Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bartoli out of Australian Open

Imagine that you're playing a big match in front of a mirror--only your mirror image is wearing speed skates. That should give you an idea of what happened to Marion Bartoli yesterday in the third round of the Australian Open. Bartoli takes the ball very fast, Zheng Jie takes the ball very fast; Bartoli goes for the big angles; Zheng goes for the big angles. This was going to be a competitive match, no matter what. Zheng, though, moved so quickly, and her footwork was so deft, that she was able to overcome the 9th seed with a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Bartoli hit only seven winners the entire match. Her usual aggression was stopped from the beginning by a bigger aggression on the side of the net. Zheng, who made it the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2010, had to withdraw from the event last year because of an injury.

Bartoli wasn't the only high seed to make an exit. 7th seed Vera Zvonareva was taken out 7-6, 6-1 by countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova. Makarova served for the first set at 5-4, but was broken. She remained calm, however, and went on to win the tiebreak 9-7. After that, the match was all about Makarova, who hit with finesse as Zvonareva struggled with her serve and made repeated errors.

Makarova reached the round of 16 in Melbourne last year, too. She was defeated by eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Her luck is no better this year; she plays Serena Williams in the next round.

I found it painful to watch Sorana Cirstea in the third round. She had some back pain, which was unfortunate, but she also had so many emotional outbursts, she looked as though she might just implode. The situation was made more dramatic by the fact that she was playing Italian backboard Sara Errani, who can grind for hours and rarely appear to be bothered. After Cirstea won the first set in a tiebreak, she became even more tense, and failed to win one game in the second set. The third set was better, though she won only two games in that one, as she had difficulty serving, and she continued to make unforced errors.

Did  anyone really think Svetlana Kuznetsova wasn't going to choke away a 6-2, 3-1 lead? I didn't think so.

The Russian was all over Sabine Lisicki in the first set, and Lisicki appeared lost, unable to deliver the serve for which she's become known. But the German staged a comeback when things looked bad for her in the second set, and that was all it took for Kuznetsova to lose her way, and then fade, as Lisicki became more confident.

Serena Williams beat Greta Arn 6-1, 6-1 in just under and hour. Maria Sharapova beat U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2, and Ana Ivanovic defeated Vania King 6-3, 6-4. Petra Kvitova played just a set and a game, as Maria Kirilenko had to retire with a thigh injury.

In the USA, Tennis Channel and ESPN are sharing the broadcast duties, with all the usual name mispronunciations and unnecessary banter. And while it pains me to say it (and this was evident during the U.S. Open, too), Chris Evert needs to go. There was a time when she was a good commentator, but now, she obviously doesn't know who the players are what their histories are. This was embarrassingly evident during Zvonareva's match, when Evert thought that Makarova was some new, young player on the tour with a "nothing to lose" attitude. Of course, Evert isn't the only WTA commentator who doesn't know much about the tour, but she seems to expose her knolwedge gaps more than the others.

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