Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things you may not know about Wimbledon

Some lesser known Wimbledon facts:

Seven women in the Open Era have won Wimbledon without ever reaching a world number 1 ranking: Ann Haydon Jones, Virginia Wade, Conchita Martinez, and Jana Novotna. Prior to the Open Era, there were three such women--Kathleen McKane, Cilly Aussem and Karen Hantze Susman.

Chris Evert, who won the championship three times, also lost in the final seven times. Four of her losses were to rival Martina Navratilova.

Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Serena Williams all lost on the former Court 2, known as the Graveyard of Champions.

The design for the Venus Rosewater Dish comes from a pewter piece that is part of the collection in the Louvre.

According to the groundskeeping department at Wimbledon, the courts are faster now because creeping red fescue grass is no longer mixed with perennial ryegrass.

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was originally known as the All England Croquet Club.

Kirsten Dunst, who starred in the 2004 film, Wimbledon, did her own serving and hit the ball for close-ups (the ball was digitally inserted into the film the rest of the time). She reported having difficulty with the serve, but was pleased with her backhand.

Katharine, Duchess of Kent, whose support and presence so many of us miss, is a major supporter of young musicians in the UK. She also spent some time as a music teacher. The Duchess (who chose to drop the HRH from her title), presented the Venus Rosewater Dish for many years.

Something worth screaming about

British journalists, who behave even worse toward women than do journalists in my country (and that's saying something)--with the Wimbledon powers' blessing--have made "grunting" an issue during the 2011 Wimbledon tournament. Some of them, at least, have been accurate enough to write about "screaming" or "shrieking," which is really what the complaint is about. Grunting is something that Francesca Schiavone does. Screaming is something that Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka do. It all has to do with releasing energy, of course, but still, screaming is not grunting.

On the subject of actual grunting--I have heard people (so far, no journalists) complain about Schiavone. I've also heard people give Yanina Wickmayer a hard time for her signature "Whoopee!" yell that comes out when she strikes the ball. Oddly--and maybe I've just missed it--I haven't heard anyone complain about Caroline Wozniacki's "Oompah.."

Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer always grunt, but I've yet to hear any complaints about them.

I missed it, but apparently, during today's semifinals--which featured both Sharapova and Azarenka--a couple of patrons wore Please Ladies, No Grunting T-shirts. Are they going to wear Please Gentlemen, No Grunting shirts when they watch Nadal in his semifinal? If not, why?

It comes down to this: If opponents aren't bothered by screaming/shrieking/grunting, why should anyone else be bothered by it? I've heard several players say it doesn't bother them at all; I recall that one player complained about Michelle Larcher De Brito's screaming. And--assuming that noise-making is a problem, which I do not--where do you draw the line?

If actual grunting isn't permitted, then the ATP would have to address the issue--many male players grunt when they are playing, not just Nadal and Ferrer, who are well-known and who do it consistently. What about Jelena Jankovic's very quiet "Ai" when she's working hard with her racquet? If only "shrieking" is prohibited, who decides whether "Whoopee!" is a shriek, a grunt, or something else?

Where were all these complaining journalists when an about-to-be-inducted International Tennis Hall of Fame member yelled a sexual insult at a lineswoman and insulted the entire LGBT community? Where were they when numerous ATP players heaped continuous abuse on umpires? Oh, sure--they reported (some of) these things when they happened, but they didn't conduct an ongoing campaign, complete with dire predictions for the state of tennis, like the one we're seeing now about the oh, so unladylike (because that's what it boils down to, isn't it?) behavior of WTA players who add vocals to their groundstrokes.

I understand that some people don't like to hear screams and grunts (though I've yet to hear even one of those people complain about the grunting of male players). Fine. I don't like the mannerisms of some players, but I don't think that the WTA  needs to "do something" about the particular "issue." If opponents were to consistently complain that the noises affected them, I'd pay attention. But I'm just not hearing that. Rather, I hear them say that they are too focused on their own tennis to bother about what someone else is doing.

I'm more offended by commentators and writers talking all the time about the screaming than I am about the screaming itself. It doesn't matter to me. (I prefer the tennis of 25 years ago, anyway.) When I was in Charleston in April, one of the best matches of the tournament was the quarterfinal contest between Wickmayer and Wozniacki. The consistent repetition of "Whoopee!", "Oompah" was actually part of the entertainment for me, and also part of the consistent rhythm that makes tennis so wonderful to watch--and hear.

Sears leaves LTA to coach Ivanovic

Why Nigel Sears and Ana Ivanovic chose today to make this announcement is a mystery to me, but make it they did: Sears is leaving is post as head women's coach at the Lawn Tennis Association in order to coach Ana Ivanovic. Presumably, he will also give up his position as captain of the British Fed Cup team.

Ivanovic has hired and fired a number of coaches in recent years, and recently said that she wanted to hire a new coach and stay with him ("him" only--Ivanovic ruled out having a woman as a coach). "I've admired Nigel for some time now and I can't wait to start working with him on court," the world number 18 said.

Sears has worked with Daniela Hantuchova, and he also coached Amanda Coetzer.

Wimbledon--what they said

I didn’t really want to give her too many looks on second serves. I think maybe I over-thought it too much.
Maria Sharapova

It's not a good thing, but believe me, it's killing her inside. It really bothers her. We're trying to figure out what's happening.
Coach Sam Sumyk, on Victoria Azarenka's many retirements

...we played already, and I lost, so--now I have to beat her.
Petra Kvitova, commenting on Maria Sharapova

Novotna's volleys were as crisp as they were when she won the 1998 ladies' singles crown.
Matt Trollope

The hoary heads at the All England Club had determined that Kvitova's serve is so menacing a weapon that both her opponents and the public need to be alerted, much like they would be during an air raid.
Pete Bodo, on the siren that went off today during the first semifinal

She can beat anybody, any day...
Victoria Azarenka, commenting on Petra Kvitova

Is this your show?
Chris Evert to Pam Shriver, after Shriver skipped over Evert's turn in the ESPN pre-match assessment

Two left afloat in memorable, rain-filled Wimbledon



Maria Sharapova reached the Wimbledon final today for the first time since she won the event in 2004. Sharapova, seeded 5th, defeated wild card Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3 in a match which did not feature either opponent's best tennis. Sharapova double-faulted thirteen times, proving that--when the pressure's on--her service game is still vulnerable. As for Lisicki--her well-known serve failed her. She emerged from the match with first and second serve percentages of 55 and 38, and, despite breaking Sharapova three times, never really capitalized on her opponent's problems because she could not sustain any momentum.

The first part of the match looked good for Lisicki. She immediately went up 3-0, and was a point away from going up 4-0, but then Sharapova turned things around, and Lisicki never really got back in for any appreciable length of time. The 5th seed broke her in the first game of the second set, and then Lisicki double-faulted on break point to go down 0-3. She broke Sharapova, but was broken back. When Sharapova served for the match at 5-3, Lisicki brought in some new energy, hitting big backhand and forehand winners. Sharapova hit an ace to make it 30-all, but then missed a backhand volley, a mistake she followed with a double fault. This was Lisicki's last chance, but she was broken at love, and it was Sharapova who advanced to the final.

There was more rain during the Sharapova-Lisicki match, but not enough to stop play. The umpire determined that play could go on, and before anyone could even open an umbrella, the drizzle was over.

The only person standing in Sharapova's way now, as she seeks to win a second Wimbledon title and establish herself as officially "back," is Petra Kvitova. The 8th seed defeated 4th seed Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the other semifinal. The match--at least to me--was really about Kvitova, and was a microcosm of everything that is good and not-so-good about the Czech player. While I was watching, I recalled that night in 2009 when she took Dinara Safina out of the U.S. Open. I remember thinking: If this player could ever calm down, she would be dangerous. She did. And she is.

Kvitova is still a work in progress, though, despite the fact that most of the heaving lifting is behind her. After breezing through the first set today ("breezing" included whacking three consecutive aces when she served for the opening set), she pulled a bit of an Evonne Goolagong and drifted away in the second, making repeated forehand errors and getting tense about her serve. It wasn't all about Kvitova's mentality, however: Azarenka started pushing her around a bit, making her move in ways that were awkward for her. Azarenka also looked less flustered by Kvitova's serve in that set, and was able to take control.

Kvitova approached the third set as if the second had never happened, again showing one of her strengths. She went up 2-0 in that set, and--though she faced a couple of break points at 3-1--she held. Azarenka would win only one more game, and would be broken through double-faulting on Kvitova's second match point.

Azarenka played extremely well against Tamira Paszek in the quarterfinals, and has had a good tournament (though I still wonder if her Wimbledon would have been so good if Daniela Hantuchova hadn't shown up in the third round with a sore shoulder and a recent abdominal strain). She reached her first major semifinal, which is something about which she can feel good.

After seeing Lisicki play Li Na and Marion Bartoli play Flavia Pennetta, I found the semifinals a real letdown. This Wimbledon has been so thrilling, but today's matches were routine. The drama is still there, though--it's in the story, if not actually on the court. Not that long ago, some said that Sharapova was "finished"--that she would never win another major or be a huge factor in tennis, yet here she is, in the place where it all started. She hasn't won Wimbledon in seven years, and she hasn't won a major in three years, but she finally has an opportunity to win a fourth big championship.

First, though, she has to get past that pesky Kvitova. A Wimbledon semifinalist last year (she lost to eventual champion Serena Williams), Kvitova is the first left-hander to reach a major final since Monica Seles went to the French Open final in 1998. A few days ago, some players on the tour were asked to describe Wimbledon in one word, so I asked myself to describe Kvitova in one word. That word--regardless of what happens Saturday--is "inevitable."

Sabine Lisicki, by the way, probably had some of her disappointment soothed by today's doubles competition. She and partner Sam Stosur advanced to the semifinals when they defeated 6th seeds Nadia Petrova and Anastasia Rodionova 7-5, 1-6, 6-1. In the other semifinal, 2nd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik defeated Peng Shuai and Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

In mixed doubles, 14th seeds Cara Black and Leander Paez moved on when they received a walkover from 3rd seeds Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic.

Top seeds Annabel Croft and Sam Smith were defeated 6-0, 6-3 in Ladies Invitation Doubles by Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna.

In the girls' competition, 2nd seed Caroline Garcia won her third round match by defeating Anett Kontaviet 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. Top seed Daria Gavilova went out in the first round, as did French Open junior champion Ons Jabeur.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

...without the Williams, women’s tennis sheds its box office and becomes instead a procession of identikit eastern Europeans with their bouncy blonde ponytails, obsessive parental coaches, and double-handed backhands.
Jim White

Woohoo! We are in the quarters. I can get even more Wimbledon towels now.
Anastasia Rodionova

...She went down so...quietly. Serena, you know she'll be back. I believe she'll win a major again. But you have to wonder about Venus.
Chris Evert

Tough draw against Zimonjic & Srebotnik, there were some massive serves!
Heather Watson

To many people, Wimbledon means the Williams sisters. But I don't get the feeling (that it's the end of an era). I would hate to see the end of this era because—I have to be jingoistic here—if it's the end, it's the end of the U.S. era, too.
Bud Collins

I have absolutely nothing to lose.
Sabine Lisicki

Erakovic and Tanasugarn advance to Wimbledon semifinals

Marina Erakovic and Tammy Tanasugarn, two fine grass court players, advanced to the Wimbledon doubles semifinals today, after defeating 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 4-6, 7-6, 13-11. Erakovic and Tanasugarn, who came into the draw as lucky losers, previously upset 10th seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. They will play the winner of the quarterfinal match to be played between the teams of Sabine Lisicki/Sam Stosur and 6th seeds Nadia Petrova/Anastasia Rodionova. Lisicki has already advanced to the semifinals in singles.

Also moving to the semifinals were Sania  Mirza and Elena Vesnina, the number 4 seeds. Mirza and Vesnina defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. They await the winner of the quarterfinal match between 8th seeds Peng Shuai/Zheng Jie and 2nd seeds Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik.

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan won their third round mixed doubles match today, defeating Andrea Petkovic and Feliciano Lopez. 2nd seeds Yaroslava Shvedova and Maz Mirnyi were upset by Hsieh Su-Wei and Paul Hanley.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

Why didn't they drop-shot me? That would have been a good play.
Chris Evert

Sometimes you make some mistakes and your mentality is down, and that was my problem.
Petra Kvitova

I said "I don't want to do something that I'm not enjoying." Then she says, "Then don't do it. You have to be happy." She was telling me those stories, how hard she was working. (So I thought) "Well, you just have to shut up and stop complaining because you have a pretty damn good life...."
Victoria Azarenka, talking about her grandmother

That will be one of the headlines, no matter the tennis--will be the noise.
Pam Shriver, on a potential Sharapova-Azarenka final

I was setting a lot of timetables for myself in terms of, "I want to be back for this tournament," and I never really met those goals. That was really frustrating for me because I’m not very patient, and I’m very stubborn. That’s just a terrible combination when you’re going through a difficult injury.
Maria Sharapova

We always thought you're playing on two or three different surfaces when you played Wimbledon because of the weather changes.
Chris Evert

Since March I take my game and approach to the matches completely differently. I'm just trying to be happy on the court and looking forward to the challenges. I'm out there to do my best every day. I'm not afraid to lose a match or fail somewhere. I know if I do my best, I'll have no regrets.
Victoria Azarenka

My mind was trying extremely hard, but my body just couldn't do anything anymore.
Marion Bartoli

Sharapova in Wimbledon semifinals again

2004 champion Maria Sharapova advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals today. It was the first time since 2006 that she had reached the semifinals, and she did so easily, defeating 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1. Sharapova, seeded 5th, is now the only player who has not dropped a set. She will play wild card Sabine Lisicki in the next round.

Also reaching the semifinals was 2010 semifinalist Petra Kvitova, who is seeded 8th. Her opponent, also a 2010 semifinalist, was 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova. Kvitova's performance was not an unusal one for her. She won the first set 6-3, and--with her big lefty serve--appeared to be in charge of the proceedings. But she went "off," as Kvitova is inclined to do, and Pironkova was glad to take advantage. She broke Kvitova, then Kvitova broke her back, but when the set went to a tiebreak, it was Pironkova who prevailed.

I had really looked forward to this match, and I enjoyed it. I thought Kvitova might finally drop a set, and she did. She lost her way briefly for a second time, in the third set, but then pulled herself together to win it 6-2. The Czech player's game has continued to get better; she has become more nimble, and seems more assured about her volleys. But her tendency to take a mental leave is still there, and--at the semifinal level--that could be a dangerous tendency. It should be  noted, nevertheless, that the 8th seed hit 54 winners.

Finally, 4th seed Victoria Azarenka advanced to the semifinals. It was a long time coming. Azarenka has managed to crash out, pass out or bow out in some way or the other during every major of her career, always before she reached the semifinals. Her opponent today was Tamira Paszek, and Azarenka--moving with more speed agility than we are accustomed to seeing from her--dominated Paszek and took the match 6-3, 6-1.

She will play Kvitova in the semifinals, and their recent history is a rich one. Kvitova beat Azarenka 7-5, 6-0 in the third round of Wimbledon last year. More recently, she defeated her 7-6, 6-4 in the red clay final in Madrid. Azarenka won their two earlier matches.

Wild card Lisicki goes to Wimbledon semifinals

Marion Bartoli had great reserves of adrenalin that got her through the round of 16 at Wimbledon, but one had to wonder just when they would finally give out. The answer was clear today when the 9th seed--though she managed to get in one last fight--ran out of fuel. The fighting Frenchwoman has the tennis skills and the mentality to win just about any match, but even Bartoli has only so much physical energy. She was defeated by wild card Sabine Lisicki, a player who herself is no stranger to physical problems.

The circumstances were unusual. Not only was the Centre Court roof in place, but the rain and thunder were so loud, the players sometimes could not hear the ball being struck. The umpire had to shout so that they could hear the score.

Bartoli's serve was not raging the way it was in the previous round, and she wasn't hitting her groundstrokes with the same wicked angles. Lisicki used her admirable serve and a number of well-timed drop shots to wear the Frencwoman down. Lisicki took the first set 6-4, but she got a bit shaky in the second set, and Bartoli--who looked like she was spent--did what she has done throughout this tournament when she looked like she was spent: She fought her way to a tiebreak, which she won. It didn't take much of a stretch to think that Bartoli had somehow found a new gear, especially since Lisicki had failed to convert three match points.

But she didn't. She was utterly exhausted in the third set, even taking a seat during a changeover. Bartoli's demeanor was, in fact, dramatically different from the bouncing, shadow-striking "come get a piece of me" ball of energy she has been this season. It took Lisicki only 36 minutes to win the third set 6-1. She hit a total of 52 winners to move to the semifinals, in which she will play 2004 champion and 5th seed Maria Sharapova.

Lisicki requested a wild card and was granted it after she won the tournament in Birmingham. Her performance at Wimbledon has demonstrated that she is indeed "back," after enduring a series of illnesses and injuries. As for Bartoli--she is to be commended for fighting through this season in circumstances during which--not that long ago--she would have retired. Bartoli is just too talented to allow physical fragility to get the best of her.

A wild card, by the way, has never won the women's championship at Wimbledon.

Notes on Wimbledon broadcasting

Marion Bartoli's in-studio chat with Martina Navratilova and Bill Macatee is my favorite interview so far. It was also amusing to hear Virginia Wade's ESPN interview earlier in the tournament. Wade talked not only about her win in front of the Queen, but about the fact that she was less than popular with some members of the British press.

Patrick McEnroe (not surprisingly) and Ted Robinson (somewhat surprisingly) insist on minimizing the WTA players by calling them "young ladies." (They're not alone, but in the U.S., we hear a lot from these two during Wimbledon.)

ESPN3 was down for a couple of hours yesterday, and was down all day today. Fortunately, there are other lives streams available.

I've already made a reference to this article, and yesterday, this one was called to my attention. Keep them coming.

Note to Hannah Storms: I know you're being paid a lot of money to be on NBC, so maybe in would be in good taste to recognize that there is no "Wimbleton" tournament being played in England.

Defending champions out of Wimbledon in 2nd round

Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, the Wimbledon 2010 champions, were upset yesterday in the second round of play. Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur defeated the top seeds 6-4, 6-3.

Also going out were 5th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shuaghnessy, who lost in three sets to Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Also going out in the first round were Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Anabel Medina Garrigues, who lost to Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova.

Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, the ad hoc Italian team, went out in the first round to Kimiko Date Krumm and Zhang Shuai.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

Usually during those matches when I was playing against some great champion like Serena or somebody like that, I was a bit more shy, not showing too much on court. My opponent was really, like, taking all the space, and I was not able to do really anything, just appear on the scene. So it's really important for me to believe that I can win the match and overall act as a winner.
Marion Bartoli

If the ATP and the WTA want to help increase the sport’s popularity, they should encourage the All England Club and the networks to make it easy, not hard, for viewers to watch the matches they want to see.
Dave Seminara

She loves mathematics. She knows the score.
Dick Enberg, observing Marion Bartoli

Unfortunately, I seem not to have my good days against her.
Venus Williams

Yes, I'm super-happy that I lost. Go, women's tennis.
Serena Williams, after being told her defeat showed the depth of the tour

You can't let a girl that size push you around like that.
John McEnroe, showing respect for the srong-legged, hard-hitting Cibulkova

I don't care what people think or say or do.
Caroline Wozniacki

I’m more devastated than ever but I’m a much better actress now.
Serena Williams

It was a great atmosphere. I heard so many people screaming my name.
Dominika Cibulkova

For me to be able come back after having three match points and losing this game at 6-5, and still be able to bounce back, it’s really huge.
Marion Bartoli

When I come here, I just feel so relaxed. I like the atmosphere here.
Tsvetana Pironkova

Two former champions and number 1 seed all knocked out of Wimbledon today

If Dick Enberg is correct, then most of the spectators have been queuing in the Pimm's Cup line too frequently at Wimbledon. "They didn't expect Bartoli to come up with this kind of fight...," he said. Really? The Frenchwoman has done nothing but fight--against opponents, against nausea, against exhaustion--for a week. Today she had to fight a defending champion determined not to be eliminated from the tournament in the round of 16.

Every once in a while (think Indian Wells), Bartoli gets into a real zone with her service game. She was in it today, hitting ten aces, and I lost count of how many unreturnable serves. The 9th seed's aggression serves her so much better if she can dictate with her serve, which she did today. She went up 5-2 in the first set, at which point things took a bit of a turn. Williams saved three set points on her own serve, and another when Bartoli served at 5-3. On her fifth set point, Bartoli hit another wonderful serve, but then hit what almost certainly would have been a winner into the net. On set point number 6, however, she cannon-fired an ace down the T.

When Bartoli held at love for 4-all in the second set, she confirmed that her confidence was still high. The first break point of the set occurred in the 11th game, and the 9th seed converted it. Serving for the match at 5-4, Bartoli hit long on her first match point, then missed an opportunity to win on her second match point. A weak (one of her few) second serve then took the players to deuce, after which followed the best rally of the match. Both players hit groundstrokes from the far, far corners, and Williams prevailed, saving yet another match point. Then, attempting to deal with a huge return of serve from Serena, Bartoli hit a ball out, giving Williams a break point.

At a time like this, another player might well have caved, but Bartoli kept right on. She double-faulted, however, on her next match point, then hit a routine second serve that was pounced on by Williams, thereby forcing a tiebreak. The tiebreak score was close. After hitting a service let, the Frenchwoman hit an ace to even things at 5-all. When she went up 6-5, she gestured for the crowd to cheer her on; the crowd obliged. Williams hit an ace. But Bartoli won the next point, and on her fifth match point, she hit a serve deep into  the corner. Williams could not return it, and Bartoli advanced to the quarterfinals.

Someone probably needs to tell ESPN commentator Mary Joe Fernandez that Bartoli won. Fernandez did the same thing today that she usually does when she's calling a Sharapova match (well, it wasn't quite as outrageous as her Maria obsession); she behaved as though Bartoli were just someone hanging out on the court, waiting to cheer Williams on as she went to the next round. Serena Williams is the greatest champion of her generation, and she is to be commended for playing as well as she did after missing--for all practical purposes--a year of tennis, and going through a medical hell. But Fernandez's dismissal of Bartoli was really over the line.

Bartoli's fitness has been her main demon throughout her career, but, as I mentioned yesterday, she is now fighting through the nausea and injuries, something I wish she had done years ago.

Dominika Cibulkova
The exit of the defending (and four-time) champion was just the beginning of today's drama. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki's time at Wimbledon was going to end soon (so thought many of us), and Dominika Cibulkova was glad to take on the duty. The 24th seed got off to a slow start, and lost the first set 1-6. She fought to win the second set in a tiebreak, and had to fight through several games in the third set. At 5-all, she broke Wozniacki on her third break point, and won on her third match point.

The drama continued. Though some may find it hard to believe, Tsvetana Pironkova did it again. She took Venus Williams out of a major for the third time, and for the second time in a row at Wimbledon. Pironkova played well and served extremely well. She used her signature forehand slice, and hit backhands with such finesse, there wasn't much Williams could do about it. There was another side to this story, though. Williams looked awkward. She missed overheads and just made too many errors in general. She was off the tour for four months, and her focus isn't always as sharp as it used to be. Still, she's looked good since she arrived at Wimbledon, and there was talk that she might take a sixth championship.

On top of everything else, you have to wonder whether the mysterious ("mercurial" and "streaky" just don't get it) Pironkova is in Williams' head. The Bulgarian defeated her 6-2, 6-3, and that's the score by which she defeated Williams last year.

This is the first time the Williams sisters have made an exit from Wimbledon on the same day, and the first time in five years that neither of them has made it to the quarterfinals.

Kvitova continues straight-sets Wimbledon campaign

Today at Wimbledon, Petra Kvitova went through opponent Yanina Wickmayer like a blowtorch through a sticky toffee pudding, defeating her 6-0, 6-2 in the round of 16. 8th seed Kvitova went after 19th seed Wickmayer's second serves, and many of her first serves, and walked away with first and second serve win percentages of 94 and 67 on her own serve. The whole thing was over in 45 minutes. Kvitova has yet to drop a set, and she has lost only 15 games.

Meanwhile, 4th seed Victoria Azarenka--still standing (literally)--defeated Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2. Sabine Lisicki continued her excellent run with a 7-6, 6-1 win over Petra Cetkovska, and Tamira Paszek defeated Ksenia Pervak 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Paszek had to play three hours and 41 minutes to beat Francesca Schiavone in the third round.

2004 champion and 5th seed Maria Sharapova defeated 20th seed Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-2. Sharapova is now the only former champion still in the draw.

In the quarterfinals, Kvitova will play Tsvetana Pironkova, Azarenka will play Paszek, and Lisicki will play 9th seed Marion Bartoli, who defeated defending champion Serena Williams. Sharapova will play Dominika Cibulkova.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who is Petra Cetkovska, and why is she beating everyone?

Just a few years ago, I was doing a "Czech watch," and two young players, both named Petra, looked promising. One, of course, was Petra Kvitova, who is now number 8 in the world. The other was Petra Cetkovska. Cetkovska's star did not rise the way Petra Kvitova's did. She is currently number 81 in the world, which is not bad at all, but she was hardly someone that tennis observers would have picked to be in the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

In the first round, Cetkovska defeated Kristina Barrois. Then she pulled off a shock upset against 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who is an especially good grass court player. Even more startling--Radwanska was two points from victory in the second set when Cetkovska broke her and went on to win the match.

Most of the time, when a lower-ranked player upsets a big player, she will lose in the next round. But Cetkovska went on to upset 18th seed Ana Ivanovic in straight sets in the third round. The win included a 7-0 tiebreak score in the second set. Cetkovska served very well, and made only twelve unforced errors.

So who is Petra Cetkovska? The 26-year-old is a native of the Czech Republic and plays for the Czech Republic, but lives in Paris. She has never won a WTA title, but--think back--she reached the round of 16 at the French Open in 2008. At that time, she beat Alona Bondarenko, Galina Voskoboeva and Iveta Benesova. She then lost to 2nd seed Ivanovic, the eventual champion. That year, Cetkovska also earned her highest ranking, number 49 in the world.

Cetkovska says that her favorite shots are the serve and the volley, and that's not something you hear very often. It would also make sense that she feels comfortable on grass courts. She'll have her hand full with Sabine Lisicki as her round of 16 opponent.

Wimbledon--what they said

She wills herself to win; she's hungry. You don't see too many hungry players out there.
Chris Evert, commenting on Marion Bartoli

I was a little more consistent and I played my game more. I wasn't as tight and nervous. I was able to relax more today.
Serena Williams

Playing on Court 14, which sits at a noisy intersection of two of the main walkways at Wimbledon, is a universe away from playing under the translucent roof on Centre Court. The fans are jammed into narrow stands on either side of the court, so close that they can hear the players straightening their strings as they wait to return serve.
Geoff MacDonald

It's probably one of the best matches I've played at Wimbledon--even in 2007 I don't think I played that well. So it's a good feeling to end up being the winner.
Marion Bartoli

I guess I won't be watching tennis. But I've played a couple of days in a row so it will be nice to just chill out at home and be lazy. Maybe get some rain. I like the rain.
Maria Sharapova, commenting on middle Sunday

When I was up, I was always stopping my game. That's where I have to learn to get better. I gave it back to her a little bit. I tried everything, but when I led, I gave it away.
Julia Goerges

I wouldn't bet against me.
Serena Williams, asked about her top place in betting odds

Wozniacki quietly and efficiently advances to Wimbledon round of 16

Wimbledon top seed Caroline Wozniacki has now played three rounds of tennis and made only nine unforced errors. In her second round match against Virginie Razzano, she made only one unforced error, which is such a rarity it is worth noting. For those who are counting, the world number 1 has also hit 39 winners, and her opponents have hit 52. You can do the math, but it probably won't get you too far.

In her third round match, Wozniacki defeated Jarmila Gajdosova in straight sets. She will next face 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova, who is better known for her clay court skills. Cibulkova took out 16th seed Julia Goerges, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. I commend Goerges, by the way, for asking the umpire to pronounce her name correctly. Isn't that the least that players should expect? If only players would say something to Tennis Channel, ESPN and Sky Broadcasting, who routinely butcher players' names. (They have yet, in fact, to correctly pronounce the name of the world number 1 player.)

Also in the third round, defending champion Serena Williams had her first straight-sets win, against 26th seed Maria Kirilenko. Maria Sharapova defeated Klara Zakopalova and Sabine Lisicki defeated Masaki Doi. Also, 20th seed Peng Shuai defeated Melinda Czink, and Petra Cetkovska--this year's "out of nowhere" player--upset 18th seed Ana Ivanovic.

Court 12 the scene of thrills at Wimbledon

Maybe more people would like women's tennis if they were given the chance to see women's tennis. There were two highly entertaining matches played on Court 12 today at Wimbledon; they lasted for hours; one was an out-and-out thriller that should be remembered for some time. ESPN almost totally ignored these matches, however, choosing not only to show other matches of less intensity, but also to show in-studio interviews.

Meanwhile, on out-of the way Court 12, Eastbourne champion Marion Bartoli and Fed Cup Queen Flavia Pennetta engaged in some high sports drama. Pennetta, never known for grass court play, has been having a poor season, but everything changed today when she took on Bartoli. For three hours and nine minutes, the pair stunned spectators (and each other) with some brilliant shot-making and high-level competitiveness. Pennetta's drop shots and volleys were often deserving of applause, while Bartoli's groundstrokes were equally impressive. Between them, they hit 110 winners, 65 of which were hit by Pennetta.

The Italian player won the first set 7-5, after which Bartoli dismissed her father-coach, Walter Bartoli, from the stands. Bartoli, who saved three match points in her second round match while dealing with nausea (not really an unusual clash of events for the Frenchwoman), looked--at times--to be upset, angry, ill, and generally out of sorts. She fought through to win the second set 6-4, and it certainly didn't look like she could go on for another hour and sixteen minutes, but that's exactly what she had to do.

The third set was about as good as it gets.The quality of play remained very high, and I couldn't help but wonder whether someone finally really had put Pennetta in a trance and told her she was Fed Cup. I have always enjoyed watching Pennetta because she does so many things so well, and does them with such spirit. She pulled out all the stops in this match, and if it weren't for the extravaganza we saw in the round of 16 of the Australian Open, I'd call this match the thriller of the season.

The third set would last for an hour and sixteen minutes. Each player began with a love hold, and Bartoli was then broken at love. Pennetta then held at love, and then Bartoli went down three break points. It was just the beginning of the set, but things certainly didn't look good for the Frenchwoman. She held her serve in that game, however, after which Pennetta held at love again, ending the game with one of her signature drop shots.

By this time, Bartoli had that "staggering around" appearance, yet, somehow, she held when she served at 3-5. Pennetta then served for the match, went down 0-30, made yet another successful drop shot, but eventually lost her chance to take the match when she double-faulted on break point. Serving at 5-all, Bartoli saved two break points. They went from playing love games to saving break points--just like that.

At 6-7, it was Pennetta's turn to save a match point. She then had to save another one before she held. With Bartoli serving at 7-all, 30-15, Pennetta returned a lob with an over-the-shoulder lob, which set up a forehand up the line winner. The Italian got a break point, but failed to convert it when a wobbling netcord ball stayed on her side of the court. She then missed a routine forehand shot, and Bartoli held.

Try to picture Bartoli at this moment. She's hunched over, she doesn't look happy. She looks exhausted. But she jumps around a bit a holds her racquet as if she were about to use it to fight the entire Italian army. Pennetta's service game went to deuce, and Bartoli got a break point. I was thinking, around this time--why does one of them have to lose? (after all these decades, I still have those thoughts). Just then, the commentator said "It's such a shame one of them has to lose." And then Pennetta double-faulted, and it was over. The 9th seed had won, 5-7, 6-4, 9-7.

Not that long ago, Bartoli would have retired when she experienced nausea or some sort of injury. She still gets ill on the court quite a bit, but she hangs in; it's as if she's only just discovered the power of adrenalin. And for all her windmill service motions and pre-point quirks, the French Open semifinalist is a great striker of the ball and, now, a great fighter, also.

It's nice to have the "real" Flavia Pennetta back, and one hopes that her high quality of play in this match was at least some comfort to her.

As it turned out, Court 12 was not the place for Italians to gather. When the Bartoli-Pennetta match was over, 6th seed Francesca Schiavone and Tamira Paszek stepped onto the same court to finish their rain-delayed match from the day before. When we left them on Friday, they had each won a set; Schiavone had taken the first one 6-3, and Paszek had won the second one 6-4. At that point, they had played for and hour and 37 minutes, and who knew they were about to play for another two hours and four minutes?

Not many years ago, Paszek was considered the phenom of the tour, but--for various reasons--things didn't go her way. Suddenly, here she was in the third round at Wimbledon, competing against a top-10 player  known for her ability to fight past obstacles, yet the Austrian was fighting just as hard. She went up 3-0 in the final set, but--not unexpectedly--she was broken back. But Paszek perservered, sometimes dramatically celebrating the games she won.

Things didn't look good for her,  though, when Schiavone served for the match at 9-8. After all, this was Francesca Schiavone, who is willing to stay on the court for an entire day to get to match point. But Paszek out-maneuvered the 6th seed, and won eight games in a row to go up 10-9. All she had to do then was serve it out, and she did, achieving probably the greatest moment in her career.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Passing shots at Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova, knowing she was going to play the left-handed Laura Robson in the second round, asked Martina Navratilova to hit with her, but Navratilova's television commentator duties made that impossible. The two have hit together in the past.

My favorite tennis outfit so far was Ekatarina Makarova's, but we saw so little of it.

Calling Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez "Quatro Maria" and Richard Gasquet "Dicky Gasket" isn't funny (just as calling Yanina Wickmayer "Wicker Chair" wasn't the least bit funny). There is nothing clever about calling a 123 mph. serve "a buck 23." To quote Brad Gilbert himself, "Alls I can say is": Stop it!

Check out the photo of Francesca Schiavone.

Elena Baltacha says she hasn't peaked yet. I hope not. Baltacha has had some really bad breaks in her career. It's nice to see her doing so well.

What could be more charming to see than a blushing Petra Kvitova interviewed by her idol, Martina Navratilova?

I scratch my head about Maria Kirilenko, too.

Wimbledon--what they said

I think they'll keep getting stronger, mentally and physically. And I put Sharapova right up there with them. I don't think anyone else has a shot.
Chris Evert, on the Williams sisters

I'm really glad that I stayed so composed....
Victoria Azarenka, commenting on the rain delay

Everyone should play on Court 2.
Venus Williams, responding to a question about the schedule

Obviously Caroline would be quite an opponent in the third round if that's the way it works out.
...It's still grass, so anything can happen....
Jarmila Gajdosova

How did you do in  Wimbledon '11? "Oh, was a great year, got deep into the second week!" Semis? "No, second round doubles!"
Alla Kudryavtseva, victim of rain delays

I've played her before on the grass, so I thought my best bet was to make sure I took the net away from her. It worked out really well.
Venus Williams

If there anything you'd like to ask Martina (Navratilova), who won Wimbledon nine times?
Maybe if I were (to) get to final, I'll ask.
Petra Kvitova

I just had a black day.
Andrea Petkovic

I started off really slowly and she started off really well.
Maria Sharapova

Are they lying?

Of course they are.
Chris Evert, on players denying they look at the draw

Hantuchova and Zvonareva out of Wimbledon

There was another rain delay at Wimbledon today, so matches are still running behind schedule. 4th seed Victoria Azarenka and 25th seed Daniela Hantuchova had to endure a 40-minute break while the Centre Court roof was put up. Hantuchova entered the tournament with an abdominal strain she sustained in Eastbourne, and then had to have her shoulder taped during today's 3rd round match. She had beaten Azarenka the two other times they had played, but today, it was Azarenka who prevailed. After the rain break, Azarenka came out in a blaze, and her 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory sets up a quarterfinal match against--yes, she's still standing--Nadia Petrova, who defeated Kateryna Bondarenko.

Tsvetana Pironkova, whose dangerous doppelganger has once again appeared on the grass courts of Wimbledon, pulled today's big upset. She defeated 2nd seed and 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-3. Zvonareva was having some trouble with her ankle, but my gut feeling was that even a healthy Zvonareva would have gone out to the 32nd seed. Pironkova made it look so easy, as she served extremely well, was a consistent success at the net, and made only five unforced errors.

Pironkova has to face Venus Williams in the round of 16. Last year, Pironkova defeated Williams in the quarterfinals at this event, so there is some built-in drama regarding this year's match. Williams advanced to the fourth round by running over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. I recently mentioned that Martinez Sanchez has a great serve--when it's on. It was way off today, and--to make matters even worse for the Spaniard--Williams did everything just about as well as it could be done. Martinez Sanchez won only two games.

I didn't think Laura Robson would do as well as she did against 5th seed Maria Sharapova, but the young British player rose to the occasion. Nevertheless, it was Sharapova's occasion, and she won it 7-6, 6-3.

Observers of women's tennis must have wondered how long Svetlana Kuznetsova could hang on. Well, Yanina Wickmayer answered that question for us today, by defeating the 12th seed 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Wickmayer, who is seeded 19th, will play Petra Kvitova in the next round. Kvitova hasn't dropped a set in three rounds, and today, she hit 37 winners against Unicef Open champion Roberta Vinci.

Eastbourne champion Marion Bartoli had to fight it out against Lourdes Dominguez Lino, while top seed Caroline Wozniacki continued to quietly (probably a good thing) advance. Peng Shuai took out Elena Baltacha--there are now no Brits left in the draw. And Ksenia Pervak upset 11th seed Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 7-6.

6th seed Francesca Schiavone and Tamira Paszek were caught in a rain delay and will have to finish their third set tomorrow.

French Open champion Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, seeded 7th, were defeated in the first round of doubles play by Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska. The big-serving team of Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur defeated Jelena Jankovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-1.

Pironkova surprised to learn about WTA ranking system

Tsvetana Pironkova, a 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist who defeated 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva in straight sets today, said she was shocked to learn that other tournaments on the WTA tour provide ranking points. "I've been a pro for a while," Pironkova said, "but I must have missed that memo. I go to some of those tournaments, of course, but--unless I get the urge to upset one of the big stars--I like to leave early. The practice, the locker room chaos, the crowds--it can be so dreary."

The Bulgarian player noted that her father was a canoeing champion and her mother was a champion swimmer, and she grew up doing water sports. "The problem I have with tennis courts," she said, "is that they're dry. That's why I like Wimbledon; there's usually a lot of rain, and I can splash around like I do at home. Also, you get to wear white, and it's nice to get dressed up once a year, even if you do end up with grass strains on your white dress."

Pironkova said that now that she has learned about the ranking points system, she wishes the WTA would do a better job of communicating with players. "It happened to Yanina, too," she said, referring to Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer. "No one told her to call or email those drug people"

Asked if she would approach the tour in a different way now, Pironkova said she would think about that after Wimbledon. "Right now, I have to focus on playing Venus Williams. I beat her in the quarterfinals last year. She doesn't play much in the other tournaments either, so I feel we have something in common."

Friday cat blogging--quiet moment edition


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

...I think both players today played a great match on the court. All I can say is "unlucky for me." Both players were unbelievable. Nothing wrong. Just unlucky. I had two match points. But I can do nothing for these two match points. I think also both players were fighting a lot on the court.
Li Na

If your injury hasn't happened before, are you now thinking, "Why me?" Of all the times for it to suddenly come about. Are you feeling a bit, "Why me?" at the moment?
It's exactly how I'm feeling. Could have been another tournament. Why this one? It happens. It happens to all players.
Heather Watson

We saw the emotions there on the court. Can you put it into words for us?
No!
Sabine Lisicki

...I do know one thing: Never sell the Sisters short. They are fierce competitors, fighters until the end.  Their hearts are as big as that palace called Centre Court.
Bud Collins

Very 70s, and 70s are in right now. So the high-waisted shorts are cool. I really like the back of it, the open back. I've always loved that. I have to ask her if the flowy sleeves kind of affect her hitting, but it didn't look like it. Everything seemed to stay. I thought it was a really cool outfit, and I think it was one of my favorites.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands, referring to Venus Williams

What are you  most looking forward to?

Finish the press conference and go back to the hotel.
Li Na

Passing shots at Wimbledon

Dominika Cibulkova and Petra Kvitova are out of doubles competition at Wimbledon. They were defeated in the first round by 10th seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

The Wimbledon website leaves something to be desired, and the mobile phone application is next to useless. "Tradition" goes only so far, I think.

I was also quite annoyed to hear a British commentator say that winning the French Open is not as spectacular as winning Wimbledon. Enough with the insecure bragging, please, especially when you're directing it at Li Na.

It hasn't escaped the attention of defending champion and four-time Wimbledon winner that she and her sister, five-time champion Venus Williams, have been put on Court 2 twice. Perhaps Williams is also waiting for her family to be invited to sit in the royal box, where, it was announced, "respect is given" to great Wimbledon champions. The Wimbledon organizers also have a pattern of postponing WTA matches when it rains, thereby forcing some WTA players to compete two days in a row.

Thanks to Steve Tignor for reporting on this message from the Daily Mirror: TELL LAURA WE LOVE HER: NOW BRIT MUST SILENCE SHRIEKING SHARAPOVA!

Li upset in 2nd round of Wimbledon

That noise you hear is the sound of seeds dropping onto the court. But we're not talking rye grass here; seeded players are being driven out of Wimbledon in dramatic fashion. Take, for example, 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who was up 6-3, 5-4, 30-0 in her second round match today. Radwanska, who is a really good grass court player, lost that match. She was defeated 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 by Petra Cetkovska, who is ranked number 81 in the world.

14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made a second-round exit, too, losing 6-3, 6-3 to countrywoman Nadia Petrova.

Then there was Li Na. The 3rd seed was under almost constant assault from a resurgent Sabine Lisicki, who hit 17 aces, and who knows how many serves that set up winners. Li calmly handled the assault in the first set, which she won, 6-3. I don't know how others felt, but my own feeling was that Li needed to win this match in straight sets. I've seen Lisicki (this year's Birmingham champion) in this mode before, and when she's in it, her service game gets better, not worse.

Lisicki continued to put pressure on Li in the second set. At 4-5, 30-40, Lisicki was put off balance by Li, but she leaned into a backhand and hit it crosscourt with such ferocity, you could almost hear the grass blades vibrate. It felt like a turning point, and it was. Lisicki won that set, 6-4.

The third set was thrilling in the way that a final is (or rather, should be) thrilling. Li broke Lisicki, and had two  match points on Lisicki's serve at 3-5. Lisicki  hit two hard, fast (over 120 mph.) serves, and made two quick points to save the match points. Then she hit a 124 mph. ace, and followed that with a 122 mph. ace.

The match, played under the Centre Court roof, went on. Li served for the match and went down 0-30, but caught up to go 30-all. The second point was an impressive forehand up the line. This save later became memorable because--in the latter part of the set--Li's forehand abandoned her (we've seen this before), leaving her on the court with her backhand and an opponent who couldn't stop hitting winners. She was broken in that game.

Then Lisicki went down 0-30, and shortly after, she was broken when she flubbed an easy put-away volley. The pattern continued: Li went down 0-30 when she served for the match a second time. She hit a series of forehand errors, and was broken at love. In her next service game, Li saved a match point, then saved another one with an ace up the T. But Lisicki got a third break point, which converted, winning the set 8-6, and advancing to the third round.

The French Open champion, considered a potential Wimbledon champion by many, is now out. Wild card Lisicki's next opponent will be Misaki Doi, and if she gets past Doi, she'll play either Cetkovska or Ana Ivanovic. Stosur, Jankovic  and Radwanska are out, but Li's upset is the one that opens the draw somewhat.

In other Wimbledon news, Simona Halep took a set off of defending champion Serena Williams, but Williams emerged the winner. Also advancing were Francesca Schiavone, Yanina Wickmayer, Dominika Cibulkova, and Julia Goerges, among others. Klara Zakopalova beat 31st seed Lucie Safarova 6-0, 6-7, 6-4. From time to time, Zakopalova can really impress with her game, and she went on a good streak today, breaking Safarova seven times.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

Oh, Bethanie.....
Chris Evert, upon seeing Bethanie Mattek-Sands' warmup jacket

I don't think I am suitable for that costume.
Misaki Doi

She doesn't play anywhere near her age.
Venus Williams, referring to Kimiko Date Krumm

This is the shot that may one day separate her from the WTA pack.
Steve Tignor, referring to Petra Kvitova's serve

Oh, Barry--I can't stand this.
Virginia Wade, as Laura Robson goes from 40-0 to facing a break point

Pironkova advances to Wimbledon 3rd round

The casual tennis fan does not know who Tsvetana Pironkova is. Pironkova is a Bulgarian player with a game that's fun to watch, but unfortunately, she doesn't have the mentality to match. She rose to prominence last year when she made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon, and she even took a set off of Vera Zvonareva in the semifinal match; Zvonareva defeated her 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The only other time the two had played each other, in Moscow in 2009, Pironkova beat Zvonareva 6-0, 6-2.

Pironkova upset Venus Williams at Wimbledon last year; she also upset Williams at the 2006 Australian Open. She has defeated the likes of Patty Schnyder, Ana Ivanovic and Elena Dementieva. Ranked number 33 in the world, the Bulgarian has never won a tour title. In fact, she rarely makes it past the second round of a tournament, and has never gotten beyond the second round of any major but Wimbledon (her ranking is as high as it is because of her Wimbledon performance last year). But here she is--a kind of self-made upset specialist--surviving into the third round, in which she will once again play Zvonareva.

Pironkova likes to use the forehand slice. Since she's been at Wimbledon, she has served really well and has made few unforced errors. She defeated Camilia Giorgi and Petra Martic in the first and second rounds, winning both matches in straight sets. Pironkova is a bit of a mystery, which--every once in a while, like at Wimbledon--makes her somewhat dangerous.

Zvonareva, seeded number 2 at Wimbledon, is not the same player she was last year when she made it to the finals in both London and New York. She looked a bit shaky against Alison Riske, though she did a good job of stopping Elena Vesnina from taking a set off of her today. If Zvonareva defeats Pironkova, she will face either Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez or Venus Williams in the round of 16. It's possible, of course, that the 2nd seed will improve with every match

Wimbledon 2011--the drama begins

Today was the the third day of Wimbledon, and it was the day the real drama began. Play was delayed because of more rain, but on Centre Court, where there is a roof, 23rd seed Venus Williams and Kimiko Date Krumm provided three hours of first-class tennis entertainment. Date Krumm's level had slipped somewhat this season, but recently, she picked it up again, and she was more than ready to play the five-time Wimbledon champion.

The 40-year-old Japanese star raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set, attacking the net, hitting winners all over the place, and generally taking a spirited control of just about all the proceedings. Date Krumm served for the set at 5-2, was broken, had a set point when Williams served at 3-5, and didn't convert it. It went to 5-all, and then to a tiebreak. The tiebreak turned out to be a microcosm of the first set, with Date Krumm going up 6-2, and then having to deal  with Williams' determination to fight back. However, on her eighth set point, Date Krumm won the set, finishing the tiebreak 8-6.

Serving at 1-2 in the second set, Date Krumm had to save six break points. The long game looked like it might be a turning point--and then it didn't. But Williams seemed more comfortable in the second set, perhaps knowing, at that point, that no matter what she did, Date Krumm was going to drag her around the court. And Williams had something going for her that Date Krumm didn't--her serve. The Japanese player has never had more than a moderately successful serve, and is content just to get the ball in play. It works for her a lot of the time, too, because she is so aggressive. However, Williams took the second set 6-3.

In other matches, one couldn't be blamed for thinking Williams was likely to run away with the third set. But this was no "other" match, and Date Krumm just kept on attacking. The tension mounted, as both women kept up the high level of play that had defined the first two sets. Williams continued to serve well, and Date Krumm continued to slice and volley her way to 6-all. I was exhausted, just watching it.

Serving at 6-7, though, something--I'm still not sure what--happened to Date Krumm. She made three consecutive unforced errors, failed to challenge what might have been a long forehand from Williams, and was easily broken. Williams' 6-7, 6-3, 8-6 victory finally put an end to a match that enthralled spectators. Did the three-hour fight make Williams even tougher, or did it mentally and physically exhaust a player who has not been on the court for several months? In the third round, Williams will play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who has a very good serve (when it's "on"), and who likes to move opponents around and throw them off of their rhythm.

There was more drama. Heather Watson played beautifully against Mathilde Johansson--until she hurt her elbow. The injury looked pretty bad, and after Johansson won the second set, it looked as though Watson might have to retire. She was bandaged very heavily, and continued to play, but--for much of the third set--her forearm was disabled. Still, Johansson continued to hit to Watson's estimable backhand, until supporters in her box "encouraged" her to go for the bad arm. And so she did, and Watson didn't have much to offer from that arm, which also made it hard for her to serve.

Watson undoubtedly knew, however, that her opponent is not always strong enough mentally. She played on, developed a workaround "feel" for her injured arm, and began to hit reasonable forehand shots again, but she was at an obvious disadvantage. Serving at 3-4, she held at love, and fans had reason to expect the impossible. Watson went on to save three match points at 4-5, but Johansson prevailed, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

That was a lot of drama, for day 3.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

Do you think because of what you've been through over the last couple of years with injuries and form, things like that, do you think if you might have lost today, that could have possibly been your last time here?
...you know, it didn't really cross my mind about losing today's match. It was quite clear the standard of tennis wasn't super high, but I think that's because of what's on the line, the expectations. It was never going to be a pretty match.
Anne Keothavong

You had a strap on your back.
I'm pretty much taped up everywhere.
Serena Williams

You don't use the LTA money. Can you explain that?

We haven't done for a long time. I don't really want to get into it. It's very political. I'm just concentrating on my tennis, leave the politics to other people. I'm just working as hard as I can and let my tennis speak for itself.
Naomi Broady

...no, I don't change my tennis for to play Wozniacki. I try to be aggressive every time when I play on clay court or with more intelligence, tactic, because you don't play the same on clay court than on grass.
Virginie Razzano

After what you faced off the court, is there anything on the court that can faze you?
Well, I wouldn't necessarily want to face Nadal at the French Open.
Serena Williams

I really felt for her. It actually brought a tear to my eye. I thought, You've got to snap out of it because you've got a match.
Elena Baltacha, on Serena Williams

… If she wins the next two or three matches, I think she can win the tournament.
Aravane Rezai, after playing Serena Williams

I don't look ahead and think how amazing it would be to hold the trophy. Obviously I'm very fortunate to have had that feeling before and knowing how good that feeling is. That's what drives you deep down inside. But I also think on the other hand if you want something so bad that you can't sleep over it, where is that going to get you, as well?
Maria Sharapova

She seemed to run you back and forth a little bit.
Yeah, I know. I hate that, you know. I like it standing.
Li Na

Serena Williams wins 1st round Wimbledon match

Serena Williams, the defending champion at Wimbledon, was described today by many writers as "emotional" because she cried after she won her first round. The fact is that Williams is just about always emotional, but we don't generally see tears from her, and "emotional" seems to be the current definition for "crying" (Marat Safin, who holds the record for wildly emotional racquet-breaking angry tirades, once described WTA players as "too emotional"). But, perceptions aside, Williams had every reason to be overwhelmed when she defeated Aravane Rezai 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Not that many months ago, she wondered if she would play tennis again.

Williams had to endure a cut tendon in her foot when a drunken football fan threw a bottle in a restaurant. Then she had to endure two surgeries for the injury, a hematoma in her leg, and a pulmonary embolism. "I just wanted to win at least one match here," she said. Williams, who is seeded 7th, hit 13 aces, just like old times, and had first and second serve percentages of 71 and 58.

It was an entertaining match, to be sure. Rezai hit an overhead so hard that Williams fell down trying to get to it. She fell down again when she hit a winning lob over Rezai's head.

As great as it was for Williams to fight hard and win her first round match, it was also refreshing to see Rezai play so well. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Frenchwoman, who--like the hummingbird who shouldn't be able to fly--can buzz down a hawk when she's on. Rezai took some time off (no need to go into that here, but it's well known that disturbed fathers haunt the WTA), and has had a difficult time attempting to return to her former status. However, despite today's loss to one of the best grass players around, Rezai really did look a lot more like herself. Like Williams, the Frenchwoman brings excitement to tennis, and I saw this match as representing her potential return, too.

More misery for Stosur

For the second year in a row, Sam Stosur is out of Wimbledon in the first round. Melinda Czink, who--in the past--has struggled with nerves, was as cool as the ice in a Pimm's today as she expertly unraveled the 10th seed's game. Czink, who recently returned from a long injury layoff, got tight a few times, but in each case, she immediately put herself back together, and quite simply, appeared to be everywhere on the court at the right time. Serving with the impressive first and second percentages of 71 and 68, Czink--who was once ranked as high as number 38 in the world--needed only and hour and seven minutes to dispatch Stosur.

The Australian wasn't the only high seed to make an exit. Jelena Jankovic, seeded 15th (that looks strange enough) has been sliced and served Spanish-style before by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and today, it happened again. Jankovic played well in the first set, which she won, but Martinez Sanchez--who has had her ups and downs since returning from a knee injury layoff--put on a grass court show and defeated Jankovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. The Spaniard plays Monica Niculescu in the second round, and that should be an entertaining affair.

Magdalena Rybarikova, whose match against 4th seed Victoria Azarenka was stopped in mid-set because of rain yesterday, went back on the court today, stretched to get a ball, and hurt her knee so badly, she had to retire. Apparently, you don't have to be Azarenka--just being on a court near Azarenka is dangerous.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki advanced in straight sets, as did 3rd seed Li Na, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli, and 2011 semifinalists Tvetsana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova. Daniela Hantuchova, who retired in the Eastbourne semifinals with an abdominal strain, needed three sets to defeat Vitalia Diatchenko.

Iveta Benesova was behind throughout most of her match against countrywoman Sandra Zahlavova, but she won it, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6. And in the other all-Czech match--the battle of the Lucies--29th seed Lucie Safarova overcame Lucie Hradecka 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sybille Bammer retires

Sybille Bammer retired from professional tennis today. Bammer was defeated 6-1, 6-1 by Monica Niculescu in her first round at Wimbledon, and then quietly left the sport.

The 31-year-old left-hander from Austria reached a career high ranking of number 21 in the world in 2007. She reached the round of 16 of both the French Open and the U.S. Open, and in 2008, she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Bammer was the champion in Pattaya City in 2007 and in Prague in 2009. It should also be noted that she retires with a career 2-0 record against Serena Williams.

Wimbledon--what they said

...I avoided calling my mom because she said, You're not trying to come back too soon, are you? Bullying me about it.
Venus Williams

Is there any effect underfoot with the roof on?
...But I think is a little bit, a little bit faster. But I'm speaking about not big difference I think.
Francesca Schiavone

I got to learn a lot from that, what to do when I get in that situation again, you know, whether I got tight or whether it was nerves or whatever it was.
Jelena Dokic

Don't forget McHale's name, she hits a very big ball.
Alexandra Willis

I'm just one of those nerds. I like school.
Venus Williams

Wimbledon begins in a very Wimbledon kind of way

It rained. Then Francesca Schiavone and Jelena Dokic had to wait almost an hour for the roof to be put on and for all the accompanying preparations to be made. It was 1-all in the third set, and Schiavone got a break, but was broken back. She broke again, though, and advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory. And though I certainly didn't think that the comment that would make me cringe the most today would come out of the mouth of Chris Evert, it did. She wondered out loud whether the 6th seed would ever have thought of going to the net more if she didn't have a coach tell her to do it during the rain delay. And while it's true that Schiavone did get to chat with her Wimbledon coach and he gave her solid advice --she's 30 years old, she's been coachless for most of her career, and she won the French Open--it's hard for me to imagine she would have been totally clueless had there been no rain delay.

Dokic was not the only former Wimbledon semifinalist to go out in the first round. 17th seed Kaia Kanepi, a semifinalist just last year, was defeated 6-3, 6-3 by Sara Errani. She wasn't the first seed to go out, though--that would be 22nd seed Shahar Peer, who was also the first seed to make an exit at the French Open. Peer was defeated 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 by Ksenia Pervak.

Though it's a smaller upset on paper, the real upset of the day for me was Christina McHale's 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 win over 28th seed Ekatarina Makarova. Makarova is a good grass player, and--unlike Kanepi and Peer--is not having a bad season. What made the third set especially interesting was the memory of McHale's massive choke in the first round of the French Open. She held herself together this time (which actually seems more in character for her) and advanced to the second round.

2nd seed Vera Zvonareva got a bit of a fight from Alison Riske, but prevailed, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3; Riske did become mentally paralyzed in the third round. 12th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova had even more of a fight from Zhang Shuai, but emerged the winner with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 score.

Five-time champion Venus Williams had an easy straight-set win over Akgul Amanmuradova, Kimiko Date-Krumm defeated Katie O'Brien, Yanina Wickmayer defeated an injured Varvara Lepchenko, and the talented Anna Tatishvili defeated Anastasia Pivovarova. Also advancing to the second round were Elena Vesnina (def. Laura Pous-Tio), Pauline Parmentier (def. Sorana Cirstea), Aleksandra Dulgheru (def. Jill Craybas, and  Monica Niculescu, who defeated Sybille Bammer. Bammer retired from professional tennis after the match.

Victoria Azarenka and Magdalena Rybarikova played a set and a half, with Azarenka leading, when the rain came. That match will be continued tomorrow. Also playing tomorrow will be defending champion Serena Williams (vs. Aravane Rezai), world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki (vs. Arantxa Parra Santonja) and French Open champion Li Na (vs. Alla Kudryavtseva).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wimbledon: 1st round matches of interest

Here are some first round Wimbledon matches of particular interest:

Kirsten Flipkens vs. Peng Shuai (20)--Peng is having a great season, but is also showing some wear and tear. Flipkens should feel at home on grass, and could make it tough for the 20th seed.

Lucie Safarova (31) vs. Lucie Hradecka--In the battle of the Czech Lucies, Safarova will have to watch out for Hradecka's huge serve.

Simona Halep vs. Bojana Jovanovski--Two talented young players could give spectators a good match.

Francesca Schiavone (6) vs. Jelena Dokic--Dokic is 3-0 against Schiavone, but two of those matches occurred in 2000 and 2001.

Sara Errani vs. Kaia Kanepi:--Kanepi was a semifinalist last year, but her results haven't been good since then, and Errani is happy to stay on the court for hours.

Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Victoria Azarenka (4)--On paper, this should be a straight-set win for Azarenka, but Rybarikova isn't exactly a desired first-round opponent, and she could make things interesting.

Naomi Broady vs. Anne Keothavong--The luck of the Brits, that two of them have to play each other in the first round.

Jelena Jankovic (15) vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez--The entertainment value could be high as two (really good) styles clash.

Passing shots

Laura Robson has parted ways with Patrick Mouratoglou, who has coached her for the last six months. Robson will look for a new coach at the conclusion of the Wimbledon tournament.

Don't look for these players at Wimbledon; they have all withdrawn: Gisela Dulko, Timea Bacsinszky, Dinara Safina, Alisa Kleybanova, Kim Clijsters, Agnes Szavay, Greta Arn.

Li Na has been appointed a global brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz.

You can get to know Naomi Broady, Arantxa Rus and Irina Falconi.

In the current issue of Tennis, there is a story on Serena Williams by Douglas Robson. In it, Robson reports that Williams had a heatoma in her leg after her 2003 surgery, and she had to use blood thinners.

Hoop!


Wimbledon qualifiers

The following players have qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon:

Kristyna Pliskova
Aleksandra Wozniak
Mona Barthel
Misaki Doi
Chang Kai-Chen
Vitalia Diatchenko
Alexa Glatch
Lesia Tsurenko

Glatch won her third round qualifying match by defeating Galina Voskoboeva 3-6, 7-6, 12-10. Her reward is a first round contest with 8th seed Petra Kvitova.

Picks for Wimbledon championship

Peter Bodo--Maria Sharapova
Richard Pagliario--Serena Williams
Jon Wertheim--Serena Williams
Patrick McEnroe--Li Na
Bruce Jenkins--Serena Williams
Kamakshi Tandon--Maria Sharapova
Pam Shriver--Maria Sharapova
Darren Cahill--Maria Sharapova
Matt Cronin--Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova (doesn't make final pick)
Richard Pagliario--Serena Williams
Matt Wilansky--Caroline Wozniacki
Cliff Drysdale--Maria Sharapova
Brad Gilbert--Petra Kvitova
Ravi Ubha--Petra Kvitova
Greg Garber--Maria Sharapova
Ed McGrogan--Serena Williams
Anne Keothavong--Li Na
S.L. Price--Maria Sharapova
Steve Tignor--Maria Sharapova
Mary Joe Fernandez--Maria Sharapova
Todd Spiker--Venus Williams

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bartoli wins Eastbourne

Marion Bartoli hadn't won a title since Stanford in 2009, though she reached the finals in both Strasbourg and Indian Wells this year. The 2007 Wimbledon runner-up had also never won a grass court title. But today changed all that. Bartoli defeated Petra Kvitova 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 to win the AEGON International in Eastbourne.

It wasn't an easy tournament for Bartoli. She had to save a match point in the first round, and by the time the final occurred, the windy conditions were at their worst. The semifinals and the final had to be played on the same day. Bartoli also had to get medical attention during the match. Her fortunes did not look good, but the 6th seed hung in, despite everything that was going against her, and won. And if we thought that Vera Zvonareva was the Rhiannon of the WTA, it's now clear that Bartoli is the co-goddess of windy conditions.

Billie Jean king famously said that pressure is a privilege. Petra Kvitova might say that pressure is a requirement. The talented 5th seed can just about always be counted on, in big matches, to drop the first set. And, unlike Thrill Ride--who genuinely seemed to have mental ups and downs in her exciting come-from-behind matches--Kvitova appears to be adrenal-shy at the beginning of a big match. She won only one game in today's first set, and appeared to be battling the wind more than she was battling her opponent. But, as expected, she started to put more spin on the ball in the second set, and she attacked Bartoli's serve with more confidence.

Kvitova took the second set 6-4, coming back to break after Bartoli had gone up 3-1. At 1-all in the third set, Bartoli winced when she stepped out, and she had to get some treatment for her leg. She came back, though (not always expected with the often-fragile Frenchwoman), and continued to control the ball in the wind as Kvitova used up a repertoire that consisted of everything from double-faulting twice in a row to hitting winners from all parts of the court. She hit a total of 40 winners, in fact, but old habits die hard, and the Czech player just wasn't consistent enough when it mattered.

She did break when Bartoli served for the match at 5-4, but Bartoli broke her right back, and confidently served for the match a second time, winning the set 7-5.

"I was confused all week here," Kvitova remarked after the match, "because you have to fight against the wind and the other player."

Earlier in the day, the Bartoli had easily defeated 7th seed Sam Stosur 6-3, 6-1 in a rain-postponed semifinal match. In the other semifinal, Kvitova won the first set 7-6, and was up 4-2 in the second when opponent Daniela Hantuchova retired with an abdominal strain. Hantuchova has been playing extremely well, so here's hoping she is completely healed for Wimbledon play next week.

Top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik won the Eastbourne doubles title. They defeated 2nd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 6-3, 6-0. This is the third tournament the team has won this year; they now have five titles together.

Vinci wins her first title on grass

Roberta Vinci won her fifth WTA title today, and her first one on grass. The 28-year-old Italian, known for her expertise in doubles and on clay courts, defeated Jelena Dokic 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the Unicef Open in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The match was a highly competitive one; Dokic needed fifth set points to win the first set tiebreak at 9-7. Vinci served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but was broken. She broke back, and--serving at 40-0--saw three match points go away. Vinci was successful on her fourth match point, however.

Vinci is now 5-1 in WTA finals. She is scheduled to play her first Wimbledon round on Monday, against Vera Dushevina, so there will be no rest for her. Dokic's first-round opponent will be 6th seed Francesca Schiavone.

4th seeds Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Klara Zakopalova won the doubles title, defeating Dominika Cibulkova and Flavia Pennetta 1-6, 6-4, 10-7. This is Zahlavova Strycova's 14th WTA doubles title.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Time for tea

I met a friend for lunch at our local English Tea Room (the most authentically Brit tea room I've ever known outside of those in England) today. Some cheeky waiter popped a cardboard cutout of the Queen (Elizabeth, not Venus) in front of our table, and we had a good laugh as we checked out the lovely little sandwiches, the impressive menu of teas, and the newly manufactured cups commemorating the recent royal marriage. A very appropriate thing to do right before Wimbledon starts, you might be thinking, but it wasn't my idea (though it was a very good idea) to go there.

The truth is, I'm always a bit grumpy just before Wimbledon. For one thing, by mid-June, it's almost unbearably hot and humid where I live. But I also have to deal with feelings of letdown because my favorite major, the French Open, is over. Then I have to listen to "sports" announcers mispronounce the word "Wimbledon" and parrot cliches about tennis whites and strawberries that are as worn as the baseline grass on Centre Court in week two.

And then there's the constant description of Wimbledon as "the greatest of all" tennis tournaments, a claim based on nothing other than tradition, some of which has been undesirable. I don't think there is a "greatest" tournament any more than I think there is a "greatest" player. Wimbledon is as flawed as any other event: The grass does not play fast like it's supposed to (not to go into this subject now, but elements that include global climate change and a change in the type of grass seeds sown are said to be responsible for the relative slowness of the courts), and--though Wimbledon is the event most likely to be interrupted by rain--it's also the one that does not feature any tennis on the middle Sunday. And then there are the British journalists, who hold women in greater contempt than probably any other journalists in major tennis venues.

But this isn't to say that I don't enjoy Wimbledon; I do. I just don't enjoy a lot of the carrying on about Wimbledon. Actually, the tournament does hold a special meaning for me because--even though it was on a television set in my uncle's house in London--Wimbledon was where I first saw professional tennis played, and I became a fan at that moment. I was so excited about the tournament, and couldn't understand why my relatives didn't have any interest in securing tickets. They watched it now and then on TV the same way they watched the news and the comedies, but I had trouble taking my eyes off of it. The sight of Evonne Goolagong virtually staging a ballet on the court is an image that has remained with me for years and years.

I also tend to enjoy the outfits worn by the linespeople, even though they don't look very comfortable or practical. The white clothes worn by the players provide a nice touch, too, and one that isn't impractical. Of course, with Ted Tinling gone, pushing the white envelope has almost become a lost art. (Oh, to see Rosebud shock the crowds again.)

Even more, I miss seeing great serve-and-volley players like Martina Navratilova, Hana Mandlikova (one of my all-time favorites) and Jana Novotna. Amelie Mauresmo may have been the last of the breed.

Perhaps most of all, I miss the Duchess of Kent.

But there is also much to anticipate at this year's Wimbledon. For one thing, defending champion and four-time Wimbledon winner Serena Williams has returned, after having to spend almost a year off because of injury and serious illness. Williams, you will recall, won in 2010 without dropping a set, and hit 89 aces during the tournament. Her performance in the final was brilliant.

Venus Williams, the Queen of Grass, is back on the tour, too, after undergoing a four-month injury layoff. She has won Wimbledon five times. 2004 champion Maria Sharapova has shown improved form recently, and is widely considered to be a serious contender again. 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva will be there, too, as will French Open champion Li Na, whose grass game could take her far. Add to the mix world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur, 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, Daniela Hantuchova, and Sabine Lisicki.

Kim Clijsters won't be there, which is a shame, but there is nevertheless plenty of potential competition. If you listen to Wimbledon Radio, you'll get to hear Virginia Wade. Of course, the Queen won't be there this year, but perhaps officials can bring out a cardboard cutout. Worked for me.

Quote of the day

"...there's no Plan A or Plan B, it's all guns blazing. She's just going to take on everything she can--the serves and the returns, and, although not the greatest mover--she's almost better when on the run. The number of shots she manages to time and cream up the line when you think she's out of position is what makes it tough to play against her."
Anne Keothavong, on Petra Kvitova

Passing shots

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, as promised, wore a dress made partly of tennis balls to the WTA pre-Wimbledon party. The dress was designed by Alex Noble, who designs for Lady Gaga.

"...I didn't call her. I sent a text message saying, 'I'm good. Now in Paris, on my way back to Munich.' And she said, 'I heard you won a tournament.'" If you guessed this was a communication between Li Na and her mother, you are correct. 

Backspin Time Capsule, the 15th in a series featured on WTA Backspin, features the 1989 Wimbledon tournament.

Today is Venus Williams' 31st birthday.

Here is the story behind the gardens of Wimbledon.

Note to Bob P. of Tulsa: If WTA players are "grunting beasts" (and he appears to mean that in a bad way), exactly what are Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer? Not that many WTA players (Schiavone comes to mind) grunt--but some do "shriek," as Sonja of Apex, North Carolina points out. And some (Wozniacki and Wickmayer come to mind) do something that is neither grunting nor shrieking, though I suppose Wozniacki's "oompah" is more of a grunt than anything.

If it's raining, it must be grass season

There were no semifinals played today in Eastbourne because of the almost non-stop rain. The plan is for both semifinal matches to be played in the morning, followed by the final. 5th seed Petra Kvitova will play Daniela Hantuchova, and 7th seed Sam Stosur will play 6th seed Marion Bartoli.

Bobby Chintapalli points out that an "Azarenka retirement" pattern has emerged this season, which--should it continue--means that Bartoli will be the last woman standing on the wet grass in Eastbourne.

The 's-Hertogenbosch doubles final was also interrupted by rain. The teams of Cibulkova/Pennetta and Zahlavova Strycova/Zakopalova each won a set, but the super-tiebreak will have to be played tomorrow. Also, Jelena Dokic and Roberta Vinci will compete for the singles title. Romina Oprandi retired against Dokic in the semifinals because of a wrist injury, and Vinci defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-1. Vinci is seeded 7th; Dokic is unseeded.

Flavia Pennetta, by the way, will be playing doubles with friend and countrywoman Francesca Schiavone at Wimbledon. Gisela Dulko, sadly, has withdrawn from the event. She is recovering from a thigh injury she sustained during the French Open.

Friday cat blogging--lazy day edition


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rain interrupts play at Unicef Open

Rain interrupted play before Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dominika Cibulkova could finish their quarterfinal match at the Unicef Open today; Kuznetsova was leading, 3-0, in the third set. She is seeded 2nd; Cibulkova is seeded 5th.

3rd seed Yanina Wickmayer was upset by 7th seed Roberta Vinci. In the other two quarterfinal matches, qualifier Romina Oprandi defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm, and Jelena Dokic defeated Johanna Larsson.

4th seeds Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Klara Zakopalova advanced to the doubles final when they defeated wild cards Kirsten Flipkens and Coco Vandeweghe. Their opponents in the final will be Dominika Cibulkova and Flavia Pennetta.

Ditty retires and takes job in Kentucky

Just a week ago, the Bellefonte Country Club in Ashland, Kentucky had a new director of tennis supervising matters on the courts. That would be Julie Ditty, who has retired from the tour, played professional tennis for almost ten years. In 2008, Ditty broke the USTA Pro Circuit championship record for total titles won. At that time, she had won 32 singles and doubles titles--more than any other woman or man on the Pro Circuit.

Upon her retirement, Ditty had won 39 titles--30 of them in doubles--and still holds the record for total combined titles won. The 32-year-old Ditty, a left-hander, broke records when she played at Vanderbilt. She achieved her highest ranking in singles, 93, in 2007; in 2009, she was ranked number 66 in doubles.

Hantuchova advances to Eastbourne semifinals

A day after upsetting 2nd seed Li Na in Eastbourne, Daniela Hantuchova defeated Venus Williams 6-2, 5-7, 6-2  in the quarterfinals. Prior to today, Williams held a 10-0 record against Hantuchova. The Eastbourne tournament is Williams' first in four months.

Hantuchova's opponent in the semifinals will be 5th seed Petra Kvitova, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6, 6-2, 7-6. As I mentioned earlier this week, Kvitova has become a kind of substitute for Thrill Ride lately; she was down a break in the third set.

Top seed Vera Zvonareva was beaten today by 7th seed Sam Stosur. Stosur was down a set and break when she turned the match around and won it, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4. The match lasted over two hours and 48 minutes, and featured a half dozen breaks of serve.

Stosur's opponent in the semifinals will be 6th seed Marion Bartoli, who won her quarterfinal match when 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka retired--again--with a thigh strain. Bartoli took the first set 6-2, and was up 2-0 when Azarenka stopped playing.

In doubles, the first and second seeds--Peschke/Srebotnik and Huber/Raymond--are still in the competition, as are the unseeded teams of Mattek-Sands/Shaughnessy and Martinez Sanchez/Medina Garrigues.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Zvonareva beats Williams in Eastbourne

It took her three hours and twelve minutes, but Vera Zvonareva, the top seed in Eastbourne, defeated Serena Williams today in the second round of the AEGON International in Eastbourne. Part of the reason it took so long was that, right before what should have been match point in the third set, a half-volley Zvonareva hit right onto the line was called out. Zvonareva didn't hear the call, and was about to serve for the match when she heard the umpire say "Advantage, Miss Williams." Zvonareva protested, but the umpire let the call stand.

But that wasn't the only twist in the match. Williams, who won the first set 6-3, served for the match at 5-4 in the second. At 30-40, she double-faulted, and the set went to a tiebreak, which Zvonareva won. In the third set, after Zvonareva thought she had that match point, she was broken, but she went on to break Williams, and she won, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, on her fourth match point.

Two seeds were upset today. Daniela Hantuchova defeated 2nd seed Li Na 7-6, 6-3, and Agnieszka Radwanska defeated 4th seed Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-2. 5th seed Petra Kvitova cut it close, defeating Ekaterina Makarova 7-6(8), 7-6 (4).

Meanwhile, at the Unicef Open, Yanina Wickmayer inadvertently hit herself in the face when a ball she was returning bounced off her racquet and landed near her left eye. Wickmayer, who is continuing to heal after a wall fell on her last year, is dangerous at any speed. She did go on to defeat her opponent, Arantxa Parra Santonja, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5.

4th seed Flavia Pennetta is out; she was upset in straight sets by Jelena Dokic. Sara Errani served for the match at 5-4 in the second set against Svetlana Kuznetsova, but ultimately lost.