KREMLIN CUP (Moscow, Russia; carpet (Supreme); WTA Tier I)
I don't have access to Eurosport myself, but a video of Nicole's first-round match - and only her first round - has come into my possession, so I have incorporated it into this report.
Nicole repeated her French Open win over Amélie Mauresmo, but couldn't beat an injured Nadia Petrova in the semi-finals, which is disappointing because Nicole needs to be winning these tournaments if she is to qualify for the Sony Ericsson Championships. She is still #11 in both the Race and the Rankings, despite #10 Dinara Safina's first-round Moscow loss.
Nicole seems to have changed her service-motion because of her shoulder-injury. She's basically cut out the lower half of her backswing. Unfortunately this does make her serve less of a weapon than it was at the French Open, where her serve was absolutely magnificent. I sincerely hope that this is not a permanent change.
Search Getty Images for "vaidisova"
Nicole seems to have acquired Maria Sharapova's newfound taste for black nail-varnish!
First round (Monday 9th October)
+ NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ  d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [WC], 6-3 6-3
On 19th April 2007, Nicole will become the best teenager in women's tennis, so this was not as one-sided as I would have liked against a 15-year-old.
Pavlyuchenkova is currently #1 in the ITF Junior Rankings, and the reigning Australian Open and US Open Girls' Singles champion.
But there's a massive gulf between junior tennis and women's tennis, and Pavlyuchenkova is ranked only #640 on the WTA Tour Singles Rankings (20 places below Jelena Dokic). This was her first-ever match on the WTA Tour (main draw or qualifying).
Nicole: "I was very happy with my performance. After the first couple of games, I felt very comfortable on the court."
Pavlyuchenkova is a good little player: a competitive counterpuncher with deep groundstrokes. She takes the ball early, which takes time away from Nicole, who has big swings on her groundstrokes.
But Nicole had far too much power for her young opponent, and her serve is just leagues above Pavlyuchenkova's; Nicole served four aces. Even with the abbreviated backswing, Nicole still has a terrific serve, and a champion's ability to find it when she needs it.
Sam Smith: "We're gonna see an awful lot more of her [Pavlyuchenkova], which for me is a shame because saying the name is a bit of a struggle!"
Nicole serving 3-3: This game featured a double fault, a good rally ending with a Pavlyuchenkova forehand just long, and two service-winners as Nicole held serve after one deuce.
Pavlyuchenkova serving 3-4: Nicole's increasing power and extraordinary reach were beginning to unsettle Pavlyuchenkova; she wasn't getting enough first serves in, and her second serves were too short. She couldn't match Nicole's level, and was broken to 15 after a double fault and some groundstroke-errors.
Nicole serving for the first set at 5-3: She served it out to love with a virtual ace down the middle, a good serve down the middle to set up a forehand winner down the line, and at 40/0 an ace down the middle, on the service-line.
Pavlyuchenkova serving 0-0: She held to 15 with a nice spreading rally ending with a forehand drop-volley winner, and an ace out wide. Nicole's point was a crosscourt forehand winner.
Nicole serving 0-1: She held to 15 with a pinpoint forehand winner down the line, a forehand smash-winner, and a service-winner.
Pavlyuchenkova serving 1-1: Nicole hit a forehand smash-winner. She was very quick moving up to short balls, which she sometimes struggles with. Some errors from Pavlyuchenkova gave Nicole two break-points at 15/40. Pavlyuchenkova saved the first with a short service-winner out wide - an example of how Nicole doesn't move diagonally to cut off the angle. 30/40. Pavlyuchenkova hit a backhand long to give Nicole the break for *2-1.
Eurosport skipped the next four games. They went with serve AFAIK
, with Nicole having to save a break-point at *3-2.
Nicole serving 4-3: Nicole recovered from 15/30 with an ace down the middle (on the service-line) and two service-winners out wide.
Pavlyuchenkova serving to stay in the match at 3-5: Nicole backhand just wide. 15/0. Pavlyuchenkova forehand just long. 15/15. Nicole hit an off-forehand winner onto the sideline. 15/30. And again! 15/40 (two match-points). Short serve; deep forehand return; Pavlyuchenkova short forehand; Nicole hit an off-forehand just inside the sideline; Pavlyuchenkova hit a short crosscourt backhand which Nicole pounced on for a crosscourt forehand winner to seal the 6-3 6-3 victory in 1h12m.
Second round (Thursday 12th October)
+ NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ  d. Samantha Stosur, 6-4 6-1
Apparently Stosur led 4-1 in the first set, but Nicole stormed back for the loss of just one more game.
Quarter-final (Friday 13th October)
+ NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ  d. AMÉLIE MAURESMO , 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7/3)
CEEFAX initially said that Nicole lost
by that score, making it 0-3 for my Eternal Fanship in separate quarter-finals on Friday the 13th! I was so happy when I learned the correct result. It's not just because I inducted Nicole on 6/6/06 that the haters call her "Vaidevilšová"!
It was Nicole's second-ever win over a current world number one, following her 6-7 6-1 6-2 victory over Mauresmo at the French Open. It was the first time she'd even beaten a top-ten player since then (Venus Williams was #13 when Nicole beat her in the French Open quarter-finals).
It wasn't a great performance in technical terms, but Nicole certainly showed a champion's fighting-qualities to recover from 1-6 *2-5! She saved one match-point at 30/40 in that game, another at *4-5 (30/40), and in the third set, she saved a third match-point at *5-6 (30/40).
I got the following information from the WTAworld.com scoring-thread:
VAIDIŠOV *______ 1
MAURESMO _*@*@*@ 6
Nicole saved a break-point in the first game, but after that, it all went pear-shaped, with Nicole only winning 4 points in the rest of the first set!
She was having a lot of trouble dealing with Mauresmo's slice, apparently.
VAIDIŠOV @*_____*@*@* 7
MAURESMO __*@*@*_____ 5
Nicole was staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat at 1-6 *2-5, and a double fault in that game gave Mauresmo a match-point at 30/40. But Nicole saved it, held, and broke back to 15 for *4-5. There at 30/40 Mauresmo had her second match-point, but Nicole saved it with a second-serve ace to level up at 5-5!
Mauresmo recovered from 15/40 to 40/40, but Nicole converted her fourth break-point of that game, and thus served for the second set at 6-5: 0/15, 40/15 (2 SPs), Nicole sealed the second set with an ace!
VAIDIŠOV _*@* *___* * 7(7)
MAURESMO *___* *@* *_ 6(3)
Mauresmo, serving at 1-1, led 40/15, but Nicole pegged her back and broke! Then Nicole came through a long service-game at *2-1 with ELEVEN deuces, saving five break-points before finally holding for 3-1! She also pegged Mauresmo back from 40/15 to 40/40 before Mauresmo held for 2-3.
Nicole led 4-2* and *4-3 (30/15), but Mauresmo broke back to level up at 4-4.
Nicole, serving to stay in the match at 4-5, recovered from 0/30, and held after one deuce for 5-5.
Serving to stay in the match at 5-6, Nicole saved Mauresmo's third match-point at 30/40, and held after one deuce.
6-6 tiebreak: Nicole *2/0, 2/2*, 5/2*, 5/3*, *6/3 (3 MPs), Nicole won 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7/3) at 17:34 (2h26m).
: "The tie-break was no contest, as one of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's youngest and brightest stars found the range on her devastating serve and ground game."
Leonid Chizhov (Associated Press) re. Nicole's match-point: "Vaidišová returned a drop shot with the court wide open."
"It was a good match from both of us.
"I definitely started the match very badly and was a game away from losing in the middle of the match, but at 5-2 I told myself I had to start playing better or lose.
"Once I got into the third set, I had some opportunities, and even had a break. Even though I lost that break, I managed to stay positive and kept fighting, and that's why I won today. I just played better at the end, and I'm happy about that."
"It's disappointing. There are no excuses for why I lost today.
"The thing about tiebreaks is: it's about taking your opportunities. I did that yesterday, but obviously not today.
"I think it's also very important to be physically fresh at the end of the match, but that also wasn't the case today."
Semi-final (Saturday 14th October)
- NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ  lt. NADEZHDA VIKTOROVNA PETROVA , 0-6 6-4 6-7 (3/7)
What a difference a year makes. Last year they met in the Bangkok final, and 16-year-old Nicole won her fifth WTA singles-title over 23-year-old Petrova who had yet to win even one WTA singles-title! But in the intervening year, Petrova has won all six of her WTA singles-titles while Nicole has added just one (Strasbourg).
Nicole again showed her fighting-qualities to recover from a dreadful start, and to save six match-points at *4-5 in the third!
But she who lives by the third-set tiebreak shall die by the third-set tiebreak:
1r: Elena Vesnina d. Li,Na, 6-2 1-6 7-6
2r: Mauresmo d. Vesnina, 5-7 6-3 7-6
qf: Nicole d. Mauresmo, 1-6 7-5 7-6
sf: Petrova d. Nicole, 0-6 6-4 7-6
Petrova, seeded No.5, stormed through the first three games of the match, then won a marathon 24-point fourth game to break Vaidišová's serve and spirit, going on to take the set at love. Things were not over for the No.8-seeded Vaidišová, however, as she raced out to her own lead in the second set, building 5-1 and evening things up at a set apiece four games later.
Both players brought their best out in the third set. With the exception of one pair of breaks early on, the two showcased their impressive serving skills throughout. The more experienced Petrova was the first to reach match-point, in fact she held six of them with Vaidišová serving 4-5, but the phenom erased them all, a sight reminiscent of her clutch quarter-final win over Amélie Mauresmo. But in the end, the Russian was just too clean with her numbers, easing through the tie-break.
Petrova is now 2-1 lifetime against Vaidišová. She won a tight two-setter at the US Open last year, which ended controversially when the Czech teenager lost her temper upon losing and was subsequently booed off the court; but a few weeks later it was she who prevailed, edging Petrova in three sets for the Bangkok title.
Gennady Fyodorov (Reuters):
Russia's Nadia Petrova overcame a groin injury to reach her first Kremlin Cup final with a 6-0 4-6 7-6 win over Czech teenager Nicole Vaidišová on Saturday.
Ater racing through the first set in 36 minutes, the fifth seed, who has been playing with a heavily-strapped left thigh for the entire week in Moscow, asked for a medical time-out to treat her right leg early in the second.
The injury seemed to hamper Petrova's mobility as 17-year-old Vaidišová, who tamed top seed and world number one Amélie Mauresmo in Friday's quarter-final, regained her composure to level the match.
The tall Russian, coming off an impressive victory at the Stuttgart Grand Prix last week, found some reserves in her game in the third set and finally prevailed after nearly two and a half hours.
Petrova wasted six match-points in the 10th game of the final set before finally prevailing 7/3 in the tiebreaker.
Leonid Chizhov (Associated Press):
The 17-year-old Vaidišová led 2-1 in the second set when Petrova, whose left hip was bandaged, took a time-out to get her other hip wrapped.
The fifth-seeded Russian resumed and lost three consecutive games to fall 5-1 down. Petrova narrowed the gap to 4-5, but the eighth-seeded Vaidišová levelled the match at 1-1.
Vaidišová saved six match-points on her serve in the ninth game of the third set. Petrova, who had never made it past the second round in her six previous appearances in Moscow, saved a break-point before both held serve to force the tiebreaker.
Vaidišová was 3/5 down, and put two backhand returns wide to lose the match.
I got the following information from the WTAworld.com scoring-thread:
VAIDIŠO ______ 0
PETROVA *@*@*@ 6
Nicole at *0-1 saved 15/40, but was still broken.
Nicole at *0-3 served 5 aces, but squandered 8 game-points. She saved one break-point, but double-faulted on the last two points of the game.
Petrova at *4-0 was clutching her pectoral muscle after serves, but held after Nicole squandered 5 break-points.
Serving to stay in the first set at 0-5, Nicole was taken to deuce, then saved one set-point with a forehand winner, but Petrova converted the second.
VAIDIŠO @* *@*___* 6
PETROVA __*___*@*_ 4
Nicole broke in the first game with a crosscourt forehand pass, then held to love with an ace.
With Nicole leading *2-1, Petrova called the trainer for a thigh/groin-injury. Then Nicole had to save 2 break-points at 15/40, but held to 3-1 with the help of an ace, a big serve to set up a forehand winner, and a backhand winner. She broke for *4-1, and saved break-point before holding for 5-1*.
Petrova whittled Nicole's lead down to *5-4 before Nicole served out the second set - which she did to 30 with the help of a crosscourt forehand winner.
VAIDIŠO _*@__* * * * 6(3)
PETROVA *__@* * * *_ 7(7)
Nicole broke to 30 to lead *2-1, but Petrova broke straight back to 15 in an error-strewn game to make it 2-2.
On Petrova's serve at 4-4, Nicole had 0/15 after a forehand winner, and 15/30, but couldn't break.
In a long game serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Nicole saved 6 match-points (the first at 30/40), one with an "unbelievable volley". After NINE deuces, Nicole finally converted her 4th game-point to level up at 5-5.
Nicole had a break-point which would have left her serving for the match at 6-5; instead, she had to serve to stay in it at 5-6 - which she did to love.
6-6 tiebreak: Nicole *1/0, *1/4. Nicole forehand winner. *2/4, 2/5*. Nicole forehand winner. 3/5*, *3/6 (3 MPs), Petrova won 6-0 4-6 7-6 (7/3) at 15:36 (approx. 2˝ hours).
"I certainly had my chances today, especially in the third set which could have gone either way. I had a chance in her game on a break-point, but she served well on crucial points.
"Nadia played better than me when it mattered. My serve worked well most of the match, but wasn't good enough.
"I certainly didn't think I had the match won after I saved all those match-points. There was still a lot of work to be done.
"A tiebreak is always a lottery. But I'm happy with my game at the moment as I have proved that I can compete with the top players."
"I had a problem with my left leg in yesterday's match, and I was worried that I couldn't fully recover for this match.
"Then, in the second set, I injured my right leg. I had so much pain I wasn't sure I would finish the match. I was given painkillers to continue, and it enabled me to regain some of my strength in the third set.
"It was difficult and very painful. At some point, I thought I would not be able to finish the match. I really wanted to be in the final in Moscow for the first time, and that goal has helped me to stay on.
"I had similar problems in the Stuttgart final, but I was able to pull through then. And today I tried not to think about losing, because I really wanted to play in the final in front of my home fans.
"We were both getting a little tight at the end. It was a matter of who could keep the ball in. After I had those match-points, I told myself I'm still in with a very good chance to win. My experience helped me through in the end."
From Friday's blog-entry for www.wtatour.com
Unfortunately I had to stop my doubles match today because of a pectoral injury. It's not going to get in the way of my singles, though, because we have it under control. I got treatment for an hour and a half on joints, neck and muscles, and everything is in check. I'm going to take a bath soon to help relax my body so I'm fine for tomorrow.
Nicole Vaidišová is my semi-final opponent tomorrow. She's probably excited to beat Amélie; that's a very good win. She's probably excited to play the semis. She's competitive, athletic, and powerful. Strong off the baseline, good serve, very dangerous. I have to keep her off balance and move her so she can't use her weapons. Obviously, if I'm able to serve well, I'll be very glad.
From Saturday's blog-entry for www.wtatour.com
I'm very happy about my match today; it was just amazing. It was tough, but I managed to beat Nicole Vaidišová. My fighting spirit and will really helped me.
After yesterday's match, I was doubtful if I'd be able to play well today. Even in my warm-up there was a bit of pain. My physio did a good job taping my pec but it was still difficult to serve hard, so instead I served with less pace and went for placement a bit more. The first set was good for me. I played smart, and I could tell she was a little tense. She started to play her game in the second set and was moving me around really well, and then I started to feel some pain in my right leg. I couldn't make it all the way to the corners. So, I called for the trainer, and they taped me. Still I lost the set, because it was hard to focus with the pain, but when the painkiller kicked in it was a different story.
In the third set we both wanted to win and we were both very tense; it was very disappointing to let go of the match-points in the 5-4 game, and I thought maybe winning this match wasn't meant to be, but I kept fighting. My experience helped me in the tie-break.
From Sunday's blog-entry for www.wtatour.com
I absolutely did not think two weeks ago I'd do so well at Stuttgart and Moscow. I was really struggling. It was really hard for me to find my form. But I'm really glad now! Last week was just amazing, and this week was also great. I never did so well here, but I fought hard and it's amazing what I've done, especially with all these injuries. I just squeezed my teeth together and really went for it. I feel like I did everything I could, and was just a little unlucky in the final.
Nicole Vaidišová/Li,Na [WC]:
1r - ANNA-LENA GRÖNEFELD/LIEZEL HUBER, 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 6-7 (2/7)
Dr. Andrew Broad