Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Curse of being a Women's Seed

There was more carnage amongst the seeded players in the women's draw in the second round in the Rome Premier tournament.  More damage was inflicted in the nation's capital than has been seen since the historic fall of the Roman Empire itself.

Before we detail the left overs of the female event, there is the male equivalent tournament - the Rome Masters - being contested on the clay coloured red, both natural and with a component of the blood left by the numerous departed seeds.  Not so many on the men's side.  We lost Monfils and Anderson in round one, and seventh seed Tsonga withdrew at the last moment, leaving a spot for lucky loser from qualifying, Lucas Pouille, to fill.  A bit of symmetry that a Frenchman replaces another from France.

Round two saw the top eight seeds play their first matches and each was successful in sealing a third round ticket.  However two of the lower bracket bit the red dust.  10th seed Milos Raonic became the latest high profile name to fall victim to the Nick Kyrgios machine, and the young Australian is having a year marked with consistency, his ranking now 20 and a rough chance (would need a few withdrawals of those ranked above) of achieving a seeding within the top 16 at Roland Garros.

Both players secured a single break of serve in set one and Kyrgios won the tie break 7 points to 5.  It was close, but the Canadian's second serve was vulnerable throughout, Kyrgios winning 10 of 15 points off it.  
It was Nick's ability to win six points from the fifteen legitimate Raonic first serves in set two that helped the Aussie to a 7-6 (5) 6-3 win and a third round meeting with Nadal.

The other seed to exit was Roberto Bautista Agut (15) who was outlasted by talented Jeremy Chardy from France in a straight sets match extending just over two hours. 

Now to a women's event in which after just two rounds there are only five of the original sixteen seeds still standing.  Eight of the eleven exits were made in the second round, including Angie Kerber (2), Vika Azarenka (4), Petra Kvitova (5), Simona Halep (6) and Roberta Vinci (7).  These five were playing their first matches after receiving first round byes, meaning that half the seeds lost their opening Rome matches.

The three others to leave the Rome Premier, these at least winning round one, were Lucie Safarova (10), Venus Williams (12) and Ana Ivanovic (13).

Five of the eight are Grand Slam title winners and the other three are finalists at Grand Slam level.  It is either an indictment on the lack of sufficient effort being contributed by these supposed elite level players, or an amazing coincidence that a bunch of lower ranked players can at one point in time raise the levels of their games enough to pull off a suite of upsets in a Premier event.

It has happened too often this year that a bunch of top seeds in women's events has crumbled early to lesser players.  Clearly the talent is there, but somehow the commitment and/or mental strength needs much more work before we can rely on the Kerbers, Kvitovas, etc to give us the confidence we have when the likes of Serena or Vika step on court. (Vika's loss here can be forgiven to some degree as she suffered a back injury in Madrid just last week)

On a more positive note, we should congratulate Daria Gavrilova for continuing her good form - Halep's defeat had much to do with the Australian's current consistency on the clay, and the three set defeat was far from a disgrace, but more a let down for Simona, who had won the Madrid title last week.  

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