If Alisa Kleybanova wanted (and I doubt she does) to gather all the "what if"s and "if only"s and "almost"s from from her Australian Open third round match against wild card Justine Henin, she would have trouble finding a big enough box to put them in. Up a set and 3-1 and just two points form a 4-1 lead in the second set, Kleybanova fell victim to two mighty forces: the heat, and Justine Henin.
Henin looked a bit tired, was having some trouble with her left leg, and Kleybanova's big hitting put quite a bit of pressure on her. Just when the 27th seed looked like she could win the match in straight sets, however, she began to slow down and show considerable fatigue. After applying ice packs on her body, she looked less weak, but Henin took advantage and changed the momentum of the match. How many times have we seen Henin do this? She's down, then she gets an opening, crawls through it, and takes over.
Henin won the second set, then went up 3-0 in the second. But Kleybanova willed herself back into the match, and got the set back on serve. But then she was broken again, and by this time, Henin was practically performing a ballet on the court, coming out of nowhere with her exquisite backhand and taking control of the rallies. Kleybanova had break points and opportunities over and over, but she couldn't turn Henin back.
Henin's 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory means that, in the round of 16, she will face another Belgian, Yanina Wickmayer. Since Wickmayer had to go through qualifying, she has now played six matches. Today's match was a tough one against Sara Errani, who doesn't mind standing at the baseline for a very long time, getting back a number of balls. Wickmayer and Errani played for over two and a half hours, with Wickmayer winning 6-1, 6-7, 6-3. The Belgian hit 52 winners, including nine aces.
It wasn't all about Belgians. Maria Kirilenko, who upset Maria Sharapova in the first round, defeated Roberta Vinci 7-5, 7-6. And another Russian, 2nd seed Dinara Safina, ended Elena Baltacha's run in just 57 minutes. Safina played expertly, posting a 6-1, 6-2 score, and looking very much like the top-three player she is.
Thank you for your evocative writing, Diane. E.g.-- Kleybanova fell victim to two mighty forces: the heat, and Justine Henin. Very nice indeed!
I confess that Justine's next match worries me. Wickmayer, no longer a teenager by about three months, just won Auckland in excellent fashion and has future top five player written all over her. Her match record from the start of the 2009 U.S. Open (where she reached the semis) to date is a ridiculous 25-3, with two titles. Finally, I have to think that somewhere in the recesses of Henin's mind is the fear that, in losing, she might fairly be considered the 3rd best player from a country the size of the state of Maryland. Oops! So how much magic does Justine have left in her small frame this week. At 6'0", Wickmayer packs a wicked wallop! Jen
This will be Wicky's 7th match, so she may be a bit tired, too?
Allez, JuJu! Or whatever. The Belgian Quarter is delivering some fun matches. Never thought of comparing Belgium and the state of Maryland - good writing and thinking abound on this blog.
Thanks much, Bill.
Justine was lucky. Rabbits foot will not work in the next round
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