Monday, July 03, 2006

Day 7: Eight Down, Four to Go

Roger Federer has been mercilessly mowing (no pun intended) through opponents on the grass, but don't think he's not fully cognizant of what's happening on the other side of the draw.

King Roger has won all twelve sets he's contested, and although Mario Ancic is the last player to defeat him at Wimbledon (in 2002) there's every reason to believe he could reach the final with a still-perfect slate after meeting Ancic, then the Radek Stepanek/Jonas Bjorkman winner in the SF. That much we know.

We can also be fairly certain that after Federer departed for Halle while Rafael Nadal pointed towards London following their Roland Garros final on Rafa's favorite clay battleground a few weeks ago, he never thought he'd get a shot at his nemesis on HIS preferred surface at SW19. If he's the champion we know he is, his mouth is now watering at the possibility... because it could very well happen.

Not even Nadal could have thought, even with his less-than-imposing early round draw, that his grass court schooling would come so far so fast that he seems a certainly to reach the SF, and will have as good a shot as his opponent at winning a SF match-up with either Lleyton Hewitt or Marcos Baghdatis. But here we are. Twelve matches needed to be won for another Federer/Nadal clash.

Eight down, four to go for the next chapter in tennis' most compelling storyline.

You know that Federer wants it. So does Nadal. But while that match would be frought with incredible excitement, it'd also be drenched in danger for the world #1. Nadal had all the pressure in Paris, but Federer would have it (exponentially so) all on his shoulders in London.

All great rivalries need an appropriate stage to reach their epic potential, and Centre Court would be as good a stage as any stage can get. Four more matches and Federer/Nadal passes through history's prism and has the chance to become something for the ages.

=1st SEED OUT=
Australian: #9 Dementieva (1r-Schruff)
Roland Garros: #18 Likhovtseva (1r-Sprem)
Wimbledon: #28 Arvidsson (1r-Birnerova)

Australian: Spaniards
Roland Garros: Americans
Wimbledon: Brits

Australian: Italians
Roland Garros: French
Wimbledon: Serbs

Australian: Olga Savchuk (3r)
Roland Garros: Julia Vakulenko/Aravane Rezai (3r)
Wimbledon: Severine Bremond

Australian: Samantha Stosur (4r)
Roland Garros: Nicole Vaidisova (QF)
Wimbledon: Na Li

Australian: Martina Hingis (QF)
Roland Garros: Svetlana Kuznetsova (RU)
Wimbledon: ??

Love/Love... hmmm, Maria Sharapova didn't have as easy a time against Flavia Pennetta as expected, did she? But does the 7-6/3-6/6-3 win hint at trouble down the road... say, against Amelie Mauresmo in the SF?
Love/15... looks like Daniela Hantuchova was a no-show again in a very important match. (Of course, JHH has to take at least a little of the "blame" for today."
15/15... Severine Bremond pulled another upset for her seventh straight win on the grass (three in qualifying in Roehampton, and now four in the Wimbledon main draw). "The Counselor" (her WTA bio says she attended the University of Law of Montpellier) is the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon QF since Jelena Dokic and Alexandra Stevenson in '99.
15/30... it's always important to follow up a big upset with a solidifying next-round victory. See Nicole Vaidisova in Paris, but not Jelena Jankovic today against Anastasia Myskina.
15/40... Washington, D.C.-born Shenay Perry became the last American to lose in singles, to Elena Dementieva. This is the first time no American has reached the men's or women's QF at Wimbledon since... gulp, 1911.
30/40... in notable Doubles results, #1-seeded Raymond/Stubbs were knocked out by 2002-03 Wimbledon finalists Ruano-Pascual/Suarez. Oh, and Venus actually WON a match... in Mixed with Bob Bryan, that is.

Na Li dashed any possibility of a Supernova vs. Dynamova final, eliminating Nicole Vaidisova in three sets (dropping the Czech to 33-7 in career three-setters, but 0-2 in her last two). Li is the first Chinese player to ever reach a slam QF, good enough to make her this slam's "It" Girl (and maybe "Miss Opportunity, too, if things fall right in the QF).
Ad... NBC actually showed live tennis today, and put ESPN2 to shame (even with the "Grand Slam Network" doing a much better job in London than it did in Paris) as far as moving around from match-to-match and providing a nice general sense of the current goings-on around the grounds.
Game, "SHE'S NO BECKHAM, BUT MAYBE THAT'S NOT SO BAD AT THE MOMENT"... on the day that Andy Murray was bounced by Marcos Baghdatis, Britain's Julia Bone won her 1st Round junior match over Marina Erakovic 7-5/2-0 ret. As it turned out, Murray lost twice on Day 7. He and Kirsten Flipkens were eliminated in the 2nd Round of Mixed by Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Frantisek Cermak...

(Did you hear that distant shout of "Allez!"? Yep, that was Virginie Pichet.)

...thereby beginning what everyone in the country will likely soon see as the beginning of his very own Henman-esque ten-year cycle of disappointment, right?

...the women's Elite 8 includes five players who have combined for nine slam titles, and another who's been a two-time slam RU.

In the "Russian half" of the draw:

#1 Mauresmo v. #9 Myskina... the Czarina has shown very well on grass the last two-plus weeks, but Mauresmo's game fits so snugly on these courts. Mauresmo probably won't win SW19, but she's got at least one more round before the pressure can really get to her. PICK: MAURESMO in 2 SETS... one close, one not
#4 Maria Sharapova v. #7 Elena Dementieva... was the Pennetta match a hiccup, or a bad sign? For now, it's the former. PICK: SHARAPOVA in 2 SETS... maybe 4 & 4

In the "Belgian half," the Waffles seem on a collision course for another slam SF meeting:

#3 Justine Henin-Hardenne v. Severine Bremond(Q)... JHH has a 15-match winning streak and has yet to lose a set in this tournament. Bremond has won seven straight to get here. The fairy tale ends here. PICK: HENIN-HARDENNE in 2 SETS... easy
#2 Kim Clijsters v. #27 Na Li... Li has defied expectations so far, and I'd love to pick her here. But as much as I hate to put any confidence in Clijsters, I'll give her very tepid support in this match. PICK: CLIJSTERS in 3 SETS... with the 3rd being a 7-5 or 8-6 nail-biter

**MEN'S QF**
#1 Federer d. #7 Ancic... the Croat will give Federer his biggest test so far, and might even take a set off him. I said, MIGHT.
#14 Stepanek d. Bjorkman... Martina Hingis went out earlier than expected, but her boyfriend has lasted longer than anticipated. All in all, a wash... and appropriately so since the winner here will likely be demolished in his next match.
#6 Hewitt d. #18 Baghdatis... I picked Hewitt to make the final from the start, so for that reason I'll stick with him. But Baghdatis is looking awfully comfortable out there for a guy who'd never won a match on grass until recently, and we saw in Melbourne what he can do when he gets on a roll.
#2 Nadal d. #22 Nieminen... reaching the SF so early in his grass court developmental stage would be quite an accomplishment, but Nadal has the eye of the tiger and the desire to meet The King himself (and I'm not talking about Royal Box guest Stefan Edberg, either).

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


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