Saturday, July 02, 2022

W.6- Amanda's Life on the A-List

Maybe Amanda Anisimova is getting the hang of this, after all.

Anisimova's season has consisted of a series of tests. She opened '22 with a title run in Melbourne, then backed it up with a Round of 16 AO result that included an upset of defending champ Naomi Osaka. A 2-4 skid, a few emotional collapses and coaching issues followed, but she righted her ship on the clay. Anisimova's SF-QF-QF-4r stretch from Charleston to Paris included five Top 20 wins and a 13-4 record.

But there were still questions that lingered into Wimbledon. A 2 & 1 loss to Simona Halep in Bad Homburg and being forced into a come-from-behind three-set defeat of Lauren Davis in the 2nd Round at SW19 hadn't particuarly answered the question of how Anisimova might respond if she found herself "in the fire" of adversity and disappointment with even *more* on the line at the third slam of 2022.

In a 3rd Round match-up with #11 Coco Gauff, a flashback reminder of the '17 U.S. Open junior final between the two won by Anisimova, the #20 seed had an opportunity to prove quite a lot. In her Centre Court debut, against a generational counterpart coming off a grand slam final appearance and talk that she was among the favorites at this Wimbledon, Anisimova found herself down 3-0 in the opening set today.

Gauff led 3-1, 40/love before Anisimova finally began to push back. And push back she did. She broke Gauff to get back on serve at 3-2, then extended her game streak to four in taking a 4-3 lead. Gauff got the break back and held to reclaim the lead, but Anisimova held her ground, twice holding to stay in the set and force a TB. Once there, Anisimova took at 4-1 lead, only to see her edge slip away.

With Gauff up 5-4, Coco's high drop shot in the wind gave Anisimova a chance to cleanly put away a key point, but rather than try to slide a shot down the line, or tap it barely over the net behind Gauff, she tried to do *too* much with the ball. Likely fearing the charging Gauff's speed, Anisimova shot an angled crosscourt backhand well wide, giving Gauff her sixth straight point and her first SP. Anisimova's netted forehand completed the TB collapse, as Gauff won 7-4 and grabbed the opener.

Given the relative history of both, with Anisimova's oft-wanting reactions to such blown chances and Gauff's recent stepping up when it's come to closing out matches in two after taking the match lead, it was realistic to be on the lookout for a potential continued slide on Anisimova's part, with little surprise coming had Gauff maybe taken the set while dropping just 2 or fewer games.

We *did* get that sort of set, all right. Two, in fact. but it was Anisimova winning them both in maybe the most signficant result of her career since her 2019 Roland Garros SF run.

Anisimova broke Gauff's serve for a 2-0 lead in the 2nd. Gauff broke back, converting BP #5 in the third game with the help of a net cord winner. But rather than fall away, Anisimova dug in and immediately got her break advantage back and then held for a 4-1 lead. She broke Gauff again to secure the set at 6-2.

As Gauff's forehand became a bigger and bigger liability down the stretch, Anisimova began blasting deep balls into Coco's wonky side of the court, picking up even more momentum and control as Gauff often just attempted to sent back mediocre replies in order to keep the ball in the court and continue the rally. A sailed Gauff volley gave Anisimova a break lead at 3-1. Anisimova saved two BP and held a game later, then broke again in game #6 as Gauff's errors began to overwhelm her game. Serving at 5-1, Anisimova held at love, winning 6-7(4)/6-2/6-1 to claim her tour-leading twelfth three-set victory this season.

With her third Round of 16 result in a major this year, Anisimova joins Elise Mertens as the only two women to have played as far into all three '22 slams. She now has five 4th Round-or-better results in thirteen career slam MD appearances, and at five of eleven since 2019.

After the match, Anisimova called her star turn in her first Centre Court appearance the "most special day of my career." What happens *next* week might change that assessment by the Bannerette, but today surely stands as a hallmark moment for a player who rose to great heights in Paris at age 17, only to then suffer through a series of adversities both on and off court that forced her to reset and regroup.

2022 hasn't been a *perfect* season for Anisimova, but it's looking better and better all the time.

...while the bottom half of the draw has been searching for remaining players with grand slam plaudits on their resumes (only one remained after Friday), the top half was virtually bursting with former major winners. Half of the matches scheduled for Saturday included a past slam champion.

In the end, though, only one survived to see the Round of 16.

The day started with Harmony Tan continuing to play the role of Dream Killer. She started by cutting short Serena Williams' Wimbledon return in the 1st Round, an act which has apparently given the 24-year old Pastry superpowers. Since then, Tan has calmed the waters of KorpatschGate without getting her clothes wet, and today ended the run of British wild card Katie Boulter. Not in a dramatic way, either. She only allowed her two games as she became the fifth woman at this Wimbledon to reach a slam Round of 16 for the first time in her career.

Tan's origin story continues next week, and it even has its own breakout fan favorite character in Jane Robinson, the niece of Sam Suymk (yes, *that* Sam Sumyk), who was brought aboard to help coach Tan last year along with Nathalie Tauziat.

...not long after Tan's win, the culling began.

Only one of the six Aussies in the MD (none of whom were named Ash... she was busy playing golf in New Jersey) escaped the 1st Round this week, but one will suvive into the second. Ajla Tomljanovic, a quarterfinalist a year ago, took out the first of three former women's slam winners in #13 Barbora Krejcikova, rallying to defeat the Czech 2-6/6-4/6-3.

Krejcikova's loss, in the middle of a season that as seen her battle injury and illness, didn't particuarly shake the draw. That of the *next* slam winner to exit did, though.

Wimbledon was always thought to be a tough(er) ask for #1 Iga Swiatek, who despite her long winning streak didn't have much experience on the surface, and was uncomfortable in her movement (sliding into shots is different and sometimes dangerous) and in picking up the low, skidding balls off the surface with her groundstrokes. After dropping a set in the 2nd Round to lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, perhaps the worst sort of opponent was waiting for her in the 3rd in Alize Cornet, a veteran player with a history of success on grass, and one less likely to be able to handle the big stage than others the Pole might face while she struggled with her game but tried to find a way to win anyway.

Remember, it was eight years ago that Cornet upset then-#1 Serena Williams in the Wimbledon 3rd Round in a Court 1 match on Day 6, particulars that had an eerie similarity to those of her match today against #1 Swiatek on the same court, in the same round, on the same day of the event. It turned out, that sense of deja vu would be complete by match's end.

Cornet jumped on the uncomforable Pole early, taking a double-break lead at 3-0 in the 1st. Swiatek got one break back, but couldn't get any closer. The Pastry didn't blink, serving out the set at 6-4 as the world #1 lost a set in consecutive matches for the first time since her trio of three-setters to open her title run at Indian Wells in March, after which she then proceeded to complete the "Sunshine Double" and win 28 straight sets.

That didn't happen this time, though. Swiatek managed a tough hold to open the 2nd, and broke Cornet to lead 2-0. But Cornet then got the break back after falling behind 40/15, with the key moment coming with an "unintentional" drop shot (she stuck her racket out and caught the ball at mid-court) off a nice-looking Iga sliding backhand passing attempt. The fates going againt her seemed to begin to turn the Pole's remaining confidence inside out.

A Cornet return on BP caught the baseline to secure the break (afterward the French woman took an MTO to have her inner thigh wrapped, but never seemed hampered). At 2-2, a missed volley and netted forward put Swiatek down love/40, and Cornet's forehand winner put her a break up. Cornet held for a 4-2 lead.

In game #7, Swiatek fired an overhead directly back to Cornet near the back wall of the court. She blocked back her shot, sending the ball high in the air. Swiatek had an easy smash put-away, but flew the shot and nearly hit Cornet, who jumped out of the way and took a 15/30 lead.

BP down moments later, Swiatek's backhand sailed long and Cornet led 5-2. Rather than fight back one more time, Swiatek surprisingly folded as Cornet held at love to record her first #1 win (fourth overall) since defeating Williams in 2014, ending Iga's 37-match winning streak. It's the first loss suffered by the WTA #1 (Barty or Swiatek) since the Aussie fell in the U.S. Open 3rd Round to Shelby Rogers last summer.

The win continues Cornet's good vibes (well, except for those French fans) '22 slam campaign, which has included her epic win over Simona Halep at the Australian Open en route to her maiden QF at a major (in her record-breaking 63rd slam MD), her nighttime win over Alona Ostapenko at Roland Garros, her record-tying 62nd consecutive slam MD this week at SW19, and now this.

Afterward, Iga was characteristically reflective in defeat. She seems to have doubted her ability on the surface enough that once she met with *true* adversity against an opponent not thwarted by the moment, she was fated to bow out. That said, what she said surely *should* seem to set her up for a longer term career project on grass, and one that will likely eventually lead to her saying she was inspired by how Rafa Nadal was once considered to not be a natural threat on grass until he learned to alter his game for the brief grass season in order to better compete on the surface. He then went on to lose back-to-back Wimbledon finals in 2006-07 (to Federer), then won "The Greatest Match Ever Played" in the final over Federer in '08. After missing the event in '09, he won again in '10.

Something to look forward to, eh?

...the last women's match to be completed today featured two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova and #4 Paula Badosa. Over the past two weeks, #25-seeded Kvitova has been posting results that brought to mind her grass court heyday at the AELTC. If she got a win today over the Spaniard, she'd post her first Top 10 victory on the surface since winning the 2011 final over Maria Sharapova, a match which had come a round after she'd beaten another Top 10er in Vika Azarenka in the semis.

Kvitova had her chances against Badosa, but the Spaniard just consistently outplayed her when it mattered most. Leading 5-3 in the 1st and serving for the set, the Czech couldn't put the set away. Badosa edged ahead for the first time in the match at 6-5, holding with an ace. Serving to stay in the set, Kvitova fell behind 15/40, then DF'd on Badosa's second SP.

Kvitova held five BP in game #3 of the 2nd, but Badosa staved off each one to hold for a 2-1 lead. Late in the set, Kvitova twice held serve to stay in the match, for 5-5 and 6-6, but then again saw Badosa surge ahead in the TB. She took a 4-2 lead and won it 7-4 to reach her second straight Wimbledon Round of 16.

In a match that was tight throughout, Badosa committed just 11 total UE, while Kvitova's 31 were just too much to overcome against such an in-form opponent, and one who has now reached five slam 4th Rounds in the last eight majors (at all slams except for the U.S. Open).

...while the top half lost three-fourths of its former slam champions today, the one that *didn't* get kicked to the curb is *still* waiting for her first match on Centre Court at this Wimbledon after being robbed of it on Day 2 with the decision to have the world #1 assume the traditional defending women's champion's spot on the schedule rather than '19 winner Simona Halep. Halep missed her chance at the honor a year ago due to injury, but had a second chance at it this year when '21 winner Ash Barty was off in retirement.

#16-seeded Halep handled Magdalena Frech 6-4/6-1 today, reaching her 22nd career slam 4th Round (nearly double the career number of the woman with the second most in the Round of 16, Elise Mertens with 12) and fifth at SW19.

With Swiatek's streak now over -- well, unless the WTA starts posting lists that don't count losses on a player's least favorite surface after previously listing mythical past streaks that had actually ended with (sometimes multiple) walkovers -- one wonders if the Romanian's ongoing Wimbledon run will now get a little overdue play. Halep has won her last ten SW19 matches, including seventeen straight SW19 sets (averaging 2.6 games lost per set in the stretch). She's 18-2 on grass since 2019.

...elsewhere, #17 Elena Rybakina returned to the Round of 16 for a second straight year with a 7-6(4)/7-5 win over Zheng Qinwen. She'll face the only Petra remaining in the women's draw.

Maybe no player has slipped into the second week more under the radar than Petra Martic. The 31-year old Croat took out her second seed at this Wimbledon today with a 6-2/7-6(5) win over #8 Jessie Pegula. She's won all three matches this week in straight sets, with a TB and another quick set (6-2 or 6-3) in each contest.

Martic has reached the Round of 16 three times at this event, and at nine majors in her career. So far she's 1-7 in those matches.

Wimbledon is assured of at least one first-time slam semifinalist for a twelfth straight time, as either Martic, Rybakina, Cornet or Tomljanovic will reach the final four.

...junior action began on Day 6. Just one seeded girl lost her 1st Round match, with #14 Lucija Ciric Bagaric (CRO) falling to Rose Marie Nijkamp (NED), but other results of note included #16-seeded Czech Linda Klimovicova posting a straight sets win over Greece's Michaela Laki, while #4 Nikola Daubnerova (SVK) won an 11-9 TB in the 3rd over Dominika Salkova (CZE).

...with the women's doubles Round of 16 nearly set, with just one more duo to be determined tomorrow, four of the singles 4th Rounders are still alive in both draws. Alona Ostapenko (w/ L.Kichenok), Elise Mertens (w/ S.Zhang) and Heather Watson (w/ Dart) are all safely into the Final 16, while Alize Cornet (w/ Parry) will play her 2nd Round match on Sunday.

...Coco Gauff isn't alive in singles, but she did return to the court after her loss today to win a MX doubles 1st Round match with Jack Sock. ITF action, NCAA champ Peyton Stearns continues to shine on the circuit after announcing her decision to turn pro a few weeks ago. After back-to-back QF results in challengers, the former Texas Longhorn will play in the $25K Columbus, Ohio final on this Independence Day weekend against fellow Bannerette Katrina Scott, 18.

Meanwhile, Serbia's Lola "Bracelet-in-Training" Radivojevic, 17, will try to win her third ITF crown of the season when she plays the $15K Prokuplje (SRB) final against Germany's Luisa Meyer auf der Heide.

Last World on Sports (June 25)

Alize Cornet/FRA vs. Ajla Tomljanovic/AUS
#17 Elena Rybakina/KAZ vs. Petra Martic/CRO
#4 Paula Badosa/ESP vs. #16 Simona Halep/ROU
#20 Amanda Anisimova/USA vs. Harmony Tan/FRA
Marie Bouzkova/CZE vs. Caroline Garcia/FRA
#24 Elise Mertens/BEL vs. #3 Ons Jabeur/TUN
Tatjana Maria/GER vs. #12 Alona Ostapenko/LAT
Heather Watson/GBR vs. Jule Niemeier/GER

#1 Mertens/Sh.Zhang (BEL/CHN) vs. #15 N.Kichenok/Olaru (UKR/ROU)
#9 Xu/Yang (CHN/CHN) vs. x/x
#3 Dabrowski/Olmos (CAN/MEX) vs. Collins/Krawczyk (USA/USA)
#11 Rosolska/Routliffe (POL/NZL) vs. #5 Muhammad/Shibahara (USA/JPN)
#8 Aoyama/H-C.Chan (JPN/TPE) vs. Riske-A./Vandeweghe (USA/USA)
(WC) Dart/Watson (GBR/GBR) vs. #4 L.Kichenok/Ostapenko (UKR/LAT)
Frech/Haddad Maia (POL/BRA) vs. #10 Melichar-M./Perez (USA/AUS)
Flipkens/Sorribes Tormo (BEL/ESP) vs. #2 Krejickova/Siniakova (CZE/CZE)




"Breakfast at Wimbledon" -- the title of which you essentially stole from NBC's long stretch of broadcasting the event -- didn't mean coming on air early on a weekend and gabbering about things for an hour while the whole first line of matches are being played. I enjoy watching things on ESPN+ but, you know, I'm just sayin'.

They've been opening coverage all week long at the start of play, and actually showing tennis, but once the matches get more important and more people are around to watch them they return to the talking head drivel on the main network stage until *two* hours into play for the day?


...NOTE #2 TO ESPN... ON DAY 6:

While the description *may* be a bit more apt with Harmony Tan than when it's been used in the past, saying a player "came out of nowhere" is really a tired expression, and makes it sound like you only know about 20 players and that Tan has hasn't been around *for years* before really finding such great success this past week. How about saying that her hard work has finally paid off, or something that doesn't sound like you don't just follow the sport for a few weeks of the year?



Granted, it was partially because of the length of other matches (and the progress in each contest was at far different stages), but was it really necessary to have five of the eight scheduled women's matches of the day all on court at the same time at one point on Saturday? Are you trying to emulate Roland Garros or something?


ME: They came out of nowhere! ;)




But, honestly, I don't know about any of it because every time I turned it on for a few seconds, I said, "I'm not going to sit here and abuse myself by watching a Kyrgios match," so I went to something else. From what I gather, I think I'm better off for it, actually.



Veronika Kudermetova, RUS (13th)
Jil Teichmann, SUI (11th)
Zheng Qinwen, CHN (2nd)
Marie Bouzkova, CZE (14th)
Tatjana Maria, GER (35th)
Jule Niemeier, GER (2nd)
Harmony Tan, FRA (7th)
Heather Watson, GBR (43rd)

2015 Heather Watson (2nd Rd.)
2016 Johanna Konta & Tara Moore (2nd Rd.)
2017 Johanna Konta (SF)
2018 Katie Boulter, Johanna Konta & Katie Swan (2nd)
2019 Johanna Konta (QF)
2021 Emma Raducanu (4th Rd.)
2022 Heather Watson (in 4th Rd.)

*2022 WI WOMEN'S FINAL 16*
[by ranking]
#2 - Ons Jabeur, TUN
#4 - Paula Badosa, ESP
#17 - Alona Ostapenko, LAT
#18 - Simona Halep, ROU
#23 - Elena Rybakina, KAZ
#25 - Amanda Anisimova, USA
#31 - Elise Mertens, BEL
#37 - Alize Cornet, FRA
#44 - Ajla Tomljanovic, AUS
#55 - Caroline Garcia, FRA
#66 - Marie Bouzkova, CZE
#80 - Petra Martic, CRO
#97 - Jule Niemeier, GER
#103 - Tatjana Maria, GER
#115 - Harmony Tan, FRA
#121 - Heather Watson, GBR
[by age]
20 = Anisimova
22 = Niemeier
23 = Bouzkova, Rybakina
24 = Badosa, Tan
25 = Ostapenko
26 = Mertens
27 = Jabeur
28 = Garcia
29 = Tomljanovic
30 = Halep, Martic, Watson
32 = Cornet
34 = Maria
[by nation]
3...FRA (Cornet,Garcia,Tan)
2...GER (Maria,Niemeier)
1...AUS (Tomljanovic)
1...BEL (Mertens)
1...CRO (Martic)
1...CZE (Bouzkova)
1...ESP (Badosa)
1...GBR (Watson)
1...KAZ (Rybakina)
1...LAT (Ostapenko)
1...ROU (Halep)
1...TUN (Jabeur)
1...USA (Anisimova)
[by career slam Round-of-16's]
22 - Halep
11 - Mertens
9 - Martic
7 - Cornet
6 - Garcia
5 - Anisimova
5 - Badosa
5 - Jabeur
4 - Ostapenko
3 - Rybakina
3 - Tomljanovic
1 - Bouzkova
1 - Maria
1 - Niemeier
1 - Tan
1 - Watson
[w/ consecutive slam Round of 16's]
4 - Mertens
3 - Anisimova
[w/ multiple career WI Round of 16's]
5 - Halep
3 - Martic
3 - Ostapenko
2 - Badosa
2 - Cornet
2 - Garcia
2 - Jabeur
2 - Mertens
2 - Rybakina
2 - Tomljanovic
[w/ consecutive WI Round of 16's]
2 - Badosa
2 - Jabeur
2 - Rybakina
2 - Tomljanovic
1 - Halep (2 con. appearances; 2019/22)
[WTA career slam Round of 16's - active]
64...Serena Williams
50...Venus Williams
32...Svetlana Kuznetsova
26...Victoria Azarenka
23...Angelique Kerber
22...Simona Halep
21...Petra Kvitova
17...Madison Keys
16...Garbine Muguruza 16...Vera Zvonareva
15...Sloane Stephens
13...Elina Svitolina
12...Elise Mertens
12...Karolina Pliskova
12...Samantha Stosur
10...Kaia Kanepi
9...Petra Martic
9...Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
9...Iga Swiatek
[WTA slam Round of 16's since 2020 (of 10) - active]
8 - Swiatek
7 - Mertens
6 - Halep
5 - Badosa, Jabeur, Krejcikova, Sakkari
4 - Gauff, Kenin, Kerber, Sabalenka
3 - Anisimova, Azarenka, Cornet, Keys, Kvitova
3 - Muchova, Muguruza, Pavlyuchenkova, Pegula
3 - Rogers, Rybakina, Svitolina, S.Williams
2 - Brady, Cirstea, Collins, Fernandez
2 - Garcia, Kontaveit, Martic, Osaka
2 - Ka.Pliskova, Raducanu, Stephens
2 - Tomljanovic, Trevisan, Vondrousova
1 - 30 active players (+2 retired)
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - youngest]
18 - Coco Gauff (RG)
19 - Zheng Qinwen (RG)
19 - Leylah Fernandez (RG)
20 - Amanda Anisimova (AO)
20 - Amanda Anisimova (RG)
20 - Iga Swiatek (AO)
20 - Iga Swiatek (RG)
20 - Amanda Anisimova (WI)
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - oldest]
36 - Kaia Kanepi (AO)
34 - Tatjana Maria (WI)
32 - Victoria Azarenka (AO)
32 - Alize Cornet (WI)
32 - Alize Cornet (AO)
31 - Irina-Camelia Begu (RG)
31 - Sorana Cirstrea (AO)
30 - Camila Giorgi (RG)
30 - Simona Halep (WI)
30 - Simona Halep (AO)
30 - Petra Martic (WI)
30 - Heather Watson (WI)
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - unseeded]
AO (5) Anisimova,Cirstea,Cornet,Kanepi,Keys
RG (5) Begu,Sasnovich,Stephens,Trevisan,Q.Zheng
WI (8) Bouzkova,Cornet,Garcia,Maria,Martic,Niemeier,Tan,Tomljanovic,Watson
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - 1st-time GS 4th Rd.]
AO - (0) none
RG - (3) V.Kudermetova, Teichmann, Q.Zheng
WI - (5) Bouzkova, Maria, Niemeier, Tan, Watson
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - completed "Career Round of 16 Slam"]
AO - Barbora Krejcikova, CZE (8th slam MD)
AO - Kaia Kanepi, EST (53rd slam MD)
RG - none
WI - none
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - lowest-ranked]
#121 - Heather Watson (WI)
#115 - Kaia Kanepi (AO)
#115 - Harmony Tan (WI)
#103 - Tatjana Maria (WI)
#97 - Jule Niemeier (WI)
#80 - Petra Martic (WI)
#74 - Zheng Qinwen (RG)
#66 - Marie Bouzkova (WI)
#64 - Sloane Stephens (RG)
#63 - Irina-Camelia Begu (RG)
#61 - Alize Cornet (AO)
#60 - Amanda Anisimova (AO)
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's]
3 - Anisimova (AO/RG/WI)
3 - Mertens (AO/RG/WI)
2 - Badosa (AO/WI)
2 - Halep (AO/WI)
2 - Keys (AO/RG)
2 - Pegula (AO/RG)
2 - Swiatek (AO/RG)
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - by nation]
10 = 4/5/1 = USA
4 = 1/0/3 = FRA
4 = 2/1/1 = ROU
3 = 1/1/1 = BEL
3 = 2/1/0 = BLR
2 = 1/0/1 = AUS
2 = 1/0/1 = CZE
2 = 1/0/1 = ESP
2 = 0/0/2 = GER
2 = 0/2/0 = ITA
2 = 1/1/0 = POL
2 = 0/2/0 = RUS
[2022 slam Rd. of 16's - by region]
20 (5 AO/5 RG/10 WI) - W.Eur./Scand. (BEL-CZE-ESP-FRA-GBR-GER-ITA-POL-SUI)
11 (4 AO/6 RG/1 WI) - North America/Atlantic (USA-CAN)
11 (5 AO/4 RG/2 WI) - Eastern Europe/Russia (BLR-EST-LAT-ROU-RUS)
4 (1 AO/1 RG/2 WI) - Asia/Oceania (AUS-CHN-KAZ)
2 (1 AO/0 RG/1 WI) - Africa/Middle East/Mediterranean (GRE-TUN)
0 (0 AO/0 RG/0 WI) - South America (-)





This is great, if for no other reason than because a year later, both Nicholson and Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) won BAFTA honors for lead Actor and Actress, as well as Oscars. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" won Best Picture at both, as well.

TOP QUALIFIER: Maja Chwalinska/POL
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #16 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Jaimee Fourlis/AUS def. Dea Herdzelas/BIH 5-7/7-6(4)/6-4 (trailed 7-5/5-3, saved 2 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Harmony Tan/FRA def. (WC) Serena Williams/USA 7-5/1-6/7-6(7) (Williams for match at 5-4 in 3rd, up 4-0 in TB; first match in a year for SW; Tan Wimb. debut
FIRST VICTORY: #28 Alison Riske/USA (def. Y.In-Albon/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.-Diane Parry/FRA)
FIRST SLAM MD WINS: Maja Chwalinska/POL, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Dalma Galfi/HUN, Catherine Harrison/USA, Mai Hontama/JPN, Katarzyna Kawa/POL, Jule Niemeier/GER, Panna Udvardy/HUN
NATION OF POOR SOULS: AUS (1-5 1st; DC Barty retired in March)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Maja Chwalinska/POL, Catherine Harrison/USA, Mai Hontama/JPN, Katarzyna Kawa/POL, Yanina Wickmayer/BEL (all 2nd Rd.) (LL 2r: Kerkhove/NED)
PROTECTED RANKING WINS: Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Kirsten Flipkens/BEL, Yanina Wickmayer/BEL(Q) (all to 2r)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson (in 4r)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominees: FRA, Tan, Garcia, Cornet, Martic, Bouzkova, Maria, Mertens, Ostapenko, Badosa
IT "??": Nominees: Jabeur, Niemeier, Maria, Rybakina
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Garcia, Venus, Halep
CRASH & BURN: #23 Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA (1st Rd./Juvan; had won 2 grass titles); #9 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (1st Rd./Minnen; love 2nd lost when back; worst three-slam stretch of career
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF LONDON: #24 Elise Mertens/BEL (2nd Rd.: P.Udvardy 2 MP in 2nd set, Mertens wins set and play susp; takes 3rd set a day later)
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Nominees: Cornet, Maria, Venus
SPIRIT OF JANA (NOVOTNA) HONOREES: Nominee: Halep (champion's return), Anisimova (back from adversity)

All for Day 6. More tomorrow.


Friday, July 01, 2022

W.5- Alona and the Lawns of Opportunity

Even before today, the bottom half of the Wimbledon women's draw had the makings of something akin to an underground poker game where deuces were perpetually wild, and the women eventually left standing to collect their winnings at the end of next week were potentially going to be in position to go from relative "pauper" to "princess" in one final swing of a racket. After Friday's batch of 3rd Round matches, that's even *more* the case.

And then there's Alona.

As the sixteen women set to face off against each other prepared to head to battle on Day 5, only *two* could legitimately say that they had the sort of history that proved that they were capable of winning this third major title of 2022. That's because Alona Ostapenko, the '17 Roland Garros champ, and Angelique Kerber, the three-time slam winner and '18 Wimbledon title holder, were the *only* players in the group who'd done such a thing before.

Around an hour and a half into the day's action, Ostapenko was the first woman through to the Round of 16. A few hours later, of the two "proven" quantities in the section that doesn't sport an Iga, Simona, Petra or Barbora, the Latvian found herself as the lone member of a select group of one.

The #12-seeded Ostapenko didn't bring the thunder in the opening stages of her match today against Irina-Camelia Begu. The Romanian took the 1st set and led 6-3/1-0. But -- psst, and you *might* have heard this before -- once Ostapenko found her range and started firing, well, it would soon be time to pull out the bread product you just happened to bring with you to the court on a sunny Friday in London.

Meanwhile, Ostapenko continued to be Ostapenko. Try as she might, she just can't have it any other way.

Not unexpectedly, as it's never really that, Ostapenko proceeded to win six straight games to take the 2nd set. As the Latvian ran off 12 of the final 13 games to win 3-6/6-1/6-0, the TV commentator was heard to compare what was happening to a game of tug-of-war where one team picks up momentum and simply begins to drag the other across the line.

It's never a "pretty" sight, as it's easy to feel a bit sorry for the drag-ee. But it's always exhilirating.

The former Wimbledon junior champ (2014) and women's semifinalist (2018), Ostapenko's 28 winners for the day outpaced her 27 unforced errors as she reached the second week at SW19 for the third time, but the first time in four years. And, yes, the 3rd set further proved that having a bagel in your pocket is most definitely a way to tell Alona that you're happy to see her.

Later in the day, Kerber's Wimbledon came to an end, leaving Ostapenko as not only the lone seed remaining in her section en route to the SF, but also the lone woman in the bottom half who has reached a slam final, let alone claimed a major title.

Latvian Thunder cracking loudly and often above the grounds of the All-England Club at the end of a fortnight has always been a notion built to fascinate the mind, challenge tradition, and act like an aromatic and cleansing bath for the soul.

Could such a scenario be about to become a withering reality? If so, will Wimbledon's stodgy traditions ever be the same? Who'd like to find find out?

(Backspinner raises hand.)

=DAY 5 NOTES= the bottom half of the women's draw, after Day 5's results, there remains Alona and seven other women. Five of them are unseeded, with four of those having just reached their maiden slam Round of 16 at this Wimbledon. There's one other former slam semi semifinalst, and two who've reached the QF. As well as a mother of two, the current doubles #1, and the reigning Roland Garros doubles champion. There's a Tunisian, a Brit (but not *that* one), a Belgian whose matches Kim Clijsters can watch from the stands with a smile on her face and a tear in her eye, a Czech (but not *that* one, or *that other* one, or even that *other* one) and two Germans (though neither are named Angie).

Jule Niemeier checks off few of those boxes, as the unseeded #97-ranked German reached her maiden slam 4th Round today (in just her second career slam MD) with a three-set win over Ukrainian veteran Lesia Tsurenko.

After having made her way through the first two rounds of this slam without dropping serve, Niemeier was more than a little bit patchy today. The 22-year old was broken *ten* times, to the tune of 3, 4 and 3 times in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd sets, respectively, as she DF'd 11 times and faced 19 BP. Still, she managed to pull away, converting 11 of 12 BP on Tsurenko's serve.

...the German's next opponent will be 30-year old Brit Heather Watson, whose SW19 history includes a near upset of Serena Williams on Centre Court in 2013, as well as a 1st Round exit a year ago after having held MP against Kristie Ahn. Today, #121 Watson, who came into Wimbledon at just 15-17 on the season, faced off with Kaja Juvan, the same Slovenian who'd knocked her out in the 1st Round of the U.S. Open last year.

The two women engaged in a 1st set battle that went to a TB. Watson held three SP at 6-3, only to see Juvan surge back and knot the score at 6-6 with a passing shot that left the lunging Watson on the turf. A point later, the chair umpire overruled a line call, saying that a Juvan ball had landed out. Juvan's replay challenge proved the call to be a correct one, as Watson reached SP yet again. Juvan's DF handed her the 8-6 TB.

It took quite a while for Juvan to put her last-hurdle stumble behind her. She dropped serve to open the 2nd, and saw everything come crashing down around her feet as she fell behind by a triple-break score at 5-0. Watson served for the match, with Juvan coming into game #6 having won only six total points in the set. But with nothing left to lose, Juvan finally woke up. She broke Watson on her third BP of the game, and two games later very nearly did it again. Taking a love/30 lead, she held four BP. But the Brit's stab volley on her first MP finally put a wrap on the match, giving Watson a 7-6(6)/6-2 win and her first berth in the 4th Round of a major (in her 43rd MD).

...#5 Maria Sakkari reached a pair of slam semis (RG/US) last year, but saw her chances of doing so at SW19 for the first time extinguished by 34-year old (35 next month) Tatjana Maria, who less than a year ago became a mother for the second time. She's also now the oldest German woman to ever reach the Round of 16 at a major, finally breaking through in her 35th career slam MD.

...Marie Bouzkova put an end to former Wimbledon quarterfinalist (and #28 seed) Alison Riske-Amritraj's hopes of returning to the Last Eight, busting into her own maiden slam Round of 16 after already this season having posted her maiden MD wins at both the AO and RG.

The Czech will next face Caroline Garcia, as the Bad Homburg-winning Pastry extended her grass court winning streak to eight matches with a double-TB win over #33 Zhang Shuai.

...the draw seemed to be possibly rounding into something good for #15 Angelique Kerber, but the '18 SW19 champ met #24 Elise Mertens (WD #1 and former AO semifinalist) today and that all came to an end. The Belgian had saved two MP in the last round against Panna Udvardy, tying the match at one set each to end play on Wednesday and then winning a 3rd set yesterday to reach her 18th straight slam 3rd Round. She didn't need such drama today, eliminating the former world #1, 6-4/7-5.

Ostapenko is the only former slam finalist/winner in the bottom half, but #3-seeded Ons Jabeur will surely have her share of "favorite" votes, not just to reach the final but because her last two grass court seasons have helped to establish the groundbreaking Tunisian/Muslim/North African as one of the game's most exciting on-court shotmakers, as well as most likable off-court personalities. Jabeur won her maiden tour title last year in Birmingham and then reached the QF at Wimbledon. She returned to the winner's circle on grass a few weeks ago in Berlin before entertainingly teaming up with Serena Williams (who chose Jabeur because she found her so nice) for doubles in Eastbourne.

Jabeur ended her match with Diane Parry today with a flourish, winning 14 consecutive points from 3-2 down in the 2nd set to win 6-2/6-3, then once again showed after the match why she keeps picking up fans by the handfuls every time she opens her mouth. MX doubles, 42-year old Venus Williams made her first official appearance at this Wimbledon, the 24th of her career (but the first in which she didn't also play singles). She and Jamie Murray defeated Alicja Rosolska & Michael Venus (funny how *that* worked out) 6-3/6-7(3)/6-3. This is only her sixth appearance in the MX at SW19 since 1999, but she's played in the competition in the last three editions of Wimbledon. Liv Hovde defeated #9 Johanne Christine Svendsen (DEN) 6-2/6-3 in the final of the Roehampton J1 junior grass court event. She's the first Bannerette to claim the title since since Claire Liu and Coco Gauff won in back-to-back years in 2018-19, and the sixth overall since the junior event debuted in 1996. Hovde, the #1 girls' seed in the upcoming Wimbledon juniors, matches her career-best J1 win on hard courts in San Diego in March. She also reached the J1 Milan final on clay last month.

Canadians Kayla Cross & Victoria Mboko won the doubles, taking their third J1 event (on a third different surface) in 2022.

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
Marie Bouzkova/CZE vs. Caroline Garcia/FRA
#24 Elise Mertens/BEL vs. #3 Ons Jabeur/TUN
Tatjana Maria/GER vs. #12 Alona Ostapenko/LAT
Heather Watson/GBR vs. Jule Niemeier/GER





2015 Serena Williams, USA
2016 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Aga Radwanska/POL
2017 Arina Rodionova, AUS
2018 Katerina Siniakova, CZE
2019 Elina Svitolina, UKR
2021 Kristie Ahn, USA
2022 Elise Mertens, BEL

Barbora Krejcikova, CZE
...Brno-born; wins WD title in first Wimbledon since ex-coach Novotna's death
Nicole Melichar, USA
...born in Brno, CZE (like Jana); wins MX title in first Wimbledon since death
Donna Vekic, CRO
..."Good Donna"
Donna Vekic, CRO
..."Bad Donna"
RG Special: Barbora Krejcikova, CZE RG 3rd Rd. (Oct.) on Novotna's 52nd birthday; dedicates to Jana
RG Special: Barbora Krejcikova, CZE
...wins maiden slam singles crown w/ Jana as inspiration; also wins WD

Barbora Krejcikova, CZE (2018, 2020 RG, 2021 RG)
Nicole Melichar, USA (2018)
Donna Vekic, CRO [Good Donna 2018, Bad Donna 2019]



"The ice cream cone truck is here... the ice cream cone truck is here..."


TOP QUALIFIER: Maja Chwalinska/POL
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #16 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Jaimee Fourlis/AUS def. Dea Herdzelas/BIH 5-7/7-6(4)/6-4 (trailed 7-5/5-3, saved 2 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Harmony Tan/FRA def. (WC) Serena Williams/USA 7-5/1-6/7-6(7) (Williams for match at 5-4 in 3rd, up 4-0 in TB; first match in a year for SW; Tan Wimb. debut
FIRST VICTORY: #28 Alison Riske/USA (def. Y.In-Albon/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.-Diane Parry/FRA)
FIRST SLAM MD WINS: Maja Chwalinska/POL, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Dalma Galfi/HUN, Catherine Harrison/USA, Mai Hontama/JPN, Katarzyna Kawa/POL, Jule Niemeier/GER, Panna Udvardy/HUN
NATION OF POOR SOULS: AUS (1-5 1st; DC Barty retired in March)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Maja Chwalinska/POL, Catherine Harrison/USA, Mai Hontama/JPN, Katarzyna Kawa/POL, Yanina Wickmayer/BEL (all 2nd Rd.) (LL 2r: Kerkhove/NED)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Katie Boulter/GBR (in 3r)
PROTECTED RANKING WINS: Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Kirsten Flipkens/BEL, Yanina Wickmayer/BEL(Q) (all to 2r)
LAST BRIT STANDING: In 3r: Boulter, Watson (W)
Ms. OPPORTUNITY: Nominee: Tan, Garcia, Bouzkova, Watson, Maria, Mertens, Ostapenko (or pretty much *everyone*)
IT "??": Nominees: Jabeur, Niemeier, Maria
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Garcia, Kvitova, Boulter
CRASH & BURN: #23 Beatriz Haddad Maia/BRA (1st Rd./Juvan; had won 2 grass titles); #9 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (1st Rd./Minnen; love 2nd lost when back; worst three-slam stretch of career
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF LONDON: #24 Elise Mertens/BEL (2nd Rd.: P.Udvardy 2 MP in 2nd set, Mertens wins set and play susp; takes 3rd set a day later)
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Nominees: Cornet, Maria, Watson

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.