Monday, April 3, 2017

JJ steps onto the court, tornado warnings follow

photo by Daniel Ward
Those of us who have gone to the Charleston tournament for many years know that tornadoes and media tent-rattling storms are always possible. I've been through several of them. Our theory is that Jelena Jankovic, by her very presence, sets them off. That theory was confirmed in 2015 and 2016 when JJ had to withdraw at the beginning of the tournament, and all we had were calm, sunny days.

The Serb played her first round match today, and--like clockwork--a tornado warning appeared on our phones and computers. While JJ was in the stadium hitting and sliding, the rest of us were trying to figure out a safe exit strategy.

There was a lot of rain, but it didn't last a long time. However, as long as Queen Chaos (Todd Spiker's perfect nickname for Jankovic) is in the draw, I'm not letting my guard down.

2007 champion Jankovic won her match, as did 2014 champion Andrea Petkovic. And the tornado warning, as tense as it was, wasn't the most exciting thing that happened today: That would be the three-hour and 19-minute battle fought between Lesia Tsurenko and 2016 quarterfinalist Laura Siegemund on the Althea Gibson Club Court.

Laura Siegemund (photo by Daniel Ward)
I anticipated that this would be a very good match, and it was. If it were made into a movie, it might be given the working title, "Drop Shot Me to Hell." There was a lot of drama, too, and the spectators were exhausted from watching. Tsurenko won an 87-minute first set in a tiebreak, then sustained a thigh injury that put her in obvious pain. Siegemund won the second set 6-2.

The third set was about as tense as they come. Tsurenko was grimacing in pain, sometimes stopping to bend and stretch her thigh. Her opponent's drop shots were often lethal, but Tsurenko returned the favor on several occasions, giving the German a bitter dose of her own medicine. Siegemund served for the match twice, and both times, she got tight and double-faulted her chances away.

In the meantime, Tsurenko, sensing her chances, loosened up; she was obviously now running on adrenalin and able to ignore the pain. But in the third set tiebreak, the Ukrainian player still came up short, and a very animated Siegemund was able to hit an emphatic match point and advance to the second round.

This match reminded me of a match played last year, also on Althea Gibson, between Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Kiki Mladenovic. The atmosphere was similar, and it appeared that neither player could grab a victory until finally, Lucic-Baroni sealed it in a 15-13 third set tiebreak.

No comments: