Monday, March 26, 2012

Azarenka advances to Miami quarterfinals

She hasn't had a good season so far, but when she's in form--like she was today--Dominika Cibulkova is one of the best baseline players on the tour. Like the hummingbird that isn't supposed to be able to fly but does so quite well, the comparatively short Cibulkova "isn't supposed to" be able to hit that hard or to move that well. In today's Sony Ericsson Open, Cibulkova served for the match twice against top seed Victoria Azarenka, but she couldn't quite get there.

This match had so much quality and tension, I wish it had been a final. Cibulkova made 53 unforced errors, but she also hit 46 winners. After taking the first set 6-1, she went up 4-0 in the second. But she started getting a bit too fancy with her shot-making, and Azarenka was able to work her way back in a bit. At 5-2, it still looked like an upset was brewing, but on her fifth set point, Azarenka forced a third set. The drama didn't let up at all in the third set, but finally, Azarenka served her way to a 1-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory. 

Serena Williams met Sam Stosur again, and this time, it was the former Miami champion who advanced, defeating the U.S. Open champion 7-5. 6-3. Maria Sharapova beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 7-6, and Li Na (remember Li Na?) beat Sabine Lisicki.

Garbine Muguruza Blanco--who made a name for herself in Miami by taking out Ayumi Morita, Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta--lost in straight sets to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Azarenka's next opponent is Marion Bartoli, who made easy work of Maria Kirilenko today. Bartoli had first and second service win percentages of 76 and 67. When the Frenchwoman serves this well, she's hard to beat.


Todd.Spiker said...

If the Azarenka/Cibulkova match had taken place under the lights at, say, the U.S. Open, it might have been hailed as the match of the tournament.

After watching this, I'd say this "new Vika" is a true and lasting transformation, since if the "crazy girl" of the past were still capable of being unleashed she would have surely found a few moments to fly off the handle in this one. The closest she came was sailing a shot past the baseline after going to deuce at 6-1/5-3, which actually brought a few boos from the crowd. Maybe she heard them, because she kept her wits and her temper in check in the mini-crucible of that match.

Very, very impressive.

Diane said...

Yesterday, I mentioned to someone that I thought Cibulkova was one of the few people who could upset Azarenka at this point. Her baseline game is just fantastic, and I thought she might "snap back into place" in Miami.

She did. I don't often enjoy repeated long baseline rallies, but these two put on such a show. To some extent, Cibulkova created her own downfall, but I have to give Azarenka so much credit for hanging in mentally. Great match, great win.

Karen said...

I really enjoyed Vika's comeback in that match and I also enjoyed the coaching session between her and Sumyk. It gives an indication as to what has transpired in her career this season that has made her so tough to beat and also what has made her so volatile in the past.

What I found funny was the crowd support. One commentator mentioned that Cibulkova must have dialed Rent a crowd because the crowd was totally in her corner. I think yesterday's match was the culmination of the media narrative on Vika (i.e. shrieking/grunting etc) and an opponent who was playing inspired tennis.

Sunny nine said...

The Rent a Crowd mention from Karen was a witty way of putting it. They kept flashing on one section so who knows..:)
I started seeing Vika talking to herself a lot at one point and was a little worried that her newly found "peace" may become unraveled. But she hung on.
I have read different things in the press that seem to indicate that Vika is not that well liked at a #1. Not just for grunting (Cibulkova was grunting just fine and Maria still does) but her confident air and toughness puts some people off.
Anyway it was an entertaining match, showing why Vika is where she is. I, too, Diane thought Cibulkova could produce the upset.

Karen said...

Sunny I am getting the suspicion that the media, and some fans, would prefer to have Wozniacki as #1 so that they have a beating stick. When you a player who is beating the living daylights out of the so-called mentally toughest player out there and doing it all the while sticking her tongue out and raising her finger, and backing it up with results, of course she is going to have haters.

I for one love it. What can you say about a young woman who for all intents and purposes was known more for her shrieking and mental collapses in matches moreso than her strut. I like the hoodie over head and the earphones in her ears. I like that she wears shorts and struts from one end of the court to the other. I like that she does not give a darn about what the media says about her. I love her for being an athlete

Diane said...

Well said, Karen. I like Vika for all those same qualities.

Todd.Spiker said...

Another intereting result: Doubles 2nd Rd - King/Niculescu d. Shvedova/Voskoboeva. The Olympics make for strange bedfellows... and unfortunate opponents.

Diane said...

I meant to mention that. The Games have really torn apart doubles as we know it, though it all changes pretty fast on its own.