Tuesday, June 28, 2022

W.2- Si-mo-na Does S-W-19 (again)

Finally. Si-mo-na. Back at the All-England Club.

While another former champion returned to great fanfare on Day 2 after not having played a singles match in a year, #16 Simona Halep finally made her belated and long-awaited return (as a player, as she dropped by for a visit last summer) to Wimbledon since winning the singles title three years ago.

The pandemic and a serious calf injury kept Halep off the lawns for two years, but the AELTC decided to not give her the (admittedly, late) honor of opening Day 2 on Centre Court as the "reigning" women's champ. '21 winner Ash Barty retired in March, so she couldn't take the usual ceremonial spot. The Aussie had "filled in" for the Romanian on Day 2 last year, as the women's #1, being awarded the honor of opening Centre Court in the absence of a title defender. Barty then went on to win the title in her own right. While Halep was back, and in the correct side of the draw to be scheduled for Day 2, Wimbledon decided to give the '22 honor to the women's world #1 for second straight year, as Iga Swiatek was first-up on Centre Court today. Halep appeared later on Court 1.

One can argue with the soundness of this decision, and about whether it might have played out the same way had it involved several men's champions (and at least one former women's) in the field, but Halep has publicly chosen to not make an issue of what might be seen as (at least) a "partial-snub."

Today looked like it was going to be a tough match-up with Karolina Muchova, a quarterfinalist in her only two ('19/'21) MD appearances at Wimbledon. But the Czech, who retired from her RG 3rd Round match vs. Amanda Anisimova with an injury, wasn't 100% after returning this grass season (obviously eyeing a chance to return to SW19) a little earlier than most had anticipated when she left Paris in a walking boot.

Halep was in fine form, winning 6-3/6-2 without facing a BP all day. But, then again, she's been in good form for most of '22 even though her trophy case hasn't been newly stocked with a lot of shiny objects in recent months. Though tied for fourth on tour in match wins this season, Halep has relatively precious little to show for it. She's never risen above #15 in the rankings through the first six months, spent two months outside the Top 20, and enters this slam (where she'll pick up no points despite not playing a year ago) at just #18.

Halep opened '22 with a title in Melbourne, but she's been hitting her head on a glass ceiling ever since. She's reached four additional semifinals, but lost three and didn't play the fourth due to waking up with a stiff neck. Her "signature match" was a pitched battle she *lost* to Alize Cornet at the AO, and she's fallen to white-hot eventual champions in the late stages of events in Dubai (Ostapenko/SF), Indian Wells (Swiatek/SF), Madrid (Jabeur/QF) and Birmingham (Haddad/SF), while also experiencing a "panic attack" at Roland Garros. And she's done all this as she's attempted to "break in" new coach Patrick Mouratoglou while also admitting that as recently as a few months ago she thought her tennis career was just about over.

Halep's win today comes after back-to-back grass SF at Birmingham and Bad Homburg coming into this slam, and her Wimbledon title run in her most recent grass event before that. Since 2019, Halep has gone 16-2 on grass, with her win in the SW19 final three years ago over Serena Williams still standing (as it likely will when she enters the Hall in Newport somewhere down the road) as her career single-match high water mark.

At now 27-8 for her hard-to-get-a-full-grasp-on season, Halep is one of the most accomplished players on tour, but also one slightly "hidden" in the weeds while the likes of Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur and others have been lifting trophies and causing jaws to drop.

But we -- and she, most importantly -- know what she's capable of, and what she did the last time she played Wimbledon. And for a player whose confidence (or, sometimes, lack of it) usually carves out the path through the WTA forest that she ultimately travels, that's no small thing.

...Wimbledon had a mighty chore to accomplish on Tuesday as the attempt to clean up the schedule after Day 1's weather delays and cancellations took center stage. In all, 41 women's matches were set to be started or completed, while 29 men's contests were also on the docket on what was a windy Day 2.

Nearly a dozen women's matches opened the schedule in a mass start intended to re-set the table for the remainder of the week.

#5 seed Maria Sakkari hit the ground running, taking a 6-1/4-1 lead over Aussie qualifier Zoe Hives. She held a MP while serving at 5-3, only to drop serve, but the Greek put things away a game later to win the 2nd 6-4.

Right on schedule, as she's situated in the top half and was always supposed to play today, Alize Cornet tied Ai Sugiyama's WTA record with her appearance in a 62nd straight major. Even better, she got a victory, knocking off #27-seeded Yulia Putintseva in straight sets, taking a 2nd set TB to secure the win.

Cornet had a nice grass court lead-up to SW19, reaching a doubles final in Berlin and singles semi in Bad Homburg the last two weeks.

...#14 Belinda Bencic's reign as this Wimbledon's "Zombie Queen of London" turned out to be only a temporary, overnight honor. After having rallied from 6-4/5-1 down against Wang Qiang on Monday to take the 2nd set before play was supspended, the Swiss seemed set to pull a second straight 1st Round exit at Wimbledon off the table. But once play resumed Wang once again raced to another 5-1 lead in the 3rd. This time Bencic didn't recover, falling 6-4/5-7/6-2.

This marks the second straight year in which Bencic looked good in pre-Wimbledon grass outings, only to then exit early in London. Last year, she reached the Berlin final and was 5-2 on grass before SW19, then lost in the 1st Round to Kaja Juvan. This year, Bencic reached the Rosmalen QF and (again) Berlin final, but had to retire due to injury from the match against Ons Jabeur to wrap up a 6-2 pre-Wimbledon stint.

Bencic was the Wimbledon junior champ in 2013, and reached the Round of 16 in the women's in 2015 and '18.

...Emma Raducanu was the only British woman to post a win on Day 1, but more took their turns on the stage today.

Wild card Katie Swan picked up her suspended match with Marta Kostyuk with things tied at a set each. The Ukrainian took the 3rd to advance. In her slam debut, wild card Sonay Kartal made her slam debut not against Danka Kovinic, a late withdrawal with a back injury (not Covid, like so many on the men's side), but instead Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.

It was a bad trade-off for Kartal. Kovinic was 0-3 at Wimbledon, last playing the MD in 2017 and having lost in qualifying in 2018-19. Kerhkove lost in qualifying (to Christina McHale) this year, but last year upset Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 1st Round. The Dutch vet quickly took the 1st set today. Kartal pushed things to a 3rd, but Kerkhove ran out to a 5-0 lead and won 6-4/3-6/6-1. Her win is the first by a LL in a major this year, as the previous eight had gone 0-8. Today, LL's Yuan Yue and CoCo Vandeweghe also lost, bringing the '22 1st Round record of lucky losers at majors to 1-10.

Heather Watson, finishing off Tamara Korpatsch in a match resumed from yesterday, joined Raducanu in the 2nd Round, as did wild card Katie Boulter, who defeated Clara Burel. Harriet Dart's 1st Rounder vs. Rebeka Masarova was pushed to Day 3.

...after turning around her slam fortunes last month in Paris with a Round of 16 result (her 3 wins equaled her total in her ten previous slam MD combined), #18 Jil Teichmann was back on the hamster wheel today, falling to Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets. At least it wasn't a huge upset for the Swiss, as the Aussie reached the QF last year at SW19.

A year after Ash Barty became the first Aussie since 1980 to win the Wimbledon women's title, Tomljanovic was the first woman from the nation to post a win at this tournament. In all, the Australian woman went a combined 1-5 in the 1st Round.

...meanwhile, Iga arrived on Tuesday. As usual, she did Iga things.

In her Centre Court debut, Swiatek dropped her 17th bagel set of the season on qualifier Jana Fett in the 1st. In the 2nd, as we've seen on a few occasions during the Pole's 35-match winning streak, Swiatek hit a bad patch as Fett won ten straight points in a stretch, taking a 3-1 lead and going up love/40 on Iga's serve for a larger edge. But Swiatek ended the run of points, held serve, and then never lost another game, winning 6-0/6-3 to break her tie with Venus Williams for the longest women's winning streak in the 2000s.

Swiatek's 36-match streak has seen her win 58 of 60 sets in total, with now a streak of 10 straight (after previous runs of 28 and 20).

...it's been three years since Coco Gauff made her Wimbledon debut at age 15, defeating Venus Williams en route to a Round of 16 result. She's here this year, at 18, as the #11 seed and just off an appearance in her first slam singles final at Roland Garros. She's one of the favorites to potentially win the title, and once again the teenager has been speaking out on social issues (first gun violence, and now the overturning of the Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling) currently roiling the U.S. back home.

Whatever the percentages might be, it's likely the pressure, the distraction, the windy conditions and, of course, a game opponent in Gabriela Ruse contributed to Gauff, still the youngest of the seven teenagers in the MD (including fellow 18-year old Nastasja Schunk, the girls' RU a year ago), barely escaping Day 2 with her Wimbledon life intact.

The Romanian, while still winless in three MD appearances at SW19, has surely made her mark there in recent years. Ruse qualified in both 2018 and '19, pushed Aga Radwanska in a dramatic three-setter in her tournament debut four years ago, and today showed amazing obstinance in continually pushing back Gauff challenges until she blinked (once) and the floodgates opened and overwhelmed her in the closing minutes of the match.

Gauff was a bit "off" from the start, and often tentative. Ruse took the 1st set, but Gauff forced a 3rd and led by an early break. Ruse got the set back on serve, and led 4-3. At 4-4, Gauff continually threatened to get the break that would give her a chance to serve for the match. But Ruse saved five BP from 15/40 down in game #9, the five more from 15/40 again in game #11. At that point, Ruse had saved 20 of 23 BP in the match and 10 of 11 in the 3rd set alone. Finally, on BP #6 of the 5-5 game, Ruse double-faulted.

The spell was broken, and it was over quickly from there. Gauff held at love to close out the 2-6/6-3/7-5 win.

Three-setters have been a rare occasion for Gauff of late. Before today, 28 of her last 29 matches had been straight set affairs, with her going 18-10 in those matches.

...Eastbourne champ Petra Kvitova was forced to three sets by Jasmine Paolini, who took the 1st, but the #25 seed got her "Pojd!" on and took the match in three in true P3tra style.

Zheng Qinwen is back, and charging hard again. Meanwhile, maybe Sloane will get to check out the shops in London?

The only player to take a set off Iga Swiatek in Paris, Zheng staged comebacks in both the 1st and 2nd sets against Stephens, rallying from 3-1 to win the opener in a TB, then from 5-3 back in the 2nd, winning 15 of the final 17 points from the moment that Stephens held a SP in game #9. Apparently, Zheng had wanted to stop play in the 2nd set due to darkness, but Stephens wanted to play on. Sloane got her wish, and now will have some extra time off. Maybe she just wanted to get it over with?

Zheng has now posted wins at all three majors this season, following up her 2r (AO) and 4r (RG) results by pushing through today.

...late in the day, Serena Williams finally walked out for her first singles match since retiring with an injury just six games into her 1st Round match at last year's Wimbledon.

Rather than a sense of deja vu that brought back memories of her championship years, the harsh reality of a 40-year old who hadn't played in a year resulted in something else.

24-year old Harmony Tan made her Wimbledon MD debut one for the history of the mind, where all the details about Williams' circumstances will only be footnotes down the road. She'll always have taken down possibly the game's greatest champion on arguably its grandest stage. Serena will always be Serena, after all.

The Pastry broke Williams' to open the match, but soon found herself down 4-2 to the veteran. She got back on serve at 4-3, then broke for 6-5 and held to take the set.

After the Centre Court roof was closed (at around 8:30 pm), Williams knotted the match with a 6-1 win. The set's high point came all the way back in game #2, a nearly 20-minute, 30-point, 12-deuce game which saw Williams convert on her seventh BP after what was essentially a moonball caused Tan to frame her reply and shoot the ball off the umpire's chair.

Williams had her chances in the 3rd to get the win and advance. She had an early break edge, and took a 5-4 lead and served for the match after Tan dumped a backhand volley into the net. But Williams wasn't able to serve things out and the match went back on shuffle. Down 6-5, Williams saved a MP at the net and ultimately sent the contest to a deciding 10-point TB. Williams led 4-0, but was clearly tired some three hours into the match. She saw Tan win five straight points. Williams leveled things at 6-6, but the French woman took an extended lead at 8-6 and finally won 10-7.

Williams is noncommital about whether this will be her final Wimbledon appearance, or even when or if she'll play *anywhere* again. One would think, if she's able, she'll focus on playing the U.S. Open later this summer. That gives her more than a month to train, and possibly play a little to improve her match toughness.

What happens next is up in the air, but what Williams has left behind (so far) will linger long after she's gone (whenever that may be).

...the AELTC didn't get the *whole* scheduled completed and in the books on Tuesday, but things came pretty darn close. All 39 scheduled men's matches finished, as did 37 of the 41 women's contests. Two matches -- Minnen up a set on #9 Muguruza, and #6 Pliskova up a set and 5-5 vs. Martincova -- will be resumed tomorrow, while two (#8 Pegula/Vekic and Masarova/Dart) will start from scratch.

...while the 1st Round isn't *officially* over, some awards can be handed out.

First off, the Nation of Poor Souls is an easy one, as Australia's 1-5 1st Round mark (w/ defending champ Ash Barty in retirement) earns the (dis)honor. The only real competition came from the Swiss, 1-3 w/ seeds Bencic and Teichmann both ousted.

So far, nine seeds have fallen (w/ Pliskova, Muguruza and Pegula still to finish opening matches), while eight women posted their first career MD slam wins.

Though the Bannerettes are under .500 (at 7-10, w/ one more to be added), more U.S. women are in the 2nd Round than from any other nation, with seven (w/ Pegula still to play). The other top nations aren't necessarily the "usuals" in this RUS/BLR-free Wimbledon.

Romania went 6-1 in the 1st Round, mostly on the strength of the veteran players I dubbed the Swarmettes quite a while ago. Over the years, they're rarely -- as a group -- all been in form and/or healthy at the same time, but they've all risen at this Wimbledon. Thirtysomethings Halep (30), Cirstea (32), Begu (31) and Buzarnescu (34) are joined by Bogdan (29) Bara (27). That's just about *all* of the group of young risers from years ago, save maybe for players like Niculescu, Cadantu and Olaru. And, remember, Jaqueline Cristian (The Countess herself) is still out injured. We aren't really seeing a new batch of young Romanians coming up, though, as players from other nations (Andreescu, Raducanu) with Romanian heritage might have to "carry the flag" and get the loud Romanian support for a few years, along with the flag-bearing Gabrielas, Ruse and (Talaba) Lee.

Poland, proving that a rising Iga can lift all Poles, is 5-0 (!) with the likes of Linette, Frech, Kawa and Chwalinska joining Swiatek in the 2nd Round. Next on the list are the Czechs (4, since either Pliskova or Martincova will move on), Pastries (4), Waffles (3, w/ Minnen still to finish) and, yes, Brits (3, w/ Dart to play). Spain has only two in the 2nd Round, but Muguruza and Masarova could still double the total.

Also in the top-end mix: China (3) and Ukraine (3).

There are a few possibilities with the Upset Queens and Revelation Ladies picks. Obviously, Poland *has* to win one, but the group only took out one seed. So "RL" for them it is. Sorry. Hungary... but congrats on Galfi and Udvardy's success, anyway.

As for the UQ, China had Wang Qiang knock off Bencic, and Zheng Qinwen eliminated Stephens; while France saw seeds Kanepi (def. by Parry) and Putintseva (def. by Cornet) fall, and Tan take out Serena. So, by a nose, the Pastries get the honor!


During ESPN's brief coverage of the Cornet/Putintseva 2nd set TB, Pam Shriver once again continued with the sort of shmoozing of the "great" French fans that she began last month during Roland Garros in the face of much evidence to the contrary.

Today she noted that Cornet played in the ony women's night match on Chatrier during the most recent RG, saying that it was a "very popular" victory with the fans.

She made no mention of an injured Cornet being booed off the court just one match later in Paris, nor the anger and disappointment Cornet displayed in the aftermath of such boorish treatment.


Jamie Murray (aka Venus Williams' 2022 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles partner)

Hmmm, has the transition to "doubles specialist" effectively taken place?


Burrage lost her 1st Round match on Monday, but came to the rescue of a ballboy when he fainted in the corner of the court.







=AO (9)=
Lucia Bronzetti, ITA
Jaqueline Cristian, ROU
Maddison Inglis, AUS
Nuria Parrizas Diaz, ESP
Gabriela Ruse, ROU
Wang Xinyu, CHN
Wang Xiyu, CHN
Maryna Zanevska, BEL
Zheng Qinwen, CHN
=RG (4)=
Fernanda Contreras, MEX
Elsa Jacquemot, FRA
Leolia Jeanjean, FRA
Katie Volynets, USA
=WI (8)=
Maja Chwalinska, POL
Elisabetta Cocciaretto, ITA
Dalma Galfi, HUN
Catherine Harrison, USA
Mai Hontama, JPN
Kararzyna Kawa, POL
Jule Niemeier, GER
Panna Udvardy, HUN

2014 Czech Republic
2015 Switzerland
2016 Russia
2017 Great Britain
2018 Great Britain
2019 Russia
2021 South America
2022 Poland

2013 Czech Republic
2014 United States
2015 United States
2016 Germany
2017 United States
2018 United States
2019 Slovenia
2021 Czech Republic
2022 France

CZE (0-6 2nd Rd., Kvitova/Pliskova lose; no CZE in 3r since '09)
UKR (1-4 1st/2nd Rd., Svitolina/1st Rd. worst major result since 2014)
BLR (1-3 1st; 3/4 of "Dream Team" lose, #10 Sabalenka FSO)
CAN (0-2 1st; #5 Andreescu & Fernandez lose; Bouchard DNP)
AUS (1-5 1st; DC Barty retired in March)

2015 Jelena Ostapenko, LAT (2nd Rd.)
2016 Tara Moore/GBR & Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (2nd Rd.)
2017 Zarina Diyas/KAZ & Heather Watson/GBR (3rd Rd.)
2018 Katie Boulter/GBR, Ons Jabeur/TUN & Katie Swan/GBR (2nd)
2019 Harriet Dart, GBR (3rd Rd.)
2021 Emma Raducanu/GBR & Liudmila Samsonova/RUS (4th Rd.)
2022 Katie Boulter, GBR (in 2nd Rd.)

37 - Martina Hingis (1997)
36 - Monica Seles (1990)
36 - IGA SWIATEK (2022)
35 - Venus Williams (2000)
34 - Serena Williams (2013)
32 - Justine Henin (2007-08)


Not that anything we heard today was actually all that shocking (because... Trump, I mean come on), but this is the unique moment in U.S. history where you realize, "Holy crap, the former President of the United States is going to be arrested" for inciting an armed mob with the seditious intention of forcefully seizing the Capitol and overturning election results, successfully pulling off a coup d'etat, with the intention of showing up in the Senate chamber -- appearing, Mussolini-like, in the balcony -- and looking down at his rabidly cheering supporters while he says that he's "not going anywhere." He wanted the video. He wanted the future paintings. He wanted the orgasmic glory... and he was willing to try to physically attack his presidential chief of security because he dared said that he wasn't going to drive him to the Capitol. HE HAD TO BE THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED!

(blank expression)

But then you realize it's 2022, and probably *nothing* will happen and he might be back in the White House in two years time.



The U.S. in 2022 (and for the foreseeable future)...


A needed palate cleanser...

TOP QUALIFIER: Maja Chwalinska/POL
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1 - Jaimee Fourlis/AUS def. Dea Herdzelas/BIH 5-7/7-6(4)/6-4 (trailed 7-5/5-3, saved 2 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: #28 Alison Riske/USA (def. Y.In-Albon/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.-Diane Parry/FRA)
FIRST SLAM MD WINS: Maja Chwalinska/POL, Elisabetta Cocciaretto/ITA, Dalma Galfi/HUN, Catherine Harrison/USA, Mai Hontama/JPN, Katarzyna Kawa/POL, Jule Niemeier/GER, Panna Udvardy/HUN
NATION OF POOR SOULS: AUS (1-5 1st; DC Barty retired in March)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1r wins: Chwalinska/POL, Harrison/USA, Hontama/JPN, Kawa/POL, Wickmayer/BEL (LL 1r win: Kerkhove/NED)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Katie Boulter/GBR (in 2r)
PROTECTED RANKING WINS: 1r wins: Cocciaretto/ITA, Flipkens/BEL, Wickmayer/BEL(Q)
LAST BRIT STANDING: 1r wins: Boulter, Raducanu, Watson
IT "??": xx
CRASH & BURN: Nominee: #23 Haddad Maia (1st Rd./Juvan; had won 12 con. grass and 2 titles)
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF LONDON: Nominee: Tan (1r: S.Williams for match 5-4, up 4-0 in TB)
VETERAN PLAYER (KIMIKO CUP): Nominees: Cornet, Swarmettes
SPIRIT OF JANA (NOVOTNA) HONOREES: Nominees: Halep, Flipkens

All for Day 2. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Your BJK Cup winners?

This has been on the short list for months.

Caught up to Collins/Bouzkova, and that was a good match. More about what Bouzkova did right, than what Collins did wrong.

Fett's forehand looks different, and not in a good way.

Tan/Williams and Gauff/Ruse may have been better matches, but the best set might have been Frech/Giorgi. In an 80 minute set, that may also have had the point of the tournament, Giorgi hit 30 winners to Frech's 8. Frech won set 7-6.

Giorgi hit 34 winners for the match.

Stat of the Day- 4- The number of first time slam RU that lost their next slam match.

Gauff was almost the 5th.

This stat starts from 1990, as I wanted 128 player fields without byes.

First the stats, then the notes.

Next slam after first slam final:



TBD is Gauff, X is Pierce, the only player to miss the next slam.

36 women since 1990.

Li is the only player to win her next slam, Zvonareva the only other to reach final.

Dementieva, Stosur, Vondrousova and Fernandez are the 4 that lost first round.

Collins lost in the first round, which fits the profile as 15 have lost in the first round of one of the next 4 slams.

Fernandez, Collins and Gauff have lost the final in the last 3 slams. Wimbledon could make it 4, which would only be the second time in the Open Era.

Oddly enough, we have had 4 slams in the same year, but never all slams in the same year.


Thanks to the AO being played twice in 1977, the January edition started with Fromholz reaching the final, with Mihai, Stove and Turnbull doing so at the next 3 slams, before the streak ended at the December version.

Tue Jun 28, 10:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Maja C. showing some Iga-like dominance in that game! ;)

That's such a Giorgi stat, isn't it?

Wed Jun 29, 01:14:00 AM EDT  

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