Long day today... 8 hours of Fortis Championships. Overkill? Maybe. Certainly I'll try to limit myself a bit from here onwards.
Virginie Razzano d. Sandra Kloesel 3-6 7-5 6-4
In the first set, Sandra was playing very well while Virginie looked quite robotic. There were a lot of breaks but the rallies were at least quite exciting. At 3*-4 Kloesel broke, then won the first set and looked favourite to win the match. But in the second set, Razzano was a different player and quickly took a 4-1 lead with very accurate groundstrokes. Kloesel made a minor comeback, breaking back after an amazing rally that she finished with a perfectly disguised drop shot. But after a couple more breaks, Razzano managed to save her initial hard work and win the set. In the third, Kloesel couldn't seem to run as hard; she was either tired or injured. Both players used drop shots effectively - Kloesel as a last resort, and Razzano as an offensive tactic. In the end Razzano was getting into the zone and just stopped missing altogether, allowing her to pull off a good win.
There were several players watching this match from the VIP box, including Krajicek, Schaul, Schiavone and Koukalova (eating a yoghurt).
Anna Smashnova d. Silvia Farina Elia 6-2 6-0
Next match up was the Italian Stallion vs the Human Backboard, or the battle of the one-handed backhand moonballers. From the start it seemed like Smashnova was going to make very few errors and Silvia might have a hard time getting anything past her. The rallies were long - the first three games took so long that I decided this was going to be a very slow match, so I went to watch some doubles instead. I tried to come back for the second set, but by the time they let me in it was 3-0, and the next few games were over in minutes. So I didn't get much chance to see what Silvia was doing wrong - she didn't seem to be playing that badly, but Smashnova just played flawlessly and forced the error on every point due to her consistency.
Not a very nice score in the end for Silvia, but it's always nice to see a superb athlete like Smashnova playing to the full extent of her capabilities.
Srebotnik/Vinci d. Curran/Uhlirova 6-1 6-0
I watched this specifically to see Roberta and she was in fine form. She really is a great doubles player, and combined with the experience and good form of Srebotnik, they were way too powerful for their low-ranked opponents, who didn't get many points let alone games. I think they have a good chance to beat Safina/Medina and play Raymond/Stosur for a place in the final.
I also noticed someone here who could have been pla with her world-famous green jacket, but I wasn't sure so I didn't say anything. pla, if you are fairly young and were also wearing a pink top, then it was you! Maybe I'll say hello if I see you again
Klara Koukalova b. Iveta Benesova 7-5 4-6 6-3
Two Czechs, two pink-and-white outfits, two similar styles of play - a tennis newbie could be forgiven for not knowing which one was which, especially as Benesova apparently wants to change her name to Blondesova. This match was full of flat, hard-hit groundstrokes, and some long rallies. Unfortunately both players looked absolutely miserable, like they'd rather die than be playing in a tennis match. Neither player could take the upper hand, and as the match wore on it became more and more tedious to watch. The only nice thing I can find to say is that Koukalova's service motion is lovely - textbook stuff - and Benesova's is pretty good too. The first decent serves I've seen this week. Anyway this match was so boring that I left during the first set, and didn't return until just before the end. Even then, it seemed like it would go on forever.
After leaving the Koukalova match, I went to see the practice courts where Kim Clijsters was doing a tennis clinic with a load of kids and one of my ex-tennis coaches! Unfortunately I missed seeing the retard kids trying to play tennis - it was just photographs a-go-go, and then Kim went off to sign 1000 autographs. I think it's the first time I've seen her in the flesh, and it seemed kind of weird. You'd think I'd be used to seeing real live players by now, but it's always different when they're off the court.
After that I went to court 1 where Maniilidou & Russell were finishing off the final couple of games against Plastickova & Chladkova. 6-1 6-3, an easy win, but that was expected. I recognised Eleni's blonde coach ("Mrs Vamos") who I'd seen at Birmingham, and a black woman who seems to hang out with them a lot. Chladkova nearly decapitated a man in the crowd by deflecting a volley hit straight at her. There wasn't much to see there so I went back to Koukalova-Benesova.
Dinara Safina d. Anne Kremer 7-5 6-2
This was the big match of the day, with hundreds of adoring Luxembourgers pouring in to fill the hall and support Anne. They did a good job too, as Anne was able to use the support of the crowd to get her through a few tough moments in the first set. She looked very fit and played well, trading blows with Safina (who is huuuuuge btw) and always looking to come forwards and finish off points at the net as she does. She went behind but thanks to the crowd was able to level at 5-5 and save several game points before Safina's power finally closed out the set. The second set was less close because Safina became more confident and served a few aces. In any case I couldn't see much of the match because my seat was rubbish and I was suffocating in the cloud of old-woman-perfume which is a staple of any Luxembourg social event. Anne lost but played well; it'll be interesting to see what she does next season because although she's almost 30, she can still do well and probably get in the Top 100 again. Who knows, if she plays for 2 more years and puts together a good run, she could go higher.
After that match 2/3 of the crowd went home but I stayed to see if Hantuchova and Medina Garrigues could entertain me. Hantuchova came out wearing basically nothing, plus a visor. I'm pretty sure either (a) her clothes shrunk in the wash, or (b) she has been receiving Sania Mirza's death threats by mistake; because she was constantly pulling at her "clothes", trying to cover up a bit more flesh. Medina, OTOH, had prepared for the winter chill by exchanging her adidas visor for an adidas cap. She looked like a walking advertising board. Hantuchova looked taller than ever.
Anyway the opening games of the match were not up to my high standards of entertainment, so I decided to go home.... although looking at the website now, I am rather shocked to find out it ended 6-7(2) 7-6(2) 6-0 for Hantuchova