W.5- Serenativity Slam Survival Scenario #57315
Another slam, another Serenativity Slam Survival Scenario.
We've come to expect this sort of thing from Serena Williams at the majors. At least once en route to nearly even one of her twenty career titles. But against Brit Heather Watson on Day 5, for a bit, this one looked as if it might have a totally different ending than the one we've grown used to.
No British woman has defeated a sitting #1-ranked player in the world in thirty-six years (Sue Barker def. Chris Evert), but Watson -- the only Brit to win a tour singles title since 1988 -- came about as close as one could without actually pulling it off today. After a fine start, Williams began to noticeably press mid-way through the 2nd set, and Watson seized upon her opportunity, outplaying the five-time Wimbledon champ over most of the last half of their 3rd Round match, playing spectacular defense that consistently forced Serena to hit three, four, and sometimes even more additional shots in an attempt to secure a point, while also upping her own game at the biggest moments. Watson held a double-break lead at 3-0 in the 3rd set, and served for the match at 5-4. She got to within two points of the win.
But Williams did what she does, winning 6-2/4-6/7-5 and doing so with much of the usual drama (though not as much as we saw the last time this sort of thing occurred in the Roland Garros semifinals). In the final set, Serena looked to the Players Box, where her family and team were imploring her to take the match as her own, a plea to which she spread her arms and said, "I'm trying!" A heavily partisan British crowd on Centre Court had to be warned at one point to not call out during points, sparking a discussion with the chair umpire and a clear, "Don't try me" message from Serena. Meanwhile, Henman Hill was so packed with fans that it had to be closed down and any additional partisans kept away.
Early on, though, it looked as if Williams was going to cruise. After spending the lead-up and the opening days of this Wimbledon talking about how a possible Grand Slam wasn't on her mind, and then slowly (though not flawlessly) seeming to round into shape through her first two matches, the chances appeared good that Serena might continue to build and build during run to a point where until it resembled something this side of an historical avalanche, not unlike what we saw during her pristine 2012 London Olympic turn that completed her Career Golden Slam. Seeking a second "Serena Slam" with her fourth straight major title, and the chance to keep alive an opportunity for more later this summer in New York (including tying Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 slam wins), Williams has maintained a fairly intense level of focus this week, and things appeared to be no different today.
She easily won the 1st set at 6-2, and after exchanging breaks in games #5 and #6 in the 2nd set it was assumed she'd get another break and close things out quickly to officially set up the anticipated Round of 16 match-up with her sister Venus early next week. But then the very history-laced moments that Serena has brushed off all week seemed to slow her pace all at once, as the pressure to live up to expectations was finally evident on her face as things began to slip away. If Watson hadn't stepped things up, this still might have been a straight sets Williams win. But Watson held firm, then a Williams error handed a break of serve and a 5-4 lead to the Brit. Serena held a break point a game later, but Watson saved it with a rally-ending backhand winner up the line, then claimed the set on her second set point when Williams netted a second serve return to send Centre Court and Henman Hill fans into a tizzy.
It would only get worse for Serena in the 3rd before it got better. Watson broke to take a 1-0 lead when Williams pushed a forehand wide on break point, then held for 2-0 when Serena sailed another forehand just out. It was at this point that everyone expected Serena to dig in, let out a few wails and bully her way to the win. But that didn't happen, at least not for a while. She took a 40/15 lead on serve, but soon found herself at deuce. After putting away a forehand volley and shouting, "Come on!," Williams had her third GP. But after having to step back from the net to get to a Watson down-the-line shot, and lifting her forehand past the baseline, Williams hit back-to-back double-faults to break herself and fall behind 3-0, with a double-break disadvantage.
With the run at history teetering on the edge of oblivion, game #4 turned out to be the key. Williams pushed Watson into a corner, practically daring her to give up, but the Brit was equal to the challenge as Serena took six break points before she could finally cut the break advantage in half. She battled both herself and her up-for-anything opponent the entire way.
After scrambling around the court before finally hitting a forehand winner, Serena held double-break point and had a chance to immediately begin her comeback. But she failed to convert either chance, netting a backhand return of a 78-mph second serve on #2. on BP #3, Watson controlled the point throughout, getting back every Williams shot before finally taking it with a backhand winner. On BP #4, Williams over-hit an 81-mph second serve, but course-corrected two points later and didn't commit the same error on a Watson game point when she was presented with yet another second serve. Watson's double-fault gave Williams a fifth BP chance, but the Brit saved with it with forehand winner, only to see Serena save another GP. Watson fired a shot long to gave Williams her sixth BP opportunity and, on the eighteenth point of the game, it was finally converted when Watson hit a forehand wide to cut her own lead to 3-1.
As everyone else tried to recover from the game's tension, Oracene Price (Serena's mother) did what SHE does, as a big smile appeared on her face. She leaned over the edge of the stands as if trying to get an ever better look at the action. You could practically hear her saying to herself, "Oh, THIS is going to get GOOD."
And it did.
As a few errors not surprisingly crept into Watson's game, Serena's blasted a backhand winner. Come onnnnnnnnnn!!! She held for 3-2, then erased a 40/love Watson lead on serve and reached break point. Williams controlled the ensuing rally, running Watson from side to side before coming into the net for a put-away forehand that got things back on serve at 3-3. Serena didn't suddenly run over the Brit in the next game, but she showed signs of her sneaking Serenativity Survival Skills. She followed up a 119-mph serve with a 122-mph ace to reach game point, but a combination of Williams errors and Watson defense gave the Brit a BP chance. Serena erased it with a half volley winner off the line and went on to hold for 4-3 by putting away her third GP.
But, again, Watson didn't fold. Instead she took a 40/15 lead on serve and held for 4-4 with a drop shot, then shockingly broke Williams at love after opening game #9 with great defensive gets that extended the point long enough for it to end when Serena's backhand shot bounced up off the net cord and landed on her own side of the net. A double-fault was then followed by a long forehand approach shot and a long backhand volley as Watson grabbed a 5-4 lead and had the chance to serve for the match.
Then game #10 turned into a mini-version of game #4.
Watson was eaten up by an up the middle shot that gave Williams a 30/15 lead. After Serena barely kept multiple shots in the court in the rally that involved the calls from the stands, a backhand volley stab wasn't gotten back over the net by Watson and Williams had a double break point. On her first shot, she fired a return long, and on the second Watson's miss-hit managed to find the corner of the court and Serena failed to fully get her racket on the ball. A forehand winner (#50 on the day) gave Williams BP #3, but Watson did her best Serena impression and saved it with an ace. Finally, a huge forehand gave Serena her fourth BP shot, and Watson's error put things back on serve at 5-5.
Watson had her shot right there to pull off a tournament and history-altering upset, and after failing to serve things out there likely was no one who DIDN'T know what was going to happen next.
Right on cue, Williams dialed up her serve, quickly holding at love with a wide service winner, an ace up the middle, a wide ace and another huge serve down the center of the court that Watson could only wave her racket at and sail a ball long. The game provided a rare moment to breathe in the final set and a half of the match but, technically, things were only still on serve. Williams' only advantage was a 6-5 lead on the scoreboard. But no one really believed that.
Still, Watson grabbed a 30/love lead. Then Williams forcefully claimed her ability to continue to point towards making more history. A big return created a Watson error, then the Brit wasted a wonderfully constructed point when she moved into the net for a put away a winner that would get her within a point of a huge hold... and then she yanked a backhand wide to move Serena within two points of victory. Williams' stab return got back Watson's big serve up the middle on the next point, and when the Brit failed to pass Serena at the net and the American had her first match point.
But she'd end up needing three.
After Williams got to a drop shot, then reached her second MP with a smash at the net, she netted yet another second serve return. Williams moved Watson left and right a point later, but the balls kept coming back. Finally, one of Serena's shots was just far enough out of reach that Watson couldn't keep her own shot in the court and Williams reached her third MP. Serena's deep return was fired back long by Watson and, after a challenge review that proved the Williams shot had indeed clipped the line, it was finally all over.
S.Williams def. Watson 6-2/4-6/7-5... and it was a doozy.
Serena: "[Heather] was playing so good, there was nothing I could do. She should've won the match. She gave her all" pic.twitter.com/D246lymBMM— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2015
Williams now has under her belt the requisite dancing-on-the-edge, death-defying victory that usually foretells another successful slam-winning run, but it didn't come easily. In fact, and rightly so considering the Brit's unwillingness to give in down the stretch, Serena's wasn't paying lip service to Watson when she said that her opponent played better and probably should have won. Unlike some of Williams' similar come-from-behind victories in the past, this one was as much about an opponent lifting her game to a previously-unseen height as it was Williams herself having her game suddenly lose all its steam. Sure, Serena's surely took a half-step back... but as Watson challenged Williams in those two important service games in the final set, though she ultimately lost them both as Serena needed ten BP chances to secure the pair of breaks, this match became something more than just a case of a rising and falling world #1.
As Watson said herself, she proved today that she compete with the best players if she can keep her head about her. When told that the Brit's goal is to reach the Top 20 after the match, Williams legitimately scoffed at the notion and said that she thinks Watson is underselling herself. "I think she should set her goals higher because she can definitely do better," she said.
Serena will likely be thinking the same thing about herself over the next two days, as the American will actually get the 4th of July weekend "off" and won't have to play again until Monday. She'll need the rest after a day like this.
We don't REALLY know what's going to happen next. But we do know one thing -- there's going to be a Williams in the quarterfinals. Now it's just about finding out which one it's going to be.
=DAY 5 NOTES=
...Serena's latest display of her Serenativity Survival Skills sort of overshadowed everything else that took place on Day 5, as it should have. But seven other women DID advance to the Round of 16 which will take place (ALL of it) on Monday.
Venus, of course, won her match against Aleksandra Krunic, which (early on, at least) was played simultaneously with the Serena/Watson instant classic. Of course, it wasn't played on one of the two big show courts (Centre and Court 1), though, and was instead on Court 2. It's the second time #16 Venus has played on Court 2 at this Wimbledon, with her other match coming on Court 3. Obviously, winning five SW19 singles titles doesn't buy you much at the AELTC. If you check some of the identification boxes that Venus does, at least.
As Serena herself noted, Venus is in the better form of the two sisters. She won her first twelve points on serve today, and sixteen of her first eighteen. She broke the Serb for a 5-3 lead, then had to save two break points held by The Bracelet a game later (Krunic won four of the total number of points -- six -- she won off Williams' serve in the set in that game alone) before holding to take the 1st at 6-3. Williams got an early break in the 2nd and coasted to a 6-3/6-2 victory.
In all, Venus won 38 of 48 service points, and now advances to her thirteenth Wimbledon Round of 16 (her first since '11), where there will be an all-Williams SW19 affair for the sixth time. They haven't met in the event since 2009, and never earlier than the semis until now.
...meanwhile, #6 Lucie Safarova's 1st Round escape against Alison Riske is looking more and more interesting with every passing round. The Czech defeated Sloane Stephens in three sets today, 3-6/6-3/6-1. Safarova's ability to hold serve proved to be the key ingredient, as Stephens had just two BP chances all day long. She converted on her only opportunity in the 1st, and won the set. Unable to convert her second chance early in the 2nd, Stephens never got another. Conversely, Safarova was 3-for-3 on BP chances in the final set, and won 26 of the 37 total points in the stanza.
The Czech will next face Coco Vandweghe, the third American to advance to the 4th Round today. After losing the first two games against #22 Sam Stosur, Vandeweghe won twelve in a row to advance to her first slam Round of 16.
...you have to feel for Bethanie Mattek-Sands. It SO looked like she had it, or that at least she wouldn't end up losing in straight sets to #30 Belinda Bencic. The Bannerette qualifier, fresh off her "old school" win over #7 Ana Ivanovc, led the 18-year old Swiss 4-0 in the 1st, and served up 5-1, holding a set point. She held two more SP at 5-2, and served for the set again at 5-3. But she dropped serve three consecutive times and Bencic charged back to win the 1st 7-5. In the 2nd, things were tight until late, when BMS was broken for 6-5, then Bencic served out the match to claim her tour-leading fourteenth (9 in a row) grass court victory this season.
In the 4th Round, Bencic will face #23 Vika Azarenka, who continued to quietly maneuver through the draw with a 6-4/6-4 win over Kiki Mladenovic.
...meanwhile, #14 Andrea Petkovic's better-than-she-probably-hoped-for Wimbledon run was ended by Kazakh Zarina Diyas, whose 7-5/6-4 win puts her into the Round of 16 for the second straight year. She'll face #4 Maria Sharapova, who defeated #29 Irina-Camelia, 6-4/6-3, though she did "slip" a bit in the 2nd after rushing out to a 5-0 lead. Sharapova's appearance in the 4th Round means there has been at least one Hordette in the Round of 16 at fifty-nine of the last sixty slams.
...in doubles, one SuperVet duo fell, as Kimiko Date-Krumm & Francesca Schiavone lost to #1-seeded Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza, while the other, Cara Black & Lisa Raymond, picked up a very big victory by upsetting Garbine Muguruza & Carla Suarez-Navarro less than a two weeks after the Spanish duo won the Birmingham crown.
LIKE FOR DAY 5: If only...
LIKE FOR DAY 5: Scouting the next opponent
Bencic and Hingis having a chat watching Mladenovic v Azarenka ... pic.twitter.com/7t8jKOpTTj— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) July 3, 2015
"Well, all right then" FOR DAY 5: The selfie continues to revolutionize what is considered a "normal" image in day-to-day life
This was so fun. Post-match selfie for Safarova & Steckley. pic.twitter.com/pxEEB7ssw3— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) July 3, 2015
"Hmmm... was it a mirage?" FROM DAY 5: That feeling when the ATP's "youth movement" sees both of last year's NextGen semifinalists -- Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic -- bow out before the arrival of the first weekend on Day 5.
IT WAS THAT KIND OF DAY FOR SAM ON DAY 5:
When you just miss the ice cream van by a few seconds pic.twitter.com/YwCMdzGxQR— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) July 3, 2015
Trying to hit a home run like pic.twitter.com/zUq0QtCuFv— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) July 3, 2015
LIKE FOR DAY 5: Sabine just isn't quite the same away from Wimbledon
MAKING PROMISES ON DAY 5:
London... I'll be back .. After many years , I fell in love with you?? https://t.co/VQqkKnXPcB— Svetlana Kuznetsova (@SvetlanaK27) July 3, 2015
THE PEOPLE YOU RUN INTO ON TWITTER FOR DAY 5:
Didn't know u were on Twitter!!! My beautiful sister in law!!! https://t.co/ccP5QOjhjO— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) July 3, 2015
LIKE FOR DAY 5: Stubbsy and the Gang
THE THINGS YOU LEARN ON DAY 5:
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF ON DAY 5: Hmmm, so you say John Isner engaged in a match today that included three tie-breaks and was knotted at 10-10 in the 5th set before play was suspended due to darkness? Gee, we've never seen anything like THAT at Wimbledon before.
...and, finally, the junior singles draws are out.
But first, the Roehampton pre-Wimbledon grass court tournament was completed today.
Gálfi Dalma 76(3) 62-re verte a junior világelso cseh Vondrousovát a roehamptoni 1-es ITF junior verseny döntojében! pic.twitter.com/VVgt4VNBDC— HUNgarianTENNIS (@HUNgarianTENNIS) July 3, 2015
Hungary's Dalma Galfi defeated junior #1 Marketa Vondrousova 7-6(3)/6-2, adding the Czech to a list of defeated opponents that also included Bannerette Ingrid Neel in the semis. Brit Katie Swan was the other semifinalist, but she handed Vondrousova a walkover. In the doubles, Vondrousova & Miriam Kolodziejova claimed the title with a win in the final over Aussies Destanee Aiava & Olivia Tjandramulia. The Czechs now head to Wimbledon looking to win their third straight girls doubles slam. If they do it, they'd be a win at the U.S. Open away from becoming the first duo to ever win a Girls Doubles Grand Slam.
Here are the Wimbledon singles seeds:
1.Marketa Vondrousova, CZE
2.Xu Shilin, CHN
3.Dalma Galfi, HUN
4.Anna Kalinskaya, RUS
5.Katie Swan, GBR
6.Usue Arconada, USA
7.Charlotte Robillard-M., CAN
8.Miriam Kolodziejova, CZE
9.Sonya Kenin, USA
10.Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
11.Fanni Stollar, HUN
12.Anna Blinkova, RUS
13.Luisa Stefani, BRA
14.Julieta Estable, ARG
15.Pranjala Yadlapalli, IND
16.Zheng Wushuang, CHN
#1 Vondrousova/CZE d. Arbuthnutt/GBR
Neel/USA d. #3 Galfi/HUN
#1 Vondrousova d. Neel/USA
...the way the draw is set up, the exact same semifinal match-ups from Roehampton could be repeated here. But with Swan's retirement this week, I'll go with another Brit (Emily Arbuthnutt) in her spot, then switch up the other results, as well. But I'll still go with Vondrousova, by RG pick, as well, as she's sort of now become this year's version of Jelena Ostapenko when it comes to my apparent I'll-pick-her-until-she-wins-a-girls-slam-or-the-roof-caves-in-whichever-comes-first pattern. Ostapenko finally won the Wimbledon girls crown last year, so maybe the Tennis Gods will be kind once again.
*LADIES' SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #16 Venus Williams/USA
#23 Victoria Azarenka/BLR vs. #30 Belinda Bencic/SUI
#4 Maria Sharapova/RUS vs. Zarina Diyas/KAZ
Coco Vandeweghe/USA vs. #6 Lucie Safarova/CZE
x v. x
x v. x
x v. x
x v. x
*GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #14 Kevin Anderson/RSA
xx vs. (WC) Denis Kudla/USA
#4 Stan Wawrinka/SUI vs. #16 David Goffin/BEL
#21 Richard Gasquet/FRA vs. #26 Nick Kyrgios/AUS
x v. x
x v. x
x v. x
x v. x
*LADIES' DOUBLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. x/x
x/x v. x/x
x/x v. x/x
HC.Chan/Van Uytvanck (TPE/BEL) v. #5 Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA)
#7 S.Hsieh/Pennette (TPE/ITA) v. x/x
#14 Krajicek/Strycova (NED/CZE) v. x/x
C.Black/Raymond (ZIM/USA) v. x/x
Barthel/L.Kichenok (GER/UKR) vs. #2 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
*GENTLEMEN'S DOUBLES ROUND OF 16*
#1 B.Bryan/M.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Pavic/Venus (CRO/NZL)
#9 Bopanna/Mergea (IND/ROU) vs. Kubot/Mirnyi (POL/BLR)
#5 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU) vs. x/x
x/x vs. x/x
#8 Peya/Soares (AUT/BRA) vs. x/x
x/x vs. #3 Pospisil/Sock (CAN/USA)
(LL) Daniell/Demoliner (NZL/BRA) vs. (Q) Erlich/Petzschner (ISR/GER)
x/x vs. #2 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA)
When your cute waiter says "Enjoy your meal" and you reply "Thanks, you too." pic.twitter.com/AUWqE2RwEj— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) July 3, 2015
When you're not really in the mood to talk about your next opponent pic.twitter.com/z7PGPfU3wu— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) July 2, 2015
**SERENA vs. VENUS at WIMBLEDON**
2000 SF - Venus 6-2,7-6(3)
2002 Final - Serena 7-6(4),6-3
2003 Final - Serena 4-6,6-4,6-2
2008 Final - Venus 7-5,6-4
2009 Final - Serena 7-6(3),6-2
2015 4th Rd. - ???
TOP QUALIFIER: Petra Cetkovska, CZE
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Petra Kvitova/CZE
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): xx
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)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
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
REVELATION LADIES: The Swiss
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(L)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Jelena Ostapenko/LAT (2nd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR (3rd Rd.)
IT ("??"): Nominee: "Pliskova" (Kristyna), "Belarusian" (Govortsova), "Vandeweghe" (Coco)
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); #21 Keys (1st Rd. - down set and 3-1 vs. Voegele, forced 3rd set and finished off win the next day); #1 S.Williams (3rd Rd. - down 3-0 in 3rd set vs. Watson, who served for match at 5-4 and was two points from victory)
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)
DOUBLES STAR: xx
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): Nominees: Black/Raymond (combined 77 years old), V.Williams, S.Williams
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx
All for Day 5. More tomorrow.