Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wozniacki knocks Sharapova out of U.S. Open

For some reason, I just wasn't quite as into today's Sharapova vs. Wozniacki match as other people seemed to be. Maybe I was tired, maybe my eyes needed a rest, maybe it just wasn't the kind of tennis that gets me excited, though the final set certainly got my attention.

I expected some drama, and I was right about that. Wozniacki wasn't happy about all the time Sharapova was taking before she served, and the Dane complained to chair umpire Marija Cicak. Her complaint was ignored, even though Cicak had already given Sharapova a time violation for taking too long during the heat break. Talk about mixed messages. I stand by what I've said for a while: Violating the rules by taking too long to serve doesn't get you into much trouble, but following the rules by expecting your opponent to play at your pace can be a problem.

But I digress. Sharapova looked about as pleased to be playing Wozniacki as she looked when she played Sabine Lisicki, which is to say, not very. There were some strategically directed "Come on!"s from both players and a lot of animation from Sharapova, especially. After Wozniacki took the first set 6-4, it felt (at least to me) like it was going to be a three-set affair. Sure enough, 'Pova cranked it up considerably for the next set, hitting 22 winners and making only 12 unforced errors.

The last set, however, was a different story. Wozniacki went up an early break when Sharapova's serve became shaky, and the 10th seed never really looked back. She played a clean final set and continued to serve well. She also looked quite fresh toward the end, but Wozniacki was like that way before she ever trained for a marathon. She is a picture of endurance.

Earlier in the day, Fighting Italian Sara Errani ended Mirjana Lucic-Baroni's run, beating her 6-3, 3-6, 6-0. Lucic-Baroni had a problem with her knee, had it taped, and then pulled the tape off because it made her uncomfortable. She wound up hitting 46 winners and making 69 unforced errors. Errani's stats? Four and nine. The Italian was running and spinning, running and spinning, for an hour and 46 minutes. Both players' press conferences were notable: Errani's for her candor, and Lucic-Baroni's for her refusal to cooperate with efforts to get her to trash-talk her opponent.

Lucie Safarova and Peng Shuai were scheduled to play this afternoon, but play was suspended because of rain.They played on Court 5 tonight, and it was really all about Peng, who came out with the same winning attitude she's had since the beginning of the tournament. Peng hit 17 winners and made only seven unforced errors. She hit nine aces, two to end the match. Safarova served well, but she could not stop Peng's aggression.

It's probably obvious to all tennis fans that Peng has not had to have her thigh wrapped in a long time. But I've noticed something else this season: Her posture is better, and the round-shouldered walk and stance have gone away. Whoever helped the Chinese player with her hip and spine has definitely helped her to endure more continuous play and to develop more confidence. She looks like a different player. This is Peng's first time to reach a quarterfinal at a major, and it's a real pleasure to watch her make this run at the U.S. Open.

The night match featured 9th seed Jelena Jankovic and Swiss upstart Belinda Bencic. JJ looked slow to me in the first set, which she lost in a tiebreak (after both players held set points and JJ served for it twice). Nothing especially bothers Bencic, which is one of her strongest characteristics as a competitor. She's often compared with Martina Hingis (they both came out of the Melanie Molitor school of very clever tennis), but Bencic's expert redirection of the ball is equally reminiscent of none other than Jankovic.

The longer the match went on tonight, the more tired Jankovic looked. She was missing shots she usually hits like target practice, and she was backing up and giving Bencic a world of space to do her razzle-dazzle. The 17-year-old won the second set 6-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals, in which she'll play Peng, who won't allow her to be the only aggressor.
There are now only two of the top eight seeds left in the draw--number 1 seed Serena Williams and number 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard.

In doubles, Venus and Serena Williams defeated Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-0. Also advancing were 4th seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. In mixed doubles, Taylor Townsend and Donald Young upset 2 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Alexander Peya.

Oh, my: There was a lot of buzz today about the presence of Dick Enberg at the Open and about how much he is missed. And while I know that making sexually inappropriate comments to and about women is so "in" these days (and all days, for that matter), it will never be okay with me, so I'm not among those who miss him.

Mary Carillo said today that she's expecting Li Na to retire from the tour during this year's Asian swing. Say. It. Isn't. So.


Eric said...

I agree totally with your assessment of JJ/Bencic. I also thought JJ was moving very slowly laterally, which used to be her greatest strength. It actually made me think that her new-ish strategy of coming forward was in response to her decrease in speed; not necessarily a new tactic to add to her game. That thought depressed me a bit...

Nice observation on Peng Shaui -- I don't think anyone else would have caught that! I'm going to have to tune into her QF match to see.

Does Mary Carillo have an inside scoop? And were you anticipating the same thing? I couldn't tell if you were saying it was obvious or that you couldn't believe it.

Eric said...

Also, I really enjoyed all the comments you picked out from the day before yesterday (with Krunic and Vika and Serena, et al).

Diane said...

Thanks, Eric!

No, seriously, this the first I've heard Bout Li's possible upcoming retirement. Her agent denies it, but Carillo seemed very sure :(

Diane said...


sunny nine said...

Just very simple-JJ just didn't look at all like herself, demeanor or play

Li Na-Don't know if it is true but she couldn't have been at all happy about Rodriguez being taken away from her.

Diane said...

And she has had so many losses, and that was one I'm sure she didn't see coming. I hope she gets well and sticks around; I can't imagine tennis without Li Na.