Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sharapova gets past Fighting Italian

I figured Karin Knapp would give Maria Sharapova trouble in their Australian Open second round match, and did she ever. The big-hitting Italian, who career has been repeatedly derailed by health issues, didn't seem to even notice the heat that was practically melting the entire tournament. Neither did 'Pova, for that matter. But heat fatigue was obviously a factor in the match, which lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes.

Sharapova won the first set 6-3, Knapp won the second set 6-4, and the third set was an out-and-out thriller. At 3-all, Sharapova converted on her fifth match point, and then the real tension began.

Knapp saved three match points when Sharapova served at 5-4, then broke the Russian when she double-faulted again.

Knapp broke Sharapova at 6-all. At 7-all, the Italian went down 0-30, but saved herself with four great consecutive serves. Sharapova then broke her. Serving for the match a second time, the third seed double-faulted twice in a row, then, at 30-all, she double-faulted again. But by this time, Knapp had let down a bit, having been broken at love at 8-9. A Sharapova victory didn't seem "inevitable," but it seemed very likely. And so it was, when the Russian star took the third set 10-8.

It should be noted that it wasn't just Sharapova who had trouble with her serve; Knapp double-faulted 9 times to Sharapova's 12. I'm going to give them a pass because of the intense heat. The chair umpire, on the other hand--who was most definitely not Eva Asderaki--didn't seem to care about one player's vocalizations during her opponent's hitting and/or serving.

So much attention was paid to this match that the commentators apparently didn't notice that another match, played in the same horrible conditions, went on for 3 hours and 10 minutes. The winner of that match was Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat Galina Voskoboeva 7-6, 3-6, 8-6. There was. as ome would expect, plenty of drama, with Voskoboeva leading 5-2 and 5-4, and serving for the match in the final set. And speaking of the heat, it did Varvara Lepchenko in. Lepchenko won the first set 6-4 against Simona Halep, but lost the next two 0-6 and 1-6. She had to have treatment for heat illness, and I was surprised she even went back onto the court.

Dominika Cibulkova ran over Stefanie Voegele, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alize Cornet both advanced. So did Zarina Dyas, a little-known player with an extremely aggressive style. Elina Svitolina ended Aussie Olivia Rogowska's run, and--ever so quietly--Garbine Muguruza advanced to the third round.

In doubles, top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won their first round match. They both got knocked out of singles in the first round of play, so there's nothing (except the heat) to distract them at this point.

2nd seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai also advanced to the second round.

Play has been suspended on the outer courts because of the excruciating heat.

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