Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Drama on Court 6, and other heated issues

Christina McHale, the U.S. wild card into the Australian Open main draw, showed everyone today what a good tennis player she is. McHale played Australia's Jessica Moore in a match that became dramatic in the third set, when McHale developed a bad leg cramp. Toward the end of the set, after getting treatment, she was limping, and she was showing signs of cramping in other parts of her body.

What then ensured was a meltdown by Moore, who looked totally lost. The ESPN commentators stirred up their own drama when they had a heated discussion about the unfairness of the cramping rule (Pam Shriver dissented, saying that lack of fitness is not the only reason for cramping--that some people just sweat more). Somehow, McHale remained standing, though she eventually lost, 7-9 in the third. It was frustrating to see the better player go out, but it also appeared that McHale had not properly prepared for the intense Australian heat.

In the meantime, the 15-year-old French wild card, Kristina Mladenovic, threw everything she had at 14th seed Patty Schnyder and took the first set, 6-2. Schnyder took the second set at the last moment--undoubtedly causing her fans to sweat like the players in Melbourne--then cruised through the third. Mladenovic hit more than twice as many winners as Schnyder, but she also committed twice as many unforced errors.

Yesterday, it was Julia Goerges who impressed us with her forehand and her angles. Today, we had the pleasure of watching Kristina Barrois, who lost to Elena Dementieva, but who displayed a lot of finesse, had a nice court presence, and even threw in some serve and volley. Barrois eventually let nerves get the best of her, which was a lucky thing for Dementieva, who looked unprepared and sluggish.

Those watching the comeback progress of Anna-Lena Groenefeld will be unhappy to learn that she is out of the Australian Open. Groenefeld was defeated by Elena Baltacha, the last Brit standing. Nicole Vaidisova is also out, defeated by Severine Bremond.

And finally, Melinda Czink, who is already having the best season of her career, added to her success by defeating Sorana Cirstea in straight sets.

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