Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World number 1 fights her way into Australian Open semifinals

It was obvious that Caroline Wozniacki got a lot more than she bargained for in her Melbourne quarterfinal match against 6th seed Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone wasn't expected to have any physical or mental energy left, but she came out blazing, and--using all of her beautiful signature slices and volleys--took the first set from a lackluster Wozniacki. Wozniacki, in fact, looked like she had an appointment somewhere else and needed to get away.

At the end of the first set, Wozniacki called for the trainer and came back with her thigh wrapped; later, between points, she would tear off all the tape. Schiavone, constantly moving forward and taking risks that usually paid off, went up 3-1, and then we knew that Wozniacki had to change something or she would be out of there in straight sets. She did. She became unusually aggressive, and began hitting winners with the precision for which she is known.

She had some help from her opponent, too. Serving at 4-3, Schiavone made all the right moves and did all the right things. She expertly set up four more winners, but instead, she produced four errors, and was broken at love. From that time on, Schiavone's ability to hit the lines was greatly reduced, as both her round of 16 match and a switched-on Wozniacki overtook her. Wozniacki won the second set, and broke Schiavone in the first game of the third set. The final set revealed a tired (no matter what she says) Schiavone who tried to end many of the points too soon, and got errors as a result.

Wozniacki served for the match at 5-2, but Schiavone went all out--just as she did against Svetlana Kuznetsova--and put on a performance that, for me, comprised the most memorable game in the match. She saved three match points and broke Wozniacki in a flurry of dazzling shot-making. It seemed too much to think that the Italian could go on much longer, though, and she couldn't: Wozniacki broke her in the next game, and claimed the match at 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 on her fourth match point.

It was a great set and a half for Schiavone, and a great set and a half for Wozniacki. Wozniacki really has to be pushed to play aggressively, but in this case, she was really up to the task.

The other quarterfinal was less dramatic. Andrea Petkovic went up 2-0 on Li Na, and then Li spun off six consecutive games. Petkovic, seeded number 30, broke early in the second match, too, but she ultimately could not stop the steady and accurate rhythm of Li's hitting; the 9th seed was just too good. Li defended her status as a semifinalist in 2010, and she made it look easy.

Li's semifinal opponent will be Wozniacki.


svente said...

Schiavone was amazing last night. She's so entertaining. I was sorry to see her lose but pleased that Wozniacki righted her proverbial ship mid-match.

Look forward to the Li Na match!

Diane said...

Schiavone is The Woman. The Eurosport website has an article, "Schiavone shows sulky Stan how to lose," comparing her loss with Wawrinka's to Federer. I was really, really sorry to see her go, but also amazed that she went on for almost two hours and twenty minutes. She's a gem.