April 15, 2009

Clay Court Kickoff

It's the last stop in the U.S. before women begin the 2009 European clay court season in earnest, and the Family Circle Cup has not only attracted the top talent, but also has so far proven to be a good opportunity for the stars to shine.

Unlike recent tournaments where top seeds have struggled early, all but one of the top eight seeds, who received byes in the first round, have made it to their second match -- most of them did so in straight sets.

Number one seed Elena Dementieva, with a shiny new career-high ranking, barely broke a sweat in her fifty-minute match against American Julie Ditty. Venus Williams gave up a one-break lead in her second set against India's Sania Mirza, but eventually rolled 6-2 in the third. Only Patty Schnyder had any trouble, though I can't say I would have favored the former top-ten player against Elena Vesnina, who made it to the finals in Auckland and the semis in Ponte Vedra Beach last week.

More impressive was Ditty's Fed Cup teammate, Melanie Oudin. The former juniors phenom has only won one match in the main draw of a WTA tournament this year -- she had to qualify for the Australian Open and then lost to Akgul Amanmuradova. (Yeah, I'd never heard of her either.)

But today Melanie was able to pull it together for a win over ninth seed, Aleksandra Wozniak, only her second win over a top-fifty player. After a close first set, she blanked Wozniak in the second, winning nearly ninety percent of her first serves and all of her three break points

It's a good omen for the remaining women. With just over a month left before Roland Garros, a couple of big wins in the next few weeks could be very important for these players -- both the elite and the up-and-comers.

Of course I'm hoping Dementieva can get back on track, but it sure would be nice to see an American succeed on clay!

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

It wasn't quite-so-smooth sailing in the third round.

While Elena Dementieva only lost two games to advance to the quarters, Venus Williams, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova all lost their matches on Thursday.

And though Melanie Oudin's luck ran out against Marion Bartoli, Elena Vesnina kept rolling.

Looks like things are getting interesting!