W.11- A No-Lose Situation
I'm not exactly sure how to watch Saturday's Ladies final. It's a good problem, though. It's one of those finals where there are loads of reasons to feel good about EITHER Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova being crowned the 2011 champion at the All-England Club.
The Russian successfully scratching her seven-year Wimbledon itch is a wonderful comeback story that would begin to allow us to maybe finally see what she could do as the "unofficial" leading player in the women's game. When Sharapova inherited the #1 ranking from a retiring Justine Henin back in the spring of '08, just months after her dominant run to the Australian Open title that January, she was at the start of what would be a long, bumpy road through shoulder injury, misdiagnosis, surgery and then the two-year quest to regain confidence in her serve, which had always been the base stroke from which all her success emanated. One of the highlights of the early days of Backspin was the Russian going "Supernova" at Wimbledon seven years ago. I stopped using that time-tested nickname a while back when it was apparent that Sharapova was simply no longer the player she'd once been. A Rebirth would be a great full circle moment, and the Russian's star power would finally garner some good coverage for a sport that sorely needs it.
That said, I've made no bones about my growing fondness for the Czech and her game over the past year, since she made her initial Wimbledon Final Four run. Kvitova probably isn't likely to climb into the upper tier of the "All-Time Backspin Team" with the likes of Jelena Dokic and Jana Novotna, but I've been THIS CLOSE for some time to opening the door for her to possibly take a seat in the same general area of "most-favored status" that Justine Henin once occupied. And showing some championship-level mettle surely doesn't hurt her case. Plus, a Kvitova win could turn out to be the first slam-winning salvo not only in a very successful career for the Czech, but also for her tennis generation, which has been hounded, laughed at and denigrated for it's decided lack of heart and/or backbone in the slams the last couple of years. This Wimbledon's semifinals, with three 21-year olds taking big career leaps, is a sign of what IS out there under the beaten-up surface but has just taken a little longer to get to than in previous tennis eras, and Kvitova would seem to currently be the best prepared of the group to become the on-court face of a generation of "the best is yet to come" players. Smiles and charm are great (not that Kvitova doesn't have either), but this is still a sport we're talking about, and the best players need to PLAY like the best players if anyone and everyone is ever going to be able demand the respect that they deserve.
It's a rare no-lose situation. I'm picking Sharapova to win. But, in my heart of hearts, I really WANT Kvitova to. But if Sharapova does win, I'll still feel good about it. Barring another injury, she HAS made it through the dark recent days of her career, and one has to think she's going to win multiple slams beyond this Wimbledon. I've already made an early prediction that Kvitova will win more than two slams in her career -- John McEnroe essentially followed suit last night on NBC, saying she'll win "multiple" slams -- so I think the Czech Maiden will get more opportunities if she doesn't win in her maiden major final (only three of the thirteen other active slams finalists acomplished it in their first try). Still, it's better to be safe than sorry. Nothing is ever assured, and winning in Attempt #1 would be a great start, and can only lead to even greater things.
Considering the in-and-out nature of both players' games sometimes, as Sharapova's serve and Kvitova's forehand have given away chunks of sets at this Wimbledon and other recent tournaments, I'm not sure how brilliantly played this final will be throughout, but it SHOULD be exciting. When it comes down to crunchtime, I'll be hoping for a Kvitova win, but will be ready to admire and embrace Sharapova's grit if she pulls it out.
I just hope one of them follows their heart and WINS the final rather than it be a case of one LOSING it. As long as that happens, it'll be ALL good.
=DAY 11 NOTES=
...in the men's semifinals, Novak Djokovic hung tough against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, stealing the 1st set after the Frenchman had served for the set at 5-4, then going on to win in four sets to advance to his first Wimbledon final. No matter what happens on Sunday, the Serb is now assured of becoming the twenty-fifth man to be ranked #1 in the ATP rankings.
He'll face defending champion Rafael Nadal, who won his twentieth straight SW19 match in four sets over Andy Murray. The Scot put on a performance with very Henman-esque undertones. In other words, he got off to a great start, winning the 1st set and making the British crowd think he might be able to reach the final, then slowly dashed their hopes by wilting under the pressure of the Spaniard while dropping the next three sets fairly systematically.
While the Nadal/Federer rivalry has produced nineteen match-ups in finals (one off the ATP record), including an all-time best eight times in slam finals. But the Nadal/Djokovic combo is starting to make something of a move up those same lists. This will be their tenth match-up in a final, and second (w/ '10 U.S. Open) in a slam. And one would think there will be many more such meetings to come, too.
Djokovic, 47-1 in 2011, is already 4-0 against Nadal this season.
...of the ten women remaining in the Women's Doubles (Final) and Mixed Doubles (SF), only Samantha Stosur and Katarina Srebotnik have ever won a slam title. Only Stosur (w/ 2 Doubles and 2 Mixed) has won a Women's Doubles slam, as Srebotnik (5 Mixed) never has. No one from the list that includes Iveta Benesova, Chan Yung-Jan, Marina Erakovic, Hsieh Su-Wei, Sabine Lisicki, Kveta Peschke, Tamarine Tanasugarn and Elena Vesnina has ever won either. #2-seeded Peschke/Srebotnik reached the final today, while Lisicki/Stosur led Erakovic/Tanasugarn 5-3 in the 3rd of their semifinal, only to be broken and eventually have the match suspended at 5-5 all.
In the Mixed QF, top-seeded Huber/B.Bryan was upset by #9 Benesova/Melzer.
Meanwhile, the top-seeded Bryan brothers will try to add another record to their resume in the final against #8 Lindstedt/Tecau. The Americans have won ten career Men's Doubles slams, one off the Open era record of the Woodies -- Todd Woodbridge (the one who had that famous on-court exchange with Kim Clijsters in Oz) and Mark Woodforde. The team of John Newcombe and Tony Roche (w/ 12) hold the all-time men's mark.
...in the juniors, while Murray went out today, a British male still has a chance to make a name for himself at this Wimbledon. #15 seeded Liam Broady is in the Boys final, where he'll face #16-seeded Aussie Luke Saville. No British boy has won the Wimbledon junior title since the competition was first held in 1968. Only Annabel Croft (1984) and Laura Robson (2008) have won the Girls title for the home nation.
In the Girls competition, Roehampton champ Indy de Vroome (NED) continued her grass court mastery, taking out #7 Yulia Putintseva (RUS) to reach the SF. She'll face Aussie #12-seed Ashleigh Barty. In the other semi, #2 Caroline Garcia (FRA) will meet #3 Irina Khromacheva (RUS). None of the four have ever reached a Girls slam singles final.
In the Girls Doubles, the Netherlands' Demi Schuurs is once again making a 2011 title run, this time with a third different partner. In Melbourne, Schuurs won the title with An-Sophie Mestach. In Paris, she reached the final with Victoria Kan. Now, in London, she's in the semifinals with Tang Haochen.
...and, finally, while Kvitova is the first lefty in the Ladies final since Martina Navratilova, and the first Czech since Jana Novotna, Navratilova and Novotna won their match today and earned the right to face off with Lindsay Davenport & Martina Hingis in the Legends Doubles final. Talk about the potential for things to come full circle.
*WOMEN'S SINGLES FINAL*
#5 Maria Sharapova/RUS vs. #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE
*MEN'S SINGLES FINAL*
#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #2 Novak Djokovic/SRB
*WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
Lisicki/Stosur (GER/AUS) or (LL) Marina Erakovic/Tamarine Tanasguarn (NZL/THA) vs. #2 Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO)
*MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #8 Lindstedt/Tecau (SWE/ROU)
*MIXED DOUBLES SEMIFINALS*
#9 Benesova/Melzer (CZE/AUT) vs. #8 Chan/Nestor (TPE/CAN)
#5 Vesnina/Bhupathi (RUS/IND) vs. Hsieh/Hanley (TPE/AUS)
*GIRLS SINGLES SEMIFINALS*
#12 Ashleigh Barty/AUS vs. Indy de Vroome/NED
#3 Irina Khromacheva/RUS vs. #2 Caroline Garcia/FRA
*BOYS SINGLES FINAL*
#15 Liam Broady/GBR vs. #16 Luke Saville/AUS
*GIRLS DOUBLES SEMIFINALS*
Schuurs/Tang (NED/CHN) vs. Khromacheva/Krejcikova (RUS/CZE)
Haddad Maia/Katsitadze (BRA/RUS) vs. #2 Bouchard/Min (CAN/USA)
*BOYS DOUBLES SEMIFINALS*
#1 Golding/Vesely (GBR/CZE) vs. #3 Artunedo/Carballes (ESP/ESP)
#4 Broady/Horansky (GBR/SVK) vs. #2 Mason/Pavic (GBR/CRO)
*RUSSIANS IN WIMBLEDON LADIES FINAL*
1974 Chris Evert def. OLGA MOROZOVA
2004 MARIA SHARAPOVA def. Serena Williams
2010 Serena Williams def. VERA ZVONAREVA
2011 MARIA SHARAPOVA vs. Petra Kvitova
*CZECHS IN WIMBLEDON LADIES FINAL*
1962 Karen Susman def. VERA SUKOVA
1978 MARTINA NAVRATILOVA def. Chris Evert
1979 MARTINA NAVRATILOVA def. Chris Evert-Lloyd
1981 Chris Evert-Lloyd def. HANA MANDLIKOVA
1986 Martina Navratilova def. HANA MANDLIKOVA
1993 Steffi Graf def. JANA NOVOTNA
1997 Martina Hingis def. JANA NOVOTNA
1998 JANA NOVOTNA def. Nathalie Tauziat
2011 PETRA KVITOVA vs. Maria Sharapova
NOTE: Navratilova's 10 finals between 1982-94 were while representing the United States
7...Caroline Wozniacki (5-2)
5...PETRA KVITOVA (3-1)
3...Victoria Azarenka (2-1)
3...Li Na (2-1)
3...MARIA SHARAPOVA (1-1)
3...Marion Bartoli (1-2)
3...Kim Clijsters (1-2)
8...NOVAK DJOKOVIC (7-0)
8...RAFAEL NADAL (3-4)
4...Nicolas Almagro (3-1)
4...David Ferrer (2-2)
3...Robin Soderling (3-0)
3...Roger Federer (1-2)
*CAREER SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE*
16...Serena Williams (13-3)
14...Venus Williams (7-7)
8...Kim Clijsters (4-4)
5...MARIA SHARAPOVA (3-1)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-2)
23...Roger Federer (16-7)
13...RAFAEL NADAL (10-2)
5...NOVAK DJOKOVIC (2-2)
5...Andy Roddick (1-4)
4...Lleyton Hewitt (2-2)
*ATP #1-RANKED PLAYERS - BY WEEKS*
[as of July 4]
285...Roger Federer *
101...Rafael Nadal *
13...Andy Roddick *
8...Juan Carlos Ferrero *
1...NOVAK DJOKOVIC *
* - active
TOP QUALIFIER: Alexa Glatch/USA
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Alexa Glatch/USA def. Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ 3-6/7-6/12-10
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #23 Venus Williams/USA def. Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN 6-7/6-3/8-6 (2:55)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd. - #9 Marion Bartoli/FRA def. #21 Flavia Pennetta/ITA 5-7/6-4/9-7 (3:09)
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F): xx
TOP UNDER-THE-ROOF MATCH: 2nd Rd. - #23 Venus Williams def. Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-7/6-3/8-6 (2:55)
FIRST WIN: Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN (def. O'Brien/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #22 Shahar Peer (1st Rd. - lost to Pervak/RUS)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-3 in 1st Rd., losses by Stosur & Dokic)
UPSET QUEENS: Russia
REVELATION LADIES: Great Britain
LAST BRITS STANDING: Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong & Laura Robson (2nd Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Misaki Doi/JPN (3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Sabine Lisicki/GER (SF)
IT WOMAN: (WC) Sabine Lisicki/GER
MS. OPPORTUNITY: #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE
COMEBACK PLAYER: #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
CRASH & BURN: #15 Jelena Jankovic/SRB (1st Rd. loss to Martinez-Sanchez/ESP, worst slam result since '05 RG)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #9 Marion Bartoli/FRA - down 3 MP vs. Dominguez-Lino in 2nd Rd., won 9-7 3rd set vs. Pennetta in 3rd Rd., saved 3 MP vs. Lisicki to force 3rd set in QF
Iveta Benesova, CZE
Chan Yung-Jan, TPE
Hsieh Su-Wei, TPE
Samantha Stosur, AUS
Elena Vesnina, RUS
Ashleigh Barty, AUS
Irina Khromacheva, RUS
Indy de Vroome, NED
All for Day 11. More tommorow.