Friday, July 06, 2018

W.5- Serena and Venus and Kikis! Oh My! Serena and Venus and Kikis! Oh My!

In the war of attrition that has been the first week of this Wimbledon, with top seeds falling on a daily (and sometimes hourly, it's seemed) basis, it was left to the Williams Sisters to seize the stage, and the show court schedule, on Day 4. Some things never change... though they will one day. Right?

At 38 and 36 years of age, respectively, Venus and Serena are seeming fixtures at Wimbledon. They've combined for seventeen singles titles at the All-England Club, as well as six other final appearances. They've joined forces to win the doubles six times. They've faced off in four finals on the last weekend of the fortnight, and been on the opposite side of the net from one another six total times. Venus was in the women's final a year ago, while Serena hasn't lost in the event since 2014. On Friday, they played their 203rd and 204th combined SW19 singles matches, simultaneously... with each facing off with a different Kiki.

Needless to day, it was a unique scenario.

While both Sisters in the past raged their way to finals that became All-Williams Family Centre Court affairs, the last of those happened in London in 2009. Today, as time alters things even for these two (at least a little), "only" a possible semifinal meeting was potentially waiting for them down the line during this fortnight. As it turned out, only a single Williams would manage to escape the day with a victory.

On Court 1, #9 Venus went up against #20 Kiki Bertens, a Dutch player best known for her clay court prowess. Today, though, Venus got off to another slow start (she dropped the opening set in both her 1st and 2nd Round wins). She dropped serve in game #1, was broken again to fall behind 4-1, and Bertens claimed the set at 6-2. In the 2nd, Williams erased a 4-2 deficit, getting things evened-up at 4-4, but still had to fight tooth and designer nail just to get to a 3rd set. Bertens got a break to go up 5-4, but then saw her error count begin to rise as she approached what would be a false finish line. Venus led 6-2 in the resulting tie-break, but was forced to use four set points to finally level the match (via a Bertens forehand error) with a 7-5 win.

Venus took at 2-0 lead in the 3rd, but Bertens soon got things back on serve and the two then traded off a series of service holds. Williams held from 4-5 and 5-6 (from love/30) down, as Bertens couldn't quite keep her shots in the court at the biggest moments. Venus again served to stay in the match down 6-7. The game reached deuce multiple times, but Williams' inability to put away a pair of game points (flying a forehand on one, being unable to get back a low-bouncing ball at the net on the other) proved her final undoing. Match point down for the first time, Williams closed in to the net and put away a volley winner, only to then dump a volley and give Bertens a second MP soon afterward. The Dutch woman would need a third, but she converted when Venus netted a backhand to end the 6-2/6-7(5)/8-6 contest in 2:40.

While the two matches didn't start at the same time, most of the action was going on simultaneously, with many key moments in the action somewhat lining up between the two contests. While Venus was losing to Bertens on Court 1, over on Centre Court it was #25 Serena going up against Kiki Mladenovic.

Like Venus, Serena started slowly. The Pastry led 4-2 in the 1st, and served at 5-4. But Williams got the break of serve and surged ahead 6-5. After unsuccessfully putting away three SP on the Mladenovic serve, Serena's opponent did it for her by DF'ing on SP #4.

Williams took a 2-0 lead in the 2nd, but Mladenovic managed to catch up and mostly play evenly with the player the French woman has made a point to talk about in the past how much admires. Serena fired an ace to hold at love for 3-2, then four games later saved a BP and held for 5-4. Mladenovic was then faced with the same predicament as Venus in the other match, having to serve while behind on the scoreboard in order to stay alive in the match. She pulled it off when doing so at 4-5, then again at 5-6 despite sailing a forehand at the net on GP, and netting another forehand to go down MP. Mladenovic saved it with a crosscourt forehand winner, then got the hold to send things to a TB.

There, Serena took over as she has so often in the past. Up 5-2, she served two for a berth in the Round of 16. Though we hadn't really been privileged enough to yet see it since her post-pregnancy return this year, we knew what the "old" Serena would usually do here. Well... she *did* fire back-to-back aces to make things elementary today, as it turned out. With the 7-5/7-6(2) win official, with 13 aces to her credit and half her serves having been unreturnable, Serena concluded her 17th straight Wimbledon victory with an emphatic -- but maybe even more joyful -- lifting of her arms over her head along with a shout of "Yes!"

As the only remaining seed in her quarter, Serena could now reach the semis without facing a seed. And if she gets there, it won't be Venus who'll be awaiting her.

With Serena picking up her 89th career win at the AELTC, she's now tied for third on the tournament's all-time women's list (behind only Navratilova and Evert) with, yes, Venus, who failed to get her 90th today. It seems sort of fitting, doesn't it?

As hectic as these types of "Williams Days" are, they positively glow with all the unique aspects that have followed the Sisters around for the past two decades. They needn't play *each other* for that to be the case. You watch because you know, no how many times we've seen it and no matter how "common" seeing multiples "Williams" dotting a day's schedule at a major has become, deep in your tennis soul, just how rare a thing like this is.

Even though it didn't *totally* work out the way the Sisters would have preferred this time, it was still another good day in a long, long line of them.

=DAY 5 NOTES= one of the all-unseeded 3rd Round matches to go early in the day, some might have needed some cheat notes to pull apart the career resumes of Lucie Safarova and Ekaterina Makarova. After all, both are former Top 10 singles players and been to multiple slam WS semis (Safarova has even been in a final), they've reached doubles #1 and won a series of slam titles, too. Of course, that doesn't explain Wimbledon originally tweeting (in a later deleted post) after it was over the Makarova had defeated her "compatriot," but things *do* tend to get confusing in the heat of the moment at the slams, don't they?

Your 'ova is my 'ova, but our 'ova is not necessarily someone else's 'ova.

So, I guess Makarova's "luck" managed to hold for another round, and the Russian has now advanced (at least) two rounds further into the draw than some(one) might have expected. Her win also maintains a long-standing run of Hordette success in majors, as her presence in the Round of 16 means at least one Russian has advanced as far in 69 of the last 72 slams, and every year but one (2013, of course) at SW since 2001. Actually, this one didn't even come down to the wire, as Makarova's actual compatriot, Evgeniya Rodina, also reached the 4th Round today. Tomorrow, Dasha Kasatkina and Vitalia Diatchenko will seek to join them.

Speaking of Rodina. The 29-year old qualifier (#120) produced her first career Round of 16 result today with a win in a crazy momentum-swinging match against #10 Madison Keys. While Rodina was a bit hobbled and was treated by a trainer, Keys was wildly (and sometimes spectacularly) in and out of "the zone" on this day, with her usually firing winners galore or making headspinning errors. She was a little like the Madison of old, in fact. She even admitted afterward that she allowed the thought of possibly playing Serena in the next round to leak into her mind, and that may have been enough to cause her in-match fluctuation. Talk about being honest.

Keys led the 1st set 4-1, and at 5-2 was two points from the set. Then, at 5-3, she went off the rails and Rodina won nine straight games, taking the 1st 7-5 and then going up 4-0 in the 2nd. The Russian held four BP for a 5-0 lead, but Keys staved them off and, naturally, the Bannerette then ran off a five-game streak of her own to take a 5-4 lead. She broke Rodina to take the 2nd at 7-5.

But Keys' good stretch didn't last. Four consecutive errors handed Rodina a break for 2-1 in the 3rd. The Hordette took an MTO for her knee, then came back and held for 3-1. Keys leveled things at 3-3, but then lost dropped serve, only to get the break back a game later, but drop serve again as Rodina got the chance to serve for the match. Whew!

At 30/30 in game #10, Keys fired a huge forehand return to the baseline, but Rodina was able to squat down and block the ball back for a down the line winner to reach MP. A forehand return error form Keys ended the 7-5/5-7/6-4 match that would, in the end, contribute to Serena Williams being the last remaining U.S. woman in the singles draw.

...Katerina Siniakova has been working overtime to survive at this Wimbledon. The Czech had to stage back-to-back comebacks after seeing her opponent serve at 5-3 in the 3rd set in both her two previous matches this week. She saved a MP vs. Ons Jabeur in the 2nd Round. After having her match vs. the Tunisian wild card postponed from Tuesday she was forced to play it yesterday, a day on which she also played doubles. With the delay, she was called upon to play a second straight day in singles on Friday. Naturally, the AELTC scheduled her as one of the first-up matches on the Day 5 schedule. No rest (or courtesy) for the weary, I guess.

Still, Siniakova was hoping she might not be forced to work quite as many hours today, though she *was* playing Camila Giorgi, so assuming something such as that was always dicey. Although, even after falling and having her hip looked at by a trainer, Siniakova led the Italian 6-3/4-2, and held a MP at 5-4. But Giorgi saved it, got a late break and soon saw herself serving for the set at 6-5. Siniakova got the break to send things to a tie-break. There, she saved a SP via 25-shot rally at 6-5, but Giorgi immediately rebounded and took the final two points to win 8-6 and send things to a 3rd. The tearful Czech was left to lament what might have been during the changeover. And, later, after the match.

From there, Giorgi seized control. She led 5-2 with Siniakova serving to stay in the match, so the possibility of a THIRD straight opponent serving at 5-3 in the 3rd vs. the Czech was there for the having. But the Italian got the break to win 3-6/7-6(6)/6-2 in 2:41, reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon for the first time in six years.

...meanwhile, Donna Vekic continued to make good on her 1st Round defeat of #4 Sloane Stephens. Today she advanced past Yanina Wickmayer 7-6(2)/6-1 to reach her first career slam Round of 16.

Later, totally lost in the commotion of both Williams Sisters squaring off with different Kikis at the same time, there was another crazy match taking place out on Court 2. Honestly, I almost forgot it was still going on at some point.

As it turned out, #13 Julia Goerges, after coming to London having lost five straight 1st Round matches at Wimbledon, advanced to her first SW19 Round of 16 (her sixth such slam result gives her a Career Round of 16 Slam, if there is such a thing) with a victory in 2:58 over #23 Barbora Strycova.

The match turned out to have a 3rd set for the ages, as after twelve straight holds of serve it suddenly became impossible for either player to hold at all. Goerges finally got her first break of the day (after 16 previous service holds from Strycova) of the Czech's serve to take a 7-6 lead. But Strycova then continually broke back to stay in the match, forcing Goerges to serve for the the win three different times, at 7-6, 8-7 and 9-8. Finally, she got the hold to win 7-6(3)/3-6/10-8.

Goerges and Vekic will play to decide whether the 29-year old (in her 42nd slam MD), or the 22-year old (in her 20th), will reach her first career major QF.

...the final women's 3rd Rounder to wrap up on Day 5 featured one of the *two* remaining Top 10 seeds, #7 Karolina Pliskova, against #29 Mihaela Buzarnescu. Pliskova had already attained her best career SW19 result with her dominating win over Vika Azarenka in the 2nd Round, while the Romanian was looking to reach her second straight slam Round of 16 after having arrived in Paris a few weeks ago having never recorded a MD victory in a major.

It looked as if Buzarnescu was going to be the one celebrating. She jumped out to an early lead against a lackluster Pliskova, taking a 6-3/4-2 lead before the Czech had even held a BP on her serve. Once she got one, though, everything changed. Pliskova's conversion cut the Swarmette's lead to 4-3, and it was suddenly a different match as the Maiden's latent confidence bubbled back up to the surface while Buzarnescu's Romanian fire began to scorch her own chances. Once she dropped serve for the first time, Buzarnescu angrily fired a ball on the bounce toward her players box (along with an accompanying death stare). One has to give her credit for accuracy, as the ball bounced perfectly and seemed to clang around inside and then out of the box. Somehow, the umpire didn't penalize or warn her for that one, but considering she was playing Pliskova, who literally destroyed part of an umpire's chair a few weeks ago and only garnered a minor fine, I guess giving *her* a pass was fine, as well.

Buzarnescu soon managed to hold for 5-4, and was up love/30 on Pliskova's serve in game #11. But the Czech got the hold and took things to a TB, as the Romanian's outbursts got bigger and bigger. With her opponent bouncing off the walls at times (or so it seemed), Pliskova's positive emotions took over. She won the TB 7-3, then dominated a 6-1 3rd set. doubles action on Friday, Latisha Chan's latest experiment in doubles partnership (this time w/ Peng Shuai) was dealt yet another serious blow as the veteran pair (the #5 seeds) fell in their 2nd Round match to Abigail Spears & Alicja Rosolska.

Latisha's sister Angel, too, was sent out along with partner Yang Zhaoxuan, falling to Alona Ostapenko (still undefeated at this Wimbledon after going winless in WS, WD and MX in Paris) & Christina McHale.

Meanwhile, doubles co-#1 Ekaterina Makarova's great day in singles didn't extend to doubles, as she and countrywoman Vera Zvonareva lost to #8-seeded Elise Mertens & Demi Schuurs.

...meanwhile, one thing about Wimbledon as compared to the other slams, quite possibly because of the potential weather delays and the scheduled Middle Sunday off, it's super-efficient at times, such as when it comes to scheduling (and finishing early) the qualifying rounds, and even releasing draws and such. For example, the junior draws have already been released (on Thursday), and it happened and was up on the site before they've even finished the qualifying event. The big 1st Round match-up has #1 Whitney Osuigwe meeting Iga Swiatek, the Pole who drew #4 Alexa Noel in the 1st Round in Paris (she won that one, and reached the SF). Here are the girls' seeds:

1. Whitney Osuigwe, USA
2. Liang En-shuo, TPE
3. Coco Gauff, USA
4. Wang Xinyu, CHN
5. Alexa Noel, USA
6. Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, COL
7. Eleonora Molinaro, LUX
8. Clara Tauson, DEN
9. Yuki Naito, JPN
10. Wang Xiyu, CHN
11. Leylah Annie Fernandez, CAN
12. Naho Sato, JPN
13. Caty McNally, USA
14. Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA
15. Maria Carle, ARG
16. Clara Burel, FRA

The Roehampton tune-up event has now been completed, with RG junior champ Coco Gauff taking the title in yet another all-Bannerette final, defeating Caty McNally 6-2/6-3. #3 Gauff defeated AO champ Liang En-Shuo (#2 seed) in the semis, while #12 McNally, who also lost the RG final to Gauff, took out #4 Wang Xinyu (QF) and #1 Osuigwe (SF) en route. Gauff and McNally could meet again in the girls semis at SW19.

McNally & Osuigwe combined to take the doubles. As the #2 seeds, they defeated #1 Clara Tauson/Wang Xinyu in a pair of TB in the final.

#3 Gauff d. Swiatek get the feeling we may be talking about Gauff a few years down the line in terms of, "Remember when she won (insert title) as a junior? yeah, you *knew* even then."
#1 Babos/Mladenovidc d. #6 Dabrowski/Xu
...the '18 AO champs vs. a pair undefeated in finals (4-0) together
#1 Dabrowski/Pavic d. #16 Watson/Kontinen
...any doubles draw Pavic has been in this season, he's been a threat to win it. Well, until today, at least. His MD results before Wimbledon in 2018: W-W-W-RU-QF-SF-QF-RU-QF-QF-W-RU-SF, while Dabrowski/Pavic won in Melbourne this year, and reached the final in Paris. Today Pavic & Oliver Marach lost in the 1st Round to an unseeded team. Maybe it'll help his chances with the Canadian, though.

LIKE ON DAY 5: The Czech accent has always fit in quite nicely at Wimbledon...

LIKE ON DAY 5: Angie looking like an unassuming visitor wandering around the sites at the All-England Club (with a great big honkin' watch).

LIKE ON DAY 5: Good back-and-forth on ESPN's back-and-forth of the two Williams matches...

Chris Evert: My question is, "Where's Oracene?" Who is *she* watching?
Cliff Drysdale: (chuckles) Ah, good one.
Mary Joe Fernandez: Olympia.
All: (group laugh)

Maybe MJF's best on-air moment ever.

ROLLS EYES ON DAY 5: The first of the latest Fed Cup Heart Awards were awarded today. (Crickets.) Yeah, nothing like announcing awards in the middle of a slam for a competition that took place nearly three months ago to maximize the exposure of the honor and allow the player(s) to truly be recognized for their efforts.

LIKE ON DAY 5: That said, unlike for the February action (which was honored when, two weeks ago?), at least the first winner makes sense.

Though I did have two of the other WG/WG II Playoff nominees (Kuzmova & Ostapenko, up for the award along with Bouchard and Mertens) as the top Playoff MVPs, it was pretty much an even race. I had Petra Kvitova as MVP of the semifinals, and Maria Sakkari in zone play, FWIW.

...and, finally, from July 6, 2008...

"A Call to Glory in the Fading Light"

Something extraordinary has just happened. You can tell by the intensity and rapidity of the flashbulbs in the fading evening light. But what is it?

They are the center of adoring attention. A young Spanish sports warrior with the heart of a lion hoists a golden cup, while a Swiss gentleman with a champion's poise and an artist's skills stands vanquished, just a few few away. What has happened here?

Something remarkable. For on a day that will stand alone in tennis history and the memory of anyone who experienced it, in a match of which its like will never be seen again, Rafael Nadal became the best tennis player in the world.

By defeating five-time defending champion Roger Federer 6-4/6-4/6-7/6-7/9-7 in the longest Gentlemen's final in Wimbledon history, Nadal became the first man to sweep both this tournament and Roland Garros in the same season in twenty-eight years, and with a single win removed the name Federer -- who should soon go down as the winningest grand slam champ of all time -- from his long-held perch atop the subjective list of the best players in the game. The "Big Two" (or "Three," if you count Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic) are still the same, but today there's a new monarch in town. Even if the transition of power isn't "official," King Rafa's reign has most definitely begun.

It's been a remarkable journey over the last three years, as Nadal has gone from being a vision in Federer's rear-view mirror to his equal to his SW19 conqueror over the course of a trilogy of Wimbledon finals. Once considered a clay courter, first and foremost, his 2006 run to the Wimbledon final was startling. At the time, no one believed that he could ever win the title. In 2007, he reached another final, though it's likely that Federer himself entered that match not quite believing that the Spaniard could get the best of him at his most favored tournament. As it turned out, he almost did, coming within a pair of tie-breaks and break points in the 5th set from pulling a monster upset a year ago. By the time this year's Wimbledon rolled around, even if he wasn't the chosen pick of EVERYONE to become the latest champion, that Nadal was indeed working toward an eventual title at the All-England Club was no longer in question.

The final obstacle blocking Nadal's rise to power turned out to be hardly as easy to overcome as it appeared it might be early in the day, but by the time the sun had set on the London skyline, July 6th, 2008 had become a day that we'll longingly look back upon years from now, marveling at the suspense it provided as it slowly unraveled a dramatic tale of a successful quest, as well as set up an intriguing test for a revered and respected champion.

After having the match's start delayed by rain, the first two sets of the match turned on what will go down as the missed opportunities -- of which Nadal would offer few -- that Federer will never forget. In the opening set, he played one bad early game. It resulted in a break that he was never able to recoup, even after carving out a break chance with Nadal serving at 5-4. In the 2nd, Federer was serving at 4-2 after what turned out to be his only break of Nadal's serve, but he couldn't hold his advantage. Nadal hustled for back-to-back service breaks of his own to take a 5-4 lead, then held off another Federer break opportunity to serve out the set. Down two sets to love, Federer had only his second meeting against Nadal in Miami in 2005 (where he'd come from 0-2 sets down to win in Nadal's first hint of what was yet to come) from which to draw encouragement, but it didn't seem to matter. Errors prevented him from converting break chances at 3-2 in the 3rd, and he barely scraped by by saving three break points on his own serve soon afterward. But then, at 5-4, the rain returned, and Nadal's silent palace coup became a bloody, epic struggle.

In a match with several distinct divisions, largely brought about because of rain delays that were as necessary for us to catch our breath as they were for the players to reorganize their thoughts and right themselves in order to produce a legendary match, the one constant aspect of every moment was the history that dripped from each shot. Every break point felt monumental. Every held serve was a chance for the server's backers to breathe a little easier for a minute or two. With Federer trying to outpace the in-attendance Bjorn Borg's shared mark of five straight Open era titles, and Nadal attempting to match the Swede's 1980 sweep of slam crowns in Paris and London, the normal weight given to each important moment in a Wimbledon final was increased exponentially the deeper into the night the two men played. The possibility of an all-time great being replaced at the top of the sport by what could possibly be another all-time great in a discernible changing-of-the-guard moment has a way of producing such edge-of-your-seat tension.

With Federer fighting to overcome the imps and naysayers that have dogged even the greatest in the history of the game (there's a reason no one has won six straight titles since Wimbledon champions ceased being automatically placed in the final the next year), the man who will likely one day soon be the sport's all-time slam champion would not go down without a fight -- the depth and size of which turned out to be even bigger than anyone had ever realized despite his longstanding brilliance, an understandable occurrence since there'd never really been reason for it be unveiled before this July day of his twenty-sixth year. Meanwhile, as Nadal stood on the brink of an accomplishment that would secure him a measure of tennis immortality at just age 22, the ghosts of Centre Court and Mother Nature seemed to be brainstorming for new ways to conspire against him.

But the Spaniard stared down them all.

After nearly ninety minutes of weather-related down time, Federer returned with a renewed focus and game plan. By moving forward into the court and ramping up his serve and forehand (especially the inside-out variety), Federer managed to keep pace with Nadal, who continued to run down seemingly impossible-to-reach balls and firing back shots with equal power from both wings. Federer won a 3rd set tie-break to stay alive, and forced another in the 4th after neither man could break the other's serve during the entire stanza. Up 5-2 in the tie-break, Nadal suddenly tightened up. He double-faulted and lost two points on serve, causing him to momentarily consider an uncharacteristic slamming of his racket on the ground. When Federer saved two championship points at 7-6 and 8-7, then forced a 5th set by winning 10-8, it looked as if he might be able to maintain his Wimbledon dominance, after all. He might have, too, had the rain not returned yet again.

After seizing control of the deciding set in the final a year ago, Federer could never do so this time around. A twenty-four minute rain delay at 2-2 seemed to re-focus Nadal on the task at hand. He prevented Federer from getting his second break of the match when he had a shot at 4-3, firing a 124 mph serve and smashing an overhead. As the clock ticked to and past nine o'clock in the evening, Federer would serve first, barely holding with clutch serves and rescuing games in which Nadal took early leads (Nadal had two break points at 5-5, and led 30/0 at 6-6). The Spaniard never cracked, but Federer finally did under Nadal's intense pressure, which often caused the defending champion to hit two or three "winners" in a point in order to actually claim it.

At 7-7, after going down 15/40, Federer saved three break points but, when a forehand sailed long on the fourth, Nadal finally got the chance to serve for the match. This time, he didn't succumb to the pressure of the moment or Federer. After Federer saved a third match point, the relentless Nadal created yet another opportunity to claim the championship. When Federer hit a forehand return into the net, the match was finally over at 9:15 pm, more than six hours after it had been scheduled to begin, and after four hours and forty-eight minutes of action.

King Rafa had been born on Centre Court.

Nadal earned his ascension to the throne by dueling with Federer in the greatest, most important slam final in recent memory and smiting the graceful gentleman beast with a combination of grit, style and humility befitting a player capable of being compared in every way to the player who has won the awe-inspiring and complete respect of every living great who's ever seen him strike a ball within the confines of a tennis court.

Hmmm... now that I think about it, scratch what I said about looking back on this date and marveling. Who needs the future? We can marvel at this match right now.

It'd be hard to believe that anything that these two could ever produce together could duplicate what happened in this match. With so much at stake, under such unique and trying circumstances at what is rightfully seen as the most grand cathedral that the sport has to offer, what could possibly top it? What could happen between Federer and Nadal after today that would raise the stakes even more than they were at this moment in time?

Oh, pray we find out.

Even with all the memories this match provided, maybe the one I'll hold onto the longest is what happened after it was over. The flashing light that surrounded Nadal and Federer, reflecting dazzlingly off their well-earned hardware while the dark was beginning to envelop everything else on Centre Court, was a sight of great beauty.

And the fact is that we'll never see this sight again.

With the arrival of a retractable roof next year, never again will the weather wreak havoc on a singles final like it did (ultimately) so wonderfully with this one. While the drama and length of this match may one day be met or exceeded (as difficult as it is for that to be believed right now), it'll never be drawn out over the course of an entire day, with momentum changing due to the whims of storm clouds and well-timed showers. Instead, it'll end on schedule, during the day.

It's actually sort of... sad. Or not.

The roof is a great thing, but for a brief moment it's easy to mourn the passing of the era in which something like the sight we witnessed today is possible.

But I'm sure the first rain delay at Wimbledon '09 will take care of that moment of insanity.

Of course, what this match and all the reverberations that ultimately ring out from it over the remainder of '08 and beyond, will mean will depend on what happens next. Already, Federer and Nadal have met in fourteen tournament finals (fifth all-time), and six times in the deciding matches of grand slams (more than any other duo). Their friendly but fierce rivalry has already produced an impressive collection of achievements that have been elusive for even the most compelling adversaries the men's game has been able to produce in it's long history.

But if we've learned anything over the years, it's that we should never just assume that great rivalries will continue to produce great moments. Sometimes, they simply fade away. For all kinds of reasons, it may never be as good as this again.

Borg's legend hung over this match like a specter, and he could surely appreciate the drama of it all from a different perspective, having lived through a similar experience from Federer's vantage point against a young John McEnroe in 1980, when he barely held off the charging American in the "other" epic Wimbledon final of the last thirty years, and 1981, when he was finally forced to bow to Johnny Mac's abilities. Borg walked away from the sport months later, an act which Federer isn't likely to replicate.

Whatever comes next, though, will forever be bound to what just happened at Centre Court. It will either signal the ultimate rise of Nadal the Great as he fully eclipses Federer, or it will kick-start the next great chapter of Federer's career, as he battles to discover a way to find an answer to the man who took everything King Roger had to offer on the playing field he holds most dear... and still managed to defeat him.

Federer, version 2.0, will no longer have the aura of invincibility that the original did. That era ended the moment that Nadal lay spread eagle on his back on the worn lawn behind the baseline today, celebrating his accomplishing of the unthinkable that two years ago seemed an impossibility but had since, with each passing month, started to resemble something of a fait accompli. Federer can become a great champion again, maybe even before the arrival of fall (he's the four-time defending champ at the U.S. Open, remember), and even the "greatest ever." But even as he would, the question, "What About Rafa?," would be part of the conversation.

While Nadal still has one more hurdle to clear by claiming a hard court slam in New York or Melbourne, Federer's next move might be even more intriguing. Everyone wondered how he'd respond to his thorough destruction in Paris. We found out -- he didn't back down from Nadal's challenge, even if he didn't prevail against it. But the lingering effect of giving his all on his favorite battleground, and it still not being enough, will be something to watch. He admitted after the final that this loss "hurt."

He's never been in this place before.

The post-Wimbledon '08 phase of Federer's career, when he is not just no longer the unquestioned #1 player but generally considered #2 (until further notice, at least), will allow him to recast himself in the role of an avenger. If this match is any indication of what lengths he's willing to go to to reclaim his throne, Federer likely has some more surprises up the sleeve of that cardigan he took to wearing when he walked onto the court at this Wimbledon.

We'll soon see what he's made of... again.

As for Rafa, we already know what he's made of: whatever magical combination is it that produces the best tennis player on the planet.

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#7 Karolina Pliskova/CZE vs. #20 Kiki Bertens/NED
#13 Julia Goerges/GER vs. Donna Vekic/CRO
#24 Serena Williams/USA vs. (Q) Evgeniya Rodina/RUS
Camila Giorgi/ITA vs. Ekaterina Makarova/RUS

On to the next one. Check out the slap mark on my right thigh ??????

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2002 Vera Dushevina/RUS def. Maria Sharapova/RUS
2003 Kirsten Flipkens/BEL def. Anna Chakvetadze/RUS
2004 Kateryna Bondarenko/UKR def. Ana Ivanovic/SRB
2005 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL def. Tamira Paszek/AUT
2006 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN def. Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK
2007 Urszula Radwanska/POL def. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Laura Robson/GBR def. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA
2009 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA def. Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
2010 Kristyna Pliskova/CZE def. Sachie Ishizu/JPN
2011 Ashleigh Barty/AUS def. Irina Khromacheva/RUS
2012 Eugenie Bouchard/CAN def. Elina Svitolina/UKR
2013 Belinda Bencic/SUI def. Taylor Townsend/USA
2014 Jelena Ostapenko/LAT def. Kristina Schmiedlova/SVK
2015 Sofya Zhuk/RUS def. Anna Blinkova/RUS
2016 Anastasia Potapova/RUS def. Dayana Yastremska/UKR
2017 Claire Liu/USA def. Ann Li/USA

AO: Elizaveta Kulichkova, RUS
RG: Darya Kasatkina, RUS
WI: Jelena Ostapenko, LAT
US: Maria Bouzkova, CZE
AO: Tereza Mihalikova, SVK
RG: Paula Badosa, ESP
WI: Sofya Zhuk, RUS
US: Dalma Galfi, HUN
AO: Vera Lapko, BLR
RG: Rebeka Masarova, SUI
WI: Anastasia Potapova, RUS
US: Kayla Day, USA
AO: Marta Kostyuk, UKR
RG: Whitney Osuigwe, USA
WI: Claire Liu, USA
US: Amanda Anisimova, USA
AO: Liang En-shuo, TPE
RG: Coco Gauff, USA

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: #8 Mona Barthel/GER def. Oceane Dodin/FRA 6-3/1-6/8-6 (saves a MP in game #12 of the 3rd w/ Dodin DF at 6-5)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #32 Aga Radwanska/POL def. (Q) Elena-Gabriela Rus/ROU 6-3/4-6/7-5 (wins 14-min.,23-pt.,8-deuce game #10 in 3rd, saving 6 MP)
FIRST VICTORY: Yanina Wickmayer/BEL (1st Rd. def. M.Barthel/GER)
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK (lost 1st Rd. to S.Cirstea/ROU)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Ukraine (1-4 1st/2nd Rd; year after Svitolina to 4th/Tsurenko to 3rd, Svitolina 1st Rd. is worst slam since '14 and none to 3rd Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Diatchenko/RUS, Rodina/RUS(W)
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Katie Boulter/GBR, Ons Jabeur/TUN and Katie Swan/GBR (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST BRITS STANDING: Katie Boulter, Johanna Konta and Katie Swan (all 2nd Rd.)
IT ("???"): xx
CRASH & BURN: #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE (two-time champ, pre-tournament favorite and '18 tour title-leader loses in 1st Rd. to Aliaksandra Sasnovich/BLR, dropping 3rd set at love)
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF LONDON: Katerina Siniakova/CZE (Down 5-2 to Vandeweghe, who served at 5-3 in final set in 1st Rd., wins 8-6; down 5-2 to Jabeur, served at 5-3 in final set in 2nd Round, saved MP and wins 9-7)
SPIRIT OF JANA (NOVOTNA) HONOREE: Nominee: D.Vekic (follows up emotional '17 loss to Konta in 2nd Round w/ 1st Rd. upset of #4 Stephens; advances to first career slam Rd. of 16)
June 26 official: In Eastbourne, Aga Radwanska, playing in her first event in two months, saves 2 MP vs. Dasha Gavrilova (both via DF), win a 2nd set tie-break, then takes the 3rd set at love. Gavrilova has 17 DF on the day.
Day 3 observed: As insects swarm the AELTC grounds on Flying Ant Day, reigning AO champ #2 Caroline Wozniacki falls on the infested Court 1 to Ekaterina Makarova, becoming the sixth Top 8 seed to fall in the tournament's first three days. Aga Radwanska flirts with staging a comeback from a set and 5-1 down and force a 3rd set (after having saved 6 MP in the 1st Rd.), saving a MP vs. Lucie Safarova before the Czech staves off a total of seven BP in a game to hold and secure the win. It's Aga's first career "Rad Day" defeat. Later, rain interrupts play for the first time in the fortnight.

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Jul 06, 08:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...


This was the "score" I was expecting, but I confess I thought that it would be the reverse of what it was. I didn't see Kiki beating Venus on grass, but it looks like someone's been practicing on the lawns! I thought it would be Serena who was more likely to fall to a Kiki. And Kiki indeed made it dificult for her.

On the subject of the 2008 men's final: It was, for so many reasons, a remarkable, unforgettable affair (I found the documentary boring, but loved the book, in spite of my general dislike of anything Jon Wertheim).

When I think of it, though--and I realize all of the factors that make it so special--I also think about the Federer-Roddick final, which--while it didn't have the bells and whistles of rain, rivalry, etc.--was equally remarkable, tennis-wise.

Fri Jul 06, 08:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Reading the Rafa/Roger thing, it struck me to realize that while at the time their reputations had already been firmly established... they were just 22 and 26 years old. Now it doesn't seem like they were *ever* that young. Well, except for when you see/remember photos of Federer with his (really weird looking, now) long hair, and Rafa with his white Capri pants and sleeveless shirts. ;)

Fri Jul 06, 11:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

And Halep is out.

Curious if the chip on her shoulder Cibulkova stays alive in this tournament as long as Serena.

Babos or Sestini Hlavackova will be #1.

Out of context result from Wimbledon 2016-Bertens d Ostapenko 3 & 2.

Stat of the Day-9- Times in the last 10 years, and in history, in which a woman has had 400 or more aces in a season.

Why is this relevant now? Because although it has happened 9 times, there have only been 3 women to do it. And all are in the bottom half of the draw.


If you don't thing big babe tennis is affecting the bottom half of this draw, lets look at the ace leaders in recent times.

2018-Julia Goerges*
2017-Karolina Pliskova
2016-Karolina Pliskova
2015-Karolina Pliskova
2014-Serena Williams
2013-Serena Williams
2012-Serena Williams
2011-Marion Bartoli

*Goerges had 225 heading into Wimbledon.

To show how much of a difference these 3 have made, Bartoli led the tour with 270. Now Serena had her Sammy Sosa moment in 2016. Sosa broke Roger Maris' 37 yr old home record back in 1998, but didn't win the home run title that year. Serena set her career high that year with 498, but finished 2nd to the only woman to have over 500 in Pliskova, who almost doubled Bartoli's number with 530.

Goerges was at the other end, with 402 being her high, though she projects at 450 in this one.

The other woman in the Top 10 this year from the bottom half? 7th last year, and currently 6th? Bertens.

The women in the top half in the Top 10? Barty(who lost) is 5th, while Osaka is 7th.

Sat Jul 07, 10:59:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Maybe Domi should write a Sabine-esque thank-you letter to the All-England Club? Or maybe to Serena, Alexis & Olympia? :)

So, Colt, after today's result, today I'm officially dragging out your Ostapenko/Roland Garros/Wimbledon note from last week. ;)

Sat Jul 07, 11:25:00 AM EDT  

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