Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kerber beats a countrywoman and a ghost

During the third set of today's Wimbledon quarterfinal match between Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki, ESPN commentators couldn't say enough about Kerber's bad attitude and how that attitude made it difficult for anyone to support her. Personally, I don't care what a player's attitude is, but in this case, I felt a bit defensive on Kerber's behalf: The third set in Eastbourne was flashing before her like a ugly spectral monster, reminding her of how easy it is to blow a big lead.

Kerber won the first set 6-3 in a fairly easy manner. Lisicki worked her way into form in the next set, however, despite being down 0-3. At 4-5 on Lisicki's serve, Kerber had two match points. Lisicki saved them, then saved a third match point in the eventual tiebreak. Then she won that tiebreak.

The third set was about as tense as it gets. It opened with an exchange of breaks, then there were two more breaks. Suddenly, after another break, Lisicki was serving for the match at 5-3. Kerber would say later that she sometimes hadn't known what to do in the final set. Athletes provide us with excitement and entertainment, but they also serve as teachers. Kerber didn't really know exactly what to do with Lisicki's serving, but she knew how to hang in--and maybe wait for a sign, or something that would get her out of trouble.
About to make an exit from Wimbledon, Kerber suddenly turned her sullen energy into something more heated, and she broke her opponent. Serving at 4-5 and down a point, Kerber then made her only successful line call challenge of the day. She threw her hands up and smiled--perhaps that bit of fortune was the sign: She served out the match in a love game.

It did appear that there was no love lost between the opponents--even Chris Evert caught it. At this stage of the tournament, it's customary for opponents to leave the court together instead of having the losing player leave first. But Lisicki was out of there faster than you could say "Blonde, braided German women torture each other at Wimbledon."

I said yesterday that I was so looking forward to the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko, and those two did not let me down. Kirilenko served up a storm and seemed to have the seceret for putting a rip in Radwanska's carefully designed trick bag. This came as no surprise to me. My only nagging question is the one I've had for years: Why can't Kirilenko get a higher ranking? But--as it happens at Wimbledon--after each player had taken a set and it was 4-all in the third, the rain came. There was talk of having them come back tomorrow to finish the match, but instead, they were put on the court after the German players had finished.

Kirilenko had so much momentum before the rain (that is, the long rain) came, I thought she would upset Radwanska. But after the rain break, that momentum was gone, and Radwanska emerged the winner--7-5, 4-6, 7-5. It was a great match, and both players lived up to my expectations. Radwanska is now in her first-ever major semifinal.

Victoria Azarenka, all cool again in leggings and hoodie and earphones, ended the run of the also-cool Tamira Paszek. Azarenka's 6-3, 7-6 victory might make people take a second look. She has a huge task in front of her, in the semifinals, but it may be just the task she's seeking.

That semifinal will be played against four-time champion Serena Wiliams, who took out defending champion Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 7-5. Observers are saying that Kvitova played really well, and was just out-played by Williams, but I don't really buy that. She had her moments, yes, but I thought that Kvitova, once again, made a mess of things when she could have kept a steady head and done so much better. But this is not to take anything away from Williams, who--despite some close calls--is playing at this tournament like the great champion that she is.

So we're down to four: Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka. Only two of those women know what it feels like to win a major, and those two play each other in the semifinals. Of course, Williams knows a lot more about what it feels like than Azarenka does. It will be kind of fun to have at least one first-time Wimbledon finalist.


Bobby Skipsey said...

Kvitova's demeanor (facial expression and body language) are quite different than they were late last year and through the Hopman and Fed cups this year.
I have no idea as to why the fight in her waxes and wanes from game to game and sometimes point to point. Perhaps she needs a new coach, or to break up with her boyfriend. Often she's slow off the mark or barely responsive, sometimes immediately after a point or two where her quickness and great balance very awe inspiring. This is schizo tennis. C'mon Petra, wake up.

Diane said...

I'm thinking she probably needs a new coach, too, Bobby. In fact, I just said that to someone about ten minutes ago. Something needs to change.

Todd.Spiker said...

Maybe I missed it, but did the ESPNers EVER even mention the whole Eastbourne collapse during today's match. As you noted, it was sort of the third player out there, whispering into Kerber's ear... probably as soon as she didn't convert MP #1.

It's funny... the more unconventionally (well, if what so many WANT her to act like is "conventional," that is) Azarenka enters the court and dresses on it, the more confident she plays. I love that. :)

Diane said...

It's possible I missed it, but I don't recall anyone on ESPN mentioning Kerber's Eastbourne experience. They were just busy bashing her.

Vika is cool again, thank goodness.

Doug Messenger said...

Kerber is an odd one. A year ago, her behavior against Robson was as egregious as Schiavone's was yesterday against Kvitova. Recall that while the other 17 courts played on, Schiavone refused to play for over fifteen minutes, attempting to disrupt Kvitova's growing rhythm.

Jim Lumpkin said...

Indeed Petra made a mess. Whoever thought that she played well has not seen her in full flight, a frequent state for Kvitova last year.