Monday, September 6, 2010

Unseeded Cibulkova upsets Kuznetsova at U.S. Open

There was talk among commentators this morning about what Cibulkova's ranking would be if she were not stuck with being five feet, three inches tall. One of the things I dislike most about the evolution of tennis into a "power game" is that short people are at such a disadvantage. Only last night, Martina Navratilova talked about what a great server Rosie Casals was, but one can only imagine what the diminutive Rosebud would have to go through if she played on the tour now.

Cibulkova suffers with almost chronic hip problems, and--not surprisingly--her share of back problems. Her thigh was wrapped in today's round of 16 match, and she did call for the trainer at one point. In the second round, she played a match that lasted 3 hours and 13 minutes, and I feared then for her physical health.

However, despite having a fragile thigh and being down in both sets, Cibulkova thoughtfully placed her sometimes-booming groundstrokes, holding her nerve while 11th seed and 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova made errors. Cibulkova won the first set 7-5, and served for the second set at 5-3. It was then that she showed her first sign of anxiety, and Kuznetsova saved two match points. The set ultimately went to a tiebreak, but--unlike some unseeded players who miss their chance and then fold--Cibulkova was again steady in her shot-making, and moved into the quarterfinals.

Cibulkova, who has been ranked as high as 19, is currently ranked number 45 in the world. Kuznetsova was considered by some to be a contender for this year's title, especially since she hired Amelie Mauresmo's former coach and fitness trainer, and looked good through the first three rounds of the U.S. Open. But she made 42 unforced errors in today's match, and double-faulted 10 times. It isn't the first time that Kuznetsova has wilted in an important match, and today she was unlucky enough to be playing a woman who doesn't give up easily.

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