Semis Set in Doha
November 7, 2008 -- Ana Ivanovic was obviously sick. She stopped cold before one point ended in her first round match against #1 Jelena Jankovic. It wasn't a question about a line call, either. She just bent over her racquet. Ava Schuman, the WTA healthcare provider, took her blood pressure. The same scene occurred in Ana's next match against Svetlana Kuznetsova. At least Ivanovic won that match, but she was visibly hampered by some ailment.
Today she pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Championships, citing a viral infection that continues to linger. In her press conference, Ana was contrite and gracious, thanking the sponsors and tournament for its efforts. She will take time to be with her family and friends, then head to Australia to train in the early part of December.
Serena Williams also pulled out of the championships today, after suffering a three-set loss to big sis Venus yesterday. After Serena finished her match, she didn't mention any injury. She just bemoaned her tennis ability.
"I don't think I've ever played like that. I mean, I've never been in a situation where I just feel like I can't do anything... Today I couldn't serve, I couldn't hit a backhand, I couldn't hit a forehand, I couldn't even volley."
Leave it to Serena to be all about Serena. She could have complimented her sister, but not a word. If she doesn't give a nod to Venus, then other players should curb their expectations.
Only this morning did Diva Serena complain about a stomach muscle problem. One reporter wrote in his blog that she looked well enough to continue with the tournament, after seeing her practice. But in her press conference she wouldn't give an inch when asked if she couldn't play through the pain barrier, especially at a tournament this big. "Yeah, you know. I think what I should do, I should make you workout for how old am I... so for like 22 years and make you have a severe stomach strain, and then tell you to play for the sponsors, and, yeah. So, that's kind of how it works. You should try it."
So much for a gracious exit. And, big welcomes to alternates Agnieska Radwanska who is ranked #10, and to #11 ranked Nadia Petrova. Neither player will make it to the semifinals; however, if they won their matches they'd go home with $100,000.
Nadia Petrova looked as if she might pull off a victory against gold medalist and countrywoman Elena Dementieva; however, she couldn't defend against Dementieva's strong ground game, which persisted no matter what Petrova threw at her, especially a consistent knack at winning more points on second returns and second serves. Petrova's serve was on par with Dementieva's: 62% for the match.
"Nadia Petrova has one of the smoothest looking serves out there," Lindsay Davenport said. "She has a good second serve as well."
This may be true, but the "W" belonged to Elena 64 46 64. Ironically, Elena didn't have to post a win today. She had secured her spot in the semifinals yesterday. Which goes to show just how competitive this Russian can be.
The wind kicked up this afternoon in Doha to the intensity it had reached on the first day of the championships, throwing off Vera Zvonareva's service toss and timing on her groundstrokes in the first set of her match against Jelena Jankovic. The Serbian was steady as the wind ruffled her dress and slapped her ponytail across her face. At 5/2 she served for the set and closed it out.
"She handled these conditions well," Davenport commented, as Zvonareva and Jankovic walked to the sideline for the ninety-second changeover.
In the second and third sets, Zvonareva picked up her serving percentages, cut back on unforced errors, and took advantage of break point chances. She created some great cross-courts angled returns, too, when Jankovic was forced to use her second serve... certainly not the strongest part of her game.
It was the only match this week Jankovic lost -- 26 63 64.
In the final competition of the day Svetlana Kuznetsova played the nineteen-year-old Agnieska Radwanska, who had spent the first part of the week shooting a video blog for the WTA web site. Although Radwanska is young and slightly built she defends like the mightiest of players.
"Agnieska fights hard," Corina Morariu said, sitting alongside Barry McKay in the broadcasting booth at the Khalifa Tennis Complex. "She finds a way to win matches. She's incredibly mentally tough."
And fight she did today. She scrambled from the ad side to the deuce side, up and back from the net. She hit winners that skirted around the net post and caught the corner of the court inches from the baseline.
Svetlana Kuznetsova tried to overpower Radwanska. Kuznetsova won matches with her power game the last couple years, but not so much lately. Today she competed well, connecting on some beautiful cross-court forehands that roused the audience. However, more times than not she would set up a point beautifully, get positioned to smack a winner, and choke the shot away. Radwanska's efficiency and defensive skills pressured the Russian #4 seed enough to force errors from her racquet.
Sadly, Kuzy ended up the week with three losses and zero wins. She can now return to Moscow for a long anticipated and deserved rest, remaining an enigma to her fans and the tennis world. Congratulations to Radwanska for her 62 75 victory.
Two semifinal matches are scheduled for Saturday. The number one player from white group -- Vera Zvonareva -- plays the number two player from the maroon group -- Elena Dementieva. Conversely the number one player from the maroon group -- Venus Williams -- plays the number two player from the white group -- Jelena Jankovic. The final is scheduled for Sunday.
Jelena Jankovic has a chance tomorrow to prove her worthiness as the number one player on the WTA tour. The big question is can she do it with Venus Williams across the net. Williams' groundstrokes and serve are bigger than Jankovic's serve and groundies, except for the Serbian's stellar down-the-line backhand... her signature shot. Williams performs well around the net, too, whereas Jankovic has yet to show much finesse when with volleys. There is no doubt that Jankovic can hustle, but Venus moves exceptionally well for a woman six-foot-two. An even match? It could be.
Look for Vera Zvonareva to defeat Dementieva tomorrow. The #9 ranked Russian and bronze medalist from the Olympics is hotter than hot. Her temperament has neutralized and her intensity is palpable. A victory for Zvonareva will go a long way, as did her win over Jankovic today. It was the second time she had beaten a number one player. Maria Sharapova was her first victim.