Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wawrinka Shakes Up History, Awaits Wake-Up Call

So, I guess the AO men's final went just as expected, huh?

The ultimate result of 13-time slam champ Rafael Nadal going up against first-time slam finalist Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open men's singles final, even with the 28-year old Swiss' earlier defeat of three-time champ Novak Djokovic, seemed a fait accompli. After all, history was calling to the Spaniard. Another slam win would tie him with Pete Sampras, who'd present the trophy after the match, on the all-time list, just three behind leader Roger Federer. Not only that, but a second AO title would give Nadal a second Career Slam, with at least two titles at all four slams, something that no man has accomplished in the Open era.

Meanwhile, Wawrinka had never beaten Rafa in twelve career meetings, and hadn't even taken a set off him. Of course, over the past year, the Swiss star not named Roger HAD made a point to change the trajectory of his career. Since the start of the 2013 season, Wawrinka came into this final having reached his first slam semifinal last summer in New York, climbed into the Top 10 and put up eleven Top 10 victories before finally getting the chance to play in his first major final in this his thirty-sixth career slam appearance.

From the start, Wawrinka played with devil-may-care abandon, giving Nadal his best shot on a day the likes of which that "Stan the Man" might never see again. Seizing the opportunity, the Swiss got an early break in the 1st set and held onto it throughout. He held for 4-1, and had break points for 5-1. Nadal held to prevent a possible runaway, and there was reason to believe he'd reel in this Swiss just like he had Federer in the semifinals. But it didn't happen, even when Wawrinka served at 5-3 and suddenly found himself down love/40. Instead of being reeled back, Wawrinka did the reeling. He got back to deuce, then held a set point. He hit an ace to take his first-ever set off Nadal, 6-3.

In the 2nd, Wawrinka opened with a break of serve, then backed it up with a hold. One game later, Nadal managed to hold for 2-1, but a single swing of his racket changed the rest of the match. Wincing and bending over with a back injury following a forehand, he'd never quite be the same the rest of the night. He took an immediate medical timeout during the changeover, leaving the court. Seven minutes later, Rafa returned, shirtless and to a chorus of boos thanks to Wawrinka's five-minute long whine session with the chair umpire and tournament director about demanding to know why Nadal had left the court. Naturally, the Aussie fans, never ones to sit back and not take an injured/ill player to task if they need a within-the-rules timeout to set things straight (ask Justine, Bernie and Vika about that), took it upon themselves to serve as the judge and jury in the case.

Wawrinka, though, was left to be the executioner.

After quickly -- and angrily -- holding serve for 3-1, the Swiss soon figured out what Nadal's issue was. As the Spaniard held back from chasing down balls and had a hard time getting anything on his serve, it seemed as if a retirement would soon be in order. It didn't happen, though. After getting on-court treatment during changeovers, whatever medication Rafa was given slowly began to take effect and his play improved little by little. Once the 2nd set was quickly lost 6-2, Nadal did manage to get an early break and take the 3rd at 6-3 as tentativeness began to creep into Wawrinka's game. But, in the 4th, the Swiss set all that aside.

While Wawrinka failed to convert two break points in the first game, he later edged ahead of Rafa with a break for 4-2. It was too much to overcome for a clearly compromised Nadal. He broke back at love to get back on serve, but then immediately gave the break back a game later to allow Wawrinka to serve for the match at 5-3. On match point, Wawrinka followed his second serve to the net and easily put away Rafa's weak, short return for a forehand winner. Suddenly, Wawrinka was a shocking grand slam champion, though circumstances warranted what turned out to be a subdued celebration of the greatest accomplishment of his career.

The win will move Wawrinka past countryman Federer in the rankings, all the way up to #3. With the second-longest men's journey ever (behind only Goran Ivanvisevic's 48 slams) to a first career major title, the Swiss is the first slam winner not named Nadal, Djokovic, Federer or Murray since 2009 (del Potro's U.S. Open win), and just the second in the past thirty-six slams. He's the first ever to defeat both Djokovic and Nadal in the same major.

Speaking of how so many things have changed over the past year (he started '13 at #17 and with just a pair of slam QF to his credit), Wawrinka said, "I still don't know if I'm dreaming or not, but we'll see tomorrow morning."

Now that's a wake-up call that Stan will be more than happy to accept.

...before the men's final, Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor won their second career Mixed slam as a duo with a straight sets win in the final over Sania Mirza & Horia Tecau. It's Nestor's twelfth overall slam men's doubles/mixed doubles win.

While Serena's chances for a Grand Slam fell by the wayside in Melbourne, might this twosome's have picked up a little steam? After all, at the last four slams, they've put up a runner-up (RG), title-winning (SW19), SF (U.S.) and now a second title (AO) string together, and Nestor is holding onto Mladenovic as his partner for as long as he can. These two have become quite funny at recent slams talking about how all the other doubles specialists are trying to get the Pastry to be their partner, but the 41-year old Nestor continues to play on without retirement and reap the benefits of Kristina's excellence. This time, as Mladenovic recounted after the match how she'd been approached by other potential mixed doubles partners, Nestor openly wondered whether they were asking when he was finally going to retire, or if they maybe were really just trying to steal away with Kristina while his back was turned.

Well, Mladenovic IS an equal-opportunity doubles partner, after all. She can play with just about anyone and have a shot to win, and her fearless returns of the men's serves in mixed play is just one clue to why. Overall, she's won seven women's doubles titles with seven different partners over the last year and a half, but (so far) Nestor is the only person that she's won a SECOND title while partnering.

Ha! Take that mixed doubles poachers... err, I mean potential partners with their fingers crossed, hoping that Nestor soon gets homesick for Canada.

...on this ITF circuit for Week 4, the top player award goes to Timea Bacsinszky, keeping up the Swiss theme of this recap. The 24-year old became the $25K Andrezieux-Boutheon, France event champion with wins over Pauline Parmentier, Anett Kontaveit and Ysaline Bonaventure in the final. It's Bacsinszky's twelfth career ITF title.

Elsewhere on the circuit, 19-year old Waffle An-Sophie Mestach, the 2011 AO junior champ, won a $25K in Sunderland, Great Britain with a win over another Swiss player, Viktorija Golubic. In Daytona Beach in the U.S., Anna Tatishvili took a $25K title by defeating Laura Siegemund and a string of Bannerettes, including Asia Muhammad, 2012 AO junior champ Taylor Townsend and Allie Kiick in the final.

...and, finally...

PARIS, FRANCE (Premier $710K/hard indoor)
13 Final: Barthel d. Errani
13 Doubles Final: Errani/Vinci d. Hlavackova/Huber
14 Top Seeds: Sharapova/Kvitova

#1 Sharapova d. #4 Kerber
#2 Kvitova d. Voegele
#1 Sharapova d. #2 Kvitova

...a chance for a rebound. By someone. Maybe more interesting could be the attempt by AO champs Errani/Vinci to also defend this title, as it might be important in the early-season battle for the WTA #1 doubles ranking. Oh, in case you were wondering, Mladenovic IS playing doubles. And the spinning partner wheel lands on... Timea Babos!

PATTAYA, THAILAND (Int'l $250K/hard outdoor)
13 Final: Kirilenko d. Lisicki
13 Doubles Final: Date-Krumm/Dellacqua d. Amanmuradova/Panova
14 Top Seeds: Lisicki/Kuznetsova

#6 Muguruza d. #1 Lisicki
#5 Vesnina d. #7 Mattek-Sands
#6 Muguruza d. #5 Vesnina

...can Muguruza come right back and pick up where she left off Down Under, before Aga's mind games did her in in Melbourne? It's be her second title on the young season, matching Li Na. Mattek-Sands, playing well and still looking for her first career title, might be an interesting dark horse to watch here, too.

#4 Li Na/CHN def. #20 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK 7-6(3)/6-0

#8 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI def. #1 Rafael Nadal/ESP 6-3/6-2/3-6/6-3

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) def. #3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 6-4/3-6/7-5

#14 Kubot/Lindstedt (POL/SWE) def. Butorac/Klaasen (USA/RSA) 6-3/6-3

Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) def. #6 Mirza/Tecau (IND/ROU) 6-3/6-2

#4 Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS def. Jana Fett/CRO 6-2/6-1

#1 Alexander Zverev/GER def. #2 Stefan Kozlov/USA 6-3/6-0

#1 Kalinina/Kulichkova (UKR/RUS) def. #2 Boulter/Jorovic (GBR/SRB) 6-4/6-2

#5 Mielder/Mousley (AUT/AUS) def. #3 Halys/Tatlot (FRA/FRA) 6-4/6-3

#1 Sabine Ellerbrock/GER def. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN 3-6/6-4/6-2

#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN def. Gustavo Fernandez/ARG 6-0/6-1

#1 Kamiji/Whiley (JPN/GER) def. #2 Buis/Griffioen (NED/NED) 6-2/6-7/6-2

#1 Houdet/Kunieda (FRA/JPN) def. #2 Reid/Scheffers (GBR/NED) 6-3/6-3

2001 U.S. Open - Lleyton Hewitt (W)
2002 Wimbledon - David Nalbandian
2003 Wimbledon - Roger Federer (W)
2005 Roland Garros - Rafael Nadal (W)
2006 Australian Open - Marcos Baghdatis
2007 U.S. Open - Novak Djokovic
2008 Australian Open - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2008 U.S. Open - Andy Murray
2009 Roland Garros - Robin Soderling
2009 U.S. Open - Juan Martin del Potro (W)
2010 Wimbledon - Tomas Berdych
2013 Roland Garros - David Ferrer
2014 Australian Open - Stanislas Wawinka (W)

48...Goran Ivanisevic, CRO (Wimbledon 2001)
36...STANISLAS WAWRINKA, SUI (Australian Open 2014)
34...Petr Korda, CZE (Australian Open 1998)
28...Andy Murray GBR (US Open 2012)

24...Roger Federer, SUI (17-7)
19...RAFAEL NADAL, ESP (13-6)
12...Novak Djokovic, SRB (6-6)
7...Andy Murray, GBR (2-5)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)
24...Roger Federer (17-7)
19...RAFAEL NADAL (13-6)
19...Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18...Pete Sampras (14-4)
17...Rod Laver (11-6)

22...Bob Bryan
18...Mike Bryan
17...Roger Federer
14...Leander Paes
13...Rafael Nadal
12...Mahesh Bhupathi
10...Max Mirnyi

5...Lisa Raymond, USA
5...Cara Black, ZIM
4...Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Liezel Huber, USA
2...Sania Mirza, IND
2...Katerina Srebotnik, SLO
2...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS

2002 Daniela Hantuchova & Kevin Ullyett
2003 Martina Navratilova & Leander Paes
2004 Elena Bovina & Nenad Zimonjic
2005 Samantha Stosur & Scott Draper
2006 Martina Hingis & Mahesh Bhupathi
2007 Elena Likhovtseva & Daniel Nestor
2008 Sun Tiantian & Nenad Zimonjic
2009 Sania Mirza & Mahesh Bhupathi
2010 Cara Black & Mahesh Bhupathi
2011 Katarina Srebotnik & Daniel Nestor
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Horia Tecau
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova & Matthew Ebden
2014 Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor

2006 Yan Zi & Zheng Jie, CHN/CHN
2007 Liezel Huber, USA
2008 Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko, UKR/UKR
2009 Sania Mirza, IND
2010 Cara Black, ZIM
2011 Gisela Dulko & Flavia Pennetta, ARG/ITA
2012 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2013 Jarmila Gajdosova, AUS
2014 Kristina Mladenovic, FRA

Daniel Nestor - 2013 Wimbledon Mixed, 2014 Australian Open Mixed
Chan Hao-Ching - 2013 Oeiras
Klaudia Jans-Ignacik - 2012 Montreal
Tatjana Maria (then Malek) - 2012 Quebec City
Flavia Pennetta - 2013 Osaka
Katarzyna Piter - 2013 Palermo
Lucie Safarova - 2013 Charleston
Galina Voskoboeva - 2013 Memphis

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Cristina Mitu/ROU def. #4 Anna-Lena Friedsam/GER 3-6/6-4/9-7
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #3 Maria Sharapova/RUS def. Karin Knapp/ITA 6-3/4-6/10-8
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #14 Ivanovic d. #1 S.Williams 4-6/6-3/6-3
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr./Doub.): Doubles Final - #1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. #3 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) 6-4/3-6/7-5
TOP LAVER NIGHT MATCH: 3rd Rd. - #14 Ivanovic d. #17 Stosur 6-7(8)/6-4/6-2
FIRST VICTORY: #18 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL (def. Laura Robson/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #7 Sara Errani/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Julia Goerges, GER)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (top-seeded #7 Errani & #12 Vinci out 1st Round; Schiavone out 1st Rd. 5/6 slams)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (4th Rd.)
LAST AUSSIE STANDING: Casey Dellacqua/AUS (4th Rd.)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Dominika Cibulkova/SVK
IT (Teen): Eugenie Bouchard/CAN
CRASH & BURN: #6 Petra Kvitova/CZE (lost 1st Rd. to world #88 Luksika Kumkhum; worst slam result since losing 1st Rd. at '11 U.S. Open following Wimbledon title run)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #4 Li Na/CHN (3rd Rd. - saved MP vs. Safarova)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to (LL) Falconi/USA, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy); 7 con. slam losses; 22 1st Round exits in 47 slams
DOUBLES STAR: Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS

All for now. First month BSA's in a jiffy.


Blogger colt13 said...

Sveta and Sabine are already out of Pattaya due to injury. Looks like a chance for a non-regular winner to pick up a title.

Tue Jan 28, 02:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Sadly, this has become a common occurrence for those two. Well, except for Lisicki at Wimbledon, of course.

Muguruza (my pick) is out, too, after failing to convert two MP against Date-Krumm. It does leave an open draw from someone different to take advantage (KDK, Zvonareva, Peng?), though Vesnina is still alive, and she finally put some titles away last season.

Tue Jan 28, 03:33:00 PM EST  

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