Friday, July 5, 2019

The weather may be warm, but Coco is still the thing

Today's third round Wimbledon match played by qualifier Coco Gauff and the unseeded Polona Hercog was easily turned into a story about 15-year-old prodigy Gauff, but in fact, there was a story on both sides of the net. Two years ago, Polona Hercog missed half a season because of a scapula stress fracture, a left knee injury and a right wrist injury. She's healthy now, but in a career that has spanned thirteen years, she has never reached the fourth round of a major.

She could have erased that stat today, but she played it way too safe. Slicing the ball is a great way to confound an opponent with a change of pace, or to get an opponent to hit a ball into the net, but it isn't a very good way to carry on rallies in which one has multiple opportunities to hit winners. Again and again, Hercog had clear winners on her racket but chose to slice the ball instead. Sometimes her patience paid off and Gauff made an error, but more often, her tactic resulted in missed opportunities.

For her part, Gauff did take risks, especially with some tricky overheads and volleys, and she remained calm and tactical throughout the two-hour and 47-minute match.

Hercog, who served really well for about a set and half and who was controlling the match with the ease of a veteran, held three match points in the second set. Gauff saved two of them, and Hercog double-faulted on the third. From that time on, Hercog was inconsistent, sometimes controlling rallies, and other times, not seeming to know what to do.

It was an error-filled affair. Hercog made 45 unforced errors, and Gauff made 43. Hercog hit ten more winners (34) than Gauff, but she had chances to hit so many more.

Gauff's next opponent is Simona Halep, who isn't going to fall victim to nerves (at least not for too long) the way Hercog did. The 7th seed defeated Vika Azarenka in straight sets.

The clever Hsieh Su-Wei dragged Karolina Pliskova to three sets, but the Tall Cool One prevailed. Elina Svitolina won a three-set match against Maria Sakkari, Karolina Muchova upset Anett Kontaveit, Zhang Shuai upset 14th seed Caroline Wozniacki, and Dayana Yastremska defeated Viktoria Golubic in a match I wish I could have seen.

A match I did see--and very much enjoyed--was the one played by Petra Martic and the unseeded Danielle Collins. Both players served really well, and the match was generally a high-energy affair. Martic was not always high-energy, though, and by the third set, she looked as though she might give out (I wasn't sure if this was mental, physical, or both).

The 24th seed played a cleaner match, though, hitting 20 winners and 26 unforced errors, while her opponent hit 33 winners and 42 unforced errors. It was a high quality match with a lot of momentum changes, and--until the last moment--I couldn't tell who was going to win.

Martic is on a roll. In January, she won her first WTA title (Istanbul), and she recently reached the quarterfinals of the French Open (she lost a very close match to Marketa Vondrousova). Her next Wmbledon opponent will be 8th seed Elina Svitolina.

In doubles, there was one upset today. 12th seeds Kirsten Flipkens and Johanna Larsson were defeated in the second round by Nadiia Kichenok and Abigail Spears.

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