Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The match that had everything

When I say "everything," I mean piercing screams, injury, tenion, a bagel, a near-upset, and one bizarre tennis dress. Sandra Zahlavova and Venus Williams put on an Australian Open 2nd round show that, at times, was so strange, I had to just shake my head.

Williams, dressed in a different outfit than the one she wore in the first round, looked off in her first set against Zahlavova, who--by the way--looked especially "on." The set went to a tiebreak, and right before Zahlavova hit set point, Williams cringed and yelled in a way that was about  pain, not hard hitting. The 4th seed experienced a painful groin injury, and left the court to get treatment.

When Williams returned, there was expectation that she would cross over and shake hands with her opponent. Instead, she took a new racquet out of its bag. There was then expectation that she would have difficulty playing the second set. Instead, she won it 6-0. Zahlavova's level decreased in that she stopped being aggressive like she was in the first set.

As the third set began, the logical assumption was that--if she could stay relatively pain-free--Williams would cruise against a demoralized opponent. But once again, things did not go as expected. Zahlavova came roaring back, and that set produced some really exciting tennis. As the set advanced toward a conclusion, Zahlavova made a terrible shot selection that prevented her from getting break points against Williams. When Williams double-faulted on match point, there was a moment of hope for Zahlavova, but Williams closed the set 6-4.

It should be noted that even the bagel set lasted 48 minutes; Zahlavova played a great match, and used a stinging backhand to her advantage again and again. The mach lasted over three hours, and for over an hour and forty minutes, Williams was bandanged and in pain. She has never retired from a match during a major, and she wasn't going to start at age 30. Both women deserve credit for fighting through difficult circumstances. Just as Williams could have (honorably) retired, Zahlavova could have mentally caved in. Instead, they gave the spectators what they had come to see, and then some. And since Williams had full use of her experience, she found a way to walk off the court a winner.

The bad news is that the injury appears to be a bad one, and now we just have to wait and see what happens next for the 4th seed, who is scheduled to play Andrea Petkovic in the third round.


Anonymous said...

Very good match for both players. The only sad part about the match was the crowd! Yes, we know the love for an underdog, but give me a break! This crowd was very rude. I say this why?, because if it was Kim, Maria or anyone else that was hurt and still trying to play the crowds reactions would have been way more respectful!

Diane said...

Venus could have used more crowd support--that's for sure. The fact that she did without it just gives her another point for toughness. I hope she keeps playing, and I hope she has the crowd behind her--at least reasonably so--whens she plays Dance Party. (By the way, did you see that high-kick post-match celebration on the men's side in the first round? I can't remember who did it; it was funny.)

Overhead Spin said...

Diane, whenever I read about people cheering for the underdogs when crowds cheer against Venus and Serena. I roll my eyes and move right along.

This morning Fed was taken to the wall by Simon. I do not recall hearing cheers for Simon and even worse cheers for Fed when he missed his chances on break points. As a matter of fact the fans were groaning as a result of those misses.

It is what it is. If people want to keep burying their heads in the sand where those 2 ladies are concerned, then it is on them.

Venus showed today what a true champion she is. At the end of the day the only person that she has to reconcile with is herself and for the last how many years, I am sure that the person looking back at Venus is one that she is proud of.

I bow to you Queen Vee

Anonymous said...

Well said Tennis Ace! Venus has weathered many storms without losing the goodness of her character.

Diane said...

Even ESPN picked up on the contrast last night: While an ATP player was quite obviously tanking a set and getting a bagel, Venus was playing in pain and serving one.

Anonymous said...

Diane, the cancan celebration you are propably refering to was done by Lukasz Kubot after he defeated Sam Querrey in the first round. Too bad he lost to his next opponent, Sergey Stachowski, no more cancan dance!

Diane said...

Ah, but I really like Stak! I was cheering for him.

I guess I forgot it was Kobut because the little dance seemed to uncharacteristic. Cute, though.

SarahDee said...

I live in Sydney and find among many Australian's there is such a bad attitude towards the Williams sisters. I find this really puzzling, and find the attitude of the crowds in the stadium embarrassing, as I have nothing but utmost respect for them (although do wish they could be a bit more gracious towards their fellow players at their press conferences). This negative attitude isn't so unusual here though. Lleyton Hewitt certainly cops a bag full of criticism from a lot of his own countrymen as well. Funnily enough those successful on the mens side such as Federer, Nadal and Murray get nothing but respect.

Overhead Spin said...

SarahDee, the ungraciousness of the Williams Sisters is something that has been made up by the media since their debut on court. When I go back and read press conferences from both Sisters, it is instructive that they attribute their losses not to outstanding play by their opponents, which it is sometimes not, but the magnitude of the UFE counts leaking from their racquets.

Now, a lot of players over the years will credit their opponent for the win and then they will elaborate on their own play, which is as it should be and that is what the Williamses did. Unfortunately, the media turned that around and started to say that the Sisters do not credit their opponent. We have seen over the years that despite Venus and Serena complimenting their opponents and speaking well of the women of the WTA Tour, hardly anything is published in the media.

For instance, many years ago before Wozniacki became No. 1 it was Venus who informed the media of Caroline's potential. She played doubles with her in Hong Kong and had very good things to say about her. Serena has also spoken out about Caroline. However, when Clijsters says something nice about her it is the story for every media house to be publish.

On another note, I am glad that someone took Clijsters to task for apologising for double bagelling Safina. The person implied that perhaps Clijsters was trying too hard to be nice. You serve up a double bagel to an opponent during a Grand Slam, there is absolutely no reason to go to the media and apologise for it. I cannot recall Dinara ever apologising for double bagelling opponents in her hey day.

Daniel said...

Everyone sitting around me during the Venus match was very anti-Venus. Very refreshing :) How long did she get for the medical timeout...30 minutes? It seemed forever...wondered if TV folks mentioned that

Diane said...

The medical timeout occurred after the first set, and I don't know how long it lasted, Daniel. I don't even know the rules. If you get a medical eval and and treatment during a break between sets, do you get the eval/treatment time within the usual between-sets time, or do you get it in addition to the normal between-sets time? Someone who knows can chime in here. I really wasn't paying attention to the time factor.

svente said...

Medical timeouts can last upwards of 10 or more minutes. According to the ITF, who determine rules for the grand slams, if the injury timeout is on court you get 3 minutes after a diagnosis is made. So if it's a complicated diagnosis it could take some time. If the player has to leave the court, as was the case here, there is no specific time limit.

I'd be surprised if it was 30 minutes though as I've not seen that number anywhere.

Diane said...

Thanks, svente.