Monday, June 28, 2010

W.7- Some Nice Moments, But Nothing to Text Your Cousin About

Sixteen women came to play at the All-England Club on Day 7, but only eight left with their hopes and aspirations intact.

A little trip along the round-about:

Serena def. Sharapova 7-6(9)/6-4
...the 1st set of this was fit for a Wimbledon time capsule. Harking back to their last grass meeting in the Ladies' final in '04, Serena had her hands full with the Russian. Hitting serves into her power zone, rather than into her body, Williams saw Sharapova stay with her throughout the set even while her first serve percentage lagged behind Serena's throughout. They went to a tie-break, and it was a doozy. Serena opened with an ace, then Sharapova matched her with one of her own. The Russian passed up an overhead smash to hit a high swinging volley, only to see Williams pick it up off the bounce and pass her to take a 3-1 lead. A crosscourt Sharapova off-the-tape forehand winner gave her a 5-3 lead on her fourth straight point. She had a set point at 6-4, but hit a forehand error, then a deep Serena shot to the corner forced another error on set point #2. It knotted things at 6-6. On HER first set point, Serena dumped one forehand return into the net, then did it again to give Sharapova a third set point. Williams pounded an unreturnable serve for 8-8, then another to get HER her second set point. A good second serve from Sharapova led to Serena's backhand return failing to get over the net. At 9-9, a Sharapova double-fault finally gave Williams her first set point on her own serve. Naturally, she smashed an ace to take the tie-break 11-9. Classic stuff. In the 2nd, Williams grabbed an early break for 2-1 and rode it out all the way to the end to win 7-6/6-4. Not exactly what Sharapova was hoping for, but it was good enough to send her into the hard court season with a great deal of hope that she truly IS on her way back. For Serena, it was great match work that'll prepare her for greater things to come. But, first, she'll have to avoid falling victim to Li Na, just as she did in their close (7-6/7-6) Australian Open SF in January.

Li def. A-Rad 6-3/6-2 impressively easy win for Li against an underrated grass court player. Of course, now she's got the chance to stake a claim to that non-calendar "unGrand Slam" if she loses to Serena.

Kvitova def. C-Woz 6-2/6-0
...the Czech, as she has against others in this tournament, simply overpowered the Dane, who exits as a flummoxed and frustrated player for a second consecutive slam (after losing to Schiavone in Paris). Still, this is a very un-Wozniackian scoreline. One wonders if she might be feeling the pressure brought on by the whispers (and more) about whether her mostly non-aggressive game is worthy of her high ranking.

Kanepi def. Zakopalova 6-2/6-4
...Kanepi has the chance to become the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon SF since 1999 (Alexandra Stevenson). Either she or Kvitova will become the third unseeded player since 2000 to do it.

Barbie def. Henin 2-6/6-2/6-3
...after seeing Clijsters grab early leads in 2010's two previous all-Waffle affairs in Brisbane and Miami, it was Henin who had the hot hand in the opening set this time. She broke Clijsters in the first game (KC had led 40/15, then double-faulted at deuce), and maintained her momentum throughout the set. She won it 6-2, but a fall in the middle of the court in the late-going of that set led to several visits from trainers, and it's possible that an injury to her right elbow played a part in Henin sporting a less aggressive game the rest of the match. Or not. With Henin's in-match drifts this season, one can never be sure that any physical ailment caused her to go away from her gameplan, or that it was simply a case of her losing concentration. Either way, Clijsters won a long opening service game in the 2nd set, then took control of the rallies thereafter. Maybe at some point this year, one or both of these two will play a competitive, FULL match against each other. As it is, you'd have to combine their three 2.0 matches to experience that satisfaction. Clijsters is now 3-0 against Henin this season, as Henin has yet to find a way to take total advantage of her countrywoman's vulnerabilities as she did in the past. KC has been inconsistent, but shown far more mettle down the stretch than she did in the pair's 1.0 meetings. All three matches have gone three sets, and she's now taken over the lead in their career head-to-head 13-12. This was only the sixth time in the twenty-five contests that the winner of the 1st set lost the match.

Zvonareva def. JJ 6-1/3-0
...maybe the tide is turning for Zvonareva. After suffering so much injury-related difficulty over the last year or so, she was on the other side of the net when Wozniacki injured her ankle in Charleston. Today, Jankovic fell and apparently injured her back. Mid-way through the 2nd set, JJ retired. Now, if a Russian is to be in the SF of the twenty-third of the last twenty-six slams, the only one it could be is Zvonareva. Afterward, Pam Shriver said that she didn't think Jankovic would ever get back "close to #1" in her career. Hmmm, I guess her current #3 ranking and standing as the highest-ranked woman in the world not related to Oracene Price doesn't count as "close." Oh, well. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose.

Pironkova def. Bartoli 6-4/6-4
...everyone will automatically advance Venus past Pironkova, although the Bulgarian has beaten Williams before in a slam -- in the 1st Round of the Australian Open in 2006. Shriver certainly has, noting late in the day on ESPN2 how that match was essentially the only thing she's ever done in her career worth talking about. Hmmm, again, I guess that win over Dementieva a few months ago doesn't count. Pam had better watch it, and hope Venus doesn't have an "off" day, or we'll be talking about "Wick-mayer II" tomorrow.

Venus def. Groth 6-4/7-6(5)
...after Venus showed up late for the start of the match (she didn't know the procedure for Court 2, and apparently was waiting for a steward to escort her... but one never showed up). As it turned out, she had a tough day against the hard-hitting Groth. But Venus played all the big points better than her Aussie opponent. Williams didn't see her first break point chance in the match until Groth served at 5-4 in the 1st set -- but she converted it to take the lead. Groth broke Venus in the first game of the 2nd, and served for the set at 5-4 and 6-5. Williams broke her both times, and won the tie-break 7-5.

Hmmm, eight matches... and only one three-setter. That Serena/Sharapova tie-break was great, but I'm not sure it was "classic" enough to take up the slack left by the rest of these matches.

...after The Core Four all played on the same day in Paris, they did so in a slam again today. With Clijsters in action, as well, it was The Core Four+One. When I wondered during Roland Garros about whether they'd all been in action on the same day before, I forgot about Wimbledon holding all Round of 16 matches on the same day. Even then, though, assuming weather delays didn't stretch out the schedule to a second day, this was only the third time (2003 & '07) that Serena, Venus, Henin & Sharapova all played in the same SW19 4th Round. And it was only the second time (2003) that Clijsters joined them, not to mention the first time that four of the five played each other. men's play, unseeded Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan became the first Asian man to reach a slam QF in fifteen years with his 4-6/7-6/7-6/6-7/9-7 upset of #4 Andy Roddick in 4:36, the second-longest match of the fortnight (after... well, you know). I like Roddick these days, especially after his reaction to the Dubai Debacle with Peer last year. But I can't help but love to see ESPN2/NBC squirm in their collective seats and get all itchy when the last American man loses.

Needless to say, I think this result lends some credence to my notion from last year that Roddick's loss to Federer in the Men's final was more a case of failing in his last best chance to ever claim a second career slam title rather than the beginning of a new era in which he's a true contender in the year's four biggest events. Of course, since it was mostly American television commentators who tried to prop up the latter belief, there was probably little reality behind it in the first place. Doubles, while Liezel Huber and her partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands reached the QF (def. Hsieh/Kudryavtseva), Cara Black and her partner Daniela Hantuchova did not. They lost to Lisa Raymond & Rennae Stubbs. Inside, did Huber say, "See, I told you she couldn't play?"

Also, Sam Stosur disappointed on the grass yet again, losing with Nadia Petrova to Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. Hey, King finally outlasted Hantuchova in something at this Wimbledon, though. the juniors, the Pliskova sisters opened up their 2010 Wimbledon Girls play and didn't immediately fall on their racket-sized swords in the 1st Round this time. Karolina defeated Chanelle Van Nguyen in straight sets, while Kristyna did the same against Andrea Gamiz.

An award nomination up... oops, in honor of ESPN2, let's say, A award nomination update:

Kim Clijsters, BEL
Kaia Kanepi, EST (leading contender...)
Petra Kvitova, CZE (...unless Kvitova beats her)
Li Na, CHN (she won it for Oz)
Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL

Kim Clijsters, BEL
Lisa Raymond/Rennae Stubbs, USA/AUS (Doubles, or individually in Mixed)
Vera Zvonareva, RUS

...Clijsters hadn't played Wimbledon since 2006, or beaten Henin in a slam since 2002. With her ankle and volcanic temper tantrums, Zvonareva could have easily drifted into the WTA wallpaper like so many of her Russian countrywomen have in '10. Instead, she's the Last Russian Standing at SW19, and is still alive in the Doubles, too. Of course, with Clijsters having already won a 2.0 slam title, and possibly putting Zvonareva out next in their QF meeting, Raymond/Stubbs winning a third straight grass court title this quarter (or at least reaching the final, since they'd probably face Venus & Serena) would be a nice fall-back choice.

Eleanor Dean, GBR (jr)
Petra Kvitova, CZE
Grace Min, USA (jr)

...a pair of juniors with early-round upsets to their credit, and a 20-year old Czech in her first slam QF. If Kvitova reaches the semis, she's a lock here (while the other two would go "back into the deck" for the "Junior Star" award).

...ITF UPDATE: American Jamie Hampton, after appearing in her fifth circuit final of 2010, gets the "ITF Player of the Week" for her winning effort in the $50K challenger in Boston. She defeated Madison Brengle in the final for her second title of the season.

In other challenger news, 15-year old American Madison Keys won her first career pro title in the $10K in Cleveland (hmmm, is SHE lobbying LeBron James, too?). In just her fourth career event (third ITF, along with her '09 Ponte Vedra Beach tour debut), Keys followed up her win in the SF against Gabriela Paz with a victory in the final over Finland's Piia Suomalainen. Meanwhile, Lenka Weinerova (SVK) defeated Jacqueline Cako (USA) in the $25K Kristinehamn event in Sweden.

...and, finally, after a week of talking up the "marquee" match-up that would be one of the "moments of the tournament" when Clijsters faced off with Henin in the Round of 16, when the match actually took place, ESPN2 aired the entire Venus Williams/Jarmila Groth match (with just a few seconds of Clijsters/Henin look-ins), then stuck with the "greatly anticipated, things that dreams are made of, text your cousin because he's GOT to see this to believe it" match between... Roger Federer and Jurgen Melzer. Is this what it's come to? ESPN uses coverage as its all-purpose "get out of jail free" excuse to explain all the lame-assed tennis programming decisions that it makes? And if NBC was allowed to corrupt ESPN2's coverage yet again by embargoing or limiting coverage it's a whole other side of wrong, considering the net got the Serena/Sharapova match live a few hours later and didn't even show highlights of Clijsters/Henin. I don't believe that was the case, though, since ESPN2 did eventually go to Clijsters/Henin... at 3-3 in the 3rd set. Of course, then they went away again and missed Clijsters' break for 5-3.

Should people really have to be connected to three different technologies in order to watch a tennis tournament in real time, especially when the same network broadcasts every second of every World Cup soccer match live to the 1/307th of the American population that gives a crap about seeing any of them?

[Open era]
1969 Rosie Casals, USA
1970 Francoise Durr, FRA
1971 Judy Dalton, AUS
1983 Yvonne Vermaak, RSA
1989 Catarina Lindqvist, SWE
1994 Gigi Fernandez, USA & Lori McNeil, USA
1996 Meredith McGrath, USA
1997 Anna Kournikova, RUS
1998 Natasha Zvereva, BLR
1999 Mirjana Lucic, CRO & Alexandra Stevenson, USA (Q)
2000 Jelena Dokic, AUS
2008 Zheng Jie, CHN (WC)
2010 Kaia Kanepi (Q), EST or Petra Kvitova, CZE (meet in QF) *
ALSO: unseeded Pironkova/BUL vs. #2 V.Williams in QF

*2010 SLAM QF*
2 - Nadia Petrova, RUS
2 - LI NA. CHN
1 - fifteen players

19 - Justine Henin
13 - Maria Sharapova
12 - Elena Dementieva
11 - Svetlana Kuznetsova
9 - Nadia Petrova
[other 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinalists]
4 - Li Na
3 - Vera Zvonareva
2 - Kaia Kanepi
1 - Petra Kvitova
1 - Tsvetana Pironkova

2 - Czech Republic [Berdych/Kvitova]
2 - United States [S.Williams/V.Williams]
1 - Belgium [Clijsters]
1 - Bulgaria [Pironkova]
1 - China [Li]
1 - Estonia [Kanepi]
1 - France [Tsonga]
1 - Great Britain [Murray]
1 - Russia [Zvonareva]
1 - Serbia [Djokovic]
1 - Spain [Nadal]
1 - Sweden [Soderling]
1 - Switzerland [Federer]
1 - Taiwan [Lu]

[through 4th Round]
22-14...Russia (Zvonareva remains)
11-6...United States (Serena & Venus remain)
10-3...Belgium (Clijsters remains)
10-8...Czech Republic (Kvitova remains)
5-1...China (Li remains)
4-0...Bulgaria (Pironkova remains)
4-0...Estonia (Kanepi remains)
2-4...Slovak Republic
0-1...South Africa
0-6...Great Britain
ALSO: 1-France walkover Croatia

*SERENA vs. SHARAPOVA... with notes*
Miami 4th Rd. - Serena 6-4/6-3
Wimbledon Final - Sharapova 6-1/6-4 (Birth of the Supernova)
WTA Championship Final - Sharapova 4-6/6-2/6-4 (SW up 4-0 3rd, with leg injury)
2005 Australian Open SF - Serena 2-6/7-5/8-6 (Sharapova 3 MP)
Australian Open Final - Serena 6-2/6-2 ("The Destruction Heard 'round the World")
Miami 4th Rd. - Serena 6-1/6-1
Charleston QF - Serena 7-5/4-6/6-1 (Sharapova SP in 1st)
Wimbledon 4th Round - Serena 7-6/6-4 (Sharapova 3 SP in 1st)

*HENIN vs. CLIJSTERS... with notes*
$25K Ramat Hasharon QF - Henin 6-1/7-6
$25K Reims Final - Henin 6-4/6-4
Indian Wells 3rd Rd - Clijsters 1-6/6-4/6-3
Roland Garros SF - Clijsters 2-6/7-5/6-3 (JH led 6-2/5-2)
's-Hertogenbosch Final - Henin 6-4/3-6/6-3
Sydney QF - Clijsters 7-6/6-2
Australian Open QF - Clijsters 6-2/6-3
Rome SF - Henin 7-5/6-2
WTA Championships QF - Clijsters 6-2/6-1
Sydney SF - Clijsters 6-2/6-3
Antwerp SF - Clijsters 6-2/7-6
Berlin Final - Henin-Hardenne 6-4/4-6/7-5 (KC 3 MP, led 5-4 in 3rd)
Roland Garros Final - Henin-Hardenne 6-0/6-4
's-Hertogenbosch Final - Clijsters 6-7/3-0 ret. (KC 3 SP in 1st; JHH injured hand)
San Diego Final - Henin-Hardenne 3-6/6-2/6-3 (KC playing for #1 ranking)
U.S. Open Final - Henin-Hardenne 7-5/6-1 (KC 2 SP in 1st)
Filderstadt Final - Clijsters 5-7/6-4/6-2 (KC keeps #1 ranking)
Australian Open Final - Henin-Hardenne 6-3/4-6/6-3 (JHH led 4-2 in 2nd)
Toronto Final - Clijsters 7-5/6-1
Roland Garros SF - Henin-Hardenne 6-3/6-2
Eastbourne SF - Henin-Hardenne 6-3/5-7/6-1
Wimbledon SF - Henin-Hardenne 6-4/7-6 (KC served 6-5 in 2nd)
Brisbane Final - Clijsters 6-3/4-6/7-6 (KC led 6-3/4-1; JH up 3-0 in 3rd, had 2 MP; KC on 4th MP)
Miami SF - Clijsters 6-2/6-7/7-6 (KC led 6-3/3-0; KC on 4th MP)
Wimbledon 4th Rd - Clijsters 2-6/6-2/6-3 (JH injured elbow in fall)

Overall: Clijsters 13-12 (KC 3-0 since comebacks)
3-set Matches: Clijsters 6-5 (KC 3-0 since comebacks)
2-set Matches: tied 7-7
In Grand Slams: Henin 5-3
At Wimbledon: tied 1-1
On Grass Courts: Henin 3-2
Outdoors: Henin 11-10 (KC 3-0 since comebacks)
Winner of 1st Set Match Record: 19-6 (KC 2-0/JH 0-1 since comebacks)

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #9 Li Na/CHN
Petra Kvitova/CZE vs. (Q) Kaia Kanepi/EST
#8 Kim Clijsters/BEL vs. #21 Vera Zvonareva/RUS
Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL vs. #2 Venus Williams/USA

#1 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #12 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#3 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. Lu Yen-Hsun/TPE
#10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #4 Andy Murray/GBR
#6 Robin Soderling/SWE vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP

#1 S.Williams/V.Wililams (USA/USA) vs. #12 Benesova/Zahlavova-Strycova (CZE/CZE) or Vesnina/Zvonareva (RUS/RUS)
#4 Dulko/Pennetta (ARG/ITA) vs. Goerges/Szavay (GER/HUN)
#6 Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO) vs. King/Shvedova (USA/KAZ)
#7 Raymond/Stubbs (USA/AUS) vs. #2 Huber/Mattek-Sands (USA/USA)

#14 Benneteau/Llodra (FRA/FRA) vs. Chela/Schwank (ARG/ARG)
#16 Lindstedt/Tecau (SWE/ROU) vs. #11 Granollers/Robredo (ESP/ESP)
Lu/Tipsarevic (TPE/SRB) or Melzer/Petzschner (AUT/GER) vs. Bopanna/Qureshi (IND/PAK)
#7 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL) vs. Ball/Guccione (AUS/AUS) or #2 B.Bryan/M.Bryan (USA/USA)

#1 Stosur/Zimonjic (AUS/SRB) vs. Clijsters/Malisse (BEL/BEL)
#10 Stubbs/Melo (AUS/BRA) vs. #6 Mattek-Sands/Nestor (USA/CAN)
Shvedova/Knowle (KAZ/AUT) vs. Hsieh/Soares (TPE/BRA)
#11 Raymond/Moodie (USA/RSA) vs. #7 Kleybanova/Mirnyi (RUS/BLR)
#8 Yan/Fyrstenberg (CHN/POL) vs. #9 Benesova/Dlouhy (CZE/CZE)
Smith/Marray (GBR/GBR) vs. Dushevina/Tursunov (RUS/RUS)
#5 Srebotnik/Knowles (SLO/BIH) vs. Dulgheru/Marrero (ROU/ESP) or #12 Chan/Hanley (TPE/AUS)
Rosolska/Zelenay (POL/SVK) vs. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Kaia Kanepi/EST
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Venus Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Junri Namigata/JPN def. Karolina Pliskova/CZE 6-2/4-6/14-12
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #24 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK def. Vania King/USA 6-7/7-6/6-3
FIRST WINNER: Chan Yung-Jan/TPE (def. Patty Schnyder/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #5 Francesca Schiavone (1st Rd. - lost to Vera Dushevina/RUS)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: Francesca Schiavone/ITA & Samantha Stosur/AUS (RG finalists, both lost in 1st Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR (last of six to lose in 1st Rd.)

All for Day 7. More tomorrow.


Blogger Kumar said...

Disappointment yet again for/from Justine. Incredibly hard to root for her at this time, because she is simply flattering too much to deceive in career 2.0. I cannot help but conclude that we should just throw all the glorious history of her past career out of the window, because nothing seems to have any bearing on how she performs now. I know, I know, it is just 6 months since her return, but also potentially just 2 years till her (permanent) retirement.

I am just exhausted analyzing her game to death, there is just so much to dislike about her approach now. And there is only so much I can take of seeing her hitting her topspin backhand from far beyond the baseline, falling backwards, head jerking up, while her opponent (insert Barbie/clone) stands on the baseline yanking her around.

Mon Jun 28, 10:42:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will have to sat what this girl said before: "Good done, well job"

Tue Jun 29, 06:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

damn it. justine would have been ever so close if she has beaten kim now that venus is out. so mad at her game, she always suffers this dip after a great match play the last. and her now-normal 2nd set dip/lapse is just unforgivable. it's too costly. she has all the potential and yet she couldn't think properly and execute well.

and now with the new elbow injury and the lingering shoulder problem...seriously don't know when she will get things together. am disappointed and mad all the same time.

Tue Jun 29, 07:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

you guys should be happy she lost -- the more she loses, the moodier she will become; and a moody justine, is a championship-winning justine (see moody justine circa birth - 2007)

i jest, of course

she was a different player after the fall.

Tue Jun 29, 09:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I agree, there is some frustration in watching her this season. Even I picked her to lose the Barbie match before the tournament... AFTER she'd just won a title in the Netherlands, too.

But, hey, look at the semifinalists -- frustrations CAN be overcome.

I'm wondering if this same scenario plays out at the Open and the rest of the season how she might approach the offseason differently, including possibly changing her game and be-nicer mindset.

I know you were (sort of) joking, Eric, but I had that same thought go through my mind after she lost. Much like Serena, Henin in a bad mood and angry about letting something slip away might be the best thing to happen to her 2.0 career. Maybe that's where the focus will be re-born.

Tue Jun 29, 10:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

todd, eric, i agree. i am starting to resent that atiitude of ever-satisfying-on-interim comeback trail so far. this new whatever peaceful justine off court is traslating into a tentative justine on court. never really went for her shots with conviction, it's like she is ever not able to make up her mind and not thinking straight. just difficult to watch after january. at least in january, she was more spontaneous, now she is really getting one dimensional like a mechanics and not changing up when not working. and the wandering in the park during and between matches. she better be angry at herself (and not just being sad and still feels ok with the results), cos i think we all are. and yes i blame the fall too, but heck she still clinched the first set. the problem is the self belief was not there.

Wed Jun 30, 06:10:00 AM EDT  
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Thu Jul 07, 01:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger sanbo said...

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Thu Jul 07, 01:15:00 AM EDT  

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