Australian Open 2008: Andrew's reports (first round added)
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Plexicushion); Grand Slam)
This is a Vera-filtered subset of my Australian Open preview. You can follow my full reports at any of the following:
1. UK TV-alert
2. First-round draw
3. Vera Zvonarëva preview
4. Order of Play for Monday
1. UK TV-alert
The evening-sessions of the Australian Open will be televised on BBCi from 08:25 GMT each day of the tournament (digital viewers press Red or select the appropriate Freeview-channel - it always tended to be 302 last year, but it could be 301).
My understanding is that this coverage will consist of the women's match on the evening-session of the Rod Laver Arena (Kanepi v Molik on Monday), followed by the men's match, followed by recorded coverage of any Andy Murray match (or perhaps even Jamie Baker) that will have taken place during the day-session, or the "best" match of the day on a continuous loop.
But don't set your hopes too high - last year, only 7% of BBCi's Australian Open coverage was of the women! There isn't a women's match on the Rod Laver Arena evening-session every day, and it's well within the BBC's past behaviour to show recorded Murray instead of live women.
Other Australian Open coverage on BBC television:
* Sunday 20th January on BBC 2 (12:30 to 14:00 GMT);
* Saturday 26th January: Women's Singles final on BBC 1 (from 02:20 GMT);
* Saturday 26th January: repeat of WS final on BBCi (from 07:00 GMT);
* Saturday 26th January: highlights of WS final on BBC 2 (13:00 to 14:00 GMT);
* Sunday 27th January: Men's Singles final on BBC 2 (from 08:30 GMT);
* Sunday 27th January: repeat of MS final on BBCi (from 10:00 GMT).
2. First-round draw
2.1 Top quarter: Maria Sharapova
* Aiko Nakamura [s] v JUSTINE HENIN  (ganbatte Aiko!)
* Olga Poutchkova v Monique Adamczak [WC] (davai Olga!)
* Maret Ani v Angelique Kerber (go Maret!)
* Emilie Loit v FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE 
* SYBILLE BAMMER  v Tamarine Tanasugarn [Q]
* Hsieh,Su-Wei [Q,S] v Klára Koukalová (my Reason says Su-Wei, but my Passion says Klára)
* Aravane Rezaď v Kateryna Bondarenko (allez Aravane!)
* TATIANA GOLOVIN [13,DF] v Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro (allez Tatiana!)
* ELENA DEMENTIEVA  v Tzipora Obziler (davai Elena!)
* Anabel Medina Garrigues v Petra Cetkovská
* Jessica Moore [WC] v Julie Ditty
* SHAHAR PE'ER  v Renata Voráčová
* Elena Vesnina v JULIA VAKULENKO  (my loyalty is to Elena)
* Jill Craybas v Chan,Yung-Jan
* Lindsay Davenport v Sara Errani
* MARIA SHARAPOVA [5,EF] v Jelena Kostanić Tošić (DAVAI MARIA!!)
2.2 Second quarter: Vaidišová, Zvonarëva
* Tamira Paszek v JELENA JANKOVIĆ  (gemma Tamira!)
* Stéphanie Dubois v Edina Gallovits
* Flavia Pennetta [DF] v Dominika Cibulková (I really wish I could root for pretty little Domi, but my loyalty is to Flavia)
* Ashley Harkleroad v VIRGINIE RAZZANO  (go Ashley!)
* Tatiana Poutchek v AMÉLIE MAURESMO  (anyone but Mauresmo)
* Yaroslava Shvedova v Tatjana Malek (my loyalty is to Yaroslava)
* Casey Dell'Acqua v Karin Knapp
* Lilia Osterloh v PATTY SCHNYDER  (go Lilia!)
* NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [12,EF] v Ioana Raluca Olaru (POJĎME NICOLE!!)
* Alicia Molik v Kaia Kanepi (go Alicia!)
* Tatiana Perebiynis v Madison Brengle [WC] (davai Tatiana!)
* VERA ZVONARËVA [23,EF] v Ai Sugiyama (DAVAI VERA!!)
* VICTORIA AZARENKA  v Akgul Amanmuradova
* Sandra Klösel [Q] v Julia Schruff [Q]
* Ekaterina Ivanova [Q] v Yuan,Meng [Q]
* Jarmila Gajdošová [WC] v SERENA WILLIAMS 
2.3 Third quarter: Iroda Tulyaganova
* Yan,Zi [s] v VENUS WILLIAMS  (jia you Zi!)
* Camille Pin v Monica Niculescu [Q]
* Timea Bacsinszky [Q] v Sophie Ferguson [WC] (hopp Timea!)
* Iroda Tulyaganova [WC,EF] v SANIA MIRZA [31,DF] (I like Sania a lot, but DAVAI IRODA!!)
* Séverine Brémond v LI,NA  (allez Séverine!)
* Maria Elena Camerin v Christina Wheeler [WC] (forza Maria Elena!)
* Marta Domachowska [Q] v Mathilde Johansson [WC] (my loyalty is to Marta)
* MARION BARTOLI [10,DF,S] v Sofia Arvidsson (allez Marion!)
* Sabine Lisicki [Q] v DINARA SAFINA  (komm jetzt Sabine!)
* María Emilia Salerni v Mariya Koryttseva (ˇvamos María Emilia!)
* Gisela Dulko [DF] v Caroline Wozniacki (my loyalty is to Gisela)
* ALYONA BONDARENKO  v Alla Kudryavtseva (davai Alyona!)
* KATARINA SREBOTNIK  v Lourdes Domínguez Lino (dajmo Katarina!)
* Angelika Bachmann v Anastasia Rodionova
* Tathiana Garbin v Eleni Daniilidou
* ANA IVANOVIĆ [4,DF] v Sorana Cirstea (my loyalty is to Ana)
2.4 Bottom quarter: Chakvetadze, Šafářová, Hantuchová
* ANNA CHAKVETADZE [6,EF] v Andrea Petkovic (DAVAI ANNA!!)
* Peng,Shuai [s] v Alisa Kleybanova [Q] (jia you Shuai!)
* Michaëlla Krajíček [DF] v Akiko Morigami [s] (my loyalty is to Michaëlla)
* MARIA KIRILENKO [27,DF] v Meilen Tu (davai Maria!)
* LUCIE ŠAFÁŘOVÁ [22,EF] v Catalina Castańo (POJĎME LUCIE!!)
* Roberta Vinci v Virginia Ruano Pascual (may the better win)
* Alizé Cornet v Clarisa Fernández (allez Alizé!)
* DANIELA HANTUCHOVÁ [9,EF] v Vania King (POĎME DANIELA!!)
* NADIA PETROVA  v Nicole Pratt
* Anne Kremer v Evgenia Linetskaya (dajee Anne!)
* Laura Granville v Yvonne Meusburger
* ÁGNES SZÁVAY  v Ekaterina Makarova (I did a Google Image search for "Ekaterina Makarova" and found an absolute stunner, but unfortunately she wasn't the tennis-player)
* AGNIESZKA RADWAŃSKA  v Olga Savchuk
* Martina Müller v Pauline Parmentier
* Tsvetana Pironkova v Olga Govortsova (my loyalty is to Tsvetana)
* Nathalie Dechy v SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA  (allez Nathalie!)
3. Vera Zvonarëva preview
Vera went over on her left ankle after dropping just 17 games in four matches to reach the Hobart final, which she couldn't therefore play. It remains to be seen whether she'll be able to play here, let alone overcome Ai Sugiyama in a tough first-round match.
Vera has come so far since 2005, when she was in quite a slump. In those days, she was struggling with an energy-sapping virus, and would regularly go on four-match losing-streaks. These days, she's much more consistent at beating the journeywomen, and she reached two semi-finals after a four-month lay-off with a wrist-injury last summer.
So far this year, Vera has enjoyed six easy wins over lesser players, despite struggling with injuries, although she did have a surprising loss to Marina Eraković in the quarter-finals of Auckland, where she reached the final in 2006 and 2007. And then the ankle-injury.
3.1 First round
Ai Sugiyama would be a tough opponent even without Vera's ankle-injury, but if Vera's ankle is still hurting, she could be a nightmare. Sugiyama is a solid counterpuncher who gets a lot of balls back, can also move her opponent around with spreading rallies, and has excellent volleys, though she rarely chooses to use them in singles. In fact, that description could apply equally well to Vera!
When I think of Sugiyama, I think of her Wimbledon-matches: in 2002, Monica Seles beat her 4-6 6-1 6-4, and it was like pulling teeth. In 2004, Maria Sharapova beat her 5-7 7-5 6-1 and went on to win the title. In 2006, she upset former champion Martina Hingis in the third round.
Sugiyama may be 32, but she took a set off Maria Sharapova as recently as February 2007, and looked like she could have troubled her again at Wimbledon if Maria hadn't played such a brilliant match.
But 2007 wasn't a good year for Sugiyama, as she finished it with a 22:25 record. This year, she lost in the first round of Gold Coast, and in the first /qualifying/ round at Sydney: 6-2 7-5 to #143-ranked Jarmila Gajdošová.
Sugiyama beat Vera 6-3 3-6 6-4 at Linz 2003, but Vera got a 6-1 7-5 revenge at San Diego 2006, when Vera was near her best form.
3.2 Second round
Tatiana Perebiynis had a good 30:18 record in 2007, winning ITF Saint Gaudens, but her 2008 has started with failures to qualify for Gold Coast and Sydney. Vera won their only meeting 6-3 6-4: at Berlin 2004. If Vera gets through her first match unscathed, I would be pretty optimistic here.
The other possibility is Madison Brengle, who was runner-up in the Girls' Singles at Wimbledon 2007, and in a couple of ITF Women's Circuit tournaments. I doubt she would have the experience to beat a healthy Vera.
3.3 Third round
The draw promises a mouthwatering third-round match with Nicole Vaidišová. It's a real shame that they have to meet so soon, because they both deserve better: Vera reached the fourth round here last year, Nicole the semi-finals.
They've only met once before: Vera beat 16-year-old Nicole 6-3 6-2 in the first round of Eastbourne 2005. But Nicole was so inexperienced then, especially on grass, and Vera handled the windy conditions much better.
Nicole endured an injury-restricted year in 2007, failing to reach a final and dropping out of the top ten. But she did excel at the Grand Slams, with a semi-final and two quarter-finals.
Nicole started 2008 poorly with a near-loss to Casey Dell'Acqua in the first round of Gold Coast, and an actual loss to eventual champion Li,Na in the quarter-finals.
But Nicole's form can improve dramatically once she gets on a roll, and she definitely improved it in Sydney, beating world #9 Daniela Hantuchová 6-4 6-2 and world #3 Jelena Janković 6-4 4-6 6-4 before losing yet another tight match to her old nemesis Svetlana Kuznetsova.
3.4 Fourth round
Serena Williams  won the Australian Open 2007 despite her ranking of #81, but she hasn't won a title since Miami, having struggled with injuries and Justine Henin. She finished 2007 with two consecutive retirements - the latter to her left knee, on which she had surgery in 2003. One wonders how long her body will allow her to continue in tennis.
Williams started 2008 by winning the Hopman Cup with Mardy Fish, though she only played two singles-rubbers: she struggled past Lucie Šafářová 6-0 2-6 7-5 (Lucie led 4-2 in the third) and Alicia Molik 6-2 7-6.
Apparently Serena's much leaner this year, though she hasn't showed any scary results since beating Nicole Vaidišová and Svetlana Kuznetsova back to back to reach the Moscow final, where she lost to Elena Dementieva.
Williams leads Vera 4:1 head to head, but that lone victory - a 6-2 6-3 thrashing at Cincinnati 2006 en route to the title - is one of my sweetest memories of Vera's career, even though Williams was just coming back from injury and making "a thousand unforced errors".
And Vera has taken two more sets off Williams, including in 4r French Open 2002 when Williams was the dominant force in women's tennis and Vera was 17! Most recently, Williams beat Vera 6-4 7-6 (7/4) at the US Open 2007 - Vera's first tournament back after four months out with her wrist-injury.
4. Order of Play for Monday
Court 6 (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
WS 1r: Ekaterina Ivanova [Q] v Yuan,Meng [Q]
WS 1r: Jessica Moore [WC] v Julie Ditty
MS 1r: Donald Young v Michael Berrer
WS 1r: VERA ZVONARËVA [23,EF] v Ai Sugiyama
Full order of play:
Dr. Andrew Broad
Last edited by andrewbroad; Feb 7th, 2008 at 08:03 AM.
Reason: edit Title