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Doubles Teams Steal the Show on Tuesday
by Prip
I got to the stadium at 11.50, not as early as usual because I had had a lot of things to do and was slightly exhausted. Play would start at 12, so I went to my seat (where else but at the front and in line with the middle of the court?) instead of checking out the practice courts. Good thing I did, too. The first match of the day on this court (we always have maximum two courts having play simultaneously) would be Jelena Kostanic and Tina Pisnik vs. Silvija Talaja and Caroline Schneider. I didn’t have my long range lens with me (it’s a long story), and only had my 30-60mm one, so I went down to the court level, at first to check things out. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get any decent shots with it, but what the heck: I’ve got a media pass, might as well use it. So I went down to the corner of the court. Just then, Jelena and Tina came out onto the court with their bags. They had come out early for some odd reason. Taking the opportunity, I stepped over the barrier, and walked towards the umpire’s chair. Jelena saw me, and I didn’t have to say or do anything, she nodded and tapped her friend on the back. The two of them posed nicely for the picture, and I thanked them, thinking that was that. To my surprise, they both took out their cameras and asked me to take a shot for them. So I gladly obliged, and Jelena thanked me very nicely. Did I mention that she’s a very friendly, sweet girl? :)

Anyway, I went off-court and got back to my seat just as their opponents came onto the court. The umpire tossed the coin, and they started warming up. The Silvija Talaja and Caroline Schneider (ST/CS) team had won the toss and opted to serve first. Both teams held serve easily, Kostanic and Schneider serving first for their respective teams. Pisnik had trouble with her service game, as she would throughout the match, and a nice return down the line caught Jelena by surprise and gave the more experienced pair an early break in the match. JK/TP got a 40-15 lead in the next game on Silvija’s serve, but squandered both opportunities, mainly by playing a horrible net game. Jelena got the ad back again by an excellent short crisp volley, but her team lost the chance again after an excellent rally. ST/CS took the game, and Jelena had an easy service game to bring it to 3-2, Schneider serving.

Schneider held serve easily and now would be a crucial game for JK/TP. Tina’s serve was being eaten up by ST/CS, and now was no exception. The ST/CS team took the game for a 5-2 lead in the first set.

Playing a little looser, the younger team got a 40-15 lead , but needed two tries to get one break of serve back. There was hope for the team yet, as it was now Jelena’s turn to serve. Jelena got a little tense, and made a few tactical errors, getting upset with herself in the process. She more than made up for it, though, as she started playing better and smarter tennis to save one set point and get the break back. Both teams held serve, and after an hour, the first set went into a tie-breaker.

Tina Pisnik by now was carrying her weight in the team, and Jelena had more than warmed up. They jumped to a 5-0 lead. The #3 seed in singles wasn’t going to give it away without a fght, and started chipping away at the lead, but JK/TP took 2 points in a row to take the first set 7-6(2) after being down 2-5.

The young team carried their momentum into the second set, immediately breaking to lead 2-0. Midway through the third game, Tina’s racquet strings broke. It was odd, because she wasn’t actually hitting the ball, but she rather tapped it to the ball boy. Well, better than in the middle of a point, I guess. Both teams held serve without problem, except on one point where Silvija thought she should have gotten a let and a first serve, but was denied it.

On Tina’s serve, she accidentally hit her first serve down the line, and it nearly took Caroline’s head off. The young girl apologised, and went on to get her service game. This went on till 5-4, when Talaja would serve to stay in the set. A few silly errors from JK/TP gave the older team the game, and Caroline was up to serve. She held serve easily. Now it was Silvija’s turn to break her strings. That gave JK/TP the point, and the team took the next 3 points to take the game at love, bringing it to a tie-break. ST/CS took it by the same score as in the first set, 7-2.

Jelena and Tina now woke up and realised that the match could very well slip away from them. They played beautifully together to jump to a 4-1 lead. At that point, I saw Silvija rotating her wrist, from perhaps catching her racquet wrongly or something during the point. Her partner looked a little worried, but Silvija just shrugged it off. On break point, Jelena and Tina got a close call, and Caroline wasn’t happy about it. She argued at length with the ump, but in vain. Jelena Kostanic and Tina Pisnik wrapped up the match 6-1 in the third.

Next match was Olga Barabanschikova and Nicole Pratt vs. Amelie Cocheteux and Janette Husarova. Olga and Nicole won the toss, and opted to receive. This seemed like the right move, as they gave JH/AC trouble immediately. But the pair just wasn’t playing well, and Janette held her serve.

Throughout the match, Olga and Nicole kept missing their shots, hitting them long, wide, or into the net. The were going for the angles, but nothing seemed to be going for them. Janette and Amelie, on the other hand, were playing very aggressive tennis and kept hitting at the player at the net. It’s a wonder neither Olga nor Nicole came out of the match with a concussion. Either way, Olga’s touch shots were just not working, and the Belarussian introduced her racquet to the court several times.

That was more or less the story of the whole match, and Janette/Amelie took the match 6-2 6-3.

Next, I chose to catch Joanette Kruger against Emilie Loit. I was half watching the two matches on court, both for entertainment reasons, but for totally opposite qualities. Janet Lee, despite looking like she was made of sticks, hits the ball with all her body weight, and can really send one blazing. Tamarine Tanasugarn is, of course, also capable or killing the ball. She and Magdalena Grzybowska were both blasting the fuzz off the ball during practice earlier that day, and it was breathtaking at times, the pace of the ball during rallies.

Anyway, most of the crowd was watching that match, as Janet had gotten a lot of support throughout the qualifying rounds and Tamarine is from the neighbouring country. The rallies that went on between the two were awesome. The both went for the lines, hitting the ball with everything they had. Janet also mixed it up with good drop shots, but Tammy was quicker than she looked, and got to a lot of them. In the end, the difference came in who got the crucial points. Tamarine took the match 7-6(4) 6-4.

On the other court, the entertainment came in the...well, entertainment. The French players lived up to their reputation (I’m not saying they’re all irate, it’s just that most of the French players I’ve seen are temperamental. I think the calmest of them all is Amelie Mauresmo. And Julie Halard-Decugis). Emilie had nothing going right for her in the first set, and Joanette (who took a wildcard due to her drop in rankings from injuries) was playing straightforward tennis. Emilie threw terrible tantrums, first bouncing her racquet around, then progressing to hurling it across the court. Next, she hit a ball up into the stands on the opposite end of the court, sat down in her chair during a changeover, and absolutely crushed a mineral water bottle with her hands. Joanette was starting to get fed up with this behaviour, and when Emilie started to get mad and take her time receiving serve by just standing there and fiddling with her racquet or staring at a point on court where the ball had landed close to the line but clearly inside, she could only shake her head. She took the first set 6-3.

The second set was a different story, however. Emilie’s coach kept trying to calm her down with a few quiet words from the stands, and she started channelling that energy into the ball. Hitting the ball hard and deep, she ran Joanette from side to side, and the South African started to get frustrated. After another long rally and a lot of running, Joanette yelled at the umpire, "Give me a break! That ball was way out!!!", and it was. The ump, however, couldn’t call it and frustrated Joanette lost the second set 4-6.

The third set was a little saner, and both played good tennis. Joanette got a break of serve late in the match, and held onto it to take the match 6-3 4-6 6-4. She yelled in triumph and relief on getting match point, while her mom, very Molitor-like in both appearance (okay, hairstyle) and the way she sat there clapping every now and then, just looked relieved. I had, however, seen her coaching her daughter from across the court on one or two occasions. Normal, I guess, and the ump didn’t see anything.

Next on court were Anastasia Myskina/Sarah Pitkowski and Cho-Yoon-Jeong/Monika Mastalirova. The latter had lost in the final qualifying round to Fauth/Vavrinec, but ended up as lucky losers when Annabel Ellwood and Erika de Lone withdrew. I thought it was a little ironic that Sarah’s partner would be her first opponent in singles at this tournament. Without a doubt, I rooted for Anastasia and Sarah.

Sarah started the match totally out of it. Anastasia also took a while to warm up, and it looked like the lucky losers would take the match quickly. While Sarah kept hitting the balls out or into the net, Anastasia was totally mishitting the ball a lot. She got totally frustrated (watch the temper on this girl. She looks like she’s made of sticks, but boy can she slam the ball), with good reason, and Sarah got frustrated because she’s French. Okay, she got frustrated because she was the #1 seed in singles and wasn’t playing like it at all. (Hey, don’t get mad. I was just seeing if you were paying attention. I do NOT think all French people are irate). A ton of errors from the Russian/French pairing gave Cho and Mastalirova the first set, 6-3. They also held serve to take the first game of the second set.

Anastasia (Ana from now on) was still playing badly, but Sarah started picking up her game. Maybe it wasn’t so much that she was playing badly than she was getting jammed at the net. Cho/Mastalirova kept hitting the ball into her body, and Ana, being the tall girl she is, has long arms, so it must have been difficult for her to move quickly enough to get the volleys. Sarah was still making a lot of errors despite improving a little and CY/MM took a 3-0 lead. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ana was tired from the late night she had the day before. The score went to 5-2. A lot of people left the stadium during the changeover.

All of a sudden, both Sarah and Ana picked up their games by more than 100%. They started playing together better and hitting the ball more accurately to take 6 games in a row (!), and to take the set 7-5. Talk about comebacks! The third set started evenly contested, but at 2-all, AM/SP broke Cho’s serve, and they broke again in the final game to take the match 3-6 7-5 6-3.

The final match of the day was Evelyn Fauth and Miroslava Vavrinec against Rika Hiraki and Yuka Yoshida. I opted for this match instead of Krizan/Brandi, and was all for Evelyn and Miro. They had been sitting in the stands nearby throughout the Kruger match talking with a guy who was with them, laughing, and playing with an electronic game console. I ended up being their only supporter, along with the guy who occasionally clapped, while the Japanese team had relatives cheering for them and a sudden group of Japanese formed when every Japanese from a 1 mile radius sat together. It was rather scary, as strangers and friends clapped practically in unison. I think they teach them how to clap in school.

The Austrian/Swiss pair were totally off their game, and the Japanese were playing smart efficient tennis as usual. Evelyn and Miro kept laughing, though, after displaying their frustrations by yelling or throwing their racquets (want to learn some fancy throwing skills? Call Evelyn. The tricks she knows are amazing!), mostly due to Evelyn’s antics. She has the most mischievous (and cute) smile I’ve ever seen, and the two of them were having fun despite their poor play. The Japanese took the match 6-2 6-3.

I got the schedule of play and scores from the tournament office, and delighted in seeing a full schedule of singles play the next day. All first round matches would be complete, and Sarah Pitkowski would play her second round match (first round bye) against her doubles partner, Anastasia Myskina.

Singles Round 1

Doubles Round 1