Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aussie Open Day 7: Cilic and Roddick Survive 5 Setters, Henin and Petrova Move On While Kuzzie, Safina Bow Out

Many times before, Marin Cilic has been dubbed "The Next Juan Martin del Potro". You can't deny the two have many similarities: their height, birth years, huge forehands and solid backhands. On day 7 of the Australian Open the two met in the round of 16, and the encounter exceeded expectations. Despite the fact that JMDP, who's numerous injuries proved more serious than suspected, had the edge in most of the statistical categories, the 14th seeded Cilic still edged out a victory, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to upset the world number 4. DelPo's frustration got the best of him in the 4 hour 38 minute epic, as the Argentine knocked over the courtside trash cans and smashed his racquets, consequently blowing his shot at moving on to a 2nd straight Aussie Open quarterfinal.
In the quarters 2nd match, Andy Roddick and Fernando Gonzalez battled into the wee hours of the morning, as the 7th seeded American came back from a 2 set to 1 deficit to win 6-2 in the 5th in 3 hours and 25 minutes.

In a battle of the Belgians, unseeded Justine Henin was thoroughly tested, and even breadsticked, by world number 16 Yanina Wickmayer before pulling the match out 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3. Although she lossed, Wickmayer's run has been quite the success story, as she was unfairly forced to go through the quallies to earn a spot in the main draw, which she did with ease. She has been overlooked by Kim and Justine, but there is no doubt in my mind that her time will come. After all, her game is extremely solid and she's proved she can play with the big girls.
Nadia Petrova kept her cinderella story going when she followed up her dominating win over Clijsters with a 3 set victory over number 3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday. The two Russians split the 1st 2 sets 6-3 before Petrova routed Kuzzie 6-1 in the decider. Henin won;t have an easy time with the 19th seeded Petrova in the quarters, as the Russian is as motivated as ever.

Q. Do you feel like you’ve left some things on the table in your career that you want to achieve?

NADIA PETROVA: That’s why, you know, I’m still here. That’s why I’m working hard and digging deep, because I know there’s still a lot to accomplish. There’s still a lot to let out. That’s what I’m really looking for. Like I’m looking for different little kind of like, you know, I know there’s a lot left, and I’m just trying to discover those things, you know.

I really want to finally be a complete player. I want to quit tennis knowing that, you know, I’ve done everything possible, I developed as much as I could, and I gave hundred percent of it.

Rafael Nadal had a tall task to overcome on Saturday, literally, as The Spaniard took on 6'10 Ivo Karlovic. Rafa had little trouble with the Croat, dropping the 2nd set 6-4, but winning the other 3 by the same score behind a stellar serving performance. The 2nd seed didn't have to do much to win besides hold serve, which Dr. Ivo's lack of a backhand made easy, and get a break or two.

Nadal's quaterfinal will be none other than rival Andy Murray. The Scot, who also had to cope with some monstrous serving from his 6'9 opponent, played a spectacular match in easily ousting John Isner 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2, commiting just 8 errors to 32 winners, while never once being broken.
Can't wait for Rafa/Murray! It's good to be a tennis fan these days.

Just when things looked like they were starting to come full circle, Dinara Safina was struck by the injury bug in her round of 16 match with Maria Kirilenko. The same back injury that plagued Safina at the WTA Year-End Championships returned to haunt the Russian, who was forced to retire in tears down 5-4 in the opening set.

“It’s my back again. It suddenly hit me and was getting worse and worse and I have no idea how it could happen. And it’s really, really terrible," the world number 2 told the press.

You can't help but feel for Dinara. She has tried so hard to finally nab her 1st major title, and this injury will be a major setback. What a bummer. Nonetheless, kudos to Kirilenko, who is on a magical run.

Zheng Jie will be Kirilenko's quarterfinal opponent. The Chinese 26 year old earned a straight set victory over Alona Bondarenko to put herself into position to be the first women from China to reach the semifinals down under. If you can remember, she reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2008.

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