Friday, July 30, 2021

It's hard to say goodbye, and even harder to say it three times

Kiki Bertens (photo by Daniel Ward)


It's always tough for fans when a talented, popular player retires. These are hard times, for not one, but three talented and popular players are leaving the tour. Kiki Bertens, Carla Suarez Navarro and Barbora Strycova have all announced their retirement. Each woman added something special to the WTA, and each will be remembered for her contributions, not only to the game, but to the unique culture that is women's professional tennis.

Kiki Bertens, who was ranked as high as number 4 in singles, was known as a clay court specialist for years, but then she showed the tennis world that she could be just as deadly on a hard court. In 2018, she won both Charleston and Cincinnati, securing her place as a two (at least)-surface threat. 

Several years ago, I had a strong feeling that Bertens could win the French Open. In 2019, I was no longer alone--the Dutchwoman was a top favorite--the favorite for some--to win in Paris. She had won Madrid without dropping a set, and her chances to win a major looked really good.

Sadly, Bertens had to retire in the second round when she became ill, and we'll never know what might have been. Nevertheless, she retires with a wonderful career record. Bertens won ten singles titles, the most notable of them, of course, in Charleston, Cincinnati and Madrid. She also won ten doubles titles, was on the Dutch Olympic team in 2016, and played Fed Cup for The Netherlands for eight years.

Bertens won a lot of points with her heavy topspin forehand, but she employed enough variety in her shot-making to get the better of a variety of opponents. The 29-year-old Bertens was also known for her high level of fitness. A nagging Achilles injury, however, contributed to her decision to retire from professional tennis. She also acknowledged that her pandemic-related time away from the tour allowed her to look at other options for her life.

"...Covid came and everything changed, of course," Bertens said when she announced her retirement. "I gave my body total rest because I felt like I needed it. With the unknown, it was tough to go out there and practice every day. So I thought I would give my body a total rest, and I quite liked it, to be honest."

The 29-year-old Dutch star acknowledged that she might have played for another two or three years if the pandemic hadn't come along and given her that rest. But, she added, there were days when it was hard for her to walk, so she doesn't really know how much longer she could have played. She played her final match at the 2021 Olympics, losing in the opening round to Marketa Vondrousova.

Bertens was both a crowd favorite and a peer favorite--always candid, always trying to improve, always available for a good laugh. She will be missed.

Also playing her final match at the Olympics was Carla Suarez Navarro, whose retirement story was especially poignant because the 32-year-old Spanish player had spent eight months undergoing both chemotherapy and radiation for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Suarez Navarro said that she knew that 2020 would be her last year on the tour, but then she changed her mind because she didn't want people to remember her as someone ill with cancer. "I didn't want to go through the back door...."

Suarez Navarro played at both the French Open and Wimbledon, then competed at the Olympics, where she defeated the talented Ons Jabeur in the first round. She and her friend, Garbine Muguruza, teamed for doubles competition, and made it to the second round.

Known for her beautiful one-handed backhand, Suarez Navarro won two singles titles (including Doha, in 2016, and three doubles titles (all with Muguruza). She played on Spain's Fed Cup team for eleven years, and she was a three-time member of the Spanish Olympic team.

Also announcing her retirement was Barbora Strycova, a very talented doubles player who could also be a tough singles opponent (she reached the 2019 Wimbledon semifinals). Strycova won two singles titles and 31 doubles titles, including the 2020 Wimbledon title (with Hsieh Su-wei). She was the world number 1 doubles player in 2019. Strycova played on the Czech Fed Cup team for twelve years, and she was twice a member of the Czech Olympic team.

The 35-year-old Czech player, who is pregnant with her first child, is a podcaster and a figure skater, and has long had somewhat of a cult following among serious WTA fans. She has been called "The Professor," a fact to which Elina Svitolina can attest:

 

One of my favorite of Strycova's professorial moments occurred when she showed Aga Radwanska how to "Radwanska" at the 2016 French Open:

The Czech star, in announcing her retirement, said that she hopes to play one final WTA event in 2022. We can only hope. One thing for sure--there will never be another like her. Perhaps world number 1 Ash Barty said it best when she described Strycova as a "hell of a chick."

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Credit One Bank new title sponsor in Charleston

Charleston Tennis, LLC, announced yesterday that Credit One Bank is the new title sponsor of the long-running Charleston 500 tournament formerly known as the Volvo Car Open. The event, a player favorite, is the largest women's-only tennis tournament in North America. The tournament will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022 in the newly renovated and modernized Credit One Stadium. The event's new name will be revealed at a later date.

Present at the announcement were: 
Bob Moran, President, Charleston Tennis, LLC
John Coombe, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Credit One Bank
Steve Simon, CEO, WTA
Madison Keys, 2019 Charleston champion

Madison Keys

Credit One first partnered with Charleston Tennis, LLC in June of 2020 for the Credit One Bank Invitational, which was part of Tennis Channel’s Re(Open) Tour and the first large-scale tennis event to be held after the sport shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament featured sixteeen players, received more than 40 hours of live coverage on Tennis Channel, and helped raise funds for the Medical University of South Carolina’s front-line healthcare workers. Following the success of the event, Credit One and Charleston Tennis, LLC began exploring additional partnership opportunities through sponsorship of the Daniel Island stadium and activation around the tennis tournament and throughout the region.

Charleston Tennis, LLC will continue to own and operate the facilities and event programming at the Credit One Stadium and LTP Daniel Island tennis center, including the WTA 500 tennis tournament, concerts, tennis programs, and more. Volvo Cars USA will continue to support the event as the official vehicle. 

Credit One Stadium will expand from 7,500 seats to 11,000 seats and feature sixteen fully air-conditioned permanent suites, all new concessions, additional bathrooms, and a 75,000-square-foot Stage House with a partial roof. The Stage House will transform the stadium experience for tennis players, entertainers, media, and special guests, offering locker rooms, a gym, training facilities, production and media space, catering amenities, and a VIP rooftop restaurant and outdoor bar. The roof of the Stage House will also provide partial shade for attendees at the tennis tournament and act as a support structure for concerts and special events.

Bob Moran

 
“The future of live tennis is a bright spot for us, building and planning for what the future will look like for the new Credit One Stadium. After nearly eighteen months of navigating postponements and cancelations, we look forward to bringing world-class tennis back to Charleston each April and broadening our reach to bigger and better concerts and special events throughout the year,” Moran said when making the announcement.

 

The 2022 tournament will be held April 2-10. Veronika Kudermetova is the defending singles champion, and Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs are the defending doubles champions.

 

Madison Keys, John Coombe, Steve Simon

Sunday, July 11, 2021

My Wimbledon top 10

 Here are my top 10 Wimbledon happenings and phenomena, in ascending order:

10. You can call it tradition, or you can call it ridiculous: 2021 marked the final blank middle Sunday at Wimbledon, and it's about time. At a tournament where it often rains--the first three days of this year's event, it rained so much that there were massive delays--it makes no sense to have no play on the middle Sunday. But that isn't the only problem. Tournament administrators promote Manic Monday as "the greatest day in tennis" (but of course, they also claim to have the greatest tournament), but for fans, it's a nightmare. Then there's the matter of not having the quarterfinals played consecutively, which is even more of a nightmare for fans. Perhaps in another 50 years, those in charge will make changes to the round of 16 and quarterfinal schedules, too--but let's not raise our expectations.

9. The harder they fall: Defending champion Simona Halep tore her calf during the French Open, and--shortly before the Wimbledon draw was made--she announced that she would not be able to play in London. This sad news was followed by the equally sad news that Serena Williams had to retire during her first round match; the seven-time champion slipped on the court and injured her leg. After having to wait two years to play at the event, they were again denied the opportunity. And for fans, the agony continued when two-time champion Petra Kvitova was upset in the first round by Sloane Stephens.

8. Diede De Great adds a third Wimbledon title: Top seed Diede De Groot added a third Wimbledon title to her very impressive resume today, when she defeated Kgothatso Montjane 6-2, 6-2 in the wheelchair singles final. De Groot wasn't in the doubles final, which is very unusual; she and partner Aniek Van Koot were upset in the semifinals. Second seeds Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley won the doubles title, defeating Montjane and Lucy Shuker 6-0, 7-6 in the final.

7. Goal accomplished: Talking to the press the day before the MUSC Women's Health Open final in Charleston, Ons Jabeur said, "I want to show them what Ons can do." She was stopped by Astra Sharma in that final, but then Jabeur went to Paris and made it to the round of 16. She followed that by winning Birmingham (her first WTA title), then reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. And what a run it was: Jabeur took out three major champions, two of them Wimbledon champions--Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek--on her way.

Jabeur had reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open earlier this year, and--at that time--she became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a major. Now she's the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, and we can conclude that she has indeed shown us what Ons can do.

6. May I have another, please?: Desirae Krawczyk and her partner, Joe Salisbury, unseeded, won the French Open mixed doubles title this year. Now Krawczyk, this time playing with Neal Skupski, has also won the Wimbledon title. Krawczyk is ranked number 17 in the world in doubles. She and Alexa Guarachi were the women's doubles runners-up at the 2020 French Open.

5. No title, but certainly a victory: In 2016, Angie Kerber won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, was a runner-up at Wimbledon, and won a silver medal at the Olympic Games. In 2018, she won Wimbledon again. Since that time, the former number 1 dropped out of the top 20, but she came to life in a big way during the 2021 grass season. Right before Wimbledon began, Kerber won the Bad Homburg event, her first title in three years. Her Wimbledon second round match was arguably the greatest singles match of the tournament, and she made it as far as the semifinals. Kerber (who looked a bit passive in the match) lost to eventual champion Ash Barty, but it was a great run. And more important--Angie's back.

4. You need a shot of vitamin V: Charleston champion Veronika Kudermetova and her partner, veteran Elena Vesnina, had already taken out the top seeds, French Open champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, in the quarterfinals (and saving two match points in the process). In their semifinal match, they had to contend with the on-fire team of Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders, and what ensued was as thrilling a match as anyone would want to see. 

Down 2-5 in the third set, the younger half of the Russian team appeared to be deflated beyond repair. Kudermetova's resigned agony was palpable, but experienced champion Vesnina did everything but breathe fire into her (and she may have found a way to do that), bringing her back to life. The Russians saved three match points, and went on to win the match, 7-6, 3-6, 7-5. It was two and a half hours of very high quality tennis and non-stop excitement.

3. The mirror doesn't lie: When we think of the fiery, determined Sara Sorribes Tormo, we tend to think of a clay court, but it turns out that the Spaniard is just as maddening an opponent on grass. Ask Angie Kerber, who had to deal with Sorribes Tormo in the Wimbledon second round. Kerber, with her strong legs and her ability to hit impossible angles, is one of the greatest defensive players on the tour, and perhaps one of the greatest ever. But when the German star looked across the net in the second round, she saw the tireless retriever from Spain, running and hitting and looking every bit as fierce as Kerber. It was exhausting just to watch them. For three hours and 19 minutes, they were at each other, providing continuing thrills for spectators. Kerber won, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

2. London's finest drama: I don't like the custom of naming doubles teams (though I make an exception for The Spice Girls, because that name was inspired), but if Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina had to have a name, Drama Drama Drama would do as well as any. During their run at Winbledon, drama followed them wherever they went. There was that thrilling match against the top seeds, Krejcikova and Siniakova, and that crazy-exciting match against Dolehide and Storm. So it was no surprise when the final, which they played against Hsieh Sui-wei and Elise Mertens, was also filled with high drama. It was a tense and thrilling affair, beautifully played by all, and as good a final as one could hope to see. Hsieh and Mertens emerged the winners, 3-6, 7-5, 9-7, and Mertens has now returned to her number 1 ranking.

1. Four decades was long enough: In 1971, Evonne Goolagong lifted her first of two Venus Rosewater dishes. She won the title again in 1980. That no other Australian woman came along and won the title until 41 years had passed is rather strange. But now one has. World number 1 Ash Barty, whose childhood dream was to win Wimbledon, saw that dream come true when she defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in the final.

Though their premier championship wins are half a century apart, Barty and Goolagong Cawley are friends, and Barty has named Goolagong Cawley as a mentor. They also share indigenous heritage: Goolagong Cawley's family is Wiradjuri, and Barty's father is of Ngarigo heritage. Throughout the tournament, Barty wore a dress with a scalloped hem, in tribute to the dress that her mentor had worn 50 years before. 

Barty is known for her variety in shot-making, and especially for her slice, but she has now made her serve even better, which makes her a major threat. In the final, she played the woman known for her serve, and her ability to hit aces--Karolina Pliskova. After a weak start, the Czech player came to life in the second set, and, via a tiebreak, forced the match to a third set. Barty prevailed, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, and then went on to show us a great number of emotions as it became to real to her that she was holding the Venus Rosewater Dish. 

A doubles star who leaves tennis behind for two and a half years in order to sort things out and to play professional cricket, then returns to become number 1 in the world in singles--wins the French Open, then takes a year off because of the pandemic, during which time she wins a golf tournament. Then injures her hip at the French Open, but shows up at Wimbledon--and wins the title. 

Oh, that movie is too over-the-top to be made! It was, however, exactly what happened in the professional life of Ash Barty, 2021 Wimbledon singles champion, and world number 1.

 We await the sequel.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Hsieh and Mertens win Wimbledon in yet ANOTHER doubles thriller

There have been some outrageously exciting doubles matches at this year's Wimbledon tournament, and they've all had something in common: Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina played in them. One could say that the Russian pair took the scenic route to the final (and almost to the title), but it was really more like the "edge of the mountain very narrow road with no lights" route. 

Vesnina took a maternity leave from the tour in late 2018, and returned this year. Her results in both singles and doubles have been quite good; she reached the third round of the French Open in singles, and she reached the final in mixed doubles. At Wimbledon, she and countrywoman Veronika Kudermetova were unseeded, but they did a lot of damage.

In the quarterfinals, the pair took out top seeds and French Open champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, after saving three match points. And in the semifinals, they played an edge-of-the-seat thriller against Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders, in which they saved four match points. In that match, Kudermetova became despondent and appeared about to implode, but the veteran Vesnina (who has won three women's doubles majors) simply wouldn't let that happen, and eventually coaxed her partner back to life. 

We couldn't have asked for a better final--the talented and exciting Russian pair faced off against third seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens, who--between them--have doubles skills galore. Hsieh's regular partner, Barbora Strycova, announced her retirement and is pregnant, so Hsieh needed a new partner. Mertens, half of the tennis's "odd couple," was suddenly available because the other half of that couple, Aryna Sabalenka, decided to focus on her singles game. 

What with Hsieh's magician's hands and trickster moves (she's kind of the Radwanska of doubles), Vesnina's tricky serving and "been there, done that" approach to rallies, Mertens' accuracy and clutch play, and Kudermetova's fiery forehand and deft volleys, there was non-stop entertainment in this match. The Russians took the first set, 6-3. In the second set, Vesnina and Kudermetova served for the championship, and held two championship points at 40-15, but Hsieh and Mertens saved them both, then went on to win the set, 7-5.

The third set was everything spectators might have hoped for. Hsieh and Mertens served for the championship at 5-3, and were broken. The Russians served for the championship again at 7-6, but they, too, were broken. The tension was high (as was the quality of play). Hsieh and Mertens then took control of the match, winning ten of the final eleven points, taking the set at 9-7, and winning the title. 

This is Hsieh's third Wimbledon doubles title; she and Strycova won the event in 2018, and Hsieh won with Peng Shuai in 2013. Hsieh and Peng also won the French Open in 2014. It's Mertens' first Wimbledon title. She and Sabalenka won the 2021 Australian Open, and they won the U.S. Open in 2019.

By reaching the final, Mertens returned to the world number 1 doubles ranking.

Oi Oi Oi!

Already a French Open champion, world number 1 Ash Barty is now a Wimbledon champion. Her 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory over Karolina Pliskova in today's final marked the realization of a lifelong dream for Barty, and brought the Venus Rosewater Dish to an Australian for the first time in 50 years. 

Throughout the tournament, Barty wore a scallop-hemmed dress in tribute to Evonne Goolagong, who wore a similar dress when she won her first Wimbledon title in 1971. Their bond is especially close, in that Goolagong is both a friend and mentor to Barty, and both women are of indigenous heritage. 

Pliskova had not played in a major final since 2016, when she lost the U.S. Open title to Angie Kerber. In today's match, the Czech star showed up in the first set appearing to be what used to be known as a "nervous wreck," unable to find her signature superior serve, and unable to control anything on the court. Down 0-3 in the opening set, Pliskova got on the scoreboard, but it was relatively easy for Barty to take the set, 6-3.

Pliskova found her game (most notably, her serve) in the second set, though she continued to lag behind. Barty served for the championship at 6-5, but was broken, and the set went to a tiebreak, which Pliskova won, 7-4, as Barty's forehand repeatedly broke down. The third set held the promise of being a tight one, but Barty would have none of it. Despite having to deal with a serious challenge from a now more in-form Pliskova, the world number 1 went on to win the set 6-3, and to claim the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Barty had to retire from her second-round match at Roland Garros because of a left hip injury. That may have turned out to be one of those "good luck, bad luck, who knows?" things, in that she she had some time to rest and recover. 

The 2021 Wimbledon champion has traveled her own unusual path to the number 1 ranking. A doubles star on the tour, Barty left for two and a half years and played professional cricket. Upon her return, she decided to focus on her singles game, and the rest is history. An all-around athlete, during 2020, she took the entire year off because of the Covid-19 crisis, and--during that time--won a golf tournament.

"To be able to be successful here at Wimbledon, to achieve my biggest dream, has been absolutely incredible," Barty said of her victory. "The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight." 

I don't think that the stars are going away any time soon.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Barty and Pliskova to contest for Wimbedon title

World number 1 Ash Barty brought her number 1 game, and then some, to her Wimbedon semifinal match against 2018 champion Angie Kerber, who--during this grass season--has once again looked like the most dangerous of contenders for the 2021 title. After losing the first set, the German star was able to raise the level of her game, take a 5-2 lead, then--at 5-4--serve for the set. But Barty broke her, won her next game at love, and never looked back. Her 6-3, 7-6 victory places her in the final of a tournament she says she's always dreamed of winning.

As for Kerber--as disappointing as this loss had to be, she has definitely "returned," and in a big way, which is an exciting occurrence.

If there is a "complete" player, it has to be Barty. Her expert use of the backhand slice, and her ability to use keen strategy have always been there, but now she also has a deadly serve (she had a first serve win percentage of 88 against Kerber). And she feels at home on the grass.

Barty's opponent in the final will be eighth seed Karolina Pliskova, who defeated second seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals. Matches played between two "power hitters" are generally not my cup of tea, but in this match, it was interesting to watch Pliskova repeatedly do the one thing that she says has kept her from doing better on grass--getting really low to hit the ball. I remember, about five years ago, the Czech star said that her resolution for the coming year was to "bend my knees more." She's still working on that.

Pliskova, who has had some issues with her famous serve, was on fire against Sabalenka, hitting 14 aces (Sabalenka, I should note, hit 18), and coming away with very notable first and second serve win percentages of 78 and 69.

Barty is 5-2 against Pliskova, and the Australian player has won the last three matches that they played against each other.

Paths to the final:

ASH BARTY (1)
round 1--def. Carla Suarez Navarro
round 2--def. Anna Binkova
round 3--def. Katerina Siniakova
round of 16--def. Barbora Krejcikova
quarterfinals--def. Ajla Tomljanovic
semifinals--def. Angie Kerber (25)

KAROLINA PLISKOVA (8)
round 1--def. Tamara Zidansek
round 2--def. Donna Vekic
round 3--def. Tereza Martincova
round of 16--def. Liudmila Samsonova (WC)
quarterfinals--def. Viktorija Golubic
semifinals--def. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

In doubles, third seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens will play Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina in the final. Hsieh and Mertens defeated fifth seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the semifinals. 

In their semifinal match, Kudermetova and Vesnina defeated Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders 7-6, 3-6, 7-5. This very high-quality match was a series of thrills that went on for two and a half hours. Down 2-5 in the third set, the Russians eventually saved three match points and went on to break and then win the match. That's the summary, but you had to see it to fully appreciate the incredible nature of this contest, which included an almost-meltdown from Kudermetova.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Wimbledon semifinals set

Though we've seen some exciting matches throughout the Wimbledon tournament, none occurred in today's quarterfinals. 8th seed Karolina Pliskova made pretty easy work of Victorija Golubic. Pliskova's first and second serve win percentages were 83 and 56, and that kind of says it all. She also did well at the net and kept her unforced errors down, defeating Golubic 6-2, 6-2. One couldn't have asked much more from the Czech star.

2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka had more with which to contend in 21st seed Ons Jabeur, but the Tunisian player didn't bring quite her customary level of energy to this match, and she was ultimately outhit by Sabalenka, who was playing in her first major quarterfinal. 

25th seed and 2018 Wimbledon champion Angie Kerber also won her match in straight sets, defeating Karolina Muchova 6-2, 6-3. Kerber out-served Muchova, and was broken only once, though Muchova had eight break opportunities.

Finally, world number 1 Ash Barty defeated countrywoman Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-3. Tomljanovic hit only five winners (to Barty's 23), but she made 20 unforced errors.

Here is the semifinal draw:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Angie Kerber (25)
These two have played each other four times, with each of them winning twice. They have never played one another on a grass court. Barty is the 2019 French Open champion, and Kerber has won the Australian Open (2016), the U.S. Open (2026) and Wimbledon (2018).

Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2
Sabalenka is 2-0 against Pliskova, and one of their matches (2018 Eastbourne) was played on grass.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Kerber, Barty and Jabeur all advance to the Wimbledon quarterfinals

Throughout her career, Angie Kerber's serve has ranged from "needs improvement" to "good enough" to "very good." Most of the time, she's in the "good enough" range. Today, in her Wimbledon round of 16 match, she was in the "better than her opponent" range. Though she's known for her big serve, and though she did serve six aces, Coco Gauff didn't deliver quite as well as Kerber in the service department. She also made more unforced errors than her opponent.

Kerber, in every way imaginable, looked like--well, like Angie Kerber. She kept the ball in play for long periods of time, she hit wicked angles, and she solved problems on the run. The 2018 Wimbledon champion defeated Gauff 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Also looking like herself--though it took her a while to get there--world number 1 Ash Barty defeated 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-3. Later in the day, Krejcikova and partner Katerina Siniakova, played doubles against Viktoria Kuzmova and Arantxa Rus. 

The Czech pair, running behind in the first set, sneaked in and won it. The teams were on serve at 2-3 in the second set when the match was suspended, and this had to feel like a gift for Krejcikova, who looked like she was one rally away from collapsing. I suspect that both physical and mental fatigue finally caught up with Krejcikova, who won a WTA 250 event (her first singles title), then went straight to Paris, where she won both the singles and doubles titles.

2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina, Victorija Golubic upset Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova defeated Liudmila Samsonova, and Karolina Muchova defeated Paula Badosa (of whom we will definitely be seeing more). Sadly, the up-and-coming British player, Emma Raducanu became ill and had to retire in the middle of her second set against Ajla Tomljanovic.

And then there was Ons Jabeur, who lost her first set to 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, but then pretty much ran over the Polish star in the next two sets, defeating her 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. Jabeur's service game was spot-on, and that description includes the nine aces that she hit. She hit 30 winners to Swiatek's 20, and she made 23 unforced errors. Good serving creates confidence, and confidence creates good serving. With every match, Jabeur steps farther into the zone.

Here is the quarterfinal singles draw:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic
Karolina Muchova (19) vs. Angie Kerber (25)
Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Viktorija Golubic
Ons Jabeur (21) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

Sunday, July 4, 2021

I hate Middle Sunday, and here's the evidence

I hate Middle Sunday because 1. It doesn't make sense (there's a lot of rain at Wimbledon, and especially this year, so matches are already backed up), and 2. I want to watch tennis. People who work outside the home all day during the week would also like to watch tennis.

Over the years, Women Who Serve has provided not only rants about Middle Sunday, but also some reading and viewing activities for those who need something of a Wimbledon nature to do. Here's the collection of my Middle Sunday rants and suggestions (you'll get to see a lot of Velma, and Roxie also makes an appearance; they were avid tennis fans):

https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com/2009/06/middle-sunday-blues.html

https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com/2014/06/those-middle-sunday-blues.html

https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-annual-i-hate-middle-sunday-rant.html 

https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com/2018/07/i-hate-middle-sunday-is-back.html

https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-almost-annual-i-hate-middle-sunday.html

Saturday, July 3, 2021

One former champion still stands as Wimbledon round of 16 approaches

Before the 2021 Wimbledon event began, there were six former champions expected to contend--five-time champion Venus Williams, seven-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champion Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, and Simona Halep. Sadly, Halep had to withdraw because of continuing problems with a calf tear.

Equally sad was the first round of exit of Petra Kvitova. The mercurial Czech champion was upset by the mercurial USA player, Sloane Stephens. Serena Williams slipped and hurt her leg during her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and had to retire. Venus Williams made it to the second round, in which she was defeated by Ons Jabeur, and Garbine Muguruza was upset by Jabeur in the third round.

That leaves Kerber, who survived the match of the tournament (so far--but it's hard to imagine that a more thrilling one will come along) against Sara Sorribes Tormo--a three-hour and 19-minute extravaganza in which there was never a let-up. That the German champion is the lone survivor may surprise many, but it doesn't surprise me. Kerber's combination of fitness, determination and a willingness to make changes in her game has always put her in line for another comeback. (And if you haven't seen her "One on One" episode with Chris Evert, you've missed something good; it was one of my favorites of the series.)

Of note is that two wild cards--Emma Raducanu of the UK and Liudmila Samsanova of Russia--have advanced to the second week of the tournament. There are also two other unseeded players in the fourth round. Finally--and not surprisingly--there are three Czech players who are still in the draw.

Here is the round of 16 draw:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Barbora Krejcikova (14)
Emma Raducanu (wc) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic
Paula Badosa (30) vs. Karolina Muchova (19)
Coco Gauff (20) vs. Angie Kerber (25)
Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Liudmila Samsanova (wc)
Madison Keys (23) vs. Viktorija Golubic
Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Ons Jabeur (21)
Elena Rybakina (18) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2)