Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wozniacki scales the Wall and reaches the Indian Wells semifinals

Tonight, a commentator called Zheng Jie the Great Wall of China, and I hope the nickname sticks. The 18th seed and her opponent, 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki, played a quarterfinal match in Indian Wells that was so physically and mentally demanding, there was almost no way the scoreline could accurately reflect what happened on the court. I was exhausted, just watching it.

The match lasted just over two hours and 18 minutes, but it felt as though it lasted longer. For two sets, both players were at their best, playing crowd-thrilling defensive tennis, and taking each other to the edge over and over. It was a pleasure to watch. In the third set, however, Zheng was obviously tired, and her errors increased until it was too late for her to redeem herself. But even then, she helped Wozniacki provide some very entertaining tennis.

Wozniacki defeated Zheng 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. There were 11 breaks of serve, and too many deuce games to count. Zheng hit twice as many winners as Wozniacki, but she also made twice as many unforced errors. In the end, Wozniacki hung in with more accuracy, and it paid off.

By the way, Zheng, whose serving was a big part of her undoing in the Australian Open semifinals, has been working with a service coach, and it shows.

In today's other quarterfinal match, 4th seed Elena Dementieva was defeated 6-4, 6-3 by 5th seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska threw everything she could think of at Dementieva, and the tactic worked. When it comes to changing the direction and pace of the ball, there are few better than Radwanska. And although serving is her weakness (Why, oh why, doesn't such an excellent player do something about that second serve?), Radwanska did manage to use the body serve effectively against Dementieva from time to time. Dementieva also became quite error-prone in this match, and lost her way.


Karen said...

I agree Diane, it was a fantastic match. One of the best of the year. I am going to start making a list of these matches as the year progresses so that at the end when people say that the WTA product is inferior I can reference these matches. Give Jheng a bigger serve and she wins that match last night. I was quite impressed with her first serve last night as she kept hitting her spots and even served an ace or two. Wozniacki was forced to play to win that match last night as Jheng was not going to give it to her. Great match ladies. Now, we are now faced with a conundrum, it is said that if Wozniacki wins this title and Serena does not do well at Miami then Wozniacki could very well become No.1. Please God for all that is good in the world, please do not let this happen. I do not think that I could bear to read countless articles about the WTA product and about who sits at the top of the charts. For better or worse I thought that Safina was a good NO.1. She may not have won a major but she got to 3 finals, lots of semis and won major titles. Wozniacki, bless her, has won 6 titles to date (most of them lower tiered events) and has only been to the final of a major 1 time in her very short career. I am sorry but the No. 1 in any sport should not get there by default. They should get there because they have bagged the big titles, got to the final stages of the important events and have commandeered respect among their peers. While I think Wozzy is a very nice girl, I just cannot see her being the leader of the pack, especially considering that the pack at this time is so very well rounded.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Don’t worry Karen, Wozniacki is not going to be number one anytime soon. Right now, she has 5925 points, while Serena Williams has 8645. After Indian Wells, the Dane will have between 6125 and 6675 (if she wins the tournament). Then, Serena has 700 pts to defend at Miami and Wozniacki has 250. So, even if the Dane wins Miami and Serena loses all her points, the American will still be at the top, with 7945 pts. Wozniacki would be second, with 6875 to 7425. And, honestly, if Wozniacki manages to wins two Mandatory back to back, she will owned her second place.

And you’re right: Wozniacki is a nice girl, a good fighter and a skilled player, but she is not a logic number one pretender. She will be when she proved to be able to defeat 2 or 3 of the top players in the same competition (and I’m talking about the Williams, Clijsters or Sharapova here, not Radwanska or Pennetta).

And yes, the match between Wozniacki and Jie Zheng was a fabulous one. Two really tough players, ready to use all of their skills in order to win. A shame one of them had to lose.

Erik said...

Also agree that last night's match was a great one and probably one of the best of the year. Great to see both women really go for every point and not hope the other misses. Wozniacki has the potential to be No.1 if she keeps up her play. Also great to see Zheng want to get into the net to close out points.

Diane said...

Anon, at this point, I consider a win over Radwanska to have more meaning than a win over Sharapova. Perhaps that will change, but right now--other than that terrible second serve--Radwanska is the better player. Wozniacki's real task is to beat Serena....

Karen said...

Diane, everybody's task right now is to beat Serena - LOL. That my friends is what you want a true No.1 to be. Someone that when you look at her game, you want to emulate it and I have to say that a couple years ago most of the WTA did not give much credit to Serena but if anything I think her performances since her return to active competition in 2007 has made most of the ladies sit up and take notice. They may not be all in unison when it comes to her achievements but here and there you can see that the presence that she has cast over the WTA has made the younger players start looking at her game and realise that it will take so much more than what they currently possess to beat her, especially at the majors.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Diane, I know what you mean. Obviously, Sharapova is not the player she used to be. Right now, anyone who pretends to be a legitimate number one would have to beat Serena first. I totally agree with that. But, as I previously said, you also have to beat more than one top player in the same tournament, and I still see Sharapova as a top player.

In order to show you why I still think Sharapova is a better player than Radwanska (perhaps I should say a more dangerous player?), let me compare their paths in 2009:

The only top opponents Radwanska has defeated in 2009 were Azarenka and Dementieva. We could include Bartoli, Na Li, Stosur and Kleybanova in the lot. However she was beaten by Dementieva, Mauresmo, Li, Stosur, Venus (3 times), Safina, Kuznetsova (2), Pavlyuchenkova. She has met Sharapova twice and she lost twice against the Russian. She has 44 wins and 23 defeats, a 1,91 ratio.

Meanwhile, Sharapova defeated Azarenka (2), Zvonareva, Jankovic, Radwanska (2), Petrova (3), Schiavone (2), Wickmayer, Kleybanova (2), Stosur. She lost against Li, Venus, Pennetta, Dementieva and some smaller players. She has 31 wins and 9 defeats, a 3,44 ratio.

I know that Sharapova could now lose against almost all the players on the tour, while Radwanska rarely loses against the weaker players. But against the best, Sharapova is still a better player.


Diane said...

Well said, Anon. And I certainly hope we see the "old" Sharapova soon. At her best, she is indeed a top player.

(In the meantime, however, Aga has gotten even better--well, except for that one pesky thing.)