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.