Sunday, January 30, 2011

Aussie Kim

Our Aussie Open 2011 Women's Singles champion:
Kim cleans up well, huh? But couldn't they have chosen a nicer place for this photoshoot?

For the first hour of the women's final, it looked like Kim finally met her match in Li Na, who was was trying to make history by being the first player from an Asian country to win a grand slam singles title. Li was matching Kim's baseline and defense game, and wasn't showing any signs of nerves - which is what I predicted would hinder her from winning the final match. But Kim stayed steady, and slowly worked her way into the match. Kim was a point away from going down a set and a 4-2, but she fought her way back and eventually won 6 straight games, and by the time Li got her game together again, Clijsters already built a good lead and cruised in the last game to claim her 1st Australian Open title, and 4th grand slam singles title overall.

Li definitely acquitted herself well in Australia, not just because she showed that she has the game of a top 5 player (she was on an eleven-match winning streak, including a straight set win
over Kim two weeks ago in Sydney), but she showed that she also had the great personality of a global athletic star. Her post-match interviews (especially the one right after she beat world #1 Caroline Wozniacki) were comedy gold, and she still kept her head high after her loss in the final, which is a good sign that she won't be continuing the rest of the year being deflated about missing this chance.

Back to Kim, she has now won the last two grand slam events and is moving up to the #2 ranking this coming Monday, just 140 points off from Caroline's #1 spot. With Justine Henin's retirement (sad face) and Serena Williams's injury still preventing her from returning to the tour, will Kim be the favorite to win Roland Garros? If she does, that's gonna be her 3rd straight grand slam title, and a win at Wimbledon (where former champs Serena, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova all are nursing, or playing below their best because of, injuries) will give Kim a career Grand Slam, and her very own Kim Slam.

Suddenly, the WTA Tour got a lot more interesting this 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

6-4, 1-6, 16-14.

This Australian Open is starting to be somewhat of a banner tournament for marathon 3-set matches on the women's side.

In the first 3 rounds alone, we've already seen extended 3rd sets in the following matches:
  1. Russian Ekaterina Makarova edged out Serbian former #1 Ana Ivanovic, 10-8,
  2. Another Russian Regina Kulikova beat Slovakian (and personal favorite) Daniela Hantuchova 9-7,
  3. Former top ten player Alicia Molik of Australia defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 8-6
  4. Chinese Shuai Peng beat Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko 8-6
  5. Another personal favorite Maria Kirilenko ousted Italian Romina Oprandi, 8-6
  6. Francesca Schiavone (who we'll be talking about again) surviving Canadian Rebecca Marino, 9-7
  7. and Ekaterina Makarova again, this time beating out fellow Russian Nadia Petrova, 8-6
But none of those 7 matches even came close to the match we saw earlier today. That match being the longest match in women's grand slam history: reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone outlasted 2-time grand slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in 4 hours, 44 mins. I only got to see the 3rd set, but that was enough for me to see how much fighting spirit these players had. Sveta isn't exactly known as the steadiest players out there (she's very powerful, but also very erratic), but she held her nerve for most part of the 3rd set and produced some great winners. Both players put their heart, sweat and guts on every shot they made (no, not literally...), but it was Schiavone who just pushed a little harder. She saved 6 match points in all, played great defense by chasing down ever shot even though it looked like she didn't have a chance to win the point, and hit some great winners and volleys herself. Great job on the win Francesca, and despite the loss, congrats are in order for Sveta's great play too.

Their match actually lasted about as long as the Hewitt-Nalbandian 5-setter in the first round. After that match, Nalbandian just had no gas in his tank and barely won a game against up-and-comer Ricardas Berankis before retiring. We'll see how Francesca holds up in the quarterfinals against Caroline (she's had 2 marathon matches already, and her other 2 matches weren't a walk in the park either.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Split Racket and Some High/Lowlights


LOL. I bet Marat is jealous this never happened to him.

The first two rounds of the Australian Open is now done, and we've seen some pretty great matches so far. The best one yet is the 4 hour, 48 minute Nalbandian vs Hewitt first round match. I'm not a huge fan of either players (and I particularly dislike Hewitt's special brand of annoying-ness.), but this was a really high quality, high-tension match. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the first round match between Kim Clijsters and Dinara Safina, which lasted 44 minutes, ending with the score 6-0, 6-0. It's definitely a heartbreaking loss for Lil Sis Dinara, who less then 2 years ago was the world #1. Now, after her 1st round loss, she's projected to drop out of the top 100. To give Dinara a break, let's just focus on Ana Ivanovic's heart-breaking loss to Russian Ekaterina Makarova. Ana started the match well, winning the first set, but Makarova started to find her shots and went on to upset Ivanovic, 10-8 in the 3rd set. It was a shame since Ana's form is definitely starting to pick up. She was hitting huge forehands winners and was really going for riskier shots. Unfortunately for her, so was Makarova and on the crucial points, Ana just fell short while Makarova remained solid.

The match highlights (or lowlights, in Dinara's case) are here:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tween.

And that in-betweener from Roger Federer signals the start of the 2011 tennis season!

Tons of tournaments in the first week of the year: there's the men's tournaments in Qatar and Chennai, the ladies' tournament in Auckland, and the mixed tournament in Brisbane. There's also the exhibition in Hong Kong featuring the WTA players and ATP legends, and the always awesome Hopman Cup in Perth. It's so awesome that Nicolas Mahut wore Kristina Mladenovic's tennis dress:

The Australian Open starts in about a week!