Australian Open 2008: Andrew's reports (fourth round added)
AUSTRALIAN OPEN (Melbourne, Australia; outdoor hard (Plexicushion); Grand Slam)
This is a Nicole-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. Nicole Vaidišová 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. Nicole Vaidišová preview
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.
If Nicole improves as much again at the Australian Open, it's not out of the question that she could defend her semi-final from last year, though she does have defending champion Serena Williams lurking in her eighth.
3.1 Pretournament-quotes from Nicole
"I have beaten the top girls. It's a case of being able to perform two weeks in a row, and that's what I'm learning." (quoted on 8th December 2007)
3.2 First round
Nicole has never played her fellow 18-year-old Ioana Raluca Olaru before, but she should be much too strong for Olaru, just as Vera Zvonarëva was at Hobart (6-3 6-2).
Olaru compiled an impressive 41:16 record for 2007, albeit mainly in minor tournaments: she won ITF Torrent as well as making a couple of WTA Tier III/IV semi-finals. She hasn't beaten anyone ranked higher than #33 except by retirement.
3.3 Second round
I expect I'll get to see the match that determines Nicole's second opponent on BBCi tomorrow: voluptuous serve-volleyer Alicia Molik or Clijsters-clone Kaia Kanepi, who play in the Rod Laver Arena evening-session (they also played each other in 1r Australian Open 2007: Molik won 1-6 6-3 6-2). Nicole hasn't played either girl before.
Molik was as high as world #8 in February 2005 before her career was scuppered by an inner-ear infection that affected her balance. She won Zürich 2004 over an injured Maria Sharapova, won Luxembourg the following week, won Sydney 2005, and beat Venus Williams to reach the Australian Open 2005 quarter-finals. She also has two wins over Amélie Mauresmo to her name.
Last year, Molik just about managed to break even with a 25:24 record. She started this year with a win over Lucie Šafářová in Hopman Cup, but Lucie got her revenge in the first round of Sydney, and Nicole should double that for Czechia.
The highlight of Kanepi's career so far has been reaching the final of Hasselt 2006 as a qualifier, losing 6-3 3-6 6-4 to Kim Clijsters. I saw a few points of that final on Transworld Sport and couldn't tell them apart.
Kanepi followed that up with a poor 2007 (20:23), the highlight of which was beating world #13 Patty Schnyder at Miami. This week, she came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals of Sydney, only to get crushed 6-2 6-0 by Justine Henin.
3.4 Third round
The draw promises a mouthwatering third-round match with Vera Zvonarëva. 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.
It's even more of a shame that Vera went over on her 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.
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.
But Vera has come so far herself since mid-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.
Ai Sugiyama is quite a Vera-like player herself: 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.
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.
Nicole lost to Sugiyama the only time they played: 6-4 1-6 6-3 at Beijing 2006.
Or perhaps Tatiana Perebiynis could take advantage of Vera's injury and Sugiyama's lack of form. She 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. Nicole beat her 3-6 7-5 6-4 in their only meeting: Hobart 2005.
The other possibility would be 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 has the experience to come through here.
3.5 Fourth round
A fourth-round showdown with defending champion Serena Williams  is a distinct possibility. It would be a repeat of the Australian Open 2007 semi-final, in which Williams beat Nicole 7-6 (7/5) 6-4. Williams went on to beat Nicole two more times in 2007 for a 3:0 head to head.
Williams went on to win 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 and Svetlana Kuznetsova back to back to reach the Moscow final, where she lost to Elena Dementieva. It won't be easy for Nicole to overturn that 0:3 head to head.
4. Order of Play for Monday
Show-Court 2 (start 11:00 AEST = 00:00 GMT)
MS 1r: Mischa Zverev v TOMMY ROBREDO 
WS 1r: AMÉLIE MAURESMO  v Tatiana Poutchek
MS 1r: MIKHAIL YOUZHNY  v Mathieu Montcourt
WS 1r: NICOLE VAIDIŠOVÁ [12,EF] v Ioana Raluca Olaru
Full order of play:
Dr. Andrew Broad
Last edited by andrewbroad; Jan 31st, 2008 at 09:53 PM.
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