Tuesday, July 01, 2008

W.8- Where There's a Will There's a Williams at Wimbledon



A Williams is going to win Wimbledon. It's just a matter of which one it's going to be. At this point, it's difficult to come to any other conclusion.

Even if either Venus or Serena loses her semifinal match in a shocking upset, it'd be almost ridiculous to think the other would fall in the final to the same person (sure, Justine Henin beat both at the Open last year, but she's not in London). And the idea of BOTH sisters losing to Zheng Jie and Elena Dementieva is simply such a through-the-looking-glass notion that it's almost not even worth talking about.

Now, I've been saying that one of the Williams sisters was going to win this title for a while now, going back to before the season even began, but I never really wanted to commit to which one, considering all the weird things that could happen in the Land of Williams over the course of the first six months of the season. But, I can say that I've always sort of sided with Venus over Serena as my preferred champion for this '08 event. If for nothing else, for history's sake as Venus tries to add a fifth SW19 crown to her career haul. But after today, I'm a little worried.


AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

You see, while Venus was a semi-shaky in her quarterfinal win over Tamarine Tanasugarn, Serena was anything but against Agnieszka Radwanska. In fact, Serena had "the look" today. You remember it. We saw it in Melbourne in 2005 and 2007, and you know what happened there.

Oh, Serena wasn't perfect. She had one bad game. Yeah, just one. She committed three unforced errors and had her serve broken in the 1st set. Thing is, for the rest of her 6-4/6-0 win she committed just three OTHER errors. In the 2nd set, she allowed just two points on her serve as she bageled the Polish teenager and seemed to be striving for something even "better" than a shutout. She looked like she was on a mission.

Uh-oh.

A short time before Serena's win, Venus met yet another unseeded player and allowed her to stay in the match by finding herself down break points over and over again. Tanasugarn had nine of them, but only converted one in Williams' 6-4/6-3 victory. Venus has a way of doing what she needs to do as each round goes by at SW19, but if she's to meet her sister in the final on Saturday she's going to have to step up her game to walk away with title #5.

Serena has usually bested her in their matchups on the biggest stages, anyway. Of course, they haven't met in a grand slam final since the 2003 Wimbledon (Serena won in three sets), or a grand slam at all since the 2005 U.S. Open. Venus has won two of the last three all-Williams meetings, but they've only played three times since 2003, with the last coming a few months ago in Bangalore -- maybe the "best" match ever between the sisters, with Serena taking the SF contest in a 3rd set tie-break.

But if Serena's performance today was a sign that she's in that "dominance zone" we've come to recognize, even if we don't really expect to see it as often as we used to, then Venus will have to prove like she never has before just how special the All-England Club's Centre Court REALLY is for her game. The Ultimate Venus Test is now just two matches away. Is Wimbledon so special to her that she can turn back her little sister, even when she has fire in her eyes?

We shall see... unless the unthinkable happen, of course.



=DAY 8 NOTES=
With semifinalists from the U.S., Russia and China, would we be correct in terming this the first-ever grand slam SF of superpowers past, present and future?

...Zheng Jie continued to write additional scenes into this tournament's top feel-good story with her three-set win over Nicole Vaidisova, who again veered from promising to disinterested throughout the match. Maybe some time away to get her head straight would be the correct move for the top-ranked Czech Maiden, especially when you consider she made it this far at Wimbledon while hardly giving 100% effort 100% of the time. There's too much talent there to waste.

Maybe now the all-time WTA titles leader, who has now also authored the best slam singles result ever by a Chinese player, won't be slighted by commentators calling her only a doubles specialist. The "change" seemed to occur during NBC's coverage today, when the total "shock" about her result here was finally combined with a note about the reason that her ranking was #133 coming into this event was because of her long injury layoff in singles.

...of course, NBC commentator Mary Carillo also made the half-joking comment about Serena being a semifinalist "whose name we can pronounce" after Williams defeated A-Rad. Come on, Mary... don't fall prey to that "ESPN-and-NBC-tennis-viewers-haven't-watched-a-tennis-match-since-Martina-vs.-Chrissie, so you-have-to- act-like-YOU-don't-know-anything-about- any-of-these-non-American-players, either," sort of stuff -- you should be better than that.

...China's day of tennis glee didn't end with Zheng. The male player development is way behind that of the females, but in the Boys draw today the #4-seeded Jerzy Janowicz was upset by China's Zhang Ze.

...Elena Dementieva almost reversed course and went from Punch-Sober to Punch-Drunk all over again against Nadia Petrova in their QF match. If she'd followed up her Roland Garros collapse against Dinara Safina with another, it'd been hard to argue against her regression. Today she led 6-1/5-2, served for the match twice, and held two MP in the should-never-have-happened tie-break before Petrova sent the match to a 3rd set. In Paris, Dementieva fell apart after losing a lead. She didn't repeat the performance this time, grabbing a 4-0 lead and winning the decider by a 6-3 score to reach her first career Wimbledon SF. Good for Elena. Sorry, Nadia... but hopefully she's finally got her career going back in the right direction.

...and, finally, kudos to whoever it was who scheduled the ad during NBC's coverage for Hong Kong tourism. The commercial aired just after Zheng defeated Vaidisova, even though if the Williams/Radwanska match had lasted longer the Zheng/Vaidisova match may not have been shown at all. I don't know if there was a contingency plan for the placement of the ad or not, but it worked out pretty how when the dust had settled on Day Eight.





=MIDDLE ROUND AWARDS - 3rd Rd.-to-QF=
TOP PLAYER: Zheng Jie/CHN
...sure, maybe it could be someone else. But why not go with the best middle-round story? (RU: Serena Williams/USA)
RISERS: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL & Bethanie Mattek/USA
...the next chapter of their stories are sure to be of interest in NYC, as well.
SURPRISE: Zheng Jie/CHN
...the Cookies were held out of Wimbledon in the past, but the two best Chinese slam performances have come there -- Zheng's SF and Li Na's QF in 2006.
VETERANS: Venus Williams/USA & Elena Dementieva/RUS
...let's see, Dementieva is the #5 seed. Venus is #7. Yep, sounds about "right."
FRESH FACES: Alisa Kleybanova/RUS & Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS
...the last Wimbledon survivors from the Next Wave reached the 4th Round.
DOWN: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS
...will the real AnaIvo please stand up. Svetlana? Well, unfortunately, we seem to know the real Contessova.
COMEBACKS: Tamarine Tanasugarn/THA & Nadia Petrova/RUS
...Tammy's great surge will probably be restricted to the grass. Nadia might be able to carry over her momentum to North America, though.

MOST DRAMATIC MATCH THAT PROVED PARIS ISN'T LONDON: 3rd Rd. - Peer d. Safina 7-5/6-7/8-6
...at Roland Garros, Safina would have won this match. In London, she dropped the 3:25 match after leading 5-3 in the 3rd and deteriorating into a mass of cramps and frustration. Maybe Marat stole her mojo?

THE USUAL: Jelena Jankovic failed to grab the #1 ranking, and went out in an inglorious blaze, injured and with her decision-making skills being seriously questioned. On the bright side, her Round of 16 result (matching her Wimbledon finishes the last two years) means she's either bettered or matched her previous year's performance at fifteen of sixteen slams. She doesn't take steps back, but she hasn't found a way to take that big leap forward, either.
BIGGEST CHOKE: Svetlana Kuznetsova's woes in finals are spreading like a plague. In the 4th Round against Radwanska, she served for 5-2 in the 3rd set, only to fall on the worn baseline, get broken and lose the deciding set 7-5. She had a shot to grab the #1 ranking, too, by the way.
NOT A BAD TOURNAMENT: At this time last year, Zheng Jie was injured and would soon watch her singles ranking plummet. At SW19, she got a wild card, knocked the first seed out of the tournament on Day One, took out world #1 Ana Ivanovic and became the first Chinese woman to reach a slam singles SF.
LADIES OR JUNIORS, THE TREND IS THE SAME: As always occurs in the Ladies draw, the British juniors managed to knock off top seeds on the grass in the early-going of the Girls event, too. Naomi Brody eliminated #7 Ana Bogdan in the 1st Round, while Laura Robson upset #1 Melanie Oudin in the 2nd today.
CRASH & BURNERS: None of the top four women's seeds managed to reach the QF, the first time that's happened in the Open era.

And, finally...

*IS THERE ANY DOUBT WHY THE WOMEN HAD TO SCRATCH AND CLAW FOR EQUAL PRIZE MONEY, AND HAVE TOP SEEDS SENT TO OUTSIDE COURTS WHILE THE TOP MEN REMAIN ON THE SHOW COURTS, WHEN...*
...the early losses of Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic caused British television and radio broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan, a frequent guest in the Royal Box, to lament the "great tragedy of Wimbledon." "For me," he said, "the glamour has left."

He said that a few days ago, before the QF, but I doubt if anything has changed since then. I'd assume that semifinalists with six Wimbledon titles, fourteen grand slam singles titles, twenty-four grand slam final appearances and the best-ever result by a player from the world's fastest-growing nation (in tennis terms and otherwise) just weeks after a REAL epic tragedy rocked her nation (and home province) just months before the Olympics were supposed to usher in a "new age" wouldn't be good enough for Sir Terry to maintain much interest in the upcoming matches, either.

'Tis pity for him.



*WOMEN'S SF*
(WC)Zheng/CHN vs. #6 S.Williams/USA
#5 Dementieva/RUS vs. #7 V.Williams/USA

*MEN'S DOUBLES SF*
#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #8 Bjorkman/Ullyett (SWE/ZIM)
#9 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. #1 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)




*SLAM SF - ACTIVE*
18...Lindsay Davenport (7-11)
17...VENUS WILLIAMS (12-4)
13...SERENA WILLIAMS (10-2)
10...Maria Sharapova (4-6)
8...Amelie Mauresmo (3-5)
6...Mary Pierce (6-0)
5...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (2-2)

*MOST SLAM SF - 2005-08*
9...Maria Sharapova (3-6)
8...Justine Henin (7-1)-ret.
5...Kim Clijsters (1-4)-ret.
4...Ana Ivanovic (3-1)
4...VENUS WILLIAMS (2-1)
4...Amelie Mauresmo (2-2)
4...Jelena Jankovic (0-4)
3...SERENA WILLIAMS (2-0)
3...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-1)

*2008 SF - AMERICANS*
4...SERENA WILLIAMS (3-0)
4...Lindsay Davenport (2-1 + L)
2...VENUS WILLIAMS (0-1)
2...Jill Craybas (1-1)
1...Ashley Harkleroad (0-1)
1...Bethanie Mattek (0-1)

*SLAM "MISS OPPORTUNITY" WINNERS*
=2004=
AO - Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
RG - Anastasia Myskina, RUS & Elena Dementieva, RUS
WI - Maria Sharapova, RUS
US - Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
=2005=
AO - Nathalie Dechy, FRA
RG - Mary Pierce, FRA
WI - Venus Williams, USA
US - Elena Dementieva, RUS
=2006=
AO - Martina Hingis, SUI
RG - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
WI - Severine Bremond, FRA
US - Tatiana Golovin, FRA
=2007=
AO - Serena Williams, USA
RG - Maria Sharapova, RUS
WI - Marion Bartoli, FRA
US - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
=2008=
AO - Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
RG - Ana Ivanovic, SRB
WI - Zheng Jie, CHN

*SLAM "COMEBACK" WINNERS*
2007 AO - Serena Williams, USA
2007 RG - Patty Schnyder, SUI
2007 WI - Venus Williams, US
2007 US - Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2008 AO - Yan Zi/Zheng Jie, CHN-CHN
2008 RG - Elena Dementieva, RUS
2008 WI - Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA

*2008 SLAM SF BY NATION*
4...Serbia
4...RUSSIA
2...UNITED STATES
1...CHINA
1...Slovakia

*MOST 2008 WTA SF - NATION*
31...RUSSIA
13...UNITED STATES
11...Serbia
10...France
6...Spain
5...CHINA
5...Czech Republic
5...Italy




TOP QUALIFIERS: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez/ESP & Eva Hrdinova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Zheng Jie/CHN
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xxx
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)
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xxx
=============================
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (1st Rd.-lost to Zheng)
UPSET QUEENS: The Russians
REVELATION LADIES: 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
MISS OPPORTUNITY: Zheng Jie/CHN
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.)
DOUBLES STARS xxx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xxx



All for Day 8. More tomorrow.

6 Comments:

Blogger Uros said...

What is "MISS OPPORTUNITY" award?

Wed Jul 02, 09:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I always give it to the player that most takes advantage of the "opportunity" provided to her at each slam. She usually either attains a new career-best grand slam result, advances surprisingly far in the tournament, or finally reaches her full potential and wins her first grand slam title.

Of course, at Roland Garros it becomes the "Mademoiselle Opportunity" award, and if the winner is married, it'd be either the "Ms. or Mrs. Opportunity" award. Trying to cover all the contingencies, don't you know. :)

Wed Jul 02, 07:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Uros said...

Thank you.

Wed Jul 02, 08:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Uros said...

And IT GIRL? :)

Wed Jul 02, 08:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, I use it as sort of an off-shoot of the old Hollywood term "It Girl," which was used to describe the latest young starlet who garnered a great deal of media coverage, sometimes disproportionate to her actual accomplishments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_girl

Of course, I cling to the good connotations of the term, and try to give it to the young player whose achievements at each slam make them the "new face" on the scene, or the subject of far more attention than she might have previously received.

The young women who were stuck with the Hollywood term either went on to become full-fledged stars, or soon drifted into the background once their burst of initial fame had subsided. In a way, I think my "It Girl" winners pretty much do the same.

Oh, and in case you were going to ask, the "Zombie Queen" is the player who generally accomplishes the most after having been seemingly "left for dead" earlier in the tournament because of a particularly large deficit she might have found herself facing in an early-round match. Venus Williams' escape from near-certain elimination at last year's Wimbledon caused that award to be created. :)

Thu Jul 03, 11:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Uros said...

Thank you.
And Zombie queen is perfect clear, but thanx. :)

Thu Jul 03, 09:23:00 PM EDT  

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