Patty vs Vesnina match summary (Charlie '009)
It seems quite a few people were interested in this match so i'm going to write about it before i forget the details. I was looking forward to this since i hadn't seen Patty play in 3 years - not since Charlie '06, when she had that great win over Henin.
It was kind of windy and not too warm, decent but not ideal conditions. Patty served first and she and Vesnina both played a bad game, with a couple of sloppy errors each on short points. I think Patty double-faulted to get broken (in this match, she hit far more DFs than i have seen her hit in the past - maybe because she was often going for winners on her 2nd serves).
With the break in hand, Vesnina started playing like a demon (resembling a mini-Sharapova), very intense and aggressive off both wings, and Patty was caught a bit flat-footed and was getting muscled around the court until 0-4, when she managed to hold her serve. The big question was whether Patty could get a read on Vesnina's hard flat shots, and a critical point came during the game at 1-5, with Vesnina slamming bullet after bullet down the line from both wings, and Patty time after time scurrying from side to side, managing to dig those big shots out and get them safely back deep crosscourt into Vesnina's court. Finally after about 20 shots, Vesnina's backhand down-the-line screamer landed just wide, Vesnina screeched in frustration, and even though the 1st set was already pretty much decided, Patty had made it clear that the rest of the match wouldn't be easy.
Patty steadily found her rhythm and her movement after that, and by the beginning of the second set she was showing flashes of the anticipation and shot placement that allowed her to beat big hitters Capriati, Davenport, Serena, and Henin on this very same court in past years. Although Patty has lost a step from her great speed since the last time i saw her, she was still moving very fluidly on the Har-Tru, and she was having an outstanding day on her often-erratic backhand side, making practically no errors and also slicing the backhand with great defensive effectiveness when Vesnina tried to stretch her wide. Patty's forehand, which had looked anemic through most of the opening set, also started to fire up, and she broke Vesnina with a brilliant running down-the-line pass to a big roar from the afternoon crowd of around 4,000 fans in the stadium, streaking out to a 4-1 lead.
Vesnina wasn't going away, drilling a pair of vicious forehand return of serve winners and taking advantage of a couple of Patty's DFs to break back and got it to 4-4. But in the next game, Patty hit a brilliant 2nd-serve ace (the surprise wide kick on the deuce side that she has used so effectively over the years) to hold her serve to 5-4 and get her momentum back. Patty squandered some openings in Vesnina's 5-4 and 6-5 service games and so they went to the tiebreaker. Patty played a near-perfect TB, making only 1 error and pinning Vesnina behind the baseline where she couldn't hit her screaming winners. Patty had a 6-3 lead. Vesnina then played 2 untouchable points on her own serve to make it a tense 6-5, but Patty stepped up to the line cool as a moose, hit a good first serve, and strung Vesnina around the baseline until Vesnina hit a ball long for the set a big roar from the crowd, which treats Patty like she was born and raised in that town.
For the first 6 games of the 3rd set, it looked just like all the other tough matches that Patty has won in Charleston over the years - a big-hitting opponent reduced to a whining, gesturing puddle of frustration on the green-gray dirt. When Vesnina wasn't off the mark going for winners that just weren't there, Patty was yanking her around baseline until she could set up one of her trademark mid-court forehand kill shots. Patty didn't hit as many of those big forehands as she has in past matches, but there were still enough to make it exciting.
Patty was up 4-2 and 15-0 on Vesnina's serve, and i was figuring she would just slam the door on the match the way she had done many times before. It was at this point that some idiot wrong number called my phone, which i had forgotten to turn off, and when i looked up, it was 30-30. They played a rally and Vesnina hit kind of a lucky 2-handed drop shot. Although Patty had been moving well side-to-side, she was slow moving forward to drop shots all day - much slower than i had ever seen her in the past - and she never had a chance at this one. Vesnina closed out the game and after the changeover, Patty was suddenly unable to control the points on her serve as she had been doing for the last set-and-a-half, and got broken pretty quickly. Vesnina then played an untouchable service game to go up 5-4.
During the changeover Patty called Hofmann out of the stands for a coaching consultation and then she went out to serve against the match. It was a shaky game and she was quickly down 15-30, then 30-30, then a winner from Vesnina to 30-40 and match point. There was a big rush of energy from the crowd, who didn't want to see it end like this. And Patty came up with one of her all-time favorite money plays: she hooked a wicked first serve out wide that Vesnina had to chop back into mid-court, and then Patty calmly moved in and hit a forehand winner into the opposite (Vesnina's forehand) corner. The stadium erupted with a roar, and then again a few points later as Patty held her serve and leveled at 5-5.
But even that couldn't turn it around. Patty's forehand misfired twice during rallies in the next game, once meters long and another time uncharacteristically missing her crosscourt badly wide in the doubles alley, and she had to serve against the match again at 5-6. As Patty walked over to our side (i was sitting straight across width-wise from partbrit's big "COME ON PATTY sign") she had a worn-out look about her - not from the day's long match, but more from 13 years uninterrupted on the tour. Patty was fighting on every ball but she wasn't getting her first serves in, wasn't getting depth on her groundstrokes, and Vesnina took full advantage, clocking a couple of forcing winners to quickly get to 15-40. Patty drilled a first serve winner down the middle to save one MP, and then drilled another big first serve down the middle on the ad side, but Vesnina was right on this one and hit a forehand return rocket that put Patty at a disadvantage in the rally; after a brief exchange she anti-climactically sailed a forehand long and that was it.
I would be at a loss to say what Patty could have done differently in this match. I don't think she missed a passing shot all day. Except for the misfiring forehands at the end, she didn't hit many unforced's. Her tactics were sound and it was disappointing to see Patty do all the hard work of breaking down Vesnina's game, only to let her sneak back. Disappointing also because of the draw that Patty had, which gave her a great opportunity at reaching a third Charleston final (the two most dangerous players for Patty in the draw, Dementieva and Wozniacki, were both safely in the other half, and i suspect that a confident Patty would have cut up Lisicki's power game into shreds in the QF). I suppose that with all the success Patty has had in these gritty types of matches in Charleston, she was bound to lose one sooner or later.
Anyway, sometimes it's not about whether you win or lose. Sometimes it's just about going out on the court and playing your ass off. Nobody leaving that stadium that afternoon was complaining that they didn't get their money's worth. I hope we haven't seen the last of partbrit's sign hanging up there over the northwest balcony, but if we did, it wasn't a bad way to go out.
Last edited by vogus; May 1st, 2009 at 03:58 AM.