Tampa Bay Sports Day

Venus Gets Ousted in Australia

In case anyone didn’t catch it, Venus Williams is out. The sixth seeded older sister of three-time Australian Open champ Serena Williams was knocked out by shy Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in three competitive sets 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.

Her second round ouster is the biggest upset so far in the season’s first grand slam. While younger sis didn’t play her best saving six set points before coming back to straight set Gisela Dulko 6-3, 7-5, bigger sis couldn’t hold off 20 year-old Suarez Navarro, who following a shaky first set played outstanding tennis to string the upset.

The second-year pro warmed to the task riding an early break to claim the middle set. Despite being smaller in stature, the 46th ranked player began dictating play winning long rallies from the baseline with a punishing one handed backhand reminiscent of Williams’ retired slam killer Justine Henin.

As the match went on, Suarez Navarro became more confident standing her ground during points and going shot for shot with the seven-time slam winner.

Even falling behind a break 2-5 in the deciding frame didn’t deter the cool Spaniard’s focus. Instead, she ratcheted up her level even more striking the forehand better eventually breaking back with a forehand down the line for one of 26 winners to get within a game of squaring the match.

Not surprisingly, she still had to save a match point getting help from Venus on an errant return before holding to even it at five apiece.

Sensing an upset, the night time Laver Arena capacity crowd roared with approval pulling for the underdog. Continuing to be unfazed by the pressure, Suarez Navarro broke a second straight time drawing a Venus forehand a couple of inches wide to take a 6-5 lead.

Williams challenged but didn’t get the call leaving the talented Spaniard who cracked the quarters at last year’s French Open to serve for the match. After they split the first two points, Suarez Navarro got the better of the rallies taking the next couple setting up double match point to murmurs.

Despite being unable to convert the first chance misfiring wide, she didn’t allow Venus to get to Deuce taking control early during a well played final point whipping a crosscourt forehand which got a short reply into the net for the biggest win of her career.

The emotional Spaniard pumped her fist before being congratulated by a very gracious Williams, who later took the defeat well understanding that it just wasn’t her day. She didn’t perform poorly by any stretch breaking her opponent the same amount (Venus-4 of 8, Suarez Navarro-4 of 6) while netting two more winners (28-26) and even winning one more total point (89-88).

Unfortunately, it was Suarez Navarro’s big night. Following the huge upset, a grinning Spaniard had very little to say during a cute postmatch interview on court referring to Rod Laver Arena as “a big court, no?” to chuckles.

When asked by an Australian Open commentator what she did differently in the last two sets, she just laughed while a fan yelled, “She won.

No matter how shy Suarez Navarro was, she was the better player on this day.

She’ll next meet another Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez for a spot in the Round of 16 with the winner of Anabel Medina Garriques-Flavia Pennetta awaiting.

Venus wasn’t the only seed to fall with No.14 Patty Schnyder sent packing by Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano 6-3, 6-1.

Seeded women who advanced to Round Three included No.4 Elena Dementieva, No.8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.13 Victoria Azarenka, No.18 Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, 2006 Aussie champ Amelie Mauresmo (20), No.22 Zheng Jie and No.31 Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko.

On tap for Day Five includes an enticing Round Three match between comeback kid Jelena Dokic and Denmark teen Caroline Wozniacki. Other potential good matches include No.16 Marion Bartoli taking on Czech Lucie Safarova and No.15 Frenchwoman Alize Cornet battling 2008 semifinalist Daniela Hantuchova.

Blake through to Round Three: For a second consecutive round, American James Blake cruised prevailing in straights over Frenchman Sebastien De Chaunac 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

The 29 year-old No.9 seed whose best performance down under came last year when he reached the quarters made it a couple of good days in a row for American tennis with Mardy Fish setting up an enticing third round encounter versus former finalist Marcos Baghdatis along with Andy Roddick coming back to beat Xavier Malisse.

During an interview, Blake also noted the two set comeback by Amer Delic over tough ranked Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu. The vet will next have to deal with defending champion Novak Djokovic.

As for Blake, he’ll get a stiff challenge of his own from No.18 Russian Igor Andreev, who needed five before eliminating talented Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-4.

Roddick will take on tricky 36 year-old Magician Fabrice Santoro.

Also needing five sets was 2008 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Mario Ancic, who won a battle of Croats ousting big server Ivo Karlovic 5-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

No.5 seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fought back to beat vet Ivan Ljubicic in four sets saving three set points in a pivotal third set breaker before taking firm control.

Both No.1 Rafael Nadal and No.4 Andy Murray had no trouble advancing on a day that was fairly good to seeded men with No.6 Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils (12), Fernando Gonzalez (13), Fernando Verdasco (14), Nicolas Almagro (17), Radek Stepanek (22), Richard Gasquet (24) and Austria’s Jurgen Melzer (31) moving on.

Federer/Safin Meet Again: The most anticipated match on Day Five will be a 2005 rematch between Roger Federer and unpredictable talented Russian Marat Safin.

It was four years ago that he got the better of the former No.1 saving match point in a fourth set tiebreak before pulling out an epic in five sets. He eventually went on to defeat Lleyton Hewitt in four for the title. It was the second and only other slam the former 2000 U.S. Open champ won.

At age 29, Safin has hinted this could be his final full year on tour which would be ashame as he’s truly one of the most talented players to ever pickup a racket. He’s kinda similar to Goran Ivanisevic, who wound up winning just won major finally taking Wimbledon in a five set classic over Patrick Rafter back in 2001.

Ironically, they’re both identical in terms of personality letting it all hang out giving fans plenty of entertainment. Whether it’s Safin screaming at himself in an unknown language, making a funny face or smashing a racket, he’s one of the most spirited players.

He’s always a good interview as well. But more than that, the big man can play. Thus far, he’s looked good winning his first two matches in straights. Can the most misunderstood player give Federer a run for his money tomorrow?

It shouldn’t be dull.