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US Open Reports (report #3 of 7)

by Pierre Cantin

Hello and welcome to my third report:) By the way, you can see next of this one of my best photos I think for today:) Maria Kirilenko in action! So today, I arrived in Flushing Meadows at about 9:40, there really were not that many people, I guess the rain predictions were part of the reason. So anyway, I did not see that many practices of interest. It had rained earlier in the morning so some courts were still wet and besides Alina Jidkova, who I watched until she left, I did get a chance to wish her good luck and more importantly ask her if she'd be in Quebec city, she said she was pretty sure she would be:)

So not too long after, I headed towards court #6, where I was anxious to see Maria Kirilenko. Although I know she is still young, I had been impressed by her progress when I saw her play last year and was curious to see what she still needed to work on to get that "breakthrough" performance. I thought playing Likhovtseva would provide a good test given her level of play on the hard courts this summer. The match started off in a bit of a strange manner with Likhovtseva hitting a few bad serves, and a few unforced errors. Still, Maria was playing well, it is just amazing the variety she has and just her instincts, she came to the net a few times, etc. I think Likhovtseva although she surely knew Maria's game well, still anticipated to be the more consistent player, which wasn't the case, Maria was more than able to hit with her and although it was pretty tight, Maria came through. I must add though that, at the end of the first set as well as later on during the match, Elena made a few unfamiliar errors, just some unforced errors on some shots that seemed really harmless. Anyway, Maria was able to lift up the level of her game in key moments and it was good to see her play so well. If I had one thing in that first set to say, I remember Maria's 2003 US Open, she had probems once she was put on the defence in points, especially against Mauresmo. I didn't see anything to suggest she had improved much on that point. I guess against Likhovtseva it would be harder to see, but still I think it would be to her advantage to take more initiatives, like play a little more with angles, in order to be able to try some other things like going to the net. But again, it was one match and it was maybe the plan, so I'll be scouting the next one:)

The second set was strange, Maria went down 2-0 very early, she wasn't hitting as great but somehow it just seemed as though she had lost momentum after the first set momentum she had gained... But then Likhovtseva made an error similar to the one Dechy made yesterday, she gave 2-3 straight easy points to Maria, which helped to turn things around. Funny thing happened when at 1-3, Maria held her serve to 2-3 and then asked for the trainer.. she was treated for shoulder problems, so the delay was quite important, having the trainer come to court #6, evaluate Maria and then the treatment. As she was about to leave, Elena asked the trainer to come and treat her as well. When Maria saw that, she asked a ballboy to hit with her, he said yes and I guess everyone thought that was funny, so she pulled out a racquet, handed it to him and headed on the court... Thing is, the guy surely had not played much tennis in his life and couldn't really hit the ball over the net or in the court..!!! Imagine how everyone laughed, obviously not at him, I mean it's not his fault, but it was funny:) So finally she changed ideas and decided to hit some serves instead, he tried to return them unsuccessfully. The cameraman next to me suggested playing with the guy would give her confidence since she seemed so much better:) I laughed at the idea, but after she won the following 4 games and thus took the match, I didn't have much to say did I?:) And as you can see on this photo, Maria was very very happy to win the match:) She now advances to a match against Lisa Raymond, which should be very interesting, I hope it'll be on a small court:) I'll be there anyway:) So congrats to Maria, she played well, Elena didn't but I still think Maria could have taken the match, she played well enough to play, and I can't wait to see if she can do the same on Thursday.

I did not take too many photos after that, as I headed to Louis Armstrong for most of the day (too high to take good photos). I first saw the end of Henman-Karlovic, it was really an awesome match, great atmosphere, most fans were cheering for Tim, as was I, and he won! I'm usually pretty happy when one-dimensional players lose:) Anyway, I'll skip to Anastasia's match. It was a strange one I thought. From the moment she came on the court, she seemed in a hurry. I swear, it was as if she had an appointment in the afternoon, at the start of the match she started playing even before the umpire finished introducing the match, she was running after balls between points, getting up quickly between changeovers, etc, etc. She also was trying more winners than usually, just going for more and seeming to care about finishing quickly more than anything. I had never seen her act this way, I guess it was more good than bad, clearly, she had assumed she would win this match from the start, and she did, I guess some more confidence in her game is good. I was very surprised Cervanova played into the game though, she was following Myskina's pace and playing very fast. The match lasted 42 minutes, Myskina looked like the only player upset at her game, strange thing but yeah, that is what happened. So anyway, good performance by Nastya, she was solid in a 6-1, 6-0 win, I guess she has a few more "easier" matches so hopefully she can stay focused and be ready when she'll be challenged:)

After that match, I mostly walked around courts, watched some parts of a few matches, including Virginia Ruano-Pascual (see photo here), as well as a few others, nothing really incredible and i was quite tired from that crazy Monday! I finally left the stadium at around 6PM, to watch evening action on tv while a very busy day awaits tomorrow, a day where I'Ll be taking lots of photos of so many players, I am a bit sad to miss Molik-Hantuchova that will be played on centre court but the rest should be awesome, it will be a very long but very fun day!

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