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Wimbledon Day 8: The Unusual Suspects

Posted by gauloises1 on June 30, 2010

Feast your eyes on this semifinal lineup.

Then probably rub them a bit. OK, we expected Serena, despite the fact that Li Na Na Li (still can’t do it) has played her close and in fact beaten her in the past. But Serena has looked fearsome in these championships, with impenetrable serving (she served at an average of 111 mph today), and Na Li couldn’t really do too much about it. 75, 63, job done.

Curtsey still needs work though.

But what about her opponent, little Petra Kvitova? Well, not that little; she’s six foot. But she is quite young; 20. And you know how I know that? Because I am looking her up on the WTA website. It’s not that I didn’t know who she was – she’s had big wins in the past – I just never thought it would be that important. After all, when has a left-handed Czech ever done anything noteworthy?

Trailblazer.

And really, who thought that Vera Zvonareva would beat Kim Clijsters? Especially when Kim took the first set 63 and appeared perfectly comfortable, moving Zvonareva beautifully from side to side and finishing points off with a beautiful touch at net. She appeared totally relaxed; maybe a little too relaxed, as Vera really took it to her in the second and third sets and Kim had no response. Vera paid tribute to her own newfound maturity and emotional serenity on the court in her presser, which was perhaps fortunate, because probably nobody else was going to do it.

Fear her.

And now we come to the most surprising result of the day, Tsvetana Pironkova’s straightforward demolition of Venus Williams, 62 63. Except … was it? I watched it while it was happening, and then just to be sure I watched it again after work, and I still don’t know how it happened. I do think Pironkova played an excellent match and brought a high degree of guile to the court; knowing she couldn’t compete with Venus on raw pace and power, she concentrated on confounding Venus with no-pace balls and scrupulously accurate placement, working the five-time champion into a frustrated lather which resulted in enforced errors time and again. Most importantly, she brought a high degree of self-belief to the court, and not the manufactured sort which melts away under pressure; having beaten Venus once before, as she said to the BBC, “I actually thought I could win.” A praiseworthy attitude.

But Venus definitely contributed to beating herself. For one thing, she consistently failed to attack Pironkova’s serve, particularly her frankly nothing second serve. She simply made too many wild errors. And her choice of tactics was baffling, especially with regards to her stubborn insistence on serving and hitting to Pironkova’s backhand, which stung her time and again. I understand that a part of Venus’ ethos is a focus on her own game and a belief that the result rests largely if not exclusively on how well she executes that game. But when a relatively simple adjustment in tactics could have swung the match in her favour … Well, I suppose even five-time champions have their off-days.

Pictured: an off-day.

That sounds ungracious towards Pironkova, and I don’t necessarily mean it that way. It might just be my own annoyance that a player who I’ve never really thought of as a potentially big talent confounded my expectations so thoroughly. She did play a great match, she really did, and pulled off the upset of the tournament so far – which is a neat trick when Yen-Hsun Lu beat Andy Roddick in five sets. And she was sweet afterwards. So good on you, Tsvetana.

Nickname suggestions gratefully accepted.

One Response to “Wimbledon Day 8: The Unusual Suspects”

  1. Claire said

    Just when you thought the French Open had taken the biscuit in providing surprises! What an exciting day for the ladies game and as great it is to see Petra play consistently and step it up, to see a new name come through in Tsvetana, most of all I am SO happy to see Vera back in the mix.

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