Monday, September 4, 2023

Those who remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Barbora Krejcikova has beaten her the last two times they've played each other. Jessica Pegula has beaten her three times, if you count the United Cup. However, both Krejcikova and Pegula have also lost to world number 1 Iga Swiatek; only Alona Ostapenko held a 3-0 record against her prior to their meeting in the roun of 16 at the U.S. Open. 

2017 French Open champion Ostapenko is a planet unto herself. A ballroom dancer-turned tennis star, the player that the Backspinner calls "Latvian Thunder" is known for her hilarious facial expressions, her constant questioning of electronic line calls--and her blistering groundstrokes. During her 2017 French Open campaign, her average stroke speed was clocked at 76 mph. 

Ostapenko goes for it, no matter what. She makes a lot of errors, but she hits a lot of winners. On a good day, she's full-out danger; on a bad day, she's just too error-prone to do anything. The world number 21 has, however, added something to her game that she needed--a really good serve. If she puts that serve together with "good day" Ostapenko tennis, she's practically unbeatable.

Ask Swiatek, who--despite winning the first set of their Sunday match--appeared flummoxed much of the time that she was on the court with the Latvian star. Ostapenko went after Swiaetek's forehand, she took time away from her, and she went on, as ESPN's Chris McKendry said, "one of her tears." She defeated the top seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, giving the baker a small (and almost a large) sample of her own famous baked goods.

Later, in press, Ostapenko said: “I think the main thing is she doesn’t really like to play big hitters. She likes to have some time. When I play fast, aggressive and powerful, she’s a little bit in trouble.” That sums it up pretty well.

Of course, this is the Ostapenko Show, so there's more than one thing going on. Because of Swiatek's round of 16 departure--as of next week--Aryna Sabalenka will be the new world number 1. Latvian Thunder indeed.

Also yesterday, 6th seed Coco Gauff had to fight with everything she had against comeback star Caroline Wozniacki (and against the nonstop mouthpiece otherwise known as Brad Gilbert). It paid off. Gauff defeated the former Australian Open champion 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Meanwhile, 33-year-old Sorana Cirstea became the oldest player to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open when she defeated Belinda Bencic in straight sets. This is Cirstea's second time to reach a major quarterfinal; she reached the quarterfinal of the 2009 French Open. Cirstea, as I've previously noted, flies under the radar most of the time, but can be deadly at majors.

2023 French Open finalist Karolina Muchova also had a fight on her hands. The new world number 10 (finally!) had to deal with an inpressive Wang Xinyu, but defeated her 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in what was an enjoyable match to watch. Following the match, Muchova, who plays the guitar, was asked--for some reason--what song she would play if she were to play one right then, and her answer was perfect: "Highway to Hell"

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