Friday, June 29, 2012

W.5- Plan 9 From Outer Krakow

On Day 5, It came from "The Quarter That Time Forgot," delivered Its lethal calling card, then slipped back into the darkness from whence It came.

Through the first four days of this Wimbledon, 20-year old Heather Watson had become the first British woman in twenty-seven years to win a singles match on Centre Court, and the first to reach the 3rd Round at Wimbledon since 2002. Her reward? A meeting with The Radwanska.

Poor, girl.

After having taken out Elena Vesnina in the previous round without committing a single unforced error, The Radwanska continued Its error-less streak into Friday's match. The streak ultimately came to an end after twenty games, when The Rad decided to throw Watson a bone and not shine as bright a light on Its presence in the draw as would have been the case had the streak gone on much longer. Ms. Sharapova, likely awaiting It in the semifinals next week, can't be allowed to get TOO prepared, after all.

Of course, that didn't prevent The Radwanska from putting Watson in her proper place. The Brit was bageled in the 1st set, and trailed 3-0 in the 2nd before a touch of mercy was shown by allowing her to hold serve and receive some token cheers from the home fans. Hmmm, perhaps The Rad has learned some new tricks after Its experiences in Paris? Watson was even allowed to win a SECOND game. But, wary of how the hint of long-absent mercy served to wear away at La Petit Taureau's sharp edges and aura, that was all that The Radwanska could bend. At 6-0/6-2, Watson was sent on her jolly way.

If anyone is wondering where The Radwanska retreats to after such brutal defeats of unfortunate young women, is should be noted that there IS footage. Recently, on the Polish version of MTV's "Cribs" show, after allowing her Jekyll-esque alter ego to be "set aside" for the afternoon a short while back, Agnieszka Radwanska, along with sister Urszula, actually provided a "tour" of the place that they are dwelling during this fortnight of battle.

(Just a note: they're not talking in Radwanskian tongues -- it's just Polish.)


The place sure looks a lot like "Radwanska Abbey," but let's not choose to believe that the sisters would ever allow us to see the Most Important rooms. You know, like the secret facility in the basement where The Rad is locked up until Aga reclaims the body that they share. I'm sure the walls are made of impenetrable steel, and there are absolutely NO windows.

As it is, some of things that we were allowed to see MUST be examined more closely. At 2:45 of the tour, we were shown a positively frightening thing -- the sisters working in tandem, dancing in front of a mirrored wall. What does this mean for The Radwanska's future, and ours? Should we soon expect a two-pronged attack? Surely, we've seen a hint of this on the grass in the form of some nice wins by U-Rad, as well as the sisters teaming for doubles at SW19.


At 5:00, we saw what sort of nourishment it takes to feed The Radwanska's (mean-)spirited ways. I mean, other than the souls of A-Rad's opponents. Though I couldn't fully understand her, I am POSITIVE that when Aga was holding up that melon, she was talking in code about how The Radwanska views it as a close approximation of one of her opponent's heads. Just the right density. The look on U-Rad's face when Aga is showcasing the melon is, I think, rather telling. We probably wouldn't want to see that melon once its "purpose" has been served.

Later, Agnieszka simply walked away from the tour at 8:00. Off to go over battle plans "with" The Radwanska, no doubt -- things so secret that even U-Rad is out of the loop. Or maybe her absence was to "test" Urszula? After all, once A-Rad left, U-Rad was left to her own devices, and what did she do? Show everyone one of the perches from which The Rad spies on Its rivals with a telescope, and then show off the top secret RadMobile.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Bad move, Urszula. You were surely admonished by The Radwanska for so willingly providing such detailed information to The Rest of Us. Maybe it has something to do with your 1st Round exit at Wimbledon. Even blood doesn't preclude a lesson from being taught by The Rad.

(Shakes head.)

The Radwanska... dancing and smiling. Laughing with Sister of The Radwanska. So disarming. Pulling out Its stringed, blue-and-white weapons from a bag like it's nothing, while secretly knowing the havoc that It will soon wreak with them. Sneaky. If you DIDN'T know, watching the tour of Radwanska Abbey, you'd think that nothing out of the ordinary was capable from such a nice, friendly, well-adjusted individual.

Oh, no book could ever be more misjudged by Its cover.

...after you-know-what left Centre Court on Friday, a little magical Radwanska dust must have been left behind. Apparently, Roger Federer stepped on a pile of it, too, considering what happened in HIS match. One day after Rafa Nadal was sent packing on Day 4, Federer very nearly lost on Day 5.

Julien Benneteau went up two sets to none, and came within two points of ejecting the six-time Wimbledon champ. Ultimately, Federer won over the worn down and cramping Frenchman in the 5th set, winning 4-6/6-7/6-2/7-6/6-1. The victory prevented, at least for now, Federer's record 32-slam streak of QF-or-better results from being unceremoniously ended at this tournament. Of note, if Federer doesn't reach the semifinals, it will mark the first slam since the 2004 Roland Garros that neither he nor Nadal reached a slam Final Four.

At that RG in 2004, David Nalbandian and Tim Henman were semifinalists, while Gaston Gaudio defeated Guillermo Coria in what was actually one of the most underrated, supremely entertaining finals in the past ten years... largely because Gaudio knew he'd never get another shot to win a slam, and that Coria suffered through one of the biggest major final choke jobs ever after taking a two-sets-to-none lead, then seeing Gaudio charge back into the match. Coria suffered through legs cramps, but still managed to twice serve for the championship in the 5th set, holding two match points. He ended up losing the set 8-6, and was never really the same player after that.

...meanwhile, somewhere down the line, when Sloane Stephens is a Top 10 player and winning tour singles titles, she'll look back on matches like hers today against Sabine Lisicki. She'll roll her eyes and say that she wishes she could reach back in time and slap herself silly.

As is often the case, Stephens put herself in position to take an important lead in the set over her more-accomplished opponent, a 2011 semifinalist at SW19. In the 1st set tie-break, Stephens led 5-2, and served back-to-back points at 5-3. She lost them both. Down 6-5, a Stephens error handed Lisicki the set. In the 2nd set, Stephens served at 5-1, but had to save two break points before finally closing out the stanza at 6-1.

If she'd played the final few points of the 1st set better, Stephens would have then been in her second straight slam Round of 16. But she still had a 3rd set to play. She held a break point on Lisicki's serve at 1-1, but couldn't convert it. One game later, she was broken for 3-1 as the German strung together nine straight points. Feeling her Wimbledon roots, Lisicki then ran off with the set, winning it to take the match 7-6/1-6/6-2.

"So, Sloane (she's looking back on this day from her vantage point in the future right now, remember, and has agreed to tune in to my frequency for a few moments), isn't it something how close-but-yet-so-far you were back here? It must make you feel better about where you are NOW, huh? (Pause.) Yeah, that's what I thought. Hahaha. Hey, is Twitter still big in the future? (Long Pause.) Wow, really? I NEVER would have guessed THAT? Can I tell everyone about that? (Quickly.) Whoa, whoa! Calm down. I won't tell them. I don't want you to be punished. (Pause.) Yes, I promise. (Pause.) YES. (Pause.) All right then. Bye. And be careful."

Geez, you'll never guess who -- or should I say, "what?" -- is in charge of EVERYTHING in the future. I don't know if it scares me, or makes me proud.

...oh, Nadia. Petrova lost to qualifer Camilia Giorgi, 6-3/7-6. other 3rd Round matches, Maria Sharapova advanced, despite a few anxious moments late in the 2nd when Taiwanese vet Hsieh Su-Wei got a break to lead the set at 4-2, then held a break point for 5-4 on Maria's serve. Sharapova won 6-1/6-4.

Kim Clijsters met Vera Zvonareva in the U.S. Open final back in 2010. The match-up had disastrous consequences for the Russian, as well as anyone who was actually watching, or TRYING to. Their 3rd Rounder today wasn't quite as bad, but its ending sure wasn't good. Its beginning wasn't too hot, either.

Clijsters led 3-0 in the 1st, and had break point for 4-0. Zvonareva got back into things to make it look respectable, but still lost the set 6-3. Up 2-1 in the 2nd, the Russian started crying on the court and seemed to be having trouble breathing. She called a trainer, who worked on her for a bit and then led her off the court. Zvonareva returned and played a few more games, but when Clijsters got a break of serve to go up 4-3, she retired from the match with what was reported as a respiratory illness. Zvonareva, a Wimbledon finalist two years ago, has missed much time in '12 with illness, as well as hip and shoulder injuries. Even with her work at this Wimbledon, Zvonareva is just 9-8 on the season. Day 5 doubles, Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci defeated the very interesting team of Christina McHale & Tamira Paszek, 6-1/6-3. The Italians have now won 25 straight matches, and both are also still alive in singles tomorrow. Elsewhere, another all-Italian team, Flavia Pennetta & Francesca Schiavone, took out defending Wimbledon champions Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik, 6-3/4-6/6-1.'s been announced that Daniela Hantuchova will appear in the ESPN Magazine "Body Issue," giving the Slovak the rare combo of having appeared there, as well as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition in 2009. Zvonareva was in the ESPN issue last year.


the seemingly-impromptu (or as close to that as its coverage gets) "roundtable" discussion from five different sites (w/ nine different voices) early on in ESPN2's coverage, when rain had temporarily shut down all the courts. For one, it's enough people on mic at once to keep Hannah Storm from saying something TOO stupid, condescending or artificially-sweetened. Plus, how can it NOT be a hoot to see Pam Shriver in her customary position in the right corner of the screen -- the only single-person box in the set -- making all sorts of faces when she wants to say something but can't get a word in edge-wise? Grumble, grumble. Squint. Sigh. Grumble, grumble. Priceless.

Really, it's ESPN2's tennis coverage at its best, because it's bare-boned (no Carl pun intended) and unintentionally hilarious. Yeah, sometimes Storm could be described with that latter phrase, too, but one thing that Pammy can never be accused of is being scripted and insincere. You know, like her aforementioned colleague.

-- And since I'm feeling generous with ESPN2, I'll throw Mike Tirico into the "Like" category, too. I sometimes think ABC/ESPN forces Tirico into the mix -- say on "Monday Night Football," "British Open" golf or "U.S. Open" tennis coverage -- simply because the powers that be think his presence conveys that they CARE about the event and think it deserves to have "cache." You know, sort of like how NBC has thrown Bob Costas onto odd telecasts -- like the Triple Crown races -- in an attempt to make them seem "classier." Tirico doesn't have any real link to tennis, though he's been added to ESPN's slam coverage recently. But Tirico IS a professional, and DOES seem to do his research. And it shows. You'd never know by listening to him that he's sort of a "latch-key commentator" for the network at big events like Wimbledon.


But, of course, I also have to mention another "Storm Moment" from Friday, although Patrick McEnroe's immediate reaction to it almost qualifies it as a "Like." In the pre-match talk of Federer's match, Storm talked about "Betteneau." It took all of about five seconds for P-Mac to make a point of talking about Federer's French opponent, looking right at Storm and calling him "Benneteau." You know, his ACTUAL name.

It was in witnessing this moment that I realized that the biggest difference between Storm and ESPN2's sometimes-host at the slams -- Chris McKendry -- is that Storm's well-practiced style allows her to deliver lines that make her SOUND like an expert on so many things, even if in reality she sometimes has NO IDEA what or who she's talking about. You would have thought that Benneteau's name really was Betteneau. On the other hand, McKendry, who from what I gathered from a recent interview with her in Tennis View magazine is a long-time tennis follower (and was a scholarship player at Drexel University), often-times sounds like she's flying by the seat of her pants covering a sport she's only now learning about, even though she really does have much personal knowledge to fall back on.

Just an interesting comparison, I thought.

...and, finally, as always at a slam, no matter how close she came to advancing to the 3rd Round last night, Anabel Medina-Garrigues' time in the draw is limited. After notching one win at this Wimbledon, the slam at which the Spanish vet has her fewest number of match victories, she was dumped out by qualifier Jana Cepelova today. Okay, here's where I'm obliged to once again note that AMG is STILL linked in history with Anna Smashnova as the only players to ever win double-digit WTA singles titles but never reach a slam Final 8. There, that's another Daily Backspin slam ritual checked off the list. By the way, this was AMG's 41st career slam. Medina-Garrigues, who'll turn 30 in July, reached the 2nd Round in London, meaning she came up short of her best SW19 result (three 3rd Rounds over a four-year stretch from 2006-09). The loss ends her career-best streak of slam consistency, as she'd reached the 3rd Round at three straight slams. Her career slam match record now stands at 43-41. Only 170 and 197 wins, respectively, behind two other 30-year olds -- Serena Williams and Roger Federer. All right, I KNOW that was unfair.

Keep on fighting the good fight, AMG.

#1 Maria Sharapova/RUS vs. #15 Sabine Lisicki/GER
Kim Clijsters/BEL vs. #8 Angelique Kerber/GER
#3 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL vs. (Q) Camila Giorgi/ITA
#17 Maria Kirilenko/RUS vs. Peng Shuai/CHN
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #Viktor Troicki/SRB
#18 Richard Gasquet/FRA vs. #31 Florian Mayer/GER
#3 Roger Federer/SUI vs. Xavier Malisse/BEL
Denis Istomin/UZB vs. #26 Mikhail Youzhny/RUS
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx
xx vs. xx

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.)
2012 Heather Watson (3rd Rd.)

TOP QUALIFIER: Sandra Zaniewska/POL
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Agnieszka Radwanska/POL
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #12q Mirjana Lucic/CRO d. #24 Bibiane Schoofs/NED 7-5/6-4
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Tamira Paszek/AUT d. #7 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN 5-7/7-6/6-4
TOP UNDER-THE-ROOF MATCH: Nominee: 1st Rd. - Paszek d. Wozniacki
FIRST WINNER: Samantha Stosur/AUS (def. C.Suarez-Navarro/ESP)
FIRST SEED OUT: #16 Flavia Pennetta/ITA (lost to C.Giorgi/ITA
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Slovak Republic (1-3 in 1st Rd.; 3 players w/ WTA titles lost)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: J.Cepelova/SVK & M.Lucic/CRO in 3rd Rd.; C.Giorgi/ITA in 4th Rd.
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR (3rd Rd.)
IT: xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: M.Lucic/CRO (first main draw Wimbledon win since '00; in 3rd Rd.; '99 semifinalist)
CRASH & BURN: #7 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (lost 1st Rd. to T.Paszek/AUT, worst slam result since debuted at '07 RG)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: T.Paszek/AUT (down 2 MP vs. C.Wozniacki/DEN in 1st Rd.; after down 6-4/4-0 in Eastbourne SF and 5 MP in Eastbourne Final)

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

that's a bold prediction, Todd: Sloane Stephens future top 10er. You really think she has the goods? I think last year you were saying top 30... Or do you think her composure will take her the extra little bit (and it really is just a little bit of difference between those ranked top 30 and those ranked top 10 as errani has proved recently)

I think my issue with hannah storm is that she sounds fake (i think you said "well-rehearsed"). I like chris mkendry a lot better bc she sounds more genuine even though she makes mistakes and it seems like mkendry enjoys the tennis events which makes worlds of difference.

Sat Jun 30, 12:01:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I don't speak a word of Polish, but it seemed to me that they were saying "Here's the fireplace where we toss the bodies, and this frothy, bubbling pool is where we toss the other bodies."

The melon was the creepiest, though--especially since the camera had just lingered on the swords. Ula closing the door at the end was pretty scary, too. I felt the dampness of fog, but hey, it's London.

I was right about the scope. The R carried it all the way from Rome (

Sat Jun 30, 12:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, I'm not sure it was meant as a prediction... it was more a set-up for "Future Sloane" to make an appearance. Speaking of, I don't think this will be her first "conversation through space and time," either. :)

Truthfully, I think I just pulled "Top 10" out of the air because someone on ESPN2 today said they thought she could get there (I can't recall who it was). I'd certainly say Top 20, and probably Top 15. She'll have to start taking advantages of the chances she gets against top players to make that next leap. So far, she's still learning how to do that.

I DO think her future prospects have gone up over the last year, though. She's always improving, and has been SO CLOSE to some very big wins this season (and today, for that matter). She says clay is her favorite surface, but she's shown pretty good ability on all surfaces, and is a good mover. Like Errani, she's not that tall, but she hits a harder ball than Errani does, so she shouldn't have to toil for so many years like the Italian did before getting a longer racket and really making an effort to get a bit more pop in her serve (it seems to have made a big difference, by the way).

Stephens is the best teenager in the world right now (and there haven't been many teenagers in recent seasons that have even been in the discussion), so that's a good start.

I used "fake" to describe Storm's smile in her interview with Watson the other day, I think. I just wanted to change it up. ;)

Sat Jun 30, 12:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


That pool looked pretty clear when they filmed that. I wonder what it looks like NOW. Yikes!

You know, Diane... I think It's going to realize we're on to It soon. I'm going to sleep with a sword next to the bed for the rest of Wimbledon. I suggest you do the same. I mean, if you have a sword, of course. I actually do have an old military one (really)... so I'm all good. :D

Sat Jun 30, 12:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rauf Arshad said...

awsome post and a nice artical to ready about any tennis female star.
Wimbledon 2012

Sat Jun 30, 03:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jeppe said...

My highlight of the The Radwanska Crip Tour is at 7:05. I think there is a not-so-subtle message for you there, Todd. Beware:)

Sat Jun 30, 04:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Haha. Looks painful. :D

Sat Jun 30, 07:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I own a bloody Beatrix Kiddo action figure. It will have to do. Fingers crossed :)

Sat Jun 30, 09:45:00 AM EDT  

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