Saturday, April 15, 2006

Belgian waffles, Schnyder finesses her way into the finals

Patty Schnyder will face Nadia Petrova in the Family Circle Cup finals

It was a sweet day for Patty Schnyder fans. In six tries, Schnyder had not been able to defeat Family Circle Cup defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, but today was a different story. In their semifinal match, Henin-Hardenne took the first set 6-3. But from the beginning of the second set, Schnyder took control of the match, changing her serve speeds and frequently serving out wide to throw Henin-Hardenne off. Instead of fearing the dreaded Henin-Hardenne backhand, Schnyder served right to it, over and over again, keeping the ball in the court and waiting for the error from her opponent. Eventually, it was backhand/schmackhand, as error after error came off of Henin-Hardenne's racquet.

Schnyder took the second set, 6-3, then returned to the court to do more damage in the final set. There were moments--especially when Henin-Hardenne brought it to 2-4, that it looked as though the Belgian would find a way, as she so often has, to overcome the deficit. But Schnyder stuck to her game plan--finesse the serve and keep the ball in the court--and took the third set 6-2.

Patty Schnyder has a very good serve, even though it lacks the power of a Sharapova or a Davenport. She also has a good second serve, and it is not unusual for her to follow a fault with an ace, as she did several times today. She hit six aces in the semifinal, all of them successful because of their placement, not their speed.

Schnyder will meet Nadia Petrova in the final tomorrow. Petrova defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-1, 6-3. Groenefeld had played brilliantly against Svetlana Kuznetsova, but crumbled when she played Petrova. It should be noted that Petrova and Groenefeld, who are doubles partners at this tournament, withdrew today because of Groenefeld's hamstring injury, for which she received treatment during her match with Petrova.

In the only doubles match held today, Virginia Ruano Pascual and Meghann Shaughnessy defeated Katerina Srebotnik and Shinobu Asagoe 6-3, 6-7, 6-3. I was surprised they pulled it off, since their strategy was somewhat weak throughout the match. The star of the day was definitely Asagoe, who seemed to be in three places at once, appearing out of nowhere to smash balls over the net and create winners.

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