Daniel Island Paradise
April 17, 2009 -- Daniel Island wasn't much of a destination until about 10 years ago when residential and commercial development began in full. I-526 influenced the evolution of life on the island, too. It facilitated traffic patterns and helped sell people on the benefits of life on an island next to historic Charleston whether native Carolinian or retiree looking for that special home for the ages. The Family Circle Cup opened its doors here in 2001. It's the biggest sporting draw in the area, and a focus of life on the island that residents love for its natural settings, wild life, parks, schools, and safe feel. From some perspectives Daniel Island is paradise.
Paradise yesterday, though, was tainted with the elimination of #2 seed Venus Williams, #4 seed Nadia Petrova, and the #3 seed Vera Zvonareva. Williams didn't seem able to handle the spunk and speed of Sabine Lisicki's serve. Venus seemed sluggish, too, as if her head was someplace else. In her press conference, she alluded to being tired but seemed ambivalent about her loss. Her attitude was disconcerting.
Nadia Petrova had the match and then didn't have the match. Errors late in the third set gave the Hungarian Melinda Czink a wink-of-an-opening that she grabbed happily to reach the finish and the quarterfinals.
Vera Zvonareva didn't deserve her loss, her retirement, which will be the official designation on WTA records. At one-all, Vera fell. She rolled her right ankle and screamed out in pain. There is still no official word beyond the "injured right ankle."
Zvonareva turned pro in 2000 and rose to her highest ranking of #6 this year. She made it to the semifinals at this year's Australian Open, won her first singles-doubles sweep at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last month, and was the finalist last year at the Family Circle Cup. She surprised entrants in Doha last fall, too, making it to the final where Venus Williams put an end to her joy in the year-ending championships.
It's not fair she's out, but a professional sport has downsides. Vera had improved her fitness, her mental toughness, and her ranking. Her plight approaches tragic for a player many considered unlikely to break the top ten, let alone the top five. She had proved many wrong.
Paradise continued to lose its patina when the first quarterfinal of the day between Elena Dementieva and Dominika Cibulkova ended early in the second set as Cibulkova retired with a left thigh injury.
"At four-all I felt something that wasn't right," Dominika said later in the afternoon.
Before the match a WTA communications manager said that she had "taped her left adductor for support and prevention." Seems as if the injury worsened as she moved laterally during points, which put more strain on the large muscle group of the inner thigh.
Dominika had planned to play Fed Cup April 25-26, go to Stuttgart for another tournament.
"Right now I'll go home and to the doctor, first," she said, looking sad.
Dementieva and Cibulkova have had feisty matches. Their first was in Miami last year, when Dominika lost. Next, they met in Montreal.
"I was all over the court and beat her 63 63," Dominika said, obviously proud and happy about the result of that match.
At the Australian Open this year, Elena Dementieva returned the favor and beat the Slovakian 62 63. Today could have tied their head-to-head record, had it not been for the injured thigh. Dementieva was disappointed, too, that the match ended prematurely.
"I feel sorry she couldn't finish the match," Elena said. "We played a couple times before and it was always very interesting, very tough match, so hopefully next time we finish."
Dominika Cibulkova's fitness is ultra important to her tennis. She has to be fit because her very powerful ground game requires it. "I like to make my opponents move and make them tired." Hopefully, doctors will have a better-than-expected prognosis and she will be back for Fed Cup.
Virginie Razzano threw everything she could at Caroline Wozniacki today. She tried baseline rallies, drop shots; she served and volleyed, and spun several whirly topspin lobs up over the Dane's head, but to no avail. In the fifth game of the second set, Virginie was up 40-love. However, Caroline made up the difference, broke and served out the set 6/0. Final score 6/4 6/0.
"I felt really good," Caroline said. "I tried to stay aggressive the whole time because I knew if I would be too defensive, then she would go in there and just step in and kill the ball."
Caroline alluded to being tired yesterday, but today she was alive.
"My legs were so tired, but today I felt good," she began. "I took a salt bath, and you know, I just got a good massage and today I was as good as new."
Caroline will meet Elena Dementieva in one semifinal tomorrow.
Sabine Lisicki is one hot teenager. Seeded sixteen here at the FCC, the nineteen year old has what it takes to be top 10 and, perhaps, top 5. She showed nothing but positive intent today in her quarterfinal victory over unseeded Elena Vesnina 6/4 6/0.
Like her match against Venus Williams yesterday, Lisicki served big and often, with one clocked at 123 mph. It's not Venus's record of 129, but you have to admit it's pretty close. Lisicki employed deep groundstrokes that she took early, which took time away from Vesnina as a point progressed.
Sabine turned pro in 2006. She has played one other semifinal match this year in Memphis where she lost in three sets to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka. Is she prepared?
"I'm going to watch a little bit of the match, and you know, we'll see." Like all other pros, she demurred and stayed focused on the present -- as much as possible anyway.
Marion Bartoli styles her game after Monica Seles. She hits with two hands off both sides, takes the ball extremely early, and stands well inside the baseline to receive any second serve. Bartoli's feet don't match up to Seles's "happy feet," but tonight it didn't matter. Her ground game was so strong it kept Melinda Czink's first return points to a paltry 18%.
Marion Bartoli won the first set 6/4. With only one deuce point in the set, it lasted a quick thirty-six minutes. The second set was thirty minutes long, as Bartoli built on her momentum from the first. Additionally, Melinda Czink had no plan B.
She attempted to beat Bartoli at her own game, which was a mistake. The Hungarian didn't move Bartoli, ending up a sitting duck for line drives off Bartoli's racquet. Czink was successful on several drop shots, though. She drew Bartoli to the net, and then passed her down the line. But she couldn't build a strategy on one shot and remained pinned to the baseline, taking her self-prescribed medicine.
"I played well tonight," Bartoli said. "I played her in Brisbane this year and it was a difficult match."
Melinda Czink's loss to the #6 seed should be a lesson, too. Come in with a strategy and come in with another strategy, too. Bartoli is known for her fast, flat balls. She'll whack away from the baseline, daring opponents to out-rally her and forcing them to play her game. But Bartoli's weakness is movement: side-to-side and front-to-back. Once on the move, she will probably lose the point. However, given that, Marion kept Czink so pinned to the baseline that she didn't have much chance to disrupt the Frenchwoman.
Czink is a lefty, too. Where was the body serve, which would have rattled Bartoli on returns? And where was a high kicker in the add court? With two hands off both sides, Marion would have been challenged to return serves like that.
Melinda Czink may not have experienced paradise this week at the FCC on Daniel Island; however, she probably experienced a little of it. She defeated Nadia Petrova yesterday, who was seeded #4 and had held the champions trophy in 2006. That's a positive she should tuck in her thoughts until the next tournament starts.
Marion Bartoli will meet Sabine Lisicki tomorrow the second semifinal match. The two met one other time at last year's Wimbledon. They played on center court and Bartoli believes that setting made a difference. She was the 2007 finalist.
"I beat her rather easily," Marion said. "But I had more experience there."