Monday, January 25, 2010

Henin and Zheng go to Australian Open semifinals

Nadia Petrova's great run at the Australian Open ended today. Playing with a sore shoulder, Petrova, at times, saw her formidable serve get away from her. After the match, she said she thought she was tossing the ball differently to avoid shoulder pain that became worse in today's match.

But a bad shoulder wasn't Petrova's only problem. She made twice as many unforced errors as her opponent, Justine Henin, and allowed Henin to dominate in many of the big points. Henin's 7-6, 7-5 victory made her the first quarterfinalist to go to the semifinals. Henin struggled with her serve, too, but was able to slice off both sides to grab a number of rallies.

The day's second match, between Maria Kirilenko and Zheng Jie, had the makings of being a delightful contest, and--at times--it was. But Kirilenko--who has been playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles--just wasn't up to the task. She made some good shots, but was a step behind Zheng the entire match, her forehand was often vulnerable, and--to top it all off--she double-faulted at match point. Zheng, on the other hand, was focused and precise, she hit the ball cleanly, and her movement was excellent from start to finish.

Kirilenko's vulnerable thigh gave her trouble and she had to have treatment for it. After she lost the second set, though, Kirilenko picked up her game a bit, and--serving at 3-2--Zheng found herself at 0-40. She would go on to save four break points, and that was the last time she looked truly vulnerable in the set. She won the match 6-1, 6-3, and made only nine unforced errors.

Kirilenko, a player's whose game I have always enjoyed watching, had a good tournament, and is still in the doubles draw. This is Zheng's second semifinal at a major, but she has her work cut out for her: Her next opponent is Henin.

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