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May 21 01:41
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Vika Streak ends at 26; Venus out; Rafa survives Tsonga

March 28, 2012 | 11:40 PM

Seles 2, Navratilova 2 (if you're keeping score on Dancing, this is how many weeks they lasted). One moved her feet to the music and looked lite on them in spite of her upper body handicap; the other was reminded of the painful 6 months she took to learn new footwork timing on her backhand to adjust to hitting it with the more open stance of a two hander. The straight set losses disappoint the two stars, their backers and agents, but Martina will take something from it and make lite of it on the air, where unforced errors don't cost her a dime.

How many weeks can we expect from Venus and Maria in season 18 and 20?

Venus isn't quite retired yet, though her 6-4, 6-1 loss today in the quarters to #4 Radwanska was a tired looking performance, whether from her having played 9 hours of tennis during her three previous 3 setters (over Kvitova, Wozniak and Ivanovic) or from her underlying lupus condition. She lost 60% of the points when she served. In any event, a quarterfinal loss in her first match since The Open wasn't bad. On the other hand, she only played 12 matches last year and the only two top 20 players she beat were #11 Petkovic and #18 Ivanovic (both at Eastbourne where she had her best result, reaching the quarters). After the Olympics, if she qualifies to play on the 4 person US women's team, what reason is there for her to continue like this? Her clothing line is already doing well, and the memories and footage of her playing on the Tennis Channel will help keep her mag alive. It's not that she's the Williams I'd like to see retire, or the one I'd like to see on Dancing...

In any event, forget the Williams for now (they haven't done anything in almost 2 years). Finally, there's a new top 4 we can talk about going deep in the draws, though Azarenka's 6-3, 6-3 loss to Bartoli today dented our confidence a little. Vika wasn't suffering from a very late night on Sou Beesh, but she lost her composure when her come-back was stopped short in the 2nd set (she'd led 3-1 and was broken, twice, andfeel behind 3-4). At the change-over, she couldn't stop crying and hitting herself, so it was no surprise that by the end she wasn't moving back well. Bartoli, jumping about like a boxer before the bell, kept on slugging and making gets from all corners to frustrate the Australian champion. I guess we won't be seeing Vika on 60 Minutes any time soon, or beginning to counter our empty knowledge of Belarus.

For Radwanska, this is her first semis appearance in Miami, but may not be her last or as far as she'll go. The way she played today (17 winners, 3 aces in a row from 30-40 to take the first set), in the semis she would beaten the Azarenka that showed up to play Bartoli, in spite of her being 0-4 with Vika this year. Niszka has lost all of 15 games here in 4 matches. With her smooth movement and unflappable demeanor, she's a good bet to reach the final.

MEN: Murray Survives Serbian Scare; Rafa midnight drama

Jarko Tipsarevic could do no wrong for a 6 game patch starting at 2-4 in the 1st set, while Andy looked like Vika, pounding his strings with his hands after misfiring on two handers. But down a set and a break, Andy went back to being Mr. Reliable (aka boring), and after another long game, evened the score and seized the momentum. The winners that had rolled off Tipso's racquet started finding the alleys, and before long Andy broke again, converting 4 of his first 4 break chances and taking the 2nd set 6-3. The 3rd set was tighter, with both players holding after an early break by Andy, courtesy of more Serbian mistakes. It was a Lendl-like win for the Scot, and must have pleased Ivan, who'd sat stoically through Andy's frustration. He'll need his A game to his semi-final against Rafa.

Rafa was a hold from taking Tsonga out in 2 sets, serving 6-2, 5-4. The Frenchman had been missing big, compiling errors at the rate of 2 a game and conversing with himself non-stop, when Rafa's nerves got the better of him. Once in the match, Jo refused to go away, taking the set in style with winners, 7-5, and staying on serve with Rafa to 3-3 in the 3rd. It was then that the match got really interesting, with see-saw battles and shot-making. Rafa's down-the-line backhand passes found the mark more than once, while Jo started bringing in the 136mph bombs, and scoring from the net.

The final game, with Rafa serving at 5-4, went on for over 10 minutes until past midnight, with Jo squandering a couple of break points before Rafa reached his first of 3 match points. Bold play and line painting kept Jo in the game, but a final forehand crosscourt caught the net strap on it's way to nowhere final, and met an its grave. The fans who arrived almost too late to see Vika leave, ended up getting their money's worth in the best match of the tournament so far. Let's hope the rest can be as suspenseful.

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE:

Starts at 1pm

[4] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v [2] Maria Sharapova (RUS)

Not Before 3:00 PM

[21] Juan Monaco (ARG) v [8] Mardy Fish (USA)

[1] Bob Bryan (USA) & Mike Bryan (USA) v [7] Leander Paes (IND) & Radek Stepanek (CZE)

Starting at 7:00 PM

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) v [5] David Ferrer (ESP)

Not Before 9:00 PM

[9] Marion Bartoli (FRA) v [5] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Rick


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