The other shoe finally landed on us in Miami this week, and no, it wasn’t the one in the Lotto ad running non-stop and featuring Sanja Mirza. It was probably inevitable. After all the fireworks and upsets of the first week, we have settled into the Ho-Hums this week. The draws on both sides are moving along in earnest now, the players who should be winning are winning. Things are so routine in fact that many of these matches are not being covered.
Amelie Mauresmo really hasn’t gotten any TV time at all, but she keeps doing her thing nonetheless. Yesterday she took out Nadia Petrova 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Brad Gilbert at least has been keeping an eye on Amelie, and reports she has really improved her forehand. Hopefully we will soon get a chance to see it. Svetlana Kuznetsova will face Mauresmo in the semis, as she got by Ai Sugiyama, 6-0, 7-6(4). Two Russian girls who have faced each other a lot will meet again tonight. Anastasia Myskina, the 10th seed, takes on #4 Maria Sharapova. There may be an outside chance for a Myskina upset here, but it is very outside. Sharapova struggles in every match it seems, but she is getting a lot of practice at knowing when to turn the heat up.
Today’s morning match featured Tatiana Golovin, of France, and Jie Zheng of China. Golovin is a big girl with a big forehand when it gets going, and she was a strong favorite here. But the Chinese girls are making their presence known. Zheng is only 5’4″, Golovin is 5’9″, but you would have thought Zheng was the taller by the way she played much of the match. She moved aggressively into the court, standing close in on first and second serves. The challenge for Golovin was to remember she’s the bigger person with the bigger shots, and to start playing that way. Zheng moved her around the court admirably, setting up points well, only to come into net and dump volleys repeatedly. We love that she is thinking like a linebacker, even though she is one of the smallest women on the tour. The Chinese have around four women moving up the ranks now, and they may infuse some new energy into this tour of giants. What they lack in height and shot power they more than make up for with their intelligence and movement around the court. Golovin hung on to win, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The men moved through the round of 16 yesterday, with few surprises really, beyond Nicolas Kiefer going down to Agustin Calleri 6-3, 3-6, 5-7 in something of an upset. Mario Ancic took out Nikolay Davydenko, the #5 seed in straight sets, also something of an upset. According to Brad Gilbert though, Davydenko is not long for his Number Five spot anyway. James Blake will be in the Top 5 says Gilbert by year’s end. Roger will still be #1 and Nadal #2. But all bets are off for the guys from 3 through 5, who are right now David Nalbandian, Andy Roddick and Davydenko. Blake could even be Number 3 by year’s end.
Blake’s match last night with Juan Ignacio Chela was a pretty nifty entertainment most of the way, and it offered James a variety of ways to consolidate his game. Early on he was very erratic, almost too juiced up to play steadily. Chela went after his backhand and started to get errors from it. Blake had to steady himself and wait for his moments without getting impatient.
“I was really pleased with the fact I hung in,” said Blake in his press conference later. I didn’t let him get any free points. That’s something that’s important to do at this level.”
After dropping the first set, Blake started going for his shots in the second, and things turned around.
Roger Federer looms next in the quarters for Blake. Can he make a dent this week in Roger’s game? We are all hoping so. But Roger is being bothered by practically nothing and no one this week. Tommy Haas went out in disappointing fashion earlier to Federer, and yesterday Dmitry Tursunov got his turn, succumbing 6-3, 6-3. I feel good when Roger Federer wins, but it makes me nervous. I start my feelings of “this is not good for tennis” when he wins so convincingly. Is there any challenger who will step up and pull the sword from the stone? Because that is what it is starting to feel like now. He’s getting too good. If only he were a little more….hhmmm, surly, perhaps?
Unfortunately for the American fans, James Blake and Andy Roddick are on Roger’s side of the draw. If Federer gets by Blake tomorrow, he will likely face Roddick in the semis. Roddick got some breathing room here this week, he is playing well and building up some confidence. Mary Carillo has predicted good results for Roddick here in Miami; for him just to be sticking around is a good thing, it will take a lot of the pressure off him.
Sticking out the Neck:
Federer in three over Blake
Ljubicic in three over Calleri
Nalbandian in two over Ancic
Roddick in two over Ferrer
And for the women:
Mauresmo in two over Kuznetsova
Sharapova will come close to offering a bagel to Golovin, but she is from France, and will accept only a croissant. Let’s make it 1 and 2 in scores.
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