Last year, when Roger Federer hit his first famous 'tweener at the U.S. Open, WTA commentators started longing for the days of the "Sabatweeni." Every time they talked about Sabatini's between-the-legs shot, I would think, "Great--she was a favorite of mine--but what about Schiavone? She's playing tennis now." For though she doesn't use it a lot, the 'tweener is part of Schiavone's repertoire. Tennis commentators would know that, right? Right.
They know it now. Or, more likely, they just know that she hit one today, in her third round match against Alona Bondarenko. In what was, for me, the best set played so far in this Open, the 6th seed and French Open champion and the 29th seed put on quite a show in the second set. It took Bondarenko a while to find herself, though; the aggressive and stretchy Italian swept the first set 6-1. When Bondarenko finally challenged her, we got to see a beautiful display of shot-making from both players.
Schiavone, however, would not be denied a straight-sets win. She did it all--the 'tweener (which set up a winner), a backhand volley down the line, and the kind of serving that helped her win in Paris. She hit 29 winners for the match, and was successful with 20 of 24 net approaches.
3rd seed Venus Williams appears to be pain-free, which is good news. Dressed in a form-fitting black dress featuring an overall fireworks-display sequined pattern, Williams defeated qualifier Mandy Minella 6-2, 6-1 in conditions that were windy, but which Williams said "could be worse." I dimmed the lights so I could get the full effect of that shimmering eleVen outfit.
In the house, dressed in red, was none other than world number 1 Serena Williams, who sat at the ESPN desk and interviewed her sister. It was a light moment, and a treat for viewers. The sisters feed off of each other like two members of a long-term Vaudeville act. Later, Serena went into the booth to help call the men's match.
Ana Ivanovic had some trouble handling wild card Virginie Razzano for much of the first set, but she found her form soon enough to take that set. After that, she cruised to a 7-5, 6-0 win.
Shahar Peer pulled the upset of the day, defeating 19th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-4. Though she is seeded only 19th, Pennetta is historically dangerous on hard courts, and was a quarterfinalist at last year's Open.
After Peer won the first set, she went up 4-0. Pennetta was able to break and to even things at 4-all. At 4-5, she saved two match points on her own serve, but the third match point did her in. Peer, who gives everything she has in every match she plays, was just too tough and too accurate tonight. Pennetta has a good head-to-head against Venus Williams, but the prospect of a Williams-Pennetta match is now just a passing thought.
Getting back to the subject of commentators: Today, I heard a commentator tell his colleague that he mispronounces a particular ATP player's name, and knows that he mispronounces it, and--in the same sentence--he went on to sarcastically put down commentators who mispronounce another ATP player's name. The value system here is way to complicated for me to grasp.
Oh, and the commentator and unsportsmanlike former champion who knows what's best for women's tennis--need I even have to say his name?--remarked tonight that the Williams sisters have never been coached by their mother. Fortunately, Serena Williams was sitting next to him, and set the record straight.