Friday, April 13, 2007

Charleston quarterfinals: Missed opportunities, missed matches

Like a backyard tent in a Low Country storm, Michaella Krajicek folded under the pressure of her quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva at the Family Circle Cup today. There were flashes of the brilliance we have seen all week from Krajicek, and she did rally enough to save five match points, but generally, she just wasn't there today. I was really disappointed. I didn't have a favorite between the two of them--I had reasons for wanting each of them to win--but I was hoping Krajicek would be able to seize the moment, even if she lost in three tight sets.

It wasn't to be, however. The stinging forehand of only a day ago sent balls flying all over the place, and Krajicek also had trouble getting her first serve in. And whereas, earlier in the week, her second serve was excellent, today, it was good only some of the time. She could never get into the rhythm of Zvonareva's game, and to make matters worse--except for one rough service patch--Zvonareva was hitting the ball very cleanly.

Likewise, Anabel Medina Garrigues had multiple opportunities--almost all of them set up by her own clever shot-making--to force Venus Williams into a third set, but blew almost every chance she had by making surprisingly poor decisions. Medina Garrigues probably gave Williams more trouble than some people expected her to, but mostly, she gave herself trouble, and lost in straight sets.

Tatiana Golovin retired after her first set against Dinara Safina because of yet another ankle injury. With Golovin, it is always something about her ankles. Safina took the first set handily, but it is hard to know to what extent Golovin's defeats were related to her physical pain. We hated to see her retire. Safina, for her part, played a pretty clean set with powerful groundstrokes.

The other quarterfinal had Katarina Srebotnik struggling against a formidable Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic is not playing doubles and has had a pretty easy draw. Not even Srebotnik gave her much challenge, and it concerns me that she goes into the semifinals not very match-tough.

Now we come to the part of the day I'll call "Oh my aching wrist." Zvonareva and her doubles partner, Nathalie Dechy, gave their opponents, Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian, a walkover this evening, citing a left wrist injury that Zvonareva incurred during her singles match. A while later, we were told that Safina and Srebotnik were withdrawing from their match against Gisela
Dulko and Flavia Pennetta because of Safina's left wrist injury. I leave it to you, dear reader, to work it out.

This news may sound disappointing, but the best was yet to come. Dulko and Pennetta played an "exhibition match" against Liesel Huber and Srebotnik, and I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard for so long. All four players, plus the chair umpire, turned out to be hilarious improv artists, and my greatest hope is that there will be a video or DVD available of this event. There is no way to describe it--you had to be there. I will never look at any of these five again without cracking up. There was a great deal of wonderful physical humor, as well as some fabulous one-liners from the chair. They all really need to take this show on the road.

Tennis outfit of the day: Venus Williams, looking beautiful in a bright orange dress with halter top, and a bit of white trim.

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