INTERNAZIONALI D'ITALIA (Rome, Italy; red clay; WTA Tier I)
Rome is the tournament of Bepa's recovery. Last year she overturned a losing-streak of four matches to reach the semi-finals (a feat she also achieved in Rome 2004).
Bepa has already lost the ranking-points from reaching that semi-final, as Rome was played a week earlier in 2005 than in 2006. Her ranking plunged from #40 to #67 this week. But it could be ten times worse: Jelena Dokic, who is only 17 months older than Bepa, plummeted from #450 to #661 last week!
At Rome 2006, Bepa won back-to-back matches for the first time since Auckland in January, and seemed to be back on form... but then in the third round, with the six most important weeks in tennis just around the corner, she suffered the worst and most embarrassing loss of her career!
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Here I note the taping on Bepa's right ankle, which she sprained at Charleston last month (her comeback from which was further delayed by illness as she pulled out of Estoril).
First round (Tuesday 16th May)
+ Vera Zvonarëva d. Shahar Peer, 1-6 6-2 6-0
A great win for Bepa, as Shahar had won the Tier IV title at Prague two days earlier!
I'm sure I don't need to convince anyone here of Bepa's beauty, but Shahar too is cute and strangely attractive.
Tennis-wise, they're both good retrievers, but Bepa is the most wonderfully complete player IMO: she can play aggressively from the baseline when she's in the mode, and has the best volleys of any member of my eternal fanship.
I recently ordered Bepa's Montréal 2004 match against Maria Sharapova from Tennis Videos International <http://www.users.bigpond.com/tennisvideos1/
>, and I must admit that Bepa impressed me more than Maria in that match... and several other Maria-matches that I ordered.
Bepa was such a brilliant player in 2004 - let's go back to that!
Second round (Wednesday 17th May)
+ Vera Zvonarëva d. NATHALIE DECHY , 6-2 6-2
This match would have been against Maria Sharapova, had Maria not withdrawn from the tournament with a foot-injury.
For Dechy to get Maria's bye was a lucky break for Bepa, as Dechy has a woeful 3:11 win-loss record for 2006 (including this match). Dechy may be #22 on the WTA rankings, but she's only #81 on the race that started on 1st January (Bepa is #58 on the race).
And Dechy is Bepa's pigeon: Bepa now owns Dechy 6-1 (their first six matches were in 2004).
Third round (Thursday 18th May)
- Vera Zvonarëva lt. Romina Oprandi [Q], 6-0 6-1
I had barely even heard of Romina Oprandi before this tournament. Oprandi is ranked #133 at the age of 20, and is playing only her second-ever WTA tournament (after Palermo 2005). Bepa ought to be shot for losing to her at all, really - let alone by a bagelstick.
From what I've read on WTAworld.com
, Oprandi used a mixture of power-shots, lobs and dropshots, while Bepa looked unfit, and unable to move Oprandi around in a similar way, even though Oprandi is fat and slow-moving, and [Oprandi] had treatment on her leg in this match.
From the tournament-website:
While clearly slower around the court than the top flight and looking overweight, Oprandi played with a remarkable combination of touch and power from the back court. She hit deep and with precision on both wings and won a host of points with heavily spun drop shots. She also successfully read the Russian's game, forcing her to scamper around the court under the baking Roman sun. Zvonarëva aided her own demise with unforced errors and too many groundstrokes up the centre of the court.
The match lasted 71 minutes - which is long for the scoreline - and Bepa was down 6-0 4-0 before she won a game. One excuse for Bepa is that it was first on Court Centrale at 13:00 CEST, and she had only played her second-round match on Wednesday evening.
Oprandi: "This is unbelievable for me. To play qualifying and be in the quarter-finals of Rome is something I never would have imagined at the start of the week. To win this match is just incredible. I'm so happy."
Every tennis-player has the worst loss of her career, and this is it for Bepa. And the last. It won't happen again.
Vera Zvonarëva/Meilen Tu:
1r - KVETA PESCHKE/FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE, 6-4 6-4
Bepa needs a better doubles-partner. She was doing much better with Elena Likhovtseva last year. A fellow Russian-speaker would be good. Any suggestions?
Dr. Andrew Broad