Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Azarenka advances at Olympic Games

World number 1 Victoria Azarenka celebrated her 23rd birthday today by defeating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in straight sets and advancing to the third round of Olympic Games tennis competition. Joining her were Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Maria Kirilenko, Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, Julia Goerges, and Venus Williams.

Sharapova had to work for her victory. A roaring British crowed cheered for Laura Robson, who gave them a performance of which they can be proud. Sharapova defeated Robson 7-6, 6-3. The world number 3's next task will be to play Sabine Lisicki, who defeated Yaroslava Shvedova today.

In doubles, the Williams sisters defeated the German team of Kerber and Lisicki, and top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond defeated the Radwanska sisters. Next for Serena and Venus Williams are Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, doubles stars supreme of 2012.

Passing shots

It's definite: Serena Williams will not play mixed doubles at the Olympic Games. Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond will represent USA women's tennis in that event.

Li Na has hired Carlos Rodriguez as her coach on a trial basis. Rodriguez, of course, coached seven-time major champion Justine Henin throughout her career.

France lost the bid to host the Olympic Games this year, but is considering a bid to host the Games in 2024.

Here is a feature on EleVen.

You can now get to know Ekaterina Makarova.

Not tennis-related, but please consider directing people to the Sleep In for Farm Animals event I'm supporting. The banner is on the right, directly under the photo of the lovely Velma contemplating her Wilson racquet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Playing catch-up at the Olympics

Because of yesterday's rain, the courts were crowded today at the Olympic Games in London World number 1 Victoria Azarenka advanced to the second round with a win over Irina-Camelia Begu, 9th seed Venus Williams defeated Sara Errani, and Brits Heather Watson and Laura Robson both won their first round matches.

Caroline Wozniacki defeated Yanina Wickmayer in the second round, and will next face Daniela Hantuchova.

Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova both advanced to the third round, beating Urszula Radwanska and Peng Shuai, respectively, and yes, it took Kvitova three sets to get it done. Flavia Pennetta took out grass court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova, but the other veteran Italian player, Francesca Schiavone, lost to Vera Zvonareva.

Of note is the first-round defeat of some good grass court players: Petra Cetkovska retired against Angelique Kerber, Zheng Jie lost to Nadia Petrova, and Marina Erakovic lost to Aleksandra Wozniak.

Peng and Zheng won their second round doubles match, defeating Spaniards Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Martinez Sanchez, however, did advance to the second round in singles; she defeated Polona Hercog in straight sets.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Radwanska upset in opening round of Olympic Games

Every once in a while, when she can keep her head together, Julia Goerges brings a scary game to the court. Today, in the first round of the Olympics, she hit 56 winners against 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska. When you consider that Radwanska made 21 errors--a whole lot, for her--and that Goerges whacked 20 aces, you can understand the 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 victory.

It rained most of the day today, so most scheduled matches were not played. 3rd seed Maria Sharapova advanced, however, with a win over Shahar Peer.

In other tennis news, Bojana Jovanovski won the Baku Cup, defeating Julia Cohen 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva won the doubles title. None of the winners had ever before won WTA titles.

This is qualifying weekend for the Citi Open in Washington, DC. The top seed there is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The tournament made its debut last year, with the singles title going to Nadia Petrova.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Now you see them--now you don't

What should have been some ongoing stories at the 2012 Olymic Games ended early today in the first round, with the exit of Sam Stosur (twice), Li Na and--a bit less dramatically--Tamira Paszek, Dominika Cibulkova and Christina McHale.

Stosur, seeded 5th at the games, was defeated 3-6, 7-5, 10-8 by Carla Suarez Navarro. Then, Stosur and partner Casey Dellacqua were defeated 6-1, 6-1 in doubles competition by Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Li lost to Daniela Hantuchova, who beat her 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Paszek, known for her excellent grass court play, was taken down 7-6, 6-4 by Alize Cornet. Cibulkova lost to grass court specialist (and all-around interesting WTA phenomenon) Tsvetana Pironkova, and McHale lost to Ana Ivanovic.

Serena Williams, looking old-school elegant in red, white and blue, easily took care of Jelena Jankovic in straight sets. 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova not-so-easily took care of Kateryna Bondarenko, and gave spectators the now-expected second-set collapse. Oh, Petra.

2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won, as did the German team of Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki, though Brits Laura Robson and Heather Watson took a set off of them.

Elena Baltacha announced that she needs surgery on both ankles, and may retire from professional tennis. Baltacha has had more misfortune than almost any player I can think of, yet she has hung in all these years, despite serious illness and injury. She did win her first round today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sharapova and Radwanska to bear flags in Olmypic Games opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games will be held soon, and two of the flag-bearers will be world number 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and world number 3 Maria Sharapova. They represent Poland and Russia, respectively.

Here is the Olympic tennis schedule for viewers in the USA. Tennis matches will be shown on Bravo or the NBC Sports Network.

There is also a mobile app, LiveExtra, that enables viewers to watch live Olympic events, or you can watch them online here. In order to do this, you have to be a subscriber to one of the Internet Service Providers listed on the Live Extra site. You must log in to your ISP one time, and then you'll be able to watch.

You can also take an Olympic Tennis Quiz here.

The Olympians are ready!

And a few more words from Agnieszka Radwanska:

Friday cat blogging--exotic blend edition

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Billie Jean met Sally

Sally Ride--astronaut, feminist, physicist, and teacher--died yesterday at the age of 61. Ride was a personal hero of mine. She not only broke the gender barrier in my country in terms of going into space; she also spoke bravely (no one listened until it was too late) about the dangers that existed in the space program, and she used her knowledge and her money to help girls achieve their best.

I could go on and on about Sally Ride's accomplishments, but they are easy to find, if readers are inquisitive. My purpose in writing this today is to remind people that Ride was also a very good tennis player, and that she became an astronaut and physicist (she had a degree in English, too) only after deciding not to pursue tennis as a profession.

Ride was the number 1 female player at Stanford. She caught the eye of none other than Billie Jean King, who urged her to get on the tour and make tennis her career. Ride chose outer space and the classroom over the courts because of what she referred to as "a bad forehand."

While Billie Jean King fought to show the world that women could be successful athletes, Ride flew into space, and then had to endure endless questions about whether she wore makeup in the shuttle, or how she managed having her period in outer space. Later--concerned about all of the stereotypes that surround girls when it comes to studying the sciences--the astronaut and professor devoted much of her life to helping girls realize they could do anything they wanted.

Who knows? If King had been a bit more persuasive or Ride had had more belief, we might have spent the last few decades talking about Ride's tennis accomplishments. But all she wanted to do, she said, was fly. And 29 years ago, she boarded the shuttle Challenger, while people watching the launch held signs that said Ride, Sally Ride.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cibulkova wins in Carlsbad

Dominika Cibulkova, the 2nd seed in Carlsbad, won the Mercury Insurance Open today when she defeated top seed Marion Bartoli 6-1, 7-5 in the final. This is Cibulkova's second WTA title; she lost four finals before winning the title in Moscow last year. This week, she defeated every opponent in straight sets.

As for the Fighting Frenchwoman--it's a wonder she was standing at all. Bartoli prevailed in some fierce battles this week, the most notable of them being her quarterfinal against Christina McHale, which lasted over 2 hours and 50 minutes (and included another parental dismissal), and showcased some very fine play from both players.

Bartoli also played for over 3 hours and 10 minutes against Vania King in the the second round. And the first two sets of her semifinal against Chan Yung-Jan weren't exactly a walk in the park because of Chan's considerable net skills. Bartoli got blown off the court in her first set against Cibulkova, but anyone with even the slightest proficiency in Marionology knew that things would change. In the end, though, Bartoli looked too depleted, and Cibulkova was too good.

It should be noted that in the course of playing four matches in Carlsbad, Bartoli double-faulted 49 times. Granted, these were long matches, but--not a good statistic.

As for Rennae Stubbs and Ted Robinson, who called the match on ESPN--they just had to call into question the opponents' enthusiastic yelling and Bartoli's way-inside-the-baseline stances, given that Bartoli and Cibulkova are friends. Oh, please--two women playing a sweaty sport and not acting in an expected "feminine" way? I've heard it before. Maybe the opponents could have just stepped up to the net, sung "Kumbaya," and planned a shopping excursion to pick up some Woz bras.

But of course, Stubbs has no experience in on-court physical and verbal aggression.

3rd seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears won the doubles title. In the final, Kops-Jones and Spears defeated 2nd seeds Vania King and Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-4.

Hercog wins Bastad title again

Polona Hercog defended her Swedish Open title today by defeating Mathilde Johansson 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the final in Bastad. Hercog had a 5-2 lead in the third set, but Johansson tied the set at 5-all. Johansson committed 16 double faults in the match.

Catalina Castano and Mariana Duque-Marino won the doubles title. They defeated Eva Hrdinova and Mervana Jugic-Salkic 4-6, 7-5, 10-5.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top seed Bartoli still winning in Carlsbad

Top seed Marion Bartoli had a tough time of it, but she defeated Vania King 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 today in Carlsbad. Bartoli was up a set and 3-0, and held a point to go up 4-0, when King took over and won 11 of the next 15 games. The opponents played for over 3 hours and 10 minutes and Bartoli double-faulted 18 times. The Frenchwoman's next opponent will be Christina McHale.

It's been raining at the Swedish Open, so play was suspended for most of the day today. Mona Barthel, who has had a surprisingly poor season, has advanced to the third round, so perhaps things are picking up for her.

Quote of the week

"If someone makes me really angry I might have to get into a little bit of an argument, but my goal is to try to stay calm if I can. If not, I’m going out with a bang as I did the past two years."
Serena Williams

Passing shots

Here are some photos of the Radwanska sisters as children. They were deceptively cute, yes?

She cried. She laughed. She tasted some food. What else would we expect from Li Na on a big talk show?

Kaia Kanepi and Andrea Petkovic have withdrawn from the Olympic Games because of injury. Sad.

A Women Who Serve reader led me to this great collection of WTA tributes to Jennifer Capriati.

Wimbledon will start a week later in 2013 so that players can get more rest after competing in the French Open.

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was married last weekend. 

Heather Watson, number 71 in the world, is now the top-ranked British woman. Watson was defeated yesterday in the third round in Carlsbad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some thoughts on Jennifer Capriati

People watch sports because of the excitement, but also because athletic competition provides ongoing metaphors for our own lives. Those of us who enjoy individual sports are perhaps seeking more personal metaphors that are not so much about belonging and cooperation, but about transcending particular demons and believing in the self.

One of the most powerful of these metaphors is the comeback, and of the notable comebacks on the women's tour, one of the most dramatic was that of Jennifer Capriati. A 13-year-old phenom from New York City, Capriati made everyone take notice when she reached the final of a tour tournament. At age 14, she entered the top 10, and two years later, she won a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Capriati, who was--after all--a teenage girl with problems, had to take a break from tennis when her personal problems caught up with her. She then became another build-her-up-and-tear-her-down headline, as she struggled with issues that got her on the wrong side of the law. But Jennifer Capriati came back, and when she did, she gave fans what they had expected long before. She won the Australian Open and the French Open in 2001, and she won the Australian again the next year.

Capriati was exciting to watch. She hit very powerful groundstrokes, and she had a kind of fight in her that led her to victories that didn't appear to be hers for the taking. She had a mouth on her, too, and a swagger. She was quick to say whatever came to her mind without any editing, and she takes a particular place in WTA history for doing things like yelling "Turn that baby off!" and asking that "Bombs Over Baghdad" be played when she walked onto the court.

There will, in short, never be another Jennifer Capriati. Unfortunately, injury caused her to stop playing, or who knows how much more she would have achieved?

Over the weekend, professional tennis's Bad Girl was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She was introduced by her friend, Monica Seles, who is intimately acquainted with the concept of the comeback. Seles's introduction was touching and affectionate. Indeed, what seemed like a third of Capriati's speech was about Seles, and the respect that the two players have always had for each other. Capriati's acceptance speech was so raw, it was sometimes painful to hear. "I have spent my life either being on a tennis court or missing a tennis court," she said. And--about tennis: "It has given me great joy on and off the court, as well as a lot of pain on and off the court."

A tearful Capriati talked about her sadness at not being able to leave the game on her own terms, and about what she has learned in her various struggles. Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by what was obviously such an honest, vulnerably presented, speech. The only thing that couuld have possibly  followed it, in fact, was the induction of Guga Kuerten with an introduction by his compelling mother. And that is exactly what happened.

"I don't need to be on a tennis court to remember who I am," Capriati told those in attendance. That was good to hear.

Here are some excerpts from Capriati's speech. Fans who have access to Tennis Channel may be able to watch the entire ceremony in a re-broadcast.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sara Errani--the woman who can't stop winning

Today, Sara Errani became the first Italian player in history to win four tournaments in one season. She beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-1, 6-3 to take the Palermo title, and--the entire week--dropped only 16 games. Errani and her doubles partner, Roberta Vinci, just came off of a 25-match winning streak; they were finally stopped at Wimbledon.

"It's a magic period for me," the Italian star said. Indeed.

Zahlavova Strycova, as reported yesterday, won the doubles title with partner Renata Voracova. It was a very good tournament for her.

Meanwhile, in Stanford, Serena William defended her 2011 title by beating lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe 7-5, 6-3 in the final. Vandeweghe served for the first set, but was not able to sustain what momentum she had. Williams, for her part, has been suffering from jet-lag insomnia since arriving in California, and looked fairly sluggish, but a less-than-stellar Serena is still a Serena who can lift a trophy. The Wimbledon champion made a point of moving Vandeweghe around the court as much as possible, and she also took care of her serve.

Vandeweghe had a great week. After not winning a main draw match all season, she took out Melinda Czink, Jelena Jankovic, Urszula Radwanska, and Yanina Wickmayer.

Marina Erakovic and Heather Watson won the doubles title. The unseeded Erakovic and Watson upset top seeds Jarmila Gajdasova and Vania King 7-5, 7-6. The champions served for the match at 5-3 in the second, but were broken. They won the tiebreak 9-7.

Passing shots

Jennifer Capriati was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend. Capriati was introduced by Monica Seles. The 36-year-old former world number 1 won the French Open once and the Australian Open twice. She also won a gold medal in the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Capriati's dramatic career was highlighted by stunning comebacks.

Maria Sharapova recently won the ESPY for Best Female Tennis Player.

Serena Williams is hinting that she may not not play mixed doubles at the Olympic Games.

Jelena Jankovic has hired Diego Ayala, who has coached her in the past, to coach her during the U.S. Open Series.

Dominika Cibulkova has named her hitting partner, Peter Miklusicak, as her coach.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Errani and Zahlavova Strycova to play in Palermo final

Top seed Sara Errani defeated Irina-Camilia Begu 6-4, 6-1 today to reach the final on the red clay of Palermo. Her opponent in the final will be 8th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who defeated Laura Robson 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Zahlavova Strycova and her partner, Renata Voracova, won the doubles final today. They defeated 2nd seeds Darija Jurak and Katalin Morosi 7-5, 6-4. Voracova and Zahlavova Strycova were the top seeds.

In Stanford, lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe hit 12 aces and made her way to the final by upsetting 5th seed Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Vandeweghe's opponent will be top seed Serena Williams, who beat Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-2.

Quote of the week

"People complain about the noise I make but I can get louder. Maybe I should get to 100. I haven’t had any luck so it may help me put more of myself into my matches."
Victoria Azarenka
(Thanks to a reader of WTA Backspin for this fantastic quote.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cirstea at it again in Stanford

Sorana Cirstea, known as a giant-killer, won her Stanford quarterfinal match today by defeating 3rd seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-7, 6-2, 6-0. 2nd seed Marion Bartoli was upset, too--by Yanina Wickmayer, who beat her 6-3, 6-2. Also, lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe defeated Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 6-4.

In Palermo, Laura Robson continued her clay court winning ways by defeating 5th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. 8th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova upset 3rd seed Julia Goerges 7-6, 6-7, 6-1. Also advancing were top seed Sara Errani and Irina-Camelia Begu.

Friday cat blogging--call of the wild edition

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Passing shots

Heather Watson has won her opening round in Stanford. Watson defeated Sloane Stephens 7-6, 4-6, 6-1.

Congratulations to Roger Federer for winning his seventh Wimbledon title and his 17th major!

The ESPN Body Issue is out, and it includes Daniela Hantuchova.

Here's a look at Caroline Wozniacki's Addidas by Stella McCartney look for the U.S. hard court season.

Victoria Azarenka is the new world number 1. 2 through 5 are Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Samantha Stosur.

This has nothing to do with tennis, but how touching was it to see Na Yeon Choi, as she went to receive her U.S. Open trophy, stop and bow to Se Ri Pak?

My Wimbledon top 10

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

10. Up on the roof: The decisions to open or close the roof kept players and fans in suspense. Who took advantage of both rain breaks and playing on an indoor court is still up for discussion. What isn't is that weather and roof issues continue to be meaningful at Wimbledon.

9. Trouble in Little Italy: Camila Giorgi surprised fans with her spirited run to the round of 16. The newest fighting Italian took out Flavia Pennetta, Anna Tatishvili and Nadia Petrova, before she was finally stopped by nerves--and Agnieszka Radwanska.

8. Wait for what?!: Junior champion Eugenie Bouchard hit 21 winners in the final, instead of waiting for her opponent to make errors. Then, playing with Taylor Townsend, Bouchard won the doubles title, too.

7. That must be a misprint: Esther Vergeer, the winningest tennis player on any tour, lost her doubles semifinal. It was hard to believe, but it happened. There is no wheelchair singles competition at Wimbledon, so once Vergeer and her partner lost, the revered champion was out of the tournament.

6. Drama queen: What would this Wimbledon have been like without Tamira Paszek? First she dramatically won Eastbourne, saving five championship points. Then she made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and--along the way--dispensed of 7th seed Caroline Wozniacki, Alize Cornet, Yanina Wickmayer, and 21st seed Roberta Vinci. Paszek was finally stopped by 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka. The Wozniacki match lasted 3 hours and 12 mintues, and Paszek was broken when she served for it, but won it on her opponent's serve. The Wickmayer match lasted two hours and 40 minute and involved 17 breaks of serve.

5. She'll always have Paris: It's been eight years since Maria Sharapova's trimuphant run at Wimbledon. This year, the top seed got past the dangerous Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, but in the round of 16, she was defeated by Sabine Lisicki. Only recently, Sharapova won the French Open and completed her career Slam. It wasn't difficult to imagine her winning Wimbledon, also, but it wasn't to be.

4. Rare and gold: In the third round, wild card Yaroslava played a Golden Set. Shvedova won the first set against Sara Errani without dropping a point, something that had never before been done at a major. Shvedova would go on to win the match 6-0, 6-4. Shvedova came very close to winning a Golden Set in Memphis in 2006, when she won 23 straight points. 

3. Shelf space needed: Where do the Williams sisters put all those trophies?! They just won their fifth Wimbledon doubles title by defeating 2011 French Open champions Andrea Hlackova and Lucie Hradecka in the final. Serena and Venus had not played doubles at Wimbledon in two years. They have now won 13 majors, plus the Olympic medals and mixed doubles trophies and tour trophies.

2. Is that London fog, or....?: For those of us who have kept faith with her over the years, Agnieszka Radwanska's run to the final wasn't a huge surprise (others might perhaps keep an eye open for The Radwanska). Possessed of tennis's cleverest game and an impressive variety of shots, Radwanska--with her vastly improved first serve and her new-found nerve in big tournaments--has come into her own.

1. Big difficult: Asked how difficult it was to beat Seena Williams when she was playing the way she did in the quarterfinals, defending champion Petra Kvitova replied "It is big difficult." This was probably my favorite quote from the whole tournament. Kvitova has a delightful way of summing things up efficiently, and "big difficult" pretty much sums up "The Serena." Williams really struggled in a couple of matches--against the speedy Zheng Jie, and again against Yaroslava Shvedova. But she used her mighty serve and her belief in hereslf to take a fifth Wimbledon title. It's no surprise that Williams used Wimbledon to punctuate her comeback; she has always felt so at home on the grass at the All England Club.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Raymond and Bryan win Wimbledon mixed doubles championship

Lisa Raymond and her partner, Mike Bryan, won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title today when they defeated Elena Vesnina and Leander Paes 6-3, 5-7,6-4 in the final. Raymond and Bryan were seeded 2nd.

The new junior doubles champions are Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend, the top seeds. Bouchard and Townsend defeated Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh 6-4, 6-3. Bouchard also won the Wimbledon singles title. In January, Townsend won both titles at the Australian Open.

Jose Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot Won the wheelchair doubles championship by defeating Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Wiley 6-1, 6-2. Griffioen and Van Koot were the runners-up in 2011.

Former Wimbledon champions Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis won the Ladies Invitation Doubles today. Davenport and Hingis defeated former Wimbledon champions Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna 6-3, 6-2.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wimbledon--what they said

I didn't even think I'd play tennis again. I just wanted to live.
Serena Williams

Serena played too good today, but I'm just very happy to be here in the final. It was not my day.
Agnieszka Radwanska

I was definitely inspired by Serena's singles performance. Obviously it's wonderful to play on the court with her. I couldn't have done it without her, so it's great.
Venus Williams

Is 30 the new 20?
Well gosh , of course--hello!
Serena Williams

Nothing is inevitable. Destiny does not exist. There is no free ride on fortune’s back to the great prizes. Those who win them, earn them. They bend what is possible, and stretch what should happen, and alter it to their own blueprint. They get up off the couch and get started.
Kate Battersby

I don't think either of us believe that we can be defeated by anything. Nothing has defeated us yet, so we're going to keep that track record.
Venus Williams

Greatness is...being able to accept a loss gracefully.
How do you think you've done in that regard?
Oh, I've been terrible at it.
Serena Williams

I felt surprisingly calm. I was happy with myself for that.
Eugenie Bouchard

I’m still shaking so much; I think I had the best two weeks of my life.
Agnieszka Radwanska

Williams sisters win Wimbledon doubles championship

Serena and Venus Williams won the Wimbledon doubles title today, defeating the Czech team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-5, 6-4. It was a well-played match. In the first set, there were no breaks of serve until Hlavackova and Hradecka served at 5-6. They saved two break points, but were broken on the third. Then the Williams team got an early break in the second set, which propelled them to victory.

Serena and Venus Williams hadn't played doubles at Wimbledon in two years, so the win was especially sweet for them.

In the mixed doubles semifinals, top seeds Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan were beaten 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 by 4th seeds Elena Vesnina and Leander Paes. (Just a guess, but this was probably a delicious victory for Vesnina.) Their opponents in the final will be 2nd seeds Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan, who defeated 3rd seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4. This configuration means that the Bryan brothers will not have to play each other for the championship, nor will partners Huber and Raymond have to play each other.

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada is the 2012 junior Wimbledon champion. The aggressive Bouchard defeated Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-2 yesterday to claim the trophy. Bouchard was seeded 5th. In an unusual result for a junior competition, Bouchard hit 21 winners.

In the junior doubles semifinals, Svitolina and partner Daria Gavrilova, seeded 2nd, were defeated by 7th seeds Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh. Also winning in the semifinals were top seeds Bouchard and partner Taylor Townsend, who defeated 4th seeds Francoise Abanda and Sachia Vickery.

14--and counting!

Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title today by defeating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. The first set was a breeze for Williams, as her opponent suddenly looked like the Radwanska of old--the talented player who mentally folds when faced with a big match in a major tournament. Still, Radwanska did not want to be completely blitzed off of the court, and she held in her final game to lose the set 1-6.

Toward the end of that set, rain had begun to fall lightly. A rain break ensued, and when play resumed, after 23 minutes, "current" confident Radwanska stepped onto the court, along with the sometimes-current somewhat withdrawn (for her) Williams. Serving at 3-2, 0-30, Williams looked as thought she might be broken, but she held. Radwanska held, too, and then the match started to get more interesting.

Serving at 4-3, Williams engaged in a 22-shot rally which Radwanska won with her now-signature backhand down the line. Williams was then broken, but immediately, Radwanska went down 0-30 on her own serve. She held, however, making it 5-4, and meaning that the 3rd seed was ahead for the first time in the match. The wind had picked up by this time, creating more of a challenge to the players. Radwanska, occasionally coughing because of an upper respiratory infection, went to her squat shot over and over.

At 5-all, Radwanska held at love, then carried her confidence into the next game, breaking Williams again. Radwanska held her next service game to take the second set 7-5.

At 1-all in the third set, Radwanska faced two break points, but held on. But then she found herself serving at 2-4, and--though she saved three break points--she was put away by a deft drop shot from Williams. The real Serena Williams was on the court again, not the uncertain, slightly anxious one who went out in the first round of the French Open and who made an appearance in the second set of today's match. Williams routinely went about closing the match with a backhand winner on her own serve, then fell supine onto the grass, perhaps eyeing a cloud formation that looked a lot like the number 14, because that is now the number of singles majors that the great champion has won.

Williams hit 17 aces (four of them struck consecutively )in today's match, and had a total of 58 winners to only 13 unforced errors.

There is some high drama in women's tennis these days. Maria Sharapova recently became the only player in history to have major shoulder surgery and then win a major. Serena Williams went through a medical nightmare, then returned to do very well, and--ultimately--to win another Wimbledon. And--though her result is less dramatic--it's a good time to mention that the clever and ever-improving Radwanska made it to the Wimbledon final after many (I wasn't one of them) said it could never happen.

The 30-year-old Williams is now tied with sister Venus, who also has five Wimbledon titles. Williams served 102 aces during the tournament, a fact which requires no embellishment on the part of anyone writing about tennis. One can only imagine what this type of serving does for Williams' confidence, or what holding the Venus Rosewater dish does for her belief as she leaps into her tennis future.

Vergeer loses in Wimbledon doubles

The top seeds in wheelchair doubles competition, Esther Vergeer and Marjolein Buis, lost in the semifinals yesterday to Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot. Griffioen and Van Koot Vergeer and Buis 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Also in the final are Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley, who defeated 2nd seeds Sharon Walraven and Annick Sevenas. Shuker and Whiley are the first all-British wheelchair team to reach a Wimbledon final.

Vergeer will not have a chance to win a (customary) title because there is no wheelchair singles competition at Wimbledon. She has won at least one title in every major she has entered (and that has included most of them) in the last ten years.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wimbledon--what they said

I can't speak for very long, and so I have done as much as I can do today. I will do whatever it takes to make sure I'm ready to play the best I can.
Agnieszka Radwanska

You’ll have a chance to become the first 30‑something Grand Slam champion on the women’s side since Martina back in 1990.  What is your reaction to that notion? Do you feel like an old‑timer?
No. I feel really good and healthy and great. Like I said the other day, mentally, I’m 12. Hopefully I can grow up.
Serena Williams

Williams and Radwanska to meet tomorrow in Wimbledon final

Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, who had to cut her perss conference short yesterday because of an upper respiratory tract illness, canceled today's press conference altogether. Radwanska was ill when she played Angelique Kerber in the semifinals, and is experiencing coughing and hoarseness.

She'll need to feel as good as possible when she plays four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams in the final.

Here are the players' paths to the final:

round 1--def. Magdalena Rybarikova
round 2---def. Elena Vesnina
round 3--def. Heather Watson
round of 16--def. Camila Giorgi
quarterfinals--def. Maria Kirilenko (17)
semifinals--def. Angelique Kerber (8)

round 1--def. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
round 2--def. Melinda Czink
round 3--def. Zheng Jie
round of 16--def. Yaroslava Shvedova
quarterfinals--def. Petra Kvitova (4)
semifinals--def. Victoria Azarenka (2)

Williams and her sister, Venus, will also play in the doubles final. Today, they defeated top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Also in the final are 6th seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The Czech team defeated Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Friday cat blogging--laundry can wait edition

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wimbledon--what they said

What a beast of a day for you. You had to change your warm-up strip on the practice courts this morning, then you lose a major semifinal, and then you're the last player on court and you lose in doubles as well. Horrible day for you today.
Thanks for bringing it up and putting me down. I appreciate that.
Victoria Azarenka

I think maybe I was one, two steps slower today. I think that makes the difference.
Angelique Kerber

You made more aces in one set than Radwanska in the whole tournament, so that helps probably in the final. Out of 18 Slam finals you won 13 and you lost 4. You're tied sixth all-time with Hart, Goolagong and King. That sounds interesting to you, or don't you care?
It's pretty cool to be mentioned with those names, especially King. She's someone I really look up to. So that's cool.
Serena Williams

Especially in the end of the court it's pretty old grass, and you really have to be careful because the bounces are really tricky.
Agnieszka Radwanska

We've not noticed that happen on Centre Court before.
I've noticed it everywhere. Men also grunt really loud.
I meant the crowd's reaction.
Yeah, maybe you weren't at every match.
Victoria Azarenka

She's a shot-making genius.
Pam Shriver, describing Agnieszka Radwanska

Well, I'm just happy. I'm so happy to be playing. I'm so happy to be on the court. I feel like this is where I belong. I mean, maybe I don't belong in a relationship. Maybe I don't belong somewhere else. But I know for a a fact I do belong on this tennis court.
Serena Williams

I mean, yeah, what can I say? I mean, she played a very, very good match.
Angelique Kerber

Which would give you more pleasure, going to your brother's wedding or winning the Wimbledon final?
That's a silly question. I think you know the answer.
Victoria Azarenka

The Ladies final will be a battle of total opposites. The visible power and potential dominance of Williams vs. the internal machinations and dastardly wizardry of Agnieszka and The Radwanska. But there won't be enough room on the Centre Court for all three of them.
Todd Spiker

...The older I get, the better I serve.
Serena Williams

Are you being served?!

Four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams served 24 aces today in her semifinal match against Victoria Azarenka, including a perfect down-the-T for match point. ("I want to go out with a bang, you know how I do it," she said on Saturday.) But that was just part of the story: Williams won 15 of 16 first serves in the first set, and she won 41 of 50 total first serves. She also served as fast as 120 mph, and she hit 45 winners, while making only 14 unforced errors.

And she even did an upper-body chicken walk dance after firing one of her aces. You know how she does it.

24 aces, by the way, is a WTA record--and Williams hit them all in straight sets.

What was it like on the other side of the net? It was actually a good show. Azarenka hung in with Williams in a way that many others could not have, and even broke Williams once in the second set. Williams' 6-3, 7-6 victory was one she didn't have to work too hard for (Zheng Jie was already gone), but she had to work, nonetheless. And work she did, putting on yet another service clinic and going to yet another Wimbledon final.

There are some who might believe that Azarenka's fate--to come so close but then be denied the opportunity to play in another major final--had already been decided according to the wrath of The Radwanska, whose somewhat sadistic trickster spirirt (some might believe) had already vanquished Maria Sharapova from the tournament. And if indeed The Radwanska is quietly manipulating affairs at the All England Club, It's doing a bang-up job: Its embodiment, Agnieszka Radwanska, will be playing in the final on Saturday.

Radwanska defeated a somewhat-spent Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4 in today's semifinals. The third seed, who is the first Polish woman to reach a major final in the Open Era, is now guaranteed a ranking of number 2 in the world, and--should she win the title--she'll hold the number 1 position.

This was Radwanska at her best, even in the second set, when it looked as though Kerber may have figured out how to win more points. The 3rd seed's anticipation and subsequent easy movement left little room for Kerber to get any breathing space in the rallies. The Polish star used what Christopher Clarey has officially dubbed the "Radwanska squat shot" over and over (Kerber hit some of them too), going low to get balls back, and then moving in to finish off the points. Radwanska's control of the rallies was, in typical fashion, somewhat deceptive, but had much to do with her sometimes uncanny knowledge about where both the ball and the opponent are going. Radwanska, by the way, made only six unforced errors in the entire match.

It had to end some time: 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci's 25-match streak was broken today by 2011 French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The Czech team defeated the Italians 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. But it wasn't exactly a bad day for Italy. Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Williams sisters win two Wimbledon doubles matches in one day

The Wimbledon schedule has been backed up because of weather, and one of the many consequences was that Serena and Venus Williams had to play a set of doubles and then another doubles match today. No problem--they won both of them. First, in the second round, they beat 4th seeds Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko 3-6, 6-3, 9-7. As of yesterday, each team had won a set. Later, the Williams team beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-3.

Also advancing today was the top-seeded team of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Huber and Raymond defeated 5th seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 7-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won their third round match when they were given a walkover by the Radwanska sisters, Agnieszka and Urszua.

In mixed doubles, top seeds Huber and Bob Bryan advanced to the third round.

Top seed Taylor Townsend was upset in the third round of  junior play by 14th seed Francoise Abanda of Canada. Townsend and another Canadian, Eugenie Bouchard, seeded 1st in doubles, won their first round of play.

Wimbledon--what they said

You try telling Martina Navratilova that the Invitation dubs is not another proper Wimbledon trophy to add to her collection. Good luck with that.
Alix Ramsay

“No one with a good car needs to be justified,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, and the same sentiment applies to having a good serve.
Geoff MacDonald, writing about Serena Williams

Can't wait to be back on my favorite playground tomorrow--Wimbledon Centre Court!
Angelique Kerber

I gave it to her, honestly. She came up with some good shots and good serves at big times, but I was really rushing. Throughout the whole match, I was trying to hit too good of a shot when I didn’t need to. And I was trying to paint the lines.
Taylor Townsend

It's no longer Henman Hill; it's Heart Attack Hill.
Pam Shriver

Passing shots

The International Tennis Hall of Fame has reversed its decision and will now investigate the multiple claims of sexual abuse made against member Bob Hewitt. Sometimes, all those articles and petitions and letters actually have a good effect.

The Duchess meets tennis royalty.

Happy Birthday to Pam Shriver.

Angelique Kerber says that she has never broken a racquet in anger, but that at the U.S. Open, one of her racquets was broken by Sam Stosur's serve.

Here's a reason to buy bonds.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wimbledon--what they said

The sound of the balls. It's kind of like a whoosh and a pop. It's really cool. It's almost like a video game bot you're playing.
Serena Williams

Even her mis-hits are good.
Chris Evert

I'm very happy that I won this incredible match today.
Angelique Kerber

How difficult is it for anybody to beat her when she's playing like this?
It is big difficult.
Petra Kvitova

If you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be?
I would love to see my grandfather, who passed away, and never got to see me play professionally. He just saw me play as a junior and died when I was 13 years old so I would love to see him now.
Maria Kirilenko

If I lose, I don't keep the trophy.
Serena Williams

She played actually very good and I actually had no chance against her some games because she served very well. She makes the points and I had no plan. I don't know what to do out there in the third set.
Angelique Kerber

Her answer was "Good luck with that."
And your answer?
Good luck with that.
Chris Evert, on Azarenka's take on the grunt-o-meter

Kerber beats a countrywoman and a ghost

During the third set of today's Wimbledon quarterfinal match between Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki, ESPN commentators couldn't say enough about Kerber's bad attitude and how that attitude made it difficult for anyone to support her. Personally, I don't care what a player's attitude is, but in this case, I felt a bit defensive on Kerber's behalf: The third set in Eastbourne was flashing before her like a ugly spectral monster, reminding her of how easy it is to blow a big lead.

Kerber won the first set 6-3 in a fairly easy manner. Lisicki worked her way into form in the next set, however, despite being down 0-3. At 4-5 on Lisicki's serve, Kerber had two match points. Lisicki saved them, then saved a third match point in the eventual tiebreak. Then she won that tiebreak.

The third set was about as tense as it gets. It opened with an exchange of breaks, then there were two more breaks. Suddenly, after another break, Lisicki was serving for the match at 5-3. Kerber would say later that she sometimes hadn't known what to do in the final set. Athletes provide us with excitement and entertainment, but they also serve as teachers. Kerber didn't really know exactly what to do with Lisicki's serving, but she knew how to hang in--and maybe wait for a sign, or something that would get her out of trouble.
About to make an exit from Wimbledon, Kerber suddenly turned her sullen energy into something more heated, and she broke her opponent. Serving at 4-5 and down a point, Kerber then made her only successful line call challenge of the day. She threw her hands up and smiled--perhaps that bit of fortune was the sign: She served out the match in a love game.

It did appear that there was no love lost between the opponents--even Chris Evert caught it. At this stage of the tournament, it's customary for opponents to leave the court together instead of having the losing player leave first. But Lisicki was out of there faster than you could say "Blonde, braided German women torture each other at Wimbledon."

I said yesterday that I was so looking forward to the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko, and those two did not let me down. Kirilenko served up a storm and seemed to have the seceret for putting a rip in Radwanska's carefully designed trick bag. This came as no surprise to me. My only nagging question is the one I've had for years: Why can't Kirilenko get a higher ranking? But--as it happens at Wimbledon--after each player had taken a set and it was 4-all in the third, the rain came. There was talk of having them come back tomorrow to finish the match, but instead, they were put on the court after the German players had finished.

Kirilenko had so much momentum before the rain (that is, the long rain) came, I thought she would upset Radwanska. But after the rain break, that momentum was gone, and Radwanska emerged the winner--7-5, 4-6, 7-5. It was a great match, and both players lived up to my expectations. Radwanska is now in her first-ever major semifinal.

Victoria Azarenka, all cool again in leggings and hoodie and earphones, ended the run of the also-cool Tamira Paszek. Azarenka's 6-3, 7-6 victory might make people take a second look. She has a huge task in front of her, in the semifinals, but it may be just the task she's seeking.

That semifinal will be played against four-time champion Serena Wiliams, who took out defending champion Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 7-5. Observers are saying that Kvitova played really well, and was just out-played by Williams, but I don't really buy that. She had her moments, yes, but I thought that Kvitova, once again, made a mess of things when she could have kept a steady head and done so much better. But this is not to take anything away from Williams, who--despite some close calls--is playing at this tournament like the great champion that she is.

So we're down to four: Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka. Only two of those women know what it feels like to win a major, and those two play each other in the semifinals. Of course, Williams knows a lot more about what it feels like than Azarenka does. It will be kind of fun to have at least one first-time Wimbledon finalist.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wimbledon--what they said

Today, Schiavone has thrown her everything but the kitchen sink, and maybe even the kitchen sink.
Virginia Wade

From the first point, I felt great out there.
Sabine Lisicki

Ivanovic looks sort of confused.
Chris Evert

If Kerber was at all intimidated at the prospect of facing a four-time Grand Slam champion, she left any nerves at home in Germany....
Alexandra Willis

I think it's really like the grass and I are one. We get along really well.
Taylor Townsend

She's had a million of them today, and most of them have hit the back fence.
Virginia Wade, describing error-prone Petra Kvitova

As soon as I got the break in the second set, I knew I'm going to take it home.
Sabine Lisicki

I think she played close to the perfect match.
Kim Clijsters, describing opponent Angelique Kerber

From the beginning of the match, I didn't have a lot of break balls, and I didn't have very nice feelings. Really, it was not funny for me in that moment. I feel so bad. That's probably why I played so bad.
Petra Kvitova

For the whole of the first set and a large chunk of the second, it did seem that the champion could not hit a barn door at five paces....
Alix Ramsay

...the reason we start at the first round is you have to go through all those opponents to get to the final stage of a tournament, whether it's a Grand Slam or the middle of nowhere. That's the reason we go out and play.
Maria Sharapova

If this is my best, then I'm in trouble.
Serena Williams

Wimbledon triumph for Maria....

Maria Kirilenko, that is. The can't-quite-meet-her potential Russian Maria with the lovely all-court game advanced to her first Wimbledon quarterfinal today by defeating Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-7, 6-3. However, the "other" Maria--Maria Sharapova--was bundled out the tournament by an extremely in-form Sabine Lisicki. Last year, Sharapova beat Lisicki (who was playing as a wild card) in straight sets in the semifinals. Today, the German returned the favor, beating the world number 1 6-4, 6-3--the exact scoreline from last year, but with the winner reversed.

When Lisicki is really on, she takes control of most points. Today, anything Sharapova did, Lisicki did better. The final point was a microcosm of the match: Sharapova saved two match points, then Lisicki hit a second serve ace to advance to the next round.

Lisicki's next opponent will be countrywoman Angelique Kerber, whom she has never beaten. Kerber rolled over Kim Clijsters in the round of 16 like a lawn machine rolling over a Wimbledon court. The German got 77% of her first serves in, and had first and second serve percentage wins of 81 and 75. She beat Clijsters 6-1, 6-1 in just 49 minutes. Lisicki is the flashier player of the two Germans, but Kerber is the more consistent. The quarterfinal match might be good.

Kirilenko, the winning Maria, will face 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the next round. The 3rd seed put an efficient end to the run of a very nervous Camila Giorgi. Giorgi made 30 unforced errors; Radwanska made six. Radwanska has never gotten beyond the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and now she has a chance to improve her record. I'm really looking forward to the quarterfinal match because I really like watching both of these players and admire the way they maneuver their opponents on the court. I find both their games a real pleasure to watch.

Both Tamira Paszek and Victoria Azarenka won their matches easily. For Paszek, it must have felt strange, since her specialty is coming back dramatically from near-defeat. Today, she defeated Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-2. Azarenka defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-0, and that about says it all. The world number 2 will play Paszek in the semifinals.

Things weren't as easy for Serena Williams. She took the first set against Yaroslava Shvedova--6-1, in 26 minutes. I had the feeling, though, that things were about to change, and I was right. Shvedova pulled herself together in between sets and won the second set 6-2. At 4-all in the second, Shvedova served at 0-40 and saved three break points. At 5-all, though, Willliams broke. Serving at 6-5, she hit possibly the best shot of the day to arrive at match point, which she immediately turned into a victory.

Today's match was the second in a row in which Williams was seriously challenged. Her next challenge will come from defending champion Petra Kvitova, who put herself through a small hell in order to win her round of 16 contest against Francesca Schiavone. It helped that Schiavone found it hellish, too. The Italian star, who has been quick to fly off the handle all season, was upset that the match was not suspended when rain began to fall. She tried to explain to the umpire--who said she would stop the match if Schiavone slipped on the grass--that she was also worried about the slippery nature of the ball. She didn't get her way, though, later, there was enough rain to cause a suspension.

For her part, Kvitova displayed the sloppiness she has shown all season, even giving away set point in the first set by slamming a ball into the net when she had an open court. After she lost that set 4-6, she continued to struggle in the second set, which she finally won, 7-5. Schiavone was pretty much unglued by the third set, and Kvitova also found her game, and took the set 6-1. And as talented and tough as the Italian is, playing Serena Williams in the quarterfinals will be an entirely different matter. Kvitova needs to eat the pineapple and stop the thinking.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Passing shots

Ever wonder what players say to each other during the handshake? Zheng Jie says that Serena Williams shook her hand and said "You are crazy! You are crazy! I think this is an unbelievable match for us." Zheng says she is hoping Williams wins the tournament.

"I went to sleep in June, woke up in July," says Sloane Stephens. (I think that happened to me, too.)

Richard Pagliaro says Ana Ivanovic will upset Victoria Azarenka in the Wimbledon round of 16.

Fila is commemorating Kim Clijsters' retirement with a special collection. Nice.

Here's a cute video of Kim and Laura Robson conducting a children's tennis clinic at Wimbledon:

Sweet 16

Here it is, Wimbledon's middle Sunday, when we can have our televisions on all day but all we can see (in the USA) of the tournament is ABC's one-hour highlights show. So it's time to do the laundry, go to the movies, take a break--or perhaps mentally prepare for what is to come next week.

World number 1 Maria Sharapova faces Sabine Lisicki in the round of 16. Lisicki is actually good on all surfaces, but she's injury prone, and seems to always be "making a comeback." When she's "on," she's dangerous because of her serve (which isn't always "big" the way it tends to be described; it can also be tricky). Sharapova has already had some problems serving at this tournament, but--for the most part--she's been good in that department.

Obviously, if one of them starts messing up her serve, the match could well be decided. Sharapova moves better than she used to, and seems to be more conscious of her need to move. Lisicki will have to serve up a storm to beat her.

Kim Clijsters, who makes more comebacks than Mariah Carey, is playing as a wild card in this Wimbledon. She beat Jelena Jankovic in the first round (that seemed inevitable), and she got maybe a bit lucky in the third when Vera Zvonareva retired. But now it's getting tougher because she has to play Angelique Kerber in the round of 16. Kerber went to pieces in the final in Eastbourne, and lost to Tamira Paszek (Paszek seems to have that effect on recent opponents), but she's playing well at the All England Club, and seems at home on the grass.

Clijsters has so many athletic advantages over most opponents, but Kerber has shown herself to be athletically impressive of late, and--when her serve is working--she has the left-handed advantage. What happened in the final in Eastbourne was unfortunate, but we would do well to remember that it is Clijsters who has a tendency to "go away" during big matches.

Camila Giorgi has been this Wimbledon's breath of fresh air, with her ahtletic grace and deceptively powerful ball-striking. But now she goes up against The Trickster--the angle-seeking, forward-moving, ever-preparing 3rd seed, Agnieszka Radwanska. With her greatly improved serve, Radwanska can take apart an opponent as though she were......as though she were......well, slicing a melon.

Will Giorgi realize the greatness of the occasion and lose her confidence? Or will she simply not know what to do against Radwanska?

Also playing in the round of 16 are Maria Kirilenko and Peng Shuai. These two haven't played each other in six years, and they've never played each other on grass. In fact, they've played each other only twice, and are 1-1 in wins. Peng is physically vulnerable, though the fast-moving game at Wimbledon can save her body some wear and tear. Like Marion Bartoli, she hits two-handed on both sides. Kirilenko has a rather elegant, all-court game, and she can hang in for a very long time (just ask Sam Stosur).

Serena Williams, who is very fleet, yet awkward, of foot these days, will play Yaroslava Shvedova in the next round. But unless Shvedova brings her golden serve and never lets up with it, she is likely to feel less confident when she's up against one of the tour's truly golden serves. Williams can be a regular ace machine at Wimbledon, and there just isn't anything an opponent can do about that. Her serve saved her from an onslaught by Zheng Jie in the third round, and in the past, that serve has been good for the whole tournament.

Now it gets interesting. The creative, expressive, superbly athletic Francesca Schiavone meets The Rock (who is now displaying a bit more of her Rockness). Expect entertainment. Expect defending champion Petra Kvitova to get a bit befuddled. Expect both opponents to appreciate each other. Kvitova is likely to advance to the next round, of course, but the journey could be fun for all.

How long can Tamira Paszek keep it up? Her long matches, close calls and comebacks have made me tired, and all I did was watch them. Paszek has been at it since Eastbourne, where she won the championship. She really does come alive when she's behind and in danger, but the stress on both her body and her mind could catch up with her at any time. In the round of 16, she'll play Roberta Vinci, who likes the net to the same degree that Paszek avoids it. Vinci is nimble, and she's going to make Paszek move in a direction she doesn't care for. Will this do the Austrian in, finally, or will she just keep on playing? She made it to the quarterfinals last year, but was defeated by Victoria Azarenka.

Australian Open champion Azarenka has been a bit under the radar so far at the All England Club. That's undoubtedly to her advantage, since she tends to get a bit cranky now and then, and everyone wants to talk about what it means. So far, Azarenka's draw hasn't been very difficult, but the round of 16 is hard to predict, difficulty-wise, since the world number 2 will face one of the most unpredictable players on the tour. Ana Ivanovic can scorch with that forehand, and she can just as quickly go into a period of errant ball-tossing nervous collapse. Azarenka should be able to advance efficiently, however.

This is a good time to point out that three of the players in the round of 16 are from Italy, which makes Italy the "most represented" country in the draw at this time. There are two Russians (plus one former Russian) and two Germans.

There are also three former Wimbledon champions in the round of 16. Williams has won the tournament four times, and Sharapova and Kvitova have each won it one time.

Finally, if you have those Middle Sunday Blues, here's your smile for the day: