Tuesday, June 25, 2013

W.2- 1-6-17

Just like Nik Wallenda walking a high wire over the Grand Canyon, there was little REAL doubt that Serena Williams wasn't going to be successful in her 1st Round match at Wimbledon on Day 2. But there's always a CHANCE something could happen... so we watch.

But, come on... you know The Radwanska wasn't going to alter Serena's course. Look at how much work Its done with Serena OFF court this past week, and then with nearly everyone else on Day 1. Even The Rad doesn't have enough energy to pull off another coup on Day 2. Right?


Against Luxembourg's Mandy Minella, Williams didn't drop a single point on serve in the 1st set. She fell down 2-0 -- wink-wink, Rad -- in the 2nd set, but went on to win 6-1/6-3 in less than an hour (in front of Minella's grandmother, in to see Mandy's big moment on Centre Court on "Ladies Day"), moving her career 1st Round slam record to 51-1. Serena's winning streak how stands at thirty-two matches, breaking a tie on the all-time WTA list with Chris Evert's 1971 run and tying her for 17th with Steffi Graf (1994). Another win would move her into a tie for the 14th-longest streak in tour history.

But those aren't the most important numbers at the moment -- those would be "1," "6" and "17." As in... one down, six to go for #17.

...while Serena is the present and, for a while longer, still the future of WTA and American tennis, one of the players with a bright future of her own made her Wimbledon debut on Day 2 as 18-year old Madison Keys' big game took out Brit Heather Watson 6-3/7-5, making the notion of the British women being completely shut out in the 1st Round a very real possibility (more on that in a moment).

In other matches, 42-year old Kimiko Date-Krumm defeated 18-year old qualifier Carina Witthoeft. KDK isn't the oldest women's singles match winner ever at Wimbledon, though. No, that would be Martina Navratilova, who actually came back from a ten-year singles absence to win a match at age 47 in 2004. Much younger vet Li Na (slightly surprisingly) easily handled Michaella Krajicek, a good grass courter, 6-1/6-1, while Simona Halep notched her eleventh straight match win with a victory over Olga Govortsova.

Former semifinalist Sabine Lisicki, with all three of her QF-or-better slam results having come at Wimbledon (the last three she's played, actually), allowed just three games to Francesca Schiavone. And Daniela Hantuchova, who had her slam breakout with a QF at Wimbledon in 2002, and just won her first grass court title in Birmingham, lost in straight sets to #32 seed Klara Zakopalova. The Slovak has now lost in the 1st Round at back-to-back Wimbledons.

Meanwhile, Serena's "tough" path to the final saw Zheng Jie (a past SW19 semifinalist) and Tamira Paszek (back-to-back QF) removed from the equation. Zheng lost to qualifier Caroline Garcia and, as a pre-SW19 trend continued, Tamira Paszek's horrendous grass court season came to a merciful end as the #28 seed went down to Alexandra Cadantu 6-2/7-5. The Austrian won't have to deal with not living up to her seed at next year's Wimbledon, because there is no way her non-grass court results will lift her ranking high enough to make her a seed in London in 2014. Well, I guess that'll be the case unless The Rad wipes out everyone else between now and then.

Speaking of, Agnieszka Radwanska began the defense of her 2012 runner-up points -- and her alter ego's damn-near-successful attempt to take over the world -- with an easy 6-1/6-1 win over qualifier Yvonne Meusburger. Nice try, Yvonne... but every battle has its front line casualties, and you played the part to the hilt this time around. Bravo!

The other human half of the malelovant mayhem-maker, Urszula, also won on Day 2, winning in three sets over Mallory Burdette. Humorously -- or not, since maybe someone at ESPN was trying to slip in the message I've been preaching about The Rad being composed with TWO human souls, not just one -- at one point ESPN listed Ula's win on screen as simply "Radwanska" defeating the American, not designating which sister it was who'd won.


...Victoria Azarenka's MRI showed "no structural damage" and she Tweeted a thanks to her fans for their support, citing her "good news." She didn't take to the outside courts for a scheduled practice session, but did partake of one indoors. I guess we'll see how things are going with her knee, and her chances for a possible SF/Final run, when she hits the court for her 2nd Round match on Wednesday.


-- Laura Robson's 6-3/6-4 win over #10 Maria Kirilenko, the first by a British woman at Wimbledon since 1998 (Samantha Smith def. Conchita Martinez) made the 19-year old the "Last Brit Standing." Well, the ONLY Brit standing, actually. Her six countrywomen lost their 1st Round matches, though at least wild card Tara Moore gave Kaia Kanepi a nice run today, dropping a 7-5 3rd set. So, Robson's big stage results once again put a shine on her career, as she's upset the likes of Clijsters, Li and Kvitova in slams over the past year, as well. Now, the world #38 just needs to cut down on those losses to players ranked BELOW her, especially the ones ranked in triple-digits (she's had two of those in 2013).

Of course, Robson's win doesn't absolve the woeful British effort. The Brits went 1-6, earning the "Nation of Poor Souls" for the second time at the four Wimbledons in which it's been in play. Their 0-6 mark in 2010 established the award.

-- a pair of Hordettes were the two contenders for this Wimbledon's "Crash & Burn" dishonor. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, living up to the self-fulfilling notion of her lack of grass court ability (no matter what anyone tells her), lost love & 1 to The Pironkova, a.k.a. Tsvetana Pironkova anywhere in the world other than at the All-England Club. But she isn't the "C & B" for this slam. No, that would be Nadia Petrova.

(shakes head)

She lost today to Karolina Pliskova, 6-3/6-2. Petrova is 0-3 in slam singles matches in 2013, following up her great comeback season of '12 with a typically Petrovian stumble and fall. Of course, at least Nadia's loss this time doesn't come with a smirking, age-related comment attached. In Melbourne, she lost to Date-Krumm, who (unlike at SW19) was the oldest match winner in AO history, while in Paris it was 19-year old Monica Puig, making her grand slam debut, who put her out.

Oh, Nadia.

-- Pliskova's win headlines the Czech Maidens' claiming of the "Upset Queens" honor, as the Czechs rebounded from their awful (NoPS-winning) 2-8 1st Round performance at Roland Garros to go 7-3 as a group at this Wimbledon. Aside from Pliskova's victory over seeded Petrova, #32 Zakopalova's win over Hantuchova, while not a "technical" upset, is still impressive. Additionally, all three Czech qualifiers won their 1st Round matches, as Eva Birnerova (def. #24 Lepchenko), Petra Cetkovska (Vekic) and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova (Rybarikova) advanced.

Day 2 QUALIFIER WINS: Mariana Duque-Marino/COL, Caroline Garcia/FRA, Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE

Day 2 WILD CARD WIN: Alison Riske/USA

Day 2 BRIT WIN: Laura Robson/GBR

...with the 1st Round complete (in TWO days -- are you listening, Roland Garros organizers?), some national/regional trends have developed, as usual. As noted, the Czechs are 7-3, while the Americans are just 5-9. The Hordettes are 4-4, but the Serbs are 4-0. The Brits went 1-6, but the Dutch were the only group with more than three players in the draw that didn't advance a single player, going 0-3, including a loss today by Arantxa Rus, who tied the WTA record set by Sandy Collins (1984-87) with her seventeenth consecutive main draw defeat. Meanwhile, the Aussies are undefeated. But they're just 1-0, with Sam Stosur the only Australian woman in the singles main draw. And THAT, especially for a nation with a such a great Wimbledon AND grass court tennis history, is another sad story altogether.

Come in off the ledge, Tennis Australia. Barty will be here soon. Just not in 2013.

..."OH, PAMMY... why?, why?" FROM DAY 2:

yep, after a longer-than-expected "dormant" period, "bad" Pam Shriver was at it again, giving her particularly "Shriverian" twist on the last name of Anna Schmiedlova after the young Slovak was dispatched by Samantha Stosur on ESPN. Speaking of the '12 Roland Garros Girls runner-up, '13 RG qualifier and 1st Round match winner (and "lucky loser" here), Shriver exasperatingly exclaimed, "I've never seen her name before in my life!"

Oh, Pammy, Pammy. Why must you say such things?

Of note, late in the day during the Hantuchova/Zakopalova match, Shriver said that the commentators are "told to avoid nicknames" for the players. Hmmm. Rather than tell them what NOT to say, maybe the Powers That Be at ESPN should tell everyone on air to learn the players' ACTUAL names, too (and tell the SportsCenter/ESPNews talking heads to at least make an effort to pronounce them correctly, as well, rather than laugh off all "attempts," as is generally the standard operating procedure with all but the best ESPNers). Just a thought. A crazy one, though, I know.


later on ESPN, I'm not exactly sure what happened, was going on, or whether or not it was something to be "offended" by, or concerned about. Or not.

Well into Day 2 coverage, the network brought journalist L.Z. Granderson out from behind the curtain for, if his previous ESPN on-camera slam work assignment schedule is repeated at this Wimbledon, a bit of the 0.001% of screen time that he'll get during the fortnight. I believe this was his first appearance at this slam, though, and he just seemed to pop up out of nowhere as Serena Williams came to the set for a post-match interview. Now, it should be noted that Granderson is the only African-American tennis commentator on the network other than (mostly) play-by-play man Mike Tirico, so was it a little odd that he suddenly first appeared -- because, as we know, it takes three people to interview a tennis player on air -- when Serena was on set? I'm not sure. Then, after a day and a half of coverage that only mentioned the Sharapova portion of Williams' Rolling Stone interview, eight minutes into the ESPN chat, Granderson finally spoke his first words... and he asked Serena about her comments on the rape case that have caused so much controversy over the past week. It allowed Williams to talk about her contact with the family in the case, and plans they all have to promote awareness, etc. Did ESPN plant Granderson there to ask the question, thinking that either none of the other commentators could or would, or did they for some reason think Williams wouldn't cooperate if they did? Again, is this something to be concerned about? After another long extended bit of silence while Chris Fowler and Mary Joe Fernandez conducted the interview, Granderson's only other question involved asking Williams about the strings she's using on her racket, and whether she changed them before her long winning streak. The question permitted Serena to interject an "impromptu" promotional spot for the strings she uses on her racket and how she enjoys working with "a great manufacturer like Wilson." Was that planned, or simply an opportunity grabbed by Serena, ala her "G moment" comment for Gatorade after winning a slam a while back?

Not sure what to think about all that. Was it something to be suspicious of, or even mildly offended by? Or simply a confluence of events that only gave off the appearance of being suspicious? Hmmm.

...and, finally, as always at the slams, Anabel Medina-Garrigues' time in the draw has an expiration date stamped on its forehead. At the 2013 edition of Wimbledon, that date was today.

In January, the Spaniard lost in the 1st Round of the Australian Open to #11 seed Marion Bartoli. Last month in Paris, she was ousted in her opening match by #6 Li Na. Today, it was #24 seed Peng Shuai who did the deed, handing AMG her 20th career 1st Round slam exit in forty-five slam appearances. One might look at these losses as an example of poor draws for a former Top 20 player. That'd be true, of course, but Medina-Garrigues has now lost FOUR straight 1st Round slam matches, achieving an "unGrand Slam" with the first such year-long stretch of slam futility in her career. The stretch began last summer at Flushing Meadows, when the #27-seeded Spaniard was the "First Seed Out," losing to Lucie Hradecka. The loss gives AMG a record of 10-30 vs. Top 50 players in slams, and 23-40 vs. Top 100's.

Okay, now here's where I'm obliged to once again note that AMG is STILL linked in history with Anna Smashnova as the only players to ever win double-digit WTA singles titles but never reach a slam Final 8. There, that's another Daily Backspin slam ritual checked off the list. Medina-Garrigues, 30, now has a career slam match record of 43-45 (even with her current five-match slam losing streak, it's still far better than Smashnova's record, see below). She's 7-11 at Wimbledon, her worst slam, with just three (2006, '08 & '09) 3rd Round results.

Oh, well... keep on fighting the good fight, AMG. After all, aside from the early slam exits, you're actually had a pretty decent season.

2004 Great Britain
2005 United States
2006 Great Britain
2007 Austria
2008 Russia
2009 Germany
2010 Czech Republic
2011 Russia
2012 United States
2013 Czech Republic

WI: Great Britain (0-6 1st Rd.)
WI: Australia (1-3 1st Rd., Stosur & Dokic losses)
US: Czech Republic (2-5 1st Rd., Kvitova loses)
AO: Great Britain (0-4 1st Rd.; all on Day 1)
RG: Romania (1-5 in 1st Rd.; Cadantu double-bageled)
WI: Slovak Republic (1-3 in 1st Rd.; all 3 w/ WTA titles lost)
US: Germany (four of nation's five highest-ranked players out in 1st Rd.)
AO: Australia (1-6 in 1st Rd., 1-7 overall)
RG: Czech Republic (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
WI: Great Britain (1-6 in 1st Rd.)

2008 Elena Baltacha & Anne Keothavong (2nd Rd.)
2009 Elena Baltacha (2nd Rd.)
2010 Heather Watson (GBR 0-6 in 1st Rd., Watson last to lose)
2011 Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong & Laura Robson (2nd Rd.)
2012 Heather Watson (3rd Rd.)
2013 Laura Robson (in 2nd Rd.)

2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS (2nd Rd.)
2009 Maria Sharapova, RUS (2nd Rd.)
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA & Samantha Stosur, AUS [1st Rd. - both RG finalists]
2011 Jelena Jankovic, SRB (1st Rd.)
2012 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1st Rd.)
2013 Nadia Petrova, RUS (1st Rd.)

51-1...1st Round ['12 RG: Razzano]
49-1...2nd Round ['98 AO: Venus]
42-7...3rd Round
36-6...4th Round
20-3...Semifinals [Venus '00, Henin-H. '03, Clijsters '09]
16-4...Finals [Venus '01, Sharapova '04, Venus '08, Stosur '11]

0 - W
0 - RU
0 - SF
0 - QF
3 - 4th Rd.
12 - 3rd Rd.
10 - 2nd Rd.
20 - 1st Rd.
[Anna Smashnova's Slam Results]
0 - W
0 - RU
0 - SF
0 - QF
2 - 4th Rd.
7 - 3rd Rd.
10 - 2nd Rd.
30 - 1st Rd.

[through 1st Rd.]
45-45...Non-Russian Europe
7-9...North America/Atlantic
1-0...South America
0-1...Africa/Middle East

TOP QUALIFIER: Petra Cetkovska/CZE
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #11q Mariana Duque-Marino/COL d. An-Sophie Mestach/BEL 6-7/6-3/8-6
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: Lesia Tsurenko/UKR (def. Arruabarrena-Vecino/ESP)
FIRST SEED OUT: #5 Sara Errani/ITA (lost to Puig/1st Rd.)
UPSET QUEENS: Czech Republic
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Great Britain (1-6 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Birnerova/CZE, Cetkovska/CZE, Duque-Marino/COL, Garcia/FRA, Larcher de Brito/POR, Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Petkovic/GER, Riske/USA
LAST BRIT STANDING: Laura Robson/GBR (in 2nd Rd.)
IT (?): xx
CRASH & BURN: #13 Nadia Petrova/RUS (1st Rd./Ka.Pliskova; third straight 1st Round slam loss)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: V.Azarenka injures knee in 1st Rd.; E.Bouchard down 7-5/5-4 w/ Voskoboeva serving in 1st Rd.

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

The Granderson "interview" bothered me quite a bit. And did you see the way he was gaping at Serena before he "interviewed" her? The whole thing was so self-conscious and uncomfortable and left a really bad taste in my mouth. Serena's little speech didn't help matters. They might as well have superimposed "Tasteless, stupid, forced P.R. moment" on the screen.

Tue Jun 25, 05:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I was going to mention that, but I didn't because he was sort of positioned in a very uncomfortable spot on the overpopulated set to begin with -- between Fowler/MJF and Serena, with no ability to look back at the other two without doing a full-180, meaning he basically had to stare at Williams for eight straight minutes before he got a chance to speak. He's won awards for journalism in the past, but whatever role ESPN seems to have envisioned for him here seems a bit convoluted, at best. It really does neither him nor ESPN any favors.

Tue Jun 25, 05:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Other news from today: one half of The Rad -- Aga -- will be in the new ESPN Body Issue.

It's attacking from all angles now! :)

Tue Jun 25, 05:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Yes, they did seat him in an awkward spot; maybe he wasn't feeling too comfortabe, either. Good point, Todd.

The Body Issue. Will this be blonde Aga or "regular" Aga, I wonder. Is this going to be one of those photos with "hidden" images in it? Can you find the wicked spirit entity in this picture?!

Tue Jun 25, 06:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Usually those make you feel good if you can spot the hidden image. In this instance, though, I'm not so sure it wouldn't be like learning you've been exposed to some sort of insidious toxin... :\

Tue Jun 25, 10:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

injury day. what did we do to the Rad to punish so many players?....sad really, completely change the landscapes.

Wed Jun 26, 10:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Kind of saw a withdrawal coming from Vika. If not this round, then soon. Really a shame, because she had a real shot here, at least to reach her first final.

Hard to imagine Sharapova not making it through now. Well, unless Petra rolls back the clock, I guess.

Wed Jun 26, 11:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Gulp. Is now the time to huddle in masses and plead for mercy outside the gates of Radwanska Abbey?

Wed Jun 26, 01:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Siggy said...

"Okay, now here's where I'm obliged to once again note that AMG is STILL linked in history with Anna Smashnova as the only players to ever win double-digit WTA singles titles but never reach a slam Final 8."

Uh, do you have a file of this text stored in your computer and C&P this one whenever the need arises on a slam?

And do you "root" for AMG to actually lose before the QF so that this particular piece of trivia stays intact thus preserving your now Backspin traditional ritual of reiterating of said fact? I'm curious to know!

Wed Jun 26, 02:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha! Yes, actually I do go back to all the saved text/notes from the previous slam and C&P what I said then about AMG, then make whatever changes are necessary to keep it up to date.

Hmmm, well, at this point I'm not sure I root for her to lose early... but I know that she will, so I guess there's a "comfort" in it when it happens. Ha! This little ritual actually started when Smashnova was still active and I stumbled upon the fact that she was the only WTA player to have such contradictory career stats. At the time, AMG didn't qualify because she hadn't yet won ten titles. But once she did, the practice became a time-honored way to keep the memory of Smashnova's odd career alive through AMG. For a bit last year, it looked as if Vinci might be able to be included as she nears 10 titles, but then she reached a reached her first slam QF late in her career.

I've always been a fan of AMG, so it'd be nice to see her finally remove her name from that short list. But I would miss recounting this stat four times a season. It actually got her onto the all-time "Backspin MVP List" I did last year, so it's become sort of "a thing." ;)

Hmmm... maybe someone else will qualify for the list soon. So far, though, there doesn't seem to be a likely contender to do so. But, as always, I keep an eye out for an "up-and-comer."

Wed Jun 26, 03:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Todd, I am eagerly awaiting today's recap. This is like when the BCS first started, and 3 top 5 teams lost that final weekend and they called it Black Saturday. I have been a tennis fan since the last 70's and can never remember a day like this.

Wed Jun 26, 03:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

armageddon today.

"Hard to imagine Sharapova not making it through now."

Ahem. Do we need to have another legal statement?

Wed Jun 26, 03:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

also appreciated the comments on wallenda. i'm sure it takes great courage to do what he does...but seriously, they either need to make the tv specials shorter...or add a bit of danger/suspense by sending other people/animals across first who fall (into nets, of course...perhaps...) to show how difficult it actually is.

Wed Jun 26, 03:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

No one mention Petra, please. ;)

And if Andy Murray doesn't reach the final now it might just be the biggest choke in the history of the tournament (step aside, Jana). I mean, look at the bottom half of the draw now.

Maybe I speak too soon? Although, Andy DID express his affinity for a certain Polish player's game before the tournament, didn't he? Hmmmm.

Wed Jun 26, 03:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

and i thought serena was entered in mixed doubles? guess not.

Wed Jun 26, 03:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

you need to screenshot the wimbledon evian commercial with sharapova. that look of shock


Wed Jun 26, 03:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Will Corby said...

This from espn.com's Greg Garber:

Asked to sum up his day, Stakhovsky said, "Magic."

It was more than that, really. There was a strange, dark magic at work here at Wimbledon.


Wed Jun 26, 05:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

By the time everyone figures it all out it may be too late. ;)

Wed Jun 26, 07:11:00 PM EDT  

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