Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Day 9: Home Sweet Home

I hope someone gave Maria Sharapova a seat cushion for her trip home from the All-England Club, because her butt has to be pretty sore after the kicking Venus Williams gave it during the three-time Wimbledon champ's 6-1/6-3 4th Round victory on Day 9.

Pushing the Supernova around has become something of a family project for the sisters, considering the embarrassing destruction that Serena also put on Sharapova in Melbourne a few months ago. Apparently, the lingering memory of Maria's thumping of Serena in the '04 Wimbledon final has made her the target of an extremely long-lasting can of whoop-ass produced and packaged by one of Richard's many business ventures. Or at least it seems that way, doesn't it? Just for the record, while Serena only gave up three games to Sharapova at the Australian Open to Venus' four today, it should be noted that the big sister didn't even face a break point on her serve. And that has to count for something at a future dinner round table, right?

Wow, after the Venus we saw almost get upset by Alla Kudryavtseva in the 1st Round, then Akiko Morigami in the 3rd, the transformation into the one we saw today was quite astouding. It wasn't really surprising, though. You see, Venus didn't have to play on Court 2 this time. She was finally allowed to grace Centre Court... and what a difference it makes to her, seeing that she hasn't lost there to anyone not also named Williams since she won her first SW19 title back in 2000.

Venus might not be the dominant force in the women's game that she used to be. She may not be up to putting together a two-week run that will get her another slam, either... well, nowhere but at Wimbledon, that is. She's at three Big W titles, just two years removed from her last, and suddenly is a very strong contender for a fourth.

Do you hear that Justine? I mean, I'm not sayin' nuthin'... but I'm just sayin'.

Love-Love... two days ago, Serena's drama relegated Venus' comeback win to the day's second tier of storylines. On Day 9, though, Venus did the same to Serena and Justine Henin.

Venus was just so damn spectacular that even though Henin's 6-4/3-6/6-3 win over Serena was the better match of the two it won't be what anyone remembers about today -- even as there was more tension during single rallies in the 3rd set as Serena tried to erase Henin's 5-1 advantage than was evident in the entire Venus/Maria match.

So be it.

This was Henin's first over Serena on a surface other than clay, and her second in back-to-back slam QF. It sets up a SF match in which she'll be heavily favored to win and advance to the sixth straight final in the last six slams in which she's played. It may be a while before we really and truly appreciate a 5-foot-5 player being able to accomplish such a feet when size and power are such assets in women's tennis.
15-Love... #18-seeded Pastry Marion Bartoli reached her first grand slam SF with a come-from-behind 3-6/6-3/6-2 win over Michaella Krajicek, whose brother's 1996 QF defeat of Pete Sampras pretty much single-handedly prevented the American from claiming eight straight Wimbledon titles that would have made all the current talk about Roger Federer striving to tie Bjorn Borg's "record" (which it STILL is not) a non-entity. Hmmm, could it be that Olga Poutchkova was onto something last year when she said that she was surprised that Bartoli had yet to win a grand slam? Of course, more "important" than her career-best result is that she claimed Backspin's "Miss Opportunity" Award on Day 9. Ha.

2004 #13 Maria Sharapova/RUS (W)
2005 #14 Venus Williams/USA (W)
2006 (Q) Severine Bremond/FRA (QF)
2007 #18 Marion Bartoli/FRA (SF?)

15-15... just to be crystal clear (again):

6...William Renshaw, 1881-86
5...Bjorn Borg, 1976-80
5...Laurence Doherty, 1902-06
4...Reggie Doherty, 1897-00
4...Roger Federer, 2003-current
4...Pete Sampras, 1997-00
4...Tony Wilding, 1910-13


SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #1: Women's Doubles 2nd Rd. - #8 Anabel Medina-Garrigues/Virginia Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP) walkover Serena Williams/Venus Williams (USA/USA).
...all right, then. So much for that.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #2: Women's Doubles 3rd Rd. - Shuai Peng/Zi Yan (CHN/CHN) d. #3 Yung-Jan Chan/Chia-Jung Chuang (TPE/TPE) - 6-3/6-2.
...the grass court winning streak ends. Meanwhile, the Chinese Tennis Federation immediately declared Peng & Yan's opponents "illegitimate" and then publicly fretted that such a victory might put in jeopardy the participation of Cookies in the Olympics. (Hey, why NOT go for a cheap joke?)

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #3: Girls 2nd Rd. - Oxana Kalashnikova (GEO) d. #9 Naomi Cavaday (GBR) - 6-3/6-4.
...that Hingis lady was nothing. Oxana is the real one to watch. Apparently, at least. Hey, that's Naomi's story and she's sticking to it.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #4: Men's Doubles 3rd Rd. - #10 Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra (FRA/FRA) d. Thomas Johansson/Andrei Pavel (SWE/ROU) - 7-5/6-3/1-0 ret.
...hey, after that 14-12 set the other day, Clement/Llodra could use a break.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #5: Mixed Doubles 2nd Rd. - Alex Bogdanovic/Melanie South (GBR/GBR) d. #1 Mike Bryan/Lisa Raymond (USA/USA) - 6-4/3-6/6-3.
...and the first #1-seeds fall at Wimbledon '07.

SCORELINE-OF-NOTE #6: Men's Doubles 2nd Rd. - Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa (BRA/BRA) d. #6 Paul Hanley/Kevin Ullyett (AUS/ZIM) - 5-7/7-6/4-6/7-6/28-26.
...14-12! What lazy asses those guys were. 28-26 is a REAL MAN'S type of score. Hmmm, that's probably more games in a set than goals Team Brazil will score in Melo & Sa's lifetime, and their parent's lifetimes, and their grandparents'...

#1 Justine Henin/BEL v. #18 Marion Bartoli/FRA
#6 Ana Ivanovic/SRB or #14 Nicole Vaidisova/CZE vs. #5 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS or #23 Venus Williams/USA

#1 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #20 Juan Carlos Ferrero/ESP
#3 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #12 Richard Gasquet/FRA

Deuce... the match almost started on Saturday. Rafael Nadal thought he'd converted a match point on Monday. He lost a two sets-to-none lead. He got into an intimidation contest with Robin Soderling. It took him six match points stretched out over the course of the contest, and the last was only officially converted after a replay challenge. 6-4/6-4/6-7/4-6/7-5... and then he got the limp-fish-and-look-away handshake from the Swede at the net. No matter, Rafa is still alive in the Round of 16.

BLAST FROM THE PAST SCORELINE #1: Women's Doubles Invitational SF - Jana Novotna/Helena Sukova (CZE/CZE) d. Gretchen Magers/Conchita Martinez (USA/ESP) - 6-4/7-6.
...Backspin always smiles when Jana shows up at the All-England Club.

BLAST FROM THE PAST SCORELINE #2: Women's Invitational Doubles - Liz Smylie/Nathalie Tauziat (AUS/FRA) d. Hana Mandlikova/Lori McNeil (AUS/USA) - 6-3/7-6.
...ah, all of Backspin's old faves are here. Although Hana still must have nightmares about playing during the Martina/Chrissie era, which prevented her from claiming a Wimbledon title -- the only slam she never won.

BLAST FROM THE PAST SCORELINE #3: Men's Invitational Doubles - Goran Ivanisevic/Cedric Pioline (CRO/FRA) d. Pat Cash/Richard Krajicek (AUS/NED) - 6-3/3-6 [10-8].
...all it all, it wasn't a good day for the Krajicek clan.
MATCH, "Was it just me, or did the sight of Justine's brother make you think for a moment"... that Vladimir Putin had decided to pop in for a guest appearance in the friends box during the Henin/Williams match? Just wondering.

TOP QUALIFIERS: Su-Wei Hsieh/TPE & Olga Govortsova/BLR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Amelie Mauresmo/FRA
TOP MID-ROUND (3r-QF): (vacant)
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): (vacant)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Olga Poutchkova/RUS (1r-E.Vesnina/RUS)
UPSET QUEENS: Austrians (Paszek & Meusburger)
REVELATION LADIES: French (Bartoli & Rezai to 3rd Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Olga Govortsova/BLR, Nika Ozegovic/CRO, Tatiana Perebiynis/UKR, Hana Sromova/CZE & Agnes Szavay/HUN (2nd Rd.)
IT GIRL: (vacant)
DOUBLES STAR: (vacant)

All for Day 9.


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