Monday, March 29, 2010

Top seed and defending champion both out of Sony Ericsson Open

I had a fantasy this evening of locking Daniela Hantuchova in a comfortable room, putting her in a trance, and planting images of Melanie Oudin's U.S. Open shoes into her unconscious mind forever. Would it do any good? Would anything?

19th seed Hantuchova, on more than one occasion, had this evening's Sony Ericsson 4th round match against Venus Williams practically on her racquet, but--as is so often the case--she refused to let a potential win get in her way.

Williams, seeded 3rd, had a terrible time with both her serve and her forehand in the first set, and--to make the affair even more dramatic--Hantuchova made only three errors, cruising with her second serve, and taking the set 6-1. Williams got her serve to work quite well in the second set, but it was still close, with Williams winning it 7-5.

At that point, if you knew anything at all about Daniela Hantuchova, you knew what was going to happen. I say this not to take anything away from Williams' comeback in this match. But the truth is, when faced with the opportunity to win a big match against a really good opponent, Hantuchova can't handle it. In this case, she had a 0-9 record against her opponent, which didn't help.

I like Hantuchova's game, and if you are one of her fans, I know you don't feel too good right now. (Believe me, as a long-time fan of Patty Schnyder, I feel your pain.) One of the differences between Hantuchova and Williams is that Williams knows how to win. And she knows how to win not only because she is a great tennis player, but because she knows she can win. Williams took that last set 6-4, and booked herself a spot in the quarterfinals.

The tournament's defending champion, Victoria Azarenka, was defeated this evening. 4th seed Azarenka, who is known for going to pieces when she makes a mistake, unraveled before our eyes in her 4th round match against 14th seed Kim Clijsters. Azarenka appeared more focused on her inner dialogue than she was on the ball, and Clijsters made easy work of her, defeating her 6-4, 6-0, and winning match point on an Azarenka double fault.

Indian Wells champion Jelena Jankovic also said goodbye tonight. The woman she defeated in the semifinals in California, Sam Stosur, won the match, 6-1, 7-6. 9th seed Stosur's famous serve--which can elude her--was the key to her win against the 7th seed.

Top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova sustained a shoulder injury during her match against 13th seed Marion Bartoli. Kuznetsova continued to play, though in pain, and Bartoli defeated her 6-3, 6-0.

11th seed Vera Zvonareva whacked the ball out of the court, yelled at herself, and hit herself on the head repeatedly with her racquet as she grew increasingly frustrated over her inability to deal with some of the uncanny angles Justine Henin was creating on the court. It didn't help that Zvonareva was losing most of the points on her second serve.

Henin won the first set 6-1, and broke Zvonareva early in the second set. Down 1-4, Zvonareva held at love, providing hope that the match would become more competitive. Henin then held easily, but in her next service game, Zvonareva hit with more speed and precision, throwing Henin off-balance just a little. But then Henin held at love, and--serving very well--continued to put almost relentless pressure on her opponent. She took the second set 6-4, and became the third Belgian to get to the quarterfinals.

2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over 22nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6th seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1, 6-4, and 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer needed less than an hour to defeat Timea Bacsinzky 6-0, 6-1.

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