Monday, January 14, 2013

AO 1.0 - Bagels, Threat Levels and a “Non-Loss” by Sam

Well, Day 1 of the first slam of 2013 was pretty quiet. Just like The Radwanska likes it, I suspect. For now, at least.

While the "Radwanska Threat Level" for this Australian Open currently rests at "Calm," there are signs that "Concern" could be right around the corner. More on that in a moment.

First, consider that today, for a bit, it was frighteningly easy to wonder whether The Radwanska had grown bored with the ease with which It's progenitor had swept through 2013's opening two weeks. With Aga Radwanska sporting a 9-0 mark, and 18-of-18 sets won on her season ledger, The Rad seemed to not be keeping up with It's threatening side of the deal in this "partnership" during A-Rad's 1st Round match against Bojana Bobusic today. The Pole found herself down a break multiple times in the 1st set, including as late in the going as at 4-5. But once The Rad -- and Agnieszka -- realized that both their "auras" might be at stake, it was no longer a contest. A-Rad won last three games of the set, then bageled the Aussie wild card in the 2nd to win 7-5/6-0 and claim her 10th consecutive melon... err, match, and 19th and 20th straight sets won.

But before The Rad's handiwork became a reality later in the day, the alter ego's most longstanding rival had kicked off the day's play at Rod Laver Arena against Olga Puchkova. At the start, things didn't exactly look promising, either, as Sharapova finally played her first match of the season after missing some time with a collarbone injury. She opened the match on serve and proceeded to double-fault on the second point, found herself down break point, was forced to play an uncharacteristic 27-shot rally, and failed on a replay challenge. But Sharapova held serve to go up 1-0, then simply outclassed her fellow Russian by sweeping the remaining eleven games, winning 6-0/6-0 in fifty-nine minutes, running her career mark against her countrywomen to 74-22.

Hey, who (or What) does Maria think she is -- The Radwanska???? Well, considering A-Rad double-bageled Dominika Cibulkova this past weekend, but did it in slightly OVER an hour, I'd say that It's attention has been gained.

Whether Maria will regret that fact is still to be determined. After all, Cibulkova opened her 1st Round match today against Ashleigh Barty and was quickly put on her heels by the 16-year old's surprising game. The young Aussie wild card won the opening set at 6-3. But Cibulkova righted herself, winning nine straight games, and twelve of thirteen, to close out the match against a player whose future looks very bright.

Of course, I believe "calm" might translate to "vulnerable" in Radwanska-ese.

After all, following a seemingly interminable wait for the first seed to fall on Monday as everyone's "favorite" evil alter ego simply refused to pull strings to make things happen Down Under, by the end of the day, one HAD been ejected. Fears of another Radwanska-managed grand slam proved to be well-founded when #32 Mona Barthel was sent packing by Ksenia Pervak in a nearly two-and-a-half hour contest, the very last women's day session match to be completed on Monday in Melbourne.

Hmmm, that CAN'T bode well, can it? It HAS to mean that The Rad is finally invested in this slam, right? Uh-oh. I guess it's time to move the Threat Level up a notch to "Concern."

...while Sharapova had a nice Day 1 in Melbourne, apparent new BF Grigor Dimitrov didn't. He lost his 1st Round match to #32 Julien Benneteau, who was nudged up to the final men's seed when John Isner withdrew. other matches of note, Venus Williams got off to a great start, winning 6-1/6-0 over Galina Voskoboeva on Hisense at the same time that Sharapova was running over Puchkova on Laver. One more win from each and they'll clash in the 3rd Round in the biggest match of the first week.

Oh, and Sam Stosur didn't lose. Really, consider her history in Australia, THAT should be the headline. Of course, the Aussie didn't have an easy time in not losing, avoiding a loss in a tough one against Chang Kai-Chen 7-6/6-3. Still, Stosur was the ONLY Aussie woman to advance to the 2nd Round on Day 1, as the rest went 0-5. Hmmm, I smell a "Nation of Poor Souls" award looming in their future.

...four qualifiers won on Day 1, including Chan Yung-Jan (def. Daniela Hantuchova), Maria Joao Koehler (def. fellow qualifier Karin Knapp), Vesna Dolonc and Valeria Savinykh. Just one wild card, the still-hot-as-a-firecracker Madison Keys, lived to play another day by winning her 1st Round match. The 17-year knocked off Aussie Casey Dellacqua on Monday after dropping serve while serving for the match, then facing down set points in the 2nd set before blowing the one-time AO star off the court in a 7-0 tie-break to finish off a 6-4/7-6 victory. Earlier in the day, ESPN2 commentators had essentially predicted Keys to win grand slams and be a future world #1... but, of course, that wasn't enough to convince the Powers That Be to show more than a few points from her match during the actual network coverage of Day 1.

Some things never change.

...a few Week 2 follow-ups: The "ITF Player of the Week" goes to Slovenia's Tadeja Majeric. The 22-year old won the $25K challenger in Innisbrook, Florida, defeating Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic in the final. It's Majeric's second straight ITF title, with her having also won a $25K in India in the final week of 2012. Elsewhere...

Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Reka-Luca Jani! Saying it thrice is three times as nice!

Yep, the Hungarian won a title this weekend -- one of those seemingly hundreds of $10K events held in Antalya. It's RLJ's first title since the 2011 season.

The "Junior Star" is American Christina Makarova. Makarova, 16, won the G1 Copa Gatorade event in Caracas, Venezuela, defeating Camila Giangreco Campiz (PAR) in the final.

...DAY 1 "LIKE":

all the yellow outfits on the courts in Melbourne, from Angelique Kerber on down. In what some call the "happy slam," they fit into the landscape quite well.

...DAY 1 "NOT SURE":

Venus' outfit. While it looked fine, every time I looked at it I couldn't help but think its faint, multi-colored scheme looked a bit like something an artist might use to wipe off his or her wet paintbrushes.

...and, finally, as always at the slams, Anabel Medina-Garrigues' time in the draw is limited. After AMG won the Hopman Cup for Spain with Fernando Verdasco in Week 1, there was some thought that she might pose a threat to #11 seed Marion Bartoli in the 1st Round in Melbourne. Well, not really. After being the "First Seed Out" at Flushing Meadows last August, the now-unseeded Spaniard wasn't railroaded by La Trufflette," but the energetic Frenchwoman did win in straight sets, 6-2/6-4.

Okay, here's where I'm obliged to once again note that AMG is STILL linked in history with Anna Smashnova as the only players to ever win double-digit WTA singles titles but never reach a slam Final 8. There, that's another Daily Backspin slam ritual checked off the list. By the way, this was AMG's 43rd career slam, and her 17th opening round loss. Medina-Garrigues, 30, now has a career slam match record of 43-43. She's 12-13 in Melbourne, where she's actually had two (in '02 and '09) of her three career-best slam Round of 16 results.

Oh, well... keep on fighting the good fight, AMG.

2005 #16 Ai Sugiyama, JPN (lost to Sucha)
2006 #9 Elena Dementieva, RUS (lost to Schruff)
2007 #25 Anabel Medina-Garrigues, ESP (lost to Vesnina)
2008 #32 Julia Vakulenko, UKR (lost to Vesnina)
2009 #23 Agnes Szavay, HUN (lost to Voskoboeva)
2010 #14 Maria Sharapova, RUS (lost to Kirilenko)
2011 #28 Daniela Hantuchova, SVK (lost to Kulikova)
2012 #19 Flavia Pennetta, ITA (lost to Bratchikova)
2013 #32 Mona Barthel, GER (lost to Pervak)

2009 Patricia Mayr, AUS (def. Schruff)
2010 Dinara Safina, RUS (def. Rybarikova)
2011 Evgeniya Rodina, RUS (def. Rogowska)
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR (def. Watson)
2013 Maria Sharapova, RUS (def. Puchkova)

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Cagla Buykakcay/TUR d. Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA 4-6/6-2/10-8
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS (def. O.Puchkova/RUS)
FIRST SEED OUT: #32 Mona Barthel/GER (lost to K.Pervak/KAZ in 1st Rd.)

All for Day 1. More tomorrow.


Blogger Hoergren said...

Hi Todd

I think you might include this in one of day ones notisable matches Court 13 2.match Alize Cornet (FRA) def Marina Erakovic (NZL) 75 67 10-8 Pretty long match! 3h 28m! - 8 and 17 double faults. 1 winner each, 8 and 17 unforced errors. Cornet 10/22 breakpoints won Krakovic 8/11 breakpoints won. 1st serve 62 - 60. So must be Cornets little nightmare ;-)

Mon Jan 14, 10:40:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I don't know, if Venus plays like she did today, playing HER in the 2nd Round might be an even bigger nightmare for Cornet. :)

Thanks for the extra notes!

Mon Jan 14, 11:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

1 winner each?! in 3 hours...

Mon Jan 14, 07:56:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Thanks, Todd, for this Radwanska Threat Level. As for the worst natural hazards, you recognize that this one is so important, and you try to minimize the number of victims by anticipating its occurences instead of trying in vain to prevent them.

You should make an app for that, Maria would buy it. Science will thank you one day.

Mon Jan 14, 08:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Lisicki...i didn't realize her mental game was so suspect. She certainly has all the tools. ALL the tools.

I think it's telling that Lisicki doesn't hit good serves when she's under pressure...She has such a good serve, it should be able to bail her out of trouble more often. Also, i have a feeling that when she gets nervous, she stops going for targets on the court...she kind of goes for a general direction/side. If she can improve her focus under pressure, she'll win majors.

Wozniacki's serve is better now...but I still feel like she's not winning sets/matches...she's allowing others to lose. When her opponents are on, she has absolutely no say in the match. I think the first and third sets today were a perfect example of this difference. I also feel like her backhand used to be more penetrating.

But I think Wozniacki's mental game is very underrated. She's definitely a champion in that aspect.

Todd, did you see what Evert said about Woz the other day...that she is playing tennis of the last generation (or something)?


How about that Kimiko?!?!

And so Nadia can beat Clijsters 1 and 1...but then lose 2 and 0.

Mon Jan 14, 09:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

I think Wozz delivered a splendid mental match AND some good play winning the last 6 games of the match down 0-3 - that's good. Welcome back Caroline.

Mon Jan 14, 09:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

hm...double bagel in 54 mins (and an ankle roll)...while sharapova was 55 mins.

"anything you can do, i can do better"

battle of the twitter accounts too.

But the injury is troubling...

Mon Jan 14, 10:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Just to note, the Radwanska Threat Level was briefly raised to "Alarm" when Serena went down in a heap.

It's back down to "Concern" now. For now, at least.

Yeah, Caro, at least at one point, did have "a little harm," as I used to call it, when it came to being able to mentally outlast some opponents. Of course, outlasting Lisicki in what amounts to a mental battle isn't exactly a Mensa level test.

Although, Eric, Li Na might have something to say about the notion of Lisicki not hitting good serves when she's under pressure. Remember Wimbledon a couple of years ago? Of course, that WAS Lisicki on the grass at Wimbledon.

Well, here's the first OFFICIAL one of the 2013 season... Oh, Nadia.

Mon Jan 14, 10:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

but that was at Wimbledon and Lisicki has a different mentality there.

Mon Jan 14, 11:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

kimiko's anticipation is really amazing. i couldn't tell if she was just always where the ball was...or if Nadia wasn't playing that well. but LOTs of dictation from Kimiko.

I didn't realize that nadia had split with sanchez.

Mon Jan 14, 11:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

robson kvitova...should be interesting. i wonder who hits bigger...

Tue Jan 15, 12:33:00 AM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

What storylines on day 2!
I wouldn't say so much Caron's toughness than lisicki's fragileness
'Oh oh oh Nadia' who helped date krum made history again
Serena tumbled but begalled her opponent
Vika got through her emotional start as defending champ
Kvitova finally won and errani fell

Tue Jan 15, 01:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Jamie Hampton has a great game. Wow. She's just sooooooo tenseeeeeee

Tue Jan 15, 05:01:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I agree, Eric. I first saw Hampton when she played in a challenger event about 20 minutes from where I live. She had a really good serve and a nice game, but she was really tense. I don't know if she still has the same coach as she did then; he was really nice, and told me that Jamie's style came to her naturally.

Wed Jan 16, 09:53:00 PM EST  

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