Thursday, August 28, 2014

Serena's Potential Victims All Take Themselves Out First

Bloodshed hit the top of the Women's Draw today as three heavy favorites, each of whom had Serena Williams on the near horizon, saved themselves the trouble by dropping winnable matches they each should have won. Ana Ivanovic was first, falling to Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-4. It was a disappointing end to the summer for Ivanovic, who looked excellent all summer in winning two tournaments and reaching the finals at Cincinnati. Yet as has been her modus operandi over the past couple of years, Ivanovic's regular season play has not translated to the Grand Slams, a fact that she herself said after the match will make her "reevaluate" how she prepares next year (don't skip Cincinnati though Ana...the chili is an acquired taste but I love it and even though it is very hot, the people are now AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb live there!)

Ivanovic however at least fell to a player in Pliskova who is playing well. For another top seed, the loss was much more puzzling. Madison Keys fell in three sets to 145th ranked Qualifier Alexsandra Krunic in a match that at times was difficult to watch. Nerves seemed to be overtaking Keys, who made uncharacteristic errors throughout the match. One of her late serves only hit the radar at 62 mph, an emblematic example in a match in which she never seemed in her comfort zone. Krunic said afterwards that her plan had been to simply be "a wall" for Keys to go up against and the plan worked to perfection as Keys made numerous errors, due largely to a lack of patience. With a potential huge opportunity awaiting in the next round versus Petra Kvitova, the loss has to especially sting Keys, who will unfortunately see little in the way of momentum from her tremendous grass court season.

I attended the Samantha Stosur loss to Kaia Kanepi, a hard-hitting affair that found itself in the strange setting of Court 5.  I attended basically out of respect for Stosur, a former champion who won the Open only three years ago and thus (in my personal view) should not have to play on the middle court of a three court set where screams from the adjoining matches constantly interrupt play (this is a pet peeve of mine about tennis so I am going to digress for just a moment if you will forgive me....why is it so important to be quiet at a tennis match?  On Arthur Ashe Stadium if one even breathes during a point, the Chair Umpire will admonish "Quiet Please" in the same voice as my third grade teacher.  However on the outer courts there are screams mid-point and nothing is done, nor does anyone care.  What is the difference?  The answer is that there is no difference and the desire to be quiet during regular points is unnecessary.  That is all). While I went out of respect for Stosur, the match was likely the best I have seen so far, with both players hitting big time winners and the level of play extremely high (with the exception of the point in which Stosur got the ball stuck on the triangle of her racked below the strings...I have never seen this outside of when I play and it was a highlight of the match). While the loss is surely disappointing for Stosur, the draw sets up well for Kanepi who is one of the few female players with the power, if not the overall game, to match Serena Williams.

Serena Williams is now looking at a draw in which only Lepchenko, Kanepi, Suarez-Navarro, Pennetta, Gibbs, Dellacqua and Pliskova stand between her and the Semifinals. The highest seed she could have to face is #11 and her quick work in the early round suggests she will reach a potential Kvitova fully energized. It was a good day for Serena (she only dropped one game in taking out Vania King), made even better by the wilting of some of her biggest foes.