Friday, January 17, 2014

AO 5 - Pop Goes the Stosur

On Day 5, at around 5 p.m., the brutal heat wave that has dominated the conversation and day-to-day existence of the first week of this Australian Open finally broke. The temperature fell twenty-four degrees in an hour and a half.

But that didn't mean that weather-related (and other) drama wasn't going to continue once the sun went down. After all, Sam Stosur had yet to see the court in the 3rd Round.

Things didn't look as if they were going to get complicated in the 1st set, though, as Stosur once again started strongly at Rod Laver Arena against Ana Ivanovic. When AnaIvo barely got a racket on a Stosur passing shot, the Aussie got the match's first break of serve to go up 4-3. She held for 5-3, forcing the Serb to hold to stay in the set. When Ivanovic hit a second serve that was called out, Stosur retrieved her towel from a ball kid and headed for the changeover area with the 1st set in hand.

Ah, but wait. Ivanovic challenged the call, and she was right.

Stosur gave back the towel, and play continued. Ivanovic hit another serve that was called out on her next shot. She challenged it, too. Again, she was right. AnaIvo ended up holding for 5-4. Stosur still had the chance to serve out the set, and she held three more sets points on her serve in game #10. But AnaIvo pulled out her stinging forehand to save the day and get the break.

The set went to a tie-break, where Stosur grabbed a 2-0 lead, then saw her forehand falter as Ivanovic won six of seven points to get to triple set point at 6-3. After Stosur saved two, Ivanovic double-faulted on the third to knot things at 6-6. After failing to convert SP #5, Stosur grabbed another advantage at 8-7 when, during a point in which the weather went from dry to pouring down rain in a matter of seconds, Ivanovic saw Stosur slightly stumble on the suddenly slippery court during the rally, then, as the crowd reacted to the growing shower, she netted a forehand that gave the Aussie a sixth SP. As everyone on court scattered in what was now a downpour, AnaIvo tried to get chair umpire Mariana Alves (yes, naturally, she was there for such a moment) to consider replaying the point, but was immediately rebuffed.

Twenty-five minutes later, after the Laver roof was closed and the court dried, Ivanovic saved the dangling set point, but then gave Stosur a seventh when she overcooked a forehand. Up 9-8, Stosur served wide and then moved forward to put away an easy forehand winner to claim the set that she'd thought was hers about forty minutes earlier. Suddenly, Stosur's career 16-0 AO mark when she wins the 1st set was in play.

Having felt "robbed" during the rain point, then having failed to rebound once the rain delay was over and losing the set, Ivanovic opened the 2nd by going up 40/love on Stosur's serve, only to fail to break. Her frustration was evident, but so was her desire to get in the match by firing winners. She got a break to go up 3-2, and held the advantage until she served things out for 6-4 on her second set point when Stosur couldn't handle the Serb's big second serve.

Early in the 3rd, Ivanovic's barrage of winners continued as she broke the Aussie to begin the set, then took a 2-0 lead while losing just one point. In game #6, AnaIvo saved a break point and held for 4-2. A game later, the Serb's pulverizing service returns prevented Stosur from serving her way back into the set. A clean forehand return winner gave Ivanovic a break point, and when the Aussie couldn't get back another big forehand Ivanovic had a two-break lead at 5-2, with a chance to serve out the match. Fittingly, on match point, AnaIvo blasted a wide serve that Stosur had to stretch to return, then the Serb put away her thirty-second forehand winner to end the 6-7(8)/6-4/6-2 match.

Contrary to what one might have anticipated from these two, neither player folded under the pressure of this match. Of course, with Serena awaiting the winner in the Round of 16, why be a worry wart NOW? This was a good, high-quality match, and Ivanovic won it rather than Stosur having lost it. The Serb, a Week 1 champion in Auckland, continues to slowly climb back into the conversation after the long lag time in finding an elusive "Second Act" following her '08 Roland Garros title run. With her ranking edging back toward the Top 10 (#14), she might just have a shot to finish the season there for the first time since '08 if her surge can be a full-year thing.

Recent history trends says it might be, too.

This Round of 16 result is her third straight at the AO, and her eighth in the last ten slams, after having had just one in the previous eight before her current run. A finalist in this tournament six years ago, Ivanovic will surely have her work cut out for her next round (she admitted she might have to be twice as good as tonight). While Stosur has two wins over Williams in slams, AnaIvo has never beaten her, going 0-4 against Serena for her career.

But why express sympathy now for what will likely be her ultimate fate at this event? Night 5, after it looked like quite the opposite might be the case, belonged to AnaIvo. Enjoy the now.

...unless you count the it's-hard-to-really-depend-on-her-anymore #6 seed Petra Kvitova, there hasn't been a truly big women's seed to fall at this AO, even with the additional opponent of the heat thrown into the equation. Maria Sharapova came very close yesterday, but #4 Li Na came even closer today. Against #26 Lucie Safarova, Li saved a match point before seizing the momentum of the match and surging into her fifth straight AO Round of 16.

Early on, for the first time at this event, Li had difficulty getting out of the blocks. Safarova controlled the opening set, winning 6-1 and keeping the '13 runner-up at bay throughout most of the 2nd. Down 5-4, Li held serve after coming within two points of going out. Two games later, she had to do so again. This time, she fell down love/30, then saw the Czech reach match point. Safarova attempted to end a rally with a down-the-line winner, only just just missed the shot long. She challenged the call, to no avail. Li held for 6-6, then rushed to a 4-0 lead in the tie-break before winning it 7-2.

In the 3rd, Safarova, with her serving shoulder taped and her right thigh heavily strapped, began to gradually fall away. She netted a Li return and was broken for 5-3, then Li served things out 1-6/7-6(2)/6-3 to push her 2014 record to 8-0.

Whether Li just became this slam's "Zombie Queen" is debatable, but she's at least the first contender to stare down a match point and live to tell about it. Often times, that's when a player "turns."

...earlier in the day, top-seeded Serena Williams showed the first (slight) signs of being (slightly) fallible at this Australian Open. Early on in her match against #31-seed Daniela Hantuchova, she got off to a "sloggy" start and took a while to get her footwork figured out. Still, she took a break lead for 4-2 in the 1st set. Serving at 5-3, she fell behind love/40. But, no matter, she simply twice saved break points with second serves, one an ace to get to deuce. She won the set 6-3, with Hantuchova failing to convert on five BP chances.

Williams broke the Slovak to begin the 2nd set, but then saw Hantuchova break her serve (at love) for the first time at this AO for 3-3. Naturally, though, Serena got the break back a game later. She took the match 6-3/6-3 despite putting in just 48% of her first serves in for the match. The win runs her career record against Hantuchova to 9-1 and passes Margaret Court for the most career women's match wins (61) at the Australian Open. This is Williams' forty-fifth career slam Round of 16, her eleventh in Melbourne and her seventh consecutive in a grand slam. other 3rd Round matches, #30 Eugenie Bouchard, with her new/growing fan base cheering her on from the stands, defeated Lauren Davis to reach her first career slam Round of 16. #9 Angelique Kerber advanced to her second straight AO 4th Round by taking out Alison Riske, and #28 Flavia Pennetta advanced past Mona Barthel and into her third straight slam Round of 16.

#22 Ekaterina Makarova defeated Monica Niculesu, assuring the Hordettes of having at least one member of the Round of 16 for the fifty-third time in the last fifty-four slams (only missing out at last year's Wimbledon). Wild card Casey Dellacqua, after taking a brief dip after being treated by trainers in the 2nd set, eliminated Zheng Jie in straight sets to reach her second career slam Round of 16. Her other result came at the AO in 2008.

Later, Stosur's night session loss on Laver made Dellacqua the "Last Aussie Standing." doubles, #2-seeds Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai cut off at the knees (sorry, I just watched the ESPN "30 for 30" documentary on the Harding/Kerrigan story) their best chance to take away the #1 ranking from Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci at the end of this tournament, losing 7-5/3-6/6-4 today to the team of Silvia Soler-Espinosa & Shahar Peer. Meanwhile, defending champs Errani/Vinci defeated Kaia Kanepi & Renata Voracova 1-6/6-1/6-1.

Elsewhere, the Williams Sisters pulled out of the doubles, citing a lower leg injury to Venus... though the idea of giving Serena, who delayed her post-match interviews today because she said she was dizzy and wasn't feeling well, a rest is probably the more likely story. Of course, this allowed Kristina Mladenovic & Flavia Pennetta to breathe a sigh of relief. Rather than face Williams/Williams, they got Naydenova/Pereira in their 1st Round match today. They won 6-1/6-2.

...classic Vika, circa 2012:

...DAY 5 "LIKE":

Tennis Channel's Martina Navratilova laughing at the sight of a thatch of clothes tags sticking out the back of Safarova's top during her match with Li, as well as when video was shown of a boy standing directly over the spout in one of the water fountains on the grounds, allowing the stream to shoot up from underneath his shirt, then out the neck hole.


Bouchard's on-set interview with ESPN2 was scheduled to take place around the end of the 1st set of Stosur/Ivanovic, but ended up being the perfect time filler while the roof was closed on Laver after that sudden rain burst. There was even time to show the Canadian another impromptu dance/cheer by the maple leap-clad Team Genie (mostly Aussie) fans that have been following around and serenading the 19-year throughout this first week. With Australian Dellacqua up next, Bouchard semi-joked that "they'd better" continue to cheer for her this weekend.

...and, finally, this from the other day from Bouchard, who shook hands at the net with Virginie Razzano after their 2nd Round match, then paused and leaned in to give her a kiss, as well. “I just thought because she was French they do the kissy thing,” said Quebec native Bouchard, “I thought she maybe kind of wanted to. I was hesitating. I just kind of went for it.”

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #14 Ana Ivanovic/SRB
(WC) Casey Dellacqua/AUS vs. #30 Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
#4 Li Na/CHN vs. #22 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
#9 Angelique Kerber/GER vs. #28 Flavia Pennetta/ITA
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#7 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. x
Florian Mayer/GER vs. #3 David Ferrer/ESP
#8 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI vs. x
x vs. x

60...Margaret Court
56...Lindsay Davenport
52...Martina Hingis
47...Steffi Graf
56...Stefan Edberg
48...Andre Agassi
48...Ivan Lendl
45...Pete Sampras

2008 Casey Dellacqua (4th Rd.)
2009 Jelena Dokic (QF)
2010 Samantha Stosur (4th Rd.)
2011 Samantha Stosur (3rd Rd.)
2012 Casey Dellacqua, Jelena Dokic & Olivia Rogowska (2nd Rd.)
2013 Samantha Stosur (2nd Rd.)
2014 Casey Dellacqua (in 4th Rd.)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Cristina Mitu/ROU def. #4 Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER 3-6/6-4/9-7
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #3 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Karin Knapp/ITA 6-3/4-6/10-8
FIRST VICTORY: #18 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL (def. Laura Robson/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #7 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Julia Goerges, GER)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (top-seeded #7 Errani & #12 Vinci out 1st Round; Schiavone out 1st Rd. 5/6 slams)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Zarina Diyas/KAZ (in 3rd. Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (in 4th Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (in 4th Rd.)
IT (TBD): E.Bouchard, C.Dellacqua
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: J.Zheng, C.Dellacqua (singles), A.Ivanovic
CRASH & BURN: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (lost 1st Rd. to world #88 Luksika Kumkhum; worst slam result since losing 1st Rd. at '11 U.S. Open following Wimbledon title run)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees...
#22 E.Makarova (1st Rd. - down 3-0 in 3rd vs. V.Williams)
#13 S.Stephens (1st Rd. - down 5-1, w/ Shvedova twice serving for 1st set; 2nd Rd. - Tomljanovic served for match)
#30 Bouchard (2nd Rd. - no on 6 MP in 2nd set vs. Razzano, saves 2 SP in 2nd; wins on 7th MP)
#3 M.Sharapova (2nd Rd. - goes 3:28 vs. Knapp, no on 3 MP at 5-4 in 3rd, wins on 4th MP for 10-8 final set)
#16 C.Suarez-Navarro (2nd Rd. - down 5-2 in 3rd vs. Voskoboeva, who served for match at 5-4; CSN won 8-6)
#4 Li (3rd Rd. - saved MP vs. Safarova)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to (LL) Falconi/USA, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy); 7 con. slam losses; 22 1st Round exits in 47 slams
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominees: A.Ivanovic, S.Williams

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Hoergren said...

What was/is grotesque is that they don't close the roof when it's raining when it's too hot. Yesterday when Caroline played she's undercover because temperature rose to 44 centigrades! - why wait until players are "well done", fainting or vomiting - a disgrace. AO was warned 10 minutes before the tiebrake with minor drops and they should have covered the court. What was quite funny aftrerwards was that an army of ballkids were using towels to get the court dry again. In other tournaments they have tools for that so I was LOFLOL. What amateurs IMHO. Luckily it ended with the right winner and of course that tiebrake point should have been replayed.

Fri Jan 17, 07:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, the AO is way ahead of the others when it comes to the complex: the first with a roof, then a second roof. And, now, in a pretty quick turn around a THIRD court roof next year. Meanwhile, it takes the U.S. Open decades to get things done.

But the people making the decisions of actually running the tournament as conditions change and good heads on one's shoulders are important, they seem to falter. Wimbledon is so much better organized and run, pretty much always ending on time, even with so many more delays and only recently having one roofed court.

Sure, there are "problematic issues" there, too, but as far as keeping things running like clockwork, it's hard to argue with it.

Fri Jan 17, 04:47:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

Radwanska loses first set, gets broken early in the second, but then sees Pavlyuchenkova obviously troubled by some health issues.

Time to bring The Radwanska alert chart?

Fri Jan 17, 11:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

ah todd, you must be liking vika's performance tonight. wow, it was almost like a year since i saw this kind of level in doha last feb. alert, high intensity, very good angles, moving forward, aggressive and fast play. can't ask for more. well, maybe if she didn't get broken that one time early in first set, that would be perfect.

when i thought vika is pretty bad in closing matches, maria is coming on top in this AO. so not like her. somehow i see a resemblance of her in USO 2012 when she seemed very edgy on court.

aga, was a bit lucky when anatasia went away in 2nd set. but next match will be intriguing. wozzy...not surprised when she meets big hitters.

i like bouchard, can't wait to see her meet serena again in QF. she took a set off her last year...mmm...yummy.

Sat Jan 18, 08:12:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Hmmm, I think the Radwanska Alert is (at least) temporarily on hiatus until the news comes in from the North about the fate of the world. :)


Yes, very pleased by Vika. I think she recognizes she's going to have to play better if she's going to accomplish anything in this slam. Amazingly, she cleaned things up before the final this time, too. Hopefully it'll continue. ;)

Sat Jan 18, 03:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger jo shum said...

She will have to. Cannot imagine the consequence of the media. Oh well, added pressure.

Sat Jan 18, 07:36:00 PM EST  

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