Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Istanbul Day 2- 1, 2, 3, 4... who in Istanbul wants a whole lot more? (And Vika is noticeably silent.)

On Day 2 in Istanbul, the veterans came out to play, and (mostly) dominate.

With the four top seeded players in action on Wednesday at the WTA Championships, one of the themes of recent seasons -- that veterans often rule -- played out on the court. With two thirtysomethings prowling the court, the average age of today's winners was 30.3 years, as this tournament continues to search for its first three-setter.

Here's a recap of Day 2's matches:

(4) Li/CHN d. (6) Errani/ITA 6-3/7-6(4)
...after injuring her calf yesterday, there was a question whether or not Sara Errani would compete in singles for the rest of this event, what with being in the doubles draw, as well as the Fed Cup final next week. But here the Italian was on the other side of the net as Li made her '13 debut in Istanbul. Ah, can you hear Caro sigh? She didn't seem to be bothered by the injury, though the bright blue tape stretching from heel-to-thigh on BOTH legs was a little hard to miss. Still, Errani came in having lost ten straight sets to Li, and she was able to do nothing to change that recent history today. A double-fault on break point handed Li a 4-2 advantage in the 1st set, which she went on to take 6-3. In the 2nd, though, some of the lingering inconsistency in the Chinese vet's game resurfaced. Carlos Rodriguez or no Carlos Rodriguez, some of the spots of Li's game have not been changed. Errani led 3-1, but gave the break back a game later. Li had the chance to serve out the match at 5-4 and 6-5, but was broken both times and failed to convert a match point. As occurred yesterday vs. Azarenka, Errani took at 3-1 in the tie-break here, but wasn't able to close it out. After Li took a 6-3 lead, the Italian saved two match points, but wasn't able to do so a third time. At 0-2 with no sets won, Errani is essentially out of this round robin competition, so you have to wonder if Wozniacki might actually get on the court in Errani's next scheduled match on Friday against Jankovic. Speaking of...

(7) Jankovic/SRB d. (2) Azarenka/BLR 6-4/6-3 the second match, Azarenka tried to double her cumulative post-U.S. Open win total with a victory over JJ. Against one of best returners in the game, Vika once more got off to a slow start and had difficulty holding serve. But Azarenka's own return game been her saving grace through the back half of '13 as her second serve has bedeviled her on a regular basis, and it helped keep the 1st set from quickly getting away here. Still, it was the Serb who played the important points best. After falling down 40/love in Game #5, she followed up her break for 2-1 with another for 3-2. In an eleven-minute game, JJ held for 5-3. After saving two set points, Azarenka held for 5-4, but then had an error-strewn game a few minutes later, ultimately pulling a crosscourt backhand on another set point as Jankovic won the 1st at 6-4. The 2nd set, for the most part, was more of the same. Azarenka opened the set with a double-fault and soon missed an overhead, though she held serve after facing two break points. In Game #2, she made Jankovic work for her own service game, but JJ finally held on her sixth game point. A game later, Azarenka had her serve broken yet again. Down 3-1, Azarenka double-faulted to fall down 15/40, but managed to fight off six break points in a three-DF game that lasted thirteen and a half minutes as she held serve with the "French touch" drop shot she used so effectively at the U.S. Open. During that game, Queen Chaos poked her head out of the ground to see what was going on, as JJ lightly hit back an out Azarenka 1st serve. Vika wasn't watching, and she ultimately had to duck at the baseline while preparing to serve and watched the ball bounce directly above her head. Oh, the stare she shot back at QC was priceless... though JJ had a hard time suppressing a slight laugh at the situation, even as she "apologized." Even better, though, was Tennis Channel's Lindsay Davenport noting how Jankovic has always annoyingly hit back out balls, and once even hit HER in the head with one. She, like Vika, was not pleased. Down the stretch, Azarenka looked tired, and her recent talk about scheduling things better next year seems to have much validity as she's been more than "off" in 2013's closing months. Serving down 5-3, Azarenka's fight was M.I.A.. A weak mid-court backhand effort was netted, and JJ won in straight sets to get her first win over a Top 4 player in over three years, ending a 0-17 mud slide for the former world #1. While Jankovic was all smiles after another affirming victory late in this WTA season, Vika was off the court in a flash. Once she was gone, you got the sense she just wants 2013 to end so that she can have some rest and move on, and her post-match comments about searching for motivation to play at the moment more than backed up the notion. And all that might play a big role in her final match, against Li on Friday in a contest that could determine one of the semifinalists to emerge from the White Group.

(1) S.Williams/USA d. (3) A.Radwanska/POL 6-2/6-4
...hmmm, one had to think that it wasn't a really good sign that Aga's coach was spotted in the stands watching the Azarenka/Jankovic match rather than preparing his charge to face off with Serena in the next scheduled contest. Of course, after the way Radwanska played against Kvitova yesterday, maybe he realized it was a waste of time. If A-Rad is going to sit back and let power players have their way with her game without really even trying to put up much of a fight, a coach can only say the same thing so many times before he or she gives up because the advice is just going in one ear and out the other. In her pre-match interview, Aga said all the right things about "trying her best" and "maybe having a better result" than the bad one she had on Day 1. But, basically, you could tell she just didn't want to get beaten TOO badly. Unlike in the 2012 Wimbledon final vs. Williams, where the Pole forced Williams to three sets in her best-ever outing against her, the thought of actually being able to win the match wasn't really taking up too much space in her head. Of course, the All-England Club holds a certain Radwanskian appeal to her... as we and so many top-ranked players saw at SW19 this summer. At the start, before Serena really got into the match, Radwanska actually had two break points on Williams' serve. She didn't convert either, and went on to lose in straight sets. But Aga didn't play nearly as ineffectually as the final scoreline, or at least the in-match one that read 6-2/3-1, might suggest, as she often made Williams' service games last longer than might typically be the case. Radwanska finally got a break of serve on her ninth break point attempt of the night to get back on serve at 3-2 in the 2nd after Serena's game included just enough unforced errors to keep her from racing to the finish line as quickly as she'd prefer. She even held serve and threatened to inch close to having another break chance. But it never happened. Mid-way through Game #9, Serena clicked the "on" switch back into an upright position, solidly closed out her service game and then took it to A-Rad a game later, pulling off a b-e-a-u-tiful drop shot and then put away the match with a mid-court backhand. Howl and clenched fist immediately followed. WTA Championships title #4 is probably only four days away.

...ALSO SEEN IN THE STANDS: Carlos Rodriguez. In the shadows. After Li's match, during Azarenka/Jankovic. So, naturally, knowing that cameras wouldn't regularly be aimed at him, he went sans his advertising placard... err, I mean cap.

...Meanwhile, the Fed Cup rosters have been released, and the troubles stalking the Russian Federation (no, not The Rad... at least I don't think so) are no longer able to hide in the shadows. While the Italians will field a sterling, though Schiavone-less, team consisting of Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp, the Hordettes in Cagliari, Sardinia will be Alisa Kleybanova, Alexandra Panova, Irina Khromacheva and Margarita Gasparyan. None of them are ranked in the Top 100.

Yeah, that's the team in the FC final, not in a World Group II playoff scenario.

Russians left and right are either injured (Sharapova & Makarova), playing in Sofia instead (Kirilenko, Pavlyuchenkova & Vesnina) or made themselves unavailable (Kuznetsova & Gavrilova). All or much of this stems from the players' dispute with the federation over a lack of support and other issues, and their "virtual boycott" of the final is a truly embarrassing moment for the Russian tennis authorities, the Fed Cup and the WTA, as the totally unessential TOC shouldn't even be scheduled in the same week as the FC so that it could be used as a minor excuse in a situation such as this.

...and, finally, on some levels it looks like the "face of Backspin" and Backspin sort of think alike, considering Vika has offered up the possibility of the men playing best-of-three matches at the slams. A few weeks ago, when Stacey Allaster talked of the women being willing to play best-of-five matches after yet another bit of squawking by an ATP player about the women not providing as much entertainment for the same prize money in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York, I suggested the idea of both the men and women playing best-of-three in the early rounds, then both switching to best-of-five at some point later, either in the Round of 16, QF or SF. The potential for exciting early-round upsets would increase on the men's side, overall scheduling would be less harried, and both sides would be playing the same number of sets, but the prospect of a classic five-setter in the latter stages of a tournament wouldn't be lost.

75-4...Serena Williams
56-18...Agnieszka Radwanska
50-21...Petra Kvitova
49-24...Roberta Vinci
48-17...Simona Halep
46-18...Jelena Jankovic
46-24...Sara Errani
44-22...Angelique Kerber
43-8...Victoria Azarenka
43-26...Carla Suarez-Navarro
41-13...Li Na

All for now.


Blogger 224jax said...

Would someone study the statistics concerning (at least (1.) average on-court time (2.) number of deuce games played (3.) playing a Let ball, (4.) time lost due to injury, etc. before implementing something based on the complaints of a few people?

Men and women are physically different. Women may be willing to play all these sets but are they able. The women's game today is much more physical than the tennis game prior to the 1990's. Some of the women are already exhausted by the time the French Open is played.

Your idea of 3 sets until the round of 16 in a Grand Slam sounds reasonable. What about 3 sets before and 5 sets after reaching round 16? Time is already at a premium; weather is also a factor. The qualifiers who are able to make it to day 1 of any GS tournament are already worn down. If the men AND women play 5 sets throughout any GS tournament, how long would the tournament go on - 3 weeks - 4 weeks?

A person who falls between the ranking of #16 to #32 and would have a distinct advantage in a GS tournament over players ranked #1 to #15 and Qualifiers.

Wed Oct 23, 06:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I agree it's simply not feasible, time-wise and probably otherwise, for everyone to play five sets at slams. As I said a few weeks ago after Allaster's comments, switching the women to best-of-5 would mean the event would need to go about 17-18 days, and the 15-day slams are already too long.

If you go back and look, what you suggested about best-of-3 early, then best-of-5 later in a slam is actually what I suggested. ;)

It seems like a good compromise.

Although, a case can be made that if the women trained for best-of-5 matches rather than best-of-3 they might not be as worn down late in the season. Fitness is often the one thing that keeps some WTA players from reaching their potential, and when their results pick up it's their improvement in that area that is almost always given much of the credit.

I really do think the best-of-3/best-of-5 combination at slams would be a good thing. The top players would have to train for the possibility of five sets, while some of those boring 1/2/2 men's matches in the early rounds would be eliminated and maybe things in the first week wouldn't get backed up so much due to weather, either. If anyone complains about fans in attendance not getting their money's worth... well, the reduction would actually mean a day session ticket in one of the stadiums would probably get a whole extra scheduled match.

Wed Oct 23, 06:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Reading this now is really interesting. Good call on Pennetta. And on Sukova. Personally, I think Stosurs a lock to go in at some point.

Sun Apr 09, 04:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I read your hall of famers feature but hit the wrong button and commented on here instead. I do apologize. So apply ^ to the next article haha

Sun Apr 09, 04:44:00 AM EDT  

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