Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chairface Triumphs

And so the long-awaited day arrived - the day when Marat Safin and Dinara Safina would step up to the plate together for the first time and represent Russia. And I have to say that, despite Marat showing up looking like someone had hit him with a chair (which, quite possibly, they had), they put on a very good show.
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Let's start with Dinara. She got herself in all sorts of trouble in her match against Flavia Pennetta - only to be expected in the first match of the season, I guess - but she showed the prowess of a real champion by getting herself out again. Take the second set, for example: she's down 3-0, which is a double break, and then steps it up and reels off six straight games to take the set. Pennetta's level did lower a bit, but I wouldn't say she let Dinara back into the match per se. She didn't giftwrap those six games for her. Dinara stepped up and took on them. She's looking like a real threat for the Australian Open, and wouldn't it be something else to see her win it?!
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Now, Marat. I wasn't expecting too much from the big guy, considering a) he stepped off a plane late last night, and b) someone has obviously hit him in the face with a chair. (Brief digression: Marat and the black eyes and the thumb and the bruised shoulder... and the talk of 'new bosses' next year. Anyone else's mind leap right to Marat Safin, Russian mobster? Because mine sure did.) However, I was very pleasantly surprised. He really is a lovely player (especially when his shots went in.) His returning was not so hot for the majority of the match, but he more than made up for it with an absolute clinic of serving. Seriously, I have never seen him serve better than that. He hit the lines very consistently, and there was just no way Simone Bolelli could even touch half of them. And then Marat hit some lovely forehand winners, and his backhand is always an explosive thing of beauty when he's not shanking it all over the shop... and how 'bout that pass on the run he picked up? He was about twelve kilometres out of court, and to send it rocketing back in like that was positively Federesque.
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And then we come to the doubles... and although Marat might be the worst doubles player in the history of the universe, he and Dinara did all right for themselves, even though they lost the match. He clearly fatigued towards the end of the match (as you would, if you had just come off a plane and had been hit in the face with a chair) but Dinara more than held her end up. One of Marat's biggest problems was, shockingly enough, being too much of a gentleman - Pennetta pounded on him something severe, and he kept on giving her easy balls. Never thought I'd ever say Marat Safin was a gentleman, but there you have it.
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The doubles loss might hurt them if it comes to a countback against France, but I don't think it'll come down to that. If Russia win against Chinese Taipei (which they probably will, if Marat holds up his end in the singles) and France win against Italy (which, again, they probably should, though Cornet/Pennetta will be very interesting) then it'll all come down to the Russia/France tie, and won't that be a cracker...?
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Oh, and a word for Monica Wejnert. She may have gone down to a much higher ranked opponent in Marion Bartoli in her first tour level match, but she certainly didn't embarrass herself. Well done, Miss Monica!
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Today's Results
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Harry Hopman Cup (Perth)
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Russia 2, Italy 1
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Dinara Safina def. Flavia Pennetta, 7-5 6-3
Marat Safin def. Simone Bolelli, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Pennetta/Bolelli def. Safina/Safin, 5-7 6-4 10-2 (match tiebreaker)
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Brisbane International (Brisbane)
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Men's Draw
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Richard Gasquet def. Marc Gicquel, 4-6 6-2 6-2
Robin Soderling def. Sam Querrey, 6-3 6-3
Julien Benneteau def. Robby Ginepri, 3-6 6-3 7-5
Taylor Dent def. Steve Darcis, 7-6 (0) 6-2
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Women's Draw
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Jarmila Gajdosova def. Shuai Peng, 6-4 6-2
Victoria Azarenka def. Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-0 6-2
Marion Bartoli def. Monica Wejnert, 6-1 6-2
Alisa Kleybanova def. Kaia Kanepi, 6-1 6-4

2 comments:

TopSpin said...

Hi Jodi - Hope you enjoyed the holidays!

I won't get coverage of Marat and Dinara here until tomorrow evening, it's great to hear they've made a good start.

If Marat is to be believed this is his last year, and truth be told I don't expect big things from him; it would of course be a fairy tale if he pulls off a big win at some point during the year, but I'll be happy with a dignified statesmanlike swansong.

Can't wait for tomorrows coverage!

Jodi said...

I don't know how much of Marat's career can be called dignified and statesmanlike, but I'd also like a big finish for him - and if he keeps serving like this, he will be doing himself an enormous favour. I would love for he and Dinara to win this tournament - it might be just the win he needs to kickstart a big final year.