Thursday, July 5, 2007

Down to the last 4--will there be any surprises?

The questions being asked now are: How many games will Marion Bartoli take off of Justine Henin, and how many games will Ana Ivanovic take off of Venus Williams? The chances for an upset on either court are slim, and that speaks especially well of Williams, who has to play the tournament's number 6 seed.

I think Williams will continue to play the way she played during the round of 16 and the quarterfinals, which could mean a straight set exit for Ivanovic. In her recent Eastbourne semifinal against Henin, Bartoli won five games. Considering how good Bartoli's grass game has become, she should be able to take a few games in her Wimbledon semifinal--unless physical exhaustion gets the best of her; she is not exactly a picture of fitness. Or unless she freezes at the sight of Henin across the net, which I do not think will happen.

Contingency factors:

1. At any time, Williams' forehand can go wild, which could allow Ivanovic to take control of the match, at least for a while.

2. People who saw Ivanovic's quarterfinal match against Nicole Vaidisova report that Ivanovic's movement was not too good. Poor movement was the weakest link in Ivanovic's game for a long time, but she appeared to have overcome it. Whether she has a minor injury or is just returning to a bad habit, a continuation of inadequate court movement would make it easy for Williams to grab a quick victory.

3. Ivanovic had a great French Open run, but froze in terror when she faced Justine Henin across the net during the finals. However, she displayed a lot of grit today in saving match points and going on to grab what looked like a certain victory from the shaky hands of Nicole Vaidisova.

4. If you make a list of Justine Henin's tennis flaws, you will have plenty of room left on the page to compile your grocery list and a complete set of errands for the week. But Henin does have one weakness which occurs when she is a bit anxious (for the first couple of years after her long ilness break, it happened all the time, but the tennis press ignored it)--she double-faults. Multiple double faults do not seem to affect the outcome of her matches, but in such a seemingly one-sided contest as the one coming up, a double-fault string could give Bartoli some cheap points.

5. One of the players could sustain an injury--imagine that. (The most likely candidate is Marion Bartoli, who may hold the match retirement record for the tour.)

6. Rain delays are likely. Bartoli has come back after two rain delays to play her best tennis of the match, so a rain delay in her semifinal might give her more games. Isolated heavy showers are expected tomorrow.

7. High winds are also predicted for tomorrow, and a strong wind can either serve as somewhat of an equalizer, or it can knock one player out altogether. All four players hit the ball hard; however, Bartoli's beautiful angle shots are extremely flat, and therefore vulnerable to being swept away.

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