Saturday, January 18, 2014

Here comes Muguruza

The young Spaniard, Garbine Muguruza, announced her presence in a new way yesterday; she advanced to the Australian Open round of 16 by defeating 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki. It took her 2 hours and 24 minutes, and she had to fight her own nerves more than once, but Muguruza hung in and showed why she's most likely the player Spain has been waiting for for some time. She does a lot things well, and she has an admirable court attitude.

Muguruza's ascent was delayed last summer because of ankle surgery. She took a six-month leave, then came back and won Hobart. Not bad. She's already knocked off Kaia Kanepi and Caroline Wozniacki (who's now out of the top 10) in Melbourne. She's also accumulated a lot of unforced errors, and that trend--though it reflects how "big" her game is--may also get her into trouble sooner than later. Next up for Muguruza is 5th seed Aga Radwanska, who's known for making few unforced errors and for throwing opponents off of their games. On the other hand, the Spaniard is a big hitter who can give Radwanska a bad day.

Radwanska, for her part, got a bit lucky. She looked totally out of sorts against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who took the first set 7-5. But in the second set, Pavlyuchenkova became dizzy. She received medical treatment and then played the third set, but it was all over for her; Radwanska won 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Television commentators seemed shocked that the Russian player would experience dizziness on the first good-weather day of the tournament, but it seemed kind of obvious to me that the cumulative effects of playing in very intense heat could cause someone to become ill.

Maria Sharapova defeated Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6, but continued to have problems with her serve. Her next opponent will be Dominika Cibulkova, whose serve has been fine-tuned to the point of giving Carla Suarez Navarro a 6-1, 6-0 send-off in under an hour. With her serve working, Cibulkova again becomes a hard court threat to anyone, including Sharapova.

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka defeated Yvonne Meusburger, and will now go against Sloane Stephens (Stephens beat Elina Svitolina). This match-up, of course, has television commentators practically drooling with anticipation. I have a lot of things to say about ESPN's commentary on the upcoming match, but I don't have to say them because Todd already did.

Jelena Jankovic defeated Karumi Nara and Simona Halep defeated Zarina Diyas, which brings up (for me, anyway) one of those "I can't stand to see either of them lose" matches in the round of 16.

The home favorites, Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, were upset in the second round of doubles. The 5th seeds lost to Timea Babos and Petra Martic. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sam Stosur also lost, as did Kristina Mladenovic and Flavia Pennetta.

Coming up later today is top seed Serena Williams, who will play Ana Ivanovic. Angelique Kerber will look across the net and see someone as tough as she is--Flavia Pennetta, and Li Na will have to deal with Ekaterina Makarova. Finally, last Aussie standing Casey Dellacqua actually won't have the entire crowd cheering for her when she plays Genie Bouchard.

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