Thursday, June 26, 2014

W.4- All's Quiet on the SW19 Front

One year later, all is well.

On June 26 at Wimbledon in 2013, The Radwanskian Massacre claimed seven former #1 players on a single day. Four walkovers and three retirements set the tone of carnage that Wednesday, as the falls, slips and stumbles the occurred over the first week of play and beyond even pulled the likes of Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams into the pit of defeat before and after the day that made Wimbledon cringe in fear.

With The Radwanska Threat Level meter in place, defensive guards were put up on this day, though. And this time, peace prevailed. Long live The Cause.

Of course, an early skirmish DID threaten to unleash the hell hounds of The Rad, as Nadal dropped the 1st set to Lukas Rosol, the same player who shockingly upset him in the 1st Round in 2012. Rafa fell behind a break at 4-2 in the 2nd, and faced a set point in the deciding tie-break. But, have no fear. He staved it off, won the set, then closed out the match with a pair of 6-4 sets to get a measure of revenge... and maybe keep the Radwanskian threat at bay on yet another twenty-sixth day of June.

At about the same time, Williams was having an easy time of things with Chanelle Scheepers, wiping out the South African 6-1/6-1 in forty-nine minutes. She's dropped five games through two rounds, but that's still fewer than those lost by Maria Sharapova, a Massacre victim one year ago. The Russian's 6-2/6-1 win over Timea Bacsinszky -- accomplished in an hour -- means she's given up just four games so far.

Massacre victims Vika Azarenka (though she never set foot on the court on this date a year ago) and Jelena Jankovic exited this Wimbledon over the past two days, and Caroline Wozniacki avoided a dance with fate with her win on Day 3, but fellow member of the Fallen Seven, Ana Ivanovic did take the court this Thursday.

AnaIvo looked past any Rad threat and instead exorcised some personal SW19 demons, taking out Zheng Jie. The Chinese vet defeated her in the 3rd Round at Wimbledon in 2008, following the Serb's Roland Garros title run and 2nd Round "Kiss of Life" victory at the All-England Club, setting the course for a rather troubling five-year run. Treating her like one of those stress-relieving squeeze balls six years after the fact, AnaIvo handed Zheng a bagel in the 2nd set.

The final two of the Fallen Seven last year were Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer. The Aussie's match will be completed tomorrow because of the late rain that hit SW19, but Federer, being Federer, was fortunate enough to be playing on Centre Court when the weather hit so he got to take things under the roof for the first indoor action so far this fortnight. As if he was cleaning up after his two sets of twins, Federer wiped the countertop with Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, slamming down twenty-five aces in a match that didn't last 1:45.

Of course, even on a "calm" day, sacrifices must to made to protect the rest of us.

Yaroslava Shvedova took down Kaia Kanepi, who'd eliminated JJ in the 1st Round two days ago.. The Estonian saved two match points in the 2nd to extend things to a 3rd set, but then quickly fell behind the Kazakh 4-0 in the 3rd and lost the final set 6-2. But such a good result following a great one is sort of par for the course for the feast-or-famine slam entity that is Kanepi. No real Rad influence there, I'd say.

Meanwhile, on the men's side, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils (who fell down two sets to love, forced a 5th set, then had his serve broken for 5-4 and was shaking hands a game later -- hmmmm, that sounds familiar) were shown the door. Minor sacrifices, I'd say. Plus, it avoids a frustrating all-French Gasquet/Monfils 3rd Round match where the two Pastrymen county would have likely battled it out to see who'd give up first. As it turned out, it was a tie!

Oh, Rad... you devil. Maybe we could get to be friends, after all.

(Hmmm, maybe some day we'll find out just what QC might have done to save the world... I expect it's quite a tale she'll spin. But our friend is currently missing and we won't know what truly occurred until our hero Anna finds her. Keep an eye out for breaking updates posted in this space.)

...the rain upended two women's matches late in the day, including the very intriguing Belinda Bencic/Vicky Duval contest. Simona Halep's match with qualifier Lesia Tsurenko will have to wait, as well.

...a year ago, amidst all the carnage, a teenage Eugenie Bouchard, in the first Wimbledon main draw appearance by the '12 girls champ, managed to avoid the pitfalls, snares and traps set up by The Rad. In her opening round match against Galina Voskoboeva, the Canadian trailed 7-5/5-4 with the Kazakh serving for the match. Her escape, in retrospect, earned her the "Zombie Queen" honors for SW19 and she advanced to a then slam career-best 3rd Round.

She's done quite a bit better so far in 2014, and her growth continues at this Wimbledon.

Two days ago, while still finding her grass court form, two-time slam semifinalist Bouchard got past Daniela Hantuchova in two tight sets. Today against wild card Silvia Soler-Espinosa, she again encountered some push back. She was down an early break at 2-0, and was tied up a 5-5 deep into the 1st set. After getting the break for 6-5, Bouchard immediately served out the set, then opened the 2nd by breaking SSE at love. She broke at love again to take a 4-1 lead, then allowed the Spaniard just one point in the third break of serve in the set that ended the 7-5/6-1 match. She outpaced her opponent 11-1 in winners in the 2nd set, and 24-8 for the match.

Bouchard will get Andrea Petkovic next (a rematch of the Charleston SF, but not on the clay where the German would be the favorite). After that, well, while Mary Joe Fernandez, as she said today, might be rooting for that Serena/Sharapova quarterfinal (unless something changes that turns the result of the last decade of match-ups, though, I'm not sure that what could be an anticlimactic affair is what we should be "hoping" for), a possible Serena/Bouchard Round of 16 clash might actually be a bit more intriguing. They don't have the same history, so maybe as "ingrained" a final result isn't as likely.

...Madison Keys, too, is showing all sorts of signs of on-court maturity, as well. "I'm a big fan of grass," the American said the other day. "It definitely suits my game. I feel like every time I come and I play I feel more comfortable on it."

Today, she even displayed great timing.

Against vet Klara Koukalova, the Bannerette won a break-less 1st set 7-5, then came back from a break down twice in the 2nd to force a tie-break. She lost it, but didn't get discouraged. Instead, Keys never allowed the Czech's return game to get to deuce in any of her remaining service games. But she broke Koukalova's twice, the second time with a pair of monster returns to go up 5-2. Keys won 7-5/6-7(3)/6-2 right before the rain threatened to interrupt the match. She had 43 unforced errors in the match, but balanced her big game out with 37 winners. Koukalova had just 16.

Interviewed for a USA Today piece on Keys yesterday, Rennae Stubbs submitted her official Team Madison membership papers, predicting that she'll win a grand slam title. "Nobody hits the ball harder than she does. Once she learns how to construct the points a little bit better, forget it. She just has all the weapons." I tell you, as I did a few months ago, if you close your eyes and listen to Stubbs talk about some of the Bannerettes she sounds like, minus the Aussie accent, the U.S. Fed Cup coach.

Hmmm, well, if MJF can't start to win SOMETHING with this growing contingent of young stars, who knows? (He said, knowing full well the USTA would never hire someone who isn't an American to lead the squad).

...some early-round awards were decided today as Heather Watson's three-set loss to Angelique Kerber means that she'll share the "Last Brit Standing" honors with Naomi Broady. Meanwhile, Vera Zvonareva -- yes, THAT Vera Zvonareva -- won back-to-back matches for the first time since she reached the Round of 16 at the London Olympics, getting a straight sets win over Donna Vekic to reach the 3rd Round. She's the "Last Wild Card Standing," and since she's playing an unseeded Zarina Diyas next she might be standing for a while longer, too.

There are still five qualifiers alive, with Duval and Tsurenko still to play their 2nd Round matches. Michelle Larcher de Brito, Tereza Smitkova and Ana "Kid Konjuh" reached the 3rd Round yesterday.

Meanwhile, with no Radwanskian Massacre sequel today, as it should be, Sloane Stephens wraps up the "Crash & Burn" award. I think we all saw THAT coming.

Late addition: I guess we sort of saw this coming, too, huh? It looks like the Current Sloane/Annacone coaching attempt has ended. Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? doubles, another all-sister team fell flat, as Alize Cornet & Caroline Garcia took out the Chans. The Kichenoks came within two points of victory, leading by a set and 5-2 in the 2nd set tie-break over Lauren Davis & Monica Puig when play was stopped due to rain. Defending champs Hsieh/Peng got their 1st Round win, though.


...Serena's tumble into the crowd during her and Venus' doubles match proved to be just a light moment yesterday. Are those in-disguise-and-human-form Tennis Gods sitting in the front row to catch her?


Andy Murray, ever the good sport:



ugh. An L.Z. Granderson sighting today on ESPN. Oh, no... what does this mean? Can we get The Radwanska back?

...and, finally...

=EARLY-ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rounds (Days 1-4)=
1. Maria Sharapova, RUS
...of course, this might mean absolutely nothing in a few rounds.
2. Serena Williams, USA
...without that opening 10-minute game...
3. Petra Kvitova, CZE
...the kiss of death? Oh, Petra.
4. Aga Radwanska, POL
...shhhh. Be verwy, verwy qwiet.

5. Sabine Lisicki, GER
...she should just sleep in a tent on Centre Court.
6. Venus Williams, USA
...the one and only.
7. Madison Keys, USA
...a Keys vs. Lisicki Round of 16 match would be thunderous. Ask Li Na.
8. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
...of course, AnaIvo stands in the way of that (3rd Rd. vs. Lisicki).
9. Angelique Kerber, GER
...was being pushed by Watson a sign that the string is about to be played out, though?
10. Alison Riske, USA & Lauren Davis, USA
...under-the-radar Bannerettes. Wins over Pavlyuchenkova and Giorgi for Riske, Kleybanova and Pennetta for Davis.

THE KID CORPS: Ana Konjuh/CRO, Belinda Bencic/SUI & Vicky Duval/USA
WAIT AND SEE, WAIT AND SEE: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
HEY, AREN'T YOU...?: 2013 semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens, BEL

Of course, everything above is subject to change at a moment's notice.

2002 (Wk 1 POW) Venus Williams, USA
2003 (Wk 1 POW) Venus Williams, USA
2004 (Wk 1 POW) Lindsay Davenport, USA
2005 (Wk 1 co-POW) Lindsay Davenport, USA & Maria Sharapova, RUS
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne, BEL
2007 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2008 Serena Williams, USA
2009 Venus Williams, USA
2010 Venus Williams, USA & Serena Williams, USA *
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE *
2012 Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Maria Sharapova, RUS
* - won title

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.)
2013 Laura Robson (4th Rd.)
2014 Naomi Broady & Heather Watson (2nd Rd.)

2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS (2nd Rd.)
2009 Maria Sharapova, RUS (2nd Rd.)
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA & Samantha Stosur, AUS [1st Rd. - both RG finalists]
2011 Jelena Jankovic, SRB (1st Rd.)
2012 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN (1st Rd.)
2013 Nadia Petrova, RUS (1st Rd.)
2014 Sloane Stephens, USA (1st Rd.)

2008 Zheng Jie, CHN (SF)
2009 Elena Baltacha/GBR & Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR (2nd Rd.)
2010 none to 2nd Rd.
2011 Sabine Lisicki, GER (SF)
2012 Yaroslava Shvedova, KAZ (4th Rd.)
2013 Alison Riske, USA (3rd Rd.)
2014 Vera Zvonareva, RUS (in 3rd Rd.)

TOP QUALIFIER: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #5 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Paula Kania/POL d. Shelby Rogers/USA 7-6(12)/4-6/6-3
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. -Coco Vandeweghe/USA d. #27 Garbine Muguruza/ESP 6-3/3-6/7-5 (on 13th MP, 9th in final game)
FIRST WINNER: Elena Vesnina/RUS (def. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner/AUT)
FIRST SEED OUT: #17 Samantha Stosur/AUS (lost 1st Rd. to Wickmayer/BEL)
UPSET QUEENS: USA (def. 3 seeds and one ex-semifinalist in 1st Rd.)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: SVK (1-4 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: in 2nd Rd.: V.Duval/USA, A.Konjuh/CRO(W), M.Larcher de Brito/POR(W), T.Smitkova/CZE(W), L.Tsurenko/UKR
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Vera Zvonareva/RUS (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Naomi Broady & Heather Watson (2nd Rd.)
IT ("??"): xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Vika's white shorts; V.Zvonareva/RUS; V.Williams/USA; P.Kvitova/CZE
CRASH & BURN: Sloane Stephens/USA (lost 1st Rd. to Kirilenko/RUS, ending 6 con. slam Round of 16 streak)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominees: Makarova/RUS (down 5-0 in 1st set, 3-1 in 3rd vs. Date-Krumm in 1st Rd.); Li/CHN (Kania served for 1st set in 1st Rd.); Garcia/FRA (down MP in 1st Rd. vs. Errani); Ka.Pliskova/CZE (down 5-2 in 3rd set vs. Knapp in 1st Rd.); Shvedova/KAZ (saved MP vs. Kr.Pliskova in 3rd set in 1st Rd.); Zvonareva/RUS (T.Moore served for match at 5-4 in 3rd in 1st Rd.); Cibulkova/SVK (Van Uytvanck served for match at 5-3 in 3rd in 2nd Rd.)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: DNP - singles (first time Medina-Garrigues didn't play Q/MD singles at a slam since 2003 Wimbledon, ending a 43-tournament appearance streak)

All for Day 4. More tomorrow.


Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Hmmm, first match up on Centre Court on Day 5 and Djokovic falls and rolls around holding his left shoulder. Separated?

Uh-oh. Never let down your guard.

Fri Jun 27, 10:03:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Back playing now after being worked on by trainers. Maybe false alarm.

Still... ever vigilant. :)

Fri Jun 27, 10:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Wonswe if Caroline is thinking of starting a bakery - well done Caroline you did well against the hyped 16 year old Croat

Fri Jun 27, 03:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Hoergren said...

Ups - wonder if .... sorry

Fri Jun 27, 03:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Bit of a window of opportunity for her here.

Fri Jun 27, 04:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Yeah, I think Aga, Petra, and Caro all have an opportunity to make the final. Just depends on if they're able to wrangle in their best tennis.

This draw really unbalanced and top heavy.

The 32nd (?) that is the most intriguing to me is Ivanovic/Lisicki & Keys/Shvedova. That's a doozy to call. They can all play Grand Slam winning tennis and they can all go off the boil. (I tend to think that Shvedova and her experience and better movement will defeat Keys...and if there was any justice, Ivanovic's recent success will carry her over Lisicki...but Wimbledon has always favored Lisicki)

Former finalist and perennial Top 10er Zvonareva is lurking as well...

And once again, Tomas Berdych gets the raw end of the deal. For arguably the 5th best player in the game, he really has no weight to throw around. They make him play during wind storms, when there's no light, when Hawk-eye's not working.

Fri Jun 27, 06:48:00 PM EDT  

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