Thursday, July 02, 2015

W.4- Is Merciless Petra Ready to Czech History at the Door?

The conventional wisdom at this Wimbledon is that it's Serena Williams' title to win. But is it, really?

While many of the other thirty-one surviving woman may harbor championship dreams, most of them involve something the might occur that would involve the removal of Williams from the draw in a way that would clear a Serena-free path for themselves to have a shot to lift the Venus Rosewater dish on July 11. But not Petra Kvitova... and certainly not "Merciless Petra."

While we've been living in what has amounted to a two-part Williams era at SW19 for over a decade, first with Venus being the star and now with Serena, the next Wimbledon phase in which one woman rules the lawns for the better part of a decade, reaching six or seven finals and winning at least four or five of them, will likely feature the (already) two-time champion Czech. While destroying the field while winning the crown twice in the past four years, the current defending champ has been praised as a potential "all-timer" like no other player in recent memory. "Good Petra" has just been that crazy-good, and there has always been reason to believe that Kvitova might be able to improve upon her overall game beyond what she accomplished while winning in 2011 and '14, too.

Could we be seeing THAT Petra this week in London?

Kvitova was in astonishingly superior form in the 1st Round, double-bageling her opponent and losing just one point on serve (via a DF, no less) in the fastest (:36) destruction of any player in any match on tour all year long. The #2-seed took a bit longer in dispatching Kurumi Nara today in a 6-2/6-0 victory that took an ENTIRE fifty-seven minutes. Sheesh... Petra must have been positively exhausted after all that work. She outpaced her diminutive Japanese foe 23-3 in winners, but "only" won 76% (28/37, w/ one DF) of her service points. Once again, she didn't face a single break point in the match, and fired ten aces in her sixth consecutive straight sets Wimbledon win. In her last six sets dating back to last year's final, she's lost a TOTAL of six games. Six. And three of those were to Genie Bouchard in the final... and we know what that day has done to the Canadian's psyche over the past twelve months. Kvitova has won three of her last five sets at the AELTC at love. At love.

Now, none is this is going to make Serena's knees quiver. In fact, even with her confidence and history at this event, it should be noted that Kvitova's 28-3 record in the tournament since 2010 includes a pair of straight sets losses to Williams, in 2010 and '12. If their third meeting is to be a charm for the Czech, it won't happen for a while. They can't meet until the final.

There ARE players left in the women's draw who HAVE beaten Serena at Wimbledon. Venus has done it twice, but not since 2008. She may get another shot in one more round. Maria Sharapova has, too, but she's spent the last eleven years realizing that Serena has never let her forget about it. She could see Serena in the semis. Sabine Lisicki defeated the world #1 en route to the final in 2013, but she's in the bottom half along with Kvitova.

Still, though a match with Venus would stir the senses just because of the possibility of a major moment occurring so late into the Sisters era, Petra is the only player in the draw who could potentially challenge Serena for hearts and minds BEFORE the match, with realistic chances of winning a Ladies final that would have legit heavyweight-champion-of-the-world undertones. It would make requisite goosebumps the only part of the Wimbledon dress code that would apply to everyone.

Well, maybe not Oracene. But she's the coolest, most naturally "chill" person on the planet, so we can't really count her.

And we might just get that final, too, with Williams seeking to make even more history and the Czech ready to grab a huge chunk of it for herself.

Of course, Petra hasn't been perfect at this Wimbledon. And, no, I'm not talking about the likelihood of Bad Petra throwing her shoulder against and breaking through the door behind which Kvitova has so far kept her locked in the opening days of this fortnight, either.

Even Merciless Petra isn't immune to a bad hair day. Good to know.

=DAY 4 NOTES= the first completed match on Thursday, #10 Angelique Kerber handled the almost-always-disappointing Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets after a tight 1s. A semifinalist in '12 and quarterfinalist a year ago, she'll face #20 Garbine Muguruza (def. Lucic-Baroni) in the Spaniard's first Wimbledon 3rd Round appearance.

#5 Caroline Wozniacki looked as if she was going to have an easy day, then things suddenly changed. The Dane won the opening set over Denisa Allertova (world #83) 6-1 in twenty-three minutes, dropping just five points. She led the 2nd at 5-1, then everything very nearly fell apart. Allertova erased the deficit and took things to a tie-break, which was knotted at 4-4 when the Czech dumped an easy volley into the net. That turned the tide, as Wozniacki held onto the advantage and won the TB 8-6 to advance to a 3rd Round match against #31 Camila Giorgi (def. Arruabarrena).

#18 Sabine Lisicki has a great history at the All-England Club, but that almost didn't help her today.

The German trailed Christina McHale 6-2 and was down a break at 1-0 in the 2nd before finally getting her game in gear, remembering that she was playing on her cherished Centre Court, and then essentially running the table from the middle of the 2nd set forward. After being knotted at 5-5 minutes earlier, Lisicki broke McHale at love to win the 2nd at 7-5, then she turned things up in the 3rd en route to a 2-6/7-5/6-1 victory. She'll next face an intriguing opponent in #15 Timea Bacsinszky, who advanced to her first career Wimbledon 3rd Round today (and continues to show why she's probably going to end up being a very unexpected Top 10 player at the end of 2015).

The highest women's seed to fall on Day 4 was #8 Ekaterina Makarova, so those pre-tournament questions about her proved to be warranted. Magdalena Rybarikova defeated the Hordette 6-2/7-5, eventually becoming the final Slovak in the draw when Halep conqueror Jana Cepelova failed to follow up her big win with another later in the day, losing to a different Romanian -- Monica Niculescu, 6-3/6-3.

...#13 Aga Radwanska allowed just two games to Ajla Tomljanovic, and will get Casey Dellacqua (def. #17 Elina Svitolina) in the next round. The Pole defeated the Aussie 6-4/6-0 in the 2nd Round of last year's Wimbledon.

#28 Jelena Jankovic continued her SW19 run, as well, as she put together her second straight comeback win to reach her first Wimbledon 3rd Round since 2010 (yep, that's right -- it's been that long). After winning a 10-8 3rd set over Elena Vesnina in the 1st Round, JJ defeated another Russian in three today, coming back from losing a 1st set TB to Evgeniya Rodina to win 6-7(4)/6-1/6-3. She fired twelve aces on the day, giving her twenty-five through two matches (and 80 total winners).

The 10-8 set on Thursday came in the match between Bouchard conqueror (yeah, that's not so exclusive a club anymore, is it?) Duan Yingying and Tatjana Maria. The 3rd set included eleven straight holds of serve, but when Maria got the break in game #18 (on her 3rd BP/MP) she claimed the match to reach her first career slam 3rd Round. Four Germans have reached the final 32.

...elsewhere, qualifier Olga Govortsova joined fellow Belarusian Vika Azarenka in the 3rd Round (tying her career best slam result) with a win over #25 Alize Cornet, who made big news at Wimbledon last year with her upset of Serena Williams, while #21 Madison Keys won to up the total number of Bannerettes remaining to six.

Late in the day, the Czechs added a third Maiden to the final 32. She's a Pliskova, but it's not Karolina. Instead, it's her twin sister Kristyna, the 2010 Wimbledon girls champ, who is now one win away from topping Karolina even further by becoming the first of the pair to reach a slam Round of 16.

Noting that #26 Svetlana Kuznetsova didn't seem like a grass court player to her ("she wasn't playing that fast"), Pliskova took out the three-time SW19 quarterfinalist 3-6/6-3/6-4.

Over the past year, the twins have seemed to effectively push each other upward in the sport. Good results from one twin have often soon been followed by similar success from the other sister. Maybe a second week slam run from Kristyna will FINALLY spur Karolina on to something similar herself come the U.S. Open. But, for now, THIS Pliskova is looking at a match against another unseeded player in Monica Niculescu in the 3rd Round in what, if things go a certain way, could be a preview of a 1st Round Fed Cup match from the CZE/ROU tilt that will take place in February 2016. Of course, that possible match could also involve the OTHER Pliskova, as well.

"Hmmmmm..." FROM DAY 4: Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have a "quiet" Radwanska running roughshod through the draw?

LIKE FROM DAY 4: The usual Sabine tweets at this time of year.

LIKE FROM DAY 4: It's funny because it's mostly true!

LIKE FROM DAY 4: JJ still being JJ

DON'T-EVEN-SAY-IT FROM DAY 4: I'm not saying ANYTHING...but be vigilant, just in case.

THEY'LL LEARN EVENTUALLY FROM DAY 4: I mean, you'd sort of have to know ALREADY that it's "Kristyna," not "Kristina," to immediately get it correct, right?

Maybe Kristyna could just "change out" with Karolina when no one's looking during a bathroom break between sets of her 3rd Rounder vs. Niculescu? That way, BOTH twins could enjoy the experience!

LIKE FROM DAY 4: Federer doing that Federer thing

STAR-OF-THE-DAY FOR DAY 4: Dustin Brown... and Dustin Brown's hair

...and, finally...

=TOP EARLY-ROUNDS PLAYER - 1st/2nd Rounds (Days 1-4)=
1. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...Good Petra is jealous of how well THIS Petra has played through the first two rounds.

2. Angelique Kerber, GER
..has carried over her Birmingham momentum, and might be on a collision course for an all-German QF with Lisicki.
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
...she's yet to face a challenge. But several are just around the corner. Upsets would really help her cause.
4. Serena Williams, USA
...right where she wants to be. Right where she needs to be. Right where no other player wants her to be.
5. Venus Williams, USA
...if only she was a little farther away from Serena in the draw.
6. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
...quietly, she's scooting along rather well. If she gets that far, Vika would face a Williams AFTER Serena-vs.-Venus happens.
7. Aga Radwanska, POL
...she's allowed just seven games through two rounds, and is REALLY hoping that JJ can upset Petra.
8. Belinda Bencic, SUI
...she's played back-to-back three-setters, but she beat Pironkova and had a 3rd set bagel. 3rd Round vs. Mattek-Sands should be fun.
9. Coco Vandweghe, USA
...outplayed Karolina Pliskova, and won U.S. non-tennis journalists' fandom by critiquing the woeful New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony.

10. Andrea Petkovic, GER
...she's only lost four games, but you get the feeling this is just a short-lived affair between Petko and the lawns.
HM- Jelena Jankovic, SRB
...two come-from-behind wins, 25 aces, 80 winners... and her reward is a match vs. Merciless Petra? A QC's work is never done.

2002 (Week 1 POW) Venus Williams, USA
2003 (Week 1 POW) Venus Williams, USA
2004 (Week 1 POW) Lindsay Davenport, USA
2005 (Week 1 co-POW) Lindsay Davenport, USA & Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2008 Serena Williams, USA
2009 Venus Williams, USA
2010 Venus Williams, USA & Serena Williams, USA *
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE *
2012 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2015 Petra Kvitova, CZE
* - won title

6...USA (Keys,Mattek-Sands,Stephens,Vandeweghe,S.Williams,V.Williams)
4...GER (Kvitova,Lisicki,Maria,Petkovic)
3...CZE (Kvitova,Kr.Pliskova,Safarova)
2...AUS (Dellacqua,Stosur)
2...BLR (Azarenka.Govortsova)
2...ROU (Begu,Niculescu)
2...SRB (Jankovic,Krunic)
2...SUI (Bacsinszky,Bencic)
1...DEN (Wozniacki)
1...ESP (Muguruza)
1...FRA (Mladenovic)
1...GBR (Watson)
1...ITA (Giorgi)
1...KAZ (Diyas)
1...POL (A.Radwanska)
1...RUS (Sharapova)
1...SVK (Rybarikova)

TOP QUALIFIER: Petra Cetkovska, CZE
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Petra Kvitova/CZE
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: #21 Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR d. Ysaline Bonaventure/BEL 1-6/6-3/12-10 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #6 Lucie Safarova/CZE d. Alison Riske/USA 3-6/7-5/6-3 (Riske up set and 4-2, served 5-4, 2-0 in 3rd)
FIRST WINNER: #23 Victoria Azarenka/BLR (def. Kontaveit/EST)
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Flavia Pennetta/ITA (lost 1st Rd. to Diyas/KAZ)
UPSET QUEENS: The Bannerettes
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Italy (Pennetta "FSO" - ITA 4/6 FSO at Wimbledon; Schiavone another 1st Rd; Knapp ret.; Vinci disappoints)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Govortsova/BLR, Mattek-Sands/USA
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Jelena Ostapenko/LAT (2nd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR (in 3rd Rd.)
IT ("??"): Nominee: "Pliskova" (Kristyna), "Belarusian" (Govortsova), "Bracelet" (Krunic), "Vandeweghe" (Coco)
COMEBACK: Nominee: Mattek-Sands/USA
CRASH & BURN: #12 Genie Bouchard/CAN (1st Rd. loss to qualifier #117 Duan; was '14 finalist; two con. slam 1st Rd. losses) & #3 Simona Halep/ROU (1st Rd. loss to #106 Cepelova; lost to Bouchard in '14 SW19 semi)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: #6 Safarova (1st Rd. - down set and 4-2 vs. Riske, who served at 5-4 for the match, then led 2-0 in the 3rd); Watson (1st Rd. - down 3 MP as Garcia served at 5-4 in 3rd set, won 8-6); #21 Keys (1st Rd. - down set and 3-1 vs. Voegele, forced 3rd set and finished off win the next day)
THE RADWANSKA AWARD (June 26): Aga Radwanska & the seagull (in Eastbourne, bird swoops at Radwanska as she serves... one day later, she loses in the final)
THE RADWANSKA AWARD (Day 3): Day 3 is the hottest day ever recorded in Wimbledon history (35.7 C / 96 F)
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): Nominees: Date-Krumm/Schiavone (combined 79 years old), Black/Raymond (combined 77 years old), V.Williams, S.Williams

All for Day 4. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

Azarenka is starting to play with some of Serena's patterns. Short-angled FH cross to pull ppl wide. Also calming left-hand... And I never see Wim Fissette Sascha full-time now?

Fri Jul 03, 11:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Mladenovic has amazing feel.

Fri Jul 03, 11:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Adidas finally made a good looking tennis kit (Mladenovic). Please tell me that it's not Stella's work.

Fri Jul 03, 12:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I believe Sascha is full time. Fissette's wife just had a baby, so he might be away at the moment. Not sure.

Fri Jul 03, 12:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

this serena match is reminding me of last year's wimbledon against cornet. total combustion in second set. and then nerves to start the third. difference between this year and last year, serena didn't let opponent get to 5-0 in the 3rd set before making a come back.

Fri Jul 03, 02:30:00 PM EDT  

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