Caroline Wozniacki - ATP Masters Series Monte Carlo - Day Two

After a Good Friday ceasefire, the four surviving contestants for a Porsche reconvene.  A tournament that once featured seven of the WTA top eight has witnessed several unexpected plot twists over the past few days, including four quarterfinalists from the home nation.   Does another bend in the Stuttgart racetrack lie ahead?

Wozniacki vs. Radwanska:  Pitting two of the new generation’s most notable stars against each other, this duel could recur in a Slam quarterfinal or semifinal two or three years from now.  While both Wozniacki and Radwanska cut their teeth on hard courts, they share key strengths upon which they could build notable clay achievements.  Not instinctive movers on Europe’s crushed brick, both the Pole and the daughter of Poles enjoy exceptional consistency and defensive skills that shine on a surface where extended rallies dominate.  Separating the world #1 from the Polish #1, her precocious resilience resurfaced in a quarterfinal against Petkovic that looked grim when the German stood within a point of 5-1.  Refusing to concede even a set to her Miami nemesis, Wozniacki dug into the dirt and accumulated pressure upon her opponent until the wheels fell off that racecar.  Sometimes a sturdy competitor herself, Radwanska has not developed quite the same armor despite her greater experience on the tour.  On the other hand, her subtle artfulness should find eloquent expression on a surface that rewards finesse and versatility, not among the baseline-bound Wozniacki’s salient virtues.  Yet the conundrum of clay is that those who leave the deepest imprints upon it also must summon the power to hit through the sluggish courts.  Neither semifinalist possesses that ability at the moment, but Wozniacki appears more likely than Radwanska to enhance her offense.  In their first intersection on clay, they will write a new chapter in the history of a still nascent rivalry.

Goerges vs. Stosur:  A finalist in Stuttgart last year, Stosur’s stagnant 2011 inspired few observers to hope that she might repeat that feat this week.  Now, she has edged within a victory of accomplishing exactly that objective after extending her curious voodoo spell over Zvonareva.  Surely revitalizing the Australian’s confidence, that quarterfinal tested her recently fragile nerves with a third set that featured no breaks of serve at all.  Rather than the Australian Open and Miami semifinalist, though, it was Stosur who seized command early in the decisive tiebreak and built upon a three-set victory over a formidable opponent in the previous round.  Like Wozniacki and Radwanska, the world #7 did not participate in Fed Cup last weekend, so she entered this week in fresher physical condition than Zvonareva and other notable names who departed before they could have barred her progress.  In their stead looms a foe who conquered Stosur on the fast hard courts of Tokyo last fall.  When Azarenka retired after winning the first set, Goerges fully capitalized upon her opportunity by snuffing out the hopes of compatriot Lisicki in the quarterfinal.  Often overlooked in the shadow of Petkovic, she contributed to Germany’s Fed Cup playoff victory in the same arena and extended eventual champion Henin to a tiebreak here last year.  Whereas Stosur relies upon serve-forehand combinations, Goerges showcases a superb backhand that punished the Aussie’s indifferent two-hander in Tokyo.  On a slower surface, the task of exposing that wing becomes more challenging, as opponents from Henin to Serena and Dementieva have learned in the past two years.

***

Far to the southwest in sunny Barcelona, Nadal looks certain to slide through a suspenseless semifinal victory.  Offering more intrigue is the all-Spanish meeting between Ferrer and Almagro, which repeats their three-set final on the Acapulco dirt.  That collision escalated into a pair of tiebreaks as fortune fluttered coquettishly between the two combatants.  Had he secured a few crucial points, Almagro could have recorded a straight-sets victory.  Before he ultimately faded in the third set, the first two sets illustrated his bolstered physical fitness and mental resolve, with which he could threaten the Monte Carlo finalist.  But even the Acapulco Almagro might fall well short on this occasion, for Ferrer has overwhelmed most of his April challengers with intimidating, nearly Nadal-esque ease.  No matter who prevails on Saturday, one does not envy the survivor.

Advertisements