Sunday, July 12, 2015

My Wimbledon top 10

My top 10 Wimbledon occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Half a dozen and counting: Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley, who--a couple of years ago--couldn't even speak to one another because of a language barrier--have nevertheless managed to win six major championships. The sixth one came on the last day of the tournament, when the top seeds defeated 2nd seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

9. Bittersweet CoCo: CoCo Vandeweghe has always appeared to have some threatening potential, and for the first time, we were able to see what it looks like unleased. Vandeweghe had a very tough draw. She beat Anna Schmiedlova, 11th seed Karolina Pliskova, 22nd seed Sam Stosur, and 6th seed (and 2014 semifinalist) Lucie Safarova. Her run ended when she faced Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, but what a run it was. After the match, she complained about Maria, and though (thankfully) the question was never asked, in my head, I heard Isn't she back in California?

8. Make that toast, hold the Halepeno: Only weeks after Simona Halep was upset in the second round of the French Open, she was upset in the first round of Wimbledon. Jana Cepelova, playing the kind of tennis she can deliver when she's healthy, lost her first set against 3rd seed Halep, but took the other two, creating the first huge upset of the tournament.

7. Leave it to JJ: Serving out of her mind and leaping on the opportunity to show Petra Kvitova's evil twin the door, Jelena Jankovic upset the defending champion in the third round. For a set and a half, Kvitova looked like the Wimbledon champion, but then "that thing" happened, and she still might have overcome her problem, only Jankovic was just too good.

6. So near, so far: Britain's number 1 player, Heather Watson, rocked the house during her third round match against top seed and eventual champion Serena Williams. Watson, who has improved a lot in every aspect of her game, played the match of her life against Williams. With the crowd in an absolute frenzy, the world number 59 served for the match and came within two points of winning it. But she learned, as have so many, that when you play Serena, objects in the mirror are not as close as they appear. Williams won, 6-2, 4-6 7-5.

5. Did I just see that?!: Not since Aga Radwanska made us gasp throughout her final set against Vika Azarenka in the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals has there been been a set played like the one played by Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza in the third round of Wimbledon. Only in this case, it was both players bringing the magic. The high degree of athleticism, tactical intelligence and shot-making in the opening set of the match was simply dazzling. Muguruza won the set in a tiebreak (14-12) and went on to win the match in three sets.

4. Timeless: Seventeen years after winning her last Wimbledon title, Martina Hingis showed up this year and won two titles. She and Leander Paes won the mixed doubles championship, and she and Sania Mirza won the women's doubles title. The women's final featured the top seeds against the 2nd seeds, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, and it was thrilling from the first shot. Hingis and Mirza were down 2-5 in the third set, but staged a dramatic comeback to win their first major as a team (and Mirza's first major women's doubles title). It was one of the best matches of the tournament.

3. The sparkle of glitter, the magic of Ninja: Little was said about the round of 16 match played between Jelena Jankovic and Aga Radwanska. All eyes were on the Williams sisters, and the upset of Safarova and the progress of Madison Keys preoccupied commentators. But Jankovic and Radwanska played one of the most beautiful matches I've seen in a long time. Their matches are always entertaining and well-played, but this one was special. Jankovic's movement looked like it used to, and her serve was again on fire. As for Radwanska, she brought the kind of athleticism and trickery for which she has become famous. Both players sometimes seem like they might be made of rubber, so it's always a joy to watch them try to out-maneuver each other. Radwanska won, 7-5, 6-4, and it was sad that something so lovely had to come to an end. The very best part? Aga and JJ are back!

2. "...I'm not afraid": The day before the final, Garbine Muguruza blew a breath of fresh air over the lawns by announcing that she had no fear of playing Serena Williams. It would turn out that she did develop some fear, then overcame it, but not enough to stop Williams. Nevertheless, this was a noteworthy run, if not a surprise. The young Spanish star-in-the-making had to do some hard work to get to the final. She took out (in addition to the sometimes-deadly Mirjana Lucic-Baroni) four seeds: Angelique Kerber (10), Caroline Wozniacki (5), Timea Bacsinszky (15), and Aga Radwanska (13). That is terribly impressive.

Muguruza lost in straight sets in the final, but she broke Williams both times she served for the match, giving the crowd some real excitement and showing that--when the pressure was on--she really wasn't afraid.

1. Serena Slam? Yes, ma'am!: She did it. The world number 1 has earned her second "Serena Slam." The world number 1 now holds all four major major championships, and with a win at the 2015 U.S. Open, she'll also have the Grand Slam, something she has yet to achieve.

Serena Williams' journey through the Wimbledon draw was not an easy one. She was taken to the edge by Watson, and had to play her sister, Venus, as well as her most challenging opponent, Victoria Azarenka. Then Williams had to contend with a stubborn Muguruza in the final. But she got the job done; getting the job done is her strongest characteristic. At age 33, Serena is the oldest woman to win a major in the Open Era. This is her sixth Wimbledon title and her 21st singles major, and she's playing better than ever.


Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, it is a little crazy how it's so easy for people to deem someone like Muguruza as "new" or a "surprise" when she's really not. I mean, if anyone bothered to pay attention they would have seen something coming before it did, then maybe we wouldn't have to hear her name mispronounced seven different ways, or people to judge her as somehow bad (as some did on ESPN last week) because she had the temerity to actually be confident going into a match with Serena. Sure, she lost, but she had every reason to believe she COULD win. Of course, if she'd been an ATP player who said the same thing, I think we know the take would have been different. (Well, maybe unless he was a young Australian or something.)

Naturally, again -- unless I missed it -- I don't think ESPN ever really got into the whole story of Vandeweghe's comments about Sharapova, or even mentioned that Hingis won two Wimbledon titles after 17 years. I mean, she was only arguably the second or third biggest story of the entire tournament... why bring THAT up? Just thought I'd gripe about ESPN a little here again, since I sort of gave up on bashing it on WTAB since it'd just take up too much time. :D

By the way, good news that Wimbledon will finally have a singles WC event starting in 2016, too. (Just think of all the titles that Vergeer missed out on because of not having one all those years!)

Diane said...

I rarely watched ESPN during Wimbledon for the reasons you described. I laughed last night when I read a certain columnist's criticism of British commentators because they actually talk so much less and they stick to the subject of tennis!

Todd.Spiker said...

Ha! Yeah, I read that, too. ;)