Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Wimbledon top 10

Here are my top 10 Wimbledon occurrences, in ascending order:

10: Every day is a winding road: We've never had huge expectations of Simona Halep at Wimbledon, but it was interesting to see how well she'd do after having struggled for a while, and then having just missed becoming the French Open champion. She did well, getting to the quarterfinals, in which she lost a very tough match to Jo Konta. Keep watching.

9. Welcome to the club: Diede De Groot, the 20-year-old from The Netherlands, won her first singles major by defeating Sabine Ellerbrock 6-0, 6-4 in the wheelchair final. De Groot tried to do a sweep, but she and Marjolein Buis, the second seeds, lost the doubles championship to Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley.

8. Every step is progress: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has never mixed well with heat or humidity. She won her first round, but in the second, she became ill, even getting her blood pressure checked toward the end of the match. The combination of the heat and perhaps exhaustion (she won Birminham) were too much for her, and she fell to Madison Brengle. But the important thing is that she was there.

7. Brits mix it up: Martina Hingis and her British partner, Jamie Murray, won the mixed doubles championship, defeating defending champions Heather Watson--also British--and Henri Kontinen. This is Hingis's second Wimbledon mixed doubles title, and her sixth major mixed doubles title. And while we may sometimes joke about a player needing an entire room for her trophies, Hingis may need an entire apartment for hers. She now has earned a total of 110 trophies, including singles, doubles, mixed doubles, and Hopman Cup.

6. Just when you thought it was safe to step back onto the grass: Bethanie Mattek-Sands' career has been hampered by injury probably more than the career of any other woman on the tour. She and her doubles partner, Lucie Safarova, were seeking a Career Slam at this event, but had to withdraw when Mattek-Sands--playing the second round of singles--sustained an injury so horrible, even veteran players were shocked. The doubles star fell, dislocating her kneecap and injuring her patella tendon. Screaming in pain, Mattek-Sands insisted that she be anesthetized before having her kneecap reset. She has undergone surgery, and the prognosis is guarded, with one expert saying that she might return in six months, but that it will more likely be a year.

5. Simply the best: The best matches at majors are often (usually) played early in the tournament, and this Wimbledon was no exception. There were two outstanding contests, both played in the second round. Jo Konta and Donna Vekic starred in a three-set thriller that ended with Konta's winning 7-6, 4-6, 10-8. Both players had better second serves than first serves. They hit 23 aces between them (12 and 11), and 97 winners.

The other stand-out match was played between Karolina Pliskova and Magda Rybarikova. Pliskova was a favorite to win the tournament, but Rybarikova had other ideas. Making a comeback from two different injuries, the Slovakian player was in a rare zone (for anyone) throughout the match, combining stunning shot selection with stunning court speed. Here is, in my opinion, the point of the tournament:

4. Once a queen, always a queen: It wasn't enough that Venus Williams got all the way to the final at the Australian Open; she had to do it again at Wimbledon. Looking like the grass queen of old, Williams swatted away the likes of the 2017 French Open champion and Jo Konta. Things didn't work out for her when she faced off with Garbine Muguruza, but it was still a remarkable run.

3. You say you want a revelation: Petra Martic and the above-mentioned Magda Rybarikova were as much the stars of this Wimbledon as anyone. Martic, a qualifier who missed a lot of time because of a back injury, made it all the way to the quarterfinals (having won three qualifying matches), taking out 20th seed Daria Gavrilova in the first round. In the quarterfinals, as fate would have it, she faced off against Rybarikova, who beat her in straight sets.

Rybarikova went on to defeat dark horse favorite CoCo Vandeweghe in straight sets in the quarterfinals, but was finally stopped by Muguruza in the semifinals. What a run!

2. Are we there yet?!: 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina had to wait--and wait and wait for the very long (4 hours and 39 minutes) men's doubles final to end before they could take to the court. They also knew, when they stepped onto the court at 9:30 p.m., that all play had to end by 11 p.m. Their opponents were 9th seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Monica Niculescu, and the Russians played like they had a flight to catch, or at least an important dinner reservation that they didn't want to miss. In 54 minutes, it was over, and Makarova and Vesnina had won, 6-0, 6-0. This was the first double bagel to to delivered in a major women's double final since 1971 (Australian Open), and the first one to be scored at Wimbledon since 1953.

Makarova and Vesnina are one championship shy of having a Career Slam; they just need to win the Australian Open.

1. The strike of The Elegant Assassin: I wish I knew who the (British) commentator was who gave Garbine Muguruza the name "The Elegant Assassin" so that I could give him credit for doing so (if anyone knows, please tell me). It's as good a tennis nickname as I've ever heard. And yes, there are times when Muguruza's game isn't exactly elegant, but when she finds her zone, she's both stylish and scary at the same time. Such was the state of all things Mugu throughout the Spaniard's two-week stay in London.

She made it look so easy. The only player to take a set off of her was world number 1 Angie Kerber, and their round of 16 match was a great one. Muguruza barely broke a sweat through her other matches. When she stepped onto Centre Court with her bouquet on Saturday, she was the picture of composure. Her first set against five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams was a very tough one, but after she saved two set points, she went into assassin mode and stayed in it.

Muguruza defeated Williams 7-5, 6-0. She hit 14 winners and made 11 unforced errors. This is her second major championship--she won the French Open last year. In fact, she has won only two other tournaments in her career, one international and one mandatory premier. Muguruza was coached by former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez during this event since her regular coach could not be present, and the combination obviously worked very well.

The pressure of winning the French Open really got to Muguruza, and it didn't help when the French crowd turned against her this year when she competed against (and lost to) Kiki Mladenovic in the fourth round. Martinez is credited with getting Muguruza calm, and a calm Mugu is a deadly Mugu.


Fred84 said...

Kvitova won Birmingham, not Eastbourne, so she had a full week to recover before the start of Wimbledon. Petra is a gifted player, but she's just not a natural athlete. That will always be a hindrance in her career.

Diane said...

Sorry, correction made. I don't know how I missed that. Petra is actually immune-challenged, so there are things that are very hard to judge about her, including whether she is a "natural" athlete.

Fred84 said...

I know about her asthma and other health issues, but I was referring to her physique itself. She´s never looked like she´s in the best possible shape, and regardless of other issues that is bound to have an impact.

Diane said...

I hear you, but disagree--just a bit. I've seen Petra look like she's in excellent physical shape and I've also seen her look not in the best physical shape. Seems to be a consistency issue.