+ matches*
2-0...Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams
2-1...Roger Federer
1-1...Ana Ivanovic

2004 Elena Dementieva (RU), Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2005 Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova
2006 Maria Sharapova (W)
2007 Anna Chakvetadze, Svetlana Kuznetsova (RU)
2008 Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina
2010 Vera Zvonareva (RU)
2012 Maria Sharapova

Unseeded - 2000 Elena Dementieva, RUS
Unseeded - 2009 Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
Unseeded - 2011 Angelique Kerber, GER
Wild Card - 2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL (W)
#28 - 2011 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#19 - 2006 Jelena Jankovic,SRB
#12 - 2005 Mary Pierce, FRA (RU)
#12 - 2007 Venus Williams, USA
#10 - 2001 Serena Williams, USA (RU)
#10 - 2002 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
#10 - 2012 Sara Errani, ITA

[Monthly/Quarterly winners]
JAN: Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
FEB: Sofia Kvatsabaia, GEO
MAR: Ana Savic, CRO
APR: Camila Giorgi, ITA
MAY: Grace Min, USA
JUNE: Duan Ying-Ying, CHN
JUL: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
AUG: Mallory Burdette, USA
[2012 Weekly "ITF PLAYER" Wins]
3...Grace Min, USA
3...Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, ESP
2...Romina Oprandi, SUI
2...Maryna Zanevska, UKR

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #7 Samantha Stosur/AUS
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #4 Serena Williams/USA
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 MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF/Doub.): Mixed Doubles 2nd Rd. - Makarova/Soares (RUS/BRA) def. Clijsters/B.Bryan (BEL/USA) 6-2/3-6/12-10
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: #8 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (lost 1st Rd. to I.Begu/ROU -- was Open #1 seed in 2010-11; second straight 1st Rd. slam loss)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: #3 Sharapova/RUS (down 2-0 in 3rd set vs. Petrova in 4th, before rain delay; back from set down vs. Bartoli in QF)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Mallory Burdette/USA & Kristina Mladenovic/FRA (3rd Rd.)
IT: Laura Robson/GBR (best British slam result since 1998)
Ms.OPPORTUNITY: #10 Sara Errani/ITA (first Italian in U.S. Open SF)
COMEBACK PLAYER: #12 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (best slam result since won '08 RG)
BROADWAY-BOUND: "Future Sloane" (entering the spotlight... eventually)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominees: M.Sharapova/RUS, S.Williams/USA, V.Azarenka/BLR
DOUBLES STAR Nominees: Hsieh/TPE, E.Makarova/RUS, Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA)

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


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