Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ivanovic and Lisicki upset in Melbourne

It wasn't pretty, but Giselo Dulko upset 20th seed Ana Ivanovic in the second round of the Australian Open Wednesday. Regardless of whom you wanted to win, you had to be frustrated watching these two switch from hitting thrilling and sometimes clever shots to making careless errors, faster than you could say "mental fragility."

Dulko went up 4-1 quickly in the first set, but it didn't take Ivanovic long to catch up, and the momentum continued to swing throughout the entire match. Ivanovic won the first set in a tiebreak. Dulko fought hard to take the second set 7-5, and the third set looked for a while like it would never end. Dulko went up 5-1, but Ivanovic fought her way back to 3-5. When Dulko served for the match at 5-3, she was broken. She had a good chance to win the match on Ivanovic's next serve, but couldn't do it. Anyone who had watched the third set--and who is familiar with Dulko--could have placed good money on the probability of her not being able to win the second time she served for the match, at 5-4. And, sure enough, when she served for it the second time, she was broken again. Finally, on her sixth match point, Dulko broke Ivanovic and won the final set 6-4.

Between them, Dulko and Ivanovic double-faulted 21 times (10 and 11, respectively). Both women are capable of serving very well, but they failed to do so. It was very difficult for them to serve into the sun, so court conditions did contribute to their difficulty. Ivanovic had repeated problems with her ball toss, and--on some occasions--didn't retrieve her toss when she should have. Ivanovic--though she had good moments--looked unsure of herself throughout much of the match, including the last half of the third set.

To make matters worse, the match was officiated by a chair umpire whose bizarre overrules made me wonder how on Earth she was permitted to sit in the chair. One of them occurred on Dulko's fifth match point--which should have given her the match. All of them were inexplicable.

For all of its frailties, including a total of 146 unforced errors, the match was entertaining. Dulko hit a number of beautifully disguised drop shots, and Ivanovic played well at the net. There were 16 breaks of serve, and the match lasted 2 hours and 42 minutes.

Gisela Dulko has a problem closing matches. Ana Ivanovic has a problem with serving and with confidence. And then there is Sabine Lisicki, who just can't seem to steady herself when she needs to. I've seen Lisicki play with high accuracy and confidence, but she can also play carelessly, rushing her shots. I didn't get to see the second round match she played against Alberta Brianti, but the stats are revealing: Lisicki hit nine aces, had good service percentages, hit almost twice as many winners as Brianti...but also committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as her opponent. Brianti won, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. There was quite a battle toward the end, but Brianti obviously hung in.

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