The women’s draw has been in disarray since before the tournament began, with the Williams sisters boycotting and Sharapova withdrawing from singles competition due to injury. Then Jankovic, Kuznetsova and Dementieva were knocked out in the second round. Dinara Safina made it to the quarters, only to be embarrassed by teenage up-and-comer Victoria Azarenka. (NYTimes headline after Thursday night’s matches: Nadal Shows Why He’s No. 1, and Safina Shows Why She Isn’t – OUCH!)
It’s almost an upset that tennis “it-girl” Ana Ivanovic made it into the semis! And Vera Zvonareva, well, she’s the female version of Kolya Davydenko, ca. 2007.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – besides the feisty (and noisy) 19 year-old Azarenka, we have another young star on the rise: Russian 17 year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a.k.a. “Papillon,” who has made it through to the semis without losing a set (including that win over Jankovic.) The media is touting her as the “next big star” and she seems up for the challenge. Here she is beating top tenner Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.
Next up for “the Butterfly” is Ana Ivanovic, who Pavlyuchenkova says she’s “seen a lot of on TV.” I’d say that the Indian Wells defending champ “should” win this one, but at this tournament it’s unwise to bet against the upset.
Vera Zvonareva vs. Victoria Azarenka is the other semi, and another toss-up given that they’re both in fine form. I’d give the slight edge to Azarenka, who has two titles so far this year and seems ready to swing ‘n’ screech her way into her first Premier level title. She certainly has the right role model:
“No matter what, (Nadal) fights,” she told the press after her quarterfinal. “You can see it’s his mentality. For me, it is the best mentality anybody ever had. So I was just trying to fight as good as him (against Safina), and it was pretty good for me.”