Thursday, July 3, 2014

From tiebreak to heartbreak--Safarova and Halep say goodbye

When Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova had finished their Wimbledon semifinal match today, I couldn't help but think of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova because--looking at them--it was hard to tell which one of them had lost. Safarova still had a big smile on her face after the handshake. The two Czech lefty stars are friends, and for one set, they were also true tennis combatants.

The straight-set match ended with a 7-6, 6-1 victory for 2011 champion Kvitova. The semifinal that followed that match was a 7-6, 6-2 victory for Genie Bouchard, but don't be fooled by the math. Safarova went out fighting; Simona Halep went out as a disappointing shadow of herself.

Safarova and Kvitova gave us a very competitive, very enjoyable first set. The second set was enjoyable, too, but in that set, Kvitova pulled the switch that can take her to another level, and that other level was too much for her countrywoman to handle. Nevertheless, this was a great (and unexpected) run for Safarova, and seemed long overdue.

The other story isn't as pleasant. Anyone who reads this blog knows I wanted Halep to win, but I think maybe even neutral observers might have found the occasion a bit uncomfortable. At 2-all in the first set, Halep turned her ankle and had to have it taped. One of the commentators asked--given Halep's history of foot problems--why she didn't walk onto the court with her ankles taped, and I was asking the same thing. It seemed imprudent that she wouldn't protect her ankles in the semifinal of a major event.

It was a good set, however, and it wound up in a tiebreak. Halep led 4-2, but Bouchard wiped out the mini-break and won the tiebreak 7-5, but only after some intervening drama. A fan became ill, and there was a four-and-half-minute break, during which the fan was taken out of the stadium.

Having had to endure both her opponent's medical timeout and the fan's medical timeout, Bouchard seemed undaunted. But really, she didn't have to worry very much because Simona Halep never really showed up again. In the second set, Halep dropped her aggression, dropped her serve, and generally looked as though she wasn't even there. She said later that the ankle injury impaired her serve and she wasn't able to push off again, even after getting her ankle taped.

I don't mean to denigrate Bouchard in any way; she played superbly throughout the match. But Halep stopped fighting. Until the very end, that is, when she saved five match points. But it was too late for the Romanian to do the kind of damage she's capable of doing, and Bouchard advanced to her first major final.

The good news for me is that I don't have to go through the pain of watching Kvitova and Halep play one another for the Wimbledon title; watching two of your favorites play each other on a big stage can be difficult.

In doubles, 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci--seeking a Career Slam--advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 victory over 6th seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic also made it to the semifinals with a three-set victory over Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova. Lucie Safarova, meanwhile, suffered a second loss (with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova), this time to Andrea Hlavackova and Zheng Jie.

Defending champions Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor defeated Martina Hingis and Bruno Soares in the mixed doubles quarterfinals. 


sunny nine said...

Basically I like all 4 women so I feel that I couldn't lose in the long run. I do have a leaning towards Halep. I have seen many, many of her matches last yr and this yr. What I saw today was just not her. The quote you gave Diane and the ones I posted give some explanation. I don't think she moved the same even in the competitive 1st set as she usually runs like a jackrabbit. So for me it wasn't so much that she lost but the way she lost.

Bouchard--I think she raised her level in the 2nd set along w Halep falling down in hers. Bouchard didn't let anything get to her like the medical timeout or fan illness or Halep's injury. and stayed confident and upped her execution bringing down the UFEs in the 2nd set. Actually both did their best under their own different circumstances. I enjoy both women and therefore can deal with the less than engaging match. Your quote from Bouchard on your other post Diane, is what makes me also like Bouchard. I hope she does remain herself as ESPN was "selling" her of course more than Halep before the match calling her a superstar.
I was proud and happy for Safarova's run and the way she played in the new situation she found herself in.
I was happy and proud of Kvitova for not going off the rails but raising her game when she needed to.

sunny nine said...

Another quick note? Too much? ha-ha.
Do you think that what has happened in the last year, Halep's meteoric rise, is taking its toll on Halep. I think so because I read that her coach said she was really tired at Den Bosch. Sometimes sleeping 14 hrs a night. Too bad she couldn't get a Championship at Paris or Wimbledon before everything set in. But there is always the US Open.

Diane said...

Simona is an elite player, but someone needs to tell her body. Big movers like that can get worn out pretty fast. Even Henin, tough as she was, could get tired from the excessive movement.

You can't assume (though you want to) that a player's health is being looked after properly. I hope someone assesses Halep's training regimen, her practice schedule, her diet, and everything else. She's too good to have all thee fatigue and injury problems.