Tuesday, July 05, 2016

W.9- A German Hiding in Plain Sight

While so many players at this tournament have been running around saving match points left and right, overcoming deficits and/or surviving three-set classics that seems to go on for days (well, some of them literally DID go on for days), Angelique Kerber has not been one of them.

With the stealth of an under-the-radar attack drone, the Australian Open-winning German has been handling her business at this Wimbledon with nary a hint of drama. So far, it's worked out pretty well for her. After her QF win over Simona Halep on Day 8, might Kerber be poised to play the "spoiler" role at a slam that is otherwise shaping up to quite possibly resemble a "throwback" to the old Williams Family Invitationals of years past? Well, I suppose this might be considered a fair warning...

While Halep has been lifting her game at SW19 and avoiding the death-defying slam moments that have plagued her in the past, Kerber has been calculating her efforts, and playing it all as cool as Jules Winnfield (or, well, Fonzie, I guess).


Through the first four rounds of play, Kerber hadn't lost a set, dropping just fourteen games in seven sets, save for the anomalous additional six in set #8 -- which included a 13-11 TB win vs. Carina Witthoeft -- in the 3rd Round. While Halep entered today's match having converted 68% of her BP (the most in the tournament) and won 53% of her return games (also #1), Kerber's return game is generally on par or even better than that of the Romanian. Both are defensive stalwarts who seek to wear down their opponents. But Kerber, especially in 2016, has increased her effectiveness elsewhere in her game, and it's made all the difference between being a great "regular season" player on tour last year, but a poor one on the slam stage (three 3rd Rd. exits and a 1st in the '15 majors), to being BOTH this year. A willingness and confidence to play with more aggressive in her service games, along with an inflated take-the-initiative mentality that has been seamlessly woven into her longtime defensive-minded style, led Kerber into the AO winner's circle in January, and it very well could be in the process of doing the same in London. Throughout this tournament, the biggest difference between Kerber and Halep's outings have been just the thing that's allowed the German to rise through her self-imposed slam result ceiling, while its absence (or only-occasional presence) and the "confidence gap" that develops as a result continues to be the main thing preventing Halep from following in her footsteps.

Coming into today, Halep had dropped serve more than twice as often (eight times to three) as Kerber, who'd had three matches in which she held serve throughout. The German had faced just nine total BP in the tournament (Halep had stared down 24).

Today's match would be a contest that was often a groundstroke battle, with both women running down balls and forcing her opponent to come up with one additional shot. A few points here or there could have turned the match in any direction, depending on which player took the initiative to be more aggressive at the keys moments. While Kerber, through repetition, has learned how to play with such a style, Halep isn't quite there yet. It proved to be difference. Kerber more often moved into the court when she was in control of a rally, in contrast to Halep's tentativeness and unwilling nature when it came to initiating the pressure often enough.

Kerber opened things with a hold of serve, but it was the calm before a storm of eight straight games in which the expert return games of the two ruled the action. But while Kerber's ability to hold serve in this tournament was cracked by Halep, the German's hold to start the match was key, as it had put Halep under pressure to play from behind the entire set. When she wasn't able to do it, she then had to break to keep up with the German. Still, to the Romanian's credit, she was able follow through and stay relevant through the entire match.

In game #7, Halep took a 15/30 lead on Kerber's serve. She reached BP with a drag-Kerber-off-the-court angled forehand that was followed up by a put-away shot into the open court. She got the break by doing the same thing a point later, only with a backhand that pushed Kerber to the edge to set up a forehand winner. It got the Swarmette to within 4-3, but the daring the Romanian was showing in her return games wasn't showing up when she was on serve.

Needing to hold to avoid Kerber coming within a game of taking the 1st set, Halep went down love/40 and was broken. She got to 30/40 and showed signs of carrying over return game control of the action, moving Kerber around the court, but then she netted a forehand because she'd allowed herself to get out of position by taking the shot behind the service box rather than moving forward to put it away. Kerber got the break for 5-3. Again, Halep had to break back to stay alive. Again, she did it, as the two exchanged breaks for the fourth time. Finally, Halep held for the first time in the match in game #10 to get to 5-5. Kerber followed suit with a hold a game later, putting Halep right back in her former position of needing a hold, only this time more desperately than before because she was about run out of extra rope (i.e. another return game to make up for her service failing) and would be down a set if she was broken again. It was bridge too far. At 30/30, Kerber hit a drop shot that Halep answered with a backhand that she pushed out. SP down, Halep double-faulted to give Kerber a 7-5 prize.

It was a Cliffs of Simona moment for the Romanian. Not so much that she'd stumbled at the last moment, but as a test to see whether she'd slip over the side without a fight after such disappointment in her own ability to get the job done in the 1st set. It's happened before.

With Kerber serving to open the 2nd set, if things played out like they had in the 1st when a hold was akin to a break in a "regular" match, Halep might have been able to be the one staying one step ahead throughout. But Kerber refused to continue to allow her own service games to be super-vitamins for Halep's continued survival. The German saved a BP in game #1 with a drop shot and backhand pass, using her aggression to good use in the service hold. She held again for 2-1. Blistering shots left and right, Kerber hit a forehand winner into the corner to pressure Halep's serve in game #4. Halep hit an ace at 30/30, then a DF on her first GP. But Kerber missed a volley on GP #2 to give her a reprieve. After a love hold for 3-2, Kerber went up love/30 on Halep's serve. A backhand down the line off a drop shot got the break for 4-2.

Taking a love/30 lead a game later, Halep broke back with a big return and forehand winner to get back on serve as she once more managed to step away from the Cliffs' edge. But, again, the Romanian wasn't able to hold. Kerber went up 15/40 in game #8 when Halep reached a drop shot and sent back a crosscourt backhand that Kerber raced to reach and send into the open court for a winner. She broke on her second BP when Halep netted a backhand. Looking much like the aggressive player who won in Melbourne, she served for the match at 5-3. But Halep once again passed a test, showing the fortitude that was her hallmark in her breakout '14 campaign. She took a 15/30 lead and broke when her wide-bouncing backhand shot forced a Kerber error that made the score 5-4. Halep held for 5-5, then did it again with a forehand pass to force a TB two games later.

On the opening point, Halep reached a Kerber drop shot, then expertly covered the net, suddenly bolting to her right to cut off the German's crosscourt passing shot and take a 1-0 mini-break lead. On that point, Halep looked like a player who might yet turn this match around. But then the moment (and she) disappeared.

Halep dropped her following two service points, and a spate of errors put her down 5-1. Seemingly tired (or maybe feeling an injury?), Halep was bending over between several points. She stopped the tide with a winner behind Kerber for 5-2, but then Halep's overhead was answered with a Kerber forehand that went off the tape and redirected right into the body of the Romanian, who'd been camped at the net for the volley put-away. She could do nothing but barely get a racket on the ball, and Kerber had a MP. Halep's wide backhand ended it, as Kerber took the TB 7-2 and the match 7-5/7-6(2)

For her part, Halep acknowledged her lack of aggressive tactics when on serve. While it was likely the key ingredient in her loss, the instant recognition of it is a good sign that maybe it's a problem that she can now solve through repetition.

In a tight match, just a few points here or there grabbed because of a few steps forward might be the difference between a QF loss and the shot to play for a spot in a major final. It surely is the case today for Kerber. The German is confident in her newly-enhanced approach, and Halep needs to soon be the same. She only had to look on the other side of the net today to see how much of a difference it can make, and what she needs to do to once again become the one celebrating at the end of matches such as these.

Kerber, for her part, might not even be through with celebrating at this Wimbledon. While she's managed to stay mostly out of the limelight for most of the past eigth days, now everyone can see her coming. But will it matter?

Well, Serena surely saw her coming in Melbourne, right? And look how that turned out.

...Tuesday provided us with yet another day at a grand slam where both Venus and Serena Williams were centerstage. If one didn't know any better, they might think it was the the early 2000's again.

By the end of the day, it still sort of felt that way.

#8 Venus Williams def. Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6(5)/6-2
...coming into this Wimbledon, one didn't really know what to expect from Venus Williams. Now 36, it'd became easier over the last few seasons to learn to appreciate whatever moments we got from her in tournaments such as this, as we never know how many more we'll have nor whether she'll show up on a bad day and extinguish any far-out dreams anyone might have had for a history-making turn in one of every season's four biggest tournaments.

Twenty years into her tennis career, Venus surely appreciates every moment she gets to experience these days. But in 2016, something has happened. She seems like she may be daring herself to dream once more. This season she's won a title (after winning three last year), returned to the Top 10, and even put up her best result on the terre battue since 2010. Also, this is an Olympic year, and no one has shined brighter in the summer sun than Venus. All seven of her slam singles titles came during the summer stretch, and twice she swept the crowns at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in a single season. She's won four Olympic Gold medals, tied with Serena for the most in tennis history. It's probably not a simple coincidence that Venus' surge has come when it has. It has to be incredibly satisfying, too, that she's been able to meet (and likely exceed) her own expectations in the process.

Not that she'd ever given up hope for another GREAT moment in her career, but with her hard-earned experience has come the wisdom of perspective. She knows that for a while now she's been playing against what tennis history says she SHOULD be capable of accomplishing at this stage of her tour existence, especially after having had to deal with her own personal health issues.

But since when has history ever had anything on a Williams?

Already the oldest Wimbledon quarterfinalist in twenty-two years, Venus is in search of more. And who's to say she can't get it?

Not Shvedova. The #96-ranked Russian-born Kazakh, the sixth-lowest ranked woman to ever reach the Wimbledon Final Eight, played well against Williams today. But while she came prepared to fight, she also seemed ready to enjoy the moment for what it was, knowing that she may never reach this stage again in her career, though this was actually the 28-year old's third career slam QF match (all as an unseeded player or qualifier). Williams, for her part, was probably relieved to finally play someone closer to her in age. There was only an eight year difference between the two, after Venus' previous opponents at this Wimbledon had been aged 20, 20 and 19 before her Round of 16 meeting with 27-year old Carla Suarez-Navarro.

Shvedova forced Venus into a long opening game that lasted three deuces, and saw the Kazakh hold two BP, before Williams finally held. Meanwhile, Shvedova then held at love a game later. Shvedova again held a BP in game #3, then saved two BP on her own serve in game #4. For the third straight service game, Williams stared down BP a game later. A big Shvedova forehand forced a Williams error and the Kazakh was finally up a break. After failing on her first five opportunities in the set, Venus got the break back a game later to tie things at 3-3. From love/30 down, Shvedova held for 4-4, then saved a BP/SP in game #10, holding with a backhand winner. The two played into a tie-break, which the Kazakh led 5-2. Serving at 5-4, Shvedova had the set on her racket. But she has a history of letting leads and matches slip out of her grasp, and it would happen again here. An error knotted things at 5-5, then a long forehand gave Williams her first SP. Shvedova's long forehand return gave Venus a 7-5 TB win, as she took a set in which her opponent led 14-9 in winners, but was ultimately undone by 24 unforced errors (to Venus' 9).

The women exhanged breaks in the first three games of the 2nd, with Williams gaining a lead at 2-1. After holding at love, Venus broke for 4-1 on her third BP chance in game #5. With Williams serving for the match at 5-1, Shvedova saved a MP and had some fun stoking the crowd to get behind her. Venus closed out the match two points later to reach her first Wimbledon semi since 2009. She joins Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King as the only women with slam semifinals to their credit after having turned 36.

The grin and child-like glee that showed on Williams' face after her victory showed how much she appreciates this moment, but you can hear underneath her words that she isn't simply looking at this as gravy to be poured over a Hall of Fame career (or as a sweet dessert at the close of a savory tennis lifetime, choose your preferred culinary metaphor). I think she realizes that she has a shot.

Sure, she knows that there's a particularly big obstacle potentially in her history-laced path, of course...

But summer has always been HER favorite time of year. Are you a believer?

#1 Serena Williams def. #21 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4/6-4
...Serena never really FELT in danger of losing this match, as her level of play didn't display any of the recognizable quirks and speed bumps that ultimately lead to such slam moments. But a fitter and in-form Pavlyuchenkova, playing in her first major QF in five years, made her work for it, only grudgingly giving an inch here and there. There were only two BP held in the entire match. Unfortunately for the Russian, both came on her serve in the late stages of the 1st and 2nd sets. Serena converted on both chances.

Down 2-3, love 30 in game #6 of the 1st set, Williams raised the level of her game, holding with four straight winners: a forehand, a smash, another forehand, and an ace. In game #9, she reached her first BP of the match, breaking at love with a DF from the Russian. Serena then held at love to take the set, winning the final ten points. Once again it took nine games for Williams to reach BP in the 2nd set, which she converted via a forehand error from Pavlyuchenkova. Serving for the match, Serena, naturally, served her 11th ace of the day -- a 123 mph speedball -- on MP.

Playing on Centre Court as Venus wrapped things up on Court One, Serena knew that a win would mean the Sisters would be two match wins away from what would be their ninth meeting in a grand slam final, and their first since Serena defeated Venus on Centre Court in 2009 in their fourth meeting in seven years to decide the SW19 Ladies champion between 2002-09. Of course, Serena wants #9 to become reality and for Venus to win. But, as she expresses to Watson in those IBM commercials, if one might think she'd want Venus to win over HER, well, "I wouldn't go that far."

(By the way, a polite golf clap for the person operating the Wimbledon Twitter account for going with Venus with simply an "s" and an apostrophe, rather an "s," an apostrophe and then ANOTHER "s." That always sort of irks me when I see it -- though I actually succumbed to the growing tide and used that style in a recent post, and I'm STILL angry at myself for it. Never again.)

Elena Vesnina def. #19 Dominika Cibulkova 6-2/6-2
...less than twenty-four hours after her marathon three-hour QF win over Aga Radwanska, Cibulkova was called upon to rise to the occasion yet again. How could she possibly do it, especially when what might turn out to be the most long-lasting point from that match is recognized as being exhausting for the Slovak whether you view it in regular speed or in a quick six-second flash?

Probably Cibulkova's only real shot at pulling off another victory would have been if her opponent had crumbled at the feet of the pressure of her own first career appearance in a grand slam singles QF.

But Vesnina wasn't up for that.

In almost a cruel ritualistic twisting of the knife by the Tennis Gods, the Slovak opened play in this match on serve and immediately fell behind love/30... then proceeded to save three BP in a five-deuce hold as a little voice inside Cibulkova's had to saying, "What THIS again?" But it turned out to be a false alarm, as Cibulkova had already spilled enough blood at this Wimbledon to satiate the TG's lust for the red. The Russian got the break advantage in the set two games later when Cibulkova double-faulted to lose her serve at love. As the set wore on, one of the tour's fittest players was audibly breathing heavily following points after having today played less than one-fifth of the time it took to complete yesterday's classic encounter. Vesnina got a double-break lead two games later, and served out a 6-2 set. She led in winners 13-3 over Cibulkova, who had nearly 60 come off her racket in the Round of 16.

Delighting in torturing the Slovak one last time, the TG's (apparently assuming their usual impish role now that The Rad has cleared out of the AELTC and maybe gone on "holiday"... i.e. following Vika around, wherever she is, and trying to tempt her into a making a deal that It insists will be "beneficial" to her), as the 2nd set opened with Cibulkova again serving in a three-deuce game that finally saw her drop serve on Vesnina's third BP when the Russian put away a forehand volley. Vesnina pulled away, breaking two games later and holding for 4-0 with an ace. Cibulkova, never one to give up or give in, still managed to fight off two BP in game #5 and hold with an ace to get on the board, then force the Hordette to hold in a tight, potentially momentum-turning game immediately after the changeover break. The Slovak held at love, then Vesnina stepped up and did the same to serve herself into her first career slam semi, finishing things off in style with her third ace of the day and a service winner up the "T." Cibulkova's stats markedly improved in the 2nd, as she added 12 winners to Vesnina's nine, but the Hordette won 79% of her 1st serves and never faced a BP in the match.

So, while Cibulkova's Wimbledon ends, the 27-year old's return to the big event/potential first-time slam winner discussion is complete after her comeback from her Achilles' injury. As great as she was on the grass this past month, it's not even her best surface. She could be even more of a threat in New York later this summer (after her wedding, which now won't have to be postponed), as well as next year in Melbourne, where she's already reached a final.

Vesnina knows all about finding new tennis success after having been married. HER vows came last November, at the end of a disappointing season that saw her finish outside the Top 100 for the first time in a decade. She's put together one of the biggest comeback stories of 2016 so far, reaching the Charleston final, Eastbourne QF and arriving in SW19 at #50. She's now assured of at least showing up in the Top 25 once Wimbledon is over. If she reaches the final, she'll enter the Top 20 for the first time (she was #21 in '13) and if she, gulp, were to win the title she'd be the eleventh Russian since 2001 to debut in the Top 10.

...no great upsets in the juniors today, as most of the top seeds won. Bannerette Alexanda Sanford did get a win over #16 Mai Hontama of Japan, though. Meanwhile, qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze (GEO) defeated Karmen Thandi (IND), #10 Olga Danilovic (SRB) took out Canada's Charlotte Robillard-Millette, #14 Katarina Zavatska (UKR) knocked out Michaella Gordon (USA), #3 Amanda Anisimova (USA) won over Aussie Jaimee Fourlis and #7 Dayana Yastremska (UKR) advanced past Brit Jodie Anna Burrage.

...in doubles, the Williams Sisters returned later in the day to get a win over Hlavackova/Hradecka, as did Vesnina along with Ekaterina Makarova, who finished off Beck/Wickmayer. The Dashas lost to Raquel Atawo & Abigail Spears.

In Mixed, #1-seeded Mirza/Dodig went out to wild card Brits A.Smith/Skupski, meaning that Sania will NOT be completing her Career Mixed Slam at this Wimbledon.

WONDERING ON DAY 9: Venus is being linked to Martina Navratilova in a lot of "oldest since 1994" feats at this Wimbledon. Hmmm, I wonder if in 2038 we'll be seeing Venus on the courts, as we did Original Martina today, when someone is linked to HER in much the same way?

Yeah, probably not. But who thought we'd be seeing Venus on the courts NOW when she made her maiden slam final run at the U.S. Open nineteen years ago this summer? You just don't see see players who became stars at 17 playing into their late thirties, and still being a threat.

But we're seeing it -- X 2 -- right now. Maybe, as usual, the Williams Sisters will be the exception to yet another assumed "tennis rule." Or maybe they've altered the course of tennis history yet again.

INFORMATION ON DAY 9: Oh, so SHE's the one. And I do mean the ONE.

GUESSIN' ON DAY 9: That a week ago, she didn't think she be THERE on THIS day.

LIKE ON DAY 9: Barbora on the town!

In the streets of a big city!!

A photo posted by Barbora Strycova?? (@barborastrycova) on

...and, finally... the first-ever Wimbledon Wheelchair Singles draw was made.

I truly enjoy watching the WC action at the slams. It's fascinating. One of my favorite moments at last year's U.S. Open was watching the feed of the Women's WC singles final (Jordanne Whiley def. Yui Kamiji), which was taking place as the men's final was being played on Ashe. As the women were fighting for the title, you could hear the far off cheers from the large stadium, as if coming from a large, far more populated world that did -- or maybe did not? -- exist. I was more interested in the smaller setting.

At the ceremony, Brit Whiley talked about how much her participation in the sport has meant to her, "For me, sport completely changed my life from when I was a young girl. I was very insecure. I didn't have many friends. I was born with my disability. I was in and out of hospital constantly. When I got into tennis, I became confident. I believed in something, which made me believe in myself. For me it’s really important that young disabled people see that there's something more out there. It's not just you in a wheelchair and your life has ended. Your life actually can just begin from that.”

The wheelchair event debuted at Wimbledon in 2001 as an invitational competition, and this year will mark the very first singles action at the AELTC, belatedly joining with the other three slams to now provide the possibility of a true Grand Slam. Additionally, playing on the grass will make things extra interesting.

Here's a selection from the Wimbledon website:

Fast and skillful, bold on strategies and mesmerising to watch, wheelchair tennis has always thrilled spectators at the All England Club. The challenge of grass for a wheelchair player should not be underestimated. The friction on chair wheels caused by the soft surface makes extra physical demands.

“With all the rain this year, it's going to be quite soft. For us, just pushing is going to be tough on the shoulders. Especially if the match is going to go like three or four hours,” Whiley said.

“On grass you don't hold the momentum,” added Reid. “You push the same way as you would on a hard court, but you're constantly having to generate power and shift your body weight every time you push the chair. It's going to be a lot more tiring on the upper body. But like Jordanne said, I think wheelchair singles is going to look good on the grass.”

Is the low bounce tough too? “Probably not as tough for us as somebody like Isner!” said Reid. “It's probably easier for us when we're already sitting pretty low. Clay is harder in that respect because we're not that tall and we can't jump.”

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Elena Vesnina/RUS
#4 Angelique Kerber/GER vs. #8 Venus Williams/USA

#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) def. McHale/Ostapenko (USA/LAT)
Konta/Sanchez (GBR/USA) vs. #5 Babos/Shvedova (HUN/KAZ)
Groenefeld/Peschke (GER/GER) def. Jankovic/Krunic (SRB/SRB)
#10 Atawo/Spears (USA/USA) def. Gavrilova/Kasatkina (AUS/RUS)
Williams/Williams (USA/USA) def. #6 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
Krajicek/Strycova (NED/CZE) vs. #4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
#8 Goerges/Ka.Pliskova (GER/CZE) def. Broady/Watson (GBR/GBR)
#14 Medina-Garriues/Parra-Santonja (ESP/ESP) vs. #2 Garcia/Mladenovic (FRA/FRA)

(WC) A.Smith/Skupski (GBR/GBR) vs. #14 Shvedova/Qureshi (KAZ/PAK)
#11 Srebotnik/Matkowski (SLO/POL) def. Parra-Santonja/S.Gonzalez (ESP/MEX)
#15 Groenefeld/Farah (GER/COL) def. Dabrowski/Monroe (CAN/USA)
#10 Klepac/Peya (SLO/AUT) vs. #6 Hlavackova/Kubot (CZE/POL)
Ostapenko/Marach (LAT/AUT) vs. x/x
Duque/Cabal (COL/COL) def. #13 An.Rodionova/Bopanna (AUS/IND)
#5 YJ.Chan/Zimonjic (TPE/SRB) vs. Kudryavtseva/Lipsky (RUS/USA)
#16 Hingis/Paes (SUI/IND) vs. x/x

#1 Olesya Pervushina/RUS vs. Alexandra Sanford/USA
(Q) Mariam Bolkvadze/GEO vs. #8 Sonya Kenin/USA
#3 Amanda Anisimova/USA vs. Claire Liu/USA
#10 Olga Danilovic/SRB vs. #7 Dayana Yastremska/UKR
#6 Bianca Andreescu/CAN vs. #9 Usue Arconada/USA
#14 Katarina Zavatska/UKR vs. #4 Anastasia Potapova/RUS
#5 Kayla Day/USA vs. Varvara Gracheva/RUS
(WC) Gabriella Taylor/GBR vs. #2 Rebeka Masarova/SUI

2015 Martina Hingis, SUI
2016 Venus Williams, USA

2004 Maria Sharapova, RUS
2005 Venus Williams, USA
2006 Severine Bremond, FRA
2007 Marion Bartoli, FRA
2008 Zheng Jie, CHN
2009 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2010 Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
2011 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2012 Aga Radwanska, POL
2013 Kirsten Flipkens, BEL
2014 Lucie Safarova, CZE
2015 Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 Elena Vesnina, RUS

2007 Venus Williams, USA
2008 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2011 Marion Bartoli, FRA
2012 Tamira Paszek, AUT
2013 Eugenie Bouchard, CAN
2014 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS & Lucie Safarova/CZE
2015 Serena Williams, USA
2016 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & Aga Radwanska/POL

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #5 Simona Halep/ROU
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #4 Angelique Kerber/GER
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): 2nd Rd. #3 Aga Radwanska/POL d. Ana Konjuh/CRO 6-2/4-6/9-7 (3 MP, one on net cord; Konjuh rolled ankle stepping on ball)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #19 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK d. #3 Aga Radwanska/POL (6-3/5-7/9-7; 3:00; Radwanska MP, Cibulkova served for match three times, on MP #3)
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: Jana Cepelova/SVK, Marina Erakovic/NZL, Julia Boserup/USA (all 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Tara Moore/GBR and Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (both 2nd Rd.)
LAST BRIT/CRUMPET STANDING: Johanna Konta/GBR and Tara Moore/GBR (both 2nd Rd.)
IT ("??"): Nominees: A.Smith/GBR (d), Ka.Pliskova/CZE (d)
COMEBACK: Nominees: V.Williams, Y.Shvedova, K.Peschke
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): #19 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK & #3 Aga Radwanksa/POL (Cibulkova saved MP and won 9-7 3rd vs. Radwanska in 4th Rd.; Radwanska won 2nd Rd. vs. Konjuh, saving 3 MP, one on a net cord; Konjuh turned ankle stepping on a ball in game #15 of 3rd set, Radwanska won 9-7)
THE RADWANSKA DAY REMEMBRANCE AWARD (June 26 official/Day 3 observed): 74 s/d matches are scheduled: due to rain, 41 are cancelled, 15 suspended 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 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Story of the day was Vesnina's offense, she was hitting serves at 105. Or was it Kerber's defense? Or the Williams sisters doing their thing in unison?

Stat of the Day-13- The number of tournaments from Wimbledon through the US Open in 2012. Notable in that stretch was not just that The One(Serena) won 4 of those, but lesser known players like Hercog(2nd career title), Jovanovski(2nd), and Rybarikova(3rd) all won. Also Julia Cohen reached her only tour final, and Mathilde Johansson reached her 2nd. So don't be surprised if people step un in a shortened calendar. Rogers Cup is in July, and there is one week in which there are 3 tournaments. So note, besides Shvedova, these are the women in the Top 60 who are ineligible for Rio, and could use that as a springboard to a great summer- Vandeweghe, Giorgi, Friedsam, Lucic-Baroni, Gasparyan, Rogers, Lisicki, Bondarenko, and the #6 Russian-Vesnina.

Some quick stats on the Final Four as everybody has a great storyline.
Serena-Going for 22, and 7th Wimbledon title.
Venus-Going for first slam final in 7 years, first slam title in 8, 2nd longest break between titles at a slam(Serena 11 gap at French).
Kerber-Trying to be the first besides Serena to win Aussie/Wimby since Mauresmo in 2006, also would be the first to win her maiden 2 slams in the same year since then. Before Mauresmo(and Serena's dominance) it happened more as Hingis(3) did in 97, Venus in 2000, and Capriati in 2001 all did it.
Vesnina- Trying to be the 7th straight first time slam participant at Wimbledon. Ironically, the last time it didn't happen was when the Williams sisters went back to back in 2008 and 09. Also would be the 7th straight slam with someone attempting to win their first(streak alive since Muguruza lost at Wimbledon).

Grass court records since 2013:
Vesnina 16-6
Kerber 24-6
S.Williams 17-2
V.Williams 10-2

Kerber 3-2 vs Venus
Serena 4-0 vs Vesnina
Kerber 1-0 on grass is relevant. It was at the Olympics, which means at Wimbledon.

To finish up, a short spotlight on Vesnina, since she is a massive underdog. She is up to 25 in the live rankings, and probably will be in the Top 15 by the end of the year. Possibly distracted by her upcoming nuptials, she only amassed 120 pts in her last 9 tournaments last year. To put that into perspective, the slumping and injured Genie Bouchard got 322. So she started off her year in Brisbane at 115-in qualies. Not a bad turnaround.

Tue Jul 05, 08:28:00 PM EDT  

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