Here it is, Wimbledon's middle Sunday, when we can have our televisions on all day but all we can see (in the USA) of the tournament is ABC's one-hour highlights show. So it's time to do the laundry, go to the movies, take a break--or perhaps mentally prepare for what is to come next week.
World number 1 Maria Sharapova faces Sabine Lisicki in the round of 16. Lisicki is actually good on all surfaces, but she's injury prone, and seems to always be "making a comeback." When she's "on," she's dangerous because of her serve (which isn't always "big" the way it tends to be described; it can also be tricky). Sharapova has already had some problems serving at this tournament, but--for the most part--she's been good in that department.
Obviously, if one of them starts messing up her serve, the match could well be decided. Sharapova moves better than she used to, and seems to be more conscious of her need to move. Lisicki will have to serve up a storm to beat her.
Kim Clijsters, who makes more comebacks than Mariah Carey, is playing as a wild card in this Wimbledon. She beat Jelena Jankovic in the first round (that seemed inevitable), and she got maybe a bit lucky in the third when Vera Zvonareva retired. But now it's getting tougher because she has to play Angelique Kerber in the round of 16. Kerber went to pieces in the final in Eastbourne, and lost to Tamira Paszek (Paszek seems to have that effect on recent opponents), but she's playing well at the All England Club, and seems at home on the grass.
Clijsters has so many athletic advantages over most opponents, but Kerber has shown herself to be athletically impressive of late, and--when her serve is working--she has the left-handed advantage. What happened in the final in Eastbourne was unfortunate, but we would do well to remember that it is Clijsters who has a tendency to "go away" during big matches.
Camila Giorgi has been this Wimbledon's breath of fresh air, with her ahtletic grace and deceptively powerful ball-striking. But now she goes up against The Trickster--the angle-seeking, forward-moving, ever-preparing 3rd seed, Agnieszka Radwanska. With her greatly improved serve, Radwanska can take apart an opponent as though she were......as though she were......well, slicing a melon.
Will Giorgi realize the greatness of the occasion and lose her confidence? Or will she simply not know what to do against Radwanska?
Also playing in the round of 16 are Maria Kirilenko and Peng Shuai. These two haven't played each other in six years, and they've never played each other on grass. In fact, they've played each other only twice, and are 1-1 in wins. Peng is physically vulnerable, though the fast-moving game at Wimbledon can save her body some wear and tear. Like Marion Bartoli, she hits two-handed on both sides. Kirilenko has a rather elegant, all-court game, and she can hang in for a very long time (just ask Sam Stosur).
Serena Williams, who is very fleet, yet awkward, of foot these days, will play Yaroslava Shvedova in the next round. But unless Shvedova brings her golden serve and never lets up with it, she is likely to feel less confident when she's up against one of the tour's truly golden serves. Williams can be a regular ace machine at Wimbledon, and there just isn't anything an opponent can do about that. Her serve saved her from an onslaught by Zheng Jie in the third round, and in the past, that serve has been good for the whole tournament.
Now it gets interesting. The creative, expressive, superbly athletic Francesca Schiavone meets The Rock (who is now displaying a bit more of her Rockness). Expect entertainment. Expect defending champion Petra Kvitova to get a bit befuddled. Expect both opponents to appreciate each other. Kvitova is likely to advance to the next round, of course, but the journey could be fun for all.
How long can Tamira Paszek keep it up? Her long matches, close calls and comebacks have made me tired, and all I did was watch them. Paszek has been at it since Eastbourne, where she won the championship. She really does come alive when she's behind and in danger, but the stress on both her body and her mind could catch up with her at any time. In the round of 16, she'll play Roberta Vinci, who likes the net to the same degree that Paszek avoids it. Vinci is nimble, and she's going to make Paszek move in a direction she doesn't care for. Will this do the Austrian in, finally, or will she just keep on playing? She made it to the quarterfinals last year, but was defeated by Victoria Azarenka.
Australian Open champion Azarenka has been a bit under the radar so far at the All England Club. That's undoubtedly to her advantage, since she tends to get a bit cranky now and then, and everyone wants to talk about what it means. So far, Azarenka's draw hasn't been very difficult, but the round of 16 is hard to predict, difficulty-wise, since the world number 2 will face one of the most unpredictable players on the tour. Ana Ivanovic can scorch with that forehand, and she can just as quickly go into a period of errant ball-tossing nervous collapse. Azarenka should be able to advance efficiently, however.
This is a good time to point out that three of the players in the round of 16 are from Italy, which makes Italy the "most represented" country in the draw at this time. There are two Russians (plus one former Russian) and two Germans.
There are also three former Wimbledon champions in the round of 16. Williams has won the tournament four times, and Sharapova and Kvitova have each won it one time.
Finally, if you have those Middle Sunday Blues, here's your smile for the day: