I rarely cover the WTA here, although I keep up with the news and occasionally watch matches. The Korea Open KDB took place this week in Seoul, and I got to see a few matches on Tuesday and both SF matches on Saturday. This is a long post, but I included plenty of photos I took. I hope you enjoy!
The WTA Korea Open KDB is hosted at the 1988 Seoul Olympics venue. They have the old draw sheet posted outside center court:
The apartment complex in the background was the “Village” where the Olympic athletes stayed, during Korea’s proud hosting of the ’88 Olympics. A quick glimpse at the men’s draw sheet reveals many familiar names: Cahill, Gilbert, Forget, Leconte, Jaite (ARG’s DC captain), Sanchez-Vicario (Spain’s former DC captain), Ivanisevic … and Andrew Castle. The women’s draw had Graf, Sabatini, Novotna and Pam Shriver.
In the future, fans will look at the 2012 London Olympics draw sheet and delight in the tennis that took place. It’s strange to think that 20 years from now, many of today’s familiar faces will become commentators and eccentric figureheads for tennis. Picture this: What if Tipsarevic became a commentator? He’d be the guy who talks endlessly, and everybody has to politely tolerate his ramblings about Nietzsche and the stories behind his tattoos. Can you imagine Federer and Tipsarevic in the same commentary booth? Awkward comedy gold. DelPo would be the silent commentator: every 30 minutes, he’ll give a loud sigh and mumble something, just to remind viewers that he’s actually present. It is my personal hope that DelPo does tennis commentary 20 years from now, and he becomes that person who occasionally rambles about his past victories, including that Olympic medal, among other things. It would be epic. 🙂
I honestly had no clue about the ’88 Olympic gold medalist Miloslav Mecir. Mecir defeated Stefan Edberg in the SF, then beat American Tim Mayotte to win the gold medal for then-Czechoslovakia. This draw sheet was a nice history lesson for me.
Back to the Korea Open! Caroline Wozniacki ended up defeating Kaia Kanepi in the final, 6-0 6-1. I didn’t attend the final, but I did get to see both players on Tuesday and Saturday, when I stopped by for a few hours of R1 matches and both SFs:
I saw the last points of Kanepi’s 6-1 6-0 win over Korea’s Sung-hee Han on Tuesday. Next up was the match between Caroline Wozniacki and Arantxa Rus, which looked promising:
Ever since Rus defeated Kim Clijsters at Roland Garros last year, I’ve been interested to see her game. She looked like she was having a severe “off-day” though. During the warm-up, Rus was missing volleys and she hit overhead smashes into the net. The match hadn’t even started and she looked like she had a mountain to climb.
Woz won easily and advanced to the next round. Her backhands were pretty impressive to watch and watching her live made me appreciate her defensive abilities. It’s not my favorite style of tennis to watch, but she was playing well:
Given that it was a weekday, the stands were pretty empty. Woz’s father is in the lower left corner of the photo above. He ran down for coaching breaks and then he’d occasionally shout encouragement to Woz. By the end of the match, I’m sure that whole section of the crowd knew he was Woz’s father.
During the changeover, I switched seats to get closer to the court. Russian player Ekaterina Makarova came out with her coach to watch Caro’s match, and she sat down two seats next to me. I wished I could have taken a photo of her there. Makarova and her coach spoke in Russian throughout the match. I wish I understood Russian, because it’d have been great to overhear how the pros talk strategy with their coaches.
I walked out of the Woz-Rus match before it ended, to see French youngster Caroline Garcia play Romania’s Alexandra Cadantu. Garcia came through qualifying to reach the main draw, and I’ve been interested in her results too, ever since she played that thriller of a match against Sharapova at Roland Garros last year:
Wozniacki’s parents showed up (they’re in the upper left corner of the photo) to scout the players, as the winner of this match would face Woz in R2. This match took place on a smaller outside court, and the stands were filled with spectators, young and old. Old men smoked cigarettes and drank beer as they watched (I personally don’t understand how this is allowed at a public event). Ball kids who were off-duty watched the match from the sidelines — they were fans of Garcia’s game. The set-up offered very close access to the courts, which I appreciated.
To my eyes, Garcia looks equally as thin as Arantxa Rus. Yet she carries herself much more fluidly and she can hit with deceptive power, whereas Rus looked like she should eat more. Perhaps it’s because Rus is much taller than Garcia? Garcia has an elegantly powerful game, and she hit this drive volley during the match that was just delightful.
She also returns second serves from a meter inside the baseline:
Garcia’s ball toss suffers under pressure though, and I think more experience will help her build up mental strength. She did get easily frustrated during the match, although she closed it out in straight sets.
Garcia’s opponent Cadantu, a 22-year old from Romania, trudged off the court after losing. I watched to see where she was heading: Cadantu sat down on the path right outside the court and she sat crying like this for a good thirty minutes. It was sad to see her so upset — I don’t think she traveled to Seoul with a coach, so she was all alone:
I couldn’t stay for long on Tuesday, but I made plans to attend both SFs on Saturday. The Seoul semifinalists were Wozniacki-Makarova and Kanepi-Lapchenko.
For me personally, Makarova was the real revelation of the Korea Open. I’d never seen her play before, but I liked her game. She’s a lefty who plays attacking tennis, with slightly loopy but line-hitting forehands. What’s more, she hit an incredible number of volleys in this match — although the crowd were more familiar with Wozniacki, they gradually began to shift allegiance to Makarova:
Woz was too steady for Makarova though, and she was also playing well herself. Woz ended up defeating Makarova in three close sets. Here she is being interviewed by Korean television after the match:
I watched the second SF between Kaia Kanepi and Varvara Lapchenko. Kanepi was not playing very well, but she was still a touch above Lapchenko. She won the SF in three sets to reach the final, but she ended up losing badly to Woz. Still, it was a great run for Kanepi this past week:
And that concludes my lengthy post on the Korea Open this year! I definitely enjoyed the matches I got to see. Watching live tennis is always a nice emphatic reminder of just how awesome tennis is as a sport.