W.6- Gasps for Breath, and a Flicker of Life
As the sun rose on the middle Saturday at the 2013 edition of Wimbledon, there was some belief that this would be the day that The Radwanskian threat at this major would finally and effectively be put down. The alter ego does indeed seem to be gasping for air in the London afternoon sun, but It isn't dead. Not quite yet.
On Day 5, the string of big upsets that pulverized this tournament during its first week appeared to dry up. That is, until Petra Kvitova and Sloane Stephens teetered on the edge of defeat late in the day. But the coming darkness gave their inevitable Wimbledon exits dual stays of execution, allowing them the chance to use the night to collect themselves and come back on Day 6 better than they'd been before.
2011 champ Kvitova took clear advantage of the time to strategize and right her wobbly ship. After having saved a break point that would have put her down 3-0 in the 3rd set to Ekaterina Makarova in the closing moments of play on Friday, the suddenly-free-swinging-again Czech immediately broke the Russian to begin play today, then did it again two games later to take a 4-2 lead. Fighting against herself (of course) and a game opponent, Kvitova lost the break a game later, but then won the longest rally of the day to get her break advantage back at 5-3. Serving to reach her third consecutive Wimbledon Round of 16, Kvitova went up 40/love and closed things out on her second match point to win 6-3/2-6/6-3.
Day 6 score: The Cause 1, The Radwanska 0.
Soon afterward, Stephens attempted to turn around the slide on which she'd ended her Friday, having dropped a love 2nd set against Petra Cetkovska, whom she'd defeated at last year's Wimbledon. Things didn't start out well, as the Czech's winning streak hit eight games and she went up 2-0 in the 3rd before the American broke her to get to 2-1 in the second of four straight breaks of serve between the two. With things on serve, Cetkovska led 3-2. In Game #7, Stephens got another break to go up 4-3, only to miss a string of easy forehands and give the Czech a chance to even the set. But that's when Stephens stared down the moment -- and the invisible Rad? -- and hit an ace.
It kick-started the Bannerette's game and she began to play a more aggressive, less-tentative-under-pressure, style. Stephens held with an overhead volley to take a 5-3 lead, having won five of six games after beginning the day by dropping the first two. While her sometime-shaky efforts, on the whole, weren't totally convincing when it comes to whether or not Sloane might be able to navigate what remains of the bottom half of the draw to reach her maiden slam final, that she climbed out of such a hole on Day 6, then served out the match in Game #10 with little drama -- at least for her, as the two traded errors and the game stood at 30/30 -- was good enough for a least of hint of "optimism" within the corridors of ESPN and the offices of the London tabloids that next Saturday might provide a Ladies final between Serena Williams and a player with whom she's feuded in '13... only it wouldn't involve the pre-tournament angle that included Maria Sharapova, and instead would revolve around Stephens' social media battle with Serena from a few months ago. In the closing moment of today's match, Stephens' wonderful running forehand was dumped into the net by the volleying Cetkovska to give the American match point, and she routinely put away a short ball to seal her 7-6/0-6/6-4 victory.
Day 6 score: The Cause 2, The Radwanska 0.
Ah, but don't think that The Rad was dead yet. Later in the afternoon, Agnieszka Radwanska faced off with Madison Keys, looking to avoid the fate of her sister Urszula, who lost yesterday to another Bannerette, Alison Riske.
With Keys the sort of big hitter who can control the court against A-Rad if they're able to keep their head up and their error totals down, the youngster had a legitimate shot in this one. But Keys, in just her first Wimbledon main draw, lacked the experience of Radwanska, a former Girls champ and Ladies finalist at SW19. The teenager played a good match, but her youth -- and The Rad... geez, It does not die easily -- got her in the end.
In the 1st set, Keys held two break points at 4-4, but failed to convert either. At 5-6, she held a game point to force a tie-break that could have led to her big serve turning the match in her favor in the early-going. Down set point, Keys seemingly hit a clean crosscourt forehand winner, only to have Aga call for a replay challenge. Naturally, it went Radwanska's way and the set was hers at 7-5. But Keys didn't simply fold up her collectable Wimbledon towel and go home. At 4-4 in the 2nd, she took a 40/love lead on A-Rad's serve, getting the break and then firing three aces up the "T" in her own service game to hold and serve out the set. In the 3rd, with Radwanska holding break point for a 2-0 lead, a Keys forehand bounced off the net cord and hopped over the Pole's ready-for-the-put-away-volley racket.
For a moment, it seemed as if The Rad might be down to Its last gasps of dastardly breath. But no.
Mid-way through the 3rd, the 18-year old was neck-and-neck with the world #4. But with Radwanska up 3-2, Keys found herself down a break point. She tossed in a error and was suddenly down 4-2. It didn't take long for Aga to pounce on Keys' brief lapse, quickly getting to 5-2 and holding triple match point at 40/love on the American's serve. But Keys, now without any pressure, used her big serve and groundstrokes to erase all three, save a fourth and hold for 5-3. It was a valiant, if too late, final surge, for Radwanska held one game later to secure a 7-5/4-6/6-3 win on her fifth match point.
Day 6 score: The Cause 2, The Radwanska 2 (an Aga win counts for two, so it's a draw!)
With Tsvetana Pironkova's three-set triumph over Petra Martic, Monday will indeed bring us the much-anticipated "Monster Movie Special" as The Pironkova will face off with The Radwanska on the green grass of the All-England Club. Thankfully, this time, Tokyo should still be standing when it's all over.
As for everyone else, take cover for your own safety... but be sure to bring along a tub of popcorn.
=DAY 6 NOTES=
...by the way, Makarova's exit means that we have yet another rarity at this Wimbledon -- no Russians in the women's singles Round of 16. The last time that happened at a slam was at the 2000 Wimbledon. Thus, the streak of fifty-one straight Hordette-laced second weeks of slams goes by the wayside.
...meanwhile, after seemingly being on the way out as play ended yesterday, down a set and 2-1, Monica Puig battled back to take out Eva Birnerova in three sets, 6-1/4-6/6-2. Laura Robson, playing on Court 2 to the consternation of some Brits, stirred the legions on Robson Ridge (oh, that sounds so much better than Murray Mount, doesn't it?), coming back from seeing Marina Erakovic serving for the match at 6-1/5-4, breaking serve and then knotting the match when the Kiwi double-faulted on set point. In the 3rd, Robson raced to a 4-0 lead, then held firm to reach her first Wimbledon Round of 16 with a 1-6/7-5/6-3 victory.
Predictably, once Sam Stosur got a whiff of opportunity at Wimbledon, it all come tumbling down. Up a set over Sabine Lisicki, Stosur was blitzed by the German in the final two sets, winning just three games in a 4-6/6-2/6-1 win by the 2011 semifinalist. It's Lisicki's fourth Round of 16-or-better result at SW19 in her last four trips to London. Li Na, after dropping the 1st set to fellow thirtysomething Klara Zakopalova, took the 2nd at love, then saw the Czech serve for the match at 6-5 in the 3rd. Zakopalova -- oh how I miss before she was married, named Koukalova, and I could call her "Kooky" -- then proceeded to let her potential second career Wimbledon Round of 16 (2010) slip away as Li won the final four games of the match to win 4-6/6-0/8-6.
In the final match of the day, played under the Centre Court roof, Serena Williams faced off with 42-year old Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest woman in the Open era to play in a 3rd Round match at Wimbledon. Serena won, 6-2/6-0, of course, but KDK's presence this late in the tournament is still a wonderful thing... even if that the Japanese veteran actually got a break of Serena when she was serving for the 1st set at 5-1 will surely provide grist for the mill of anyone who thinks the notion of Williams playing Andy Murray isn't a particularly good idea.
Is it wrong for me to want to hear Serena say something about hoping she can be just like Kimiko when she grows up? I mean, come on, how many times in her career will a nearly 32-year old #1 be able to say something like that after a match, huh?
...an interesting pairing in the doubles, as the latest in Liezel Huber's long line of partners is Sania Mirza. Why interesting? Well, because Mirza was partnering Elena Vesnina at last year's Australian Open when they played that crazy, disputed match against Huber and Lisa Raymond. You know, the one that took a ton of match points, a "non-call"/lie? from Huber, harsh words from the Russian, boos from the stands and, remember, a stinging Mirza forehand that went right at Huber and took her to the ground. I guess there are no hard feelings between Sania and Liezel a year and a half after the fact. Of course, that might be the first time in recorded history that someone who had issues with Huber didn't somehow carry lingering animosity well into the future, though. Then again, Mirza is familiar with learning to work with temperamental doubles stars, so maybe she decided to just play the part of the grown-up.
Huber/Mirza won their Day 6 match over the all-comeback duo of Flavia Penneta & Andrea Petkovic, 7-6(6)/3-6/6-2
...the junior action has begun. Some results of note: Swarmette Ioana Ducu defeated #7-seeded Brit Katy Dunne, and while Bernard Tomic had a nice day in the Men's draw (def. #9 Richard Gasquet), his sister Sara didn't, losing in the Girls 1st Round to #13-seed Anett Kontaveit.
...LIKE FROM DAY 6:
-- as usual, at all the slams other than Roland Garros, that NBC didn't intrude upon the weekend proceedings.
...and, finally, although there will be no action on the courts of Wimbledon on the middle Sunday, that doesn't mean that the Daily Backspin will go dark. I'll fill the space with the latest chapter in the Citizen Anna/Rad mythology.
Don't remember where things left off back in January? Well, then here's a little primer:
*LADIES' SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #23 Sabine Lisicki/GER
Laura Robson/GBR vs. Kaia Kanepi/EST
#4 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL vs. Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL
#11 Roberta Vinci/ITA vs. #6 Li Na/CHN
Monica Puig/PUR vs. #17 Sloane Stephens/USA
#15 Marion Bartoli/FRA vs. Karin Knapp/ITA
#8 Petra Kvitova/CZE vs. #19 Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
#20 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL vs. Flavia Pennetta/ITA
*GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #13 Tommy Haas/GER
Bernard Tomic/AUS vs. #7 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#4 David Ferrer/ESP vs. Ivan Dodig/CRO
#23 Andreas Seppi/ITA vs. #8 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG
Lukasz Kubot/POL vs. Adrian Mannarino/FRA
#24 Jerzy Janowicz/POL vs. Jurgen Melzer/AUT
Fernando Verdasco/ESP vs. Kenny De Schepper/FRA
#20 Mikhail Youzhny/RUS vs. #2 Andy Murray/GBR
*WIMBLEDON "LAST QUALIFIER STANDING"*
2006 Severine Bremond, FRA (QF)
2007 O.Govortsova/BLR, N.Ozegovic/CRO, T.Perebiynis/UKR, A.Szavay/HUN, H.Sromova/CZE (2nd Rd.)
2008 A.Pavlyuchenkova/RUS, MJ.Martinez-Sanchez/ESP, B.Strycova/CZE (3rd Rd.)
2009 Melanie Oudin, USA (4th Rd.)
2010 Kaia Kanepi, EST (QF)
2011 Misaki Doi, JPN (3rd Rd.)
2012 Camila Giorgi, ITA (4th Rd.)
2013 E.Birnerova/CZE, P.Cetkovska/CZE, M.Larcher de Brito/POR (3rd Rd.)
*WIMBLEDON RD. OF 16's - "Russian Revolution" to present*
1997 (1) Anna Kournikova
1999 (1) Anna Kournikova
2001 (2) Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Nadia Petrova
2002 (2) Elena Dementieva, Elena Likhovtseva
2003 (5) Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Myskina, Sharapova, Zvonareva
2004 (3) Nadia Petrova, Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva
2005 (6) Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Likhovtseva, Myskina, Petrova, Sharapova
2006 (3) Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova
2007 (3) Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova, Maria Sharapova
2008 (6) Chakvetadze, Dementieva, Kleybanova, Kudryavtseva, Kuznetsova, Petrova
2009 (4) Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Elena Vesnina
2010 (2) Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva
2011 (3) Ksenia Pervak, Nadia Petrova, Maria Sharapova
2012 (2) Maria Kirilenko, Maria Sharapova
*2013 WIMBLEDON WOMEN'S FINAL 16*
#1 - Serena Williams
#4 - Agnieszka Radwanska
#6 - Li Na
#8 - Petra Kvitova
#11 - Roberta Vinci
#15 - Marion Bartoli
#17 - Sloane Stephens
#18 - Carla Suarez-Navarro
#20 - Kirsten Flipkens
#24 - Sabine Lisicki
#38 - Laura Robson
#46 - Kaia Kanepi
#65 - Monica Puig
#72 - Tsvetana Pironkova
#104 - Karin Knapp
#166 - Flavia Pennetta
[by nation at 2013 slams]
8...United States (Stephens,S.Williams)
1...Czech Republic (Kvitova)
1...Great Britain (Robson)
1...Puerto Rico (Puig)
[by career slam Round-of-16's]
[by consecutive slam Round of 16's]
[by career Wimb. Round of 16's]
[by consecutive Wimb. Round of 16's]
[by preseason "Grand Slam Master List" rankings]
1 - Serena Williams
4 - Petra Kvitova
5 - Li Na
6 - Agnieszka Radwanska
11 - Marion Bartoli
13 - Laura Robson
14 - Sabine Lisicki
18 - Kaia Kanepi
25 - Flavia Pennetta
30 - Sloane Stephens
33 - Tsvetana Pironkova
37 - Roberta Vinci
unlisted - Kirsten Flipkens
unlisted - Karin Knapp
unlisted - Monica Puig
unlisted - Carla Suarez-Navarro
[WTA career slam Round of 16's - active]
[WTA slam Round of 16's since 2010 - active]
[2013 slam Rd. of 16's - youngest]
19 - Laura Robson (WI)
19 - Monica Puig (WI)
19 - Sloane Stephens (AO)
20 - Sloane Stephens (RG)
20 - Sloane Stephens (WI)
21 - Bojana Jovanovski (AO)
[2013 slam Rd. of 16's - oldest]
32 - Francesca Schiavone (RG)
31 - Serena Williams (WI)
31 - Serena Williams (RG)
31 - Serena Williams (AO)
31 - Flavia Pennetta (WI)
31 - Li Na (WI)
30 - Li Na (AO)
30 - Roberta Vinci (WI)
30 - Roberta Vinci (RG)
[2013 slam Rd. of 16's - unseeded]
AO - Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
AO - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
AO - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
AO - Elena Vesnina, RUS
RG - Jamie Hampton, USA
RG - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (2)
RG - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
RG - Francesca Schiavone, ITA
WI - Kaia Kanepi, EST
WI - Karin Knapp, ITA
WI - Flavia Pennetta, ITA
WI - Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
WI - Monica Puig, PUR
WI - Laura Robson, GBR
[2013 slam Rd. of 16's - 1st-time GS 4th Rd.'s]
AO - Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
AO - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
RG - Jamie Hampton, USA
WI - Karin Knapp, ITA
WI - Monica Puig, PUR
[2013 slam Rd. of 16's - lowest-ranked]
#166 - Flavia Pennetta, ITA (WI)
#104 - Karin Knapp, ITA (WI)
#75 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (AO)
#72 - Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL (WI)
#67 - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (RG)
#65 - Monica Puig, PUR (WI)
#56 - Bojana Jovanovski, SRB (AO)
#54 - Jamie Hampton, USA (RG)
#50 - Francesca Schiavone, ITA (RG)
TOP QUALIFIER: Petra Cetkovska/CZE
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): 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): 2nd Rd. - (Q) Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR d. #3 Maria Sharapova/RUS 6-3/6-4
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
TOP UNDER-THE-ROOF MATCH: 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
REVELATION LADIES: Australia/New Zealand
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Great Britain (1-6 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Eva Birnerova/CZE, Petra Cetkovska/CZE & Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR (all 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Alison Riske/USA (3rd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Laura Robson/GBR (in 4th Rd.)
IT ("Upstart"): Michelle Larcher de Brito, POR (def. #3 Sharapova/2nd Rd.)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Bartoli/FRA, Kvitova/CZE, Pennetta/ITA
CRASH & BURN: #13 Nadia Petrova/RUS (1st Rd./Ka.Pliskova; third straight 1st Round slam loss)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Eugenie Bouchard/CAN (escaped early-round carnage, winning after being down 7-5/5-4 vs. G.Voskoboeva, with Kazakh serving for match, in 1st Rd.)
DOUBLES STAR xx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 6. Backspin Special Edition on the middle Sunday.