Kuzy Likes Myskina over Maria on Hard
‘She mixes her shots better on hard courts’
By Matthew Cronin
FROM THE ACURA CLASSIC IN CARLSBAD– It was one of those odd Wednesdays at a Tier 1 event, when the largely expected regretfully came to pass and landed with a disappointing thud. So many contests that could have been barnburners turned out to be little more than smoldering campfires constructed with wet twigs.
Before moving into day three of the action, it’s more interesting to note an ideological trend in the Russians thinking: on hard courts, that the smart, inventive play from French Open champ and Fed Cup leader Anastasia Myskina
is worthy of more respect than upstart and Wimbledon champ Maria Sharapova
’s anarchistic, tear-down-the-tour’s barracks approach. Myskina and Sharapova could meet in the quarters.
"Anastasia has much more experience and is more clever than Maria," Kuzy said. "She mixes her shots better and on hard courts, can do more things than Maria can. She’s the number one Russian and when she plays other Russians, its gives her something extra to play for. She’s so hard to beat when she’s that way. She knows how to win. I think she will beat Maria if they play."
However, both have to get there and presuming they do, Myskina’s sleight-of-hands tactics will be given a stern test if Sharapova continues to serve and return with the ferocity that she showed at Wimbledon. In order to beat her, you have to get into the points first.
So a perfectly sunny Wednesday began with old Cardiff-by-the Sea faithful, Conchita Martinez
, beating up on the talented yet mentally unsound Iveta Benasova. Then Ai Sugiyama laughed at countrywoman’s Shinobu Asagoe’s prospects in a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Then it got very queasy quickly. In a highly anticipated rematch of their Eastbourne final, Daniela Hantuchova
says she worked out too hard in the early morning and then had nothing left against seventh seed Kuznetsova in a 6-1 6-2 loss, where she had to call the trainer because she was dizzy and having stomach problems.
Elena Likhovsteva schooled young Czech Barbara Strycova, and Croatia’s Jelena Kostanic couldn’t get her attractive lefty game going against Chanda Rubin.
The only real entertainment of the day came next on the stadium, when the bold Australian Alicia Molik
stunned Amelie Mauresmo
7-5, 3-6, 6-3. As if often the case with Mauresmo in her hardcourt losses, her forehand rarely landed deeper than the service line and the Aussie ate it up. Plus, Molik served like Margaret Court in her prime.
"I was waiting for some occasions that she would give me or I would create. It just didn't happen," Mauresmo said.
The 23-year-old Molik had lost a tight two-setter to Mauresmo at the ‘04 Australian Open. She actually believes she can win the tournament. As most the top players say, she feels she needs to stay aggressive all the time or she’ll never crack the top. Now she’ll get a shot at Amy Frazier, who won’t be looping anything short her way.
The forgotten Russian, Elena Bovina
, romped past Eleni Daniilidou and will get a crack at Serena and some notoriety. TR.net flavor of the month Marion Bartoli scored her biggest win of the California swing, pasting ninth seed Paola Suarez 6-3 6-0. Then Gisela "Granny Killer’ Dulko
chopped down Mary Pierce 6-3, 7-6 (1), earning herself a junior re-match with one-time doubles partner, Maria Sharapova.
But it was the night match that really splashed some cold Pacific undercurrent on the day’s proceedings, when after a terrific first set, Karolina Sprem
lost her steam and was bullied 6-4 6-0 by Lindsay Davenport.
The Croat showed little of her Wimbledon fight past the first set and really, she can’t hang with Davenport on a hard court if Lindsay is serving that well and returning with precision.
"This has been a really good run for me," said Davenport, who will play old foil Martinez. "I have so much confidence and I’m playing the big points better. "Sometimes that’s all you need to carry you through certain matches. But I’m definitely a little tired physically and mentally so this tournament will be the toughest test for me."
Mind you, these were all second round contests and the real fun should begin in the third round.
FIVE GOOD MATCHES
On Thursday, there are at least five good matches, beginning with Myskina against Chanda Rubin
, which will be played side by side with Kuznetsova against Vera Zvonareva
. These two Russian teens are friends but are quite competitive against each other and have similar physical approaches to matches, although their techniques are quite different. "I remember when Vera and I played the Sunshine Cup together and she said I hope we are both are the top someday," Kuzy said. "Now we are close. I am happy for her to, but we will fight for every ball."
Dulko recalls the last time she and Sharapova played each other, at a junior tournament in Miami. "I was up 5-2 in the first set and lost 7-5. She was up 5-2 in the second set and I won 7-5 and then I was up again 5-2 in the third set and she won 7-5. I knew she would be a top player because I always liked her attitude on court. She really believes in herself. I’m going to have to serve very well and change the rhythm against her."
Myskina will play Rubin in what should be a tight three-setter and Bartoli will really know where he game is at when she faces Sugiyama.
Serena will play Bovina in the night match, which will be another huge test for the struggling Williams.
Despite her defeat, Mauresmo will jump past No. 2 Kim Clijsters in the rankings on Monday. The Belgian has not played since April due to a wrist injury. However, both Myskina and Davenport could pass both pass Mauresmo and Clijsters should they reach the finals. How’s that for a zigzag race?
If Mauresmo does go to No. 1 without a Slam title, the system will be questioned again. Kim Clijsters did the same last year when the Williamses were out and before current No. 1 JHH caught her, but Clijsters had a far more impressive record than Mauresmo does now. "I’ve said all along that I want to get to number one by playing well and winning big tournaments," Mauresmo said. "But if I get there another way, I’ll take it."