Saturday, January 19, 2013

Russians under the radar

It's no secret that Maria Sharapova is romping through the early rounds of the Australian Open, but what isn't being talked about that much is that four of her countrywomen have joined her in the round of 16. 2013 Hobart champion Elena Vesnina beat Caroline Carcia, Varvara Lepchenko and Roberta Vinci to get to the final 16. Not bad. Of course, her reward is to play world number 1 Victoria Azarenka.

Ekaterina Makarova, a quarterfinalist last year, is also still in the draw. Makarova will face 5th seed Angelique Kerber in the round of 16, and I'm expecting three sets. The Russian is very comfortable on the Melbourne surface and has handled the heat well in the past.

Maria Kirilenko played over 2 1/2 hours against Yanina Wickmayer, and emerged the winner,  7-6, 6-3. The longer Kirilenko stays in the draw, the more I like it because I enjoy her game so much. She's seeded 14th this year, which is a good indicator of how good her 2012 season was. However....Kirilenko's next opponent will be Serena Williams. (A quotation from Vika Azarenka comes to mind, but you know about that.)

Finally there's Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two-time Grand Slam tournament winner had to go away for a while because of injury, but right now, she looks like--well, like Sveta. But Kuznetsova's tennis has really never been anything to worry about. A superb athlete with all-court skills, the popular Russian player's problems have always resided in her head. At this point, however, she may feel a bit less pressure, whereas, her opponent, Caroline Wozniacki, may be feeling some pressure (despite her constant declarations that she isn't). At any rate, Kuznetsova is playing well, and--barring a full-blown mental collapse--she should give Wozniacki all she can handle.

Well, now I've probably gone and conjured Todd's longtime "Kuznetkova Curse" against the Russian veteran. Oops.

Yesterday, I thought there were a couple of "plucky losers." Obviously, Jamie Hampton was one of them, and the other one was Ayumi Morita, who lost to Serena Williams, but she lost in style. Instead of backing away from her right at (or inside) the baseline stance, Morita held to it, and she competed against the four-time Australian Open champion with poise and confidence. She even went up 3-0 in the second set. Of course, Williams took care of that situation, but Morita had every reason to walk off the court feeling good about what she had done.

Kimiko Date-Krumm's singles run was ended yesterday by Bojana Jovanovski in straight sets. Nothing against  Jovanowski, but I was kind of sad to see Date-Krumm go. Still, what a run. And....she's still in the doubles draw. She and partner Arantxa Parra Santonja have already upset the second seeds.

Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson in straight sets, which surprised me. Next, Stephens plays Jovanski, which means she has a good chance to face off against none other than Serena in the quarterfinals.

What's with all the yellow? I don't mind yellow, though I prefer to see the softer version. I do like the yellow and white combo, however, and especially on Kirilenko. Speaking of tennis outfits--this is the first time in years that I haven't cared that much for Serena Williams' outfit (I thought Venus's was beautiful). And this is also a good time to mention that Sam Stosur finally got it right and wore a dress that didn't make her look she was wearing a coffee bean sack. She looked very nice.

I heard some news that I find upsetting: Victoria Azarenka has hired a publicist to polish her image. Do those who promote the herd mentality always have to prevail? It's her fire and her authenticity that make Azarenka so special--and so cool. Enjoy Vika now, because the machine may soon symbolically airbrush the life out of her.


Anonymous said...

Laura Robson played with an injured shoulder, and pushed her serve in at an average of 11mph slower than in her prior matches. So, it was remarkable that she did as well as she did. She remained the aggressor off the ground but Sloane had an easy time returning. We'll have to wait for them to meet again with both healthy.

Karen said...

Diane, I have to disagree on Vika. She needs a publicist. She basically implied in her last interview that Hampton was not really that injured. In addition, in one court side interview with Lindsay, Lindsay told her her stats for the match and her response was to say that that is not what she is out there to do.

I like her but sometimes she comes across as crass and very abrupt. I think that part of her image needs a makeover. She is #1 in the world and the face of her sport. She has to learn to employ a certain amount of diplomacy in her responses. she also acts as if the world is against her.

I get that the media demonises her, but she does not help her cause when she behaves in such a crass manner. No one is telling her to be a media darling, but she needs to understand that her belligerence will lose her fans.

Diane said...

I didn't hear the interview; I read the transcript. The implication, to me, was that she just couldn't read how injured Hampton was. But if how she said it came across differently, that's certainly another story (but still doesn't sound like Azarenka, for all her candor).

Anonymous said...

Hi Diane, thought about you after reading this article about Holly the Cat; you've probably read it by now:

(some of the comments are actually nice as well).


Diane said...

Thanks, David. You know, every year, there's a story about some cat who travels a couple of hundred miles or more to get home from who-knows-where. It's amazing that the do that.

The cat in the story is a patch tortoiseshell, just like Velma.