San Diego 2006: Andrew's tournament-review -
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San Diego 2006: Andrew's tournament-review

ACURA CLASSIC 2006 (San Diego, California, USA; outdoor hard; WTA Tier I)

Nicole reached her first-ever Tier I semi-final, with mouthwatering matches against Daniela Hantuchová and Anna Chakvetadze.

As a result, Nicole has risen to #9 in the WTA singles-rankings - the 12th-youngest player ever to reach the top ten!


Search Getty Images for "vaidisova"

Jeff Sanders' photos (various players):


Second round (Tuesday 1st August)

+ NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [7] d. Virginia Ruano Pascual [Q], 6-1 6-0 "No.7 seed Vaidišová was the last one to take Center Court on Tuesday, but the Czech teen made sure to get off in less than an hour. She hammered five aces en route to a 61 60 rout of Spanish qualifier Virginia Ruano Pascual."

Third round (Thursday 3rd August)

Two very nice players:

Nicole is the latest player that I have inducted into my Eternal Fanship, so although I'm disappointed that Daniela once again couldn't cut it with a player of this calibre, I'm very excited by the progress that Nicole continues to make.

When I saw Daniela and Nicole on a practice-court at Birmingham 2005, it was obvious that they were very good friends from the way they were smiling and laughing together.

The match was first on Court 1, and started at 13:25 PDT - two hours later than originally scheduled because of a rain-delay.

I followed live scores on the Internet; here are my notes as I wrote them at the time:

First Set:
VAIDIŠOVÁ @* * * * * 6
HANTUCHOV __* * * *_ 4

Daniela serving 0-0: 0/40 (3 BPs), 15/40, broken.

Oh dear. If Daniela can't hold serve with Nicole, she could be in for a very short afternoon.

Nicole serving 1-0: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

Good resistance from Daniela, but Nicole does have a huge serve - possibly the biggest at this point in women's tennis!

Daniela serving 0-2: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

Well done Daniela. It's quite a relief to get on the scoreboard against such a brilliant player as Nicole, who has the capacity to humiliate you.

Nicole serving 2-1: 15/0, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Nicole, Deuce #2, ad Nicole, Deuce #3, ad Nicole, held.

Just when I was about to say "wow, Daniela broke back!", she reminds us of her unfortunate habit of squandering break-point opportunities. She still gave Nicole a good workout in that game, but there was an air of inevitability about it after Nicole recovered from 15/40.

Daniela serving 1-3: held to love.
Nicole serving 3-2: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.
Daniela serving 4-2: held to love.

Daniela's holding serve rather more easily than Nicole in the last few games. If she can just hold on and make Nicole have to serve for the set at 5-4, as Svetlana Kuznetsova did in the middle set of that French Open semi-final, that's when Nicole's chokeability may come into play.

Nicole serving 4-3: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Nicole, held.

That's the second time in this match that Daniela has let Nicole recover from 15/40.

(My comments may seem biased towards Daniela at the moment, but it's only because she's the underdog in this match. It's hard to say who I want to win: five years of loyal Daniela-fanship versus the excitement of a new power rising in women's tennis.)

Daniela serving 5-3: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.
Nicole serving for the first set at 5-4: 0/15, 15/15, 40/15 (2 SPs), Nicole won the first set 6-4 at 14:01 (36m).

Well, Daniela did set the test for Nicole that I asked for at 4-3, but Nicole passed it with flying colours. Daniela just has to say "too good" to Nicole, although the set would have had a very different complexion if Daniela hadn't wasted break-points at 15/40 at both 2-1 and 4-3.

Daniela needs to keep up the good work in the second set so that she can at least come away with a respectable scoreline - and who knows how Nicole might react if Daniela can both maintain the scoreboard-pressure (as she did in the first set) AND take her opportunities (as she has failed to do so far).

Second Set:
VAIDIŠOVÁ _*@* *@* 6
HANTUCHOV *___*___ 2

Daniela serving 0-0: 30/0, 30/15, held.
Nicole serving 0-1: held to love.
Daniela serving 1-1: 0/30 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

That's a real shame for the competitiveness of this match. Daniela hasn't broken Nicole's serve so far, and there's not much indication that she can do so now - except for the fact that she had four break-points in the first set, and Nicole has been known to choke.

But the big difference between them is in their break-point conversions: Daniela 0/4, Nicole 2/3.

(And Nicole has served 11 aces to just one by Daniela.)

Nicole serving 2-1: 0/15, 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, held.
Daniela serving 1-3: 15/0? 15/15, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

At least Daniela isn't wasting opportunities on her own serve, as she could so easily have done in that game. But being a set and a break down against a server of Nicole's calibre is a huge hole to be in, and I can't really see a way back for Daniela in this match. All she can do is play the waiting-game (keep holding serve), as Kuznetsova did from exactly this position in that French Open semi-final...

Nicole serving 3-2: 0/15, 15/15, 40/15, held.
Daniela serving 2-4: 30/0 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

Oh dear - that really does pop Daniela's balloon! Nicole has now converted 3/4 break-points, Daniela 0/4. That's why Daniela only has one WTA singles-title on her CV, while Nicole already has six at the age of 17!

Daniela has deserved a better scoreline than 4-6 2-6. If only she wasn't such a waster of opportunities.

Nicole serving for the match at 5-2: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Daniela (BP #3), Deuce #2, ad Nicole (MP #1), Deuce #3, ad Nicole (MP #2), Nicole won 6-4 6-2 at 14:33 (1h08m).

And that last game really sums up the match: three more break-points for Daniela, all squandered, but as soon as Nicole gets a match-point... well, she needs another, but you get the general idea.


The big difference was that Daniela had 7 break-points and wasted them all, while Nicole broke 3 times from 4 break-points, hence the 6-4 6-2 scoreline (in points it was much closer: 60-50).

Nicole's serve-percentages were only slightly better than Daniela's: 55% of first serves in (Daniela 54%), 86% of points won on first serve (Daniela 80%), and 45% won on second serve (Daniela 43%).

But Nicole served a whopping 16 aces next to one by Daniela! I hope that some of these were on Daniela's break-points.

Daniela served 3 double faults, while Nicole served six - which is a bit high, but that hardly matters when her first serve did so much damage!

Quarter-final (Friday 4th August)

Nice winner, nice loser:
+ NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [7] d. Anna Chakvetadze, 3-6 6-4 6-3

Nicole was in desperate trouble at 3-6 *0-2 with a break-point (30/40) for 0-3*, but she fought back admirably to seal her first-ever places in a Tier I semi-final and the top ten.

Anna is now my favourite player outside my Eternal Fanship, and if her game continues to improve, I might well consider inducting her into it next year.

Anna is ultracute, and has flairsome, deceptive groundstrokes - she can make the court look very wide. She has a very good serve, which often sets up a groundstroke-winner on the next shot (Nicole has a terrific one-two punch too, of course). "Vaidišová was broken twice during the 37-minute first set, and again in the first game of the second set, but turned things around by cutting down on the errors and playing big points better, gaining the critical break in the fourth game of the final set, and holding the rest of the way."
With Chakvetadze serving a 5-2 to stay in the match, Vaidišová had a match point at 30-40, but the 19-year-old Russian slammed a backhand crosscourt winner to get to deuce. Vaidišová hit two backhands long as Chakvetadze held serve to make the score 5-3.

Serving for the match, Vaidišová had her second match point at 40-15 but pushed a crosscourt forehand wide. At 40-30, the match, which took two hours and seven minutes, ended as Chakvetadze netted her crosscourt forehand service return.

The match started at 10:10 PDT on Center Court [sic]; here are my comments as I wrote them at the time:

First Set:
VAIDIŠOVÁ __@*___*_ 3
CHAKVETAD *@__*@* * 6

My feeling at the start of the match is that my loyalty is to Nicole, because she's a member of my Eternal Fanship while Anna is just outside it.

But I don't want Anna to get thrashed too terribly - I hope she does better than the 2-6 1-6 scoreline that Nicole inflicted on her at the Australian Open. But that, of course, was during Anna's big slump - she's now a better player than even before that slump, from what I saw of her at Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Anna serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.
Nicole serving 0-1: 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Well, well! If I expected anyone to make a 2-0 start, it would surely have been Nicole. But it's nice that Anna is a factor in this match.

Anna serving 2-0: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), 30/40, broken.

Great champions break back immediately, and Nicole has already won 6 WTA singles-titles at the age of 17, while 19-year-old Anna is still looking for her first WTA title.

It's ironic that Anna is older than Nicole, because Anna looks about 16 or 17, while Nicole looks about 25!

Nicole serving 1-2: 15/0, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.
Anna serving 2-2: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, 40/30, held.
Nicole serving 2-3: 30/0 -> 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Anna (BP #2), Deuce #2, ad Anna (BP #3), broken.

Broken from 30/0 up! This is a Noah's Ark set: each player winning two successive games. Now Nicole must break and hold for 4-4, otherwise - contrary to my expectations at the start of the match - I can well imagine Anna taking the first set.

Anna serving 4-2: 0/15, 15/15, 30/15, 40/30, 40/40, ad Nicole (BP), Deuce #2, ad Nicole (BP #2), Deuce #3, ad Anna, held.

Nicole should have broken there, but if she can make Anna have to serve for it at 5-3, then we'll see what Anna is truly made of, because although she's usually a reliable holder of serve, she does sometimes falter when serving for a set.

Nicole serving to stay in the first set at 2-5: held to love.

And the pressure is quickly back on Anna...

Anna serving for the first set at 5-3: 40/0 (3 SPs), Anna won the first set at 10:47 (37m).

The big difference in the statistics is that Nicole is winning only 33% of points on her second serve, while Anna is winning 60% of points on hers.

They've had four break-points each, but Anna converted two, Nicole only one - her missed break-points at 4-2 are particularly noteworthy.

Second Set:
VAIDIŠOVÁ __*@ @*@ @ 6
CHAKVETAD @*__@___@_ 4

Nicole serving 0-0: 0/40 (3 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Nicole, long delay... Deuce #2, ad Nicole, Deuce #3, ad Nicole, Deuce #4, ad Anna (BP #4), broken.

A set and a break down! I never expected this at the start. Nicole's in big trouble now, as Anna holds serve reliably, while Nicole isn't exactly the most prolific breaker of serve, as I noted when she lost to Li,Na at Wimbledon.

Anna serving 1-0: 30/0, 30/15, 30/30, 40/30, held.

So Nicole's having a bad day at the office, but this set is going to tell me a lot about what Anna is made of as she tries to close out one of the biggest wins of her career, and also how I truly feel about Anna as she threatens to actually beat a member of my Eternal Fanship - and possibly by a rather embarrassing scoreline, the way things are going!

Nicole serving 0-2: 30/0 -> 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Nicole, held.

Just a point away from 0-3* there!

Anna serving 2-1: 15/0, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), broken.

Now battle is truly joined in this second set - which is so far following the Noah's Ark pattern of the first.

Nicole serving 2-2: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

I can only wonder what is wrong with Nicole after she dismissed Daniela Hantuchová so summarily yesterday.

Anna serving 3-2: 0/40 (3 BPs), broken.

Nicole breaks both Anna's serve and Noah's Ark.

Nicole serving 3-3: 0/15, 30/15, 40/30, held.

This is quite a turnaround from *0-2 and 2-3*, the momentum now firmly in Nicole's favour. I can imagine Anna chewing a lot of wasps, perhaps even crying if this match continues to slip away from her.

Anna serving 3-4: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs) -> 40/40, ad Nicole (BP #3), Deuce #2, ad Anna, Deuce #3, ad Nicole (BP #4). Broken on a double fault.

Nicole firmly in the driving-seat, and I would imagine Anna has a lot of work to do on her emotions at this point.

Nicole serving for the second set at 5-3: 0/15, 30/15 -> 30/40 (BP). Broken on a double fault.

But this match continues to be very complicated! I'm very disappointed in the number of times Nicole has lost her serve today - quite possibly the best serve in women's tennis.

Anna serving to stay in the second set at 4-5: 0/15. Double fault. 0/30, 15/30, 15/40 (2 SPs), Nicole won the second set 6-4 at 11:36 (49m).

It's degenerating into a match of break and counterbreak: seven breaks and only three holds in that set! Not what I'd expect from two servers of their qualities.

Third Set:
VAIDIŠOVÁ * *@* * * 6
CHAKVETAD _*___* *_ 3

Nicole serving 0-0: 15/0, 15/15, 40/15, held.
Anna serving 0-1: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15, held.

That's more like it from both of them!

I believe in Nicole's chances more than Anna's at this stage. Nicole's the one with six WTA singles-titles to her name, who has reached a Grand Slam semi-final, and is so much stronger physically than Anna.

Nicole serving 1-1: 0/30 -> 40/30, held.
Anna serving 1-2: 0/15, 15/15, 15/40 (2 BPs), broken.

Now it feels like the contest has dwindled into a procession, although after that weird second set, you never know...

Nicole serving 3-1: 40/0, 40/15, held.

It all seems to be sliding very quicky away from Anna now, but it's just one break.

Anna serving 1-4: 15/0, 15/15, 15/30, 30/30, 30/40 (BP), 40/40, ad Nicole (BP #2), Deuce #2, ad Nicole (BP #3), Deuce #3, ad Anna, held.

Well recovered by Anna to avoid a 1-5 deficit!

Nicole serving 4-2: 0/15, 15/15, 40/15, held.

I remember Anna walking out in tears from the changeover at this exact juncture against Vera Zvonarëva at Eastbourne (and then bursting into tears when she lost).

Anna serving to stay in the match at 2-5: 15/0, 15/15, 30/15 -> 30/40 (MP #1), 40/40, ad Anna, held.

Well saved by Anna! But is she merely delaying the inevitable? It could still turn nasty if Nicole were to drop her next service-game...

Nicole serving for the match at 5-3: 30/0, 30/15, 40/15 (MP #2), 40/30 (MP #3), Nicole won 3-6 6-4 6-3 at 12:18.

Poor Anna! But it's only right that Nicole should have won, because she's the one I have inducted into my Eternal Fanship this year.


When I look at the statistics, the first thing that jumps out at me is that Nicole served 8 aces, Anna 4 (including one second-serve ace each). Nicole served 5 double faults, Anna 8.

Nicole was very dominant on her serve in the third set: she won 87% of points when she got her first serve in (56% of the time), while Anna won only 59% of points from 57% of first serves in - pretty respectable statistics against most opponents.

Even though there were a lot of breaks, both girls were very wasteful of break-points: Nicole broke 6 times from 18 break-points, Anna 5 from 13.

Nicole didn't even have to face a break-point in the third set, where she broke Anna once from 6 BPs.

Nicole quotes

"I don't think it could have gotten much worse than that [3-6 0-2]. But I think it would have been even tougher, and a little bit of a different story, if I was down 3-0 and two breaks.

[Re. reaching the top ten]
"It's great. I didn't think it would come this soon, but I'm still going to try to go as far as possible."

Semi-final (Saturday 5th August)

- NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [7] lt. KIM CLIJSTERS [1], 2-6 6-7 (0/7)

I didn't follow live scores for this one, as it started at 3am in the morning in my time-zone (BST), and staying up for another loss to Clijsters wasn't my idea of fun.

Nicole fought back from 0-3* in the second set (the deficit she had narrowly avoided against Anna Chakvetadze), but lost her nerve in the tiebreak. "The top-seeded Clijsters held off a similar late match surge in her semifinal encounter against No.7 seed Nicole Vaidišová, but the first set was a complete contrast to that of the first semifinal. Clijsters burst out to a one set lead in just 29 minutes, but after building a 3-0 lead in the second began feeling the heat from the Vaidišová ground game. The Czech phenom won four of the next five games to recover to 4-all, but after the pair held serve to force a tie-break, she lost her momentum, double faulting and then hitting six consecutive groundstroke errors to hand the match to the Belgian former world No.1."
In her semifinal victory over Vaidišová, the near capacity crowd on Stadium Court had barely settled into their seats as Clijsters jumped out to a 5-1 lead. She would go on to win the set 6-2 in 29 minutes.

Clijsters won 12 of 17 points to open the second set and take a 3-0 lead. The Belgian appeared headed for an easy victory having broken Vaidišová twice in the first three games as she took control of the match.

Vaidišová however found the range on her shots and came back to win four of the next five games to level the set at 4-4.

The set remained tied and eventually went to a tiebreaker.

Vaidišová, who served an ace to start the match, served a double fault to open the tiebreak. That was all the advantage Clijsters needed as Vaidišová committed six straight forehand errors to end the match, which took one hour and 18 minutes.

Nicole quotes

"I don't think I played a smart match, especially in the first set. I changed things up in the second set, but lost a little bit in the end. I definitely had a lot of chances in the second set, and I'm disappointed I didn't use them.

"In the tiebreaker, I played some stupid points. I think after I double-faulted, it set the tone. Then I played some stupid points again. It was the first set again."

Clijsters quotes

"I felt pretty good. I felt like I was seeing the ball better than [Friday]. I felt like I was sharper.

"I'm hitting the ball deep and well. I'm moving well, my tactics are good and my game is falling into place. I'm not serving well, but my second shots have been very good.

[Re. second set after 3-0]
"I think she started playing better; I don't think I changed a lot. She started making a lot of her shots. I had to step it up a bit and be aggressive. I was lucky she made a few mistakes in the first set.

"If you're in a tiebreaker, every point is important. In a tiebreak, everything can happen.

[Re. the final]
"To have my serve there, it's very important against Maria. She's definitely not going to miss as many returns as Vaidišová did today. I have to make sure to hit a lot of first serves."

Dr. Andrew Broad

My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki
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