Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No Williams, no cry ... and a semi-sweet preview

Listen, ESPN. There's a reason that Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic are ranked ahead of Serena and Venus Williams. So when the Williamses lose to them in the quarters, it's not an upset. Serena's loss doesn't then become the biggest surprise of the tournament as Mary Carillo theorizes. Just off the top of my head, I'd say no one really expected Roddick to lose in the third round to one Philipp Kohlschreiber (yup, I cut-and-pasted that bad boy) who then lost immediately in the next round. What about Andy Murray's loss in the first round and the rise of Muhammad Tsonga? What I'm trying to say is that the Serbs are good and right now, they're better than the Williams sisters. Seems to me like a long rivalry in the making, not some fluke.
So anyway, let's talk semis:

Maria Sharapova v. Jelena Jankovic: I'm really not convinced of Sharapova yet. Yes, she beat Justine Henin, (and for that, I'm grateful) but she's a ball basher. Plus, she's not even the best strict ball-basher out there. Most of her groundstrokes this tournament are hard, but they're landing in the middle of the court. She doesn't appear to have much of a plan out there. Enter Jankovic. She's got a lot of variety in her game. She has the penetrating ground strokes and that defense that makes her dangerous and more than makes up for that serve. Which is really bad. Anyway, I'd pick brains over brawn any time, unless we're talking about men.
Winner: Jankovic in three
Ana Ivanovic v. Daniela Hantuchova: There were a hell of a lot of good players in her quarter of the draw, and I wouldn't have expected Olive Oyl Hantuchova to make it through to the semis. But Hantuchova hasn't had a tough and experienced player in her path yet. Ivanovic has looked really solid this tournament, except for some hiccups during the Williams match, including her inability to hold serve for a while. I think this is the semifinal where the intangibles will play a role. Hantuchova's been around a while, and has never been this close to a Grand Slam final. Obviously, she could respond to that pressure in a couple of ways. She could knuckle down, eye on prize, and kick Ivanovic's ass on principle. She could also go out there overwhelmed and go out like a punk. As for Ivanovic, she's got a real shot to reach a final and play someone she can beat this time. She owns Jankovic head-to-head and is tied at 2 apiece with Sharapova. How will she respond to that? This could be a really ugly match, or one of extremely high quality, and it all depends on what's going on in their heads.
Winner: Ivanovic

Roger Federer v. Novak Djokovic: I still don't think Federer's going to win the Australian Open and here's why. Every time I watch Djokovic, I think: "I didn't know he could do that. He's getting good so fast." Every time I watch Rafael Nadal, I think: "Man, he's making some good adjustments to his game and the surface." Every time I watch Federer, I think: "Damn, he's incredible." Don't get me wrong, Federer is a great player and overall, better than both Djokovic and Nadal, but I think they're catching up to him. Especially Djokovic, who hasn't struggled at all this tournament. Federer's had a tough time of it here and if there's a time for him to get got at a major, it would be now.
Winner: Djokovic, and it'll be a long one. Fed's not going down in straights.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v. Rafael Nadal: The first thing Jo-Jo needs is a publicist, so he can get him a snazzier name. He can keep the last name, though. It's kind of cool. Look, Tsonga doesn't have a shot against Nadal. I thought at the beginning of this tournament that Nadal was playing with an injury, but he sure hasn't looked that way. He's started slow in a few matches, but he's outlasted his opponents. Tsonga looked fairly winded toward the end of his first-round match against Murray, so he'll probably be looking for a wheelchair by the end of this one. Still, Tsonga's got game and is one of the quicker guys out there. Once he gets that publicist, surely we'll hear more about him.
Winner: Nadal in three

You think I'm crazy, huh? Post your picks, then!

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