Friday, June 24, 2011

W.5- A Penny for Some Thoughts

"Behind the Backspin shelter in the middle of the roundabout, a Belarusian is selling puppies from a train. And though she feels as if she can hardly believe she's healthy enough to plaaaaay... she is anyway."

Or something like that. Needless to say, I was just looking for a way to introduce the latest slam version of "Random Musings." So, here it goes:

After her teetering-on-the-edge win over Kimiko Date-Krumm the other day, Venus Williams returned to the court (#1, not #2... after the fact that the Club regularly sends her and Serena way out there became a bit of a touchy issue yesterday) on Day 5. The wonder here was how she'd react to her near-loss against the 40-year old, and whether she'd "be better for it." Well... (clears throat)... she looked pretty freakin' good. With both her serve and forehand working, she immediately climbed on Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez's neck and pushed her face into the turf. Well, not LITERALLY... but she may as well have. In the blink of an eye, she'd won the 1st set 6-0, and ended up taking the match 6-0/6-2. Next, she'll get the chance to right a "wrong" from a year ago. So she shouldn't have any problem getting motivated. Of course, the biggest question might be WHERE the match is scheduled to be played.

Another impressive outing today from Caroline Wozniacki. Moving forward to the net with intent, she took out Virginie Razzano 6-1/6-3. She'll next see Jarmila Gajdosova, the first player with any real power that she'll face at this Wimbledon. Before the tournament, I picked the Aussie to win this match-up. I'm not ready to change that prediction, but I surely feel much better about the Dane's chances now that I did about six days ago.

The Five, the only players who I thought could win this Wimbledon, that I highlighted in the tournament preview are so far a combined 11-1 through the first five days. The only player who has lost from the group is Li Na, and I had Sabine Lisicki upsetting her in my predictions, so her absence isn't really a big surprise.

The one player that I was closest to adding to the Five list was former finalist Marion Bartoli, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Maybe a little bit of that "gut feeling" nearly played out today, as La Trufflette nearly got upset by Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, barely escaping a straight sets loss to win 4-6/7-5/6-2.

Later in the day, Victoria Azarenka and Daniela Hantuchova met in the match that seemed to be destined to produce the player who'll be dubbed the "favorite" to fill one of the semifinal slots. It's too bad Hantuchova's health isn't where it probably needed to be for her to fully take advantage of the opportunity her recent results and draw seemed to present to her at this Wimbledon. She came into this event after having retired in Eastbourne with an abdominal injury, and she had her shoulder treated during the match today. Serving in the 3rd set down 1-2, 30/30 it began to rain and the roof was closed in an extremely crucial -- though early -- juncture in the deciding set. As Jelena Dokic learned in her 1st Round loss to Francesca Schiavone, if you don't come out of a rain delay and, with the roof closed, try to take charge early you might live to regret it. The same thing happened to the Slovak today. Azarenka emerged from the short break in ultra-aggressive form. She got the quick break of serve to go up 3-1, and never looked back, winning 6-3/3-6/6-2. Azarenka had never beaten Hantuchova in her career before today.

Hmmm, Hannah Storm opened ESPN2's coverage of Wimbledon today by saying that there would be NO rain in London on Friday. As usual, her keen on-air acumen once again puts everyone else to shame.

Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova had another easy time of things, taking out Netherlands champion Roberta Vinci 6-3/6-3 to reach her third consecutive slam Round of 16 this season. So far, only she and Victoria Azarenka have been able to pull off the feat at each of 2011's slams. If Francesca Schiavone reaches the 4th Round, though, it'll be her fourth straight Round-of-16 or better result, and Maria Sharapova could extend her current tour-best run to five consecutive slams if she does the same.

The longest current WTA winning streaks: 8 matches (Sabine Lisiski), and 7 matches (Caroline Wozniacki & Marion Bartoli)

After the public tongue-lashing Agnieszka Radwanska got from her father after she squandered a few opportunities against Maria Sharapova in Paris, losing in straights sets after leading 4-1 in the 1st set and having five set points in the 2nd, one hopes she didn't have a regrettable time last night after blowing that 6-3/5-4 30/love advantage against Petra Cetkovska yesterday.

Naturally, one day after Svetlana Kuznetsova won in a commanding 6-0/6-2 performance, she went out today at the hands of Yanina Wickmayer. She wasn't the only Russian to exit. #2-seed Vera Zvonareva, troubled by an ankle injury, was taken out by the same player she defeated in the Wimbledon SF a year ago -- Tsvetana Pironkova -- by a 6-3/6-2 score. The Bulgarian, who apparently can ONLY play well when she's at the All-England Club (hey, it's not a bad calling card, I guess), will next play Venus Williams. She defeated Williams in last year's quarterfinals, as well as in the 1st Round of the Australian Open in 2006.

Venus noted today how she wasn't in good form when they played a year ago. I just looked back at my match notes from the 2010 QF, and I made a point then to say that Pironkova was using a lot of slice forehands that forced Venus to generate her own pace, then the Bulgarian would step in when the opportunity presented itself to smack a winner. What does that sort of remind you of? Maybe a little bit of the way things were going against Kimiko Date-Krumm the other day? In last year's match, Venus had 29 unforced errors to Pironkova's 6. If Williams gets off to a struggling start under circumstances similar to last year's match, it'll be interesting to see how -- or it? -- she finds a way to adjust.

Oh, Nadia. Yep, Petrova is still going. She defeated Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3/6-2 today, and has VERY quietly advanced to her seventh career Wimbledon Round of 16.

Hmmm, Ksenia Pervak turned 20 a few weeks ago, so I guess I jumped the gun yesterday in the Early-Round Awards by saying that she was the most successful Russian TEENAGER at this Wimbledon. Oh, they grow up so fast. She won again today, though, knocking off Andrea Petkovic. If both she and Petrova were to win their Round of 16 matches (Pervak faces Victoria Azarenka), the two Russians would meet in the quarterfinals to decide a semifinal berth. It would assure the Hordettes of having at least one final four participant in seven of the last eight Wimbledons, and in twenty-seven of the last thirty slams. Going in, I thought there was a pretty good chance a Russian would reach the SF. I picked Maria Sharapova to reach the final, and while I didn't pick '10 runner-up Vera Zvonareva to get to the late stages of the tournament -- [side note: BOTH of "Carl's" finalists, VZ and Li, are now out... not that he'll ever admit he was wrong about anything] -- I could understand why someone else would. But I surely never expected that the usual Russian SF slot could possibly by filled by the winner of a Pervak/Petrova "tilt."

That said, in the section of the draw that I figured going in could produce a crazybutt semifinalist, either Petrova, Pervak, Francesca Schiavone/Tamira Paszek or Azarenka will emerge. Now, Azarenka IS the #4 seed, but it was difficult a week ago to get behind her with anything resembling faith considering the return of her retirement-is-always-an-option recent result pattern. But maybe things ARE turning her way. As I've noted, two times in this tournament women have retired in singles matches that involved Belarusians, but Azarenka is currently still standing upright. Wonders never cease. Perhaps the Tennis Gods have come to appreciate the cut of her gib?

Of course, there's always the chance that she'll get hurt in the Trainers-Table-All-Stars match-up with Petrova, who's seen her body let her down even more times than Azarenka. If that happened, it's be an un-called for act of vindictiveness by the Tennis Gods. Unnecessarily cruel and evil. But I'm sure it would tickled the Gods to no end, considering their sick sense of humor.

An interesting doubles match from Day 5, with a set of participants whose individual stories have so many acute angles the fans who watched the proceedings should have been given honorary geometry degrees after everything was wrapped up: Sabine Lisicki/Samantha Stosur def. Jelena Jankovic/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3/6-1.

While it was a "marquee" match-up, the Maria Sharapova/Laura Robson 2nd Rounder wasn't expected to produce anything other than the Russian moving on. That's what happened, but things WERE interesting for a time. Sharapova's serve was broken for 2-0, and she fell down 3-0 in the 1st. At one point, she threw in three straight double-faults over two games, but managed to get a break for 4-3 to get back on serve. The 1st set went to a tie-break, and another Sharapova DF gave the 17-year old Brit a mini-break lead at 4-2. But Sharapova won both of Robson's serve points to go up 5-4, won the TB at 7-4, then went on to win the match 7-6/6-3. The brief battles with double-faults is another of those "signs" that make one raise an eyebrow about the Russian's chances to win this tournament, but today's events don't qualify as grounds to call anything Sharapova has down so far at this Wimbledon as "trouble." Not yet, anyway.

It's interesting that Sharapova was faced with the task of playing a nation's crowd-pleasing Favorite Daughter at a slam. It's as if she's a magnet for these sort of situations. Remember, at the U.S. Open in '09 she faced off with and lost to American Melanie Oudin during Little MO's star-making run (Sharapova had 21 DF's in the match -- now THAT's "trouble"). In Paris this spring, she had to scramble to avoid another huge Favorite Daughter upset at the hands of Caroline Garica. Then, today, Brit Robson had reason to believe in the early going, too. Now, if only Australia could come up with a legit young hope (I doubt if Sally Peers qualifies), Sharapova could maybe complete a "Career NextGen Slam" soon. Ah, it's good to have dreams.

And eight days from now, one woman in London WILL have HER's come true. Somehow, though, I don't think her name will be Penny Lane.

...with Elena Baltacha's loss today to Peng Shuai, and Robson's to Sharapova, the British women have been wiped away from the main draw. Along with Anne Keothavong, they all three tie for "Last Brit Standing" with 2nd Round results. Nothing spectacular, but after going 0-6 in the 1st Round a year ago, it's a nice rebound.

...almost half the 3rd Round is now complete, but ALL of the 2nd Round has finally been taken care of. Just to keep up with the housecleaning, there were six nations with multiple women reaching the Final 32. Of course, the Russians led the way with six, followed by the Czechs, Italians and Germans with three each. Two other nations had two -- the Slovak Republic and the United States.

...if Andy Murray could ever get deep into this event, be up to pulling off something historical, AND have the skies open up and force the Centre Court roof to be close, he MIGHT have a LITTLE edge. Today, he played his third career CC match indoors, and his second at this event. No other man or woman has played inside more than once since the roof was first ready to go in the 2009 version of Wimbledon.

...and, finally, I know it was raining and all when it happened, but it says much about ESPN2 that when there was a break in the matches, rather than focus on discussing something tennis-related, there was Chris Fowler interviewing a member of the Kings of Leon band. Hmmm, they even showed a clips from the group's concert in London... so it wasn't as if the "meeting" was some sort of impromptu thing. I wonder if Disney has some sort of tie-in with the Kings of Leon tour or something?

xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. Ksenia Pervak/RUS
Nadia Petrova/RUS vs. #4 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
#8 Petra Kvitova/CZE vs. #19 Yanina Wickmayer/BEL
#23 Venus Williams/USA vs. #32 Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL

2008 Elena Baltacha & Anne Keothavong (2nd Rd.)
2009 Elena Baltacha (2nd Rd.)
2010 Heather Watson (GBR 0-6 in 1st Rd., Watson last to lose)
2011 Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong & Laura Robson (2nd Rd.)

120...Martina Navratilova
96...Chris Evert
84...Jimmy Connors
74...Steffi Graf
71...VENUS WILLIAMS (post-3r)
71...Boris Becker
NOTE: Serena Williams (59, post-2r), Roger Federer (57, post-2r)

[through 3rd Rd., bottom half]
17-12...Russia (Kirilenko,Pervak,Petrova,Sharapova)
11-8...Czech Republic (Cetkovska,Kvitova,Zakopalova)
7-5...Italy (Pennetta,Schiavone)
6-4...Germany (Goerges,Lisicki)
6-10...United States (S.Williams,V.Williams)
5-6...France (Bartoli)
4-2...Belarus (Azarenka)
4-2...Slovak Republic (Cibulkova)
4-3...China (Peng)
3-0...Bulgaria (Pironkova)
3-1...Belgium (Wickmayer)
3-2...Japan (Doi)
2-0...Hungary (Czink)
2-0...Denmark (Wozniacki)
2-2...Austria (Paszek)
2-2...Serbia (Ivanovic)
2-3...Australia (Gajdosova)
2-3 = CAN, UKR
1-2 = CRO
0-2 = SWE

(NOTE: Paszek-AUT/Schiavone-ITA match still to be completed in bottom half)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #8 Petra Kvitova/CZE
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Alexa Glatch/USA def. Galina Voskoboeva/KAZ 3-6/7-6/12-10
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #23 Venus Williams/USA def. Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN 6-7/6-3/8-6 (2:55)
TOP UNDER-THE-ROOF MATCH: Nominee: 2nd Rd. - V.Williams d. K.Date-Krumm 6-7/6-3/8-6 (2:55)
FIRST WIN: Kimiko Date-Krumm/JPN (def. O'Brien/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #22 Shahar Peer (1st Rd. - lost to Pervak/RUS)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Australia (1-3 in 1st Rd., losses by Stosur & Dokic)
LAST BRITS STANDING: Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong & Laura Robson (2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Sabine Lisicki/GER (in 3rd Rd.)
CRASH & BURN: #15 Jelena Jankovic/SRB (1st Rd. loss to Martinez-Sanchez/ESP, worst slam result since '05 RG)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: V.Williams (survives 8-6 3rd set vs. Date-Krumm in 2nd Rd.), S.Lisicki (down 2 MP vs. Li in 2nd Rd.), P.Cetkovska (down 6-4/5-4 30/30 vs. A.Radwanska in 2nd Rd.)

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


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