Wednesday, January 16, 2013

AO 3.0 - Melon-Ballers

Neither wind (on Day 1), nor sun (on Day 3), nor far-sighted chair umpire or lanky Romanian will stay The Radwanska from the swift completion of It's appointed rounds in Melbourne. Or so it seems.

While much talk has occurred about the prospective semifinal matchup in the top half of the draw of #1 Victoria Azarenka and #3 Serena Williams, not as much has been made of the one that could occur on the bottom half should the seeds hold up. That match-up, of course, would be #2 Maria Sharapova and #4 Agnieszka Radwanska. As we recently "learned," The Rad was born of thrives on the misery of the Russian... so, could it be that their Final Four meeting is precisely what the evil alter ego is planning for? At any rate, both Aga and Maria took to the court on Wednesday after combining to produce three love sets in the four they played in the 1st Round.

A-Rad, serving into the sun, was broken to begin her match with Irina-Camelia Begu. But, no matter. She was never truly threatened after that, at least not to the point where you ever got any sense or feeling that the match might be in jeopardy, as she won 6-3/6-3 to extend Aga's season winning streak to eleven matches (and 22 sets). Actually, in the 1st set, Radwanska had to compete against both the Romanian AND the chair umpire. When Begu served a ball that was called out, the chair overruled the call on the near sideline and declared it an ace. A-Rad challenged the call, and replay showed that the ball, indeed, had been out. I could have sworn that I saw Aga give the umpire the evil eye for a moment. In fact, maybe it was a case of The Rad "slipping through," if only for an instant.

Either way, I'm thinking that umpire will be receiving a "calling card" tomorrow morning.

After the match, on Tennis Channel, Lindsay Davenport interviewed Aga and asked her which of her possible goals for 2013 -- a grand slam title or the #1 ranking -- is "more important" to her. After starting to answer the question, A-Rad simply said, "I want both!"

Hmmm, did Aga just inadvertently reveal a key platform -- or even "End Game?" -- in The Rad's Plan. Something to keep an eye on. But, as of now, the Threat Level is still merely at "Concern."

Later, Maria Sharapova once again decided to tempt fate. After double-meloning Olga Puchkova on Day 1, she did the same thing today to Misaki Doi, becoming the first woman since 1985 (Wendy Turnbull) to begin a slam with back-to-back 6-0/6-0 victories.

Well, at least until maybe Serena does it tomorrow, too, I guess.

Sharapova only lost fifteen total points today, and has dropped just thirty-eight in two matches. She even kept her match under fifty minutes this time. Thing is, with Venus Williams (def. Alize Cornet 6-3/6-3 in the night session) awaiting in the 3rd Round, playing an opponent who actually can win a game against her might be a shock to Sharapova's system.

Hmmm... maybe THAT IS just what The Radwanska envisioned.

=DAY 3 NOTES= knew it was going to happen eventually. Well, it finally did on Day 3. Of course, I'm talking about Sam Stosur totally imploding and crashing out of yet another Australian Open. This time she did it after taking a two-break, 5-2 3rd set lead over Zheng Jie, the same Chinese vet who knocked the Aussie out of the 1st Round of Sydney in three sets last week.

Stosur served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4, but she never held a match point, as she started spraying shots (especially her forehand) all over the court just as the pressure to close out the match began to bear down on her. After Zheng held to take a 6-5 lead, Stosur fell behind in her third straight service game... then double-faulted on match point. Zheng won 6-4/1-6/7-5.

After Jarmila Gajdosova lost her nighttime match last evening to Yanina Wickmayer, Stosur had been the last Australian woman remaining in the draw. Now, just three days in, ALL of them are gone.

...elsewhere, 17-year old Bannerette Madison Keys' big game continued to run red-hot in Melbourne as she took out #30-seed Tamira Paszek 6-2/6-1. Already the "Last Wild Card Standing," Keys has now put up the best WC result in Melbourne since La Petit Taureau reached the final in her comeback slam in 2010. She'll next face #5 Angelique Kerber.

...with half of the eight remaining qualifiers taking to the court on Day 3, only one of the four advanced to the 3rd Round. Hordette Valeria Savinykh upset #15-seed Dominika Cibukova. Thus, one round late, after rallying to avoid suffering an immediate post-Sydney double-melon-loss-to-Aga hangover, The Radwanska's groundwork pays off and removes another seed from It's progenitor's section of the draw.

...the doubles competition has begun, and some big-name teams have already been sent packing. Silvia Soler-Espinosa & Carla Suarez-Navarro took out Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Sania Mirza today, while Shuko Aoyama & Irina Falconi upset Vania King & Yaroslava Shvedova (both of whom also lost in their first match in singles, by the way).

Meanwhile, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won this event last year teaming with Vera Zvonareva, opened up the defense of her title with Yanina Wickmayer as a partner. They knocked off Annika Beck & Liga Dekmeijere today in their opening match.

...side note: Chris Evert will be playing herself in an episode of "CSI" airing January 23rd on CBS.

...DAY 3 "LIKES":

on Tennis Channel, in something of an answer to the phrase "Big Babe tennis," Bill MacAtee coined a great phrase while commentating on the Radwanska/Begu match, calling Aga's clever, intellectual game "Big Brain tennis."

-- also on TC, Lindsay Davenport joking with MacAtee and Martina Navratilova about her $35 hat as she reported from her sun-drenched position at courtside.

-- A-Rad's "instructional" game. Just because I'm not sure I ever mentioned it before, I thought I'd note how it struck me while watching Radwanska play today just how perfect one of her matches would be as a tennis instructional video. Sure, Ricardo Sanchez called her "the best tennis player on the circuit" in a recent interview, but I say that because I think a person could literally learn how to play tennis by simply watching how Aga plays. For one, unlike a player like Serena, someone need not be "intimidated" by the notion of suddenly becoming such a physical, big-hitting player. On the surface, at least, Aga's game seems more like something that a novice player could aspire to, even if many of the actual players on tour can't even duplicate the cleverness of some of the things she does. The way she plays seems to "slow down" the action, allowing the viewer to more easily absorb how she constructs points by working the ball around the court with purpose, with her brain constantly turning its gears as she avoids simply defensively putting the ball back over the net with no game plan and waiting for an error.

No Radwanska allusions or anything there, I know. Just an appreciation for Aga's game, as it's really, in many ways, the most interesting and absorbing game of any player on tour. It's the tennis equivalent of reading a good novel.


ESPN2's Chris Fowler seriously suggesting that Sharapova should "let" Doi win a game late in the proceedings of the 0 & 0 match. Thankfully, Mary Joe Fernandez reacted with the appropriate horror at the possibility of willingly throwing away games in ANY match. If Doi couldn't take the "humiliation," she shouldn't be out there... and treating her as if she's a five-year old isn't an appropriate response, either, Mr. Fowler.

...DAY 3 "NOT SURE":

the current iPhone 5 ad, naturally in heavy rotation during ESPN2's AO coverage. First off, it's great to see not just one, but BOTH Williams Sisters featured in an ad that isn't solely confined to tennis-related programming. But their "plastic, robotic" look in the ad -- in which the voiceover talks about having a dream of playing table tennis against the pair -- IS a bit odd. Still, the perturbed look that Venus gives the camera at the end when the dream "ends" (Serena has already walked away in disgust) is priceless, so I guess the verdict here is really a "thumbs up."

...and, finally, one mystery HAS been solved. Carl has been located. And Carla, too. I received a postcard from him today. Apparently, they have nice caves in Brazil!

2008 Jessica Moore, AUS (2nd Rd.)
2009 Jelena Dokic, AUS (QF)
2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
2011 Jelena Dokic/AUS, Caroline Garcia/FRA & Alicia Molik/AUS (2nd Rd.)
2012 Casey Dellacqua/AUS & Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
2013 Madison Keys/USA (in 3rd Rd.)

2002 (Week 1 POW) Martina Hingis, SUI
2003 (Week 1 POW) Kim Clijsters, BEL
2004 (Week 1 co-POW) Kim Clijsters, BEL & Justine Henin, BEL *
2005 (Week 1 POW) Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2006 (Week 1 POW) Amelie Mauresmo, FRA *
2007 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS *
2009 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2010 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Kim Clijsters, BEL *
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR *
2013 Maria Sharapova, RUS
* - won title

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Lesia Tsurenko/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
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.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-6 in 1st Rd.; 1-7 overall)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: eight won 1st Rd. matches, V.Savinykh/RUS already into 3rd Rd.
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Madison Keys/USA (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: #9 Samantha Stosur (2nd Rd.)
CRASH & BURN: Nominees: #12 N.Petrova (lost 1st Rd. 6-2/6-0 to 42-year old Date-Krumm, oldest main draw women's winner in AO history); #9 Stosur (up 5-2 in 3rd vs. J.Zheng, served for match at 5-2 and 5-4)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: #10 C.Wozniacki (down 3-0 in the 3rd set vs. Lisicki in 1st Rd.; had lost back-to-back 1st Rd. slam matches); J.Zheng (down 5-2, and two breaks, in 3rd set vs. Stosur in 2nd Rd.); H.Watson (down set and a break, saved 3 MP vs. Pervak in 2nd Rd.)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Early Nominees: L.Tsurenko (def. Pavlyuchenkova), J.Hampton (def. U.Radwanska)

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Missed this: in Heather Watson's three-set win over Ksenia Pervak, the Brit came back from a set and a break down, saving three match points and winning a 9-7 2nd set tie-break to push things to a final set. She won 2-6/7-6/6-2.

When she was asked what sort of person she was, she said "I'm one of these girls that’s never going to give up," she said.

Indeed. I'd also tip-in that she's the sort of girl who's a fine "Zombie Queen" nominee, as well. :)

Wed Jan 16, 02:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I remember, and not that long ago, when Heather couldn't hang in like that. She'd get flustered and not think through her shots. Getting stringer mentally has made such a difference.

Wed Jan 16, 08:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I meant "stronger," but getting a stringer may have helped, too :)

Wed Jan 16, 08:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Sometimes our fingers have a mind -- and actual thoughts -- of their own! :)

Wed Jan 16, 09:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

Love it! Big brain tennis !
I actually look forward to aga-Pova match. Wouldn't it be perfect to see top 4 seeds in the semis.

Of course I may be too much ahead of myself considering its only round 2.

Stosur... Just pathetic really. She should really count her blessing of ever winning that US open

Thu Jan 17, 03:12:00 AM EST  

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