Saturday, May 25, 2013

A few comments from Rome early days (day 2)

Tuesday May 14th

B Jovanovski (SRB) b. [10] C Wozniacki (DEN) 26 64 76(5)

Thee very first match of the day was played in perfect conditions, sun was shining bright in Rome, temperature was warm, but yet not so hot and differently from the day before, wind wasn't much of a deal and immediately the stands were packed with fans cheering for the former world number 1.
Contrary to the latest matches, Caroline started pretty convincingly, hitting deep and being solid from baseline, taking advantage of the short balls coming from Jovanovski every time she was forced to run after Caroline's powerful accelerations with the backhand.
Moreover Bojana couldn't really find any depth with serve, nor taking advantage of the few mistakes of Caroline, so that in a very short lapse of time the Dane was 3-0 up with only one point lost and with no more difficulties went on winning the first set.
I was really impressed by Caroline's game in the first set to be honest, yet I could tell that there was something wrong with her, since she didn't look confident, nor willing to finish the job fast. In the second set she started bad and immediately found herself trailing in the score. She received a treatment to her ankle, but it seemed that the problems were others: she suddenly felt tight and her shots lost power and depth, even her running seemed less impressive and more balls started to get past her. On the other side of the net a lot of credits are due to Jovanovski, who suddenly started to believe in her chances and her errors diminished.

My impressions on Caroline will be better explained in another post, but the third set is the clear picture of what is going on with her: she started with a new burst of confidence and on the other side of the net Jovanovski injured her calf and started to move less and less. In a moment it was 4-1 for the Dane, who had chances to go 5-1 up, but a short miss with a Backhand down the line let Jovanovski back in the match, as much as in a few minutes it was all tied up 4 each. Caroline broke Jovanovski, but served in a pathetic fashion and got broken. Jovanovski held easily thanks to massive errors from the Dane, who then could hold for the tiebreak. There it was all on Caroline's racket again, since she was 5-1 up, but then the light switched off again and the misshit forehand that sent the ball on the stands clearly sums up the match that the shadow of the world number 1 had just lost.

 G Simon (FRA) b. [WC] F Volandri (ITA) 63 26 64

Because of Caroline's match I could watch only the last set of this match, which was really entertaining and characterized by an uncertain outcome.
The Italian, whose fame is mostly related to his dream run here in Rome a few springs ago, seemed to have found the game of those days back and with his class and unpredictable solutions was dictating points against the very solid French player, who on the other side of the net was trying to defend everything, waiting until he could step in with his favourite shot: the backhand down the line.
Volandri had several chances in every service game of Simon to break, the biggest one in the 6th game, when with two amazing drop shots he could gain 3 consecutive break points. The French player played smart then and let Volandri make bad decisions after super intensive rallies. Simon could hold and had chances to break in the next game, but Volandri  hold and yet again in the following service game went close to breaking Simon's serve, but once again the server could run away with an important hold.
This time the Italian couldn't serve as well as before and Simon could run away with the break and soon close a very high quality match. Despite the disappointment the crowd showed great sportsmanship by applauding very loudly the winner and the loser at the end of the match.

J Benneteau (FRA) b. [12] N Almagro (ESP) 76(2) 64

 I couldn't really watch much of this match, but the whole match can be summed up with Benneteau being solid and taking advantage of every chance given, while Almagro was dictating most of the rallies, but missing too many shots and often being ineffective while defending.

U Radwanska (POL) b. [15] A Ivanovic (SRB) 63 26 62

 I watched only a few games of this match from the stands of the Super Tennis arena during the break between the matches there, but I was impressed by Radwanska's game: Ivanovic didn't play bad at all in the match, but she couldn't really find a way out of her opponent's knot of flat, topspin and sliced balls. Urszula indeed never gave Ivanovic two balls alike in a row and the Serb couldn't find the right timing to be offensive for many shots in a row. The Polish on the other had was very solid with her defence, whose depth often was catching the Serb on the wrong foot and so turning the point around on her favor.
When in the second set the level of the younger Radwanska dropped you could see Ivanovic suddenly playing better, but it didn't last long, since in the third it was all on Urszula's racket and the score reflected it.

 [16] S Stephens (USA) b. [WC] F Pennetta (ITA) 63 63

Rematch of last year's second round it looked like a trick of the destiny, since the two players for different reasons are not the same: Stephens came to Rome with a brutal losing streak and overall a poor form that seemed to haunt her after the amazing run in Australia, when she reached her first slam semifinal, defeating Serena en route. Pennetta reached the Main Draw only thanks to a wild card, because in the past 8 months she had played only a could of tournaments, since an injury and the recovery from the surgery forced her out of the tour for long.
The Italian hadn't looked the same player since her comeback, but a few hints in Miami, Madrid and Marrakesh seemed to be enough to confident to see her playing well at home, against a player she had never lost to and that last year was severely schooled on those courts.
It wasn't so and the score looks much closer than the match actually was: Stephens's shots were accurate and quite powerful from the Forehand side, whilst her backhand was more solid than usual
and the loopy trajectories created with it often forced Flavia to step back and lose control of the rally.
In all honesty Stephens's game didn't impress me as much as Flavia's non-game did. The Italian, known for her ability to re-use opponents' power to create winners, looked spent and slow, her groundstrokes shaky and never accurate, so that she never really bothered Stephens. The only burst of pride came when the match was close to be over, when she let her racket go full speed and rage hit the shots, she saved several Match points 5-1 down, one of them with an incredible lob on the run, almost hit behind her back out of a powerful smash from the American. Despite it all, the Italian couldn't keep the momentum going and in bad service game she was broken and the match went deservedly to the American youngster.

 [Q] S Halep (ROU) b. [4] A Radwanska (POL) 67(2) 61 62

By far the best match I watched in my two days in Rome. The two played some amazing quality tennis, playing fire with fire both of them played the same tactic made of tricky slices and sudden
accelerations, well hidden drop shots and spectacular volleys.
I reached the super tennis arena just in time for the first set tie-break and there the merits of Aga Radwanska were the ones of looking like an unbreakable wall, Simona tried her best to hit through her, but ended up overhitting a couple of shots and the set ended quickly in favor of the Polish.
Contrary to my expectations Halep came back on court for the second set even more motivated and didn't let the wasted chance bring her down. She started well, serving solid first serves and returning deep or using sharp angles: soon Radwanska looked caught in her own trap, since Halep
was playing the same tennis of hers, just better. Aga suddenly couldn't close points on her down-the-line shots because Halep was always there to hit the ball back and often with power and accuracy, the Polish drop shots had the same fate, since not a single one hit the Romanian side twice before Halep was there and her solutions from there were high class too since once she was passing Radwanska with a sliced FH down the line, once with a sharp counter-drop or forced her to uncomfortable volleys.
Agnieska lost the plot and Simona could sense it. Her hesultation after the first set was full of charged emotion and not even the toilet break Radwanska took could break the momentum: Aga tried all her best to keep close in the score, but after a couple of games it was clear that Halep was simply too good for her. Nonetheless the world number 4 kept fighting until the very last point, which kept the tension and the quality of the set on an amazing level of intensity broken only by the last winner which gave the victory to Simona Halep, the biggest of her career.


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