Peng Shuai, playing two very clean final sets, defeated Charleston's favorite, Patty Schnyder, in the second round of the Family Circle Cup tonight, after Schnyder had played a brilliant opening set
First the top five seeds--all huge stars--withdrew one by one from the Family Circle Cup. Then rain was forecast for several days of the tournament. Then the new number one seed was taken out in the second round. Then Serena Williams had to retire with an injury. I said yestreday that, to make the jinx complete, Patty Schnyder--Charleston's favorite tennis player--would have to be taken out in the second round. And sure enough, she lost tonight in three sets to Peng Shuai of China. Schnyder played brilliantly in the first set, but Schnyder fans know that such early brilliance is often a harbinger of bad things to come.
Last year, when Schnyder played in Charleston, she had her thigh wrapped, and when she was asked if she was hurting, she said "only when I attempt my kick serve." Her thigh was wrapped tonight, and one of the first things I noticed was that Schnyder's kick serve was nonexistent. She has one of the best second serves on the tour, but without the spin, her second serve is mediocre. This was not a problem in the first set because she was holding her first serve well. And while placement is generally more important to her than speed, she was slamming her serves in at between 114 and 117 mph much of the time. In the last two sets, Schnyder was not able to hold her first serve that much, and the loss of her usually very solid second serve hurt her.
That was part of the problem. Another part was that after the first set, Peng played almost error-free tennis. Peng is a player who, if she gets into a certain zone, can be very dangerous, and she was in it tonight, hitting the ball so cleanly, it was, at times, startling.
The other part of the problem is obvious to anyone familiar with the tour: Patty Schnyder, once she starts to go down, loses belief in herself and starts making error after error. The crowd was solidly behind her, and I think it was this support that helped her save five match points. Every time she saved a match point, the crowd went wild, and I started to believe she would pull herself out of the hole. But Peng won the match on her sixth match point, disappointing a stadium full of people. We hung our Patty Schnyder banner tonight, then took it down, folded it and put it away, and I won't get over my disappointment for a long time.
The seeds are having problems. This morning, I saw a dull and flat Shahar Peer get taken out by Zheng Jie. Peer was clearly not herself, probably as a result of the injuries she sustained during practice a few days ago. Ana Ivanovic won her first set against Gisela Dulko 6-0, so I didn't bother to watch. I found out later that Dulko had rallied in the second set, and got to the stadium in time to see her win a second set tiebreak. She came dangerously close to defeating Ivanovic, but missed some opportunities in the third set, and Ivanovic was able to scratch out a victory.
We all had a great time watching the delightful and spirited Vasilisa Bardina lose to Venus Williams. Bardina was having such a great time, just being on the court, that the crowd developed a fondness for her. Williams ran over her, but Bardina never lost her sense of humor or her joy over being a competitor. Right after that, the usually feisty Anastasia Rodionova was like a deer in the headlights when confronted with Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic seemed out of sorts and was sweating profusely. The match was so one-sided, we left after the first set. Jankovic won the match handily.
I watched the last two sets of the match between Francesca Schiavone and Anabel Medina Garrigues. It was a good match, well fought, and Medina Garrigues emerged the winner in three sets. I also saw most of the last set between Katarina Srebotnik and Aravane Rezai, which Srebotnik won, but only after having to put up a tremendous fight against a hard-hitting and very determined Rezai. I also saw part of the doubles match between Flavia Pennetta/Gisela Dulko and Virginia Ruano Pascual/Anabel Medina Garrigues. Pennetta and Dulko won; Pennetta was solid at the baseline and Dulko's volleys were superb. Ruano Pascual was making errrors all over the place; she, too, was injured a few days ago, in a singles match.
Tonight, despite being in a complete funk over Patty Schnyder's loss, I stayed and watched the doubles match between Liezel Huber/Cara Black and Martina Muller/Alla Kudryavtseva. Black and Huber won in straight sets, but Muller and Kudryavtseva played a very spirited match and had nothing to be ashamed of.
Of course, the stadium announcers always mispronounce the players' names, which irritates me to no end, but today, the chair umpires were also mispronouncing the players' names, and even calling players by the wrong names.
Someone asked me a few days ago how the clay here compares with that in Amelia Island, and the one time I had a chance to ask someone, I forgot to. I will try to find out tomorrow.
I forgot to mention it yesterday, but I stopped by to see Dinara Safina dishing out shrimp scampi in one of the food booths. I also saw the last part of her match against Eleni Daniilidou today. Safina prevailed, but Daniilidou made it a contest.
There are no links in any of these blog posts, by the way, because I am having to deal with a slow Internet connection at my bed and breakfast.
The match I am most looking forward to tomorrow (if I can stop thinking about Patty Schnyder) is the one between Michaella Krajicek and Sybille Bammer. Another really good one, I think, will be between Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva.
Tennis outfit of the day: Ana Ivanovic, in a simple brown dress with one horizontal hot pink stripe at the bodice. (Note to Bethanie Mattek: Vasilisa Bardina has been raiding your suitcase.)