Thursday, July 03, 2008

W.10- Foregone Conclusions at the All-England Club

The end results of Day Ten's women's semifinals weren't exactly a foregone conclusion heading into play, but...

well, yeah, they were. Kinda, at least.

I mean, if either of the Williams sisters had lost today it would have been hailed as an upset of supreme import and surprise... and that's just not something that happens to Venus and Serena, at least not in a Wimbledon semifinal.

As it turned out, both sisters had their shaky moments, but it didn't matter.

Venus won the 1st set easily over Elena Dementieva, but when the Russian was unable to convert a break point mid-way through the 2nd set she lost her best opportunity to make a match of things. In a 2nd set tie-break, Venus double-faulted to level the score at 2-2, but after Dementieva's groundstroke error gave Williams a 5-3 lead, it was all but over. Dementieva's movie-quality scream showed that she knew it, too. Final score: Venus 6-1/7-6. One down, one to go.

Serena's rain-marred SF match with Zheng Jie was something of a showcase for both. Serena powered through an easy 1st set, but then Zheng returned after a rain delay with a more aggressive game plan. It suited her well. She actually broke Serena to go up 4-2 in the 2nd and, after another rain delay at 5-5, held a set point. But as the shadows stretched awkwardly over Centre Court, Serena made things right. She, too, pushed the 2nd set to a tie-break. Unfortunately for Zheng, the match ended her own double-fault, but the Cookie will return home a tennis heroine... and with a well-earned respect from the rest of the tennis world, as well. Final score: Serena 6-2/7-6. Now, onto the business at hand.

Both sisters showed their potential vulnerability today, but the Wimbledon paths of Venus and Serena to this final are now thrown out the window. They mean absolutely nothing... and maybe even less than that. They were just a means to an end -- another all-Williams final at a grand slam, but the first in five years.

In the past, Williams-vs.-Williams was always much-hyped, but generally produced anticlimactic affairs, with BOTH sisters rarely playing up to their expected levels. From 2001-03, they met in six-of-eight slam finals, and whichever sister won the 1st set usually walked to a slam title without a great deal of interference... and it was usually the more dominant Serena, of her pre-and-active "Serena Slam" vintage.

But maybe that's changed. They've only played three times since 2003, and Venus has won twice. Their last meeting came in Bangalore in March, with Serena winning a 3rd set tie-break -- the first such event in their history. But this is Wimbledon, and Venus says the All-England Club is special to her, and that Centre Court is her "home."

I'm sure she believes it. But does Serena? Venus' Ultimate Wimbledon Test is about to take place.

As used to often be the case when they were enforcing their will on the rest of the women's field, but rarely all that often upon each other when they were on opposite sides of the net, the '08 Wimbledon has turned out to be all about the Williams sisters. Whether this final will play out like so many others have in the past, we'll find out on Saturday.

But just the possibility that we might finally get the classic match we've always wanted and expected is enough to make it a must-see. Just how historical is turns out to be will be all up the Venus and Serena.

And they wouldn't have it any other way, now would they?

Poor, Rainer Schuettler. He and Arnaud Clement finally finished up their lingering QF match today, spending much time on the court for the second straight day (all the while being dogged by the weather) in order to complete a rollercoaster-of-momentum-swinging match that ended up lasting 5:12. Clement held a match point late in the 5th (Schuettler managed to flip it in his favor with a replay challenge), but Schuettler ended up winning the decider by an 8-6 score.

His reward? A rested Rafa Nadal in the semis. Everyone say a prayer to Borguese for the about-to-be-sacrificed Rainer.

...the second final of the tournament was almost set when #8-seeded Bjorkman/Ullyett upset the top-seeded Bryan brothers in the Men's Doubles SF, but the #9 Dlouhy/Paes vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic match failed to finish, so things will have to wait until tomorrow for the balance of the final to be filled out. Bjorkman is set to retire after the U.S. Open, so this very well could be the last chance for the doubles great to win his final slam title. the juniors, Australian Open Boys champ Bernard Tomic is looking to take a second '08 junior slam crown. He's still alive in the semifinals along with two unseeded players, Henri Kontinen and yet another young Serb named Filip Krajinovic, and #9-seeded Grigor Dmitrov.

Meanwhile, only one seeded player remains in the Girls SF, as well. It's #3 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, perhaps inspired by countrywoman Tammy Tanasugarn's QF run. She'll face Tamaryn Hendler, a mini-Waffle who made news by upsetting #2-seed Arantxa Rus on the same day that there were stories about Justine Henin admitting that she'll "never say never" about a possible comeback down the line. There was good news for the home fans, too, as Brit Laura Robson advanced past #9-seeded Serb Bojana Jovanovski. She'll face Slovak Romana Tabakova, who defeated #5 Polona Hercog.

...and, finally, the '90 Wimbledon Time Capsule featuring Stefan Edberg & Boris Becker was posted today, also.

#6 S.Williams/USA vs. #7 V.Williams/USA

#1 Federer/SUI vs. Safin/RUS
#2 Nadal/ESP vs. Schuettler/GER

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #16 Raymond/Stosur (USA/AUS)
#11 Williams/Williams (USA/USA) vs. Dechy/Dellacqua (FRA/AUS)

#8 Bjorkman/Ullyett (SWE/ZIM) vs.
#9 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) or #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

#1 Srebotnik/M.Bryan (SLO/USA) vs. Kirilenko/Andreev (RUS/RUS)
Stosur/B.Bryan (AUS/USA) vs. #12 Huber/J.Murray (USA/GBR)

Laura Robson/GBR vs. Romana Tabakova/SVK
#3 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA vs. Tamaryn Hendler/BEL

#1 Bernard Tomic/AUS vs. Henri Kontinen/FIN
#9 Grigor Dmitrov/BUL vs. Filip Krajinovic/SRB

[Serena leads 8-7; 1 walkover]
98 Aust.Open 2nd - Venus 7-6,6-1
98 Rome QF - Venus 6-4,6-2
99 Miami F - Venus 6-1,4-6,6-4
99 Grand Slam Cup F - Serena 6-1,3-6,6-4
00 Wimbledon SF - Venus 6-2,7-6
01 Ind.Wells SF - Serena walkover
01 US Open F - Venus 6-2,6-4
02 Miami SF - Serena 6-2,6-2
02 R.Garros F - Serena 7-5,6-3
02 Wimbledon F - Serena 7-6,6-3
02 US Open F - Serena 6-3,6-4
03 Aust.Open F - Serena 7-6,3-6,6-4
03 Wimbledon F - Serena 4-6,6-4,6-2

05 Miami QF - Venus 6-1,7-6
05 US Open 4th - Venus 7-6,6-2

08 Bangalore SF - Serena 6-3,3-6,7-6
08 Wimbledon F - ???

3...Australia (Moore, TOMIC-2)
3...Romania (E.Bogdan, Halep-2)
2...Netherlands (Rus-2)
2...Slovakia (Jurikova, TABAKOVA)
2...Taiwan (Yang-2)
1...Argentina (Pella)
1...Belgium (HENDLER)
1...Bulgaria (DMITROV)
1...China (Zhou)
1...Finland (KONTINEN)
1...Great Britain (ROBSON)
1...India (Bhambri)
1...Mexico (Ramirez)
1...Poland (Janowicz)
1...Serbia (KRAJINOVIC)
1...United States (Harrison)
CAPS- Wimbledon Jr. semifinalists

TOP QUALIFIERS: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez/ESP & Eva Hrdinova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Serena Williams/USA
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd.- Ivanovic d. Dechy 6-7/7-6/10-8 (down 2 MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - Peer d. Safina 7-5/6-7/8-6 (3:;25)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (1st Rd.-lost to Zheng)
UPSET QUEENS: The Russians
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE (all to 3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
COMEBACK PLAYER: Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA
CRASH & BURN: Maria Sharapova/RUS (lost 2nd Rd. to Kudryavtseva)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nicole Vaidisova, CZE (point from being down 6-3/0-6/0-4 to Stosur in 2nd Rd.)
LAST BRITS STANDING: Anne Keothavong & Elena Baltacha, GBR (both to 2nd Rd.)

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


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