Tuesday, June 28, 2016

W.2- All in the Family

After Day 1 concluded with a Pliskova twin "breaking ranks" from family history and actually surviving a tight slam match, Day 2 opened with a "return to past form" as another Pliskova twin squandered a 3rd set lead and was once again sent out in the early rounds of a major.

It's not even Radwanskian Remembrance Day yet, but for half of the 24-year old Czech sibling duo this Wimbledon is already 'ova.

Less than a day after #17-seeded Karolina overcame a love 2nd set to gut out an 8-6 3rd set win over Yanina Wickmayer, her sister Kristyna, one year after she reached her only career slam 3rd Round at SW19, overcame a slow start against Chinese lucky loser Duan Yingying and seemed in good position to make Wimbledon -- where she was the junior champion in 2010 -- the first slam at which she's ever won MD matches in back-to-back years.

But Kristyna is still a Pliskova. And this is a slam. So, well, you know.

KRISTYNA PLISKOVA, on Monday, when hopes were still high

On Court 15, a long hike across the tournament grounds from the site of her sister's earlier escape, the unseeded Pliskova (#107) failed to take advantage of the opportunities presented to her in the 1st set. The woman who set a WTA record with 31 aces in a single match at the Australian Open (in a loss, of course, in which she failed to convert five MP vs. Monica Puig) fired five aces in the set, but wasn't able to put away any of her seven BP chances against Duan. The #123-ranked LL, who quickly took a 3-0 lead in the early moments of Day 2 action, converted one of her three BP (getting it in game #2) and held the advantage throughout to win the set 6-3.

Pliskova rebounded in the 2nd, winning 20 of 24 pts on serve, hitting four more aces and never facing a break point. She converted an early BP chance for 2-0 and never relinquished the lead. She then immediately took a break lead in the opening game of the 3rd set, as well. Kristyna led 3-1 before Duan broke back for 3-3. Highlighting just how much Pliskova needed to ride her big serve on the grass, and how every BP opportunity was worth its weight in gold, it's worth noting that through the first eleven games of the set, none had yet gone to even deuce. In fact, only four games of the thirty played on the day did, and all of them had come back in the 1st set. So any small opening needed to be ripped wide, since they were few and far between as the match progressed.

So, guess what Pliskova did.

Serving down 5-6, Pliskova opened game #12 of the 3rd set with a DF (her sixth on the day) and quickly found herself down love/40. What Pliskova so often failed to do in the match, the 26-year old Chinese did right then and there. Duan fired a backhand winner to get the match-winning break for a 6-3/3-6/7-5 victory, her second straight 1st Round Wimbledon upset coming one year after she qualified and defeated Genie Bouchard at SW19 in the MD last summer (she just missed out on the 3rd Rd., losing a 10-8 3rd set vs. Tatjana Maria a round later).

While Pliskova had ten aces on the day, much as was the case in her loss to Puig in Melbourne, she failed to employ her biggest weapon when she needed it most. She had just a single ace in the 3rd set (coming in a rather innocuous moment in game #8 to take a 40/love lead before holding for 4-4). She hit at just a 57% clip on her 1st serves (after 75% in the 2nd set) and won only ten of the seventeen first serves she got in (she won 15 of 18 in the 2nd), along with just 7 of 13 of her 2nd serves (5/6 in the 2nd). Meanwhile, Duan doubled Pliskova's winner total in the 3rd (16-8, after having been behind 24-19 in the first two sets). Duan converted on both her BP chances in the set, making her three-for-five in the match vs. Pliskova's two-for-ten. She was clearly the big point player on the day.

Recent Wimbledon lucky losers -- Alize Cornet in '07, Kristina Kucova in '09 and Stephanie Dubois in '11 -- have reached the 2nd Round, but none have managed to win two matches since Dutch player Tine Zwaan in 1974. Daria Kasatkina reached the 3rd Round of last year's U.S. Open as a LL, the first to advance so far at any slam since 1997.

Duan, now 2-5 in slam MD in her career (with both victories coming at Wimbledon), will face #6-seeded Roberta Vinci in the 2nd Round.

...meanwhile, this Wimbledon's version of "Serena Williams and the Deathly Quarter" began in earnest on Tuesday The section of the defending champ's draw which contains a bevy of potential legitimate obstacles (from Vandeweghe and Vinci, to Stephens, Mladenovic, Watson, Bacsinszky and Kuznetsova) should probably slow their roll, though. Considering Williams' "fightin' words" on Day 2, no one would refuse them service should they possibly -- and maybe rightly -- be "scuuurd."

Serena's 1st Round opponent on Day 2 was Swiss Amra Sadikovic, who retired a few years ago and (in info discussed by Courtney Nguyen today on Wimbledon Radio -- so that was finally good for something, at least) was "inspired" to return when she saw Genie Bouchard playing in the Wimbledon final in 2014 and realized that she'd beaten the Canadian just three years earlier. I guess "inspired by" is the most appropriate phrase... maybe "pissed off about" might be just as appropriate, though.

Sadikovic played well, choosing to receive serve in the opening game and actually holding two BP vs. the 21-time major winner in the first game (on Centre Court, no less) of her grand slam career. Williams held and, after getting a late 2nd set break, completed a straight sets win at 6-2/6-4 to become the third woman in Wimbledon history (Original Martina - 120, Evert - 96) to notch eighty match wins.

Williams' stats weren't spectacular, but they were good enough.

Her comments, though, are more worrisome. For the rest of the field.

...in early action on Tuesday, Daria Gavrilova overcame a slow start to get her first career Wimbledon MD victory over Wang Qiang, 2-6/6-3/6-4.

Meanwhile, the first wild card AND the first Brit advanced to the 2nd Round in the form of one Tara Moore. The 23-year old (#227) got her first career slam win with a 6-3/6-2 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck.

You may remember the Brit's Twitter comments last year that accused Serena of "faking" her dramatic health/injury "issues" during that Roland Garros semifinal comeback win over Timea Bacsinszky, a moment in time which got Moore a whole heap of unwanted attention and, naturally, even online death threats (true fact). She says she's "matured" quite a bit due to the whole incident, which is a good thing. Sadly, the same can't likely be said about the anonymous horde.

Of course, Moore is now just two wins away from facing Serena. Sure, it probably won't happen. But if it did, well, it'd be a TINY bit of a story, I suppose.

So far, the Crumpets aren't fairing too well at SW19. They were 0-2 on Monday, and Moore's win gives them a 1-3 overall mark. Johanna Konta is still to finish her 1st Round match, while Heather Watson has yet to start hers.

...also moving on today was #6-seeded Roberta Vinci, who took out Alison Riske in three sets on the Bannerette's favorite surface. Vinci led 6-2/4-2 before Riske staged a comeback, but the Italian served for the match at 5-3 in the 3rd set. In the game, Vinci failed to convert three MP (dumping a slice backhand drop shot into the net on the third). After saving two BP, Vinci finally won on MP #4 when Riske fired a return long. After reaching the Wimbledon Round of 16 in 2012-13, this was Vinci's first SW19 win in three years.

In the afternoon, we got our first visit from an old Wimbledon friend. Not the entity, but the rain...

In all, six matches were interrupted and suspended, with the players from twelve yet-to-start 1st Round matches being sent home for the day. Amongst the players who'll have to finish things off on Wednesday is Andrea Petkovic, who led Nao Hibino 5-1 in 3rd (arrrggghhh!!) before play was halted.

As a result of the weather, the Centre Court roof was closed for the first time at this 2016 Wimbledon, and Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki were allowed to have a go in the opening indoor match of the summer.

Unseeded for the first time since 2008, Wozniacki came in ranked #45. Meanwhile, just-turned-31-on-Monday Kuznetsova has experienced something of a career renaissance over the past year. The two engaged in a tight battle through the first ten games of the match, but then things turned sharply. Kuznetsova broke the Dane for 6-5, then held at love to claim the set 7-5. A dejected Wozniacki was nearly bum-rushed out the door in the 2nd. Kuznetsova jumped out 4-0, and led 5-1. ESPN Chris commentators Fowler and Evert called what she was doing a "perfect set."

And then that other Sveta showed up. For a little while.

Kuznetsova's double-break lead ultimately protected the Russian from disaster, but it still took her two tries to finally serve out the match to win 7-5/6-4 to record her 24th career Wimbledon win. This is the Hordette's least productive major by a decent margin, but she's still now won twice as many matches as she's lost at the AELTC. Not bad for a "worst" slam.

Oh, and this...

In the other under-the-roof match, 2015 quarterfinalist CoCo Vandeweghe defeated 2004 Wimbledon junior champ Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-2/7-6(3). The Bannerette, a two-time Rosmalen title winner (including just a few weeks ago), had five aces and only faced one BP in the match.

LIKE ON DAY 2: Praise from near and far. But especially near.

Kinda in love with my wimbledon dress @niketennis #audemarspiguet #nike

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

HMMM... ON DAY 2: I'm not sure I'd characterize a 6-3/6-2 with an over-selling "What. A. Win." comment, or call it a "shock" considering Moore earned her wild card into the main draw by reaching the $50K Eastbourne challenger final and tour-level Birmingham QF (as a qualifier) on the grass a few weeks ago. Even with Van Uytvanck being ranked 100 places above Moore, the Belgian is still outside the Top 100, and she came in with a 1-2 record at Wimbledon and was 0-3 in tour MD matches on grass this month. Just sayin'.

Maybe the "British Shock" thing is just an unused Brexit headline, or the BBC is now simply shocked that ANY British athlete not named Andy can win anything at all at the moment?

LIKE ON DAY 2: This is the sort of thing that the tour should use to promote itself and honor its great champions. Simple, but kinda cool...

GOOD NOTE ON DAY 2: Say what you will about Wimbledon, at least the AELTC does routinely pay respect to its history. I suspect those in charge would lose digits if they didn't. "Hey, that's not a strawberry in my cream!"

LIKE ON DAY 2: How they just always seem to drift into each other's orbit without really trying...


And, remember, the coast is officially clear since Ostapenko is gone.

LIKE ON DAY 2: Cicak, naturally.

JUST WONDERING ON DAY 2: What sort of crack would CoCo make if opponents stoked the crowd (amongst other things) against her as she often does when playing them?

It doesn't make anything there wrong. I just wonder. She's been notoriously touchy in the past about less, after all. Although, I admit to raising fewer eyebrows regarding CoCo in this discussion this season than last.

SOMETHING NEW ON DAY 2?: I don't I've ever seen a photo of an actual player eating actual strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. For what that's worth.

LIKE ON DAY 2: Hantuchova's new perspective...

LIKE ON DAY 2: Jamie Lee Curtis Judy Murray answering not-that-interesting questions very interestingly.

...and, finally... with the rain today, that means Day 3 -- part of the whole "observed" Radwanskian Massacre remembrance -- will now feature even more players who are potentially in the path of a certain malevolent entity who likes to hide out at the All-England Club.

Don't let your guard down now!

Vigilance pays.

The changing momentum part came in handy today...

=3rd Rd.=
2015 US: Daria Kasatkina, RUS
=2nd Rd.=
2006 US: Nicole Pratt, AUS
2006 RG: Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
2007 WI: Alize Cornet, FRA
2008 US: Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
2009 RG: Mariana Duque-Marino, COL
2009 WI: Kristina Kucova, SVK
2010 RG: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
2011 WI: Stephanie Dubois, CAN
2012 RG: Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ
2013 US: Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT
2014 AO: Irina Falconi, USA
2016 WI: Duan Yingying, CHN *
Most Recent 4th Rd.: Maria Jose Gaidano, ARG (1993 US)
Most Recent AO 3rd Rd.: Sandra Kleinova, CZE (1997)
Most Recent RG 3rd Rd.: Gloria Pizzichini, ITA (1996)
Most Recent WI 3rd Rd.: Tine Zwaan, NED (1974)

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #7 Tamira Paszek/AUT d. Andrea Hlavackova/CZE 6-3/5-7/10-9 ret. (Paszek MP in 2nd, ankle injury; Paszek up 5-3 3rd; Hlavackova ret. w/ cramps, collapses onto back after match)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: #29 Daria Kasatkina/RUS (def. Duval/USA in :51)
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Irina-Camelia Begu/ROU (lost 1st Rd. to Witthoeft/GER)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: M.Sakkari/GRE, J.Cepelova/SVK, E.Alexandrova/RUS, M.Erakovic/NZL
IT ("??"): xx
ZOMBIE QUEEN (TBD at QF): Nominees: #28 Safarova (1st Rd. - down 7-6/5-2, 5-3 in 3rd and saved 3 MP vs. Mattek-Sands); (Q) Erakovic (saved MP vs. Falconi in 1st Rd.; won 10-8 3rd set)
THE RADWANSKA AWARD (June 26 official/Day 3 observed): TBA Day 3

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

Hantuchova is a class act and always has been. Most fans probably don't even know of her very bright academic background (she turned down a big scholarship to play tennis) and her training as a classical pianist (put it aside to play tennis). And of course, there's her immense gift for learning languages.

Tue Jun 28, 06:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Kr. Pliskova seems to be missing the clutch gene.

Stat of the Day-5- As in the number of consecutive years Maria Sharapova has reached a slam final(2011-2015). Also her ranking at the AO this year. That streak seems to have come to an end, which brings up some thoughts, both about durabilty, talent, and tempered expectations. We should expect another first time finalist at one of the last 2 slams without Maria around, but you know who has a longer streak. Of course, it's Serena-who has been in at least one slam final every year since 2007. Even the injury plagued 2011, when she reached the USO final in her 6th and last tournament of the year. Ironically, she isn't the last to play in all 4 slams in the same year, that was Henin in 2006(1-3), in the only other year since 2000 that Williams hasn't reached a final.

Also note that from 2008 until now, Williams has either reached the Wimbledon or US Open final, if not both, yet 2012 is the only year she went back to back. So don't expect the Wimbledon winner to carry that to New York. The oddity is this. Serena is the only person the last 13 years to go back to back, but if you take the previous 10, it happened 7 times-Graf(93,95,96) Hingis(97), V.Williams(00,01), S.Williams(02).

Tue Jun 28, 06:56:00 PM EDT  

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