Safina Out - More Seeds Fall
August 19, 2009 -- Aravane Rezai came out to win. And she did, defeating
number-one seed and defending champion Dinara Safina in three roller
coaster sets during which the Russian committed seventeen double faults.
Safina crumpled her racquet with a swift whack on the court to commemorate
her loss, before shaking hands at the net with Rezai.
"Disaster," Safina said. "But, you know, big tournament is coming up in
two weeks. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and get ready for the U. S.
Rezai, who is unseeded here at Roger's Cup, was ecstatic about her victory
over Safina, the world's number one player. "I'm happy because it's my
first time I've beat No. 1 in the world; and, I'm happy because I take
revenge from French Open. It was very important for me, because she beat
me at home."
They played at Roland Garros for the first time this year. Safina sent the
French woman home in a tidy rip 61 60. But today was a different story all
together. Their match lasted a little over two hours. It was anyone's
guess who would hold serve, break serve, and/or double fault. Rezai had 7
for the match -- more than any pro would want.
All up-and-coming players want to win and be the number one player in the
world. But Rezai cracked groundstrokes with speed that equaled and
surpassed Safina's, and she is considered the hardest hitting female on
"I have always hit the ball like this," Rezai said. "My dad taught me to
hit the ball strong, and [I] kept training like this. I push hard and it's
easier to play like that. I practiced six to eight hours a day growing up
But it was the combination of Rezai's wicked ball bashing and Safina's
meltdown-of-a-serve that was the deadly cocktail she drank.
"You need to write a book then what's going on with my serve," Safina
said. "I don't bend my legs, I'm kicking it too much instead of hitting it
more because I kick it so much that the ball doesn't fly anywhere and it
goes in the middle of the net. I drop my head, I don't hold the left arm.
And I'm still so stupid that I continue doing it."
Her comments drew lots of laughs, but the fact remains she's out of the
tournament. Safina's exit opens up that quarter of the draw for Jelena
Jankovic (#4 seed) who advanced today by defeating Patty Schnyder 75 64,
and for Wildcard Kim Clijsters who took out another hopeful: #9 seed
Victoria Azarenka 75 46 61.
Dominika Cibulkova, seeded #16, also lost today in a tight three set smack
down against # 16 seeded Alisa Kleybanova 61 46 76 (4). Cibulkova was up
6/2 in the third set tiebreak, but let the lead slip away. Cibulkova was
last year's finalist.
Talking about matches slipping away· Caroline Wozniacki had a 5/4 40-15
lead on Jie Zheng in the first set, lost that game, got to 5-all, didn't
hold, and then Zheng won the set 7/5. Wozniacki lost the next nine games
as Zheng persisted in running down every shot the Dane fed her. Wozniacki
did manage to hold off a complete drubbing, winning the next three games.
Zheng, then, raced to a 40/0 lead as she served for the match. But
Wozniacki made one last attempt to stymie her opponent. It was too late.
On the fifth match point Zheng won 75 63.
Caroline Wozniacki broke down in tears, as she sped off in one of the
tour's golf carts. They were tears of disappointment, probably. She knew
she should have had the match. She knew the win was on her racquet, and
that she had lost it.
Maria Sharapova pulled through today in a straight set victory over
Sybille Bammer 63 76 (5). But it was a sketchy affair. Sharapova, like
Safina, wracked up 17 doubles faults.
"I'm actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and
double faults I can make and still win the match in two sets," Sharapova
Maria admitted, after a couple of chuckles, that she needed to "step it
up" if she wanted to advance in this tournament let alone at the big show
coming up the last day of the month· the U. S. Open.
Kim Clijsters victory today over Victoria Azarenka says a bunch about
Clijsters and a bit about the state of the women's game. Azarenka was up
4/1 in the first set and lost it 7/5. Clijsters' game took a temporary
dive in the second. She served for the match, but pulled back and played
safely while Azarenka filled the void. In the third, though, Clijsters
knew she had to take the ball early and control the points.
"I was trying to take those first chances, and trying to return well and
just, you know, trying to look to those angles from the beginning,"
And what does her victory say about the women's game? When after two years
away, she beats the #8 seed at a Premier 5 event and a woman who many
project to be the next number one player in the world? Has the women's
game stagnated, trending a line of mediocrity?
"I think a lot of the girls these days that are up there, they play a very
similar game," Clijsters began. "They play a game, like a perfect game,
playing that aggressive tennis, really hitting the ball over the net and
not giving your opponent a lot of chances. But, I feel like the plan B is
not always there."
She believes that Venus and Serena and Justine Harden, as well as Kim
herself, have worked on alternative plans. They have and have had plans to
fall back on if the initial one goes ka-put.
"If everything goes well and the way they want it to, they're the best,"
Clijsters said. "I mean, they can hit you off the court in 40 minutes."
Clijsters hung in the match today, even when she wobbled. She recalled
what had worked in the first set. She threw in drop shots and found angles
that took Azarenka out of her comfort zone.
"You can keep hanging in there and keep focusing on those few chances, and
take them and really go for it."
Luckily for the Roger's Cup Serena Williams won tonight, defeating
qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova 63 62 in just over an hour. Seems as if
Serena's serve came off without a hitch. She served six aces and committed
one double fault.