Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stosur out of Australian Open

Theoretically, a tall, left-handed, flat-hitting opponent with a strong forehand has what it takes to give Sam Stosur a lot of trouble. That became more than theory on the sixth day of the Australian Open: Brisbane champion Petra Kvitova upset 5th seed Stosur 7-6, 6-3. Kvitova, the tournament's 25th seed, hit hard flat balls repeatedly to Stosur's backhand, which is decidedly Stosur's weaker side. The Stosur forehand broke down, too, although Kvitova ended the match with more unforced errors than Stosur. She also ended the match with 35 winners, opposed to Stosur's eleven, all of which were hit in the first set. Most impressive were Kvitova's first and second serve win percentages of 80 and 58.

This is not the first time that Stosur has run into a player who isn't bothered by her kick serve and her heavy topspin. Players like Kvitova, who hit the ball flat and go for the lines, can dictate play and neutralize the hitting of even a talented player like the Australian. It was a bonus for Kvitova that she is also left-handed.

Stosur's upset was the biggest on the sixth day, but she had company. Iveta Benesova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova played a see-saw match that ended with a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 victory for Benesova over the 16th seed. Each player dominated a set, and the third set was a constant struggle for domination. In the end, though, Benesova was clever, and Pavlyuchenkova was worn down. The Czech doubles star has now removed two Russian seeds (she upset Maria Kirilenko in the second round), and she gets 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva in the next round.

Zvonareva was hardly at her best in her third round match, but she got past 31st seed Lucie Safarova, 6-3, 7-6. Kim Clijsters, the third seed, was far below her best, but defeated Alize Cornet 7-6, 6-3. 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska had an easy win over Simona Halep, and Peng Shuai defeated Ayumi Morita. Peng was cramping pretty badly toward the end of the match, and was hobbling around the court. That didn't stop her from winning, of course, and let's hope that she gets sufficient rest before her next round.

13th seed Nadia Petrova is out, too. Petrova played Ekaterina Makarova, who upset 19th seed Ana Ivanovic in the first round. For all of its flaws, this match was fun to watch. Each woman took a set, and--just as with the Benesova-Pavlyuchenkova match--the third set was a drawn-out struggle for domination. Makarova served for the match twice and was broken both times. The second time, she had two match points. The Russian player stayed surprisingly calm in the face of so many lost opportunities, and hung in while Petrova's unforced errors increased. At the end of the 72-minutes third set, Makarova advanced with a 6-2, 3-6, 8-6 victory.

Shahar Peer, the 10th seed, played an aggressive first set against 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta and won it 6-3. Pennetta dialed her play up a notch in the second set, and won it impressively in a tiebreak. One of the commentators made a point of reminding viewers that Pennetta is quite familiar with Peer's tendency to back away and play it safe, and that's exactly what happened. Pennetta took the third set 6-4, and advanced to the next round. Peer is a good player with a lot of tenacity, but when the tension arises, she tends to wilt, just when she should be more aggressive.