Saturday, August 31, 2013

Halep into U.S. Open sweet 16

"Goodnight world" was the last thing U.S. Open 14th seed Maria Kirilenko tweeted yesterday before she went to sleep. She wasn't kidding. I thought her match today against Simona Halep was going to be a must-see affair, proving yet again: What do I know? Kirilenko was barely even there. Halep, fueled by all her recent success and further fueled by her opponent's lack of focus and abundance of unforced errors, ran over Kirilenko, 6-1, 6-0. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. In just 51 minutes, it was over.

The New Haven champion's next task, as she advances to her first-ever major round of 16, will be to play Flavia Pennetta, who has found her old U.S. Open groove. Pennetta defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova for the first time in her career today, and advanced to the round of 16.

(Mike Crispino and Mark Woodforde were the commentators for that match, and what a pair they made. Woodforde gave us shades of Dick Enberg with his insistence on giving us his opinion about Pennetta's appearance, and his comments on grunting were close to hostile. Note to Crispino: The last time I checked, Sara Errani was still a woman.)

Someone had to do it, I guess, and Alison Riske performed the deed. She beat 7th seed Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-0. Ouch. Kvitova, suffering with a viral fever, was seen by a trainer and a physician toward the very end of the match, and at this point, I'm declaring her frail. She has not been able, either physically or mentally (and really, those two cannot be separated) to stand up to the pressure of competition for a while now.

Riske will play Daniela Hantuchova in the next round. Hantuchova had to put up quite a fight to get rid of qualifier Julia Glushko, who gave the Slovakian veteran all kinds of problems, including the opportunity to save four match points in the second set. This mach was kind of fun to watch, and Glushko--though she got careless at the end--showed some real fighting spirit throughout. Hantuchova won, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6. The players were on the court for 2 hours and 46 minutes, and Hantuchova got away with making 58 unforced errors.

Christina McHale served for the match against Ana Ivanovic, but it wasn't to be. Ivanovic wound up defeating her 4-6, 7-5 6-4.

(At her press conference, in reply to a question, Ivanovic mentioned that it's important to have a protein shake after a tough match. The last research, however, indicates, that--for women--ingesting protein after vigorous exercise is contra-indicated and should be avoided.)

2nd seed Victoria Azarenka had a real fight on her hands, too. Alize Cornet, the player who brings what Mary Carillo calls "French flair" to her matches, is now looking like she did several years ago, which is good news for France. The commentators were shocked that Azarenka didn't win easily, when really, Cornet is exactly the kind of player who can give someone like Azarenka trouble. (Do the commentators even watch tennis?).

Quick of foot and armed with a considerable shot repertoire, the Frenchwoman got creative instead of just standing there and hoping to outlast the 2nd seed in long baseline rallies. However, her serve--which helped her take the first set off of Azarenka--then became inconsistent. Cornet hit nine aces and double-faulted ten times, which kind of tells the story.

In the night match, Camila Giorgi of Italy defeated Caroline Wozniacki 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Giorgi, whose aggressive game had Wozniacki on the wrong foot more than once, lived on the edge: She hit 46 winners and made 45 unforced errors. She wasn't afraid to go for the big points, she recovered quickly from disappointment, and her forehand crosscourt was repeatedly successful. Wozniacki, on the other hand, had trouble with her second serve, made errors that she wouldn't have made a couple of years ago, and just wasn't moving the way she used to.

There are three Italian women in the round of 16, and they're all in the bottom half of the draw. Top-ranked Italian player, Sara Errani, of course, is not one of them. Flavia Pennetta defeated Errani in the second round. 10th seed Roberta Vinci defeated countrywoman Karin Knapp today, and in the next round,Vinci plays Giorgi. Why are all the Italians playing each other?!

The Williams sisters advanced to the third round of doubles competition with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. Next for Serena and Venus are 11th seeds Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova.

Speaking of doubles, the Mladenovic watch is on: The Frenchwoman and partner Galina Voskoboeva have advanced to the third round, in which they will play 3rd seeds Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik. In mixed doubles, Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor, the Wimbledon champions, have advanced to the quarterfinals.


Todd.Spiker said...

Little, athletic, fiery and never-say-die.

Naturally, Giorgi is Italian! Francesca and Sara (and all the rest) have a new baby sister! :D

That match was fun to watch. Talk about deja vu.

Diane said...

I canceled an interview I had planned to do with Schiavone in April; she had lost her match and I had a conflicting engagement--it just didn't feel right. But one of the things I had planned to ask her was "What makes a Fighting Italian" a Fighting Italian? Fran, Flavia, Sara, Camila, Roberta--they will fight to the last half a second. And with such attitude!

The heritage goes on......

jo shum said...

So the 16, I have to say Halep is the most impressive. LI too. Sometimes you look at their pose and their attitude on court as if they know they are going to win

sunny nine said...

Well, I agree with many of the things you said.
I also thought Halep and Kirilenko would make for a fun match but....I am impressed with the way Halep has continued to play and at this point doesn't seem like a "flash in the pan". I was also impressed with her maturity in the on-court interview and in her presser at New Haven.
The Giorgi-Woz match was fun. And I think the people were bored with the Maestro's beat down of Mannarino after watching an intense entertaining women's match. Giorgi didn't just play well and take her chances, she also didn't seem bothered by "under the lights at Ashe"-primetime at the Open and all that stuff. Her coach was great! I thought he would jump out of his skin during the match.
Diane, you wrote a piece about Giorgi a year or so ago. Can't remember when. It was funny because my husband asked, "didn't Diane write something about Giorgi or was impressed by her?" I remember seeing a photo of her from one of your Charleston trips.
I knew that Cornet would try to bring Azarenka forward and thought from Azarenka's perspective it was a good match for her because she needs that practice of running in.
My husband also noticed the matches of Italians v Italians. He thinks the powers that be rigged it :) Good to see Pennetta doing well these days.

Bobby Skipsey said...

Cornet has two rare qualities. Few are as elegant in appearance and demeanor. Few evidence on-court artistry. She does. A delight to watch. She is improving. Her movement was a few notches above a year ago. Her serve is bigger, and better placed. Her net play impressive as well. In particular her use of the chip lob (a thought-to-have-been defunct stroke). Azarenka was forced to defend far more than she is used to.
Go Alize!!!

Diane said...

Jo, I agree. I've waited a while for this Halep breakthrough, and now that it's happened, I'm really enjoying it.

Sunny, your husband has a good memory. Here it is:

Bobby, when I first saw Cornet play, I immediately thought of Suzanne Lenglen--all those natural jumps and lunges in the air.

sunny nine said...

Diane and others re: Kvitova. Here is a link from about Kvitova getting tests as to why she gets so many viruses (2012,2013).

Also in my long soliloquy :) earlier I failed to mention Mladenovic. She has the game for singles but just can't get there yet, but doubles seem to be on target.

Diane said...

Thanks for the link, Sunny. There's definitely something wrong with Petra, and I'm glad she's having the tests done. And if they all turn out to be negative, I wish for her that she see a really good so-called alternative practitioner (I don't consider them "alternative" at all) or a really smart doctor who can help her figure out what's wrong.

There are a lot of things that can cause an immune system to be depressed; Petra needs to learn which of them is messing with her. I also wonder if she's aware of some of the less known treatments for asthma.

Yes, Mladenovic has a beautiful game, which I hope she translates to a good singles career. Perhaps it's just a matter of time.