And Then There Were Four: Australian Open Playoffs Semi-final Preview

The Round Robin group stages have been completed and out of the four groups come Olivia Rogowska, Sophie Ferguson, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik. It’s pretty great how this all turned out – though not seeded 1-4, these players really are the 4 most deserving semi-finalists, and were undoubtedly locks for wildcards regardless of what happened. We have the two former top tenners in Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic, then we have Sophie Ferguson who is edging towards the top 100, and then Australia’s brightest young hope, Olivia Rogowska. So let’s take a closer look.

[2] Sophie Ferguson vs [5] Olivia Rogowska
It’s been a long and hard year for Olivia Rogowska, after all the expectations that came with a semi-breakthrough 2009, it all went horribly wrong. One of the most poignant images was her going from almost taking out the world’s number one tennis player at the biggest stadium and tournament in the world one week, to competing in an Aussie $25k in front of about 10 people, in a club smaller the Arthur Ashe Stadium itself the very next week. The massive contrast in environment had her flying head first back down to earth. Suddenly, the slippery slope was in motion as her motivation to play these tiny events evaporated, which in turn led to her performing poorly, which of course meant she lost all confidence and belief in her game, and suddenly she was out of the top 200 and in a deep hole. Her nadir came at the end of last month when she was double bageled by the 390th ranked Mihaela Burzarnescu.

For Sophie Ferguson however, this year has been full of positives. A career high of 109 in July, the highlights of the 24 year-old’s season include reaching the finals of the Biarritz $100k and qualifying before defeating Wimbledon semi-finalist Petra Kvitova at this year’s French Open. Amongst the likes of Sam Stosur, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik, she is often the forgotten Aussie, but she shouldn’t be.

I see this match going either way. Sophie Ferguson undoubtedly begins the match as the firm favourite, taking to account their ranks and their respective year on tour, but at the same time I am actually liking Rogowska’s chances. Her opponents this week may pale in comparison to Ferguson, but I think the 19 year-old’s three matches have really given her a chance to dial herself in and hit the ball far cleaner than she has done over the last couple of months. She has the goods to brush aside Ferguson, and I am beginning to think she will do just that.

[1] Alicia Molik vs [3] Jelena Dokic
The second match of the day, and easily the marquee match of both draws, pits old friends Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic against each other. We all know these players. In the red corner we have the former world number eight Alicia Molik. Her best result at the Australian Open came in 2005 when she reached the quarterfinals before playing an incredible match before losing 9-7 in the third to Lindsay Davenport. It was a heartbreaking loss, even more-so since she put up one of the greatest performances of her career in that match. However, Molik today is at a completely different point in her career. After retiring and then re-retiring like the WTA player she is, Molik’s second career has been quite underwhelming, with countless first round exits and blowouts to lower-ranked players. Still, she asserts that she is at peace with her career, and she is enjoying this second chance as her career winds down.

In the blue corner sits Jelena Dokic. Former world number four, her best performance at the Australian Open came, of course, at the incredible tournament of 2009. Jelena’s progress through the Australian Open in 2009 is one of those tennis moments that will stay with you for a long, long time. And rightly so. However, since the 2009 Australian Open, Jelena’s last two years on tour have been characterised by a series of bad luck. Countless illnesses and injuries have plagued her, and her yo-yo weight stemming back to her days of depression have further complicated things. But throughout all this hardship, she has kept her spirit and is as determined as ever.

Both players may enjoy serving big and crushing their groundstrokes, but this remains an interesting match-up. While Alicia’s serve is undoubtedly the more potent and consistent, both of Jelena’s groundstrokes easily outmatch Molik’s. Thus, Molik will inevitably be hoping to serve well and turn this match into a “who blinks first” serving contest. With Jelena’s serve so double fault-prone, this would swing the match dramatically in Alicia’s favour. For Jelena, the key of the match will be to get as many returns back and dominate Molik in the rallies. Should be a cracking match.

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Serena Williams Withdraws From Doha. What A Liar!

Remember a couple of months ago when that lying, fat slag of a world number one pulled out of the US Open (and all tournaments leading up to it) because she wanted to eat McDonalds and attend movie premieres? Well, we thought she had finally put down the act, but it turns out she hasn’t. After withdrawing from Linz last week, she has now decided to play skip the Year End Championships after “re-injuring” her tendon and having “surgery” on it (yeah, like we believe her). She now gets to sit out for the rest of the year while attending as many events as possible, and eating all the McDonalds she likes. I’m sure she’s estatic.

But seriously, yes, Serena is out. She posted on her website confirming the news that she did indeed undergo surgery again yesterday. What’s worrying is that the injury took just about 3 months to heal the last time round. The Australian Open is also 3 months away. Will she be fit in time to defend her her title? I mean, by now we all know that she could still win a major (especially the Australian Open) without even stepping on court for six months beforehand. But still.

Guess the dreaded boot will be making a reappearance in the near future.

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One For The Vault: Maria Kirilenko vs. Vera Zvonareva – Beijing

Lets be serious here, 2010 hasn’t exactly been the greatest year ever for the WTA. Outside of the obvious injuries and ~slamless number ones~, the actual tennis has also been lacking. Watching two players play well in the same match has been mostly the thing of dreams this year.

Heard about the Beijing match between Maria and Vera a couple of weeks ago, and after checking out some clips and watching these videos, this is without a doubt one of the best matches of the year. It’s always so fun to watch Maria when she’s playing aggressive and moving into the forecourt, and of course Vera herself has been playing some top class tennis this year outside of finals. Here the pair combine to play some fantastic tennis, using the full court and really pushing each other to the limit in some gruelling rallies. Enjoy.



www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGElzVag06A



www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgWYga9Rr6c

It’s also interesting that Maria has been involved in two of the best matches of the year (also the French Open third round match against Kuznetsova). I remember when she made the quarters of the Australian Open this, her wins were met with so much skepticism and ridicule. However, with some great tennis throughout the year, she has really showed us that she is a great player. If she can improve her consistency outside of slams, I have no doubt that she could wind up reaching the top 20 at sometime in 2011.

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Quotable Quotes

“Everyone thought it was impossible, but impossible is nothing. Tennis isn’t only speed and power – you play mentally. I used everything and played with nothing to lose.”

Kimiko Date-Krumm

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And One Final Picture..

I don’t even know if I was allowed to/supposed to, but I sneaked onto court at the end and pretended to be a camera man through the ceremony. It was pretty funny to be standing around as they ordered Ana about. If I was her I would’ve flipped the finger at them or something. Surely they wouldn’t do that to Serena?

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And The Runner Up..

Have to give props to Patty too. She may have faltered big time in the final, but she has delivered some great performances throughout the week, and after a tough year it was good to see her remind us that she’s still the fucking Patty Schnyder. Before this week I was pretty adamant about her retiring, but now I hope she stays on and at least gives it another few months. A result like this after such a big tournament can actually be demoralizing, so hopefully it won’t get her too down.

Patty’s Speech

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Ana Ivanovic vs Patty Schnyder: Linz Final Preview

Sunday’s final in Linz will pit Ana Ivanovic against Patty Schnyder. On paper, all signs are pointing to a easy victory for the Serb. The pair have faced each other a grand total of 8 times, and while Patty dominated a young Ivanovic in their first four encounters, Ana replied by sweeping through the most recent four.

That said, the match is most certainly not a foregone conclusion. In fact, Patty’s game actually matches up well to Ana’s. If she can use her swinging lefty serve and left-hook forehand well, she will be able to jam Ana on the backhand side. The considerably fast surface here will also aid her cause, as it will rob Ana of the time to skip around the backhand side to produce those trademark forehands. I watched Patty’s match against Petkovic in the semis yesterday, and that was exactly what she was doing. Though she favours her backhand, Petkovic was still visibly struggling with having to hit every backhand from arounf shoulder height. Ana will struggle even more.

Regardless of the score and winner, here’s hoping that the final is a high quality and gripping affair to cap off what has been a great week of tennis here in Linz.

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Turning Back The Hands Of Time

Granny Kimiko continues to defy belief over in Osaka. After defeating Sam Stosur 7-6 in the third, the 40-year old then went and outlasted Shahar Peer 7-5 in the third. She was duly joined by 33 year-old Tammy Tanasugarn who beat Marion Bartoli in straights. Tomorrow they will compete in the oldest final in known history – the pair are a combined age of 73 years old.

Not wanting to miss out on the party, 31 year-old Patty Schnyder also joined them by reaching the final over here in Linz. Retirement rumours have swirled all year for her, but this is encouraging stuff going into 2011, hope she at least gives it a go.

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