Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Only four women left, and none is named Simona

Sometimes I just want to buy Simona Halep a drink. This is one of those times. I had my doubts about how she would do at Wimbledon, and I was pleasantly surprised when she performed beautifully. She's gone now, but even in the process of making her exit, she played beautifully. And the "haven't I had this nightmare before?" factor has to have done a number on her head.

And yes, she has had this nightmare before--just a few weeks ago, in Paris. We all watched as a cheeky Latvian upstart took the world number 2's victory out from under her, once again denying her the French Open title. Today, it was a brilliantly serving, tough-as-nails daughter of Brittanica who seemed to be adhering to a motto that read something like, Keep Calm and Crush Simona's Dream.

It was a great match, and both women served very well. The first set established the high level of intensity, and Halep won it, 7-6. The second set was just as intense, and it, too went to a tiebreak. And there was Simona, up 5-4 with two serves to get the two points that would take her into the semifinals. Only Jo Konta had other ideas, and a combination of Halep's errors and Konta's opportunistic hitting gave the set to the Brit.

The third set was even more intense, as the British crowd realized that it might actually happen--that a British woman might reach the Wimbledon semifinals, something that hadn't been done since Virginia Wade did it in 1978. Konta went up 4-2 and never looked back. It was the only break point she saw. Halep also had only one chance to break, but she failed to convert it. Konta took the set 6-4, and will meet Venus Williams in the semifinals.

As for Simona--coming so close to something big (especially in Paris) in consecutive majors has to be a major heartbreak.

Venus Williams had little trouble dominating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, and--as well as Williams played--it would be easy to say "well, there wasn't much Ostapenko could have done." But that would be wrong. There was plenty she could have done--like have a better second serve. And keep the ball inside the court. Ostapenko had some good moments, to be sure, but generally speaking, she played too carelessly to have any hope of extinguishing a very in-form Williams, who won, 6-3, 7-5.

But not to worry. Ostapenko will bounce back faster than a new service ball, and--one assumes--will focus on cleaning up her game and improving her second serve. Just a tweak here and there, and Ostapenko will be ready to come after everybody.

There was a long rain delay in the match that was played between CoCo Vandeweghe and Magda Rybarikova. Eventually, hours later, the match was moved to Centre Court so that it could be completed. But the rain delay did nothing for Vandeweghe, who had already lost the first set. Rybarikova served quite well and played a very clean match--Vandeweghe, not so much. In just over an hour and a half of play, the Slovakian player defeated Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-3.

In her press conference, Rybarikova said that this was the first time in a long time that she could play and practice without worrying about her knee or her wrist. She was obviously joyful, not just about getting to the semifinals, but about finally being able to move freely and without fear.

She has her work cut out for her, though, for her next opponent is Garbine Muguruza, who locked her Evil Twin in a closet and glided into Wimbledon with winning on her mind. When she isn't muguing around in a sullen state, the Spaniard is an overwhelming combination of fluidity, strategy and power. A commentator recently called her the Elegant Assassin, and the name fits her perfectly. Today, Muguruza (who was the Wimbledon runner-up in 2015), defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. This is the best Mugu has looked in a long time, and when she looks this good, she can be lethal.

My must-watch match for tomorrow is the doubles quarterfinal featuring 8th seeds Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua against 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.


Unknown said...

Four women now two. Hoping Venus rises from the shadow of her younger sister. taking the title that bears her name.

Diane said...

It should be quite a final!