Tuesday, June 24, 2014

W.2- When She's Got It, She's Got It

Some players just know how to win matches in which they're not in their absolute BEST form, while others don't. Those with championship DNA usually find a way to even take such a match in straight sets, while a long, drawn-out battle into the 3rd (and maybe even a loss) wouldn't be out of the question for the vast majority of the competitors on the WTA tour.

Once again on Day 2, Genie Bouchard showed which sort of player she appears to be.

In the Canadian's 1st set today against veteran Daniela Hantuchova, she twice found herself down a break, at 1-2 and 3-4. At 5-5, she was forced to save a break point that could have given the Slovak a chance to serve for the set and ensure a long day at the grass-lined office for Bouchard. Having secured a by-the-hair-of-her-chinny-chin-chin 6-5 lead, Bouchard then got the break a game later to take the set at 7-5.

Why sweat it when you can just get it, right?

Things got a bit better in the 2nd set, but Bouchard still found herself fighting against a drawn-out afternoon. She again fell a break behind at 2-3, getting back on serve a game later. From love/30 down, she saved a break point to take a 6-5 lead, then a game later she climbed back from love/40 on Hantuchova's serve to get the break and close out the match on a five-point winning streak, ending her day of work with an emphatic forehand return that seemed to eat a lunging Hantuchova alive.

In that 1st set, Bouchard hit just seven winners.
In the 2nd, she smashed nineteen. She won 7-5/7-5, saving herself another 45-60 minutes of dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin opening round madness that could have lumped her name into the same sentence as the one that will include Sloane Stephens when all the Wimbledon wrap-ups are written.

The names of Bouchard and Stephens still might end up in the same sentence, as they have quite a bit over most of the last year. But, as has increasingly been the case in '14, the mentions of the Canadian will likely take on a far more positive tone than those concerning her North American counterpart.

Meanwhile, a day after Coco Vandeweghe followed up her maiden title this weekend with a 1st Round win (on her 13th MP) over Garbi Muguruza, fellow Week 25 firt-time title winner Madison Keys had less difficulty with another new '14 singles champion, Monica Puig. Keys won 6-3/6-3, faced just a single break point all day (she saved it), outpaced the Puerto Rican 25-9 in winners and won 86% of her 1st serve points (32/37).

ESPN's Pam Shriver has jumped onto the Team Madison bandwagon with both feet, as well, today calling her the best American women's prospect in years. It's hard to argue with her, based on recent anecdotal evidence, at least, that suggests the 19-year old is improving in leaps and bounds at the moment, feeding off her own success rather than being engulfed by it. Rather than taking herself too seriously, Keys has signed on to blog for Sports Illustrated Kids. So, I'm think there probably won't be any Twitter battles or media firestorms in her near future. At least let's hope not.

So, I guess there IS another way to do it.

The only question all this raises is whether Current Sloane is now Thing of the Past Sloane. That seems to be the case when it comes to ESPN, which just six months ago was shouting Stephen's name louder than any other, yet often seemed to turn its collective back on large, important chunks of her 1st Round loss on Day 1, and had already forgotten her by Day 2. The bigger question, though, I guess is what Stephens thinks, and what she plans on doing about it.

Bouchard is the picture of confidence and heart, though. And Keys seems to be following her path rather than that of her countrywoman and Fed Cup teammate.

Maybe she's a smart cookie, too.

...very big names were in action on Day 2. While Roger and Rafa won on the men's side, four of the top five seeds in the women's draw got wins today, as well.

#5 Maria Sharapova gave Brit Samantha Murray a small taste of strawberries and cream, then took the whole bowl for herself, winning the final eleven games of the match to win 6-1/6-0. Hmmm, if Sharapova ever wins another SW19 title, I wonder if she'd celebrate with a Special Edition Strawberries & Cream flavor of Sugarpova? Maybe every 1000th bag could include a candy shaped like Laura Robson's hand brace -- whoever finds it gets a prize!

It took #1 Serena Williams ten minutes to win the first game in her match against new countrywoman Anna Tatishvili, but only 51 to claim the last fourteen games in a 6-1/6-2 victory. Later, #3 Simona Halep held to her word about her health being fine for a run at SW19, taking care of Teliana Pereira 6-2/6-2.

...with Marion Bartoli only around for introductions (see below) on Day 2, the traditional 1st Round scheduling slot for the defending women's champ was filled by '13 finalist Sabine Lisicki. She played like a champ, eliminating Julia Glushko 6-2/6-1.

...one trend developing so far at this Wimbledon in the women's draw is a proclivity for comebacks. Hence the super-sized "Zombie Queen" nomination list at the end of this post.

More comebacks occurred on Tuesday, including Irina-Camilia Begu erasing Virginie Razzano's 3-1 3rd set lead. But that was nothing compared to Karolina Pliskova's win over Karin Knapp (Knapp led 5-2 in the 3rd, with the Czech ultimately winning a 10-8 set), Petra Cetkovskva's victory over Jovana Jaksic (the Serb served at 5-4 in the final set) or Yaroslava Shvedova's comeback from a 3-1 3rd set deficit and MP to defeat Kristyna Pliskova in an 8-6 final set.

Elsewhere, The Kid did it again, as Belinda Bencic upset Magdalena Rybarikova 2-6/6-3/6-3. She'll face Vicky Duval next. The intriguing Keys vs. Taylor Townsend 2nd Rounder won't happen, though, as vet Klara Koukalova took out wild card Townsend 7-5/6-2. Two-time SW19 quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek saved two match points against Kirsten Flipkens at 5-2 in the 2nd set to force a 3rd, only to lose to the '13 semfinalist 6-4/6-7(3)/6-2. Francesca Schiavone had a shot to push Birmingham champ Ana Ivanovic, taking a 4-1 lead in the 1st set tie-break, but the Serb pulled out a 7-6(6)/6-4 win to hand the Italian vet her fifth straight 1st Round slam loss, and seventh in the last eight majors. Of note, though, AnaIvo seemed to suffer some sort of leg injury in the closing games. Might be nothing, but might be something.

And Kaia Kanepi didn't follow her 1r-QF-1r-QF pattern at Wimbledon with another opening match loss. Instead, she sent Jelena Jankovic packing in a rather easy 6-3/6-2 win. So, no helicopter trips across the grounds for JJ this year.

...in the five matches to be completed from Day 1, it turned out we didn't know what we missed yesterday.

First, one year after taking out Sharapova in the 2nd Round, qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito downed yet another slam-winning Hordette today in the form of Svetlana Kuznetsova, losing just four games in the final two sets after dropping the 1st. Meanwhile, #4 Aga Radwanska took eight of nines games played to finish off Andreea Mitu 6-2/6-1. Obviously benefiting from the lighting of a makeshift "St.John's Eve" bonfire here at Backspin HQ (or maybe at Leif's Nordic Outpost?), Caroline Wozniacki finished off Shahar Peer 6-3/6-0. A bit surprisingly -- though I guess we knew there'd have to be some trade-off for the Bulgarian winning a regular tour title in week 1 -- Tsvetana Pironkova lost 6-7(6)/6-2/6-2 to Varvara Lepchenko.

No Monster Movie Specials at this Wimbledon, I guess.

The most dramatic of the five matches, though, involved Sara Errani and Caroline Garcia. The Italian won the 1st set 6-2 and held a MP at 6-5 in the 2nd, only to see the Pastry save it and win a tie-break to force a deciding set. There, Garcia went up 4-0, but couldn't keep the two-break advantage. She failed to serve things out at 5-4, as well. But, proving that if at first you don't succeed, a tennis player should try, try again (Sloane? Sloane? Go talk to Madison and Genie... AND FrenchCaroline), Garcia got the break and a second chance to serve for the victory. She finally got it right this time, winning 2-6/7-6(3)/7-5.


...Naomi Broady or Maria Sharapova? Maria Sharapova or Naomi Broady?

...there are assured to be ten qualifier/wild card entries in the final 64. Qualifiers who notched wins on Day 2 include Larcher de Brito, Duval, Timea Bacsinszky, Duval and Lesia Tsurenko. Wild card Silvia Soler-Espinosa also won, with the all-WC match between Vera Zvonareva and Tara Moore set to finish on Day 3.

Heather Watson joined Broady in the more-hotly-contested-than-expected "Last Brit Standing" race, with Moore a possible THIRD late entry on Wednesday.

...the doubles draw is out, and here are a few tidbits:

* - there are four all-sister pairings (Williams, Pliskova, Kichenok and Chan)

* - some intriguing duos: Bencic/Pironkova, Keys/Riske, Cornet/Garcia, Pennetta/Stosur and Davis/Puig.

* - 1st Round matches to watch: Black/Mirza vs. Hingis/Zvonareva, Errani/Vinci vs. Jankovic/Kleybanova, Fichman/Vekic vs. Date-Krumm/Zahlavova-Strycova (you can fit two-and-a-half Donnas in one Kimiko!)

* - favorite opening round clash: Barty/Dellacqua vs. Bouchard/watson (that Genie... this can't hurt when it comes to raising a London platoon of the Genie Army, can it?)


...from earlier this year, match the feet with the players: Aga, Caro, Sam or Sabine? Who's who?

...with the 1st Round nearly over -- two matches remain to be completed -- it's time for the first Early-Round honorees to become clear, or nearly so. One of the award winners is a fairly easy choice, as the performances of the non-Sloaney Bannerettes have carried over their impressive run that began as soon as the grass court season started. In all, eight Americans are through to the 2nd Round, more than any other nation (and, remember, that's MINUS the player who had a tour-leading six straight Round of 16 slam results coming into SW19), so it's apparent that either the "Upset Queens" or "Revelation Ladies" honors should land at their collective doorstep.

While it excludes the likes of Madison Keys, I'll go with the "UQ" for the U.S. women, as they've eliminated three seeds (Vandeweghe def. #27 Muguruza, Duval def. #29 Cirstea and Riske def. #26 Pavlyuchenkova), a former semifinalist (Lepchenko def. Pironkova) and Lauren Davis' win over Alisa Kleybanova, even while the diminutive-in-stature-only Bannerette has put together arguably the best two weeks of her career heading into Wimbledon, was probably considered a pick 'em contest when the draw was announced.

The "RL" award is a bit more complicated. Eliminating the Americans helps (hmmm, just like it would with all the talk concerning the World Cup around here... ba-dum-bump), but it still isn't yet clear. I've narrowed things down to the Swiss (Bacinszky & Bencic are through), the Japanese (Nara & Doi are still alive, and their combined age of 45 is barely more than a single Kimiko Date-Krumm, who almost advanced herself), the Czechs (a combined 7-2, and a Karolina Pliskova MP away from making it 8-1), the Waffles (BEL is 3-0 without Barbie or LPT) and, hard as it is to believe, the Brits. Even without Laura Robson, they've gone 2-2 with Heather Watson and Naomi Broady getting wins, and if Tara Moore wins the 3rd set of her unfinished match with Vera Zvonareva tomorrow they'd steal the "RL" honors with more players in the 2nd Round than the likes of the Italy, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Australia and maybe, France (depends on Mladenovic vs. Diyas), as well.

Speaking of a few of those contingents, the "Nation of Poor Souls" wasn't simple to lock down with the surprising British success (no third NoPS win in five Wimbledons for them!) eliminating what seemed a good choice before Day 1. Croatia escaped with Donna Vekic's late-on-Day 2 win over Roberta Vinci (making the Croats 2-3), while Camila Giorgi's win lifted the Italians (2-4) just enough out of the depths that they won't get a second (w/ AO) 2014 "Poor Souls" black mark. Instead, I'll go with the Slovaks. The group, following up a series of Fed Cup stumbled, combined to go 1-4 in the 1st Round. Lost were two players with grass titles (Hantuchova & Rybarikova), a Roland Garros rising star (A.Schmiedlova) and a youngster in freefall (Cepelova) since her career-best result in Charleston. Only Dominika Cibulkova, who came in on a 2-5 slide since April, managed to advance. It's the Slovaks' second Wimbledon "Poor Souls" award in the last three years.

...LIKE FROM DAY 2: the tearful Return of La Trufflette

Hmmm, are those some Marion-designed Schwings that Bartoli is sporting there? Here's the link to the entrance video of the 2013 Ladies champ's traditional Day 2 return to Centre Court.

...a little Vika snooty-face... and the shorts, of course.

...and, finally, the "Guess Who" answers:

Maria & Naomi, of course.

Lisicki, A-Rad, Stosur & C-Woz

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
2014 United States

WI: GBR (0-6 1st Rd.)
WI: AUS (1-3 1st Rd., Stosur & Dokic losses)
US: CZE (2-5 1st Rd., Kvitova loses)
AO: GBR (0-4 1st Rd.; all on Day 1)
RG: ROU (1-5 in 1st Rd.; Cadantu double-bageled)
WI: SVK (1-3 in 1st Rd.; all 3 w/ WTA titles lost)
US: GER (four of nation's five highest-ranked out in 1st Rd.)
AO: AUS (1-6 in 1st Rd., 1-7 overall)
RG: CZE (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
WI: GBR (1-6 in 1st Rd.)
US: AUS (1-4 overall, Stosur out 1r, Rogowska double-bagel)
AO: ITA (top-seeded #7 Errani & #12 Vinci out 1st Round)
RG: CHN (0-4 in 1st Rd.; Sh.Zhang "First Loss" & 2 seed Li "C-&-B")
WI: SVK (1-4 in 1st Rd.; grass champs Hantuchova/Rybarikova 1st Rd.)

55-1...1st Rd. ['12 RG: Razzano]
52-2...2nd Rd. ['98 AO: Venus; '14 RG: Muguruza]
45-7...3rd Rd.
37-8...4th Rd.
21-3...SF [Venus 00,Henin-H. 03,Clijsters 09]
17-4...F [Venus 01,Sharapova 04,Venus 08,Stosur 11]

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Paula Kania/POL d. Shelby Rogers/USA 7-6(12)/4-6/6-3
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: Elena Vesnina/RUS (def. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner/AUT)
FIRST SEED OUT: #17 Samantha Stosur/AUS (lost 1st Rd. to Wickmayer/BEL)
UPSET QUEENS: USA (def. 3 seeds and one ex-semifinalist in 1st Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: SVK (1-4 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: T.Bacsinszky/SUI, V.Duval/USA, A.Konjuh/CRO, M.Larcher de Brito/POR, T.Smitkova/CZE, L.Tsurenko/UKR
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: J.Gajdosova/AUS, N.Broady/GBR, S.Soler-Espinosa/ESP, (WC T.Moore vs. WC Zvonareva is 1st Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: N.Broady, H.Watson
IT ("??"): xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: Vika's white shorts
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: Stephens/USA lost 1st Rd., ending 6 con. slam 4th+ streak
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: Makarova/RUS (down 5-0 in 1st set, 3-1 in 3rd vs. Date-Krumm in 1st Rd.); Dellacqua/AUS (down MP in 1st Rd. vs. Kontaveit); Vandeweghe/USA (wins on 13th MP vs. Muguruza in 1st Rd.); Li/CHN (Kania served for 1st set in 1st Rd.); Garcia/FRA (down MP in 1st Rd. vs. Errani); Ka.Pliskova/CZE (down 5-2 in 3rd set vs. Knapp in 1st Rd.); Cetkovska/CZE (Jaksic served for match in 3rd set 5-4 in 1st Rd.); Shvedova/KAZ (saved MP vs. Kr.Pliskova in 3rd set in 1st Rd.)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: DNP - singles (first time Medina-Garrigues didn't play Q/MD singles at a slam since 2003 Wimbledon, ending a 43-tournament appearance streak)

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger Zidane said...

St. John's Day is also Qu├ębec's national holiday. It feels right that Bouchard gets the "featured match" of your daily post.

Tue Jun 24, 10:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, good. Truthfully, if it hadn't been her I'm not sure how the post would have began. One of those days where a great deal happened, but not a lot to "lead with."

Wed Jun 25, 12:53:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home