Tuesday, June 06, 2006

And then there were six

Wednesday's men's quarterfinals are set: Benneteau v. Ljubicic, then upstart Djokovic v. Nadal.
The Frenchman doesn't have a shot against Ljubicic. It's been noted that Ivan the Lube has had a very easy draw. This has got to be the easiest ride to the semis anyone's ever had.
The other match should be quite interesting, though. Both are very close in age, but with very different tennis fortunes. While Nadal has enjoyed Grand Slam success, Djokovic is enjoying his first real run. Both have great talent. As usual, Nadal's biggest advantage will be the surface. He'll keep points going, but his opponent will look to finish early. Nadal's fitter than anyone right now, and he's too young to worry about missing so far. This, too, should be a quick match.

Speaking of quick matches, there were a few in the women's quarterfinals. Dinara Safina threatened in the first set, but very quickly, and with little forewarning, simply fizzled against Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6(5), 6-0. It's interesting that Safina happens to be Russian, because there's this Russian male player who seems to flame out in important matches inexplicably. Now that I think about it, his name is Safin. Hmm.
Anna-Lena Groenefeld brought more than double the unforced errors to the party than did her opponent, Justine Henin-Hardenne. She, too, went away in the second set, and she went down 7-5,6-2. Henin-Hardenne will face fellow Aussie drop-out Kim Clijsters for a spot in the semifinals. With a major under her belt, perhaps Clijsters' performance anxiety against her countrywoman will dissipate. She really destroyed Martina Hingis, reducing tennis' Bobby Fischer to a chicken with her head cut off. Clijsters displayed that balance of power and touch, and she'll do just fine against Henin-Hardenne.
The last semifinalist, Nicole Vaidisova, again came back from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Venus Williams, 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3. Venus had to have been remembering when she was Vaidisova's age, intimidating everyone with her height and heavy hitting. She might even be asking, "Hey, what happened to that Venus?" The answer is simple. She was the first of a kind, the Big Babe Brigade. Now, she has to contend with the monster she created, but the difference is these girls were taught better form. Back when the Williams sisters were the toast of tennis, their athleticism bailed them out of a lot of tight spots. It's still very impressive, but in order to win the French Open, you've got to keep a rally going. This is why Venus, or Serena, could take most of the year off, and still show up and win Wimbledon cold.
If Williams wants to get to the top again, she's got to get rid of all those unforced errors. She is allegedly being coached by her dad. Does he ever encourage her to play more defense and wait for her shot? Venus has done all kinds of great things in her career. One great thing she could do for her career is work extensively with another coach. The window's closing on her career. She's thisclose to approaching Lindsay Davenport status in majors: Close, but no cigar.

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