We have a blockbuster Saturday coming up in Woop Woop. Wafa faces off first match against a resurgent del Potro. Normally, I would not worry, but given Rafa’s performance in his last two matches, del Potro seems to be in with a chance to win.
In a dystopian world, my anticipation of a Fedal final would be completely derailed by both delPo and Satan.
BUT IT IS OKAY.
Unlike every other tournament, this time in Woop Woop, we get a second chance to reach Dootsie’s ovarian happiness. FEDRINKA plays Dolgopolove and Xman in some kinduva alternative dream doubles final.
Either way, the firelog routine – IT HAS TO HAPPEN. I WILL DIE OF A THOUSAND SQUISHY PENGUINS IF IT HAPPENS.
OOP – STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
 R Nadal (ESP) vs J Del Potro (ARG) – ATP
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  R Federer (SUI) – ATP
Not Before 3:00 PM
 B Mattek-Sands (USA) / M Shaughnessy (USA) vs S Mirza (IND) / E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA – DOUBLES FINAL
Not Before 4:00 PM
A Dolgopolov (UKR) / X Malisse (BEL) vs R Federer (SUI) / S Wawrinka (SUI) – ATP – DOUBLES FINAL
Always loved Wimbledon fashion – the white dress code has the effect of forcing everyone to try harder to stand out, as is the case with Venus Williams.
Love it, hate it, everybody’s talking about it. For my part, I don’t mind a little cha cha cha. She has the body to pull it off, so why not?
They say imitation is the best form of flattery. I think JJ still likes you, Woger.
Nice dress though. The folks over at Anta have outdone themselves.
It’s one thing design barflike dresses, quite another to charge people $300 for it. Yes, that’s you, Stella.
A dress that actually looks like tenniswear: the mind – it boggles.
For future, reference – this is called a BOLERO, not “some-weird-jackety-thingymajigue-that-Serena’s-wearing”. And she looks prim and classy in her strawberries-and-cream inspired gear. Nice one, Nike.
Masha finds herself looking sleek and corporate in a cropped blazer.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of a good fit.
This is the definition of the opposite:
Honestly, can Zheng Jie get any cuter?
Don’t mind the dress, hate the white leggings. Good thing we won’t be seeing more of it then.
What’s your favourite Wimbledon outfit this year? Do tell!
1. How’s this for a reaction? Serena Williams def Vera Dush 67(2) 76(5) 76(5).
You don’t often see Serena Williams making 73 unforced errors to 64 winners in a first round WTA tour match.
3-hour 26-minute of a hard fought, leech-like battle became the longest match of Serena’s career. Just when you thought you’ve seen it all.
The surrealism of the entire affair was only enhanced by the fact that it was Serena who wasted three set points in the first set. It was also Serena who saw off a match point on her serve when trailing 6-5 in the second. To top it all off, ReeRee trailed 4-0 in the decisive tiebreaker before winning 7 of the next 8 points to close off the match.
Amazingly, after the match, Serena admitted that she did not realise that Madrid is situated 3,000 feet above sea level – causing the balls to fly faster.
Just goes to show how much she prepares for non-slam tournaments these days. But then again, the amount of passion she showed during the match was equally indicative of how competitive she can be … when she wants to be.
“I was trying to get myself going,” she said. “I need energy and emotion. Letting (it) out helps me get energized.”
Venus, had an easier time than I expected, seeing off Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-3, while tiebreaks became the theme of the day when DinaRA was defeated by the amazingly fluid strokes of Kookie Zakopalova 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3).
Clay court fashion moment: ANTA. Working its block colours and working them right yo!
Congratulations to Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick. Miami Champs for 2010.
1. 2nd major tournament of 2010, second early exit by Maria Sharapova. This follows her round 2 loss at Wimbledon and round 3 at the US Open. At least she sounded a lot optimistic than I do right now.
“It’s just the mystery of the unknown.We can only do so much and work as much as we can. It’s a combination of both physically and mentally just getting stronger and little steps.
I think I’m doing a lot better than other people that have had shoulder surgery in their careers. Some people have never come back. What, I’m 13 in the world or something? That’s a lot better than some of the girls I’ve lost to in the last year.”
It’s a long long road back from injury and it’s a rocky one. Not of the confectionary kind.
The common feature in her losses to Zheng Jie, Oudin and Kiriklenko over the past 6 month has been that she’s hit more winners, unforced errors and double faults than her opponents. It’s not that these victors were counterpunching pushers waiting for her to ‘give away the match’. It’s about her game having too much black-and-white, hits-and-misses and not enough grey.
Yes, grey is neither her style nor her personality. But it wouldn’t hurt to see some minor tweaks in her game. Especially with a whole new generation of Baby Sharapovas coming up with more consistency albeit less mental fortitude than Sharapova.
Still. Hard to be mad at Zheng Jie when she’s such a cute little rubber duck.
2. Non-upsets of the day: Gisela Dulko tells the story of a typical journeywoman – beating Justine Henin one day, winning a grand total of one game against Aga the next.
Comebacks are all the rage on the WTA tour – Alicia Molik crushes Lena Balt 60 62 to advance to the third round of Indian Wells.
Greul grilled Monfils 16 62 63, Blake blitzed Ferrer 61 64. Melzer melted Nalbandian by the inverse scoreline of 64 61.
No Fedbandian quarterfinal then? Le sad.
3. Of course, we were almost denied of a Federer quarterfinal of any kind altogether as Victor Hanescu took a set in his 36 76 16 loss to a chili-red Roger.
The first set was over a flash as Roger got up an early break and lost only one point on serve. You can be forgiven for expecting the second set to be just as straight forward. After his hawk-eye successes at the Australian Open, the Fed reverted back to his love/hate relationship with our favourite birdy.
Hey genius, two things you can’t argue against in tennis – hawkeye for a bad call, and a wall for outhitting you.
But it seems that taking a set off Hot Papa was all that Hanescu could manage before a third set burn-out. Roger upped his service percentage and closed out the deal with a breadstick, and took a few more vases home for Mirka.
Baghdatis next. Fear for your knickers.
4. Ana Ivanovic fell to Sevastova in her first match at Indian Wells. With this loss, she’s set to tumble out of the top 50 for the first time since 2004. It’s depressing. It’s humiliating. It’s well-publicised … or perhaps more appropriately – badly-publicised.
It’s just a awful story.
So I’m going to stop talking about it.
5. Wisdom from Bodo.
Sure, players have bad days, and women players often have bad days for biologically-related reasons that are never discussed (it goes against the grain of both good manners and our general social philosophy) but loom at the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room.
6. I’m a little late on this thanks to the internet fiasco at home, but Hit for Haiti 2 turned out to be the unfortunate clash of personalities it promised to be.
Rafa looked overawed at times and wasn’t nearly as relaxed and quippy as he was in Australia with Nole. Fed was goofy and McDreamy, and really tried to make things about as pleasant as he could.
Andre and Pete? Fire and ice.
From the outset, it felt like Andre was trying to overcompensate the humor of the night. Depending on your view of AA, either he got too relaxed and loose-lipped, or he set out to bait Pete in the first place. It didn’t help that Pete not only took the bait but took it badly. It was shocking, inappropriate, embarrassing. It was the walking-in-on-nasty-Christmas-fights kind of awkward. It made me want to rewind back to the part of the night that was still cheery and playful.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Andre Agassi. The little kinks in his personality are what makes him one of the most intriguing characters in tennis. But this was no brainer – he said the wrong thing at the wrong time. He embarrassed Pete, who he knew wasn’t quick or sharp enough to tease back with the same sort of dark, edgy humor.
Not to mention: he did so at a charity match in front of 16,000 people. It killed the atmosphere and shifted the focus of the night from altruism to scandal.
When asked about the incident, Rafa said he didn’t understand it. Whether he was being genuine or just refusing to get involved we’ll never know.
Fed also downplayed the incident with a line I wish he used on the night to break the ice: “Now being a father I thought we had to give both guys a time out.”
Cracking dad jokes already are we?
7. To end on a positive note: bullying Roger? Bad idea.
Oh Tennis World, I’ve missed so much while I was away fretting about my evidence law exam last week.
Who is this pocket dynamite and what have you done with Zheng Jie?
FINALS SUNDAY LINE-UP
Youzhny vs. Djokovic
The Headclobber is not the kind of player I’d expect to do well in a final. But then again, this is Dubai, a tournament he’s typically played well in.
His opponent is in a bit of unchartered waters himself, as Nole is oh-so-close to defending a title for the first time in his career. If his last 3 matches were anything to go by, he really, really, really wants to screw it up.
Ferrero vs. Ferrer
Wanting Ferrero to win. Picking Ferrer. Simply because logically, it just doesn’t make sense for JCF to be on such a Nadalesque run without losing a match.
Venus vs. Hercog
Err. Whut? Venus is on track to defend her second title in a row. This hasn’t been a bad start to her year by any stretch of the imagination.
Dementieva v Kleybanova
For every pound that Alisa Kleybanova loses, she takes one step closer to the top echelon of the game. I’m not having a go at her weight, I’m having a go at her physical conditioning. She’ll never be the fastest or the smoothest mover out there, but she can do something about the most exploitable weakness in her game.
That aside, I actually kinda love Kleybs. Her ball-bashing ways are strangely cathartic.
Meanwhile, Elena Dementieva has had 3 weeks off since Jan 1st. That’s taking into account that she crashed out of the Australian Open early.
Can someone knock some sense into that girl?
How can you be expected to “peak” at the slams when you play day in day out, often at the most mundane of tournaments. It’s no surprise she hasn’t managed to win a slam.
I’m in no hurry to get over the Australian Open, and since my last two posts were heavily focused on Fed-related trophy porn, I thought I’d wrap up the tournament with some thoughts on other players.
What say you?
Hot: No 1s reign supreme.
Undoubtedly the two best players of the noughties win the first slam of the new decade. What more can you say about them that hasn’t been said already? They walk the walk, and they talk the talk. They’re inimitable, insatiable. They’re the players we’ll be talking about in the next 30 years the way people talk about Laver, Sampras, Graf or Navratilova these days.
We can point to the Davydenkos and the Dementievas of the tour, who scored recent wins over Roger and Serena. But in the end, there’s a good reason why Roger and Serena have a combined total of 28 slams between them, while Davydenko and Dementieva share a shiny l’oeuf.
Not: Grandest of all slams.
Two weeks ago, many ‘experts’ were betting their house money on having 4 different male slam winners for 2010. Now the same ‘experts’ claim that Federer could win all 4 slams this year.
Remind me: didn’t we say the same thing about every Australian Open winner for the last 4 years? How did that work out?
Logically, the feat is possible, but realistically, the diversity, depth and athleticism of modern tennis make this possibility slim to the point of being negligible.
All I asked for at the start of 2010 was for Roger to win one slam. As he said in previous years, any year with a slam is a good year. Now that he’s got one, I’ll a bit greedy and hope that he stays healthy all year to break Sampras’ record of weeks at No 1, keep the semifinals streak going and win Wimbledon.
But honestly, keep the moronic expectations to yourself.
Hot: Chinese onslaught.
Empty stands at the Shanghai Masters last year should tell you how much the Chinese fans care about tennis sans Roger Federer. And are we really surprised?
Only countries with a history of tennis and good players feel a sense of “ownership” over the sport. Zheng and Li may not be future slam winners, but they’re trail-blazers. They pave the way for the seemingly inevitable Chinese onslaught in the near future. And why do we want a Chinese onslaught?
For one simple reason: more people watched the Australian Open semifinals featuring Zheng and Li than the entire population of Australia.
China redefines “mass appeal”.
Not: talk about redefinition, are we redefining ‘greatness’ here?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Kim Clijsters. Yet I couldn’t help but cringe every time she was mentioned as a ‘great champion’ in the same breath as Henin and Serena over the past fortnight.
Since when did Kim Clijsters become a tennis great?
Let’s not forget that until last year, Clijsters was a one slam wonder known for her inability to convert a victory on the big stage. Her win in New York last year was a truly inspiring story. And no doubt, she is currently one of the best players on tour.
But don’t kid yourselves here – this wasn’t some sort of a “champion’s return” to reclaim her rightful spot at the top of the game. Clijsters is a step above Svetlana Kuznetsova in anyone’s books, but she ain’t a Serena or Justine.
And by the same token, since when did Venus get completely left out of the “current greats” list?
Sure, her form isn’t fantastic right now, but the woman reached the quarterfinals without playing her best tennis and outperformed most of the other top WTA players right now.
As the winner of 7 slams and at least the third best female player of the last decade, Venus Williams deserves more respect in the media rather than this “what have you done for me lately” attitude from commentators this tournament.
Hot: Red Hot Cilic Peppers
If every slam had an “it” player, then the “it” player of the Australian Open would be Marin Cilic. Welcome to the top 10.
We saw a bit of everything – aggression from the baseline, at the net, solid movement, calmness and some nerves too. Not to mention- surprising eloquence.
Count me in on the bandwagon. I have a feeling this guy’s going to have Mandy’s number someday.
But next time Marin, perhaps you’ll learn to pace yourself more in the first week of a slam?
Not: The player that no one’s talking about.
Sorry Nole fans, I laughed when some commentators picked him to win the Australian Open pre-tournament. Based on what?
Sure, the guy cleaned up the indoor season, good for him. But who cares about the indoor season? Not when the likes of Federer, Nadal and even del Potro spent the post-US Open circuit looking burnt out, lethargic and completely lacking in intensity.
But that’s not the part about Nole that left me cold. When Rafa crashed out of the tournament at the hands of Mandy, Nole could’ve earned his No 2 spot with a win over Tsonga, his first credible opponent in the tournament after a string of cupcakes.
Instead, he cockblocked himself one last time and left his ranking up to Federer and Murray to decide. As Mandy lost, Djoko became the new World No 2 through the backdoor. Color me unimpressed.
Yes, I’m aware he had some health issues. But once upon a time, a boy also had wolf issues.
Hot: Step up.
My revelations of the tournament:
- Yanina Wickmayer (move over, Masha);
- Alisa Kleybanova (there is no better anger management than watching Kleybs club the bile out of a tennis ball),
- Nestor/Zimonjic (like I would ever pay attention to the men’s doubles semifinal if I wasn’t stuck ushering it. But boy, was I glad I watched it);
- and of course, John Isner, who continued to impress with his baby fat and sheer desire to step up.
He leaves this half of the globe with his first tour title in Auckland and his second consecutive slam fourth round. It seems that American journalists aren’t the only ones taking note of his entry into the top 20:
AMERICAN John Isner is shooting up the rankings – he’ll move into the top 20 after January’s ranking points are counted. The 22-year-old clinched his first tour title the week before the Open in Auckland, and some very important people took note. ”That was pretty cool,” said Isner, explaining how Roger Federer had stopped him in a Melbourne Park corridor to congratulate him. ”I didn’t really think he would even know, but he did. Any time Roger talks to you, let alone congratulates you, it’s pretty neat.”
Not: Step down.
15 months ago, Safina, Lady Jaja and Ana were on top of the rankings. They were the “right now” and future of women’s tennis. Today, they are three girls struggling to live with their serve, approaching their mid-20s with a total of 1 slam amongst them. With Serena looking ever so motivated and Henin back in the action, the window of opportunities has just about closed.
Kudos to all of them for going away every offseason to train and broaden their games, but the lack of game is hardly the reason they can’t win slams. At their best, JJ, Ana and Dina all have slam winning arsenals. What’s lacking is a correct balance between hot desire and a cool head.
What this says about them is that none of them know who the hell they are as a player just yet. Will they ever?
Hot: Happy Slam
I had the pleasure of chatting with some European tennis fans over the course of the last two weeks. Their comparisons made me realise just how affordable and accessible grand slam tennis is down under.
I give a lot of flak to our politicians for … being politicians, but thumbs up for continuing to invest in the sports precinct of this city. In a few years, there’ll be 3 roofs at the Australian Open, new indoor courts, a greater use of the space at Melbourne Park, and 500 more seats at a renovated Rod Laver Arena.
Not too shabby, I say.
Not: Cause and means
On the most part, Australia is a fairly multicultural society, but for some reason, tennis brings out the racial tensions each year. Croatian neo-Nazis were arrested on Day 2 with one person out of the gang found to be facing two murder charges. Chilean fans were ejected for lighting flares. The nephew of the Australian prime minister protested with a group in KKK costume against Australia’s racist treatment of refugees.
It’s another matter of cause and means. I believe that Australia’s treatment of refugees is an utter disgrace. Meet me on the Parliament steps. Meet me on university lawns. Meet me at Federation Square to protest the injustice.
But if I see you at the tennis ruining other people’s good times, I’m calling the security.
Hot: Records left standing.
With his Australian Open win this year, Roger Federer is more than 3000 points ahead of Nole, making it almost impossible to topple him before Rome. Roger needs to remain No 1 at the end of Roland Garros to break the Sampras record. It’s up to him right now to take care of his opportunities in the next 3 months and stretch that rankings lead. You go, Poopie!
Not: imbalance in our tennis universe.
I knew it was coming, but it still hurts a little to see Rafa at No 4.
We could have a Fedal semi at Indian Wells. We could have a Fedal quarter at Roland Garros if Rafa doesn’t manage to defend his points in the first half of the year.
To quote myself narcissistically, DYSTOPIA.
That’s it from the Australian Open guys. I’m taking this week as a “honeymoon week” to enjoy the Swiss 16, so don’t expect any coverage of the ‘Movistar Open’ or Zagreb.
Okay, I get it – I’m petty, snarly, fangirly, and often a tad indecent… But overall, I’d like to think I’m a fair person. And in the interest of fairness, Andy Murray has played the best tennis out of all the top guys at this Australian Open.
Barring an epic braincramp from Muzz, or a ‘TMF the Invincible’ sighting at Melbourne Park in the next few days, Mandy looks set to seal his first slam and break the British slam drought.
Fiiiiine. But do I have to be there to witness it? Haven’t I suffered enough tennis trauma as a human being?
Like Verdasco, Gonzalez and Baghdatis in previous years, Marin Cilic became the “adopted son” and revelation of the tournament. For a set and a half, he played the sort of aggressive, exhilaratingly risqué tennis he brought against Muzz last year at the US Open.
Perhaps Mandy had some psychological scar tissues left over from their previous meeting; perhaps he didn’t expect so much fuel left in Cilic after what must’ve been the most physically demanding tournament he’s ever played; or perhaps it was just a case of “old habits die hard” – we didn’t see this new ‘aggressive attitude’ that commentators have been purring about all tournament from Mandy until late in the second set. For the first set and a half, it was Marin’s party.
But not unlike his quarterfinal match against del Potro at the US Open last year, Marin’s party ran out booze. Murray did a good job hanging in the second set despite facing early breakpoints and a barrage of winners from Red Hot Cilic Peppers on the other side of the net.
Then this happened …
Sometimes, a single point can change the momentum of a match. Marin’s legs got a little heavier as his run in Chennai, 3 five-setters and a 3.5 hr four-set match against Stan in Melbourne finally caught up on him.
Muzz, bolstered by the adrenaline of a great shot, began to settle down, open up the court more and attack the Cilic serve. With Mr Mo-mentum firmly on his side, there was no stopping Mandy as he gobbled up the next 3 sets in impressive fashion for a spot in his second grand slam final.
I don’t see Jo or Ferd the turd stopping him on Sunday.
On a totally unrelated note, this shit needs to stop happening.
A Croatian fan somehow managed to get onto the court to shake Cilic’s hand after the match. The man is due to face charges in court today. Apparently, everything happens on Pascal Maria’s watch.
Earlier in the day, I headed to Rod Laver Arena for my last shift at the Australian Open.
It says something about personalities in women’s tennis right now that two grand semifinals could barely draw a crowd big enough to rival ‘Hit for Haiti’, while Federer’s round 1 match against Andreev exhausted every seat in the house.
The first semi of the day, Serena v Li Na, was surprisingly competitive. In her 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) to Serena, Li Li Na Na played some of the most gutsy tennis I’ve ever seen from her. The crowd was overwhelmingly on her side, cheering wildly as she fought off a total of 4 match points serving at 4-5 and 5-6 to take the second set into a tiebreak.
But as we’ve seen so many times, the difference between a champion and a very good play reveals itself so brutally in the big moments. When it came to the two tiebreaks, Serena played to win. Li played not to lose.
In stark contrast, the second semifinal of the day was not even close to being competitive. Zheng Jie didn’t get a sniff of a chance as Justine Henin brushed her aside to win 6-1, 6-0, in just 51 minutes.
What’s there to say? Being a small gal herself, Zheng had neither the game or the power to outrun or outhit Justine. And as for Henin, an easy match at this stage of the slam was just what the doctors ordered. She now has a full 2 days to recover and prepare herself for the final.
And what a dream final we’re going have!
The two best players of the last decade, amassing over 4 years at No 1 between them, with an almost split H2H record of 7-6 (Serena leading, having won their previous meeting in Miami 2008 just before Henin announced her retirement).
And yet bizarrely enough, they’ve never faced off in a grand slam final.
This has been way overdue.
And what of women’s tennis? After an 18 month “retirement”, Justine Henin returns to make two consecutive finals in the first two tournaments she plays.
While no one was fooled to think that women’s tennis has grown in leaps and bounds over the past two years, I wasn’t quite expecting things to be completely stagnant.
But that’s the sad truth of it all: nothing has changed. Serena and Justine – you still rule.
How badly does Andy Murray want to win a slam?
He gave you the answer in his clinical deconstruction of Rafa’s game in their quarterfinal encounter.
Murray played the most aggressive tennis I’ve ever seen from him for the first two sets – flatting his groundstrokes, particularly high off the backhand, charging to the net, throwing in the odd S&V every few games. Tactically and execution-wise, it was a lesson on how to beat Rafa.
That’s not to say Rafa didn’t have his chances. With early breaks in either set, Rafa simply could not hold onto his lead. Part of it was because of the pressure Mandy was putting on his service games, part of it was the lack of confidence from Rafa in his serve and forehand. When the second set rolled into a tiebreak, Nadal – perhaps distracted by his knee – was uncharacteristically loose on his forehand, winning only 2 points to concede the set to Muzz.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Toothface, still yet to lose a set in Melbourne, and dare I say it – looking ready and … desperately desiring to win his first slam.
To add to the pain of the loss – quite literally – there are now questions over Rafa’s right knee, which sustained an injury in the second set and deteriorated in the third, forcing Rafa to retire.
With this loss, Nadal will drop to at least to No 3 and possibly No 4 post-Australian Open, with a whole heap of Indian Wells points still to defend.
Q. Could you let us know what the condition is, what the latest story is with the knee. It’s very unusual for you to stop during a match.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, well, is not a lot of history because was during the match. Was in the end of the second set in one drop. And I feeled similar thing to what I had last year.
And, yes, after that I can’t go down after that, no? So was impossible to win the match. When I have the chance to play, I never retired. Anyway, like I know I going to lose like I did in Rotterdam like last year. I say sorry to Andy for that.
I felt pain still there without no one minimum chance to do nothing, the same time is hard for me be five more games there without try nothing, no? So I don’t know if I still playing can go worst or something. So I said, well, no repeat the same mistake like I had last year. I go to the limit, but not cross the limit, no?
Earlier in the day, the desire was evident on Marin Cilic’s face, as he fought off a valient Andy Roddick in his third 5 set match of the tournament. For the majority of the first two sets, Cilic was consistent in his aggression from the baseline, reeling off winners with his typically risque game.
Roddick, hindered by problems in his shoulder and knee, was forced to change tactics: he began to look for ways to end the points more quickly, take charge of the points, flatten out his forehand …
Bizarrely, the injuries forced him to adopt a winning strategy. Andy came back strong to win the next two sets, while the fatigue of the last week seemed to catch up on Marin at last.
But at an age when his contemporaries are starting to make splashes on the big stage, Marin Cilic did not want to wait for another chance at his first slam semi. Admirably, he fought off nerves and Roddick’s momentum in the fifth set, and returned to his consistent aggression of the first two sets. At 3-1, Cilic finally broke Roddick for the final time, and held serve for the rest of the set to close out the match for his place in the semi.
Q. Why are you playing such good tennis?
MARIN CILIC: ‘Cause I’m a good player (smiling).
That. You are.
At this stage of a slam, it’s all about how badly you want it. Justine Henin wanted it, and she wasn’t joking when she said that the competitive fire was rekindled in her.
It wasn’t the cleanest of matches from her, but the sudden rise in her level during her first set tiebreak against Nadia Petrova was frightening. Equally frightening was the way she dug herself out of a double break hole, and broke Nadia for a 76 75 win, her first straight sets victory since round 2.
Fault her serve during the match, fault her timing, fault her physical wear-and-tear. But there was one thing that you couldn’t fault Henin on during the match – her competitive instinct.
Boy, am I glad to see her back.
Bizarrely, the higher quality women’s quarterfinal today came not from Henin v Petrova, but from Zheng Jie v Kirilenko, who put on a display of shot-making and variety in women’s tennis.
The two were rather polar opposites – Zheng: short, compact, fast, flat-hitting, takes the ball impossibly early like a female version of Nikolay Davydenko. MariKiri: tall, lanky, hits with top spin, and rallies from the baseline with the ability to charge to the net.
Kiri will be disappointed that she lost what could possibly be her only chance to make a slam semi. But there was very little she could’ve done better – Zheng Jie made 9 unforced errors and 16 winners for the entire match. In women’s tennis, you depend on your opponents to give you something.
Zheng gave Kiri absolutely nothing.
How lovely is it to see two small gals who rely on their timing and shotmaking rather than brute power in the semifinal?
But I’m not giving it to Henin yet. One thing is for certain – whoever wins this won’t win on talent alone. Grand slams, they’re all about desires.
And we’re about to find out today just how badly does Nikolay Davydenko want it?