Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Wimbledon top 10

Photo by Petr Kratochvil
My top 10 Wimbledon occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Not this year: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the world's top doubles team, needed to win Wimbledon in order to achieve a Career Slam. They didn't. Errani and Vinci were upset in the third round by 16th seeds Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

9. Here we go again: There were several injuries, major and minor, that occurred at Wimbledon this year, but wouldn't you know it?--one of them was the early slip-and-fall of Victoria Azarenka, who has a history of falling down in various ways at big events. Azarenka slipped on the grass (more on that later) in the first round and hurt her knee. She then had to give her second round opponent, Flavia Pennetta, a walkover.

8. Worth watching a second time: Marion Bartoli's post-final interview with Tennis Channel was so candid and touching--just when you thought her performance couldn't get better.

7. Get your French on!: Kristina Mladenovic, along with Daniel Nestor, won the mixed doubles championship, and she did it with real style. The up-and-coming doubles star and Marion Bartoli are Fed Cup team members and friends, and were there to support each other.

6. Hit me with your best shot: The talk about Michelle Larcher De Brito stopped some time ago, after the alleged phenom failed to make much of a mark on the tour. But up she popped again last week, when she played Maria Sharapova in the second round. De Brito--doing everything Sharapova does--only better, took the 2004 champion out in straight sets. It was a stunning performance, but De Brito would go out to Karin Knapp in the next round.

5. I'll be there for you: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai have been friends since they were in early adolescence. All grown up, they decided to play doubles together, and after winning five titles, they added another this week: Hsieh and Peng are the new Wimbledon doubles champions.

4. The day the turf stood still: They called it Black Wednesday. On just the third day of the tournament, seven players withdrew or retired because of injury--two of them were WTA players Victoria Azarenka and Yaroslava Shvedova. More interesting, on the women's side, was that on that same day, five former world number 1 players made an exit. One, of course, was Azarenka, but Black Wednesday was also the end for Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, and Caroline Wozniacki. Players continually slipped on the grass; some slipped several times. However, Wimbledon officials said there was nothing different about the grass this year.

3. It's unanimous--and it's incorrect: Sports journalists and commentators--at least the ones we know about--unanimously picked defending champion Serena Williams to win the tournament. Coming off of her triumph at the French Open, Williams looked unstoppable. But no one is unstoppable, and Sabine Lisicki had something to say about it. She upset Williams 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in the round of 16.

2. So close: 23rd seed Sabine Lisicki kind of went crazy on everybody at this Wimbledon. She took out 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. She took out Sam Stosur. She took out defending champion Serena Williams, and then she took out 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska. But then the 23-year-old German had to come to terms with an on-fire Marion Bartoli, and that was the end of her excellent and dramatic run.

1. I see England! I see France!: In 2007, Marion Bartoli had a Lisicki-like run, taking naps during rain delays and then doing away with the likes of Jelena Jankovic and Justine Henin. But when it came to the final, the Frenchwoman had to deal with fatigue, nerves, and--most of all--Venus Williams, one of the all-time great grass court competitors.

Bartoli is really good on grass, but the final kept eluding her after her magic year. But in 2013, the planets practically seemed to align in her favor: She finally got a consistently good serve, her forward movement improved significantly, she had 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo teaching her how to handle her intensity, she had a day off before the final, and she had both the carnage of Black Wednesday and the upset of Serena Williams on her side.

The only remaining obstacle? Sabine Lisicki. No problem. With experience behind her, and one of the best fighting spirits in women's tennis, the maverick Frenchwoman took care of matters in straight sets. And in doing so, she became what she had dreamed of becoming for 22 years--the Wimbledon Ladies Champion.


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