Saturday, July 8, 2023

Weather, injuries, thrills, and memories--all in a (Wimbledon) week's work

It rained. 

Then it rained some more. There were multiple delays, and players wound up playing their first round matches while others were playing their third round matches. Then it rained some more.

They slipped and fell. 

And some of them just hurt.

Venus Williams, the chronically unlucky Karolina Muchova, and the eternally battle-scarred AlizΓ© Cornet all hit the grass and were simply not the same after they got up. Williams hurt her knee, Muchova injured her hip, and Cornet--who arrived with tape on her leg--left with tape all over her leg.

Williams, Muchova and Cornet weren't the only victims of injury. Paula Badosa's back, which has bothered her for quite a while, caused her to retire in her match against Marta Kostyuk. Barbora Krejcikova had to retire in her match against Mirra Andreeva because of an ankle injury she had sustained in her previous match. Sadly, she and Katerina Siniakova--the top seeds--had to withdraw from doubles. (They were knocked out in the first round of the French Open, and now their luck is really running badly.) Veronika Kudermetova, who lost her second round singles match, has also withdrawn from doubles (with partner Liudmila Samsonova) because of a hip injury.

That is a lot of injury, sustained by very notable players--in the first week of a major. It feels especially poignant in the case of Muchova, a very talented player whose entire career has been stalled by various injuries. Last month, in good health, she reached the final of the French Open, and clay is her least favorite surface. Her favorite surface is grass, so a lot of fans were exciting to see what she would do at Wimbledon, but it was the grass that brought pain to her hip.

They said stupid things.

And didn't listen.

So far, Wimbledon press conferences have had a couple of undesirable highlights. A reporter asked Victoria Azarenka to talk about Russia; she isn't Russian. And a reporter began his questioning of Paula Badosa by congratulating her on her win. She lost. Not only that, but she lost by retirement, and was feeling especially out of sorts because I imagine she suspected that her back problem was a thing of the past. To make matters worse, the reporter had to be told more than once that Badosa had not won her match. 

My best guess is that the reporters who asked these questions are not sports reporters, but are general press, and that they really don't have a clue about professional tennis. It's not good to have them at press conferences.

A sad highlight of this week was watching Anett Kontaveit play her final singles match; she lost in the second round to Marie Bouzkova, who would go on to upset 5th seed Caroline Garcia. The 27-year-old Kontaveit (number 2 i the world in 2022), an extremely well-liked player, has a lot of talent, and it's been so frustrating--for years--to see her not quite meet her potential because her body kept betraying her. She has now retired from the sport because of lumbar disc degeneration. 

It's always so sad to see talented players (or any players) have to retire because of injury or physical conditions, just as it's sad to see extremely gifted players like Muchova and Bianca Andreescu not be able to meet their potentials (yet) because their bodies would not cooperate.

One of the other highlights of the week was watching the longest tiebreak ever played in a women's match at a major. Lesia Tsurenko and Ana Bogdan played a 38-point tiebreak in their second round third set, and by the time it was (finally) near the end, they both looked so--whatever the tennis equivalent is of punch-drunk--it was a wonder that they could still stand. Tsurenko won it on her seventh match point, and she saved a total of five match points in the match, which lasted three hours and forty minutes.Tsurenko, incidentally, is another player whose career has been plagued by injury, but she's having an especially good season.

In the meantime, efending champion Elena Rybakina, defending runner-up Ons Jabeur and world number Iga Swiatek have all advanced to the second week of the tournament, and--of note--so has two-time champion Petra Kvitova; Kvitova has not reached the round of 16 since 2019.

Here (almost) is the singles round of 16 draw:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Belinda Bencic (14)
Victoria Azarenka (19) vs. Elina Svitolina (WC)
Jessica Pegula (4) vs. Lesia Tsurenko
Marketa Vondrousova vs. Maria Bouzkova (32)
Ons Jabeur (6) vs. Petra Kvitova (9)
Beatriz Haddad Maia (13) vs. Elena Rybakina (3)
Madison Keys (25) vs. either Anastasia Potapova (22) or Mirra Andreeva (Q)
Ekaterina Alexandrova (21) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

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