It was a slug fest, all right, with the 19 year old Russian absolutely pounding the ball, creating devastating angles from the baseline and dominating at net (in this age, coming in 30 times in 3 sets counts as net rushing – and she won 77% of these plays.) I’m not sure what to say about Ana Ivanovic, except that I completely agreed with Mary Carillo’s comment that her fist pumping seemed less than sincere. Seriously, when fist pumping becomes a nervous tick, there’s something wrong with your game. Ugh. She might as well shove her thumb in her mouth and start sucking on it between points.
Ana is definitely sucking hard right now.
This match will obviously draw comparisons to lil’ Miss Carla Suarez Navarro’s upset of Venus Williams the other day. As a typical tennis snob, I’m wired to prefer her petite, one-handed David to Kleybanova’s 160 pound, double-fisted Goliath. Personal preferences aside, it’s interesting to compare these two up-and-comers’ styles. At this crucial stage in both the Spaniard’s and Russian’s careers, will either eventually break through into the top ten or better?
Neither of these non-glam gals has much of a web trail, but a quick glance at their respective WTA profiles reveals a number of similarities: Carla was born in ’88 and started on tour in 2004 – Kleybanova is a year younger but went pro in 2003. Both earned big jumps last year in both visibility and rankings: Suarez Navarro went from 169 in ’07 to 50 in the rankings by the end of 2008 and Alisa gained 117 points last year to end it at 33 in the world. They both had stand-out performances in Majors last year, including a Quarterfinals finish for Carla at the French (as a qualifier) and Kleybanova’s 4th round run at Wimbledon (defeating No.10 seed Hantuchova en route and losing to the eventual champ, V.Williams.)
But there are many such stories on both the men’s and women’s sides of pro tennis – I still think fondly of Karolina Sprem and Younes El Aynaoui – great results at a slam or two followed by permanent fizzle. I’m afraid Suarez Navarro will need some sort of miracle to dominate consistently. A small frame and a one handed backhand won’t make her Justine Henin – unless she starts displaying a gladiatorial will and a free flow of talent that proves the existence of a higher power. So in this comparison, I must give the overall edge to Alisa Kleybanova. She’s got that club to work with.