Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 3: Move Over, Anne White (& Billie Jean, too)?

What is it about this year's Wimbledon? First, it was Roger Federer walking onto Centre Court in a cream-colored blazer. Now, it's Bethanie Mattek sporting knee socks and a beach boardwalk rollerskater outfit right out of the 1970's.

You gotta hand it to the girl. It takes some guts to try to upstage one of the Williams sisters, they of the beads, hoop earrings, the infamous catsuit, the go-go boots and a warm-up outfit with "Serena" stitched in sequins on the back. It's a good thing Mattek came up with SOMETHING to distract everyone, since she wasn't in the match from the moment the first ball was struck. Venus made her title defense debut a day late, but not the least bit out of form.

And with Williams' appearance comes the potentially delicious possibility of her raising the champion's plate (or even the RU platter) on July 8, then using the recently-new oncourt interview portion of the ceremony to ask the crowd to voice an opinion on the issue she's taking the lead in championing -- equal pay for the women's field at the All-England Club's championships, just as in the other three grand slam events.

Reading "The Rivals," the moment could harken back to the days in the 1970's (you know, when Mattek's outfit was in fashion) when Billie Jean King was fuming about incidents such as the one tournament in which the purses for the fields were thus: $60,000 for the men, $7,500 for the women. One wonders, if Venus got the expected response from the spectators, if the-powers-that-be might cut off the microphone like they do at the Oscars when the acceptance speech clock winds down. Wouldn't the entire thing be great fun? It'd be a nice post-match sideshow to stick around for after the final ball in struck.

Ah, another reason for Backspin to root for Venus this year.

As for Mattek, though. As inspired as her get-up was today, she's got nothing on Anne White.

White retired the Wimbledon "My God, What is She Wearing?" Award back in 1985 with her lycra bodysuit. It might take Gisela Dulko walking out in a Nike-designed "athletic" string bikini to confiscate that trophy from White's mantle.

Not that too many would hold anything against Gisela if she tried to take the title. And if they were bothered? Who cares.

Love/Love... before the tournament, I wondered how many people would have ever heard the names of qualifiers Ivana Abramovic and Yaroslava Shvedova when their matches began. After their opening matches today, maybe it'd be better for everyone if they weren't remembered for Wimbledon '06. Abramovic was double-bageled by Amelie Mauresmo, while Shvedova suffered the indignity of having to retire from her match with Lisa Raymond while leading the veteran 5-3 in the 1st set.
15/Love... four more qualifiers won today, two women (Clarisa Fernandez & Nicole Pratt) and two men (Alejandro Falla & Irakli Labadze).
15/15... anyone else, at least for a few moments, think that Andy Roddick was going to go down in flames in yet another slam today against Janko Tipsarevic? Not to mention starting to root for it to happen, too? Slams have a way of making players you haven't seen much (or never seen at all) suddenly become your new favorite player, if only for a few hours. Since Roddick won, though... let's go for that all-Andy match-up in the 3rd Round!
30/15... hmmm, Mauresmo only had to complete four of a potential seven matches to win her slam title in Melbourne. Today, Kim Clijsters got a 2nd Round pass with a walkover against Viktoriya Kutuzova. Think it's a sign of something? Nah. Me, either.
30/30... MATCH POINT SAVED WATCH: Dinara Safina did the deed against Jill Craybas (conqueror of Serena Williams a year ago) today.
40/30... one quarter of my men's SF picks was dependent on Felciano Lopez upsetting #5 Ivan Ljubicic in the 1st Round today. After going down two sets, Lopez put on a furious comeback and eventually was up a break in the 5th set. In the end, though, Ljubicic prevailed 11-9 in the deciding stanza, winning on his eighth match point. Figures.
Deuce... Slingin' Sammy Stosur knocked off 's-Hertogenbosch champ Michaella Krajicek in their 1st Round match. So much for that tune-up Netherlands title meaning anything at all at SW19. Last year, Klara Koukalova was the champion. The year before? Mary Pierce.
Ad... how scary was Roger Federer's public dissection of "the man formerly known as" Tim Henman? It was like a cat playing with a trapped mouse. That makes Federer 6-for-6 in sets so far... and I smell a Special Edition of Wimbledon-styled "Federerisms" coming tomorrow.
Deuce... Anna Smashnova lost to Maria Sharapova in the 1st Round today, as expected. You can make a strong -- almost iron-clad -- case that Smashnova is THE worst slam player in WTA history. She has eleven career WTA singles titles (and is 11-0 in finals, no less!), but is the only woman in tour history with ten or more titles who has never once advanced to a slam QF. Her best career results are a pair of Roland Garros 4th Rounds in '95 and '98. She's a combined 30-45 in the four majors, with 25 1st Round exits.
Ad... don't look now, but the "B-team" Americans (hmmm, they need a nickname, I think) are at it again just weeks after their surprising results in Paris. Among the 1st Round winners have been Jamea Jackson, Meilen Tu, Amy Frazier, Mashona Washington, Meghann Shaughnessy, Laura Granville, Shenay Perry, Ashley Harkleroad and Vania King.
Game, "MAKING UP FOR KATIE O'BRIEN'S FAUX PAS"... a day after the Brits seemed to lose their best shot at a 1st Round women's winner, Melanie South and Sarah Borwell

scored wins today. South upset #11-seed Francesca Schiavone, while Borwell downed Marta Domachowska. Next up are Shenay Perry (for South) and Ana Ivanovic (for Borwell). Their chances might not be so good to reach the Round of 32... but if one does manage to make it through it'd at least take away a little of the hurt that'll probably come about this weekend when Beckham and the lads likely disappoint the nation, right?

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


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