Nicole Vaidisova reacts to an official's call during her loss to Victoria Azarenka Tuesday at The Racquet Club. Vaidisova reached the semis at last year's CSC.
No. 1 knocked out
'Stupid mistakes' cost Vaidisova in CSC loss to Belarusian upstart
By Bryan Brasher
February 22, 2006
Nicole Vaidisova's trainers have often referred to her as "a Mike Tyson" on the tennis court because of the hard-hitting, athletic style she uses to quickly dispatch opponents.
On Tuesday, her play was indeed Tyson-like.
But it was more reminiscent of the struggling, present-day fighter than the vintage Tyson who terrorized the heavyweight division during the 1980s.
Looking lethargic and sometimes curiously detached, top-seeded and 13th-ranked Vaidisova dropped a stunning decision to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the first round of the Cellular South Cup at The Racquet Club. Azarenka, who is ranked 137th in the world, dominated much of the match, winning 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-4.
Even Vaidisova knew her performance wasn't a pretty sight.
"You shouldn't ask what the problem was for me today," said Vaidisova, a 16-year-old native of the Czech Republic who reached the semifinals of last year's Cellular South Cup. "The question is 'what was not the problem?' I just made so many mistakes today, so many stupid mistakes."
While some of Vaidisova's errors were unforced, some were the direct result of an impressive power game by the lesser-known Azarenka.
The 16-year-old native of Minsk routinely reached the 110-mph mark on the radar gun with her serve and often made Vaidisova look helpless.
Vaidisova still managed to take the set to a tiebreaker. But her frustration began to show during the extra stanza when she chastised an official for a call, shouting "Watch the line. Please open your eyes."
Azarenka won the next point -- and the set, 7-6.
"She has powerful strokes, but I have played a lot of players with powerful strokes," Azarenka said. "I believe I am powerful, too. I just tried to stay in for every shot."
Vaidisova fell behind early in the second set but rebounded to win the final four games to take the set, 6-2. She also won the first game of the third set, but that's when the wheels came completely off her already shaky effort.
Azarenka pushed Vaidisova to the brink of elimination at 5-1. Vaidisova recovered briefly, winning three straight games, but Azarenka claimed the 10th game of the set to win her first match against a top-20 opponent.
"This is a big win for me," said Azarenka, who also defeated Vaidisova during the Wimbledon Juniors in 2004. "This is a good start for me in this tournament. I called my mom, and when she answered the phone, she said, 'Congratulations.' She didn't even say hi."
Vaidisova was upset that she didn't get the opportunity to repeat her solid performance last year in Memphis.
"It's disappointing to play so bad after having a good tournament here last year," Vaidisova said. "I'm very comfortable on this surface, and I was hoping for better than this."
Vaidisova's loss was just part of a tough day for the tournament's higher seeds.
In the morning's first match, second-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany fell in a second-round match to unseeded and 135th-ranked Shenay Perry of Coral Springs, Fla. Perry had no trouble breaking Groenefeld's 120-mph serve and won in straight sets 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Ashley Harkleroad, who recorded the tournament's first big upset against fifth-seeded Samantha Stosur on Monday, ran into a 15-year-old buzzsaw in her second-round match Tuesday. Caroline Wozniacki, a Danish player who won't turn 16 until July, had an answer for everything Harkleroad hit her way, winning 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
"On a different surface, I might have played a little better against her," Harkleroad said. "But on this indoor surface, she was hitting the ball so deeply that it was hard to do anything with."
Harkleroad said tennis fans should keep an eye on Wozniacki.
"She's an incredibly good player," Harkleroad said. "She's tall. She has the body of a woman, and she's only 15. I wish I looked like that, and I'm 20 years old. She'll be in the top 50 by the end of the year -- if not higher."