Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Even Li Na couldn't have foreseen this much crazy

"Welcome to the crazy women's tennis tour," Li Na once said. She must be shaking her head right now, as the tennis portion of the 2016 Olympic Games unleashes a giant tennis ball can of crazy on the world.

First, consider who isn't even in Rio to compete. No Halep. No Sharapova. No Azarenka. That's strange enough, but the way things have unfolded in the first three rounds is even stranger.

Both Venus Williams and Aga Radwanska went out in the first round, the former to Kirsten Flipkens, and the latter to Zheng Saisai. The Williams-Flipkens match lasted three and a quarter hours, and kind of stands in a class all its own. Williams was dealing some some type of virus, too. Radwwanska--who had to travel all over the world to even get to Rio--was probably exhausted, yet it was still a shock to see her go out (again) in the first round.

Venus and Serena Williams went out in the first round of doubles. The Czech team of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova defeated the 2012 Olympic champions. Safarova and Strycova, both formidable doubles competitors, had never before played together. Venus Williams, of course, was still dealing with the virus, and there had even been talk that she might have to withdraw.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, seeded 3rd at the Olympic Games, moved easily through the first two rounds, and then got wiped out in the third round by the ever-dangerous Monica Puig, who defeated her 6-1, 6-1. And yes, this is so "Mugu."

And then there was Serena Williams, who lost her third round match this evening to Elina Svitolina. Svitolina looked a bit like Angelique Kerber from time to time in this match; she kept the ball low and engaged in a sometimes-lethal transition game. Williams, on the other hand, double-faulted eight times, with five of the double faults clustered in one game toward the end of the match. The defending Olympic champion committed 37 unforced errors in two sets; she clearly was not herself.

All of this news is overwhelming, but there's more! P3tra Kvitova (aka Bad Petra) has made a few brief appearances on the court, but for the most part, Fed Cup Petra, aka Good Petra, has played her way to the quarterfinals. Kvitova defeated two strong opponents--Timea Babos and Caroline Wozniacki--to get to the third round. She got quite a fight, as expected, from Ekaterina Makarova, but came out victorious in three sets.

Of note: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova knocked Roberta Vinci out in the first round, and dragged Makarova to three sets in the second round. Schmiedy lives!!

Today, Santina announced that it is no more. The world number 1 doubles team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza has called it quits. This isn't a complete surprise; their results haven't been that good lately. Hingis will team with CoCo Vandeweghe at the U.S. Open, and Mirza will play with Barbora Strycova. I like the Mirza/Strycova pairing and am eager to see what they do.

Is that enough crazy for now? I'm sure there's more to come. Here's the good part--even without Serena Williams, the singles quarterfinal draw is nothing short of delicious:

Elina Svitolina (15) vs. Petra Kvitova (11)
Monica Puig vs. Laura Siegemund
Madison Keys (7) vs. Daria Kasatkina
Johanna Konta (16) vs. Angelique Kerber (2)

The Puig-Siegemund match will undoubtedly be the least heralded of the four, yet it has the potential to be outstanding. But really, all four of these matches have such great potential.


Anonymous said...

the final 8 is an odd little group :) most of them didn't probably think about the olympics a year ago. konta, puig, keys, kasatkina, siegemund can be described the same. yes they each have their own story but when i was talking to my husband last night, i found myself generally ending my description the same way: so-so has slowly put together a good season. consistent play and consistently moving up the rankings, making the case that they belong. the others: svitolina is trying to add new elements to her game. the "veterans" of the group are kerber and kvitova. none of these players are jaded (even kerber with her year is probably still pinching herself and kvitova is looking for something to motivate her). the possibilities were always there, but when i sit and stare at the list it still seems remarkable. these young and mid-20's have put the "pedal to the metal" this year. kvitova, well, she has been going in the opposite direction but maybe this might be what she has been waiting for to kickstart something.

Diane said...

That's a good summary, Sunny.

Svitolina is such a great mover, but her movement will never be considered a "weapon"--though it is! The potential has been there for a while, and Henin seems to have tapped into it quite well. Svitolina has also undergone a bit of an-court increase in belief.

I love this quarterfinal mix. How amazing would it be if Petra w--No, Diane, don't even say it :D Anything can happen (even that), but things look pretty good for KareBear. I' ready for anything, though.