Re: PVB pics
From the blog I have been writing:
Monday April 5:
Of today, I started off watching the third round qualifying match between Sesil Karatancheva and Vesna Mansieva. The first set seemed closer than the score would indicate. Mansieva probably had a more versatile game, but Karatancheva made fewer errors--today. Sesil's reputation obviously precedes her, and I'm sure that few of us can appreciate how hard it is to work back up to where she was, but the in-person impression of Karatanchev I get is that she is more style than substance. For one thing, she's tiny--short, very slender, and looks as though she could be easily overpowered by almost any top 100-ish opponent. For another, there's almost nothing about her game that distinguishes it from many dozen other players in the 50-200 range in the rankings. And most of all, she lacks the power that it takes these days in the women's game to reach the top 20 or even top 30 or 40. I think her nickname and past are a lot more "thunderous" than her actual game.
I spent a bit of time watching Caroline Wozniacki practice this morning, with her Dad and likely her doubles partner, though I couldn't be certain. Caro looks a lot more serious these days in practice. A year ago there were a lot of laughs and smiles, but today it was all business.
Tatishvili-Krajicek was surprisingly one-sided. Anna really surprised me. Her groundstrokes were quite powerful for her compact stature, and were very sharp today. The rallies invariably favored Tatishvili, whose Dad was charting her progress in his notes and cheering audibly for her on most every point she won. Krajicek was obviously in poor form today, and very frustrated with her game, which was at times either rife with errors or otherwise simply second-best to Tatishvili on the day. In the last game she exploded in a tumultuous cascade of Dutch that probably shouldn't be repeated in social circles.
I then stayed on Court 1 for the first set of Pavlyuchenkova-Makarova (who'll team up to play doubles tomorrow), which turned out to be the day's epic struggle. The match opened with five consecutive breaks of serve before Makarova held for a 4-2 advantage that looked pretty solid at the time. After Nastya held for 3-4, she called her brother to the court, who evidently gave her some sound advice, as she slowly but steadily turned the set around, getting her break back to knot the match at 4-4 and ultimately breaking again to close out the set 7-5. Pavlyuchenkova had a rotten serving day, with numerous (13) double faults and a lot of unforced errors which made holding serve a huge struggle for her. She also seemed bothered by the heat, going for the towel early and often, whereas Makarova looked consistently fresher and better able to adapt to the conditions physically. My guess is that, ultimately, it was Nastya's mental strength that pulled her through today's three-hour marathon.
I watched some of Patty Schnyder practicing today, looking great and smiling and laughing quite a bit. She looked relaxed, which should help her out tomorrow in her showdown with Caro.
Before heading out to catch the *livestream* of Aravane Rezai's match from Marballa on my laptop from the hotel (yes, I just admitted that), I caught several long games of the match between Cibulkova and Czink. Some of the games they played in the first set were entire microcosms of clay court tennis--tedious and full of momentum shifts. Cibulkova toughed more of them out, pulling away to a 6-1 win in set 1 that was a lot closer than the score might indicate. At one point I thought I heard Czink complain that "every one of" Domi's shots were "short", but that could have been my imagination. In any event, Czink clearly wasn't happy with the rhythm she was getting from the other end of the court.
Other players sighted today included Melanie Oudin, Elena Vesnina and Alona Bondarenko. Sadly, as opposed to Miami, the light crowd today at Ponte Vedra, was quite docile and barely cheered. I felt sorry for the girls out there today, as they had to work hard in the heat, which was at least 80F today, without much in the way of crowd recognition or support. The forecast for the rest of the week is similar, with a slight cool down by the weekend.
So long until tomorrow.
Tuesday April 6:
This morning leaving the hotel I walked into the elevator and was staring at one of the "-ova"s, I think. She'd returned from an early workout and was headed upstairs. Not quite sure who this was, but process of elimination says she was Eastern European and was NOT Vesnina, Makarova, either Rodionova, Rybarikova, Tatishvilli, Pavlyuchenkova, Kudryavtseva, or Mansieva. Possibly Govortsova, but I'm just not sure about that.
At the Sawgrass Country Club I found "Julia Gorgeous" aka Julia Goerges, practicing for what turned out to be a very gruelling day.
The early match on court 2 saw Ayumi Morita taking down Sesil Karatancheva in a match punctuated by periods of solid tennis on both sides of the net, but ultimately, a bit more consistency on Morita's. I also took in a bit of Mattek-Sands and Anastasia Rodionova, shortly after Beth had taken care of set 1. Rodionova is nothing if not entertaining to watch, as she had a fit nearly every time she lost a point. I have no idea what she was saying, but it didn't sound too good. It seems to me, that if she ever harnessed her emotions, she has a nice enough game to be a solid top 40-50 player. Unfortunately, harnessing her emotions seems like it's a long, long way in the future. Beth deserves credit for originality, or goofiness, in Costume Design. Like something out of Revenge of the Nerds, her knee high, striped sports socks didn't exactly compliment her lime green dress and black shoes, but at least it was interesting!
Was able to watch a few games of Kerber-King on the stadium court, but it clearly wasn't Vania's day, as she was already way down in the match by the time I got there.
I then went back to court 2 and watched the entire Goerges-Zahlavova-Strycova match, another between doubles partners here. Lynn Welch was the umpire, and got a real workout today from Strycova, who asked her to check a heck of a lot of marks. Strycova, like Rodionova, has a problem keeping her emotions in check when things are not going well, and at one in the first game of the second set point threw her racquet on the ground four times. Goerges was more introspective, and in the end, it paid off. She fell behind at least one break in all three sets, before finding her rhythm and slowly but surely turning things around. She also made excellent use of her coaching, coming out fired up and ready to break after each consult with her coach. Despite having, and losing two match points in set 2, Julia kept her composure after an erly break in set three and found her stride with some big serving and gritty fighting through a series of closely contested games. Both women were clearly tired from the long match, and my first thought was "how in the world will they come back in a couple of hours to play doubles?" But play they did.
Between the second and third sets of Goerges' singles win, I caught few minutes of Elena Vesnina's practice. As she was finishing, Michaela Krajicek was waiting for the court, and Elena's coach kept saying "10 more seconds....5 more seconds....10 more seconds...." Finally, Elena turned to Michaela and said, "OK, start counting now...9...8...7..."
After a bit of (overpriced) lunch, I caught the last few games of the day's marquee match, Wozniacki-Schnyder. Caro must have played out of her mind in set one, to bagel Patty on clay, and it really didn't get any better after that, as Wozniacki was never seriously challenged in set two.
Late afternoon saw a pair of doubles matches--Rodionova sisters versus Cibulkova-Morita and then Goerges/Strycova versus Kudryavtseva/Govortsova. Doubles always seems to be more popular with the country club crowds, and today was no exception.
The evening matches began with a bang when Melanie Oudin played to a great crowd on stadium court against de los Rios. Melanie hopped out to a 5-2 first set lead behind some steady baselining, and then nearly coughed up the set having to save break points at 5 all. Eventully, she took the first set, in spite of de los Rios' constant drop-shotting, and cruised fairly comfortably in set 2. The crowd has heavily pro-Melanie, and gave her tremendous support, for which was duly grateful after the match.
The nightcap saw Elena Vesnina overpower Australia's Sophie Ferguson. Vesnina was far more consistent, and her much underrated serve was nearing 110mph at points, helping her out of the few tight spots she found herself in throughout the night.
It was long, but ultimately satisfying day of tennis at Ponte Vedra.The crowd was bigger, more enthusiastic, and the rest of the week is shaping up with some nice matchups. If you live in the area, by all means, come out and enjoy the great tennis! See you tomorrow.
Heidi El Tabakh