Today was the start of Round of 16 action Down Under. It must stink to lose in the fourth round – so close to the final weekend yet so, so far. Let’s see who made it over the hump and who’s humping it back home.
Nadia Petrova isn’t happy just making it halfway. She backed up her big win over US Open champ Kim Clijsters with another stunner over French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday. Before this match, Petrova had only one win over her countrywoman in six tries. She had been 0-4 vs. Clijsters before this tournament. Petrova says a focus on fitness in the off season and a big-time change in attitude have been the keys to her success this week. That and the nagging feeling that she has something to prove:
Q. Do you feel like you’ve left some things on the table in your career that you want to achieve?
NADIA PETROVA: That’s why, you know, I’m still here. That’s why I’m working hard and digging deep, because I know there’s still a lot to accomplish. There’s still a lot to let out. That’s what I’m really looking for. Like I’m looking for different little kind of like, you know, I know there’s a lot left, and I’m just trying to discover those things, you know.
I really want to finally be a complete player. I want to quit tennis knowing that, you know, I’ve done everything possible, I developed as much as I could, and I gave hundred percent of it.
At 27-years-old, Petrova has just enough time to fulfill her potential – she’s made it to the quarterfinals of every major and the semis of the French twice. Perhaps seeing her Belgian contemporaries return to the game with renewed motivation and big goals has fired her up: “When I played Kim, before going on court, I said, It’s all or nothing, I gotta to give everything. I did. Same thing happened today. Just if I can really continue doing this, I can get even further.“
Petrova has yet another big-time opportunity to test her fitness and resolve. She plays Justine Henin in the quarterfinals, who owns their head-to-head 12-2.
Yanina Wickmayer and Justine Henin battled it out on Rod Laver arena Sunday evening, with Justine prevailing 7-6, 1-6, 6-3. A moment of appreciation for Yanina – if she wasn’t so overshadowed by Kimmie and Justine (and the drama of her own “whereabouts” suspension) she’d be a hugely positive story on the women’s side. Besides the grunt, what’s not to like? She’s strong, she’s fit, she’s confident, she’s poised, she can serve and she even struts a little bit. Great stuff, Yanina! (But I’m thrilled that a Serena vs. Justine final is still in the works.)
Congrats to Zheng Jie for winning her Rd. of 16 match against Alona Bondarenko on Sunday and becoming the first Chinese player to make the singles quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She reminded the press room that she already won the doubles title at the 2006 Australian Open. (She also took the dubs title at Wimbledon that year.) Zheng’s countrywoman, Li Na, is still alive in the draw – she’ll play Caroline Wozniacki tomorrow. Zheng plays Maria Kirilenko, who advanced when Dinara Safina retired with a recurrence of her back injury.
Dinara fought off tears as she explained the situation in her post match presser: “It’s my back again. It suddenly hit me and was getting worse and worse and I have no idea how it could happen. And it’s really, really terrible”
Terrible, indeed. And just when we thought things were coming together for the No. 1 Russian.
Safina said that she felt a little discomfort while serving in practice but nothing too serious. Her back stiffened up a little before the match and she took some pain killers. But the pain worsened during the match until she could barely move. “I don’t know what happened. It’s shocking.” Dinara said, saying it was “exactly the same” pain that drove her to retire at the year end championships. She’ll be visiting her doctor in Germany to see what the future holds.
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal both weathered some thunderous serving (from John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, respectively) to set up a fantastic quarterfinal meeting. The prospect of this blockbuster match-up kept me from cheering wholeheartedly for the American. (But I was 100% behind Rafa – the thought of watching another Dr. Ivo match being as appealing as a long wait in the dentist’s office.)
Anyone care to guess the outcome?
Rafa calls it! Another dumb press conference question:
Q. Which would you prefer, for you to win the Australian Open or for Spain to win the World Cup?
RAFAEL NADAL: What kind of question is that? Is no chance to answer this question, no?
I think, yeah, first of all, is yourself, so after is your team. And the Spanish team for sure is very important for me. But I think is one of the more strange questions I answered in my life.
Well at least he wasn’t asked if he was jealous of F-Lo’s Zoolander face.
Juan Martin del Potro has been out of sorts all week – evidenced by talk of a sore wrist, “pression” and losing a set 0-6 to Florian Mayer in the third round. On Sunday the trainer was working on his Claussen-sized toes (which didn’t stop del Po from kicking over a trash can in anger). I think he needs an extra shoe for that big one:
Del Po Toe photo by REUTERS/Daniel Munoz via Daylife
But kudos to del Po for refusing to go softly – it took Croatian sensation Marin Cilic over four and a half hours to finally put the Argentine out of his misery. Can the dark horse take it down the stretch?
Cilic will face the winner of Roddick vs. Gonzalez, which is just getting started at post time.