Sunday, July 3, 2016

USA and Russia dominate Wimbledon round of 16

If anyone really believed that Russian tennis stars had "gone away," that person should take a look at the draw for the Wimbledon round of 16. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Ekaterina Makarova, and the resurgent Elena Vesnina are all there, and the only real surprise is Pavlyuchenkova--because she's playing on grass, because she's had some really tough opponents in her draw....and because she's Pavlyuchenkova.

Today, the unpredictable former junior number 1 defeated 11th seed Timea Bacsinszky. For all her popularity with fans, Bacsinszky can be pretty streaky, too, though she managed to defeat the confounding Monica Niculescu in the second round.

I didn't get to see all of the matches because I cannot get up early enough to do so, but it's hard to imagine that any of them was as good as the one played between Sloane Stephens and Kuznetsova. For Stephens fans, it had to be maddening: The Charleston champion made quick work of the Russian in the first set tiebreak, winning it 7-1, but the second set was a different story. Kuznetsova won that 6-2, but then found herself down 2-5 in the third. It appeared to be over for her, but--this is Sveta we're talking about, a woman who can take either near-victory or near-loss and turn it around like a magic trick.

She broke Stephens when Stephens served for the match, and then she just kept going, eventually winning the set 8-6. Now Kuznetsova has to face top seed and defending champion Serena Williams, who easily defeated Annika Beck today. Williams will be the fresher one, no doubt, but long, drawn-out contests are Kuznetsova's bread and butter, so both players should be ready for battle.

Ekaterina Makarova keeps a very "low profile" throughout most of the year, but then makes these second-week appearances in majors. It's a mystery, but Makarova may be the ultimate "big stage" competitor. Today, she beat Barbora Strycova, who--though she's been on fire lately--just wasn't having a good day.

In addition to Serena Williams, USA players who remain in the draw include CoCo Vandeweghe, Madison Keys and Venus Williams.

In doubles, top seeds Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza advanced to the third round. 3rd seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan were upset by Jelena Jankovic and Aleksandra Krunic.  7th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova were upset by Daria Gavrilova and Daria Kasatkina.

Here is the round of 16 singles draw:

Serena Williams (1) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (13)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (21) vs. CoCo Vandeweghe (27)
Agnieszka Radwanska (3) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (19)
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Elena Vesnina
Simona Halep (5) vs. Madison Keys (9)
Misaki Doi vs. Angelique Kerber (4)
Venus Williams (8) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (12)
Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Lucie Safarova (28)

This list includes two former Wimbledon champions (Serena--six times, Venus--five times) and one former runner-up (Radwanska, 2012).

Simona Halep, whose career has been very shaky lately, next faces Madison Keys, whose career has climbed steadily upward in the past several months. It's hard to imagine Halep's getting past Keys at this point, though the Romanian is in better form in London than we've seen her in in a while.

There is much to expect in the round of 16 match between Radwanska and Eastbourne champion Cibulkova, who turned a comeback from surgery into a red hot grass run, surprising everyone (and maybe herself). The two have met twelve times, with Radwanska winning seven of those matches. Their recent Eastbourne quarterfinal marked the only time they have ever played one another on grass.

No comments: