Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DAY 10, FROM RUSSIA, WITH A HICCUP

Not so fast, Russia.

Determined to monopolize the Australian Open Semifinal, the Russians sent Svetlana Kuznetsova out to try and solidify another Russian slot next to country mates Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonerava, and Dinara Safina.

But they encountered a problem with their mission: the lady on the other side of the court.


After losing the first set beneath a scorching hot sun, it was to be an uphill battle for the three-time Australian Open champion, Serena Williams. She was being outplayed by the hard hitting Kuznetsova, who was running her from corner to corner, attacking her with on both wings with her world class ground strokes.

Then the roof closed, and a 25 minute delay ensued. Just what the doctor ordered for the bumbling Serena.

The temperatures dropped 40 degrees, from the 120's to the high 80's on the court. Purists may not like it, but Serena did.

Apparently, (even though she'll tell you otherwise) so did Svetlana Kuznetsova. She liked it so much in fact, that even under that strange modernistic roof, she was three points away from serving out the match. It was at this time that the strong willed Williams, seeded number two, but boasting 9 career major championships, dug deep into her reserves.

Ten games later, the momentum had changed hands convincingly. Serena, confidence growing with every stroke (and with every forehand that Kuzi stroked long), won 9 of the next 10 games, and a match that was sitting on Kuznetsova's racquet just 45 minutes prior, was now clearly in Williams control.



Kuznetsova, known for having difficulty in closing out matches, was accosted by the same demons again. Her sizzling ground strokes started to fizzle just as Serena, probably the best on the woman's tour in these high pressure situations (although Dinara Safina seems to be working on her Houdini act), was getting her game solidly on track. The third set was low on drama and high on Serena fist pumps, with the American cruising, 6-1; Kuznetsova, once again was left disconcerted, talking to herself, and wondering what went wrong.

So the woman's semifinals are set to start tomorrow. Three Russians, a hiccup, and Serena with an attitude - and a good one at that!