Thursday, January 3, 2008


Marina Erakovic! She won! Beat Vera Zvonareva! The top seed! Number 23 in the world! Third set tiebreak! Are you kidding me? Wildcards score upsets like this sometimes, but not in New Zealand. Erakovic got the win 63 26 76(5). Needless to say, the crowd went wild.

Marina played very well for the second straight day, and really looks like she belongs on the same court with the top players. I wouldn't say she had Vera's number or anything, but Marina looked great and it's such a big win. Zvonareva got a little frazzled in the first set after a couple of questionable line calls went Erakovic's way, including a pretty dodgy one that gave the Kiwi the crucial break. But Marina once again kept her cool, she seems to be good at that, and took advantage. Vera got mad and won the second set with authority, and looked poised to win the third as well. She even had a chance to serve out the match at 65 but couldn't get the job done. In the end Marina hit one of those freak net cord clip shots at 5-5 in the third set tiebreak and it went her way. Unbelievable. She had luck on her side today, good on her.

This was my first time seeing Zvonareva this week as I was watching back court matches during her first and second round centre court wins. Vera always looks cute, but she was looking particularly good today in a cool white and blue outfit. It's no secret I like good looking female tennis players. Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a top ten list or anything. But if I did, Vera Zvonareva would definitely be on it. Number 7. No, make that 6. Hmm...

6th seed Tamira Paszek looked strong in her 61 63 win over 2nd seed Maria Kirilenko. Paszek did not miss many shots today. Kirilenko staged a bit of a comeback in the end, even holding a break point that would have evened things up, but it was not to be. Paszek's semifinal opponent will be Lindsay Davenport, who's still rolling through the draw. The American who yesterday said that she doesn't like to run went up against Sara Errani, who likes to run so much she's even practised with David Ferrer. Davenport looked comfortable in a 63 63 victory, but she'd be wise not to underestimate Paszek. It will be the two's first career meeting tomorrow. A lot of people have been predicting big things for the Austrian teen and from what I've seen of her this week I agree with them. Girl hits a good ball.

In the evening session tonight Aravane Rezai played perhaps the best tennis I’ve seen all tournament, Lindsay Davenport’s efforts included. The young Frenchwoman was hitting hard enough to whack the yellow off the ball, but her shots kept going in. Her explosive backhand was like a guided missile flying straight for the lines. She was playing like Fernando Gonzalez on the days when all his shots go in. Rather incredible really. I knew Rezai was good but nobody expected this. She had this big smile on her face throughout the match, like she knew that she was having one of those special days. Her opponent Katarina Srebotnik had to smile as well, and shrug her shoulders as if to say, “What can I do?” But Katarina is an experienced young veteran and I think she knew that she had to weather the storm and hope that Rezai’s shots would stop finding the lines. And Rezai did make more errors in the second set, but not a heck of a lot more. In the end Rezai won the match 61 63 to book a spot in the semifinals.

But let’s not get too carried away. The fact that Aravane Rezai isn’t ranked higher (world number 80 coming into the Classic, though she has been ranked as high as 40) suggests that she doesn’t play this remarkably high level of tennis all the time. Maybe she’ll be just as good in the semis against Erakovic tomorrow as she was against Srebotnik tonight, or maybe she won’t. That’s tennis. I’ll tell you what though, if the way she played tonight becomes the norm for her expect a very good 2008 season from the 20-year-old.

So it was a wild quarterfinals day, with the top three seeds all getting knocked out of the tournament. But we still have a former world number one, a hometown heroine and two young women who are playing some very impressive tennis. Bring on the semis.

Photo op! I mentioned Zvonareva's outfit so I better post a picture of it. She can't be happy losing in one of her best events to a player ranked about 130 places below her, especially when she was so close to victory. We still love you Vera, come back next year and win it all.

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