Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charleston round of 16--Li and Ivanovic say goodbye

Playing on an out-of-the-way court, with little fanfare, Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain quietly took out Li Na in straight sets

It was much warmer today at the Family Circle Cup. We began the day by attending the Michaella Krajicek-Sybille Bammer match, which was pretty good until the third set, when Bammer ceased her aggression and gave Krajicek all the room she needed to clean up. Those who believe Krajicek is somehow lucky at the Family Circle Cup have not been here to watch her: She has put on dazzling displays of tennis since her feet first hit the green clay. Her forehand has been very special, and in today's match, she impressed with her backhand, too, and with solid, authoritative groundstrokes.

By the time I got to the Li Na-Anabel Medina Garrigues match, Medina Garrigues had taken the first set. I'm a Medina Garrigues fan, and I was delighted to see the score, but kind of sorry I hadn't been around for the first set. In the second set, Li had set points on Medina Garrigues's serve, but could not convert them, and lost in straight sets. It wasn't an easy set, with Medina Garrigues getting two really bad line calls. Both players struggled with their serves--Li more than Medina Garrigues--but Medina Garrigues was obviously more comfortable on the clay surface than Li.

I also saw the third set of the Peng Shuai-Tatiana Golovin match, which Golovin won, along with the match. Golovin is looking very solid this week. I wasn't able to see the match between Katarina Srebotnik and Zheng Jie, but I did get there in time to see Srebotnik force a tiebreak in the second set, and win that set, along with the match--7-5, 7-6. We were all marveling at Srebotnik's endurance. Yesterday, she played a grueling three-setter against hard-hitting Aravane Rezai, then she had to go play doubles. She was practicing early this morning, and somehow stayed fresh enough to beat Zheng.

We also saw part of the doubles match between Vera Dushevina/Elena Vesnina and Gisela Dulko/Flavia Pennetta, which Dulko and Pennetta won. When it was over, no one in the stands seemed too interested. I began applauding, and Pennetta looked up and gave me a big smile and a "thank you" wave. These two have surprised us with some good doubles play.

Vera Zvonareva, as we predicted, won handily over a sluggish, error-prone Ana Ivanovic, who served once at 126 mph, though I no longer recall whether the serve was good. I went over to the club court to watch the second set between Patty Schnyder/Corina Morariu and Zheng Jie/Yan Zi, who had won the first set, 6-2. Schnyder and Morariu won a highly entertaining second set in a tiebreak, which in itself was filled with thrills, especially when Morariu double-faulted at 6-5. Morariu's service game was terrible; Schynder's was good, and the two of them put on quite a show for one set, but then got run over in the third.

At one point in the second set, Morariu questioned a call, but before she could argue with the chair umpire, Schnyder locked her elbow around Morariu's neck and pulled her off the court, cracking everyone up. And toward the end of the match, one of their opponents hit a ball just over the net so high that Schnyder actually strolled around to the net pole to wait for it to drop so she could hit a volley.

While this was going on, Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur were losing to Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian in the main stadium. I couldn't bear to leave the other doubles match, though, so I waited until that one was over. By then, Raymond and Stosur had won the second set of their match, but they lost the third and are out of the tournament. From the one set I saw, Raymond in particular was making errors all over the place, but neither of them looked like themselves. Peng and Sun were patient and took their opportunities. There were some exciting moments, but all the fun was going on at the club court.

To answer a question it has taken me a while to get to: According to Jelena Jankovic, with whom I spoke this afternoon, the clay in Charleston is indeed more slippery than the clay in Amelia Island was. Jankovic has become a favorite of mine, but I have seen her play only one set since I've been here. She has had a pretty easy draw, and I prefer to see close matches, so I have avoided most of hers. She isn't playing doubles, so I am concerned that she won't be very match-tough when she finally has a challenging match to play. Next up for Jankovic is Katarina Srebotnik.

According to Richard Williams, Venus is having some pain in her left wrist, though people who saw her play today said her backhand looked great.

Tennis outfit of the day: I go with brown and hot pink again, but this time on Elena Vesnina. Her hot pink came in the form of a long V down the front turning into hot pink straps, with an open panel in the back of her dress. It was very smart and looked good on her.

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