Monday, September 1, 2014

Put on your red dress baby

...'cause we're going out tonight
Put on your red dress baby 'cause we're going out tonight
Well now wear some boxing gloves in case some fool might start a fight

Aleksandra Krunic, known on WTA Backspin as the Serbian Good Luck Charm because of her stunning Fed Cup doubles performances, put on her red dress tonight and somehow managed not to get punch-drunk, though it was her seventh consecutive match at the U.S. Open. Her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, did look punch-drunk, but it is now programmed into the 16th seed's brain to fight, and when it seems that everyone and everything is against her--to fight harder.

Azarenka defeated Krunic 4-6 6-4, 6-4 in a two-hour and 19-minute thriller that literally had me on the edge of my seat much of the time. If you look at the stats for this match, you can't even begin to get an idea of what the match was really like; it just doesn't translate.

Krunic had to go through qualifying, and during her first week in Flushing Meadows, she managed to knock off both 27th seed Madison Keys and 3rd seed Petra Kvitova. Krunic is a small woman by professional tennis standards: She stands only 5 feet and four inches tall. She isn't bulky or stocky. What she is is incredibly fast, and she can hit the ball way harder than one might expect. She also has a great deal of composure, and a great deal of fight in her.

Azarenka, a two-time finalist at the Open, was out for much of the year with an injury, yet she has been showing flashes of her old self since she arrived in New York. She needed that self--and then some--to ward off the assaults she had to undergo from Krunic. In the end, experience, as it so often does, determined who won the match. Krunic would go off a bit and then use the pressure to play herself back into a winning (or at least neutral) position, but--and here I'm dragging out a well-worn phrase--she really needed to win it in straight sets. Toward the end, the young Serbian player lost her mental edge, and Azarenka imposed herself successfully.

No matter what happens from here on out, Krunic has secured a spot in my U.S. Open top 10. Her performance at this event was stunning, and her combination of athleticism (really, she looks "French" to me, moving like Lenglen, Mauresmo and Cornet), creative shot-making and composure is scary. And did I say she hits the ball really hard? (Krunic cites Jelena Jankovic as her mentor, and it would have been a good idea, several times tonight, if she had used the signature Jankovic backhand down the line to finish points. Maybe next time.)

As for Vika Azarenka--she made a "great escape" tonight, and that can be a very good thing for a top player at a big event. She faces Ekaterina Makarova in the quarterfinals, and--if Makarova stays "on"--Azarenka will have that big, tricky lefty serve to solve.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Serena Williams (1) vs. Flavia Pennetta (11)
Victoria Azarenka (16) vs. Ekaterina Makarova (17)
Belinda Bencic vs. Peng Shuai
Caroline Wozniacki (10) vs. Sara Errani (13)

Hot weather and hotter opponent bring end to Bouchard's U.S. Open run

No one ever says that the old school white-wearing, understated Ekaterina Makarova "likes the big stage," but obviously, she does. The "other" blonde Russian has so much hitting talent that for years, I've asked "Why isn't she ranked higher?" and "Why isn't she winning tournaments?" And then Makarova will play wildly inconsistently, and I'll be reminded, yet again, of the answer to those questions.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the majors, Makarova brings her best tennis. She's reached the quarterfinals of a major five times; today marked the second consecutive year that she has reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. In doing so, Madarova upset 7th seed Genie Bouchard today, and what will the commentators/sponsors/WTA executives//marketing specialists do now?

The Canadian star has had a remarkable season at the majors, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon. Today, however, she was done in by the heat in the stadium, and by the fierce serving and hitting of Makarova. It seemed to me to be Makarova's match to lose, even before it started. Bouchard hasn't had much of a summer hard court experience, and also, it seems to me that the Russian stores up her mental energy for these huge occasions, and then just lets loose.

Today, Makarova looked like she was going to take the first set 6-3, but her serve went to pieces (this is Makarova we're talking about) and she was easily broken when she served at 5-3. The set went to a tiebreak, with Makarova playing a few stunning points to get the score even. She won the first point of the tiebreak on Bouchard's serve, and then all but cruised through the rest of it, taking it 7-2.

Makarova led 3-2 in the second set when Bouchard took a medical timeout and was treated for heat illness. By this time, both players were sweating like crazy, and Makarova's face was bright red. Perspiration dripped from the edge of Bouchard's dress onto the court as she took a seat to be given an ice rubdown and a blood pressure check (it could have been worse--she could have been playing that other Russian). Usually, during this type of break, an experienced opponent would be on the court practicing her serve, or at least moving around, but it was too hot and humid for that; Makarova sat in her chair, wrapped an ice towel around her neck, and drank liquids.

When Bouchard returned to the court, she was broken right away, but then she broke her opponent right back. Neither of them looked as though they could endure much more of the weather. But it was the Russian who stayed steady. Serving at 4-5, Bouchard went down 0-40, and Makarova won on her first match point.

Earlier in the day, Flavia Pennetta reached her second straight U.S. Open quarterfinal, defeating Casey Dellacqua 7-5, 6-2, and top seed Serena Williams defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4, thereby reaching her first major quarterfinal of 2014.

There was a big upset in doubles. Kimiko Date-Krumm and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat 2nd seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai 7-6, 6-4. In mixed doubles, life-long friends Taylor Townsend and Donald Young reached the semifinals when they defeated Ashleigh Barty and John Peers.

U.S. Open--what they said

I finally made a quarterfinal this year!
Serena Williams 

Do you like the way you're treated by the media? Would you like to be more sort of in the spotlight like certain stars, or you like to be in the shadow? What is your attitude? Do you think that someone is not considering you enough or not?
I think I prefer to stay in the shade.
Ekaterina Makarova

Is it different? Do you have to do something different to play against her (Serena) than you would...
Something different. You cannot invent something. I mean, you just have to play your tennis and do your best. Of course, she's better than me, but if I still believe I can beat her, maybe if she doesn't have a good day I can do that....
But you still believe?
Of course. Why not?
Flavia Pennetta

What are the positives you take out of this? You made the fourth round of the US Open, lost to the number 1 seed.
Yeah, I had really good matches. I think I gained confidence for next tournaments. I played aggressive. I didn't get like pissed on the court. I was very calm all matches. I like that way to be on the court.
Kaia Kanepi

...her backhand is world class. One of the best backhands in the world. I think her forehand, it's tricky. I don't think she hit it poorly. She varies it up on the forehand side. You get different looks. You get a hard, flat ball. You get the slow, loopy ball. That's why she's tricky to play.
Casey Dellacqua, referring to Flavia Pennetta

...of course I'm nervous a little bit. Sometimes more; sometimes less. But all the time when I'm nervous, maybe more than normal, I'm all the time try to speak with my coach about this. Like just to talk, you know. And then this situation she told me some things and this situation just let it go, you know.
Ekaterina Makarova

I played Jennifer Capriati. At that time, we were the same age.
Chanda Rubin

2009--the year of Little Miss Upset

Five years ago today, 17-year-old Melanie Oudin from Marietta, Georgia began her campaign to bring down Russia at the U.S. Open. Her first victory went unrecognized, but it was significant. In the opening round, Oudin defeated her junior nemesis, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the player who had denied Oudin the top ranking throughout their junior careers. I made a mental note of that.

In the second round, everyone made a mental note, as Oudin upset 4th seed and 2004 finalist Elena Dementieva. That caused quite a stir, but it was nothing compared with round 3, when the teenager brought down 2006 champion and international celebrity Maria Sharapova. Oudin earned the nickname "Little Miss Upset" and became the talk of the tennis world and the U.S. news media. Everyone wanted to know about her shoes, her training, her family, her boyfriend, and what on Earth possessed her to become an army of one against the serious tennis force that was Russia.

Wearing her pink and yellow Nike shoes with the word Believe printed on them, Oudin walked flat-footed around the court like a baby duck on a mission. She was all business, and like almost-famous Tsvetana Pironkova, didn't give a damn what anyone thought about her consistent use of the forehand slice. She yelled "Come on!" she fist-pumped, she yelled some more, and all five feet and six inches of her appeared electrified as she wiped out one tall Russian after another.

Nadia Petrova was Oudin's next victim. The 13th seed became the fourth Russian giant to get run over by those pink and yellow shoes. It was as if Oudin were opening a set of matryoshkas and stomping on them, one by one. "Well, she was just seventeen..." the Beatles tune blasted through the tournament loudspeaker as Oudin stepped off of the court for yet another interview.

Melaniemania was at a peak, and why not? A teenager from the USA, barely out of juniors, was not only upsetting very high seeds, she was knocking off consecutive Russians. To compete consecutively against four players from the same country was a novelty in itself. The fact that that country happened to be women's tennis giant Russia made the entire affair something beyond tantalizing.

There was a down side, though. Against Dementieva, Sharapova and Petrova, Oudin had lost the first set. She was tired. She got eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals, and that was the end of her run. Wozniacki beat her in straight sets.

And this is where--at least for me--it gets fascinating in a fantasy sense: If Wozniacki had lost her round of 16 match, Oudin's quarterfinal opponent would have been 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, another Russian. And to this day, I believe Oudin would have beaten her and gone to the semifinals. But it wasn't to be, and it still seems somehow "wrong" to me that the upstart teenager didn't get to play five Russians in a row.

Oudin appeared on "The Tonight Show" and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." She was personable and candid and made a good showing. Shortly after the conclusion of the U.S. Open, a member of the tennis press revealed that Oudin was under a considerable amount of especially nasty family-related stress, which made the 17-year-old's run even more remarkable.

Unfortunately, Oudin was not able to break through in a big way on the tour, despite her 2009 U.S. Open success. She had a couple of good runs in Charleston, she and Jack Sock won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship in 2011, and she surprised everyone by winning Birmingham in 2012. She has not gotten past the second round of the U.S. Open since 2009 (this year, she didn't make it out of qualifying), and she is currently ranked number 135 in the world.

Oudin is not quite 23 years old, and no one can know what lies in her tennis future. But whatever does or doesn't happen, nothing can take away the thrills that she created in 2009 when she mowed down Russia's finest in one glorious rump through the U.S. Open.

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.

U.S. Open--what they said

What do you do well on these faster courts?
I like to run....
Sara Errani
 
Can you remember winning, the last time you won six matches in a row?
It's been a little while. It's been a little while. Today I felt like my body just wasn't willing to--it wasn't willing, but it just kind of broke down a little everywhere. I have blisters, tapes, pain everywhere in my body, so I burned out a little bit today.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
 
She's competing better than she's playing....
Mary Carillo, referring to Maria Sharapova

She's very good at getting a lot of balls back and making you hit another one. In the end, I went for a little too much.
Maria Sharapova

You said her service was slow. Did you...
You want me to say something I really don't want to say because you want to write something fun, but I'm not going to do that.
Why not?
Because I'm a fair competitor. She plays the way she plays and she fights well. You know, she had five winners in the whole match and missed maybe three balls. You know, she runs and she fights hard. That's the way it is. I wish her good luck. Respect.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Way back when you did all that training with boxing and then obviously you were around the golf world for quite a while and now the marathon, in a word, what do you learn from each of those three and which of those three benefits tennis the most?
Well, I think it's very different. You know, now I'm running the marathon. It's hard work. You know, I run a lot already in my training, so to put those extra miles in, I think it helps my head. Kind of clears my head. I feel more free when I go on court. The boxing, I love the boxing. It's so tough. You know, I always get killed during that training, but, you know, it makes me stronger and I know I can push myself really far. You know, the golf is obviously a mental sport. Sometimes it's the small putts that can make a huge difference. You make a few putts here and there. Again, same with tennis. You make a ball here, there. You know, important points, those are the ones that count.
Caroline Wozniacki

I need to start the point where I want. So sometimes is better for me to serve not that fast, because if you serve fast the ball is coming faster. So I try not to hitting that fast. I try to change a bit the direction and be ready for making the point on the baseline.
Sara Errani

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oh, Petra--and other highlights of the day

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova continued her not-so-good U.S. Open pattern today, losing in straight sets in the third round to an on-fire Aleksandra Krunic. The Jankovic-like athleticism of Krunic, as well as a steady mindset, kept the young Serbian player going during times when Kvitova was hitting her impossible-to-defend winners. Krunic, whom some of have admired for a while in Fed Cup competition, made less than half the number of unforced errors as her opponent, and that was pretty much the crux of the 6-4, 6-4 story. Oh, Petra.

One Russian went out, as Elena Vesnina won only two games against two-time U.S. Open finalist Victoria Azarenka. Another Russian, Ekaterina Makarova, advanced to the round of 16 with a straight sets victory over Zarina Diyas. Flavia Pennetta kept the Italian spirit going (as if, with Sara Errani, it needed to be cranked up) when she defeated Nicole Gibbs 6-4, 6-0. Casey Dellacqua beat Karolina Pliskova, and Kaia Kanepi took out Carla Suarez Navarro, 7-5, 6-0.

Serena Williams defeated Varvara Lepchenko (her third countrywoman in a row), and became the only player from the USA who remains in WTA and ATP singles competition in the tournament.

In the night match, Genie Bouchard had to fight both herself and the always-determined Barbora Zahlavova Strycova through three sets. Until the middle of the third set, it looked like it could go either way, but the Czech player's second serve had already left the stadium, and Bouchard wound up with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 victory. It was an entertaining match, despite the wind, and despite the deficits of both players. Bouchard was all over the place. Her next opponent is the eternally inconsistent Ekaterina Makarova, so whether Makarova is having a "good" or a "bad" day may be the deciding factor.

The biggest upset of the day occurred in doubles. The Australian pair, Jarmila Gajdosova and Ajla Tomljanovic, upset top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. Martina Hingis and Flavia Pemnetta advanced to the third round when they defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-0.

U.S. Open--what they said

When you have everything, you don't know...what you actually need.
Aleksandra Krunic

If not Sharapova, then a relatively unknown will come through to the final.
Chanda Rubin

You know, for me, I don't feel 25 years old. Sometimes I feel I'm 12 years old. Sometimes I feel I'm 50 years old.
Victoria Azarenka

Petra Kvitova sailed another forehand, slumped her head, and leaned on the handle of her Wilson racquet like a weary traveler hanging onto a cane during a draining journey.
Richard Pagliaro

If you’re worried about the sounds Victoria Azarenka is making at the U.S. Open, you need to narrow your focus.
Louise Pleming

It was an honor to be on the same court with Petra.
Aleksandra Krunic

How good do you think Belinda can be? How far do you think she can go in this sport? 
Well, I think there is huge potential for her. I mean, I definitely think she can be top five. She's on the way to get there. How far, it's up to her. You know, nobody can play the matches for her and win matches, win the tournaments. But she showed yesterday that she can win a big match when she has to. Hopefully there will be more opportunities in the near future. Maybe here, you know.
Martina Hingis

At the last point you didn't seem to look very well. The last points.
The last point, it doesn't matter.
Petra Kvitova

I think this is your 100th Grand Slam win today. Did you know that?
Really? Where is my cake, then? Like for real. Tonight? Thank you. Put some icing on it.
Victoria Azarenka

You said you were watching the Wimbledon final. Were you rooting for Petra or Bouchard?
Petra. I like Petra a lot as a person. She's very down-to-earth and I respect her a lot. I like when I can say hi and talk to the players that are much higher ranked than me and I don't feel such a difference in our levels....
Aleksandra Krunic

How important was it to get to the second round? You used to take it for granted. But this year...
To get to?
To the second week, sorry.
I mean, I can't believe I'm in the second week. It's like a dream come true for me at this point.
Why can't you believe it?
I'm being sarcastic.
Serena Williams

Friday, August 29, 2014

Don't blink

You might miss an upset at the U.S. Open. Today, the big upset was Mirjana Lucic-Baroni's straight set defeat of 2nd seed Simona Halep. Halep held a 5-2 lead in the first set, and after Lucic-Baroni "caught up," it was pretty much over for Halep, who was defeated 7-6, 6-2 in a comeback moment that was--for a few reasons--reminiscent of Jelena Dokic's run at the 2009 Australian Open. Halep was obviously having an "off" day, but part of the reason she was having trouble was the switched-on game of Lucic-Baroni.

It wasn't just Halep who made an exit. There was also 6th seed Angelique Kerber, who lost in three sets to tough-minded Belinda Bencic from Switzerland. Bencic is a really big talent, and this kind of thing was going to happen sooner or later--and my bet was on "sooner." Coached, from time to time, and mentored by Melanie Molitor, the 17-year-old has the mindset of Martina Hingis, but is a much bigger hitter. Bencic handled the occasion with a nice combination of excitement and steadiness, and advances to the round of 16.

The biggest drama of the day was Sara Errani's 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 defeat of Venus Williams. (If that has a familiar ring to it, here's why: Kim Clijsters defeated Williams 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 in the third round of the 2009 U.S. Open.) Williams made 52 unforced errors. On the plus side, she and sister Serena won their second round doubles match.

Peng Shuai, Lucie Safarova and Caroline Wozniacki all advanced, defeating Roberta Vinci, Alize Cornet and Andrea Petkovic, respectively. And--a happy moment--the Light and the Joy moved to the round of 16, allowing Johanna Larsson to win only game. As I write this, Maria Sharapova is a set away from advancing; she took the first set 6-2 over Sabine Lisicki.

U.S. Open--what they said

I'm just going to the hairdresser, manicure--who cares about tennis, right?
Jelena Jankovic

Every time I play against her she won against me very easy. So I thought that I had to make my level higher, try to be much more aggressive than any time, and try to keep focus every point. Even if I'm going down like in the second, just keep going and try to be focus as I can.
Sara Errani

How happy are you with the way that you are playing, the way you're handling pressure, and how much confidence do you feel going into the fourth round?
How happy? Now I'm still happy. I don't know, because every day you have like a different feeling, you know. Like when I play Aga I think I play really good tennis, and then even today was also good. And then I don't know how it's in Sunday. I hope I will be same.Yeah.
Peng Shuai

Yeah, doubles teams come and go, but we stick together. Why not, though? She plays so well. I think she can rely on me out there, as well. It's a match made in heaven maybe.
Venus Williams

...yeah, at 19, I did not know what was going on. I had a big chance. You know, I was up against Justine Henin a set and 4-2, 40-15. I had the whole match in my hand and I was thinking about celebrating and I'm going in the finals. Of course at the time I was inexperienced. I didn't know what's happening. I was just a child, and, you know, I was playing so well, though...
Jelena Jankovic

It's only been 15 years since you got to the second week of a slam. It's not that long.
I know, right? I feel good about the fact I'm 32 and I'm still here. After so many matches I feel fit. I feel strong. I still have a few years to catch up to Kimiko, so I'm good.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stosur and Ivanovic say goodbye to Flushing Meadows

Well, that didn't last long. The "revived" Ana Ivanovic and the slightly less "revived" Samantha Stosur were both upset in the second round of the U.S. Open today. AnaIvo fell to Karolina Pliskova, who is very quietly making her (big-serving) way through the twists and turns of WTA competition. Pliskova hit only seven aces today, though she generally goes into double digits, and beat 8th-seeded Ivanovic 7-5, 6-4.

2011 champion Stosur went out in a thriller against the mercurial Kaia Kanepi. Each held two match points in a very tense third set tiebreak, and Kanepi saw it through with a 10-8 win. Also making an exit was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who lost to Nicole Gibbs. Genie Bouchard needed three sets to defeat Sorana Cirstea in what was a most entertaining night match. Serena Williams beat Vania King in under and hour, and Petra Kvitova beat countrywoman Petra Cetkovska in straight sets.

Qualifier Aleksandra Krunic defeated Madison Keys, and CiCi Bellis, the new "big thing," lost in three sets to Zarina Diyas (and gave Diyas a bagel in the second set). U.S. Open-loving Flavia Pennetta advanced, as did Vika Azarenka. Two Russians, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, also moved on to the third round.

In doubles, Venus and Serena Williams beat 7th seeds Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-1. That was quite a match to have in the first round. Top seeds Errani and Vinci and 2nd seeds Hsieh and Peng advanced to the second round.

U.S. Open--what they said

Let's get over it a little bit and let her have a normal life and progress in her tennis.
Chris Evert, on CiCi Bellis

And the wigs, I really need a Tina Turner wig.
I don't know about that one. I don't do that.
You can do that.
No, I don't.
Serena Williams

It was windy. Our court start with the shade and it was slowly to cover all the court. Sometimes I couldn't really see the serve. You know, sometimes when it's going from the sun to shade, it's not really visible.
Petra Kvitova

The final set was a tense affair, with neither dropping serve until the ninth game. Kanepi served for the match only to serve to stay in it two games later, but the pro-Stosur crowd was begging for a final-set tiebreak.
David Kane

My job was to be kind of a wall today. I think I managed to do it very well.
Aleksandra Krunic

She's almost afraid to make that commitment to win--kind of like a Sloane Stephens.
Chris Evert, referring to Sorana Cirstea

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We didn't even get a chance to count the dots

4th seed Aga Radwanska and her lovely black and white polka dot dress have parted Flushing Meadows. Radwanska is an outstanding hard court player who just cannot--for some reason, she says it's a mystery--negotiate the courts of the U.S. Open. Radwanska lost today in the second round to Peng Shuai, the woman who took her out in the second round in 2010. Peng defeated the Polish star in straight sets today.

That was the big news, but it wasn't the only news. Sloane Stephens was also upset in the second round, by Johanna Larsson. Larsson lost the first set but then went on a campaign that combined her athleticism with determination, and which resulted in yet another "what's wrong with Sloane?" ongoing media discussion.

Known for having a mediocre (that may be too kind) record in "regular" tournaments but a very good record in the majors, Stephens' 2014 season has, to some degree, tarnished that odd reputation; she went out in the first round at Wimbledon.

Kurumi Nara was the 31st seed--not a major player at the Open--but a potentially very dangerous one. That danger was removed today by Belinda Bencic, who defeated Nara in three sets. In the thriller of the day, Andrea Petkovic barely survived Monica Puig, and Simona Halep, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, and Maria Sharapova all advanced.

In the first round of doubles, 6th seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears were upset, as were 10th seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. The Pliskova sisters lost to Cara Black and Sania Mirza, and received a second set bagel. Tomorrow--and what a first round match this is--the Williams sisters play Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic.

U.S. Open--what they said

And if you could have changed one thing in your progression, which of course has been very even, but if you could change one thing in your early career...
No, I don't want to change anything. It was perfect. I'm happy how I am now. Everythings are going how they have to be, so I'm happy with the way I did in the past. Now in the future for sure I will do also great job.
Simona Halep

When the stakes get higher, I hit harder; I can't help it.
Venus Williams

For me, this is very perplexing.
Tracy Austin, on Sloane Stephens' lack of progress

He's (Groenefeld) quite energetic in the box. Do you like that?
I don't think he was like that before. I think I just make everybody energetic.
Maria Sharapova

...how were you playing differently then when you were making deeper runs in Grand Slams as opposed to right now?
That's something normally you guys write about because you guys critique it. I mean, there's not much really I can do. It's a game. The girl I played played a good match today. She played really solid. There is a lot of things I could say that's different, have changed, better or worse. That's just a matter of, I don't know, just things. I don't know.
Sloane Stephens

Do you prefer to practice in private, though? 
No. I like just to practice everywhere.
Simona Halep

How disappointing is this for you?
I mean, it always is, especially in the Grand Slam your first week. But, well, I think here is not really the new thing for me. Unfortunately.
Aga Radwanska

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 2 of U.S. Open brings significant upsets

Your average 15-year-old doesn't wipe out a Tornado, then turn around and diffuse a Pocket Rocket, but CiCi Bellis does not appear to be your average 15-year-old. The teenager from California, who upset 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova today, is the youngest player to win a main draw match at a major since Anna Kournikova did it 18 years ago at the Australian Open.

Bellis earned a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw when she beat Tornado Alicia Black in the final of the USTA Girls' 18s National Championship. Appearing nerveless in her opening match in Flushing Meadows, Bellis went all aggressive with Cibulkova's second serve and beat her 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Her next opponent will be another aggressive player, Zarina Diyas.

20th seed (and 2004 champion) Svetlana Kuznetsova went out in the first round today, too. The Russian lost a third set tiebreak to Marina Erakovic. The Kuznetsova Curse remains a very reliable reality.

Donna Vekic seemed to go to pieces after her successful first set against Coco Vandeweghe, and Kiki Mladnovic won one game against 3rd seed Petra Kvitova.

Other than Elina Svitolina's loss to Polona Hercog, everything else went pretty much as it was expected to go. Genie Bouchard, Sam Stosur, Vika Azarenka, and Flavia Pennetta all advanced, as did Ekaterina Makarova. Top seed Serena Williams, looking like her "real self" in a leopard print and hot pink, advanced to the second round when she defeated Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1.

U.S. Open--what they said

She raises her hand like she’s in school.
Chris Evert, describing Taylor Townsend’s challenge gesture

This is such a different atmosphere here in New York. Some people love it here. How do you respond to this kind of tournament? 
I'm not really this person, really love it. But that's the Grand Slam, it's important one. Yeah, I mean, if I'm comparing with Wimbledon, it's really big difference. It's more crowd, it's more big show, something like that. So it's not really my person....
Petra Kvitova

Do you think it's feasible to display a clock so that the players, the fans, and a chair ump could see the time tick off? 
Yeah. We actually had a meeting about that couple weeks ago. Yeah, I don't think that would be a bad idea. You know where you stand. Yep, that's it. That's what we've gotta do.
Sam Stosur

You're actually trending on Twitter now. If you had a hashtag to sum up this afternoon, what would it be?
I know some of my friends were doing hashtag like, take down Cibulkova, something like that. I know three of my friends did that, I guess.
CiCi Bellis

You're probably too young to know much about Carling Bassett, but I'm wondering what kind of Canadian tennis influence you have had, if any?
I never had any Canadian tennis influences. I looked up to the best: Steffi Graf, Maria Sharapova. I remember watching Monica Seles playing. Any great champions I looked up to.
Genie Bouchard