Family Circle Cup Plantation
April 16, 2009 -- Marion Bartoli had her work cut out. The crowd wouldn't let her forget that their sweetheart Melanie Oudin, the spunky Georgia girl, was across the net and their favorite American, even though one patron said, "I guess Georgia is America."
Setting aside divisions of nations and states, the first set was a roller coaster affair. Back and forth they went. You break... no, you break... Okay, I'll break. Even 4-all.
No one knew who had the upper hand until, of course, Melanie hit a winner and the crowd erupted. "Go Mel!"
Game five proved a turning point for the qualifier. She got up 42 and added pep to her step on her way to the sideline couches, which look as if they were taken directly from a local plantation.
The birds that make their homes here on Daniel's Island and Charleston Harbor are plentiful. Osprey eagles, magpies, egrets, and sea gulls dot the skies. However several fans pointed upward to witness an ominous sign: three buzzards.
The foreboding sign proved prescient. In the seventh game Bartoli demonstrated why she's ranked #13, and seeded #5 here this week.
"She put a lot of pressure on my serve at 4-2 and played a good service game at 4-3," Oudin said.
Bartoli took the ball earlier, siphoning valuable time from the American. Couple that with a few shaky first serves from Oudin, and boom... back on serve. Bartoli wasnÕt done. Her service speed picked up. She positioned herself well inside the baseline to receive. Melanie ended up on her back foot, couldn't get to the next shot with enough time to set up in balance. Bartoli's flat balls came too fast.
"Once it got to 4-4, a little bit of experience took over, and I mean I had had a lead and then the whole thing was oh, my gosh, I'm actually beating like someone who's 13 in the world kind of got in my head a little bit."
Experience did win out this morning. Bartoli sailed through the second set in forty-one minutes -- 64 61 -- sending Oudin home to pack for her Fed Cup trip.
"I was happy with my week," Melanie said, smiling. "I mean I played five good matches, and I'm just hoping that I just keep getting better."
Shuai Peng, the 10th seed, hits with two hands off both sides. One thing's for sure... she can hit the fuzz off the ball and direct shots with the dominant hand, which for Peng are both hands.
Ranked 35 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Ranking, Peng has a new coach in her camp, Tarik Benhabiles, who she hired in January. Peng trains now at the Tarik Benhabiles Tennis Academy. Benhabiles is probably best known for taking a young Andy Roddick to the top ten.
However, too many unforced errors at the tail end of the match was enough for Caroline Wozniacki to stop the Chinese player 63 64.
"I felt like I was playing really well for like one-and-a-half sets," Caroline began. "But I kind of felt a bit tired, you know, and I think that also made me a little bit frustrated that I knew what I wanted to play, and I was playing that, but I didn't have enough power to finish the shots the way I wanted to at one point, which also made me a bit frustrated."
"Thankfully at 5-4 I was serving well, and I closed it out," Caroline said, obviously happy and relieved that she's now in the quarterfinals.
"I'm going to have some good food to eat and get a massage and try to get ready for tomorrow," Caroline said.
Maybe Venus Williams missed her little sister's presence here at the Family Circle Cup. Maybe it was the transition from hard courts to clay courts. Her feet may not have gotten then message that movement would be a little trickier. Williams didn't have a clear idea of why she lost today, but she did 64 76 (5), to Sabine Lisicki of Germany, a teenager who turned pro three years ago.
Lisicki came from behind to win both sets, although she racked up eight double faults on her way. Venus was poised to even the match as she served at 54. But Lisicki broke and forced a tiebreak.
"I would have loved to have gotten to a third set," Venus said. "I'd have to think I would have had the advantage. But, I made a few errors at the wrong time, and she played some great shots."
Williams only won 39% of second serve points and 24% of first return points, which suggest her anticipation was a hair off.
With Williams out as the #2 seed, the draw opens a touch for the #1 seed Elena Dementieva. Asked about Williams' earlier-than-expected exit from the tournament, Dementieva was diplomatic.
"I didn't watch the match," she began. "What can I say? The competition is pretty tough. You have to be ready from the first round because it's not going to be easy now, especially playing on clay court, first tournament. You really have to be patient and take some time before you really feel the surface."
Dominika Cibulkova also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating Russian Anastasia Rodionova 67 (6) 62 63. She will face Elena Dementieva tomorrow. They have played three times with Dementieva having a 2-1 edge. They met last at this year's Australian Open in the round of 16. Dementieva defeated the Slovakian teenager 62 62.
Nadia Petrova, the FCC 2007 champion, had the match on her racquet. It was a matter of four points. They were the most discouraging four points, though, for this former heavyweight. With a narrow opening going her way, an unseeded Melinda Czink made her way to the quarterfinals, breaking to defeat Petrova 36 64 75.
Czink will face Marion Bartoli tomorrow. They've played once in Brisbane, Australia, this year with Bartoli winning in three sets 57 63 61. However, Czink has a lightening-quick lefty forehand that she sees early and hits low. If she can keep her nerves in check and maintain a decent service percentage -- she was 64% today -- she has a good chance to make it to the semifinals. However, experience dictates that Bartoli is the one to bet on, which we won't do given the atmosphere on tour.
What was supposed to be the evening attraction tonight ended suddenly when Vera Zvonareva, the #3 seed ran for a ball and slipped, turning her ankle. She lay on court screaming and crying in pain. A line umpire first approached her, and then the chair umpire quickly arrived at the side of the struggling Russian. The tournament referee soon came on court immediately followed by Melissa Baudo, the primary health care physician for the WTA. Dr. David Geier, the tournament doctor for the Family Circle Cup, attended Zvonareva next until a medical cart arrived and she was taken from the stadium.
The match lasted just under 18 minutes, when the Olympic silver medalist fell. The score was tied 1-1. As a result of Zvonareva's accident, Virginie Razzano advanced to the quarterfinals.