Monday, September 3, 2018

Lesia Tsurenko lurches into the U.S. Open quarterfinals

"Are they slow-moving, chief?"
"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up."
Night of the Living Dead 

I seem to be stuck on a ghoulish theme. But, watching Lesia Tsurenko and Marketa Vondrousova in their round of 16 match today, I couldn't help but think of the slow, lurching walk of zombies. First it was Tsurenko, who was so overcome by the heat that she frequently looked one bend-over from retiring from the match. Then her opponent started doing the same thing, and it was a really strange thing to watch--two women bending over in pain, walking like zombie movie characters, and--oh yes--competing rather gamely in the middle of their suffering.

Tsurenko got off to a quick start, going up 3-0, but before the set was over, she was showing signs of cramping and heat illness. She hung in, but lost the set in a tiebreak. And although it looked like the Ukrainian player might not have much left to give, she won the second set 7-5. The third set was pretty much about Tsurenko, who won it 6-2. They played for two and a half hours (and made 130 unforced errors), but for them, it must have seemed like half a lifetime.

After the match, Tsurenko said that--at her worst moment--she asked "nature, the god..." to send some shade over. Once she had it, she was able to go on.

In fact, Tsurenko wound up getting a lot more shade than she bargained for. In her press conference, Vondrousova (who appears to have taken the Tatjana Maria course on post-match graciousness) accused the Ukrainian of faking it. "I don't think she was struggling so much. She was just acting. She played normally; it was just acting."
Well, if it was acting, it was worthy of one of those statues that are distributed in New York City in June.

One can only wonder what kind of shape Tsurenko will be in for her quarterfinal match against Naomi Osaka. But, no matter what happens, both she and Vondrousova will be remembered for showing an immense amount of heart in their match.

Osaka played another big hitter, Aryna Sabalenka, but Sabalenka--like so many players with her style of play--made a lot of unforced errors and committed a rash of double faults. It was a disappointing performance from the Belarusian player, but ultimately, it doesn't take away from her immense potential.

In the other matches, Madison Keys handled Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets, and Carla Suarez Navarro did likewise with 2006 champion Maria Sharapova.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Serena Williams (17) vs. Karolina Pliskova (8)
Sloane Stephens (3) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (19)
Carla Suarez Navarro (30) vs. Madison Keys (14)
Naomi Osaka (20) vs. Lesia Tsurenko
There are still three USA players in the draw. Defending champion Sloane Stephens is the highest remaining seed, and Lesia Tsurenko is the lone unseeded player. 
In doubles, the top seeds--Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova--have reached the quarterfinals, in which they will play a very good team, 7th seeds Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs. That could be an outstanding match. The second seeds, Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic, will face Cincinnati champions and 6th seeds Lucie Hradecka and Ekaterina Makarova.

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