Tuesday, August 26, 2014

US.2 - Of a Curse and a Kid

I'd congratulate Marina Erakovic on her 1st Round win today over Svetlana Kuznetsova but, you know, I already did that yesterday.

Such is a slam in which the Kuznetsova Curse flexes is still strong muscles.

I guess I could just see this result coming, having picked Sveta to win the tournament title on the tenth anniversary of her '04 championship run in New York. Of course, there was really no great reason why Kuznetsova couldn't have won today. She claimed the opening set, only to quickly fall down 3-0 in the 2nd and be forced to a 3rd. Still, in the deciding set, the Hordette went up a break at 1-0. Then gave it back. She went a break up again at 3-2, then came back from 15/40 down to hold for 4-2. She served for the match at 5-4. Naturally, she was broken. Things went to a final set tie-break, and Sveta soon found herself playing from behind throughout. Erakovic won it 7-3 to take the match 3-6/6-2/7-6(3). It's the New Zealander's first career MD win at the U.S. Open. To add insult to injury, Kuznetsova double-faulted on match point.

Meanwhile, Kuznetsova is out of a slam in the 1st Round for the third time in 2014 (she reached the QF in Paris, after having put up a pair of QF runs in '13). Before this season, she'd only been ousted in her opening match at a major on two occasions since she won the Open title in 2004. This is the first time she's lost in the 1st Round in NYC since her title defense year in 2005.

So, any thoughts that the nearly-a-decade-old Kuznetsova Curse has lost any of its lethal touch can be filed away in the proverbial round folder. Of course, I guess Serena's awful slam year after I predicted a Grand Slam in December had sort of already made that crystal clear. Now, though, we'll see if the Curse will still apply to Serena at this Open (she opens vs. Taylor Townsend tonight on Ashe), or if Kuznetsova's early exit will reverse the Curse in Williams' favor and she's now destined to win slam #18 in less than two weeks time.

Meanwhile there will be no "You don't know Jack!" campaigns anytime soon, either. I mentioned that yesterday, and then today Sock retired after three sets in his 1st Round match.

Hmmm, maybe "The Kuznetsova Curse" should be this season's "Ms.Backspin?"

...any notion that this U.S. Open was going to get out of the 1st Round without the birth of a Cinderella story was put to bed by a 15-year old on Day 2.

Meanwhile, Dominika Cibulkova's odd 2014 continues. After changing rackets, the Slovak began the year by reaching the Australian Open final, but her up-and-down season ever since left her in 1-5 and 5-10 ruts coming into New York. Today she faced off in the 1st Round with American wild card CiCi Bellis, the youngest player in the draw and the youngest winner of the USTA 18s National Championship since Lindsay Davenport in '91.

The teenager came out firing and took the opening set 6-1. Taking a bit of time to get over the shock of being kicked around by a player a full decade younger than she, the Slovak took the 2nd set 6-4. Normally, you'd expect the more experienced player to pull away. Not this time. Instead, Bellis did what teenagers often do in big slam matches (see Dokic vs. Hingis, '99 Wimbledon) -- with nothing to lose, throw caution and everything else to the wind and not be able to miss a shot.

With the crowd gathering way out on Court 6, Bellis hit hard and never allowed the always-feisty Cibulkova to take control. With the crowd buzzing and the teenager's fist clenching at every turn, the Bannerette held at love for 5-4, then suddenly was at triple match point at 40/love up on Cibulkova's serve. When the Slovak netter a groundstroke, the AO runner-up had fallen by a 6-1/4-6/6-4 score. Bellis is the youngest to notch a U.S. Open main draw win since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

As Bellis ran across the court to hug her family and friends as the crowd went wild, Cibulkova quietly made her escape. Bellis, though, is a new star. At least for a few days.

...Victoria Azarenka, despite behind a finalist at the Open the last two years, enters this year's tournament as the #16 seed and with few expectations -- aside from maybe her own -- when it comes to results after, really, barely playing since the Australian Open due to ankle and knee injuries. Thing is, though, after dropping out of the Top 10 for the first time in 200 weeks a short while ago, she'll have to have a spectacular run in NYC this time around to avoid falling out of the Top 20 for the first time in 328 weeks. That's quite a drop for a player who has finished the last three seasons in the Top 3.

In her 1st Round match today against Misaki Doi, it was apparent that Vika isn't match tough at the moment, or in any particularly great shape to contend in New York. But she's still Vika, and if she gets ANYTHING out of this final slam of 2014 she'll have the Japanese woman to thank, as she made her dig deep to pull off a 6-7(3)/6-4/6-1 victory. She'll either feel it, or feed off, her next time out.

After saving set point in the 1st and heading to a tie-break, Azarenka still fell a set down when Doi won it 7-3. Vika threw in four late double-faults in the final games of the set, and she was noticeably "off" during the TB. She bounced back to take the 2nd, though, playing better and getting her footing more and more all along the way. After winning the set at 6-4, she ran to a 3-0 lead in the 3rd, saved two break points for 4-1 and then got a break of serve a game later. She served out the win at 6-1, showing a bit of the old Verisimilitude of Vika as she celebrated a victory she obviously wanted very dearly.

What comes next is unknown, but Azarenka is still alive and kickin' in the mix. And that's good to see... even if we won't see the real impact of it until 2015.

...it looks like the New Haven Bad Karma Alert was a false alarm. After two of the semifinalists from this weekend in Connecticut lost on Day 1, the eyebrows were raised for the Day 2 matches of Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur. But Stosur took out Lauren Davis 6-1/6-4 early on Tuesday, and Wimbledon champ Kvitova took down Kristina Mladenovic 6-1/6-0 in fifty-four minutes in the afternoon. She outdistanced the Pastry, who'll have to spin her Mladenovic Magic only in the doubles draws now, 15-3 in winners for the match.

In other matches involving top players, Ana Ivanovic took out Alison Riske 6-3/6-0 and Eugenie Bouchard -- at least for now -- straightened her out-of-position post-Wimbledon slip with a 6-2/6-1 win over Olga Govortsova in less than an hour. The Canadian is now 17-3 in majors this season.

...at least in the case of Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, history does not repeat itself. A year ago, as a Lucky Loser, the Austrian entered the main draw and outsted the "First Seed Out" of the women's competition -- #29 Magdalena Rybarikova. Last week, as she was ranked #85, PMA didn't need to qualify, and instead won a challenger title in Winnipeg, then jetted to New York to face another #29 seed, Casey Dellacqua, in the 1st Round. Coincidence, or destiny? Ummm, yeah, as it turned out, it was more like "fat chance." The Aussie won 7-5/6-3 and Mayr-Achleitner's Open is over a round earlier than in 2013. She DID manage to outlast Rybarikova again, though, since the Slovak retired last night in her 1st Round match against Caroline Wozniacki.

...in a battle of qualifiers, China's Wang Qiang made sure there was one less Pole in the draw than yesterday, defeating Paula Kania 6-2/6-0. Elsewhere, Elena Vesnina almost had a Novotnian-style nightmare, nearly blowing a 6-0/5-0 lead against Chan Yung-Jan. The Russian saw her lead cut slightly in the 2nd set, but had three match points at 5-3, only to see the Taiwanese qualifier get back on serve and knot the set at 5-5. With her big lead a game away from being a deficit, Vesnina broke Chan for 6-5 and then served out a 6-0/7-5 victory. Whew.

Meanwhile, Mona Barthel defeated Zhang Shuai 6-1/6-2, sending the WTA title-winner (Guangzhou '13) from China to 0-12 in career slam MD matches. Polona Hercog had a 6-2/4-2 lead on Elina Svitolina, but the Ukrainian bounced back to take a 5-4 lead in the 2nd. Hercog didn't let it slip all the way way, though, as she took a 7-4 tie-break to secure a trip to the 2nd Round.

...I'll likely have another short Day 2 post later tonight, after the remaining day matches are complete and Serena Williams faces off with wild card Taylor Townsend in the concluding match-up on Ashe Court's night session lineup.

QUALIFIER WIN: Wang Qiang/CHN (d. Kania)
WILD CARD WIN: CiCi Bellis/USA (d. Cibulkova)
BANNERETTE WINS: CiCi Bellis/USA (d. Cibulkova), Varvara Lepchenko (d. Van Uytvanck), C.McHale (d. Scheepers), Shelby Rogers (d. Zanevska), C.Vandeweghe (d. Vekic)

Long time, no see. Allrightallrightallright.


Pam Shriver noting on ESPN, as Ashe spectators leaned over the side of the stadium to watch Azarenka's match on Grandstand, that Vika has become something of a crowd favorite in New York the last couple of years. 'Bout time.

...LIKE FROM DAY 2... err, 1: Team Canada postscript

...LIKE FROM DAY 2... err, 1: ditto


Bethanie Mattek-Sands working on Tennis Channel. No, she's not retired, and she'll be back playing soon. But, with this move, maybe we can see her (eventual) future from here.

...INTROSPECTION FROM DAY 2: Caro gettin' thoughtful...

She also said, speaking of Rory McIlroy, "I don’t want to have my name stuck with him forever. I’m my own person. I have my own career. The years we had together were great, and unfortunately, things had to end like they did."

She added: “I know what I want out of a relationship in the future and what I don’t want. I’m happy being single right now.”


Not sure what that's about, but it can't be good... for the other person.

...A-BIT-TOO-CLEVER-FOR-SOMEONE'S-OWN-GOOD? FROM DAY 2: maybe they could have just used photos of Dinara and Marat Safin on the doors, just to be more clear?

...and, finally, Venus Williams' 2nd Round match is scheduled to open Night 3 on Ashe. Classic. And good for all.

*CURRENT WTA STREAKS - as of September 1 rankings*
[Top 10]
179 weeks - Maria Sharapova
152 weeks - Aga Radwanska
126 weeks - Serena Williams
120 weeks - Angelique Kerber
108 weeks - Li Na
49 weeks - Petra Kvitova
48 weeks - Jelena Jankovic
32 weeks - Simona Halep
9 weeks - Eugenie Bouchard
3 weeks - Ana Ivanovic
[Top 20]
341 weeks - Aga Radwanska
328 weeks - Victoria Azarenka
314 weeks - Caroline Wozniacki
281 weeks - Li Na
203 weeks - Maria Sharapova
187 weeks - Petra Kvitova
154 weeks - Serena Williams
134 weeks - Ana Ivanovic
132 weeks - Angelique Kerber
116 weeks - Sara Errani
74 weeks - Jelena Jankovic
67 weeks - Carla Suarez-Navarro
52 weeks - Simona Halep
31 weeks - Dominika Cibulkova
31 weeks - Eugenie Bouchard
24 weeks - Flavia Pennetta
12 weeks - Andrea Petkovic
8 weeks - Ekaterina Makarova
8 weeks - Lucie Safarova
3 weeks - Venus Williams

55-1...1st Rd. ['12 RG: Razzano] #
53-2...2nd Rd.
45-8...3rd Rd.
37-8...4th Rd.
# - 1st Rd. vs. Townsend to play

JAN: Dominika Cibulkova
FEB: Simona Halep
MAR: Peng Shuai
APR: Caroline Garcia
MAY: Eugenie Bouchard
JUNE: Simona Halep
JUL: Eugenie Bouchard
AUG: Aga Radwanska
[2014 Weekly Riser Award Wins]
6...Simona Halep
6...Angelique Kerber
5...Caroline Garcia
5...Ekaterina Makarova
5...Agnieszka Radwanska
4...Alize Cornet
3...Kiki Bertens
3...Eugenie Bouchard
3...Dominika Cibulkova
3...Camila Giorgi
3...Ana Ivanovic
3...Kristina Mladenovic
3...Sloane Stephens
3...Carla Suarez-Navarro
3...Coco Vandeweghe
2...Timea Babos
2...Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic
2...Sorana Cirstea
2...Hsieh Su-Wei/Peng Shuai
2...Vania King
2...Karin Knapp
2...Monica Niculescu
2...Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor
2...Elena Vesnina

17-0...Maria Sharapova *
14-0...Martina Navratilova
7-0...Chris Evert
7-0...Pam Shriver
12-1...Kim Clijsters
20-0...Pete Sampras
8-0...Jim Courier
8-0...Andy Murray *
24-1...Roger Federer *#
15-1...Novak Djokovic *
*-active; #-Federer to play on Night 2

TOP QUALIFIER: #32q Aleksandra Krunic/SRB
Co-TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Duan Yingying/CHN d. Irena Pavlovic/FRA 6-3/1-6/7-6(5) [Pavlovic up 5-1 3rd, held MP]
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: #4 Aga Radwanska/POL (def. S.Fichman/CAN)
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (lost to M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: #12 Cibulkova (AO runner-up; 1r loss to Bellis, 15)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: A.Kudryavtseva/RUS, M.Lucic-Baroni/CRO, An.Rodionova/AUS, A.Sasnovich/BLR, Q.Wang/CHN, Sai.Zheng/CHN
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: M.Brengle/USA, C.Bellis/USA
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: M.Brengle, C.Bellis, V.Lepchenko, C.McHale, S.Rogers, S.Stephens, C.Vandeweghe, V.Williams
IT ("??"): Nominees: Kuznetsova Curse, C.Bellis/USA
LADY OF THE EVENING: Nominee: M.Sharapova/RUS

All for now. More later.


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