Wednesday, January 18, 2017

AO Day 3: Sveta and JJ...and some men's tennis, too

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

This BACKSPINNER loves his role as head of the ATP Division of BACKSPIN. It’s like being the Veep. No real responsibility, a much lighter workload and some of the credit. Plus, every now and then I get to be on the same stage as the CEO of Backspin, President Spiker.

But sometimes, I can use my discretion and comment on the WTA. Especially if it concerns retirements, important events, the Volley or certain players. And for me the best match-up of the third round is not Zverev versus Rafa. It is not Berdych/Federer or even Gasquet/Dimitrov. Those will all be crackerjacks. They will be entertaining and explosive. Kristyna Pliskova playing for the first time against Angelique Kerber will be good. Genie Bouchard against CoCo Vandeweghe has promise.

But for this BACKSPINNER, there is one match worth staying up for.

It could be the last chapter in one of the WTA’s most exciting rivalries: (The) Kuznetsova (Curse) versus Queen Chaos. Sveta versus Jankovic. Oh, by the stars and skies, this BACKSPINNER could dedicate a week of posts to these two darlings of BACKSPIN HQ. The fiery, big-hitting Russian against the equally crazy, rock-solid baseline hugging Serbian. Two storied players. Both 31, they each have over 600 wins, Jankovic with 30 more, and Kuznetsova with just 3 million dollars more of prize money. Jankovic leads the head-to-head 7-6.

They have been playing since 2006. And they are part of that post-Serena narrative that crumbled when she came back. Clijsters, Henin, Ivanovic and Sharapova (at least until April) are all gone. So is Dementieva. No more Safina. These are the last two of that talented group. And while Kuznetsova had the higher ceiling, her floor was much lower than the Serbian’s. And they were both beloved. Simply because they were crazy. They’ve played across the world. From Russia to Qatar to Rome to New York to Tokyo. These two have defined a generation.

And they are the last, the Williamses, and Hingis in her way, aside.

And Jankovic is down at 54 in the world. She’s done. There is no more big run for her if she can’t do it here. There may be one or two for the Russian, but you could count those on one hand. Fitting that these two, who singlehandedly have accounted for 50,000 BACKSPIN words, and that’s a conservative estimate, should meet possibly for the last time in a Grand Slam.

So don’t ignore these two vets. Because the winner faces the next generation. Elina Svitolina lurks. These two were her a decade ago. And though they may be war-scarred and battle torn, with a history of extended slumps, why not tune in? You know there’ll be fireworks. Even if it turns out to be 6-1, 6-2 it will still be exciting. We thought after 2010 that both of these two were done. They looked it. But how Kuznetsova has come back and is a story that everyone should love. Her staying power, relevant since 2003, is something incredible. And against a foe she knows well, she faces quite the challenge.

This is going to be a big one. These two take to the court against each other, maybe for a final time. And it will be bittersweet. This is Jankovic’s last stand, her denouement. So tune in and, hey, thank me later.

2006 Stuttgart

2007 Zurich

2008 China

Right let’s get on.

*Suicide Picks*
MS 1st Rd: Gasquet d. Mott {W}
MS 2nd Rd: Tomic d. Estrella Burgos {W}
WS 1st Rd: Wozniacki d. Rodionova {W}
WS 2nd Rd: Konta d. Osaka

...Federer was winning titles on the junior circuit before Rubin was out of nappies. But they met on Rod Laver Arena and the Swiss showed that he still has the magic at his fingertips. For two hours the pair kept Rod Laver Arena entertained in a 7-5, 6-3, 7-6[3] Swiss victory. Rubin doesn’t look unlike Jimmy Garoppolo. But that would not help him. Federer was crisp and collected despite the sweltering heat, hitting 17 aces and 48 winners total. The 41 errors are something you will have to get used to. He is swinging now. Quick points are the order of the day. He won 71 per cent of service points and lost his serve just once. Three breaks were enough to secure the match against a rising star. The problem for Rubin was he only hit 19 winners. It might cut it in a best of three match, but not at this level. Up next for the Fedex Express is Berdman. Look for Federer to go through in three or four, but then Berdman does know how to beat him. That one will be good, but not as good as Jankovic and Kuznetsova.
...There’s really not much to write about here. It was a 90 minute match that concluded 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Maybe it was the 36 errors of the Russian’s racket or the fact he was several levels below Murray’s class. Perhaps Murray had to make up for his shoddy play in the first round. Either way, this was brutal. Murray had six breaks, while his opponent never saw a break point. This was a shellacking in which the Scot flexed his muscles. What more is there to say? Murray sees Querrey next and whether that goes four or not is entirely on the Scot’s racket. But this match between the Scot and the Russian was nothing compared to the Kuznetsova/Jankovic match coming up.
...The Swiss didn’t even need two hours to see off the American 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. He moved well, standing out in his excessively bright colours, and was striking the ball beautifully. It was in complete contrast to his gut it out win over Klizan. And in more great news for the Swiss star, the draw has opened up beautifully. Sometimes you don’t need that, but it is always nice to see it happen. His 46 winners should be cheery enough for him and his camp. Not getting broken is another. Troicki has had back-to-back five setters. There is no Kyrgios anymore. Cilic is gone. He defecated all over his mattress. One of Sock, Tsonga or Tomic surely awaits Wawrinka in the quarterfinal. He might get Seppi in the fourth. Pen Wawrinka in for another semi-final here. It would be number three. Use the same pen you used to write down a reminder to watch the Kuznetsova match.
...For 200 minutes exactly the boisterous crowd were more than entertained by these two. An epic point ended the second and third sets, which was met with raucous applause. The crowd wanted Bernie to win but loved the fight in his opponent. And the two hugged it out after the Australian’s emotional 7-5, 7-6[4], 4-6, 7-6[5] victory. He gets Cilic next. Yes, this particular edition of BACKSPIN is rather focused on a single quarter. Apologies, but this is where the action is. And, hey, this was a classic night match four setter. The match point was another long rally, but one that ended on a Hawkeye call. This was a match with an air of celebration about it, of joy. It encapsulated everything we love about the happy slam. Tomic hit 62 winners and 70 errors, his opponent going 46-42. This was a crowd-orientated match. It was the best kind of match. Evans is up next for Tomic, and then Sock or Tsonga. Could another slam quarterfinal beckon? This is his favourite slam. He really could do it. Just as you could really stay up for a certain ladies match on Friday, Australian time.
....Where does one start with this one? Seppi avenged himself, coming seemingly from nowhere, with a 1-6, 6-7[1], 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 victory. Somehow it only took three hours, but these days the points are so quick. It will be Darcis next for Seppi. So the good times just keep coming. He saved a match point despite blowing serving for it at 6-5. This whole match was just a totally bizarre mess. 28 aces from Nick were not enough this time. Both players hit 57 winners, but Kyrgios hit nearly 70 errors. His opponent hit half that. You just can’t lose your serve five times. For the Australian, it is back to the drawing board. But can Seppi use his forward momentum here? We shall soon see. Honestly, go look this match up. Go watch the highlights. It would be impossible to do it here. But it does sum up all the best and worst bits of Kyrgios.
...A shade shy of three hours and Cilic has gone crashing out, the first of the big seeds gone. The signs were there. He hit 69 errors. He couldn’t take advantage of his opponent’s 44, or his seven doubles. Evans did not play a great match, but did play a gritty one. The Brit gutted it out 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. 6-3. This is it. The final straw for Cilic in this BACKSPINNER’S book. He is not a top ten player. It is simply not good enough to do it really well SOME of the time. Somehow the things that make Kuznetsova and Jankovic endearing are irritating qualities in Cilic. What can I say? We’re fickle over here at BACKSPIN town.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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