Friday, July 01, 2016

W.5- Still Amazing. Still Venus and Serena.

Whenever (and don't look now, but it might be longer off than most think) the Williams Sisters finally walk away from competitive tennis we'll never be able to recount or even recall the incredible moments we've been given the honor of witnessing over the years... no, make that decades. When that day arrives, Day 5 at the 2016 Wimbledon will likely be lost in the shuffle of so many memories.

But that doesn't render it meaningless. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was a fascinating little morsel of a moment, interrupted and stretched out over an entire day, all its own.

With both Venus and Serena still ranked in the Top 10 while playing at age 36 and 34, respectively, Day 5 was one which would stand out as a remarkable one were it to involve a pair of tennis siblings NOT named Williams. With both facing off with opponents, in Serena's case, nearly a dozen years her junior, and for Venus, nearly HALF her age, they both battled to pull out three-set victories to advance in a singles draw that is being increasingly constituted in Pick-up-Stix fashion, as the weekend approaches with players occupying three different rounds as the come-and-go rain has allowed just two women's players (Venus being one of them) to remain on schedule by reaching the Round of 16 on Friday (their reward is an entire weekend off), while the majority look to play 3rd Rounders on the weekend even as still others (six women in all) have yet to even complete their 2nd Round contests.

Serena is situated right in the middle of those three groups, but she, just like Venus, is fortunate to still be playing at all after today, as SW19 was once again the host to a day of rollercoaster emotion, frustration, elation and a lingering sense that "something else" may be casually pulling strings at Its increasingly convoluted whim.

The 2016 season began for both Venus and Russian Daria Kasatina in Auckland in Week 1, with the Hordette coming back from a 3-1 3rd set deficit to upset the future Hall of Famer in the 1st Round. Today, as the oldest (36) player in the draw and the only teenager (19) remaining, they faced off again in a match that was ultimately interrupted four times due to the plague of rain that has come down on the AELTC this week. But when the five-time Wimbledon champ did actually get to play the grass court neophyte (this was only her fourth match on the surface), it was experience that won out early on. Williams led 5-1 through just twenty-one minutes of action when the skies opened and everyone hit "pause."

When they returned, Kasatkina burst out of the gates like a drag racer while Venus was stuck in neutral and trying to catch up. She broke Williams and held serve for 5-3, winning ten of the first eleven points over a nine-minute stretch, including a DF from Venus that got things back on serve in game #9 as the match clock hit :30. The Russian's dominant run ended when she fired a forehand long in game #10, but Kasatkina still held for 5-5. Down 5-6, she appeared to have hit an ace to take a 30/15 lead, only to see the call overturned via Williams' replay challenge, and then Venus ultimately win the point. A Kasatkina DF put her down BP at 30/40, then a wild forehand error gave Williams the set at 7-5.

Venus took a 3-1 lead in the 2nd, only to see Kasatkina stage a comeback with back-to-back service breaks. The Russian saved two BP from 15/40 down and held for 5-3, then saved another BP to serve out the set at 6-4. In the 3rd, Kasatkina took a break lead at 4-3, but failed to convert a GP a game later and then had a DF that gave back her break advantage as things were knotted at 4-4. Williams held a MP at 5-4, but the teenager saved it with a forehand winner to get things to 5-5. Serving down 6-7, Kasastkina faced another MP at 30/40, but was given a reprieve from her seeming fate when heavy rain caused the tournament grounds crew to raid the court and drag out the tarp to a stunned Williams' utter disbelief.

Was this a Radwanskian masterpiece in progress?

An hour and thirteen minutes later, they returned. A Williams error on the first point brushed aside the MP and Kasatkina held for 7-7. As the score reached 8-8, Williams was assured of playing her longest-ever 3rd set in her nineteen Wimbledon appearances. Finally, in game #17, Venus utilized all her experience and longtime skill in one game, using anticipation to gain control of a rally, pulling out an overhead smash like those from the prime of her career and a big serve to hold for 9-8. Serving once again to stay in the match, Kasatkina fell behind love/30. Two points later, Kasatkina moved forward to get to a Williams shot off the net cord, then got back two Venus passing shots (with a forehand, then a backhand volley). Williams, who'd moved toward the net between her passing attempts, used her quick hands as the two were face-to-face to put away a volley shot behind the young Russian to reach double MP. On her third MP of the day, Williams saw Kasatkina net a forehand off a high-bouncing ball at the baseline and the veteran had won 7-5/4-6/10-8 in 2:41 to reach her fourteenth SW19 Round of 16.

On Centre Court, Serena had to fight on this day, as well. Starting play while Venus was still in action next door (Oracene had to go back and forth all afternoon), the #1 seed seemed to be well on her way to a fairly routine 1st set win over 24-year old New Jersey native Christina McHale.

McHale opened the match with a break, and held her advantage while fighting off break points for a 4-2 lead. Finally, Williams broke to get back even at 4-4 and, up 5-4 and at set point, saw a McHale shot called out. Both seemed to accept the call, but a token replay look actually overturned the call as the ball hit the very definition of a "smidge" of the line. McHale managed to hold for 5-5, and then pushed things to a tie-break. There, Williams led 4-2 and 5-3, but she had two DF in the game. The second gave McHale a 7-6 lead. Down 7-8, Williams' error on a mid-court ball suddenly gave McHale a 9-7 win and a one set lead.

As she reached the changeover area, Serena cracked her racket and angrily tossed it aside (it managed to smoothly slide into a cameraman's lap, but would be returned later, under happier circumstances), perturbed at having lost a set she thought she'd won a few mintutes earlier and lamenting her inability to make things easier on herself (she was just 1-of-9 on BP chances) throughout.

Williams got an early break for 2-1 in the 2nd, and coasted to a 6-2 win to force a 3rd set. But McHale wouldn't go away quietly. She broke Serena for 2-0, firing shots at her as she camped out at the net as if it was target practice. She went up 40/15 in game #3, but went for too much on a second serve and had a DF. Down BP in the game, McHale did it again and had the same result, handing Serena back the break. But Williams was unable to break her two games later despite taking a love/40 lead, falling to 4-for-16 in BP chances on the day. McHale held for 3-2 and kept her hopes alive.

In game #7, Williams reached BP on McHale's serve, but failed to convert it due to a bad forehand return error. Another Williams error gave McHale her second GP, and she took advantage, hitting an ace to hold for 4-3 despite having just two winners in the entire set. Two games later, at 4-4, McHale won a 25-shot rally in which she dragged Serena from side to side to get to 30/30. A Williams return error gave McHale a GP. Serena had almost had enough. She hit two lines in the next point to save it. After McHale hit a DF on another GP, she saved another BP (Serena was 4-for-18) with a put-away of a Serena drop shot. Williams got another BP chance with a return winner, then finally converted on BP #19 of the day when McHale hit a wide forehand.

No almost about it... now Serena had had enough.

In game #10, it was time for THAT Serena Williams to arrive. The 21-time slam champ looking to "add on," come hell or high water. She won the first point then, with a look of determination on her face (you've seen it), stepped to the line and fired an ace. Then another. Then another. Just like that, it was over. Williams won 6-7(7)/6-2/6-4 in 2:29. She's now reached at least the 3rd Round at all seventeen Wimbledons in which she's participated.

So, all in all, history will record that no Williams Sister lost today. Because of that, this day might slip through the sieve of our collective memory in short order. We've come to take their career-long drama -- often double-fisted as it was today -- for granted. But what can you expect? They've given us so much. Almost too much to process sometimes.

But it WAS a remarkable day. Another one. After all these years. And it's not likely the last these two will produce before it's over, either. Not by a long shot. It may even happen at THIS tournament.

Venus and Serena have left us with a great deal to remember but, remarkably, also a great deal to look forward to, as well. Still. Amazing, isn't it?

=DAY 5 NOTES= the other scattered pieces of matches on Friday, Carla Suarez-Navarro managed to actually advance to the FOURTH Round, her second such result at Wimbledon (2013) and tenth in her career at a slam (third in '16), with a win over qualifier Marina Erakovic.

The Kiwi is still in the running for "Last Qualifier Standing," though, as Jana Cepelova and Julia Boserup have yet to play their 3rd Rounders, while Mandy Minella still has to finish the 2nd Round.

Speaking of the 30-year old from Luxembourg, she won the 1st set today from Sloane Stephens, and served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd (her only previous slam 3rd Round was at Wimbledon in 2012) but failed to complete the task. Soon, Stephens found herself serving for the set at 6-5. She couldn't do it, either. Minella held a MP at 6-5 in the tie-break, but then dropped the final three points as Stephens won 8-6 and forced a 3rd. They were tied at 3-3 when heavy rain ended play (again) on the outer courts.

If the veteran can't reverse course and win out, this will be her second crushing loss to Stephens in slam play in the last four years. At the 2013 U.S. Open she led a 1st Round match vs. the Bannerette 4-2 in the 3rd set, then 3-1 in the deciding tie-break only to see Stephens win five straight points and hold three MP. She lost the first two on her own serve, then took a 4-6/6-3/7-6(5) match on MP #3 on Minella's serve. The Luxembourg woman left the court in tears.

I think we know what Minella will be trying with all her might to avoid thinking about overnight.

...Svetlana Kuznetsova took out wild card Tara Moore. In three sets, naturally. With fellow wild card Evgeniya Rodina's loss to Barbora Strycova, Moore and Rodina share the "Last Wild Card Standing" honors with 2nd Round results, while Moore also shares the "Last Brit/Crumpet Standing" trophy (yeah, uh, no) with #16 seed Johanna Konta.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a player everyone used to think would do well at Wimbledon (she once said she's always told that, but didn't quite know why it was so), reached her first SW19 3rd Round since 2010 with a win over Yulia Putintseva. Meanwhile, Heather Watson conqueror Annika Beck pushed past Kristina Mladenovic conqueror (hey, it's becoming the best way to identity players in this jigsaw puzzle draw, no?) Aliaksandra Sasnovich to reach her first career Wimbledon 3rd Round (she was 1-4 overall in London coming in).

Of the matches that weren't amongst the latest batch cancelled before they ever had a chance to start, Bacsinszky/Niculescu is knotted at a set each, with the Swarmette up 1-0 in the 3rd set.

Elsewhere, the three-player dance that was taking place on Court 2 was stopped just a few points into the 2nd set, with Ekaterina Makarova having won a 7-5 in the 1st.

THREE players, you ask?

Why, yes. Ekaterina. Good Petra. And Bad Petra.

It was hard to tell which version of Kvitova was on the court every other minute in this one. Nothing unusual, even after Good Petra hogged the spotlight in the Czech's 1st Round match, ummm, TWO days ago? At least I think that's when it was. It's hard to remember anymore.

At any rate, Makarova broke Kvitova right out of the gate for 1-0, and led 4-2. A few minutes later, after the Russian failed to secure two GP in game #8, the Czech broke to get back on serve at 4-4. As the commentator on ESPN Now's coverage said, "Good Petra has arrived. (But) bad Petra can appear at any given time." And she soon would. Serving to stay in the set down 4-5, Makarova held serve then broke Kvitova on the Czech's truly horrendous volley attempt. The Russian reached SP, but suddenly Kvitova surged and held a BP, then another. She converted neither. Makarova got the chance at a second SP, and Kvitova fired a ball (quite literally) a hair's-length beyond the line to give Makarova a solid/squandered/recovered 1st set victory.

Who knows what will happen when they pick up action again tomorrow (or whenever). I mean, really. the sole women's doubles match completed today, a slight surprise (mostly because of the surface) occurred as the veteran Spanish pair of Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Arantxa Parra-Santonja took out Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova 4-6/6-4/6-3. The young Czech pair, who just reached the Roland Garros semis, won the Wimbledon girls doubles title in 2013. the Roehampton junior event, #4-seeded Anastasia Potapova defeated her fellow Hordette, #1-seeed Olesya Pervushina, in a 6-4/6-3 final. The Russian's path to victory included wins over Claire Liu (USA), Jaimee Fourlis (AUS), Sofia Kenin (USA) and Olga Danilovic (SRB). Brit Jodie Anna Burrage teamed with Hungary's Panna Udvardy (#7 seeds) to defeat top-seeded Pervushina & Potapova in a 15-13 match tie-break in the doubles final.

NEW THEORY ON DAY 5: Maybe The Rad is Serena?

LIKE ON DAY 5: A racket with a story to tell...

LIKE ON DAY 5: And there are still so many other sides of Kasatkina we've yet to see, but likely will over time.

Can't wait.

SUPER-SECRET INFORMATION ON DAY 5: SHE was the one. Of course, now there is still only one other like her at this SW19.

LIKE ON DAY 5: From Gael Monfils it would be stomach-turning. From Dustin Brown, it's glorious. It's just the way it works between my ears, I guess.

Maybe it's all the blown leads, retirements, injuries, illnesses and reckless disregard for one's health... and the ready excuse it provides for never living up to slam-winning abilities. But that's justa li'l ol' theory.

KIKI KEEPIN' IT REAL ON DAY 5 (after Day 4):

When you gotta look ahead cause shit days at the office happen #wimbledon

A photo posted by Kristina Mladenovic (@kristinamladenovic93) on

DINARA SIGHTING ON DAY 5: Eight years removed. But still.

LIKE ON DAY 5: Sania, day-by-day...

LIKE ON DAY 5: England-101: WTA Edition


It. Is. Coming.

No, not The Rad. This...

Three days to go before Matt Stonie attempts to defend his title for the first time vs. eight-time champ Joey Chestnut.

...and, finally...

Well, there IS another theory, V.

And then there was this, and that...

And now this...

And, of course...

Sunday (Official Radwanskian Massacre Day): CALM
Day 3 (Observed Radwanskian Massacre Day): CONCERN
Day 4: ALARM

x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#8 Venus Williams/USA vs. #14 Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
x vs. x

Can you find me? ?? Wimbledon is beautiful ??

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

2008 Elena Baltacha & Anne Keothavong (2nd Rd.)
2009 Elena Baltacha (2nd Rd.)
2010 Heather Watson (GBR 0-6 in 1st, Watson last to lose)
2011 Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong & Laura Robson (2nd)
2012 Heather Watson (3rd Rd.)
2013 Laura Robson (4th Rd.)
2014 Naomi Broady & Heather Watson (2nd Rd.)
2015 Heather Watson (2nd Rd.)
2016 Johanna Konta & Tara Moore (2nd Rd.)

2008 Zheng Jie, CHN (SF)
2009 Elena Baltacha/GBR & Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR (2nd)
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 (3rd Rd.)
2015 Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (2nd Rd.)
2016 Tara Moore/GBR & Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (2nd Rd.)

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): Nominees: C.Vandeweghe, D.Cibulkova, G.Bouchard, S.Halep, A.Kerber, L.Safarova, E.Vesnina
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): Nominee: 2nd Rd. #3 A.Radwanska d. A.Konjuh 6-2/4-6/9-7 (3 MP, net cord and Konjuh turned ankle)
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)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: China (1-4 1st Rd.; only win by LL Duan Yingying)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Contenders: J.Cepelova/SVK (in 3rd Rd.), M.Erakovic/NZL (lost 3rd Rd.), J.Boserup/USA (in 3rd Rd.), M.Minella/LUX (in 2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Tara Moore/GBR and Evgeniya Rodina/RUS
IT ("??"): xx
CRASH & BURN: #2 Garbine Muguruza/ESP (reigning RG champ and '15 Wimbledon finalist; lost 1st Rd. in under an hour to qualifier Cepelova/SVK)
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); Beck (1st Rd. - saved 3 MP vs. Watson; won 12-10 3rd set); #3 A.Radwanska (2nd Rd - Konjuh 3 MP, one on a net cord; Konjuh turned ankle stepping on a ball in game #15 of 3rd set, Radwanska wins 9-7); #1 S.Williams (down 2-0 in 3rd vs. McHale in 2nd Rd.); #8 V.Williams (2nd Rd. - longest 3rd set of Wimb. career, 10-8 vs. Kasatkina)
THE RADWANSKA AWARD (June 26 official/Day 3 observed): 74 s/d matches are scheduled: due to rain, 41 are cancelled, 15 interrupted and 18 completed. Only 6 matches were both started and finished solely on Day 3, with 4 of those played under the Centre Court roof. But Aga Radwanska opens the Centre Court schedule and wins without incident, while her '16 RG conqueror Tsvetana Pironkova loses in previously unscheduled C.C. match.

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

I was rooting for Minella, so you get an extra stat of the day, as the later one is quirky.

Stat of the Day-17- as out of the last 21 years that either Mandy Minella or Anne Kremer has represented Luxembourg at Wimbledon. 2011 is the one year they overlapped. Luxembourg has about as many people in their whole country as Milwaukee, our 31st largest city, and birthplace of Tim Smyczek so that is impressive. Sadly, Minella's slam results are Pliskova like. Best in order- 2R-1R-2R-3R. But to end on a good note, this was Minella's 7th Wimbledon appearance-and the first time she reached the second round.

Sat Jul 02, 01:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And she just won her biggest career title in a WTA 125. She's doing all that at 30, too, officially joining the list of WTA "late-bloomers." ;)

Sat Jul 02, 05:05:00 PM EDT  

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