Alwayshingis Match Reviews - 1.08.09 -
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Alwayshingis Match Reviews - 1.08.09

(didn't do Brisbane matches as my stream was unreliable)

The first Quarterfinal from the ASB Bank Classic saw the defending finalist, all-or-nothing Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai, take on the feisty Romanian Edina Gallovits. Rezai, bedecked in ruffles and looking like a frontrunner in the exotic bird lookalike contest, was rarely troubled by Gallovits in the two set encounter, prevailing 6-3 6-2. Early on, the match looked to be a close affair, with Rezai playing a bit tentatively and Gallovits able to take control of the rallies with short balls on the forehand. After the first several games, though, Rezai discovered the weakness of the Gallovits backhand, with each shot either producing an error or a short attackable ball. With primarily this strategy in mind, Rezai raced out to a 4-1 lead.
At this point, Gallovits called her coach onto the court, who encouraged her to be more aggressive from the first ball and to make Rezai run for more backhands. He also produced one of the more delightful moments of the match, taking a moment to tell Gallovits that, “the most important thing is that you're out here because it's a beautiful day." She did seem to take her coach’s advice to heart, though, and began to play more positive tennis and go for bigger shots from the first ball. The inherent problem with this strategy is that it caused her to trade baseline groundstrokes with Rezai. Gallovits will nearly always lose these battles as Rezai is the much bigger hitter, and Gallovits cannot stay with her for more than a few shots. To really have a chance in this match, she needed to find a way to be aggressive without playing right into Rezai’s comfort zone. For Rezai, the most impressive part about the first set was her lack of unforced errors. Anyone who has watched her over the past few years knows that she has a huge game, but she oftentimes takes herself out of matches by going for too much and making too many silly mistakes. In the first set today, she only made 8 unforced errors, and if she continues to play like this she will be much more difficult to beat.
After a bit of tentative play closing it out, Rezai took the first set 6-3. The second set was less consistent from both players, as they began trading breaks and squandering any number of break points. More and more unforced errors began to creep into Rezai’s game, so at times she became too tentative and did not go for enough (memo to Aravane: moonballing is not your game). Whatever errors Rezai was making early on, though, were countered by Gallovits making even more. After Rezai got the set to 3-2, it seemed as though Gallovits stopped playing. Her groundstrokes got shorter and shorter, she was making even more errors, and Rezai barely had to do anything in the last few games as she ultimately cruised to a 6-3 6-2 victory.

The second quarterfinal in Auckland took place between the top seed Elena Dementieva and Israel’s Shahar Peer. There was some controversy swirling around this match, with a group calling for Peer’s withdrawal from the tournament, so it was good to see that Shahar seemed to be able to focus on the match without having to deal with unfair political attention. While she did seem focused on the match, it became clear from the start that the outcome was entirely in Dementieva’s hands. She ran out to a 2-0 lead early with consistent groundstrokes and too many errors coming from Peer. In spite of this lead, Peer was able to fight back in the set taking a 3-2 lead, primarily on errors of Dementieva’s racket. When Peer is able to get the first strike in a point, she can dictate impressively, but she could not do this very often in the match, spending much of the time on the defensive. Dementieva had control of nearly all the points, and Peer’s three games came on a string of unforced errors that provoked the famous squeal of frustration and 360 degree spin from Dementieva. In most cases Peer was hitting too short and was not putting any pressure on Dementieva to come up with great shots. Dementieva was able to run her around the court effectively, and so she regained her early set form and took the first 6-3.
The second set began just where the first set left off, with Dementieva dictating the rallies and Peer struggling to hit with her. Peer began to make more errors in the second set, so that Dementieva was not even under much pressure to stay consistent. Peer also did not get any help from her serve, where Dementieva was able to jump on most returns and pin her opponent behind the baseline. After falling behind 2-3, Dementieva won the next 9 games in a row, and ultimately the match at 6-3 6-1. These games made it painfully clear that Peer does not have the weapons to counter Dementieva’s game. She does not hit big enough to challenge off the ground, but she also does not have another game plan to take Dementieva out of her rhythm. After the tentative start, Dementieva seems to be finding some of her top form in this event that should make her the frontrunner for the title if she is able to remain consistent.

There is not much to say about the third semifinal from Auckland, as Ayumi Morita retired against Anne Keothavong after losing the first set 6-0. After the first couple of games, it was clear that Morita was not playing up to her potential. She could not move to balls and was making far more errors than would be expected. That being said, Anne Keothavong has improved exponentially in the past year. Over the offseason, she made a point of working on her strength, and it has clearly paid off. She is hitting a bigger ball than she used to, particularly on the serve which is more of a weapon in her game than it used to be. Keothavong looks like a clear top 50 player based on her form this week.
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