Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Too cool (def.--see "Flipkens, Kirsten")

A few years ago, Mary Carillo remarked that if Kirsten Flipkens had gotten the right coach when she was young, she could have had a very good career. Whether she ever got that coach, I don't know, but she did get Kim Clijsters as a mentor, and it doesn't get much better than that. Flipkens is the latest of an impressive list of players who have overcome great odds to not just stay in the game, but to show their best tennis at a later age.

I've always enjoyed watching the Belgian play, but--as readers of this blog already know--I'm a Flipkens, Radwanska, Vinci, Schiavone kind of fan at heart (though I make great exceptions, e.a., Kvitova, Bartoli).

Last year, after suffering repeated injuries (including a so-called career-ending back injury), Flipkens had to deal with blood clots. Her ranking fell to number 262. With Clijsters behind her, giving her a lot of support, the "other" Belgian rebuilt her career, only this time, she had more confidence and was better able to show off some of the skills that make her so much fun to watch.

She showed them off today, taking out 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Of course, the victory wasn't as simple as it looks on paper. Kvitova had to have medical treatment during the match for an illness which she said began yesterday. She was sweating bullets and everything about her game slowed down considerably after the medical timeout. Had Kvitova not been ill, would the result have been the same? It's hard to know, but here are three things we do know: 

1. Flipkens played the match of her career.
2. The Belgian, unlike many in her position, didn't let anything about the occasion destroy her cool, collected attitude.
3. Kvitova is sick way too much (a discussion for another time).

Flipkens' athleticism was on display throughout the match, as she dashed from side to side, scooped up balls she shouldn't have been able to get to, and used her signature slice to advantage. She made a total of five unforced errors and hit 23 winners. There were seven aces in there. Her first and second service win percentages were 76 and 50.

It should also be noted that Kvitova played at a very high level in the opening set. The 8th seed was expected to go to the semifinals, but instead, the unseeded 27-year-old Belgian will take her place on the court on Thursday, and either she or Marion Bartoli will go to the final.

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