Monday, January 17, 2011

This, That, and the Other Thing: Day 2 Preview

Venus Williams got a nice workout yesterday against Italy's Sara Errani. A possible third-rounder with Andrea Petkovic awaits.

Greetings all --

A few quick thoughts on the golden girls, Venus Williams and Justine Henin, before I get into previewing the fantabulous day that lies ahead of us.

Venus looked pretty damn good in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Errani last night. It was her first action since her three-set loss to Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open, and she really didn't show any residual rust at all. She did come up a little lame after one specific backhand, and she did surprise the commentators by pulling out an inhaler during one of the changeovers, but other than that Venus casually overpowered a very tough competitor, and she did a lot of running over the course of two sets, and seemed to get better as the match wore on.

All of this bodes well for Venus at the moment, and if she manages to improve with each passing match, she'll be a very real and legitimate threat to win this thing.

Meanwhile, Justine Henin's first-rounder was not nearly as uneventful. To put it simply, Sania Mirza was out for blood last night. And while she did draw blood by taking the first set, in the end it was Henin who persevered in a very hard fought three-setter, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

If you're a fan of Henin I think you'd agree with me that this match was a little disconcerting. Mirza was really taking it to the Belgian at times, and Justine was doing all she could just to win her share of points. I'm not sure what anybody could have done against Mirza's onslaught however. The girl was on, and you have to give credit to Henin for battling through this match, and raising her game incrementally over the course of this tilt. By the end, what we started to see flashes of the Henin we all know is in there. As she got her feet beneath her, and her footwork in place, she started to take control of the points and get Mirza on the string a bit.

Henin was quick to deflect questions about her elbow after the match, and she really didn't give any indication that it bothered her at all, so my guess is that it won't be a concern in Melbourne.

Both Venus (who will play Sandra Zahlavova) and Henin (who will play Elena Baltacha) should have an easier time in the second round.

Okay, let's move on to day 2:

There are lots of good ones on the docket. Here are the five that I am currently drooling about:

1. Kim Clijsters-Dinara Safina, Rod Laver Arena, 7Pm

In a weird way I could see Safina coming through in this one. No, I don't deny being crazy, but hear me out first. The big issue with Safina has been matches that she was supposed to win. She was supposed to win a Slam when she was No. 1 in the world. She was supposed to beat Petra Kvitova in the 3rd round of the '09 U.S. Open. She was supposed to beat Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round of the '10 French Open. The list goes on and on.

Now here comes a match where EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER is 100% sure that Clijsters will win. That to me sounds like a recipe for a surprise. But I'm not foolish enough to actually think it could happen. I'm just saying that Safina might play looser tennis given that she has absolutely nothing to lose here. And it might be a well played, close match. And I might be crazy.

2. David Nalbandian-Lleyton Hewitt, Rod Laver Arena, 2nd night match

This oughtta be an awesome tilt. Each aging hipster (both players have had hip surgery in the not so distant past) has a huge personality, a tremendous Grand Slam resume, and each is compelling to the fans in myriad ways. Hewitt, the home fav, is loved for his guts, his guile, and his brash and unapologetic methodology. He's fiery, combative, and a proven winner. Nalbandian, another cagey veteran, is known for his tremendous skill set, and his ability to step on court and mesmerize even the most storied tennis greats. It's almost baffling to think that he doesn't have a Grand Slam trophy on his mantle, given all the great tennis he's produced over the year.

This one is being dubbed as what it most probably will be: an all-out war.

3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Philipp Petzschner, Margaret Court Arena, 7pm

Tsonga has definitely earned his stripes in Melbourne. The '08 finalist and '10 semifinalist is getting a bad rap these days for being too injury prone, but in my opinion, as long as he keeps coming back and playing the absolutely captivating brand of tennis that only Jo-Willy can play, than what's the harm? Many have listed 2011 as a must year for Tsonga, as in he MUST stay healthy or his career will be over, but I tend to believe that injuries will always be part of the game with Tsonga. As long as he takes proper care to rehab, he's always welcome back in a big way, and I think he'll remain a threat to go very deep in Slams whenever he is feeling good enough to play with the reckless abandon that characterizes his game.

Meanwhile, Petzschner gave us all a glimpse of how good he can be when he nearly ruined Wimbledon for Rafa last year. If he plays anywhere close to that form, we could have a knock-down drag-out battle here.

4. Kimiko Date Krumm-Agnieszka Radwanska, Court 6, 11Am

Kimiko is the oldest women in the draw and she is, in fact, the third oldest women to ever enter the draw. Aggie, meanwhile, is nearly half her age, but plays a similar brand of tennis. Each is great at deflecting her opponents power, and playing clever angles and touchy-feely volleys. But I'm curious to know what will happen today, when these two soft-strokers go head-to-head.

It's hard to predict, but it is sure to be interesting. They've never met before, and there are 42 ranking spots between them, but this one will probably end up going the distance.

5. Donald Young vs. Marin Cilic, Court 2, 2nd match

I'm not sure why I think this might be a good match. I just do. Young, underachiever that he is, still gets a lot of attention from the USTA for his smooth ball striking and deft touch. He cruised through the qualies (lost only 10 games in 3 matches) so something must be going right for him.

Meanwhile, Cilic has been in a funk that has basically lasted since his coming out party in Melbourne this time last year. He's still working with Bob Brett, he's still got amazing eye-popping strokes, and he's still got his whole career in front of him. The fifteenth seed could use a few breaks, and maybe revisiting the scene of his greatest Grand Slam will get help him remember just how good he can be.

Don't forget these folks are also in action:

Coco Vandeweghe, Rafa, Le Sod, Sam Stosur, Llodra, Baghdatis, delpo, Oudin, Zvonareva, and so, so, so, so many more!

Enjoy the tennis!

1 comment:

  1. You have a point Chris. Maybe Dinara will just relax and let it rip. And a win by Young would certainly help his rep back home. We'll see.


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