Serena Sound, Venus Vacillates at French Open
by Staff | May 28th, 2009, 9:11 pm

Both Williams sisters advanced into the third round at the French Open on Thursday, but by decidedly different means.
No. 2-seeded Serena Williams pummeled Spaniard Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0, while No. 3-seeded Venus Williams barely escaped a rain-delayed three-set encounter, beating Czech Lucie Safarova 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-5.

“Yesterday I think I did too many things wrong. She was just firing for every shot and making them,” Venus Williams told reporters. “There was a lot to think about during the delay, and when I came back I just tried to be as aggressive as I could. The last two sets were really close and she was playing well. But these kinds of matches are really rewarding, and I felt like I deserved the win today.”

Other Top 10-seeded winners were No. 4 Elena Dementieva who advanced when Aussie Jelena Dokic retired in the second set with injury, No. 5 Jelena Jankovic who defeated Magdalena Rybarikova, No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova who bageled Galina Voskoboeva, and No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki who dropped five games in defeating American Jill Craybas.

“She has always been in great shape,” said Wozniacki of the 34-year-old Craybas. “She works extremely hard. She’s a great girl, and it’s amazing she can continue on such a high level for such a long time. I’m really impressed with her game.”

On the upset tip Thursday, Tathiana Garbin topped No. 13 Marion Bartoli, Virginie Razzano beat No. 18 Anabel Medina Garrigues, Sorana Cirstea ousted No. 21 Alize Cornet, and Melinda Czink outlasted No. 28 Sybille Bammer 10-8 in the third.

American hope Alexa Glatch, who upset the seeded Flavia Pennetta in the opening round, lost a tight straight-setter to Lourdes Dominguez Lino, again leaving the Williams sisters as the lone U.S. representatives.

Highlights on Friday at Roland Garros are France’s own Aravane Rezai va. 16-year-old Michelle Larcher De Brito, Maria Sharapova vs. Yaroslava Shvedova, (32) Iveta Benesova vs. (8) Ana Ivanovic, (3) Venus Williams vs. (29) Agnes Szavay, (1) Dinara Safina vs. (27) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an all-Russian, and (9) Victoria Azarenka vs. (22) Carla Suarez Navarro.

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12 Comments for Serena Sound, Venus Vacillates at French Open

jane Says:

Venus is gone; she was lucky to escape the last round so this is no surprise really. Ivanovic was strong today but she’ll have a much tougher test next round, in either Azarenka or Suarez Navarro.

steve Says:

Amazingly, women’s tennis at the moment has a lot of interesting drama: Safina out to prove herself as #1 by taking her first Slam (and looking very dangerous), Ivanovic out to defend her title and regain the #1 ranking (and looking like a serious contender), Sharapova’s comeback from injury, the new top-ten youngsters Wozniacki and Azarenka out to beat the world, and of course, Serena, who always has a chance of blitzing through the draw and taking the title despite being out of shape.

And then there’s Suarez-Navarro, short, quiet, the opposite of a glamor girl, but with a lovely one-handed backhand and great shotmaking skills.

I really hope Suarez-Navarro can pull off her match against Azarenka (it’s been stopped at one set all, due to darkness). It would be great to see her against Ivanovic.

grendel Says:

I’ve watched quite a bit of Sharapova this week, and I’m not entirely convinced. Petrova was much more impressive after she got over her customary nervous start – but then, she fell where she always falls, and the huntress took full advantage. Actually, I had the impression old Sharpie could hardly believe her luck. Petrova talked afterwards about her ambitions to win a slam, but it ain’t going to happen. She’s just too conscious of who’s on the other side of the net. Such a shame. Her serve is a lovely, fluid thing, and the way she stroked the ball, finding the open spaces off difficult balls with consummate ease (or that’s how it looks) one just sat back and sighed. With Sharapova, it was all tremendous effort, and whilst she is undeniably an exciting performer, you can see why Serena Williams regards her as overated.

I thought of Sharapova whilst watching Azarenka this evening. Apparently, she’s a kilogram lighter. She seemed to me curiously lumpy, almost a la Davenport, lumbering around with earnest endeavour, and quite without Davenport’s remarkable hand skills. She does have a nice drop shot, but her volleys are pure hit and hope and sometimes embarrassingly amateurish. What’s great about her is the utterly uninhibited way she goes after her shots when in trouble. Her backhand can then be a miracle of accuracy, and that lasso like forehand is certainly spectacular when it comes off.

But Azarenko, as somebody said, is like a whippet. Unlike so many of these amazons, she really does have electric movement. Whereas you feel Sharapova’s rather competent use of the drop shot is the result of many hours arduous training, Azarenka’s two delicious low skimming backhand slices – how did they ghost over the net? – well, yes, arduous training here also, of course, but a natural talent too, one couldn’t help thinking, which cannot be taught.

A strange character, Azarenka. I’ve not seen much of her before. She has one of the more irritating screams, and she looks to be constantly on the verge of tears. Strangely, unlike with the old Zvonereva, this doesn’t seem to affect her play. She’s a real drama queen, utterly self-absorbed, not in the least bit inclined to acknowledge that loss of a point might just possibly be due to the opponent’s superior play. After one 24 stroke rally which she lost, you expected her to break into sobs again, but instead, she stood straight up, gazed sightlessly ahead, and roared with laughter. Needless to say, there was little amusement; I was, for some reason, put in mind of Dracula shaking with cold laughter after he has, unaccountably, missed in his lunge for his victim’s throat but instead torn out an eye. She’s quite a strange looking woman, actually, Azarenka, especially when laughing. This kind of – well, to most of us – barely sane overdose of egotism seems to stand her in good stead. She genuinely believes she is the better player, so that the loss of a point is a kind of mysterious oversight. She shares this quality with the Williams sisters, which is why I think she will go far. She is without doubt one hell of a tennis player.

Her match with Suarez-Navarro has thus far been enthralling. Much has been made of the little Spaniard’s backhand, comparisons with Henin being freely proferred. There is a germane point here, however. Azarenko, in her way, is as skilful as Suarez, but has much, much more power at her disposal. If Suarez wishes to succeed at the very highest level – and you get the feeling she is genuinely ambitious, that there is real steel in that small frame – she’s going to have to get a lot stronger.

Faced with the Williams challenge, that’s exactly what Henin – unlike Hingis who obstinately clung to the belief her superior skills would see her through – forced herself to do. It is often forgotten that Henin hit the ball quite as hard as any of the amazons, and her second serve, indeed, was (I gather) the fastest on the tour, double faults being the accepted price. No doubt all this took its toll, and explains Henin’s early retirement. So I doubt if it is correct to say Henin could have won more slams. She was played out. However, she accurately assessed what, in this new era of huge muscled women, she would have to do, ability on its own not being sufficient. I wonder if Suarez will come to similar conclusions.

jane Says:

I don’t see why Serena Williams regards Sharapova as overrated. She doesn’t have the career of Serena, that’s for sure, and Serena leads their H2H 5-2. However, Sharapova is one slam short of a career grand slam. When she beat Serena at Wimbledon in 04 she did so decisively. In winning her AO title in 2008, she demolished all comers, including Henin, Davenport, Dementieva, Jankovic, Ivanovic. And of course she beat first Mauresmo (who was number 1 then) in the semis, then Henin in the final to win the USO title in 06. So I don’t know what “over-rated” means in this context. To me to win 3 grand slams and facing stiff competition along the way does not denote and “overrated” player.

She only just came back on tour, and is fighting her way through matches at Roland Garros. Personally, I admire her will; it’s inspiring. And the shrieking, well, it’s part of the package. Good with the bad…

Watch her fight Serena here:

jane Says:

Sharapova may hit the ball hard, but that’s not all she can do. Just watch the first point in this amazing game and see how she looks to make her way to net throughout the point to put it away, and even when Henin retrieves the ball, Sharapova does not panic but finds the spot.

She may lose her next match vs. Na Li. But I just don’t think people give her credit. She’s loud and hits hard and sometimes that overshadows her capabilities. And she’s not merely a product. All the players on the pro tour have talent.

Okay I am done my rant on Shreiky and will proffer no more evidence ; I promise.

grendel Says:

Serena Williams is hardly objective. Clearly that defeat at Wimbledon stung, and stung badly. Personally, I loved it. Still, Williams was not remotely at her best – and when she is at her best, she simply destroyed Sharapova, regardless how the latter was playing. That is not, for instance, remotely true w.r.t. Henin, for whom Williams concedes a grudging respect.

Talent is relative, isn’t it? The player at the club whom one enormously admires would struggle to win a game against anyone on the tour. I’ve always admired Sharapova for making the best of what – in these very high echelons – was a limited ability. I came to the conclusion of her limitations reluctantly, since I found her an exciting player, and rather wanted her to sweep the board.

There’s no doubting Sharapova’s defensive abilities from the back of the court. And of course, she has a champion’s mentality. Watching Azarenka for more or less the first time, it seemed to me she is a much more natural talent than Sharapova. I may have got that wrong.

I disagree absolutely about the shrieking business, particularly topical at the moment. Rezai actually complained about the 16 year old Portuguese (sorry, forgotten name – in a hurry) “shouting” as she called it. The umpire would do nothing (all umpires are frightened of setting precedents, it seems to me) and the referee was called. Annabelle Croft, discussing the situation with McEnroe and Wilanders said the noise was just unbearable, and they agreed. And yet Croft had interviewed this girl earlier, and given her a pretty soft time. She did gently ask whether she might not have a go at altering it. You can imagine the response. The smile, the shake of the head. I’ve been doing it since I was five years old. It is part of my game. That holy mantra. We must never tamper with the “game”, must we. McEnroe’s response was pithy. A couple of penalty points, a defaulting, and you’ll soon see a change in the “game”.

It is quite serious, you know. In a way. I was watching my son being coached at the local club, and there was an extraordinarily irritating noise coming, at regular intervals, from an adajacent court. This seven year old – a boy, as it happens – was screaming his head off every time he hit the ball. He is a talented youngster, and evidently he thinks screaming will take him to the top. I once heard Sharapova being interviewed (at Wimbledon) about the screaming, and she was asked, if she had to start out again, how would she play it. “I wouldn’t change a thing”, she said, staring hard. Oh, what a cool, tough lady, we’re all meant to think. What a stupidly inconsiderate one, I thought. End of my rant, good to get it out of the system.

TejuZ Says:

well.. even nadals screams on every point.. its not shrieking like the some of the ladies, but he still screams right from point 1.

grendel Says:

I agree about Nadal, and personally find him irritating, as I do that whole intense thing which he exudes – but of course, that is just personal taste. I’m probably in a minority here. Men just aren’t equipped to make the kind of ear splitting racket that women are. Fewer of them seem to want to, though, than the women, which tells a certain story. I think some women are mesmerised by the astonishing effect they can generate.

Al Says:

The problem is the decibel levels. That girl was ridiculous. I heard her when I was sleeping, hubby was watching the match and could not believe it. If an opponent complains the chair umpire needs to do something. I think more players need to complain. I am glad the girl lost. I actually like Azarenka, but I can not stand the screaming. These girls do not need to do it all the time. I have seen points where Serena, Venus and Sharapova did not make a loud screaming noise, so it can be controlled. Players have to make a decision about complaining about the noise.

margot Says:

On beeb Sam Smith said this girl does not shriek during practise… Methinks it’s a tactic. I’ve made a decision not to support grunters or screamers! Come on Sam Stosur!

jane Says:

I agree that they can control the shrieking, try to lower it a few octaves, but even back when Sharapova was 17 she made that sound, so I don’t know. Seems kind of ingrained.

But I do agree that it’s irksome a times and also that some of the men are the same at times – just the other end of the keyboard.

Brian Says:

Aravane Rezai deserves a medal for protesting about her opponent, Michelle Larcher De Brito screaming like a banshee on every swipe of the ball, then another for every successful point, plus the clenched fist etc. etc. What happened to her protest, an umpires warning to De Brito, she then just carried on as before to the end of the match. Don’t lets blame this young player, after all she is just being a clone of many of the top women players in this once civilised and cultured game called tennis.
ITF Rule 26 Hindrance: If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent the player shall win that point.
Seems pretty simple to me, the governing tennis authorities have got to get a grip of this problem, or are the players bigger than the game?

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