It's no secret that Maria Sharapova is romping through the early rounds of the Australian Open, but what isn't being talked about that much is that four of her countrywomen have joined her in the round of 16. 2013 Hobart champion Elena Vesnina beat Caroline Carcia, Varvara Lepchenko and Roberta Vinci to get to the final 16. Not bad. Of course, her reward is to play world number 1 Victoria Azarenka.
Ekaterina Makarova, a quarterfinalist last year, is also still in the draw. Makarova will face 5th seed Angelique Kerber in the round of 16, and I'm expecting three sets. The Russian is very comfortable on the Melbourne surface and has handled the heat well in the past.
Maria Kirilenko played over 2 1/2 hours against Yanina Wickmayer, and emerged the winner, 7-6, 6-3. The longer Kirilenko stays in the draw, the more I like it because I enjoy her game so much. She's seeded 14th this year, which is a good indicator of how good her 2012 season was. However....Kirilenko's next opponent will be Serena Williams. (A quotation from Vika Azarenka comes to mind, but you know about that.)
Finally there's Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two-time Grand Slam tournament winner had to go away for a while because of injury, but right now, she looks like--well, like Sveta. But Kuznetsova's tennis has really never been anything to worry about. A superb athlete with all-court skills, the popular Russian player's problems have always resided in her head. At this point, however, she may feel a bit less pressure, whereas, her opponent, Caroline Wozniacki, may be feeling some pressure (despite her constant declarations that she isn't). At any rate, Kuznetsova is playing well, and--barring a full-blown mental collapse--she should give Wozniacki all she can handle.
Well, now I've probably gone and conjured Todd's longtime "Kuznetkova Curse" against the Russian veteran. Oops.
Yesterday, I thought there were a couple of "plucky losers." Obviously, Jamie Hampton was one of them, and the other one was Ayumi Morita, who lost to Serena Williams, but she lost in style. Instead of backing away from her right at (or inside) the baseline stance, Morita held to it, and she competed against the four-time Australian Open champion with poise and confidence. She even went up 3-0 in the second set. Of course, Williams took care of that situation, but Morita had every reason to walk off the court feeling good about what she had done.
Kimiko Date-Krumm's singles run was ended yesterday by Bojana Jovanovski in straight sets. Nothing against Jovanowski, but I was kind of sad to see Date-Krumm go. Still, what a run. And....she's still in the doubles draw. She and partner Arantxa Parra Santonja have already upset the second seeds.
Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson in straight sets, which surprised me. Next, Stephens plays Jovanski, which means she has a good chance to face off against none other than Serena in the quarterfinals.
What's with all the yellow? I don't mind yellow, though I prefer to see the softer version. I do like the yellow and white combo, however, and especially on Kirilenko. Speaking of tennis outfits--this is the first time in years that I haven't cared that much for Serena Williams' outfit (I thought Venus's was beautiful). And this is also a good time to mention that Sam Stosur finally got it right and wore a dress that didn't make her look she was wearing a coffee bean sack. She looked very nice.
I heard some news that I find upsetting: Victoria Azarenka has hired a publicist to polish her image. Do those who promote the herd mentality always have to prevail? It's her fire and her authenticity that make Azarenka so special--and so cool. Enjoy Vika now, because the machine may soon symbolically airbrush the life out of her.