Sunday, January 20, 2013

AO 7.0 - The Radwanska Comes Out at Night

After hiding quietly in the shadows for most of this Australian Open, there have been a few sightings of The Radwanska in Melbourne over the last few days. Yesterday, #1-ranked Victoria Azarenka was lucky to escape an upset bid by Jamie Hampton, and in the first match today the highest-seeded woman (#5) yet was sent packing.

Then, for the first time at this slam, The Radwanska came out at night.

Naturally, Aga Radwanska's match with Ana Ivanovic began just after the sun set. Also not surprisingly, it began with A-Rad breaking AnaIvo's serve, then holding her own at love. Soon, the Serb decided that she didn't want to just be stepped on, so she fought back. A little. Silly Serb. In game #4, Ivanovic took a 30/love lead on A-Rad's serve, and a shot on the right sideline was called in to seemingly give her a 40/love lead and a shot to get back on serve. But Aga took a close look at the mark and challenged the call, which was soon changed to Radwanska's favor.


After saving two break points, she held for 3-1, then raced through the rest of the set, winning it 6-2 by holding at love, and committing just two unforced errors in the set. In the 2nd, Radwanska opened with another break and went up 2-0. Ivanovic played better in the stanza, earning five set points in total. Of course, Radwanska saved them all (she was 7-0 when facing BP on the night). Aga went up 4-2, then served at 5-4. That's when The Radwanska decided to show off.

A-Rad's sixth ace of the match got her to match point, and then another serve seemed close to ending the night, but it was called wide. Agnieszka challenged and, naturally, she was right. Ace #7 put the final period at the end of the 6-2/6-4 match in which the Pole made just four errors. It extends her 2013 winning streaks to thirteen matches and twenty-six sets.

After the match, an on-court interview with Australian TV's Sam Smith produced some potentially intriguing information. I mean, if you care about the fate of the world as we know it. Referring to how cool and unemotional Aga always is on court, Smith asked if she was the same off it, and if anything ever annoyed her.

"A lot of things, actually," Aga said with a bright smile. "Slow drivers, for example." When pressed for more, she added, "And when my internet is not working," saying it makes her "so angry."

Hmmm, so could The Radwanska be defeated with a traffic jam and an electromagnetic pulse? Or would that just make The Rad even more angry? We do know that Ula will be of no help, as Aga told Smith that her sister never annoys her and is, in fact, "cool." Oh, well. Turns out, naturally, our "favorite" alter ego is just as lethal at night as it it during the day. And now Aga is being disarming, too.

But I don't even want to think about what It'd be like if Aga couldn't check her email.

=DAY 7 NOTES= year after upsetting Serena Williams in the Round of 16 in Melbourne, Ekaterina Makarova got a shot at #5-seed Angelique Kerber on Day 7. While #19-seed Makarova entered with a 1-14 career mark against Top 5 players, Kerber is the only current Top 10 player who has never reached a slam singles final. Today, though, you could have sworn that it was the Russian, not the German, who was fighting to avoid becoming the first Top 5 seed to fall at this AO.

Right from the start, Makarova was aggressive in the face of a seemingly passive and tentative Kerber. She broke her early on for a 2-1 lead, then came back from 15/40 on serve to stay a step ahead at 4-2 a few games later. After another break for 5-2, Makarova seemed to experience a slight case of nerves. Kerber took advantage, getting back both breaks, the second after the Russian was up 40/15 on serve, to level things at 5-5. But all it took to turns things back in her favor was for Makarova to cease bending to the moment for an instant. When she did, she broke Kerber for 6-5 and then served out the set.

Five games into the 2nd set, Kerber was treated by a trainer for a back injury, then when Makarova again seemed to be ready to melt a bit in the moment (she'd nearly done so a round earlier, losing a 5-0 3rd set lead on Marion Bartoli before winning 6-4), Kerber failed to capitalize. Up 4-3, Kerber held two breaks points for a shot to serve for the set. On the second, more winnable point, she failed to effectively put away two overheads which Makarova, in Kerber-esque style, kept the point alive with good defense, then badly missed a volley which should have ended the game and gotten her back into the match. Given a reprieve, Makarova made the German pay for her inability to win the big point. After having trailed 15/40, the Russian held for 4-4 and effectively put down the tiring Kerber in short order from there. Winning 7-5/6-4, Makarova advanced to her second consecutive AO quarterfinal.

...a little bit later in the afternoon, the player whose excellence has made more noise than any other player during the first week took to the court. And, from the start, the Maria Sharapova who put together back-to-back double-melon wins, and 28 straight games, wasn't in evidence. Instead, the slightly-off player who popped up in the closing moments of her 3rd Round match against Venus Williams began play on Day 7.

Kirsten Flipkens held serve for 1-0, putting Sharapova behind on the scoreboard for the first time at this AO. After getting a break of serve for 2-1, Sharapova then struggled through a twelve-minute serve game in which she served three double-faults and faced three break points. No matter, though, as Sharapova won the game anyway.

Of course, from there, the "impostor" then left the building, replaced once again by SuperPova.

Well, for the most part. After dropping game #1, Sharapova won twelve straight games for the third time in four matches, defeating the Belgian 6-1/6-0. With her win, Sharapova sets another record at this AO by allowing a total of just five games en route to a slam quarterfinal. Still, she was under 50% in her 1st serve percentage, though she was winning 80% of the points when she did get the ball in, and had more unforced errors than winners.

Is it enough of a crack for Makarova, or someone else, to soon exploit? We shall see.

In contrast, is there any more top player still alive in the women's draw who's gotten there with as little fanfare as Li Na? The #6 seed, a past AO runner-up, took down Julia Goerges on Day 7, 7-6/6-1, to rid the women's draw of Germans.

Ah, but can she rid it of Radwanskas? For the next two nights, while The Radwanska Threat Level alternates between "Concern" and "Alarm" (offcially, though, it's been raised one level), Na will sleep under this, just to get her in the mood: a Mixed match-up of former #1-ranked doubles partners who didn't part ways amicably, Liezel Huber (w/ Max Mirnyi) defeated Cara Black (w/ Paul Hanley). Earlier in the day, in her 3rd Round doubles match with Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, as the #6 seeds, Huber had been part of a losing effort against Silvia Soler-Espinosa & Carla Suarez-Navarro. Elsewhere, defending Mixed champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Horia Tecau were taken out in their 1st Round match by Lucie Hradecka & Frantisek Cermak.

In doubles, #12-seeded Venus & Serena knocked out the #5 seeds, Nadia Petrova & Katarina Srebotnik. juniors, Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko upset #9 Christina Makarova (USA), while Hordette Elizaveta Kulichkova upset #17-seed Ilka Csoregi (ROU).

...DAY 7 "LIKE":

ESPN2, showing the crazy variety of the Pole's game, checking off all the different shots shown by A-Rad on a "Radwanska Shot List" as the match progressed.

...DAY 7 "WHAAAAA?????":

on Tennis Channel, Jon Wertheim issued mid-tournament grades, and some -- an "A" for the U.S. women and Sharapova, a "B" for Kimiko Date-Krumm -- rang true, but one surely didn't. Now, to be fair, Wertheim admitted to "grading on the curve" and not issuing anything below a "C." But, really, if Sam Stosur's results at this AO REALLY were worthy of a "C" (average) grade on an American cable TV network, then it's no wonder that the American educational system isn't held in anything close to the esteem that it formerly enjoyed. Really, a "C?" Man, that's not grading on a "curve," that's grading on a loop.

...and, finally, while ESPN2's Pam Shriver finally realized that a certain Belgian named Flipkens was actually named "Kirsten," Tennis Channel's Martina Navratilova was overhead called her "Kristen" on Day 7.

Well, Shriver and Martina DID used to play doubles together... so I'm still going to have to blame Pammy for this.

#1 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. Elena Vesnina/RUS
#10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
#3 Serena Williams/USA vs. #14 Maria Kirilenko/RUS
Bojana Jovanovski/SRB vs. #29 Sloane Stephens/USA
#6 Li Na/CHN def. #18 Julia Goerges/GER
#4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL def. #13 Ana Ivanovic/SRB
19 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS def. #5 Angelique Kerber/GER
#2 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Kirsten Flipkens/BEL

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #15 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI
#5 Tomas Berdych/CZE def. Kevin Anderson/RSA
#4 David Ferrer/ESP def. #16 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#10 Nicolas Almagro/ESP def. #8 Janko Tipsarevic/SRB
Jeremy Chardy/FRA vs. #21 Andreas Seppi/ITA
#14 Gilles Simon/FRA vs. #3 Andy Murray/GBR
#7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #9 Richard Gasquet/FRA
#13 Milos Raonic/CAN vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. #12 Williams/Williams (USA/USA)
#4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) vs. Soler-Espinosa/Suarez-Navarro (ESP/ESP)
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Bracciali/Dlouhy (BRA/CZE)
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
Bellucci/Paire (BRA/FRA) vs. #13 Granollers/M.Lopez (ESP/ESP)

2006 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2007 Shahar Peer, ISR
2008 Casey Dellacqua, AUS
2009 Carla Suarez-Navarro, ESP
2010 Maria Kirilenko, RUS
2011 An-Sophie Mestach, BEL (jr.)
2012 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
2013 Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN

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): 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson/GBR d. #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE 2-6/6-3/11-9
TOP LAVER NIGHT MATCH: 2nd Rd. - Laura Robson/GBR d. #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE 2-6/6-3/11-9
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 QUALIFIERS STANDING: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR & Valeria Savinykh/RUS (3rd Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: #9 Samantha Stosur (2nd Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: E.Makarova, M.Kirilenko, B.Jovanovski, S.Stephens, E.Vesnina
IT (Fortysomething): Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN (at 42, oldest AO MD match winner)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: S.Kuznetsova, C.Wozniacki
CRASH & BURN: #9 Samantha Stosur/AUS (lost to J.Zheng in 2nd Round; led 5-2 in 3rd and served for match at 5-2 and 5-4)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (down 3-0 in the 3rd set vs. Lisicki in 1st Rd.; had lost back-to-back 1st Rd. slam matches)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Early Nominees: L.Robson, M.Sharapova

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, based on what happened on Laver AFTER The Radwanska had left the building, it looks like the aftereffects of The Rad linger for a while... and Its influence is able to jump tours, too.

Said Novak as he walked on court, "(Sniff, sniff) I think I still smell Rad."

And he was right. Things are getting dangerous in Melbourne, man

Sun Jan 20, 12:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.

The Threat Level has been appropriately adjusted.

Sun Jan 20, 12:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

I suspect It's only just getting warmed up :)

Sun Jan 20, 04:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

I've been wanting to comment on Kuznet's comeback for days now, but have refrain to do it by fear of cursing her (one curse is enough for a lifetime). I'm so glad she's back, she's been my favourite player out there for many years now, and seeing her competitive again, it's great! I'm almost as ecstatic as when she won RG!

There's only one problem, though. Does anyone know how to make nails grow faster?

Sun Jan 20, 09:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

I'm sure you disagree but read on. An exciting and mostly well battled match with a wrong winner. Svetlana used unsporty playwise but it's of course the methods you can use if you need a break. She should have lost the first game in set 3 because the break was way too long - she did ged 1 warning but way too little. The umpire may have had a different watch than the audience because it was about 3 minutes wrong. She had a medical timeout - for what?? - again it was a matter of breaking the rythm. Extremely long servetime - should have had a warning there. Yes Svetlana is back with all her dirty tricks - sorry. And again I think Caroline is playing ok and I definitely see her back in top 10 within the next month or so. I still have one favourite left Aga so ill root for her - sorry Todd but I like Aga. Wonder when Caroline will have an easier draw than she's had the last month

Sun Jan 20, 09:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

I don't think that was unsporty. Yes, I also found the timeout between the second and third sets very long, but with retrospect, it does appear that it was due to the blisters, so though the warning was deserved, the reason looks fine to me. Same for the medical timeout. As for the longer serve time after that long rally, it lasted only 2 points (that she lost anyway), the time that she took her breath a little. Players have always done that after long rallies, even on the men's side, and I find it reasonable when not done excessively. After all, the conditions remain the same for both players.

In an over ten-year career, I never heard players finding Kuznet unsporty or complain in ahy way; it's actually the opposite, other players usually praise her for her attitude both on and off the court. I think this tells more about the intent behind the timeouts than what they initially appeared to be.

If that must be unsporty, the systematic "Come on" that Wozniacki was shouting at almost every single point she won in the third set should be brought into the discussion. It can be seen both as a way to disturb the opponent or as a competitive mindset. Since I guess I tend to be lenient, I consider it as competitive mindset from Wozniacki, but the commentators were not as tolerant as I was.

Sun Jan 20, 10:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Well, at the very least, I'd think it's probably a good thing, in Caro's case, that she's getting worked up ON the court rather than off it when she's being questioned about her ranking, coach, etc. For example, as petulant as her little argument with the umpire in today's match -- on that one Kuznetsova serve that was overturned by replay and ruled the Russian's point -- might have appeared, I actually made a notation in my notes that read, "Woz cares" when she did it... because a few times last year, I wondered. At times over the past year, she's seemed more intent on arguing with her critics than she was her fighting to prove them wrong on the court.

Just getting back to the place where she was about eighteen months ago will elevate her ranking, as it won't likely take until autumn to win a title like it did in '12. So, if she's playing to get back within striking distance of a Top 5 ranking, she seems to be on the right course. Anything beyond that, well, that sort of goes back to all those Wozniology-101 discussions we used to have. :)

Yeah, it's nice to have Kuznetsova and all her gut-wrenching and sometimes-frustrating (see 2nd set) traits back on tour. On TC, Navratilova said she was surprised when Sveta's game went down so much in the 2nd set, and it made me wonder if she was having selective amnesia. After all, even before her knee injury, Kuznetsova was apt as to follow up a 6-1-ish set with a 1-6 one, or vice versa, depending on her mood and the phase of the moon.

And, Leif, I like Aga, too. It's The Rad that I fear. That said, A-Rad vs. Serena with the fate of the known world at stake would be MUST-SEE tennis!

Sun Jan 20, 10:50:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

What surprised me most about Kuznet's win is that she managed to finish her two sets on serve without drama. Normally, it's much easier for her to finish a set by breaking her opponent, and serving to close a set is usually when she "chooses" to tumble in never-ending multiple-deuce games. Not this time!

Sun Jan 20, 11:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

The top 4 women are playing at an unbelievable level. Their opponents aren't playing badly and the scores are all so lop-sided. Amazing.


I was also a little surprised by the lengthy delay between the 2nd and 3rd from Kuznetsova, but when they said it was blisters it made more sense.

I think both players played a great match today. Kuznetsova is like Gael Monfils...all the shots, strength, and speed...but questionable shot selection...but she's an artist so it's beautiful to see when all cylinders are firing

I liked how Woz went after her backhand...but I think the effectiveness of that shot today was aided by the fact that Kuznetsova left the entire court open by continuously hitting her inside out forehand...But credit to Wozniacki for recognizing that and taking advantage.

But I think Woz *is* improving. Her serve is better AND at times today, she was really trying to create offensively. She also went to the net to finish off points. Her movement and mental strength remain tremendous.

I was glad that Kuznetsova won since I feel like it's been so long since she won a close match; but I was also glad that Wozniacki showed improvement.


And sidenote -- as I was writing this comment, Vika won her match. What the heck?! So fast...

Sun Jan 20, 11:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Hey Leif,

I know how you feel...when your favorite goes out, it's a terrible feeling...

But just curious, do you see a difference between the way Aga and Wozniacki play?

I feel like the Aga of the last 18 months is always looking to make the offensive shot. Like she's looking to direct play...and if she's in a defensive position, she works the point until she can make the offensive shot. She does this with great court awareness and she always knows where her opponent is.

I think this is why so many people are enamored with Aga...bc she is somehow always in control of the point despite her lack of power and strength. It's almost like she's weaving a spell on her opponent and all the spectators.

With Caroline...sometimes I feel like she's on autopilot and just thinking "keep the ball in...keep the ball in...they're going to miss". And opponents now are not missing... Caroline needs to direct play if she's going to win as often as she was.

I don't think any of us dislikes Caroline (or at least I don't), so i hope you don't feel like we're ganging up on you...i personally want her to make these small adjustments -- like Aga has -- so that she can win matches on her terms. Not when others combust in a pile of errors. I don't see that as Caroline winning...but the other player losing.

Anyway...hope you get enough sleep for's late where you are...(or where I think you

Sun Jan 20, 11:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Zidane! It's been so long! Hope you are well! :)

Yes, i thought the same thing when Kuzzie was serving for the sets...I was this really going to happen? Lol

Sun Jan 20, 11:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

gut check time for Sloane.

I can't tell if she's being passive or if Bojana has control...she certainly plays at a very fast pace

Mon Jan 21, 01:33:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Bojana is blowing Sloane away wiht her bellows.

Mon Jan 21, 01:35:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Serena better watch out...those sponsorship dollars are going to be heading in Sloane's direction...good look, great personality, young, fresh slate, no bad history...

however, she wouldn't have as successful of an endorsement career without the williams sisters...

Mon Jan 21, 02:01:00 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

SOrry, my comments are a bit stream of consciousness...but don't you feel like sloane is actually a mixture between venus and serena. she has the cool/poise/mystery/quiet of venus and the charisma of serena...

and Murray is super built...or maybe i haven't seen him in a while...

Mon Jan 21, 02:10:00 AM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Sloane has gone from being a silly (and very entertaining) motor-mouth adolescent to a cheeky, much more poised older adolescent. She has a really great presence and has made a huge improvement in mental strength.

Her junior doubles record, by the way, is quite impressive, so I hope we get to see her in some doubles matches.

Todd, I thought the same thing when Navratilova said that, and she probably can't be totally objective about Kuznetsova, her protege and former doubles partner.

Mon Jan 21, 02:26:00 AM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

First - thank you for not "slaughtering" me completely. I admit that I was carried away at the moment of writing and a little harsh to Svetlana - sorry about that. That said Zidane I think blisters call for a medical timeout doesn't it? - or am i completely wrong and then she can't have a second medical timeout shortly after if at all. She used about 9 minutes in the break. The come ons were in 90% AFTER the point and that doesn't disturb me. A really insecure umpire is what ruined a bit of the match - hope you agree on that. Todd the point arguement - Ive seen it again and i must say that I think Caro was right and the least the umpire could have done was to replay the point but maybe slamqueens get a special treatment. Eric i like your fair comments about the match thank you. And Todd I think I've found out what the Rad is - it's a Scandinavian nisse. They are sometimes of almost evil kind trying to spoil things for those they dislike. SO maybe Aga remebered to put out the riceporridge to the Rad around X-mas and the X-masses before - just a thought. Me I'm just a lousy amateur never played tennis but a passionate fan of womens tennis. Dislike mens tennis where you can't enjoy the gameplay in the same way and women look better :-) Serena - Aga will be THE match when we come so far and that will be in the final - and I hope that the nisse will help her again - he, he.

Mon Jan 21, 03:10:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, the mysteries of The Radwanska abound. ;)

Mon Jan 21, 01:23:00 PM EST  

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