First match of the day was between Jelena Kostanic who was yet to be challenged in the tournament and Martina Sucha. From the first day, Martina had been attracting my attention, as I had never heard of her until then, and was surprised at her success in the qualies so far. The organisers had shifted all the matches to the stadium, which made it pretty much an indoor tournament with hard courts. It was a relief for the players, as the temperature had been an average 35 degrees throughout play, I heard someone say.
After an hour and five minutes of long rallies, Jelena Kostanic had taken the first set 6-4. Martina Sucha was not to be left behind in a hurry, though, and broke Jelena's serve in the first game of the second set. She found her own service game in trouble, though, and the game went to deuce. Martina bravely fought off 3 break points with sudden moonball tactics, but Jelena caught on fast enough, and hit a clean forehand winner to get the break. She then went on to consolidate the break, and Martina also had an easy service game, running Jelena around the court and putting away the easy overhead when Jelena could only barely flip the ball back on the run.
In the next game, at 15-all, Jelena double-faulted, but Martina gladly gave the point back on a silly unforced error. Jelena made the most of it, and got an ace down the middle. Another backhand error from Martina gave Jelena a 3-2 lead.
At this point, things started to go wrong for Martina Sucha, and a lot of her groundstrokes started to land long. No doubt, mostly due to Jelenaís deep shots. Jelena built a 40-15 lead, but lost the next point on a long rally. The next serve turned out to be an ace by Martina, and Jelena didnít seem to be happy about the call at all, but the serve looked good to me.
Jelena mishit the next return, but set up the following point nicely to bring it to deuce again. She mishit yet another service return on her backhand, and I was tempted to pick up Croatian to understand what she was saying. Her coach always had a few quiet calming words for her though. She saved game point again, and on the next deuce, it was her turn to get the advantage. She blew it. More Croatian. It seemed to help, as she constructed the next point well, but blew break point #2 on a long return. Martina drove a forehand into the net to give Jelena break point #3, and a short baseline rally later, saved it by hitting a low forehand that Jelena couldnít quite scoop over the net. Deuce #6. Jelena constructed another good point to set up an easy forehand (sheís lefty, by the way), but it caught the tape, and a short baseline rally later saw Martina get her service game, by the skin of her teeth.
3-all. Kostanic, the fourth and highest remaining seed in the qualifying draw, had obviously had enough. This was by far the longest match of the tournament for her, and she didnít want to tire herself out before playing in the main draw. As if that was possible with this girl. She raised the level of her game, and took the next three games easily to win the match 6-4 6-3.
Raluca Sandu was hanging around the side of the court watching the young Croatian play. I didnít notice her standing there until quite a while later. I was actually looking down for my water bottle under my seat when I noticed someone standing at the side in the corner of my eye. I was sitting right in front, so she had seen me, and smiled when I looked up and realised it was her. This was, of course, during a changeover break.
On the other end of the stadium (there were three courts in there, but they only use the ones at the two ends so that they wouldnít interfere with one another), the match between Janet Lee and Holly Parkinson had gone to three sets. The match had a lot of nice thrilling rallies and hard-hitting. The American girl was just killing the ball. I decided to catch the beginning of the match between Nirupama Vaidyanathan (who had taken out Magdalena Maleeva the previous day) and Annabel Ellwood. Earlier, I was walking around on the way to the tournament office when the bus of players pulled up and they were getting out, walking to the playersí locker rooms. To my surprise, Magdalena Maleeva was walking with two other players. I was actually looking at a piece of paper, so when I looked up, I saw her looking at me (mainly because I was the only non-player there and walking in the opposite direction), recognising me from the two previous days where I was rather vocally cheering her on. I smiled, and she managed a small smile back. I felt terrible about her loss.
Vaidyanathan started the match slowly, and made a lot of silly errors. Before long, Vaidyanathan found herself down 1-4. Iíd seen enough, and headed over to the Lee-Parkinson match. Janet had taken the first set 6-4, and Holly took the second set 5-7. While the third set started rather evenly, Janet suddenly found herself up 5-2. Holly looked cool and unfazed even though she found herself down 0-40, facing three match points. She stepped up her game while Janet played cautiously to take the next 5 points and the game. She carried her momentum into the next game to break Janetís serve. In the next game, Holly would serve to stay in the match. She started to get nervous, and after double-faulting, she yelled, "Thereís birds flying up there!", although I donít see why she didnít just catch the ball. Janet took the match 6-4 5-7 6-4.
That brought is to the final qualifying match. Raluca Sandu versus Katalin Marosi, the Hungarian whom Iíd watch practice with Andrea Vanc and Tathiana Garbin the day before (Tathiana was the one who doused her with water). Sitting in the front row and in the middle (as I did for every match), I got another smile from the Romanian.
Raluca won the toss and opted to serve first. The match started well, and promised to be a good one. Raluca got a 40-15 lead, losing the one point on an excellent shot at her feet during a net approach. The things started to go wrong. She double faulted three times. In a row. I was starting to think that my inflatable ball was carrying a curse. She hit a flat serve down the middle, but made a forehand error to lose the first game of the first set. Katalin held serve easily in the next game. She played a good safe game with hard groundstrokes. Raluca played a very low percentage game, going for her shots, and while her backhand was going well, her forehand was really letting her down. More doubles-faults later, she found herself down 0-40. She managed to save 2 break points, but double-faulted again on the third to give Katalin the game. Flashes of Sabatini.
Raluca got the first two points of the next game on a couple of forehand errors from Katalin. A forehand winner and ace later, the game was tied at 30-all. Katalin took the next 2 points to take the game. The next game was absolutely disastrous. A totally mishit backhand, two forehand errors and a double-fault later saw Katalin take the set 6-0.
The second set started off badly, with Raluca losing serve the same way she lost the first set. She was still going for her shots although they were at a very low percentage today. She shook her head, and played a better game to go up 40-0 on Katalinís serve. Katalin saved 2, but Raluca got the third, for her first game of the match.
At 2-all, a couple of bad line calls and two double-faults left Raluca facing break point at 30-40, and Katalin hit a beautiful down-the-line forehand to force the error from Raluca. Now it was Katalinís turn to have trouble with her serve, and she found herself facing 3 break points. She saved all three, and Raluca dropped her racquet in disgust. The release of frustration seemed to help as she took the next two points for the break back. In fact, it helped so much that she won her next service game at love and also broke Katalin at love. That was 10 points in a row. She should have thrown her racquet earlier.
Back on the other court, Annabel Ellwood had taken the match 6-1 7-5. The doubles final qualifying round was about to start, and the four players were warming up.
Raluca started having trouble with her serve again, and after a few errors on the forehand side, lost her break of serve. She was still up 5-4, and Katalin would have to serve to stay in the set. She held serve easily and the went to 5-all. Before she knew it, Raluca was down 0-40. She saved all-3, but lost the next point to face another break point. She saved a total of 8 break points before finally losing on a strong return of serve from Marosi.
It is to be noted that I didnít see Ralucaís coach anywhere during any of her matches. Except for the pathetic doubles match. I also failed to find Katalinís coach in the stands, but I canít be sure about that. Anyway, I ended up being the Sandu Support Team, and was clapping and saying some words of encouragement throughout the second set. After a couple of difficult points, Raluca would actually look up into the stands and Iíd say "One more", or something like that. Some support team I turned out to be. Katalin only lost two more points and took the match 6-0 7-5. I think if Jelena Kostanic had lost her match, I would have gone home and become a hermit for life within the next hour. (refer to the Curse of the Inflatable Ball)
Up next was the first main draw match of the day - Magdalena Grzybowska and Tamarine Tanasugarn vs. Andrea Vanc and Tatiana Garbin (yes, the team that practised with Katalin Marosi). I hadnít quite looked at the doubles draw and schedule properly, and I went into the match thinking of fully supporting the Polish and Thai team. However, when I saw who their opponents were, I decided to stay neutral and not cheer for any particular team, just applaud the good points. On the other court, the top seeds Tina Krizan and Patricia Wartusch were up again the American team of Wendy Fix and Julie Scott. It turned out to be a very good match, with fast-paced and thrilling rallies. To my surprise, the top seeds were down 4-1. At deuce, Tinaís hat fell off during a point, and two shots later, Tina hit a forehand long. She argued with the umpire that she should have gotten a let, but the umpire said no. Patricia then joined forces with Tina, and after quite a while, the umpire called the other team over to discuss it. Tina and Patricia were convinced theyíd gotten the let, and walked to the baseline. The other team stayed and were talking to the umpire. After another long conversation, the umpire told the players to play on, and Tina Krizan and Patricia Wartusch got upset that they didnít get the let. Tina threw her hat in the direction of her bag, and used a headband instead. The American team took the set 6-1, and later, the second set as well, 6-2.
Back on this court, Magdalena Grzybowska and Tamarine Tanasugarn had broken Vancís serve to go up 4-3. The Romanian/Italian team then played superbly to break Magdalenaís serve. Garbin went up to serve, and the rallies were abslutely thrilling, with all players running side to side, front and backwards. Vanc ended up getting the point for her team by hitting a fantastic topspin lob that landed just inches inside the baseline. While Magdalena had started the match very slowly and got her team into trouble earlier in the set, she was now playing well and making a lot of nice shots. Her support team were rather vocal in supporting her, and were saying "Good point, Mag" and things like that even when her opponents made a blatant unforced error.
Doubles play is rather difficult to commentate on, so Iíll spare you all the detailed scorelines and such. Magdalena Grzybowska and Tamarine Tanasugarn took the first set, then got a 4-2 lead in the second. Garbin and Vanc looked all out of energy, and while they made an effort to get back in the match, their opponents were on a roll and took the match.
What happened next was rather amusing. I was sitting (coincidentally) near the area where the players left the courts, and Magdaís support team had gone down to talk to her and Tamarine. They then left, with Magda and Tamarine trailing behind. So I called out, "Magda!", and she turned around. I motioned to the ball with my marker, and she thought I wanted Tamarine, and tapped Tamarineís shoulder and pointed at me. Tamarine then looked surprised and asked, "Me?". To tell you the truth, I was only looking to get Magdaís autograph, and didnít think of getting Tamarineís, but I definitely couldnít have said "No, not you. Her.", so I took the opportunity to get both their autographs. Tamarine and Magda walked over the the corner of the stands where I reached down to hand Magda the ball (hey, she was tall and could reach up), and she said "Me? How nice.". The two of them were laughing and giggling like school girls, and when she was done, she handed the pen to Tamarine, and said "Here. I hold the ball". So I said, "well, teamwork both on and off-court!", to which the both of them started giggling again. Tamarine signed with two heart-shapes taking the place of the two "mís" in Tammy, and Magda said, "Is that a girl?". I didnít quite understand, and Tam just mmm-ed. Two seconds later, she said, "What?", and Magda explained, "Is that two hearts because youíre a girl?", to which Tam replied "Yeah". Another second later, she started laughing, and said "I didnít get that", which made me laugh because I didnít get it either. Seeing the both of us laughing got Magda laughing also, and after wishing them good luck in their next match, they handed me back the ball and started towards the locker rooms, laughing and giggling again. I stood up to pack my stuff up, when I realised that Magda had taken the cover of my marker. About 30 seconds later, Magda came back on court, and walked towards me, holding the cover up. I reached down to get the cover, and she said, "Now Iím stealing things", smiling. That got a grin from me, and she left for the showers. For real.
There was another one and a half hours to the start of the next match, so I went out to get dinner. I didnít want the pastries, hot dogs and burgers that were available there, so I took a 10-minute drive to a little café nearby and had some excellent scallop salad and pasta. I got back a half hour early, and saw Anastasia Myskina practising on court. Iíd seen her practice for the last two days, so I decided to take a walk around. There was a competition on guessing the score of the matches, and the girl there gave me a ticket, so I ticked off the following:
Molik def. Mandula 6-4 7-5
Myskina def. Gersi 6-4 4-6 7-5
The first match of the evening was between Alicia Molik and Petra Mandula of Hungary. Mandula won the toss and chose to receive. It seemed like the wrong choice, when Alicia rattled off 4 quick winners to win the game at love. Mandula was having trouble with her own serve, and kept double-faulting throughout the match. It didnít matter much, because Molik was having trouble winning her service games as well, and it became a contest of who could actually hold on to their serve.
Alicia Molik has an absolutely killing serve that has both speed and spin, but ironically, her serve was what got her in trouble. Not by double-faults. Rather, she chose to play a serve-and-volley game, and with such a hard serve, she always got caught halfway to the net. Petra mostly just blocked back the serve either at her feet or down the line, and got the point most of the time. When Alicia Molik didnít come into net, her service motion carried her into no-manís-land, and she got caught by the deep return. Of course, she also got a number of aces.
Petra Mandula was obviously better at receiving than serving. Iím not sure, but I think the overhead lights were bothering the players at first, because Molik dumped a high overhead into the net the first time, and Mandula kept double-faulting. Nevertheless, her groundstrokes, while lacking in velocity mostly, had sharp angles, and she kept Alicia runnig from side to side a lot. The first set went to 4-all, then Alicia took the next two games to take the first set 6-4. The first part of my prediction came true! However, the same story continued into the next set, with Mandula taking the set 6-4 as well. There went my chances of winning a car. All three sets continued in the same pattern, making the match a little boring for me in the sense that it became rather predictable. Molik kept getting caught in no-manís-land, and Mandula kept double-faulting and hitting shots into the net.
Finally, Alicia Molik took the match 6-4 4-6 6-3.
The next match looked to be more exciting. Anastasia Myskina would take on Adriana Gersi. Gersi has been playing a lot all year, and has played what must be about 50 matches already this year. I had seen Anastasia Myskina on Day 1 and Day 2, and on Day 1, had watched her practice and taken a number of photos. On day 2, I walked past her on the way between courts, and when I saw her walking to the practice courts, she smiled, and I smiled back. I must say that sheís got amazingly blue eyes. Later on Day 2, as I headed to the parking lot to get to my car, I saw her fooling around with one of the trainers or coaches, and she was actually walking towards the bus, and thereís this ledge about a metre or so above the ground. Instead of walking to the steps on the other, we usually just jump down the ledge. She was goofing around with the guy who was trying to push her over, and she was trying her hardest to stay on the ledge. The two of them and another player were laughing, and just having fun while waiting for the bus to take them back to their hotel.
Anastasia won the toss and opted to serve first. She looked like she had hardly warmed up when she started serving, and made a ton of unforced errors. Adriana got the break and the first game of the match. Now it was Adrianaís turn to make the errors, and she gave Ana back the break of serve. By now, Ana looked a little looser, and her shots were landing deeper in the court. Adriana was match-tough from all that playing all year, and it showed. She looked serious, and made the young Russian look like a rookie. Waitaminute. She *is* a rookie. And it showed. Making some silly technical errors, she lost her serve again.
This started to become the theme of the day. Adriana lost her serve again due to her errant service and Anaís scrambling abilities. Adriana had hard, sharp-angled groundies, and was running Ana side to side throughout the match. Half the time, Ana would barely get to the ball and just flip it back high, and hopefully, deep. In the next game, Ana won the award of being the first player to old serve in a *long* time. Adriana took the cue, and also held serve to keep the set even at 3-all.
Ana soon found herself in a 0-30 rut on her serve. She got the next three points, but Adriana hit another of her sharp backhands to save the game. Both players got a chance to take the game, but on the third deuce, Ana got the advantage (thanks again to her scrambling), and finally managed to hold serve.
Adriana started her service game strongly, utilising amazingly sharp angles to trouble her opponent. But the young Russian was... well, young, and probably could have run all day if she needed to. She scrambled relentlessly after every ball, and it paid off, as Adriana had to go for more and more until she either got the point or made an error. This time, it was more errors than winners, and Ana got the break of serve.
Anastasia herself had a bit of trouble on her serve mostly because her serve had absolutely nothing going for it that I could see. It had no pace, and neither did it have any spin. It was more of a liability than an asset. Iíd seen her hit cardboard boxes full of serves during practice, and it was the same. Why her coach isnít developing it is beside me. The only rationale I can come up with is that sheís still adjusting to her height or something. Nevertheless, she managed to hold serve to take the first set 6-3.
Adriana was now a little shaky on her serve and groundies, and got herself into trouble at 0-40. Ana needed two opportunities to get the break to open the second set. Adrianaís groundstrokes were now going wild, and before long, she found herself down 1-4. Adriana started concentrating better, and her shots started coming in again. Most of the match was based on her dictating play, and it was usually her who either made or broke it. Anastasia was just doing all she could to run from side to side. I donít suppose sheíll be doing that drill anytime soon. Soon, Adriana capitalised on the Russianís growing temperament, frustration and inexperience, and actually got the score to 5-4, Myskina to serve.
Anastasia got the first point on an error from Adriana, but promptly returned the favour to bring it to 15-all. Then came the dreaded double-fault. 15-30. The next rally was crucial and both players played it safe, hitting down the middle of the court, Adriana hit a backhand into the net to bring it to 30-all. The players traded unforced errors, and the game went to deuce. A thrilling rally later, Adriana got the advantage. She threw it away by going for too much and hitting the shot wide. Deuce. Miraculously, Anastasia got an ace down the middle, getting the advantage. The next point was absolutely marvellous, with big hitting and scrambling from both players, that got the crowd ooh-ing and aah-ing. The rally lasted more than 15 shots, and Adriana got the point. Frustrated, Ana smacked a couple of lazy shots, and lost her serve, 5-all.
Adriana went up to serve, and built a 40-15 lead. 2 mishits and an unforced error later, Anastasia had the advantage. The players traded points three times, and finally, Anastasia got the break. "Myskina to serve, new balls!" (and new ballboys, and new linesmen. They obviously didnít want to see if the match would end there).
The players traded points, and Anastasia found herself holding match point at 40-30. She hit her backhand into the net. On the next point, Adriana hit a nice down-the-line service return which forced the cross-court error from Ana. Holding break point, Adriana went for a little too much and her backhand got caught in the net. She also made a service return error on the next point to give Ana match point #2. Anastasia threw in another weak serve, which let Adriana take control of the point. Feeling the pressure, she went for the corner and her shot landed way wide, giving the young Russian game, set, and match.
As people started to filter out of the stadium, Adriana Gersi made a quick exit, no doubt disappointed at the 6-3 7-5 score. I stood up, hoping to get Anastasiaís autograph. She packed her bag, and was walking out when she looked up at me. I pointed at the ball with the marker, a questioning look on my face, and she made a little whirly gesture with her hand. I made the same whirly gesture with the same questioning look still on my face, and she nodded. I wasnít sure if she meant later, or tomorrow. So I headed down from the stands. I left my stuff at one of the counters while I headed to the tournament office. On my way there, a head popped out from around the corner, and I saw Anastasia looking around. Okay, so she meant later. I jogged back to the counter, got the ball, and jogged back towards where I saw her. She was walking towards the bus, which was in my direction, and stopped to sign the ball. She asked if Iíd be around all week, and I said, yes, so Iíd see her the day after tomorrow in her singles match. She said that sheíd see me tomorrow as she had a doubles match, signed some other guyís programme, smiled, and walked off towards the bus. I headed to the tournament office to get the scores of the day, and headed home. Tomorrow would be a long day.
Singles Qualifying Final Round
- Annabel Ellwood(7) def. Nirupama Vaidyanathan 6-1 7-5
- Katalin Marosi def. Raluca Sandu 6-0 7-5
- Jelena Kostanic(4) def. Martina Sucha 6-4 6-3
- Janet Lee(6) def. Holly Parkinson 6-4 5-7 6-3
Doubles Qualifying Final Round
- Fauth/Vavrinec def. Cho/Mastalirova 8-6
Singles Round 1
Doubles Round 1
- Anastasia Myskina def. Adriana Gersi 6-3 7-5
- Alicia Molik def, Petra Mandula 6-4 4-6 6-3
- Grzybowska/Tanasugarn def. Garbin/Vanc 6-4 6-3
- Fix/Scott def. Krizan/Wartusch(1) 6-1 6-2
Note: A few changes/updates have been made to the scores at the end of Sunday's report