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Doha Day Four: Meet Your Semifinalists

Posted by gauloises1 on October 31, 2009

Your YEC 2009 semifinalists, ladies and gentlemen:

serena williams doha 2009caroline wozniacki doha 2009

jelena jankovic doha 2009venus williams doha 2009

Check the poll. We’re mainly idiots.

JJ was the second to secure her place after beating Wozniacki – who was, let’s face it, not in great shape – 62 62. Venus followed, in the sense of not really doing very much, when an on-form Kuznetsova demolished Dementieva 63 62. I thought Kuznetsova, with her usual finely-honed sense of timing, played fantastic tennis to win, but I feel bad for Dementieva, who worked so hard to get her win over Venus. Regardless, on Venus goes to face JJ tomorrow.

The final semifinalist wasn’t decided until the last match of the day, which lived up to expectations in the most soul-crushing way possible. After playing an excellent first set to win 64, and going 52 up in the second, Victoria Azarenka … well, she did what Victoria Azarenka increasingly does in that situation. She lost. She served for the match twice and simply couldn’t get it done, ending up edged out of the second 57. At which point I turned off the TV (or at least flipped over to Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two). I simply couldn’t bear to watch the predictable third set implosion (and I wanted to see how Phil Tufnell was coming along with the tango). Hence I did not see Azarenka go 1-4 down, nor her subsequent retirement with cramps. (But I can tell you that I have doubts about Tufnell’s ability to conjure up the requisite staccato footwork, flexed knees and general dramatic aggression which will be necessary in a week 7 tango).

victoria azarenka agnieszka radwanska doha retirement cramps

Weirdly, my first reaction to seeing that she had retired with cramps was relief; at least it wasn’t that (or not purely that) she had completely fallen to pieces mentally. Then I thought about it a bit and that relief died a quick and yet oddly painful death. The simple fact is that she shouldn’t have been in a third set at all. I don’t want to take anything away from Radwanska, who I thought played well throughout, but I didn’t see her raising her level significantly to take the second set; I saw Azarenka’s level plummeting like a bowl of goldfish dropped from a spire to smash on a cathedral floor, to paraphrase Douglas Coupland. And then once again on finding herself in a third set, she began to struggle both physically and emotionally.

So I’ve thought about it and I think Azarenka’s first priority should be conditioning, because I’m having serious doubts about her fitness and heat-tolerance. Maybe training in Minsk and then coming to play in heat and humidity has something to do with it, or am I completely mad? (Third possibility: I’ve got my hemispheres entirely wrong and it’s summer in Minsk). I genuinely think that developing her stamina to the point where she knows she can last three tough sets would do wonders for her mentality and prevent that element of increasing desperation from creeping into her game as she nears the business end of the match. I know that approach has sometimes proved to be a double-edged sword for Murray, but I think Azarenka has good aggressive instincts, when they’re not drowned out by the howling chorus of demons busily shredding her psyche before her eyes. Anyway, that’s what I think. And god knows I need her to do something to break this pattern, otherwise I may die choking on my own rage by this time next year. I say that out of love, Victoria.

Anyway. Not to sound rampantly insincere, but congratulations to all the semifinalists. No, I really almost mean that. No, I do. It’ll be interesting to see which JJ and which Venus come out to play; I’m betting Tuesday’s JJ against Thursday’s Venus. Draw your own conclusions. And I’m tempted to point out how far Wozniacki will get against Serena with a 1 mph serve, but hey, apparently the stroke of death is as a lover’s pinch for the gritty, glamorous Dane (as I understand we’re now referring to her). So who knows what will happen there? (I’m pretty sure we all do.)

As for the rest … thanks for playing, ladies.

victoria azarenka doha cramp2

vera zvonareva doha 2009

 dinara safina doha 2009

svetlana kuznetsova doha 2009elena dementieva doha 2009

agnieszka radwanska doha 2009

8 Responses to “Doha Day Four: Meet Your Semifinalists”

  1. AmyLu said

    I’m slightly baffled as to Vika’s conditioning, which I agree with you is a problem for her. She supposedly trains for a good portion of the year in the Phoenix area, right? If she’s training there, she should be able to play in heat. And, based on the way her body has reacted to heat this year, I’m inclined to think that she may not actually be doing enough during her training sessions. I definitely think one can go overboard with training (my favorite male player could use a “stop” button, for instance), but I think a player can gain so much strength and confidence from knowing that physically she or he will hold up during a long match in blazing sun. While Verdasco is still under-achieving to me, he’s not under-achieving as egregiously (I hope that makes sense). And, I think that’s due to the fact that he’s stronger physically, which has helped him mentally. And, quite frankly, Vika needs all the help she can get on managing the mental/emotional part of tennis.

    I’m not quite sure why Vika thought it was a good idea to train in Minsk before playing in Doha — it reminds me of the Elf’s idea to train in Argentina before the hard court swing in the U.S. this summer (although now, in retrospect, that decision seems brilliant).

    With regard to the semis, my head says that Venus and Serena will meet in the final, but then again, I never would have predicted that Vika would lose her last two matches. And, the way she disintegrated makes me think that Jankovic may have been onto something — Jankovic handed Vika the win before Vika could do so! 😉

    (And, as an aside, I’ve beyond reached my quotient of crying females this week — an undergrad rear-ended me while I was driving home today, and upon exiting her car, she dissolved into a heap of sobs. She was still crying when I left her about 20 minutes later — so I’m just hoping that everyone can play without pain or frustration that reduces them to tears tomorrow).

    • gauloises1 said

      “I’m just hoping that everyone can play without pain or frustration that reduces them to tears tomorrow.”

      Dare to dream, AmyLu.

      With regard to Vika’s training situation, she’s theoretically based in Scottsdale, Arizona, but according to naughty’s relaying of Van Grichen’s tweets, they’ve been training in Scottsdale of late. I just think this, taken with her patchy record in Australia this year (won Brisbane, withdrew from Sydney, forced to retire against Serena at the AO) and her inability (as pinpointed by Bismarck) to play her game for more than 1.5 sets adds up to some worrying signs.

      • AmyLu said

        The one aspect of Arizona that may not be the most beneficial is that it’s a really dry heat — and from what I gather, many of the very hot spots on the tennis tour are really humid. Training there is not going to help you deal with the humidity at all (and I, for one, find it much easier to be in dry heat than excessive heat and humidity).

  2. jewell - Make tea, not war. said

    I totally agree about Vika’s conditioning. I think it was Bissy who said “great for a set and a half”?

    Whatever the reason, she certainly seems to stop putting the pressure on when she’s got a big lead, and that allows the opponents a glimmer of hope. They show her that they’re not just going to lie down and die, and she wobbles. And now they know that if they can just hang in there, they’ve got a good chance of stealing the match.

    I thought Wozniacki came back stronger than Radwanska to win her second set against Vika, too. But for me Radwanska’s scrambling improved and surprised Vika a little.

    There was good stuff in the first two sets, though – it was fun tennis with them using lots of the court. I enjoyed it.

    I don’t think you can tell that much from JJ’s win over Wozniacki. JJ played solidly and intelligently and kept her focus for the most part, which was good to see – but she had it all her own way. Caroline didn’t have anything to give, although she tried.

    I can’t get through a comment without mentioning Rafa – Wozniacki this week reminds me of him a bit. She doesn’t have the variety that Vika has, but she makes up for it with attributes that are under-rated generally in tennis – doggedness and mental strength. She could improve her serve and especially her net play – the sight of the net close up seems to horrify her completely. Thought her FH, especially CC, was becoming a bit of a weapon, too.

    • AmyLu said

      There are aspects of Wozniacki that remind me of Rafa and aspects that really remind me of Murray. In terms of her backhand and anticipation, she reminds me a lot of Murray. I think Murray moves much more fluidly than she does (and really, I don’t think Caroline moves all that well — but she reads the game so well so she’s able to anticipate and put herself in a winning position, which reminds me of Murray — and I grew to appreciate this a ton when I saw her play Clijsters live in the USO final).

  3. Jackobeanz said

    hmmm…Vika….it’s weird she has these conditioning problems…cos she moves so well and despite her grunts when she’s playing well it all seems effortless…….but that is a serious worry…..it cud also explain why she often crumbles in 3 setters……..she tries so hard to win in straights cos she knows her level wont be as good in the third…..but the pressure gets to her to finish that second set (see Wozniacki, Radwanska)…..

    Wozniacki has actually impressed me this week…..the forehand looks stronger….and the serve looks great….particularly the out wide one on the deuce court (JJ’s Fave too)…….and while Vika has more variety in net game and dropshots….Caroline i think is better at producing angles…..and unexpected shots…..and is the better improviser….

  4. sonya said

    you have no idea how much I agree with you on Vika. I couldn’t even be sorry for her because she deserved it. She dominated Aga in the 2nd set 4-0 ip then 5-2 up. And yet, she still imploded and it’s not like she’s a mental giant either so I don’t understand why she doesn’t take care of business as soon as she can. I really don’t know what will become of her, this is too depressing. With wozniacki, I still don’t think she has much in her game but she can produce angles and she keeps believing. That’s her strength, she keeps believing in the win so she will probably do much better than her contemporaries. Good for her, she’s very charming if a bit annoying.

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