It must have something to do with the water, but there was almost another stunning upset of a top seed in the evening session at the Rogers Cup tournament again last night. Kim Clijsters of Belgium was almost eliminated in her first game of the tournament by a qualifier, but she managed to pull victory out of the fire. I guess you could say that the result in the second match was an upset, so upsets do continue at this year's Rogers Cup.
Speaking of upsets, during the day session former number one player, Dinara Safina upset the higher ranked Nadia Petrova. Safina, who is coming back from several injuries including her back, has fallen to number 70 in the world whereas fellow Russian Petrova is ranked number 18. The former number one won in three sets, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
The first of two matches in the evening session on another jammed packed Centre Court saw Kim Clijsters do battle with American qualifier, Bethanie Mattek-Sands. As far as life and career goes, the two players couldn't be more different.
The 4th seeded Kim Clijsters's life has changed a lot in the last couple of years. She retired from tennis a few years ago and she became a mom. Then she came back to tennis and has come back with a different perspective and different priorities. Clijsters is a much more relaxed player now who plays fewer tournaments in order to spend more time with her family. Her family is always present. She decided to come back because her husband, a former European pro basketball player, retired and is able to travel with Kim and their daughter Jade.
The 25-year-old Mattek-Sands, who is also married, is ranked 101 in the world and has never beaten a Top 10 player. She has had success as a doubles player having won 8 doubles titles. Bethanie has also played Fed Cup for the United States and been successful at that.
No one could have predicted it, but the qualifier from the U.S. gave a virtuoso performance and pushed the more talented and experienced Clijsters to the limit. Sometimes when you are the lower ranked player going into a match all the pressure is totally off you as no one expects you to win. During the first half of what turned out to be a three set match, Mattek-Sands had the upper hand and was playing with a sense of freedom and abandon. She was just going for her shots and for the most part she made them.
Much to the surprise of the decidedly pro-Clijsters crowd, Clijsters and I'm sure even Mattek-Sands herself, the underdog managed a 6-4 1st set victory. She even started off set number two with a 4-1 and triple break point opportunity in the 5th game. Then what happened to Mattek-Sands is what happens to many lower ranked young players, she began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, began to think to much and not just hit the ball on instinct and allowed Clijsters to fight her way back into the match.
Clijsters fought off the three break points and held her serve for 2-4. At this point, Mattek-Sands made a decision to pull back just a little bit and her game suffered. Clijsters, like a true champion, saw the door crack open a little and forced it completely open.
Mattek-Sands tightened up on her own serve and Clijsters broke her for 4-3. Then Clijsters held her own serve to knot the match up at 4-4. Now Mattek-Sands tried once again to start hammering her shots, but getting her rhythm back was to prove tricky. Doubt crept into her game and she found herself down double break points on her own serve.
After breaking Mattek-Sands yet again Clijsters had managed to change the game completely from down one set and 1-4 in the 2nd to now being up 5-4 in the 2nd. Clijsters was showing that she indeed has the heart of a champion. She easily held her serve to win the 2nd set 6-4 and to force a 3rd.
Starting off strong, Mattek-Sands holds serve to begin the 3rd set. Clijsters matches that strong start by holding her own serve at love. Then continues her strong play by breaking the American to go up 2-1. Just when you thought Mattek-Sands was down and out she demonstrates her own character by breaking Clijsters right back. The crowd is oddly quiet as if they are stunned over what is happening in front of them.
Mattek-Sands holds for 3-2. There has been many little shifts of momentum in this engaging match. It has the atmosphere and the quality of a semi or final not merely a 2nd round match.
Despite the fact that she has triple break points against her on her serve, Clijsters manages to escape yet again with a hold. Then she rights herself again by breaking Mattek-Sands in the next game to go up 4-3. Clijsters holds for 5-3 then ends this wonderful match by breaking Mattek-Sands to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Mattek-Sands will be disappointed as she had her foot on Clijsters throat, but did not come up with the kill. This was a night she learned a lot about herself and should gain confidence from the fact that she went toe-to-toe with Clijsters. Mattek-Sands forced Kim Clijsters to come up with her best stuff in her first match, which should prove helpful to Clijsters in the tournament.
You would think that match number two would have a hard time living up to the quality and human drama (with all its twists and turns) of the first match, but Aravane Rezai of France and Jie Zheng of China were up to the task.
Yes, this match did not have the star appeal of a Kim Clijsters, but Rezai and Zheng are not exactly chopped liver. Zheng is 27-years-old and ranked number 24 in the world. She is a dangerous player who possesses excellent footwork, a never quit attitude, but her weakness is that she occasionally lacks power. Zheng is quite comfortable at the net as she is an accomplished doubles player who has won 13 doubles titles.
Rezai has no power problems as she hits the ball really hard . Born in Iran she and her family then moved to France. Rezai had to battle for her spot in the French tennis federation. She had one of those "difficult" fathers who rubbed everyone the wrong way.
Zheng starts off serving and right off the bat has trouble with Rezai's powerful strokes. Rezai breaks her for 0-1. The surface is playing very quick. Maybe too quick for Zheng's liking.
The two ladies trade holds until the 5th game when Rezai has triple break points on Zheng's serve. She breaks her again for a 4-1 lead. But as is typical on this evening of tennis Zheng breaks right back for 4-2. She has started slowly, but is coming on now. Zheng keeps her strong play going holding her serve and then breaks Rezai again for 4-4.
Holds are traded once again for 5-5 then Rezai elevates her game once again to break Zheng then holds for an up and down 1st set 7-5 victory.
The 2nd set starts just as the 1st one did with Rezai breaking Zheng. This time she does it twice to start the set and finds herself up 3-0. The roller coaster ride continues with Zheng breaking back. Then holds are traded with Zheng getting another break in the 8th game to level the 2nd set 4-4.
The 2nd set ends on a break for each player and it goes to a tiebreak. Zheng makes fewer mistakes during the loosely played tiebreak and wins it 8-6 and the 2nd set 7-6. We are going to another 3rd set.
Following their pattern of nothing coming easy and having difficulty holding their serves, each player opens the 3rd with a break of the other. This has been like a boxing match with each taking and giving punches.
Zheng continues attacking Rezai's serve and breaks her again. Rezai looks tired and it is not surprising as the 2nd set alone lasted 58 minutes. We were approaching midnight on Centre Court and these two warriors are still going at it. Zheng demonstrates more durability and cardio whereas Rezai is completely taken over by fatigue. She cannot even hold her serve once during the 3rd set which Zheng dominates and wins 6-1. Zheng wins the match 5-7, 7-6, 6-1
After all that drama and often high quality tennis, Kim Clijsters and Jie Zheng will be moving on to the quarter finals.